From speaking with Rich it’s clear that I really should give you fine people an update on one of my pet projects: the W20 Cookbook. This is one of those projects that came out of left field — I joked about writing one with some friends on Google+ during the Kickstarter campaign, and before I know it Rich asked if he could include it as a stretch goal. I’d be a fool to say no, really.
Let’s preface this by saying I love food, and I know I’m not the only one. Matt McFarland regularly cooks for his group in the style of Chopped. David Hill released a cookbook for his post-fantasy RPG, exploration of the culture of the world through its food. And on a more personal level, a whole lot of freelancers — Werewolf and not — sent me jealous email and tweets. It’s clear that though I really want to do the cookbook, I’m not the only one who wants to see it.
On the one hand, a cookbook is a great way to get a look at a culture through how it eats and what it eats. Werewolf: The Apocalypse is a fiercely multicultural game and I want a chance to reflect that in the recipes used in the book. The Children of Gaia and Bone Gnawers both cook big pots of food that can feed a lot of people. The Glass Walkers eat on the go or order in, and they’re epitomised by food that’s available the world over, adapted to the local palate. Even the Red Talons have to admit that meat tastes better when cooked (all hail the maillard reaction), but what would a tribe of lupus choose to accompany their meat?
At the same time, the people who play Werewolf aren’t the same people who first picked up the game, even though they have the same name and date of birth. Time changes us all. In those first few years of gaming, I could live on ramen and Ginsters pasties, Haribo and Dr Pepper. These days, I cook for my family and bribe my gaming group by cooking dinner. My tastes have changed — food’s not just fuel to stay up for three days straight, it’s something to enjoy. Few things beat eating a slice of bread with the same hands that kneaded the dough, or feeling the sizzle of a steak as it hits the pan. I could go back to Haribo and pasties, but I find that I don’t want to. I’ve changed as a person — and I’d be very surprised if I was the only one to feel that way.
For all that I want the W20 Cookbook to function as an in-world artefact, the sort of thing that a Garou or Kinfolk chef might compile as a way of examining the culture of each tribe through the food that they eat, I also want it to be practical and useful for the people who will use it, which means including vegetarian and pescatarian recipes that are appropriate for the Garou. I’m cooking each recipe multiple times, using both normal and US measurements. I may have a passion for food but I also have a tiny kitchen and a limited set of equipment. I won’t put anything in the cookbook that I couldn’t do at home. I’m also trying to make the ingredients the sort of thing that people could find in a well-stocked supermarket. I want people to cook the recipes in this book. I’m not the same person I was when I started playing Werewolf: The Apocalypse, I can’t survive on the same level of junk food that I could as a teenager. And if nothing else, my players are less likely to flake if I bribe them with dinner. I hope it inspires people to do the same.
The outline I’m currently looking at includes 20 recipes. One for each tribe of the Garou Nation, one for each Lost Tribe, one for each of Hakken, Boli Zhouisze, and Siberakh, and one for the Black Spiral Dancers.
As a pet project, I’m working on it in parallel to other books. Jess is hard at work writing Tribebook: White Howlers — oh, yeah, have an outline — and once I’ve got this last little bit of Changing Breeds done I’ll be working with our consulting developers on the next Book of the Wyrm pass.