I gathered some friends and convinced someone to be DM for a Dungeons & Dragons one-shot adventure. To make it a special evening—and since folks were coming straight from work—I planned and put together a D&D themed dinner. Since I could find little on the topic, I thought this post might serve as a guide to help anyone wishing to do the same.
Before you get to far into menu planning, be sure to ask your players about any food allergies or preferences. For example, I needed to account for gluten intolerance, which meant serving on trenchers was out.
D&D isn’t set in a specific period or reality, but it pulls many elements and themes from medieval Europe. I wanted a D&D themed dinner spread that would help bring some of those game elements into our other senses. I purchased three cookbooks, but internet sleuthing should get you similar recipes.
After skimming through the books, I settled on a Welch Stew—cawl Cymreig—from Medieval Cooking in Today’s Kitchen. It seemed simple to prepare and timing was not critical. Although I thought a crockpot would work, it ended up making a lot, and I needed to use a stovetop pot.
I was also debating a simple roasted chicken with rosemary, which I think would have worked out just as well and is on the menu for our next game.
Make a full menu robust with sides & snacks
After I had the main course figured out, I worked to fill in for snacks and side dishes. Make sure your guests have something to snack on if food will be delayed until a break. I picked up some things that looked good while wandering through the store. The key to a D&D themed dinner is to choose simple, less processed foods. Here’s what I set out:
- A small cheese tray with honey and a handful of blackberries
- Some of the bread that would also be set out with dinner & butter
- Bowls of cashews and pine nuts
- Bowl of apples
The bread was the most thematic element and also the easiest. I went to a local market (New Seasons, for those in the Northwest) and picked up three loaves of dark, rustic bread. No bread knife needed, rip off a chunk and butter it up!
For the cheese tray, I had both soft (spreadable) and harder cheeses. Tip: block cheeses look great if you cut it into a wedge shape before putting on the tray
Although I didn’t have enough time beforehand, Medieval Cooking also includes several fermented drinks and interesting cocktails that should be fun to try making this winter.
For this dinner, my DM actually reached out and asked if I could have a hoppy summer ale and some cider ready. It turns out, she wanted to use those elements as a key part of our one-shot adventure!
I recommend having a non-alcoholic option that is at least as interesting as your common alcoholic drinks. In my case, I had non-alcoholic spiced apple cider as a counterpoint to beer. Be prepared to make virgin mixed drinks if you will be serving cocktails.
Figure out serving dishes
Serving dishes were a challenge. We ended up using my everyday bowls and silverware, which detracted from the theme.
To serve the cheese trays, butter, and some other items, I purchased a bunch of inexpensive Ikea chopping boards. The chopping boards will serve as plates if I ever serve a more solid dish.
I also had one (and intend on making more) homemade wooden tankard, which looked awesome at the table. Amazon sells wooden tankards, but I like the idea of everyone eventually choosing (or making) their own beverage holder of choice like what you see with the cast of Critical Role.
Finally, I have some wooden serving bowls that were kicking around, which was great for holding the bread and apples. At least one was originally for salad, which would also be a great idea for a D&D themed dinner. If you don’t have any, you can find wooden serving bowls on Amazon or at Ikea.
I struggled to find individual soup bowls or wooden spoons in time. I thought Ikea might have what I needed, but their bowls are either too small or too large. Amazon has some individual bowls and wooden spoons, but I’m not sure about the size, so I’m reticent to recommend anything. I’ll update this guide if I find a great source.
Finally, all I had were kitchen knives for things like butter, cheese, and bread. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more authentic-looking, fixed bladed knives. Something with a bone or leather handle. They don’t need to be high quality and I think I’ll find them cheap at a flea market or similar.
The atmosphere for our game came mostly from audio, which the DM controlled. I have speakers set up in the dining room hooked up to a computer mounted on the wall. The DM logged into Spotify on the wall computer and used the Spotify app on her phone to control audio remotely. Bluetooth speakers or even an aux cable would have worked fine.
I purchased some LED flame-effect lights, intending to use them to provide torch-light atmosphere. They screw into a standard lightbulb socket and produce an effect that looks like a pretty strong flame — stronger than a candle. So the effect wasn’t cheap, I would have needed to build something that looked like a torch. In the future I may create fake torches using two Ikea NOT lamps. Remember though, that players and especially the DM need to be able to see their character sheets and supplemental information. Candlelight alone, while thematic, would make it difficult to play the game.
I also had a deep wooden tray I thought would be good for bread, but worked out great to hold extra dice, pencils, and coasters.
There’s a lot more that I could have done to theme the room, but even a few small touches goes far. Next time I create a D&D themed dinner, I’d like to at least add some candles (perhaps real wax, flickering LED candles).
Tips for a great D&D themed dinner
- Being a player and getting all the food together is pretty challenging. I tried to leave the game table as little as possible by having as much ready beforehand as I could.
- Flexible timing on foods was nice, so we could get to a good pause place, or I could leave when it was least disruptive. Stew is nice that way, since it can simmer forever. Fish, for example, would have been less forgiving.
- I was lucky that my DM showed up early to help prep some of the food and get the table ready before everyone arrives. I recommend getting some help.
- Keep your DM in the loop on menu and timing so they have the opportunity to work your menu into the story (which is fun). That’ll help ensure you don’t roll for initiative right before the dinner timer goes off.
- Either provide snacks up front and food at a break or have dinner ready to go before starting, with a dessert or digestif at the break.