Draw inspiration from vodka, challah, brisket, and sauerkraut! Tabletop game designer Pearse Anderson has created a new food-centric tabletop roleplaying game, Recipe on Kmiydish Paper, which is available to play now. Anderson’s game lets you choose between meat, pastry, beverage, or preserves as characters, allowing you to play as the food.

As you inhabit a food and its history, you'll experience the sister cities of Blue Kmiyd and Rose Kmiyd. In the game, you'll pass through five chefs, who are influenced by you while you are influenced by them. 

Courtesy of Pearse Anderson.

Recipe on Kmiydish Paper came about after Anderson challenged himself to create eight fictional holidays. He eventually developed these fantastical holidays into his new tabletop roleplaying game. Jake Cohen’s book Jew-ish: A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch also served as a major source of inspiration for Recipe on Kmiydish Paper.

For Anderson, a Gen Z speculative fiction writer and journalist, making games is a creative outlet. He has an abundance of creative ideas, and tabletop roleplaying game creation allows him to share them with the public. Recipe on Kmiydish Paper is no exception.

“I feel confident throwing in recipes because I know that food touches all concepts of life,” Anderson said. “I know that if I let people talk about food, they’ll end up talking about power. They’ll end up talking about community. They’ll end up talking about the legacy of their people.”

Did you always have passion for Jewish food or did the creation of your game bring it out?

I think I have the Jewish guilt about not knowing enough about Jewish food. This game certainly allowed me to dive into a bunch of different fields. In playbook options, which kind of lists each of the foods, there’s a section that says be inspired by dishes and be inspired by ingredients. Those sections were really satisfying to fill out because I was able to work my way through the table of contents and indexes of various Jewish and Eastern European and Ottoman cookbooks. I saw my childhood ingredients being reused, or things that I didn’t necessarily think of as Jewish.

What is your background with roleplaying games and game creation?

I’ve only played Dungeons and Dragons once. I don’t love the mathematical systems of D&D. I don’t love the orientation towards a kind of grind element of combat in that. I was raised with very different indie tabletop games like Fiasco. I came into it kind of sideways through that and when I started doing more journalism I covered Mork Borg for The Guardian, which is a Swedish tabletop roleplaying game. I’m developing a Mork Borg expansion now using the third-party license.

How did Recipe on Kmiydish Paper come to life?

A game jam appeared. Game jams are usually tied to a certain time limit. Frequently with larger video games a game jam will be 48 hours, 24 hours, to design and release a platform or some kind of quick, spritely game. This game jam was a month and a day from when I started. Within that month and a day I released the game. I had the art, I did all the layout myself, and I messed up many times. It was definitely a learning experience.

What is general gameplay like?

The game is split up into three acts, the opening, the shifting, and the settling. The game essentially has you as the beverage, the meat, the preserve, or the pastry. Those are your four options for foods. You are created the first time you ran down on a recipe, and the entire game takes place as a recipe of you is passed from chef to chef to chef. Usually, in a game, there are five chefs, including the first chef who recorded you. As that happens, you work through these acts. The people who consume you and the cultural identity that is rooted in these people is shifted as the world changes for better or for worse.

What kind of community do you hope this game brings together?

The things that I changed the most out of the game I based it on, “Artefact” by Jack Harrison is the fact that you are a food that is some essential element to a cultural identity of people. It doesn’t have to be Jewish. It doesn’t have to be religious. It doesn’t have to be ethnic. You can play the game where it’s a group that is centered in a sexual orientation or their political philosophy. It’s somehow insular and yet, you are a way to bind them together and tell a story and I think that’s a really universal tale. I think that’s something really hard to simulate well, especially with food. Just the fact that you’re nonhuman — but you’re tied to some kind of marginalized group that is trying for a good life in a strange world — are all sorts of elements that I want people to connect with. I think there’s a lot of potential for expansion within this game.  

This story was part of Brainfood: Careers in the Food World. Check out the rest of the collection here, and see you at Brainfood on Friday, Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. ET!