Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Platescape: Outer Plates of Cuisine

Once again, my deepest apologies to Zeb Cook.

In the Planescape setting, the Inner Planes are worlds each comprised purely of some classical element. In the totally unrelated Platescape setting, the Inner Plates are each comprised purely of some food group. You can read more about that here.

In Planescape, there's also a great wheel of Outer Planes, corresponding to the standard D&D alignments of Good vs. Evil and Lawful vs. Chaotic. In Platescape, the Outer Plates correspond to the different kinds of dining experiences.

On one axis, we have Delicious vs. Repulsive. Delicious cuisine aims to evoke gustatory pleasure, satisfying the desires of the diner. Repulsive cuisine eschews these desires as irrelevant, or actively seeks to create an unpleasant dining experience.

On the other axis, we have Healthy vs. Unhealthy. Healthy cuisine aims to provide the diner with the optimal profile of macro and micronutrients. Unhealthy doesn't give a hoot.

Behold! The Great Smörgåsbord Cosmology:

The Outer Plates
The Iron Heavens The Test Kitchens Grillysium Hunting Grounds Party Mountain
Grandmarcadia ↑Delicious↑ Valhalunch
the Fitness Nirvana
←Healthy Everything Bagel Unhealthy→ LIMBO
The March ↓Repulsive↓ The Empty Pan
Super-food Hell Ghhhhgh Compost Bin Cosmic Supermax The Abyss 

——=== 🥪 ===—— 

Upper Plates of Culinary Excellence

The Upper Plates are aligned with the raw forces of deliciousness. These are the realms of the gods of cookery, and the place where foodies aspire to have their souls reside in the afterlife.

The Iron Heavens 

(Delicious and Healthy)  -  If a chef attains true mastery over cookery during their life, they are sure to end up here once they pass on. Any meal prepared here is done so with the utmost of care, and the finest of ingredients. We're talking about ingredients like the concept of bell peppers. 

Yeah, yeah, it's not a super interesting place to visit if you're looking for a wild time. But it's about as as good as food can get before it starts altering your fundamental being. And the fact that some of these restaurants book reservations millions of years in advance is a testament to that quality.

The Test Kitchens 

(Delicious and Reasonably Healthy)  -  Twin worlds, vertically mirrored, like a cosmic sandwich. Look up from the ground of one and you will see the farms, roads, and restaurants of the other far above.

The two worlds are similar but never exactly the same. The gods use these worlds for A/B testing of new culinary creations. Not just new dishes, but also the meats of new animals, and the raw forms of new vegetables. The resulting food is frequent bizarre, but almost always delicious, as constant experimentation slowly meanders towards perfection. 

The great work of this plate is unconcerned with the question of healthiness, but the sheer variety of food means that a participant will consume a balanced-enough diet.

The angels of this world are constantly rushing from one place to the next, trying new things. None of that eternal vigilant guardian business.


(Pure Delicious)  - An island covered with deliciousness of all sorts. Everything is edible, and even the blades of grass are subtle delicacies. If you want to view paradise... 

Near the edges of Grillysium, the food is merely excellent, but as you journey away from the shores, the food gets ever better. Be careful, lest you accidentally taste a drop of heavenly dew and be rendered forever numb to the sensations of mortal dining.

At the very center of the island, where even the air is a culinary masterpiece, and surrounded by blissed out disciples, sits the God of Pilgrimage. For as long as any living being can recall, this diety has remained in silent meditation.

This may seem odd, that a god of pilgrimage would never move, but its followers explain things like so:
The God of Pilgrimage judges the merit of any restaurant they visit, and awards stars to truly exceptional locations. One star indicates that a location is worth the stop, two stars indicates that it is worth a detour. Three stars is worth a special journey. And four stars is worth an eternal contemplation on the quality of the meal.

The cult is divided on whether the deity has already eaten. Some claim that the moment of creation featured the perfect meal, of which all other meals are an imperfect echo. While some others believe that the deity is sitting in wait for the Test Kitchens to complete their eternal experimentation and deliver a worthy meal to the center of Grillysium.

The Hungry Hunting Grounds. 

(Delicious and Moderately Unhealthy)  -  Animals run wild, fatty and laden with meat. Eternal hunts and grand bonfire feasts.

Despite having the appearance of a vast forest, this realm is connected to the elemental plate of meat. None of the plants are more than technically edible, and I think some of the trees might even be fake...

A word of warning to any visitors who wish to hunt here: You too are made of meat.

Party Mountain 

(Delicious but Unhealthy ) - Fried food, giant pizzas, all sorts of crazy divine party drugs. This is where the Greek pantheon likes to hang out.

But seriously, be careful if some crazy-looking goatman offers you "Fairy Bread". They'll claim it's some of that stuff from Grillysium which is so delicious that it will make mortal food seem like but a shadow. But I'm pretty sure it's just opium. Like, 95% sure, if it's a goatman offering you the stuff.

——=== 🍳 ===——

Lower Plates of Dining Disasters

The Lower Plates are aligned with Nastiness. Herein lie all manner of horrific culinary sins and dietary tragedies. Beware, dear traveller, for these Plates of reality reflect and amplify all of the worst comestible horrors of the material worlds.

Super-food Hell 

(Healthy but Repulsive) - Ruled over by the 9 Princes of Hell's Kitchens, each with their own fad diet.  One region is a jungle of wheatgrass and durians. In another, vast fields of larva are tended to by devilish farmers (great source of protein). Devils force-feed their masters' newest inventions to poor lost souls. Every meal follows the laws of nutrition but gleefully rejects every other principle of fine dining.

Ghhhhgh (The name is pronounced the same as a mild gagging retching sound.)

(Repulsive and Only Barely Healthy) -  A plate in which proper food preparation is impossible. 

Four continent-sized cooking pots floating through the void, with the heat turned up so high that it's impossible to cook any food without burning it. Even fresh produce somehow chars when taken to this realm. 

Giant cockroach-like creatures scurry to and fro, sampling the stew, adding entirely the wrong kinds of seasonings, and tracking contamination wherever they walk.

Some say that the psychic despair caused by poorly-run restaurants vibrates through the fabric of the multiverse and sings this kitchen nightmare into being.

The Compost Bin

(Neutral Respulsive) - Bleak plains full of sickly vegetation. This plate is a major battleground for the forces of nastiness. The princes of hell want to search the land for new disgusting super-foods, while the devils want to scour the land for exotic poisons.

Cosmic Supermax 

(Repulsive and Somewhat Unhealthy) - A prison world where the only food is the kind fed to the imprisoned and neglected: foul tasting and barely nutritious. The ancient titans imprisoned here ate their own shoes long ago.

The Abyss 

(Unhealthy and Respulsive) - A nightmare realm that represents the active opposition to all that makes food worthwhile.

Demons swarm this world like locusts, devouring everything edible and most things that aren't.  

And count yourself lucky if you never see the inside of an abyssal restaurant. Patrons rarely survive the experience, but I've heard tales. Oh, I've heard tales. I once met a poor half-shredded spirit with shattered teeth. He told me a horrible story of how the demons force-fed him pebbles, and whenever he failed to chew properly, they would shave off a piece of his soul and force him to eat that too.

A demon making a mockery of the very concept of eating.

A Note on Demons Vs. Devils.

Many casual observers can't tell the difference between Demons and Devils. After all, they're both great hairy, scaly, beasts, with bulging eyes, wearing ill-fitting aprons. But while the appearances may be similar, their minds and motivations couldn't be more different.

See, devils have just lost sight of part of the picture. They're obsessed with healthfulness to such an extreme that they don't just neglect flavor (and kindness and decency), but actively scorn it as a shameful distraction. But fundamentally, a Devil Chef is still trying to make something that can reasonable be called food.

Now, demons, on the other hand. Those dreadful things are what you get when you take every instinct towards pleasure, towards healthy living, and towards artistic accomplishment, and flip it on its head. A demon only cares about food because they hate knowing that there are people out there in the cosmos enjoying their meals. They hate the thought of a being improving it's lot in life through good nutrition. It repulses them on a deep instinctual level, in much the same way you're repulsed by a festering maggot-ridden corpse. (A demon is also repulsed by such a thing, but only because the maggots are enjoying themselves.) And a motivated demon only learns to cook so they can subvert the process, invert it, and produce a negaculinary masterpiece so repulsive and vile that it makes a witness swear off the whole idea of food in the first place.

Why do the gods tolerate the existence of such creatures? Well that's simple, it's because of all the beings in the cosmos offended by the existence of demons, devils are offended most of all. And without the infinite hordes of the abyss to war against and/or lecture about nutrition, the Princes of Hell might break into the vaults of heaven and try feeding a kale smoothie to Metatron.

——=== 🍕 ===——

Boundary Plates of Unhealthfulness

The Empty Pan 

(Unhealthy and Unpleasant) - A realm which embodies starvation. Vast emptiness, darkness and infertile ground.

Valhalunch, Land of the Fast-Food Chains

(Unhealthy but Kinda Tasty)  -  A paradise for drive-thru warriors. The inhabitants of this plane sup on endless soda and greasy meat pillaged from the fast-food joints that sprout like weeds from these shifting lands. But such greasy ill-gotten goods cannot provide all that the body needs. It is only through the magic of this plane that the souls here are kept in fighting condition.


(Pure Unhealthitude) - A swirling realm of impermanence, where food can be imagined into existence. Alas, it takes an expert chef to imagine food in sufficient detail to make it taste good, and the food vanishes as soon as people stop thinking about the meal, making nutrition impossible.

Just imagine it. You venture to this Plate, and imagine some milk into existence. Best case scenario, you stop thinking about it as soon as it goes down your throat, and the milk vanishes into the aether before it even hits your stomach. Suppose instead that you keep thinking about that milk, practically meditating on dairy, for several days. The conjured calcium is incorporated into your bones and teeth. Then you get momentarily distracted. And poof! Now your bones are full of holes.

——=== 🥗 ===——

Boundary Plates of Healthfulness


(Healthy and reasonably tasty)  - The realm of traditional cuisine. Ancient primordial elders rules over this world, and rigorously enforce that food must be prepared in exactly the same way that they had it as young cosmic superbeings. 

Pickled fish brains and bean-based pastries.

And it's fine. It's fine... good even. Especially if you like strange vinegars. But suggest even the slightest change to the menu and you'll make some very powerful enemies.

The March

(Healthy but mildly Repulsive) - A pile of gargantuan stone blocks interlocked into a chaotic landscape. Gravity is an unpredictable mess, and harsh actinic light shines from a hard to pinpoint direction. Once per day, like clockwork, prepackaged rations precipitate from the air.

Hungry souls  swarm over these massive cubes like ants in a sugar bowl. The eternally warring armies always manage to get their rations, but never find the time to cook a pleasant meal. As they march from cube to cube, fighting meaningless wars, they dine on dry biscuits and jerky, or maybe the occasional gruel.

Dietus, the Fitness Nirvana  

(Pure Healthy) - A strange realm of giant floating fitness equipment, this world is focused on healthfulness, to the exclusion of all else. Every meal is eaten on a perfect schedule with exact portion control. The food is completely flavorless and the nutrients balanced for optimal muscle growth. 

This realm is populated with the Brodron: strange, geometric, fitness obsessed creatures. Every few hundred years, they go on a grand march through other plates of existence in order to raise awareness of the importance of cardiovascular exercise and healthy living.

——=== 🥯 ===—— 

Neutral Ground

(Pure Unhealthy) - Mortal dining establishments rarely reach a level of pure experience comparable to what can be found along the edges of the Great Smörgåsbord. Within the interior, things are much less extreme, and not too dissimilar to what can be found on the material planes. 

But something strange begins to happen as you near the very center of the Smörgåsbord. Food becomes remarkable in its unremarkability. It's not that the hot dogs sold in the hot dog stands of this vast transdimensional plate are bland.  It's just that they're not... not bland.

And then at all once, right in the center of it all, things become remarkable yet again. Atop an infinitely high skewer of slightly overdone doner kebab, sits the smoky cookoff capital of the cosmos: the great city of Everything Bagel! And therein dwells its ruler and head judge, the most powerful chef in the cosmos, the Lady of Propane.