Steal This D&D 5e Magic Item: Light Snack
Food is a worldbuilding apparatus. We can learn a lot about who a people are, what they value, and what they believe based on what they’re eating and how they deal with food. Are they fastidious eaters, these hypothetical fantasy type people? Do they have dietary restrictions, or moral compunctions against eating certain things? Is the act of eating something that can be done on the go, or does it require ritual and ceremony to honor the life that was given to–you see where I’m going with this.
I think folkways are neat. They add spice (ha) to the humdrum and for that reason, I tend to veer into a little bit of foodporn when I’m in the DM chair. Not only because it reinforces setting, especially when that setting is out of the ordinary, but because I love food. I think that it’s an easy way to inject some local color, add to the mélange of sensory details, and it invites character reaction. Has the farmboy Fighter ever eaten honeyed silkwasp and whitegrass pilaf? Maybe not. Might be a moment of unforeseen characterization.
Anyway, everyone’s got to eat, and I needed a magical item to share with you lovelies. So I opened up my old binder and plucked out the Light Snack. It’s another Dwarven thing, as written, but I could see any subterranean race who works with poor benighted folks who can’t see so well in the dark creating their own variety of helpful pick-me-ups for adventuring in the deep places.
Also, I apologize to the memory of Sir Terry Pratchett for introducing some new folks to the concept of “Dwarf Bread.”
Without further circumlocution, I present for your entertainment and horror, Light Snack. Iiiiiiiiiit’s food!
“Look at that. Forged three-score years ago, and still as inedible today as it was then.“Torbik Helmclever, Dwarven Adventurer
Light Snack is the nickname for a dense, crumbly cake of mushroom flour and brewer’s mash naturally leavened by native underground yeasts. These cakes are typically left to rest long enough to develop a skin before baking, and here is where the magic lies. This skin is the product of a particularly prevalent type of subterranean mold-spore, typically found near volcanic vents, which descends to colonize the tasty mushroom dough and break down the natural sugars. Being unaccustomed to the higher concentration of sugars in the brewer’s mash, this mold colony begins to softly bioluminesce.
The cooking process does not kill these bioluminescent fungi, but rather conceals them under a thick crust. When they are exposed to oxygen once more, they take on their familiar glow, casting light like a torch for an hour before slowly fading as the stored sugars are depleted. But the story gets stranger.
Canny Dwarves have, in the course of their collaborations with humans, learned that a Light Snack and a mug of ale will keep a human from banging his head on the low braceworks of Dwarven mines. You see, the mold colony will use the sugars in the ale and glow with a heightened intensity. So much so, that some guests of Dwarven engineers swear by eating three a day, shedding their own peculiar radiance while fostering harmless colonies of bioluminescent fungi.
By all accounts the flavor of Light Snack leaves something to be desired, but it travels well, will sustain an average human for a day’s marching, and provides a handy signaling device. Rumors that Light Snacks are forged on Dwarven anvils or rejected flagstones not suitable for paving the deep roads are probably without any basis in truth. Even so, don’t drop them on your toes.