Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/30/17: Mundane Fare

Let’s face it. Most of the food in a typical Medieval European kingdom wasn’t very exciting.
This is what gruel looks like.

This is better than most, folks.

Historically, the peasant staple in Europe and the Near East was porridge, which is, basically, a form of oatmeal —  whole grains boiled in water or milk, decanted into a bowl and eaten with a spoon. Its thinner cousin was gruel, which was slurped rather than eaten. Wheat, rye, rice, millet, barley, oats, and hemp served as the base. If you were lucky, you had salt or butter to flavor it, and depending on season, fruit and meat. Porridges and gruels were also made with legumes such as peas and lentils. Modern Indian dhaals and rajmahs, as well as Middle Eastern  hummus, can be considered a form of porridge, albeit with more varied ingredients.

That said, I admit porridge or gruel isn’t very picturesque to write about.

So, here’s a (randomly created) list of realistic but not very exciting food a typical fantasy character might eat, perhaps at home or in some poor inn. The second column is what a character might eat while traveling on a quest. Note that they rely on ingredients that are cheap and easily obtainable.

Mundane Fare


Home Meals

Poached venison and creamed peas

Baked carrots and leeks, served with barley

Cornmeal crackers and a thick, buttery, lentil stew

A generous serving of rabbit with a side of mashed turnip

Goat and lentil soup

Mutton chowder spiced with thyme

Fried buckwheat and parsnip cakes

Whole grain bread and spicy cheese, served with raspberry preserves

Mushrooms simmered in pork stock

Day-old bread topped with creamed herring

Poached fish heads served with pickled turnip

 Road Food

Fermented goat’s milk

Stringy sausage made from a suckling pig

A tough, tasteless pie made with fish and onions

Wizard’s blueberry, a pale blue berry with starchy flesh

Trail crackers of wheatberry and dried quince

Cold slices of headcheese and pork

Travel biscuits of wheat and dried fig

Thin slices of sheep’s lungs dried in the sun until hard

Dwarve’s Loaf *

Gulllunga, a hard, crunchy cheese

Dehydrated pear strips



* I will leave it up to you to decide what Dwarve’s Loaf is.


Fantasy world utensils and bowls

Authentic tableware for your fantasy world.


Geek X Girls has an amusing version of RPG “Rations” (Food) for various AD&D races, complete with pictures. Gives you an idea of what adventurers might really eat on the road.

If you want to prepare your own gruel, here’s a recipe.

Basic Gruel

3 tbs. of groats (any combo of finely crushed grains) or, my favorite, grits!
3/4 cup water (more if you like it wetter)
Dash of salt
Little bit of butter, if your character isn’t too poor

Cooking Instructions

  1. Boil the water and salt in a saucepan on the stove. Slowly stir in groats or grits.
  2. Add butter. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low.
  3. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like your gruel thicker, continue cooking until you have the consistency you like.

I eat this dish Mexican-style, topped with hot sauce and grated cheese.


Gummy Bear

This is one treat you don’t want to eat.


Gummy Anatomy Toy, by Jason Freeny

Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/23/17: Jungle Girls

Jungle Girls are the female counterpart to Tarzan, Sabu, and countless other wild men and boys clad in flapping loincloths swinging through the trees. Modern interpretations of her began with Rima the Bird Girl, a character in the 1903 novel Green Mansions, which makes her older than Tarzan who debuted in 1912. Like Burrough’s creation she was often an orphan raised in the wilderness by animals or natives, but unlike Tarzan she also appeared as seductress, the wanton Queen or sorceress of a lost civilization. She also played the role of victim for the male adventurer to rescue. Her popularity took off with the pulp and Hollywood age, and she appeared in hundreds of books, adventure magazines, comics, and movie serials. Many incarnations came and went over the years, most forgotten now: Vooda, Nyoka, Lana, Rulah, Taanda, Luana. Sense a pattern here?

Following are some evocative Jungle Girl names writers can use in their own work.

Jungle Girls


Black Shayina

Jansa the Jaguar Queen

Nammina of the Jade Jackal

Karida, Lady of the Zebras

Ganzha Queen of Paradise

Thuvoka the Forest Girl

Staranee the Eagle Girl

Thuruma, Princess of the Moon

Fantna, the Black Huntress

Jania, Mistress of the Jungle

Farmeena, Queen of the Forest

Sabra the Rising Witch

Faroka the Falcon Girl

Fanta the Elephant Girl

Turanee the Lion Girl

Nyona the Hyena Girl

Beluna the Dingo Girl

Farida the Leopard Girl

Zanida the Emerald Forest Maiden

Rashalina the Swamp Goddess

Princess Jondanee of the Sighing City

Oyna, the Secret Queen of the trees

Thurra the Gentle Huntress

Mokkira the Divine Mistress of the Moon

Mambalina the Jungle Orchid

Yvezana, White Moon of the Rainforest

Sauma the Blue

Reesa the Barbarian Princess

Warrior Queen Rashika

Aquilia, the Conqueror Queen

Leina of the Lion Clan

Vinmeena, the Viking Princess

Kyzara the Mercenary Princess

Queen Tarona the Savage

Oukana the Sacred Queen

Nozola, the Destroyer Queen

Talkana, the Nomad Princess

Tona the She-Devil

Thuria the Witch Queen

Savage Princess Wiluna

Amazon Queen Rhomeena

Nika, Princess of the Steppe

Green Zanna

Karina, the Witch Princess

Jaydina the Huntress

Alya, Green Ghost of the Forest

Tarmeena the Sorceress

Queen Cassanee of Sarhonistan

Sazha the She-Wolf

Mokkana, Savage Lioness of the Plains

Xenasa, the Mountain Pearl

Ganthonga of the Witch Kingdom


Our Trash Will Eat Us

…eventually. All things take time.


(artwork by Phil McDermott)

Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/16/17: Dragon Names

Dragon Names

No other creature is as evocative of the contemporary fantasy genre as the dragon. They combine snakes, lizards, dinosaurs, large mammalian predators, and human intellects into one massive, armored, fire-breathing package. (Their drives, however, are their own.)

The current version of the dragon dates from within the last 100 years. Tolkien gave us a deadly foe in The Hobbit’s Smaug, but it was really the 1960s when the dragon literally and figuratively took off. Perhaps it was folk trio’s  Peter, Paul and Mary’s song Puff the Magic Dragon, or the very dragon-like Cecil the Sea Serpent in the Cecil and Beanie TV kid’s show. It may have been excerpts from Walt Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon (1941) shown ad nauseum on The Walt Disney Show every Sunday night, or the spectacular metamorphosis of Maleficent from evil witch into dragon form in the animated film Sleeping Beauty. Or, perhaps, the many dragon-like creatures populating such Saturday morning fare like The Herculoids. But whatever the case, dragons arrived and made their titanic footprint on the scene, supported in no small way by the growing popularity of dinosaurs among the small set.

That presence eventually bore fruit in novel series like Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern (begun in 1967) and Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea, and fantasy writers began using them more frequently. But what really lit the fuse was the mass-marketing of the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, with its creatures color-coded to evil (primary colored) and good (metallic) dragons, with different breath weapons and tendencies for each. Over the years these germinal reptiles mutated into dozens if not hundreds of other forms, some fairly ridiculous (Fairy dragons anyone?)

And dragons continue to stretch out their snaky necks in new directions. They’ve recently claimed a section of the urban fantasy market, transforming into slabs of beefcake for the delectation of romance readers who enjoy shapeshifter characters.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to come up with a distinctive name for a dragon character. Here’s a list of randomly generated names to use for your own creations, following the Tolkien, McCaffrey, and LeGuin conventions, sprinkled with some Latin and sibilant sounds.




Shezuth Star-song


Enuphion the Tyrant

Ancalasez the Scourge

The Skyghost




Stormwreck the Great Wyrm King



Thisme the Burning Maw

Nagrumox the Great Worm

Sjiag the Clawed Shadow

Cnothgon the Wise

Gauntgrim the Gray Empress


Meblak the Vengeful

Ftafer the Burning Plague

Ancaruhan Rain-bringer

Master Hellscream

Luthigne, the Winged Destroyer

Tyrlon the White

Luthanzi Sun-jewel

Ballag the Tyrant

Shashos Moongray

Ancalluth the Armored

Anhkphar the Erudite

Rievetaur, Plunderer of the Badlands



Tyrphaz the Ancient


Thristhrax the Red

Grisgrund the Stormlord

Unthaug, Ravager of the Western Hills

Nagaes the Ice Storm

Magraulle Skyribbon

Skymourn the Blizzard Queen

The Coalstriker

Old Hellscrew

Flamespark the Wise

Aneylong, Bane of the Elven Forests

Grisbagon the Terror of the Canyon

Old Greenfellow

Mistress Moongray

Bharcant Sun-ribbon


Luthang the Gray

Anliredon the Peaceful

Anshas the Despoiler

Drakpang, Empress of the lands of men

Kakunth the Icy Destroyer

Balsez Cloudseeker






Cnaufier the Brown




Vinsripan the Deadly



Mnetzlong the Ravager

Sazsent Storm-mist




Augrund the Dark Watcher






Essrit the White


Eutrapyon the Protector

Vermischan the Invulnerable

Angme, the Icy Furnace

Luthkas the Blue

Harkrieve the Wicked



Ainsez Stormjoy





Sea Monster

sea creature

The last thing the oceanographer saw.


(Concept art from the Syfy movie Dinoshark)

Worldbuilding Wednesday, 8/9/17: Bureaucracies


Portrait of Auster Denoerval, by Virginie Carquin


Fantasy organizations are not limited to the grandiose and world-shaking. Scores of bureaucratic organizations run silently beneath the surface, serving to frustrate and stymie your characters in pursuit of their goals. Terry Pratchett, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Stanislaw Lem, and J. K. Rowling all used them to good effect. Often they also serve as humorous interludes, as in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series. Can they be satirical or offer social commentary? You bet. Often a minor character appears who offers up some pompous resume tidbit, and with this in mind, I created a list of impossible and not-so-impossible bureaucracies below.




Division of Unmentionable Mummification

Ministry of Reptilian Petrification

Department of Gustatory Purity

Task Force for the Relinquishment of Religious  Idols

National Institute of Mercantile Transformation

Regional Institute of Virtuous Education

Managerial Division of Domestic Communication

Imperial Task Force on Strategic Studies

Federal Task Force for the Creation of Healthy  Aesthetics

Managerial Institute for Strategic Hygiene

Druidic Hearing on Intelligent Horticulture

Bureau of Eldritch Battlecraft

Imperial Federation of Paranormal Persuasion

Federal Division of Philosophical Inquiry

Civic Bureau of Artful Labor

Imperial Institute of Human Love

Robust Hearing on Witches’ Adventuring

Federal Institute of Magical Freedom

Managerial Bureau of Insidious Comedy

Imperial Commission for Free Athletics

Managerial Commission on Spiritual Freedom

National Institute of Mercantile Management

Scholarly Societies

Bindenum Institute of Ophidian Intelligence

Imperial Task Force for the Study of Military Oddities

Royal Academy of Archaic Discoveries

Crossneedle Royal Campaign for Demonic Rights

League of Imperial Scholars

The Order of Hooded Sages

Professors of the Phlegmatic Trillium

Bright Wheels Literary Society

College of the Iron Laurel

Studious Society of Perfumed Fools

Way of the Fiery Wheel

Students of the Fulsome Heart

Scholars’ Conference on Gently Persuading Religious Literature

Sage’s Conference on Progressive Legendary Diseases

The Blacksmiths of Literature

Drovers of Civilization

Tricksters of Intelligence

Buskers of Warcaft

The Flaming Faction of Hell’s Scholars

The Eternal League of Skywise Scholars

Imperial Academy of Draconian Discoveries

Academy of Dignified Military Education


laughing mannequins full of evil

They are laughing at you always.
And they never stop.

Worldbuilding Wednesday, 8/2/17: Inns, Taverns, and Eateries

Much story development took place in a typical Medieval Inn.

The Granddaddy of all Fantasy fiction tropes must surely be the Medieval Inn, with its open hearths and wenches in low-cut bodices, unsavory characters lurking about, and bowls of hot stew. (No less a luminary than Tolkien created the seminal template with The Prancing Pony.)

In truth, inns served a vital function in the Medieval/Renaissance world. Travel and commerce were becoming more common, and at the same time, highwaymen and robbers began to make open-air camping unsafe near settled areas. Where there was a business need, then as now, a business sprang up to serve it.  The hospitality and food inns served was diverse, depending on the area’s resources and its wealth.

Here’s a list of randomly generated inn names you can use in your own works, and a list of House Specialties they might serve to their hungry patrons.

Inns, Taverns, and Eateries


The Grotto of the Dark Virgin

The Merry Peacock

The Whistling Fox Retreat

The Longshoreman’s Treasure

The Double Apple Inn

Bunker of the Foolish Dragon

The Windlass

The Laughing Moon

The Bard’s Dogfish

The Four Bottles Alehouse

The Monk’s Tumbling Mug

The Sapphire Phoenix

The Whistling Horse Inn

The Dagger and the Pearl

Four Mugs Hideaway

The Minstrel’s Jewels

The Tipsy Pine

Golden Dragon Tavern

The Black Star Inn

Inn of the Sleeping Moon

The Admiral’s Blue Haven

Mermaid’s Golden Alehouse

Keep of the Prudent Virgin

The Happy Basilisk

The Captain’s Crab

Shanty of the Puzzled Mug

The Silver Compass

Alehouse of the Blue Dog

Fifty Crown Alley

The Grinning Raven

The Mermaid’s Flying Anchor

The Stumbling Weasel Inn

The Thirsty Frigate

The Salty Cockerel

The Prince’s Plow

The Wench’s Dirty Dungeon

The Fainting Gypsy

Retreat of the Four Jewels

The Pirate’s Plot

The Singing Shark Tavern

Manor of Dancing Spirits

The Golden Dog

On the Menu… (House Specialties)

Devil’s Pudding:   Pureed mussels and collard greens.

Goodwive’s Wonder:    Slow-roasted bacon glazed with raspberry juice and the whites from goose’s eggs.

Poslim:    Eel and pumpkin stew.

Geltonshaft:   A creamy cheese with a red-orange rind.

Gorgon’s Omelet:     Slow-roasted gizzards glazed with berry juice and scramble-fried with hen’s eggs.

Blueberry Sinner:    A nutty ale from the east.

Dibbleqat:    Fermented goat’s milk sweetened with apple-quince syrup.

Duke’s Dice:    An alcoholic drink made from bulgur mash beer mixed with milk.

Peach Wonder:    A delicious ale from the far south.

Whore’s Stew:    Roasted fish mixed with collard greens.

Dascups:    Fried oat and garbanzo bean cakes.

Savorfern:    A savory pasty cheese made from mare’s milk.

Grundyrice:    Thin slices of suckling pig dried in the sun until chewy.

Vanbittant:    Cold fermented kefir blended with mead.

Scullylunga:    A soft, filling cheese flavored with lemon.

Spinsalt:    A starchy white cheese made from unicorn milk.

Dashobble:    A dark, pasty tea brewed from alini leaves.

Scaddylak Scarlet:    A local beer.

Dame’s Cross:    Frothy cucumber juice flavored with nutmeg.

Gobblelunge:    Fried goat with pickled mushrooms.

Gods’ Broth:    Slow-roasted pork soup decorated with the whites from chicken’s eggs.

Funnack:    Roasted pike stuffed with boiled broad beans.

Bobbleflan:    Roasted tripe served with lentils.

Rummyborne:    A northern brandy that tastes of cherry and fennel.

Caskdrop:   A local beer.

Raspberry Envy:    A bright pink alcoholic beverage brewed from hyzenberries.

Scullybeck:    A soft cheese flavored with bacon.


Black Queen III

The Black Queen’s personal life was full of misery, which was odd for such
a powerful figure. Sad to say, she wasn’t above taking it out
on her slaves.


(Misery by FrankT on DeviantArt)