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Fantasy Crops For Your Game

Strong shrooms [1]

Something that rarely comes up in fantasy games, though characters often travel through farming villages, is agriculture. Yes, sometimes there’s a fight in a field, or a possessed scarecrow, or orc raiders are burning the fields or slaughtering cattle, but medieval fantasy peasants grow the same crops that we do in the modern world. Which is odd when you think about it. Because yes, mad wizards are more likely to make owlbears and oubliettes* than magical corn, but farm boys become apprentices sometimes and then there are times that magic just happens: Stray magic warps things or a wish ends up weird.

So here is a seed pouch of odd crops to drop in your game. You can use them to add some fantasy flavor or a touch of magic to a location, or securing them can be the focus of a quest.**

Rockwheat: A magical cross between a lichen and a grain, rockwheat isn’t an impressive crop. It has a poor yield, low nutritional value and isn’t particularly tasty. It is however extremely hardy, growing in rocky and barren terrain and cold temperatures that would kill other typical crops. Mountain villages often raise rockwheat on sheer hillsides, the walls and roofs of their buildings and even on the walls of mine shafts (though it does grow poorly in low light conditions).
– Similar crops: Desert carrots with hairy taproot systems that reach several yards deep in the ground for moisture, Shadow Melons that grow pale and squishy in complete darkness. Pick an environment hostile to traditional crops and twist one to fit.

Shreikers: The traditional screaming mushroom is edible, and fields of them serve as a useful early warning system for villages. Like most fungi, they’re not terribly nutritious and they require warm moist growing conditions, but with some good livestock waste for fertilizer, will grow quickly and abundantly.
– Similar crops: Lots of the traditional “hazard plants” from games such as sundew and assassin vines make excellent defenses as well as food sources, as long as villagers are able to protect themselves from their own defenses during harvest time.

Lightfruit: Native to the underdark, these scraggly bushes grow small fruit that shed a gentle light. They make useful exterior light for gardens, yards and city parks as well as providing food. They come in a variety of colors and properly processed juices, wines, jellies and candies retain their illuminating properties.
– Similar crops: Edible varieties of mosses, mushrooms, and even seaweeds can provide illumination as well as nutrition

Firebulbs: Through some strange alchemy or magic these sulfuric onions release considerable heat when bitten or cut.  They will actually cook themselves as well as other ingredients they are mixed with, and make excellent hand warmers. They grow exceptionally well in ash or volcanic soil
-Similar crops: Oilgrapes are a similar but inedible plant with military applications. When one of their oily sacs is crushed, it undergoes a violent heat reaction which quickly sets off its neighbors, spraying burning oil all around itself. For obvious reasons, their stems and vines are highly fire resistant.

Wonderroot: A starchy root similar to potatoes with no flavor of their own, mashed up and mixed with a small quantity of something else, wonderroot will weakly mimic other flavors. This is a popular crop among the poor to stretch more expensive food. It grows well in wet mucky earth.
– Similar crops: There are other plants that mimic tastes and a psionic fruit that reads your mind and tastes like you want it to.

What other fantastic crops can you imagine for your game? How would you use these?

* Awesome name for a DnD retro clone
** Knights of the dinner table did a series of strips on a quest to secure some orc turnips which were so large and hard they could be used as a thrown weapon that did 1d10 damage.

6 Comments (Open | Close)

6 Comments To "Fantasy Crops For Your Game"

#1 Comment By Lugh On April 5, 2017 @ 6:01 am

These are surprisingly wonderful. Lists like this typically lean towards either the silly or the over-powered, but you walked a great line of “useful to peasants”. Rockwheat is an excellent solution for a lot of those “But what do they eat?” plot holes. And I just love wonderroot.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m stealing some of these for my campaign world. Thanks!

#2 Comment By Knight of Roses On April 5, 2017 @ 6:57 am

Good ideas. And with magical hybridization you can have some very interesting crops indeed. Druids working towards a crop revolution to minimize the amount of land needed from crop growing perhaps.

But what about the Walking Apples Trees who move to find better soil and access to water? I think fantastic is often the way to go with things like this.

#3 Comment By Hawkesong On April 5, 2017 @ 12:13 pm

I’ve been one of those that gets a little silly with magical/wondrous crops. I blame Xanth a little bit for the cherry bomb trees and snapdragons – though those also showed up in Coraline so…anyway.

I also had a desert plant, which I called sweet thornroot. Like a saguaro cactus, it stores water inside it, but thornroot is adapted to high, cold deserts, and has the magical property that the juice of it can never be frozen – by natural *or* magical means. The stuff was toxic to humans, but the desert natives cultivated little groves of the plant along the wadis near their villages – places that in the past had been excellent hiding places for bandits and raiders. Well, the thornroot was a favored food of a monster (I forget which one now). So, the monster left the villagers alone – generally they didn’t need to be in the groves much in the first place anyway – but if any raiders or bandits tried to hide in the wadis, the monster would not take kindly to the potential threat to its thornroot…

I also concocted magical ways to grow normal plants in non-normal settings, so that dwarves could grow their own barley underground if they had to. They prefer surface-grown barley, but they can and will do without it if they need to seal their city against the outside world for some reason.

Then again, I have as much fun describing the foods the PCs might encounter in their travels as I do with any of the rest. I’m lucky in that my players are either just as much food-obsessed as I am, or at least they’re entertained enough by the idea of dwarves inventing the deep fryer that they’ll put up with my occasional wanderings into “fantasy food network,” haha!

#4 Comment By Sewicked On April 5, 2017 @ 5:52 pm

You can also look at Medieval bestiaries for ideas. For example, the vegetable lamb of Tartary. It’s a lamb that grows on a vine and grazes in a circle from the base plant until it grazes the area bare. Then it naturally dies and can be eaten. And the only predators who hunt it are humans and wolves, means it needs little guarding.

In desert areas, you can plant a couple by an oasis and come back in a couple months when they’re ‘ripe.’ They’re commonly used in temperate areas to clear fields, eating the stalks left in the field after harvest.

#5 Comment By Philmagpie On April 6, 2017 @ 12:00 am

Hi Matthew,

Great article! I am with Lugh, I am taking this for my campaign.

My current story arc is based around an underground dwarf city, so this article made me think of rock barley. This hardy grain grows in low-light conditions. The vigorous roots suck nutrients from the hardest of rocks, reducing them to fine dust. Mining communities value rock barley as a method of managing slag and waste. Once harvested, rock barley makes chewy bread and strong ale.

Happy Gaming

#6 Comment By Philmagpie On April 6, 2017 @ 12:06 am

Oops, double posting.