GM Word of the Week: Mayonnaise

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Mayonnaise. The Word of the Week is Mayonnaise. Don’t blame us. Blame Wizards of the Coast and Monty Haul and magic items in general.

The GM Word of the Week is produced and performed by Fiddleback of The Mad Adventurers Society and written by The Angry GM of this site right here that you are reading.

7 thoughts on “GM Word of the Week: Mayonnaise

  1. This word of the week is next level! My 2 cents on “how can you use this in your game”: introduce the characters to some totally unknown substance (mayonnaise) and see what they do with it. Will they taste it? Sell it? Quit adventuring and open a sandwich shop? Figure out how to recreate it? Or just use it as an improvised Grease spell.

    Repeat in the next dungeon, only this time the substance is regenerating troll blood. Or sahuagin condiment that can be eaten underwater. Or acid. Whatever will make the world seem more inexplicable and mysterious. And if the PCs are bored of investigating weird slime and just want to move on to the next scene, no harm done.

    Not something I’d want to center a campaign around, but it could be an interesting diversion once or twice in a campaign. Or let you stall for time while you improvise the next section of the adventure 🙂

  2. As near as I can tell, the original AD&D alchemy jug had a weird item on it too — chlorine. Chlorine wasn’t discovered until the 1700s. In its pure form at temperatures we can endure, it’s a gas rather than a liquid like everything else on the list. The most obvious liquid one might mean, bleach, wasn’t invented until after chlorine was discovered, and it’s not clear how it could have been invented prior to that point. Bleaching was only doable through sunlight back in the day. In that way, chlorine being gone in favor of mayo means one screwy anachronistic thing is gone in favor of a different screwy anachronistic thing in an absurd quantity.

    That being said, unlike bleach or inexplicably liquid pure chlorine, mayo is one of those things that’s arguably only modern by accident. Its constituent ingredients aren’t that difficult to come by, nor is it particularly counterintuitive to combine all of them if experimenting in the kitchen. The biggest obstacle to mayonnaise in ancient times is that it would have had to have been used immediately due to lack of refrigeration. It’s an anachronism, but not an implausible one if one takes that limitation into account.

    There are a number of inventions throughout history that theoretically could have been invented much earlier, but weren’t — or were, but were quickly forgotten. Take hot air balloons, for example. While specialized burners of the sorts we know are something only possible through modern technology, replace that with a simple fired clay pot to burn things in — perhaps grooved to be easier to tie ropes around — and they could exist much, much earlier. Using tar to seal the fabric would no doubt be necessary. Again, glaringly anachronistic but not out of the question.

    The difference between “didn’t exist” and “couldn’t have existed” is important if one wants to make a world different from the classic pseudo-medieval norm by adding anachronisms. Sometimes all the materials for something exist as is, no particular conceptual roadblock stands in the way, and someone just needs to have had the idea to combine them. (Want a super-weapon for your campaign’s “high-tech” Imperial army that isn’t magical? Try a compound bow. It’s literally just a metal bow with pulleys on it.) Other times, substitutions and limitations are the name of the game, as with the above examples. But some things necessarily require things like factories or standardization to even be possible, or ideas like germ theory of disease or the modern concept of what elements are to even be conceived of.

    Both versions of the alchemy jug are a little odd for a different reason, though. The AD&D version had mostly things one might use in a lab, but randomly also had beer and wine. The 5e version seems to be more of a kitchen jug, mostly producing things one can eat but randomly having poison and acid there too. Of course, there’s significant overlap between the two — there are a number of things useful for both purposes that stayed the same between both versions.

    I think putting effort into speciation between the two would make two much more coherent items. Say, have the kitchen jug offer things like molasses, lemon juice, and apple cider instead of poison and acid, and the actual alchemy jug allow pine tar, hot beeswax, perhaps a weaker form of acid that affects only organic material, and some of the lost AD&D options instead of beer, wine, honey, and mayo.

  3. In my campaign, the mayonnaise was actually the first way that the alchemy jug was used to solve a problem.

    The party was escorting several dozen weak and starving people through the mountains after having rescued them from a dungeon. There was very limited food to scavenge and it was going to take several weeks to get back near sea level and forage. It looked like many of them were going to die on the trip because of a lack of food.

    Mayonnaise has an insane number of calories. That silly two gallons of mayo kept the entire group fed until they made it out safely. Without that mayo, many of them would have starved.

    No matter how ridiculous the item, in someone’s campaign somewhere, it will be what makes the difference.

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