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Thomas Rowlandson - Dinner - WGA20169

Characters in Ghastly Affair who have any contact with High Society will eventually be invited to a formal dinner party. In the game’s Ghastly Age (1765 – 1820), such events are ostentatious displays of wealth that last for hours. As with fashion (and most other things), the practice in France is taken as the model for High Society across Europe. The meal is presented in 3 to 4 “stages”, with each stage consisting of up to 20 different dishes artfully arranged on the table along with appropriate decorations. Diners are served (or take) whatever food they like from the selection laid out. A stage is left on the table for around 15 minutes before it is cleared by the servants. The first stage will always include one or more large tureens of soups (along with fish, birds, and small meat dishes), the second one or more roasts with various vegetables and sauces, and the last stage will be desserts. If there is a fourth stage it will usually be a mixture of hot and cold dishes. The wines are brought (or passed) around the table, with the host often pouring the best ones himself. In addition, there may be one or more cups (coups) of wine or liqueur served to all the guests at specific times before and during dinner.

Since there are long waits between stages of the dinner, guests are expected to display their skill at conversation in the intervals. Guests may even retire to drawing rooms between stages.

Dances and salons in High Society often include a dinner or supper. If there is no other entertainment arranged, guests will retire to drawing rooms after dinner to drink coffee, play cards and converse, possibly late into the night. Guests may even be invited to view the host’s cabinet of curiosities!

Naturally, many of the incidents listed below are serious breaches of etiquette, loaded with dramatic potential. Some could easily be the cause of duels.

d20 Events and Catastrophes at Dinner

  1. One of the dishes tastes either especially good, or particularly horrible. However, everybody else but the Player Character holds exactly the opposite opinion!
  2. There is a cry for help from an adjoining room. It is a servant being assaulted? Or does the voice belong to a restless ghost that haunts the house? Why do only the Player Characters seem to hear it (or care)?
  3. One of the dishes that the host is especially proud to present is spoiled and will cause food poisoning if consumed. If the PC can taste the spoilage, will they eat it anyway to prevent a breach of etiquette?
  4. One of the wines is especially good, and everyone comments on it. Perhaps it is a fabled vintage that is supposed to be impossible to acquire, yet the host host seems to have an ample supply.
  5. A footman or lackey stumbles with a platter, and the food tumbles onto the ground. The heartless guests at the table will almost certainly not help him in any way, and will probably ridicule him. Will he be motivated to take brutal revenge at a later time?
  6. A prominent guest with powerful (and dangerous) friends becomes so drunk they fall of their chair, looking so ridiculous that characters may have to Save versus Charisma to avoid spontaneously breaking out into laughter.
  7. A diner’s sleeve (or elaborate hair!) catches fire from the candles on the table. Think quick!
  8. An obviously drunk man starts insulting the clothes of the people near him, including the Player Characters.
  9. A Player Character sees a rat or other vermin. Note that even the grandest châteaux and manor houses of the Ghastly Age will have rats.
  10. One of the diners is so attractive and /or well-dressed that those attracted to their gender barely touch their food so they can look at them.
  11. One of the diners eats little, but seems to be sizing up several other guests. Are they an assassin? A blackmailer looking for evidence of scandal? Or is it the Devil himself, preparing to make someone an offer they can’t resist?
  12. Somebody has spiked the punch-bowl with laudanum. Was it the host, a guest, or the servants?
  13. Somebody has taken an extremely unpopular political opinion, and obnoxiously defends it.
  14. A Player Character finds a note surreptitiously slipped into their pocket (or reticule), arranging an assignation at a later date. Of course, the other party is someone shockingly inappropriate.
  15. A servant makes a mistake, and somebody begins loudly berating them.
  16. Someone begins choking, perhaps a known enemy of the host only invited out of social obligation. What do the PC’s do?
  17. An insult results in somebody being stabbed with a fork. This may easily escalate into a duel.
  18. Somebody begin loudly criticizing the food, and proclaiming the superior skills of their own cook.
  19. A diner spills wine or food all over the extremely expensive outfit they had made just for this event. Were they intentionally bumped, are are they just clumsy?
  20. Several of the diners seem to be sending each other coded messages through the tapping of their fingers on the table. Are they members of a secret society, clandestine lovers, or just mutually bored?