Friday, November 30, 2012

Cooking Masters : Big Eyes, Small Mouth

Cooking Masters
Big Eyes, Small Mouth

Mark, one of my office mates at Indigo-Entertainment Philippines messaged me in Facebook, asking if I could run a Cooking Master Boy inspired role-playing game.  Admittedly, I always love it when other people ask for a specific experience they want to try because it challenges me to find the best system to use, as well as to come up with a great story that touches close to the inspirational source, yet feel uniquely an experience meant for the players themselves to enjoy.

I had three players for this session, thankfully, and I simplified the Big Eye, Small Mouth (BESM) system down to make it absolutely easier for the players to grasp so we could get into gaming as soon as possible.  The three character concepts ended up as the following:

Bon played Chow Chao, the Wizard of the West, a 45 year-old master chef whose hands had the Solar Hands, the ability to heat up and cook food.

Mark was Fao Lao, the Smiling Crab, a young 16 year-old chef who had hands that could transmute water into other substances.  Eager to gain recognition in the cooking arena, Fao Lao had come to join the competition even with his extreme phobia towards seafood, as well as being extremely blind without his glasses.

Urim played Bolin, the 30-year old master chef who had mastered the ability to create Clones of himself.  He believed in the inner spirit of animals, however, which meant he had to pray and thank an animal before killing it.

The three had gathered in the place, upon hearing about the Yu Di Cooking Contest.  And in hopes of making the game have a fun random element, I handed each player two paper strips to add "any descriptive note of a character you can possibly meet in the game."  As the players began their stories, I drew out a slip for each of them to add a non-playing character they can interact with.  Chow Chao drew out the Elder Monk Jiu Ge, who had hoped to join and win, but clearly was too old to do much.  Fao Lao drew out Mei Li, his childhood friend whom had not seen him in many years.  She had grown to be a quite seductive and sultry in the passing years.  Fao Lao was able to stay stoic before her, unlike Chow Chao who clearly was smitten by the woman.  And finally, Bo Lin turned out to be with his murderous brother, Bo Chan, who had the ability to become a living shadow.

While Bo Chan attempted to murder the other competitors, Bo Lin did what he could to stop him, wanting to win the competition through his own skills.  Chow Chao wore a disguise to look like an old woman in hopes of avoiding any trouble.  Fao Lao was surrounded by an entourage of fans who cheered him on as he joined.  None of them anticipated the arrival of Pangu, the self professed Cooking God of Seafood, who had come to join the competition.  As the reigning champion, Pangu had planned to extend his reign as Cooking God for another year.  Fao Lao stared at him with horror, remembering how Pangu was the reason his phobia existed.    As Fao Lao gathers the courage to welcome him, all the others realized if Pangu did not arrive in time to sign up, he would not be part of the competition.  But even as Bo Chan attempted to kill Pangu, Bo Lin intercepted the attempt and allowed Pangu to traverse the distance.  Pangu leaps upon his followers' hands and lands just in time to sign his name in and join.  All the competitors were told to return by the next day, and to bring five ingredients they planned to use in the competition.

The competition was on!

The opening dish was to be an invention test.  As each considered the five ingredients they had brought, the contest began with each being told to hand ONE ingredient in their hands to another chef.  The objective was to still come up with a cool delicious dish using the ingredients they had brought and incorporating the ingredient the other chef had given them.  During the cooking, a glass needle was thrown in an attempt to poison Chow Chao.  Thankfully, the chef was fast enough to dodge it, then used it to strike the elder monk.  Fao Lao grit his teeth as he submerged his hands into the steaming pot he had prepared, to transform the water into a new flavor.   Bo Lin bowed his head to pray to the live piglet he had brought with him, then using various techniques, beat up the pig to let the blood internally flow, then ended it with cooking the battered pig into a delectable dish.

Chow Chao creates "Uri Uri" which uses Sake with a mix of salamander tongue and other spicy ingredients.
Fao Lao creates a unique blend of coffee and rice for a sweet and salty delicacy.
Bo Lin's Roasted Pork Rice Topping astounds the judges.
Mei Lin serves a Bean Sprout soup with five eggs, but her cooking barely catches their favor.
Bo Chan creates a sandwich with terribly thin slices, but pulls out a surprise that catches the judges off guard.
Finally, Pangu uses tremendously expensive ingredients such as crabs, and yellow fin tuna into an incredibly impressive sea food dish.

Results were in and both Pangu and the elder monk were disqualified, with Pangu for attempting to attack the others, and the elder monk seemingly having died in the contest (none witnessed Chow Chao poisoning him with the glass dagger that had been intended for him).  The others take a breather as the next phase of the contest begins in a few.  During the rest, Bo Chan attempts once more to kill Chow Chao and the most he successfully does is poison the guy.  The contest narrows down to the three players after a free-for-all battle is suddenly permitted and Bo Chan, but Bo Chan is very quickly eliminated although his dish (a sandwich) is praised for having a meat that none of the others could identify.  With the last three remaining contestants, the Emperor himself calls for a pressure test.  The contestants are to match his version of Golden Fried Rice, and each hero successfully matches the Emperor's motions as he lights the right fire, gathers fresh river water without touching it, and cooks the perfect amount of rice.  As the lights in the arena are killed, the Emperor challenges all the heroes to do the final step: add the egg to the rice in the right manner.  Of the three, only Bo Lin correctly stirs the egg into the rice while constantly shifting the rice to coat it in the egg.  With all having their own Golden fried rice, the final challenge is then announced: They are to add whatever they have left to give the rice a unique twist of their own.

Fao Lao transforms a remaining egg and water mix to give the rice an interesting new touch of flavor.
Chow Chao pulls a surprising twist by adding calamansi and salamander tongue into his dish.
Bo Lin transforms his rice into a impressive touch, using the remaining fat from his earlier dishes.

But in the end, it is Fao Lao who wins the judges vote.  It is at that moment the whole Arena changes.  The audience fades away into merely puppets.  The Emperor becomes a different entity altogether.  The group stares at the true God of Cooking himself, and his wife approaches Fao Lao to offer him a chance at godhood.  The God of Cooking was hoping to take a vacation and needed someone to take his place temporarily for a year.  "You are offered the chance for godhood, but you have the freedom to turn it down.  The offer after all is not for everyone."  Fao Lao turns the offer down, however, realizing he would not be able to handle experiencing godhood then becoming human once again.  He suggests giving it to Mei Li instead, stating her presence in the contest had driven him to try harder.  She accepts the offer, and learns from the Kitchen God's wife how to survive the experience.


One year later.

The characters are all invited by Mei Li to a lunch upon a barge she now owns.  They all find themselves reconnecting as good friends, thankful for having entered the contest and finding new friends.  Chow Chao feels guilty for having killed the elder monk, but the others remind him that the God of Cooking still forgave him.  He should learn to stop berating himself and start appreciating more life.  As Fao Lao asks Mei Li how she survived experiencing godhood without going insane after losing it, she raises a covered dish and invites everyone to eat.  Placing it down, she raises the cover and a brilliant golden light blinds them all as they see the amazing dish.

"You survive it, by sharing the experience," Mei Li admitted.

And they all partook of the food and tasted a glimpse of heaven itself.


Somewhere, an elder monk finally awoke.  He had a strange dream of various chefs and of being poisoned.  But he awoke and dismissed the dream as just a dream.  A pity Chow Chao would never realize the elder monk was not dead, just too old to care about going to meet them again.


The game was hilarious!  I know the summary here doesn't sound that funny, but to be frank I doubt I can capture how funny it got even if I were to try to explain it.  From crazy antics to laugh-out insane tactics, the players pushed their creative buttons to try to top each other with their dishes.

I had players describe their dishes after making Performance checks, and for every five points beyond the target number, they were able to use additional adjectives in their narrative.   In the finale, with so much Energy in store, the three players rolled and Mark won the contest with a total of 12 adjectives to use.  It was fun listening to each of them describe the emotional rollercoaster the judges would experience upon eating the food that they had cooked.

Oh Cooking Master Boy.
Thank you for the fun!

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