Fast food is a competitive industry. Advertising in the industry isn’t to let people know the companies exist; the average person can name a number of fast food restaurants off the top of their head. The goal of the advertising is to get people talking and possibly wanting fast food in the moment. Product placement is always a possibility, though it may backfire as shown with *Mac and Me*[https://psychodrivein.com/lost-in-translation-276-remaking-mystery-science-theater-3000-the-gauntlet/].
Along the way, some marketing execs figured that the best way to reach a target audience was to provide what that audience likes. The catch is to keep the cost of access negligible. The results include three X-Box and X-Box 360 video games featuring the Burger King, Wendy’s tabletop RPG[https://psychodrivein.com/lost-in-translation-313-feast-of-legends/], Arby’s anime-inspired Twitter account, and a KFC dating sim. Burger King was the only one of that list to charge, and even then, it was under $4.00, far below the average price of a new X-Box/X-Box 360 in 2006. The rest are at no cost to the target audience.
KFC began from humble roots in 1930, as Harland Sanders served fried chicken alongside country ham and steak at the Sanders’ Cafe in Corbin, Kentucky, across from a gas station where he began with just the ham and steak for truckers. Sanders started using a pressure cooker to seal in his secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices[https://twitter.com/kfc/following]. Sanders’ Cafe was included in a 1935 road-food guide. Original Recipe, as the blend of herbs and spices used today are known, was perfected in 1940. The success of Sanders’ fried chicken led to him receiving the honorary title of Colonel from the Governor of Kentucky in 1950, leading Sanders to wear the white suit and black bow tie he became known for.
The first franchise was created in 1952 in South Salt Lake, Utah. When a highway bypassed Corbin in 1955, Sanders’ Cafe shut down due to a lack of travellers. Colonel Sanders sold the property and travelled across the US to sell more franchises, gaining the name Kentucky Fried Chicken in the process. Sanders became the face of the franchise until, even appearing in ads until his death in 1980. Afterwards, an animated Colonel Sanders was introduced in 1998 as a mascot for the brand. As much as Colonel Sanders had issues with how the brand was handled after he sold it off, he is still even today a part of it, with his likeness on boxes and barrels, one of the rare fast food mascots based on a real person.
As new generations are born and grow up, new ways to get their attention are needed. Dating sims originated in their current form in Japan in 1992 and made in-roads to North America riding with waves of anime series. The goal of a dating sim is to romance one or more potential match ups. The games tend to take time as the player works magic on the preferred romantic partner. What better way to promote a brand than by having players try to romance Colonel Sanders?
Have players romance a sexy Colonel Sanders.
KFC commissioned Psyop to create a dating sim, *I Love You, Colonel Saunders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator*[https://store.steampowered.com/app/1121910/I_Love_You_Colonel_Sanders_A_Finger_Lickin_Good_Dating_Simulator/]. The game was released in 2019 and available for free on Steam. The player is a student at the University of Cooking School: Academy of Learning, a prestigious school where the top chefs learn and compete. Naturally, there are rivals, including Aeshleigh, who has an extra letter in her name just because, her right-hand man Van Van the Man Man. They have a definite Team Rocket[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib084tzN8H0] vibe. Van Van even shows a *JoJo`s Bizarre Adventure* influence
Fortunately, the player has their best friend, Miriam, who wants to become the foremost tiny food chef, in their corner. On the sidelines are Pop, Clank, and a student, with Spinkles, aka Professor Dog, teaching the three-day trimester. Rounding out the cast is, of course, sexy Colonel Harland Sanders. The game plays quickly, taking about an hour to complete a play-through. There are unexpected twists and challenges, but the game’s goal is brand identification. Naturally, KFC’s menu gets mentioned.
The designers could have just created a generic dating sim and used the likeness of the Colonel, but *I Love You, Colonel Sanders* took a few extra steps. The game is over the top, revelling in audacity. Underneath the audacity, though, are facts about KFC and its founder. The real Harland Sanders had a full life, and the game just scratches the surface, but the details are there if the romance is successful.
Psyop put in an effort to portray the game’s Col. Sanders accurately. The real Harland Sanders was passionate about his fried chicken, complaining when PepsiCo and, later, Yum bought the company, to the point where he still had control over franchises in Canada. The game’s version is as passionate, exaggerated a little but still coming from the same place. The character’s appearance reflected the white suit and black string tie Sanders wore he was granted his honorary title. The two herbs and spices that are revealed but still redacted are the two Sanders admitted to. The game has a heart, and that heart is Colonel Sanders.
Fast food is highly competitive. So many options for the person who just wants to have a quick, inexpensive meal. Each fast food chain has its own way of getting attention, from mascots to sponsorships to tie-ins to other mainstream media. Burger King had three XBox/XBox 360 video games. Arby’s has its anime-aware Twitter account. KFC produced a dating sim featuring the Colonel. McDonald’s has its ubiquitous nature. So what is a chain like Wendy’s supposed to do?
Would you believe a tabletop role-playing game?
Wendy’s made available a free RPG called Feast of Legends, where players are called by Queen Wendy, first of her name, breaker of fast food chains, defender of all things fresh, never frozen, ruler of the realm of Freshtovia since 1969, to defend the realm against the evils of the dark art of frozen beef and their practitioners. The land of Beef’s Keep have fractured over how to treat beef, with some siding with Creepingvale and the United Clown Nations and going with freezing.
Yes, the goal is to sell Wendy’s hamburgers and other foods with subtle and, at times, not so subtle jabs at the competition. Lurking beneath the marketing is a solid game mechanic that takes inspiration and cues from the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons since the turn of the millennium. The question becomes, can a fast food restaurant be adapted as a tabletop RPG?
Back a bit, I went through what is key for adapting a work to a tabletop RPG. The five points to watch for are:
1. Is there something for the players to do?
2. Can the players have the same impact on the setting as the main characters?
3. Does the plot of the original work allow for expansion?
4. Will the adapted game bring in something that a more generic game can’t?
5. Is the license available?
The last one is easy to answer. Wendy’s is the publisher, bypassing the need to get a license. Skips the middleman and gets the game out. The third question is the big one, though. The original has no plot. The original is a fast food restaurant. There is no plot, just a daily war between the folks behind the counter and the ravening mass of humanity determined to leave nothing in its wake but destruction, or, as they mass calls itself, customers. While the idea of playing the last stand of the unfortunates standing against the horde may be appealing, that’s not what Feast of Legends is about. It’s an epic fantasy based on the menu at Wendy’s. There’s going to be a lot of stretching of points here.
The RPG does give something for the players to do and not only are their characters having the same impact as the main ones, they are the leads. Queen Wendy needs brave souls to fight for Freshtovia, and given the number of competitors for the fast food dollar, there is room for expansion.
Mechanically, Feast of Legends is what is called a “fantasy heartbreaker“, a fantasy RPG that tries to be different from D&D but still relies heavily on the older game. What would be a liability, though, works in the favour of Feast. Leaning on what D&D has done makes it easier to get buy-in from players and an easier learning curve, even for rookies. This leaves room for developing the world itself, which is where Feast starts to shine.
Feast is a marketing tool. The game doesn’t shy away from that fact. Instead, it revels in it. Not only are the players working on Queen Wendy’s behalf, their opponents are from the competing fast food restaurants. The classes are reskinned as Orders, each one named after different parts of the menu, such as Order of the Beef, Order of the Chicken, and Order of the Sides. Each Order has its own sub-Order, named after specific items on the menu. There are special abilities that each Order gets, but, broadly speaking, the Order of the Chicken is the magical class, Order of the Beef the fighter class, and Order of the Sides the roguish class with a touch of magic.
The mechanics take advantage of being menu items. To encourage the players to eat off the Wendy’s menu, there are mechanical advantages depending on what’s being consumed. An added benefit is if the item being eaten matches the name of the character’s order, the player gets advantage on every roll made that night, rolling two twenty-sided dice and taking the better result. If a player decides to eat from a competitor, then woe be on the character as penalties apply. The worst may be from eating gas station food, a -2 to Intelligence all night.
The world of Beef’s Keep includes a map. Keeping with the hamburger theme, there are two mountain ranges, Top Bun Mountains and Bottom Bun Mountains. Freshtovia, Creepingvale, and the United Clown Nations aren’t the only realms; there’s also The Box, the Twin Cities of Carl, and the Temple of Panda. Other named features include Lake John Silver and Roast Beach. The greatest threat comes from the Deep Freeze, home of the Ice Jester and his United Clown Nations. The adventure that comes with the game has the players take on the Jester and his minions, Grumble, the Beef Burgler, and the Fry Fiends, to protect Freshtovia from being flash frozen.
The setting is very tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at Wendy’s competition. The game is not meant to be taken seriously, though the work that went into it was serious. The goal of the game is fun. There’s room to explore beyond the adventure. After all, Creepingvale is nearby with its creepy king with the paper crown, waiting to sneak his minions up to the border of Freshtovia when no one is looking.
Feast of Legends is a very loose adaptation of the Wendy’s menu and chain. As a tabletop RPG, there’s a few gaps, but not many. The artwork is on par with the larger RPG publishers. As an adaptation, well, it exists for marketing purposes, but there is a sense of fun that went into the game. Mechanically, the game is sound, and emphasizes the message the publisher wants to get across, “Eat at Wendy’s”. For its price, the game is far better than it has a right to be, but Wendy’s wanted something memorable for its audacity, not its drawbacks. The creators hit the right balance between game and marketing, making something that can be played and that people will want to try out.