What folks eat down in the megadungeon, in the deep dark corners of vast subterranean caverns and labyrinthine complexes of darklords is a matter of concern for those looking for a trace of realism or just a tad of verisimilitude to make the megadungeon environment work within a vaguely plausible set of bounds that isn't too far removed from something the players can deal with. How is lord dark feeding his vast army of humanoids and dastardly turncoats if there aren't caravans with food supplies arriving on a regular basis, or the megadungeon is not surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland? well with food that can be gathered from the environment itself of course and to that end I present melch. Melch is a pale grey frothy slime that grows throughout the deep dark underground realms in fissures, cracks, dark nooks, and burbling pits.
Three quarts of melch will feed a man for a day but it's a dreary, loathsome, nearly unpalatable diet. Most surface dwellers would not be pleased at all on being survived their second meal of raw melch after the first meal of raw melch.
Raw melch will remain vaguely edible for months on end if stored in stone containers with secured heavy lids. While melch will not win any records it can slowly move maybe getting as far as a foot or two in an entire day (picture your cupboard if peanutbutter could go for a slow walk now and again).
Some subterranean folk know secrets of cultivating melch that involve other subterranean slimes and jellies in the process along with a portion of organic waste. Some underfolk will fill a great stone basin with as much as 100 gallons of melch, a corpse and a small amount of green slime and seal the mess up to return in a few weeks to find a harvest of 300+ gallons of melch pretty much waiting for harvest.
Melch dries out an collapses disappearing into barely noticeable dusty traces if exposed to sunlight and also does poorly if exposed to fresh rainwater.
Some sages have argued the aggressive and hostile nature of subterranean peoples is not just due to the constant pressure of inter-species conflict but the desire to eat something other than melch.
The following are some means of preparing melch that increase its portability, utility, and willing consumption.
Melch Boil- The most basic form of preparation of melch involves putting a quart of the stuff in a small pot with a cup of water and slowly stirring while bringing the mess to a boil, it;s ready to serve when melch starts to dissolve and lose some of it cohesiveness.
Melch Paste- If melch is boiled in a solution of vinegar and water until it thickens into a paste (almost as thick as peanut butter) it ends up a slightly more appealing paste that may be eaten by itself but it is typically used in other dishes.
Melch Flour- properly dried melch paste results in a powder that can be mused much as flour is used by surface dwellers.
Melch Drop- A soup made by dropping dollops of melch paste into water, broth or oil that has just been brought up to boiling.
Melch Loaf- a bread of sorts that has an odd texture not too far removed from a cross between dense bread and dray cheese. Almost flavorless by surface dweller standards and that probably explains it's widespread used by some folk of the deep dark.
Melch Strip- fried strips of melch loaf.
Melchins- a dumpling formed from melch flour and paste with a variety of fillings. The sort of filling used will typically lend itself to the specific dish being served (i.e. "Sausage Melchins", "Fishy Melchins"...).
Traggy- a candy chew made from reconstituting and melch flour into a stiff jelly. Normally served sweet, salty, or spicy hot.
Natters- gobs of meat putrefied in a solution of brine and melch. The gobs are typically served fried.
Squaltch- a paste formed by mixing melch, slightly rotting meat and worm larva in vinegar for a period of months. It is served as a spread or sometimes used to stuff sausages. Palatable by most surface dwellers until they discover what it is.
Jollies- a piece of animal intestine stuffed with melch paste and baked.
Moosh- a mashed lump of roots mixed with a roughly equal portion of melch, melch paste and melch flour.
Soggies- toasted meclh loaf slices soaked in a syrup, wine, spirits, or dungeon honey.
Grayervy- melch flour, grease, water and some seasoning (hopefully) mixed together to form a thin gray gravy served with many other dishes.
Servings for dishes in under taverns will vary for 2 to 20 copper pieces in cost depending on method of preparation, seasonings and local tastes, the more elaborate dishes will of course be more expensive.
A quart of raw melch will typically fetch 1/2 to 1 cp, the vessels to carry it in are much more expensive typically costing about 1/2 to a 1sp per quart of melch they can hold.
Further notes: This comes from my pondering megadungoen ecology and diets after reading a bit about slime molds and how much they are found all over (and within) the real world.
Wandering encounter or dungeon stocking charts should probably have an entry for a Melch Drip. Such a Melch drip would be a crack or fissure that would in 10 to 200 feet lead to a larger amount of the stuff. Some folks claim all true deposits of the stuff are connected and part of one large being but most dismiss such nonsense.