Dungeons & Dragons TikToker Jake Pauwels doesn’t start his videos with rulebooks or character sheets, but instead with paper plates and sandwich ingredients. During many lunchtimes this spring, the high fantasy writer and Dungeon Master has written lists of everything he had in his fridge onto a series of plates and used dice rolls to decide what Frankenstein sandwich he’ll build before eating his creation. He now has more than 800k followers on TikTok, many coming for Roll for Sandwich, which has skyrocketed in popularity.
Pauwels usually starts by rolling a six-sided die down a magnificent dice tower, which is set beside a plate or paper with a chart noting possible ingredients. Whatever side it lands on first corresponds to a type of bread, with options ranging from naan to croissants, then mains, from corned beef to peanut butter. Next is cheese, “roughage,” and wild magic — which uses a D20 die and adds anything from spice to sprinkles to fire. Finally comes the risky sauce chart, which could alter the entire taste profile with chocolate frosting or spruce tip jam. He then assembles the complete, though maybe questionable, sandwich. Roll for Sandwich has since produced dozens of episodes, from roast beef and marshmallow fluff sammies to a horseradish and hearts of palm pretzel bagel. It’s not all ick factor — many combos are wonderful and teach both Pauwels and the viewer something about flavor.
EP 42 - 6/10/22 - If you don’t know what I am refrencing throughout this video, I probably sound like an absolute crazy person! #rollforsandwich #dndtiktok #foodietok #iamaprofessional #professional♬ Lute - AllMusicGallery
As a stay-at-home dad, Pauwels started the series as a fun way to retool D&D gameplay with components he had around his house, especially after grocery runs, he told Polygon. Since the early episodes, the production quality has expanded with customized dice, a dice tower to help roll them, and a chainmail glove and axe to help cut the sandwiches — the wielding of which got Pauwels temporarily slapped with a TikTok Community Guidelines violation. His insightful, descriptive voice-over has stayed consistent throughout the series. He originally added it out of necessity so he wouldn’t wake his young daughter, who was asleep just out of the frame of the sandwich-making station.
Roll for Sandwich has been an instant success on TikTok, with thousands returning for each new episode and some even asking for permission to start their own dice-roll series, such as Jared Frazier’s Roll for Cocktail. Pauwels video chatted with Polygon to discuss cinnamon raisin happy accidents, the end of the Sandwich season, and the joy of randomness in gaming and storytelling. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Polygon: Do you finish every sandwich?
Pauwels: Yes, that was important to the concept of the show. Rolling for a randomly generated lunch that I can just throw away if I don’t like it doesn’t have the same weight. There are real consequences to the rolls that you make in D&D. Well, real fantasy consequences. I was hoping to embody that in this project. And it’s not like I’m putting anything dangerous on that list — I can suffer for five minutes to eat a bad sandwich to maintain the integrity of the show and to provide some entertainment for people.
And there’s so much food waste on TikTok where people are making awful, horrendous things for views and not eating it. I’m not in a place financially where I can buy a bunch of groceries and then throw half of them away every week.
Episode 19 - What will it be today? #rollforsandwich #food #dndtiktok♬ Lute - AllMusicGallery
Is there a food combo you randomly got that was a surprising success for you?
The way that I think about cinnamon raisin bread has changed a lot. I always used to think of it as a breakfast treat, but it’s been good with salty lunch meats. Early on, I rolled cinnamon raisin bread and pastrami, cheese, apple slices, and hot mustard. It was great.
There’s something chaotically joyful about letting randomness decide what you’re going to eat. Why do you think it’s so fun to watch series or play games that incorporate similar randomness?
The beauty of true randomness of the dice rolling system is that you have the potential for two different outcomes; both are enjoyable when you’re sitting down with your friends and playing a game. You have the successes/critical successes that move the story along, and then you have the critical fails that provide comedy or situations that you didn’t foresee at all. It really makes it a communal experience. If I wanted to tell the whole story, I would just keep writing my book.
If people discover your D&D and world-building account through your Roll for Sandwich videos, is there one takeaway you want them to leave your account thinking about?
It’s good to be open-minded about food, because it can surprise you. I’ve gotten tons of messages from people saying “you’ve super helped me with my eating disorder.” I’ve gotten long messages about how watching me take risks with food has helped people that may have sensory issues or food aversions, things I never expected to get but are awesome. I’ve had plenty of people comment on my videos, saying, “I’ve never really been interested in D&D, but these do make me want to try it out.”
What are they seeing in your lunch series that’s turning them to tabletop role-playing?
I think part of it is the unexpectedness of rolling and the excitement of saying, “We just missed having a crab, cheese, and chocolate sauce sandwich again.” That’s core to role-playing. Any unforeseen outcome in a video game is just because you didn’t expect it to happen, but it was programmed in as a possibility. Whereas in D&D, that thing that happened only happened to you. You get to live a life that is just as unique as your own life.
Relatedly, you’ve discussed how Adventures in Aardia is your main account now, even though you didn’t intend it to be, and have a lot of DM/fantasy author aspects to your account that you also want to pull on. How are you thinking of using the success of Roll for Sandwich to bolster these other passions, like the high fantasy novel you’re writing?
This is the darkest timeline. #rollforsandwich #dndtiktok #food♬ BARD'S TALE - Filip Lackovic
I definitely plan to use this as a platform to talk about it while still doing the Roll for Sandwich, doing the stuff that you know the majority of the people are here for. It’s not like I’m completely famous for food and then I’m all of a sudden like, “Hey, I wrote this fantasy book.” It’s in the name of my account. I have some plans this summer to take a little bit of time off Roll for Sandwich as an end of season 1, leading into season 2. I’ll be able to focus on actually working on my novel and maybe sharing some of that content in the channel as well.
Will season 2 change mechanically in any way?
Not a lot! Maybe 30% of my comments on every video are about rolling twice for this, rolling for how toasted it is. I have thought about the majority of those things. I can’t do all of them. I’m already pushing the boundaries of the length of TikTok videos at three minutes. But I continue to experiment with what I can do — I just recently got a propane pastry torch.
Roll for Sandwich grew out of you being the Dungeon Master for a D&D campaign, but before then, what was your go-to D&D character?
My most recent character before I started DMing was a Warforged monk, built by an assassin’s guild as a mindless killing automaton. They didn’t have a name but a designation, which was Guild Requisition Elimination Golem: GREG.