Monday, March 28, 2016

Where You Eat Matters

Five years ago I wrote a post about compelling players to observe some kind of nutrition rules for campaigns.  It was a mental exercise and no more: just an example of the sort of thing that can be reviewed and considered but which is impractical for actual gaming and accounting.

That idea has sat on the shelf since I proposed it.

And now, today, I had an idea.  Have a look at this table, that I've only just designed:

Sorry about the size of the text; I recommend opening it in another window.

Undoubtedly, some are not familiar regarding my very basic rules about the consumption of food.  I am now very seriously considering augmenting those rules by implementing the above table where it comes to where the characters eat and how much effort they make towards that goal.

Basically, the characters make up their mind what sort of food they want to eat and how they wish to prepare it.  The next day, after they've slept, they make a saving throw on the top third of the table; for the most part, the saving throw is going to have no effect on most of the characters.  If it does have an effect, it is likely to be on less than 1/3rd of the party, even if the sorest rations are consumed without any cooking.  However, it makes a significant difference if the party wants to take the time to get themselves a proper wagon, or eat from a kitchen in a house they build, or eat at the local tavern when they get the chance.  The above could seriously punish characters who insist on eating food out of their pockets rather than spend a little for the boar at the local tavern.

Note that the actual food eaten does have some influence.  If the characters do not buy leafy vegetables for their campfire or chuckwagon, they don't get the chuckwagon's effect, no matter how nice the cooking is.  The same is true if the characters insist on drinking beer and not wine or coffee - at least, with regards to amateurs.  I see I will have to make a note that the kitchen has to obey the rule of food choices, but the tavern and up the scale from there does not - because with vegetable stock, cooking with wine and so on, the fortified benefit is cooked right into the meal.

The chance of disease eating field rations is 1 in 20; but I see that the chance is only 1 in 400 with campfire food and 1 in 8000 with wagon food.  I think that's fair.  Characters need to know what they're doing in making their food choices.

Incidentally, the cellar food option comes from a game, Patrician III:

This is the sort of meal that the players can only get if they know people (or they've joined a guild or some such in a given area).  The lord's kitchen, obviously, requires knowing someone in nobility or royalty circles.

There is an ultimate solution for the proposed rule: Heroes' Feast.  A cleric can obtain the spell at 11th level.


Maxwell Joslyn said...

Dammit Alexis, I want to play in your game! I want to have to give a shit about this kind of thing!

I doubt it needs saying but every time I read some new innovation you've cooked up I shudder to think about how ludicrously FAR BEHIND the DMs I've known are. And that includes me, honestly, because even though I'm trying to follow in your footsteps it will be a while yet before I have players (the ones I wrote to you about a little while ago backed out). So I'm still only a "hot rod in the garage" theoretical DM right now, weeding my rules patch and planting my world bits and wondering what the garden's gonna look like in five years.

I'm jealous, man!

Maxwell Joslyn said...

I don't know if this is how you roll, but could you elaborate on how you would actually run the "half the day is wasted" result? Say they're in a market city: do you just ask everyone but those characters what they're doing today, then when everyone else is done say it's the afternoon and go around again, including the previously langorous ones?

I suppose this is butting up against "how is the flow of time handled in your game," an altogether larger question since it also ties into the core DM skill of managing tension.

In my experience, specific time units or divisions get tricky once you start trying to subdivide smaller than days but larger than single hours. And single hours are tough unless you typically track everything in hours -- travel time and so on. I think it's all well and good to do something like "you can collectively visit 1 shopkeeper per day per player in the party," on the other hand. Maybe attach another rule about how an hour passes between each visit, or what have you.

Discord said...

I love it! It's relatively simple, yet it adds a system for something that's solely lacking in the basic rules. I had a few questions on it:

1) Is the saving throw that's made on the top third of the table a straight D20 roll, or is it modified in some way?

2) Barring a result of disease, it is assumed that the rest of the effects last until the next morning, when the save for that day would be made?

3) Could you give more info on how the "Disinterest" result would be handled at the table? The result is pretty clear if the character is crafting or researching or a spell, but how would it play out if the party is camped in the wilderness?

Alexis Smolensk said...


If it makes you feel any better I've just let my players know I'm suspending my campaigns until June. I haven't the time to prep for them and write a book (they've been down this path before).

The half day wasted would count in town and country. I usually 'tax' my players a day when they want to shop; if the character was feeling 'disinterested,' they wouldn't be in the mood to shop that day at all, so I would deny them the privilege of using the market tables unless they wanted to spend an extra day in town.

In the country, that means half the distance covered because the horses got away, the meal was kicked into the fire and had to be remade, a pack came loose and scattered equipment when the mule began to kick and move about, the player frittered and wasted time memorizing spells, etc. This answers Discord's question too, as days in the wilderness are usually rated in miles covered per day - but it could delay entering a dungeon one day or could be played out that the person lays sick in bed at sea rather than clumsily risk people's lives. We've all had these days, when we can't do anything right - and our boss on site sends us home before lunch so that we don't stupidly kill someone.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I see all the rolls being a d20: so that eating at the lord's table is a practical guarantee of walking away sated and happy.

Yes, all effects above, except disease, are one day; but I did think of having a -1 modifier put in place for every day a character 'fails' at all. Thus, if the character were to roll badly enough in four days to be languid, then weak, then irritable, then disinterested, on the fifth day the character would have to make a -4 die roll.

I would hope that this would encourage players to think, "This string of bad luck is getting scary - let's go into town and get a really good meal."

Incidentally, I think that even if I used the system, I'd skip rolling for periods where a week of time passed. It would be very hard to get into the rhythm of rolling it every day - though it would be nice to run a party patient enough to WANT to do that.

T. Xenos said...

This is capital. It's going right into my house rules.

Patrick Ludwig said...

This is a great idea and has me wondering how/if you handle related daily activities like sleep, forced marches and the like that could affect health in a similar way.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I've never been happy with any forced march rules, now that you bring it up. It is one of those things that comes up rarely and would matter most in a war campaign.

I've always wanted to run a war campaign; the sort where players give orders and then learn that such and such a regiment or force broke through or was defeated disastrously. In such cases, forced marches would really mean something.

Up until now, I've mostly caused players to lose levels or stats - but admittedly, the wiki has no hard rules about it because I've never written any. Eventually, I'll feel pressed to do so (so that some players can have immunity to it, probably through sage abilities).

With sleep, again, I find I haven't written any hard rules on the wiki. Usually, I judge if a party can sleep or not given a certain environment, or make sure they know that attempting to sleep will be a big risk if they try to do it in dangerous circumstances - a dungeon, say. If parties have slept to regain their spells, I will usually impose a 16 hour rule before they can go to sleep again. Those are the rules I can think of.

Ozymandias said...

Speaking as a soldier, I can attest to the authenticity of your proposed rule. I find myself even now thinking on how much my attitude ans behavior is influenced by the quality and variety of the food I eat everyday. And I live in this modern age where, generally speaking, we have better and more varied food than ever before; where we understand nutrition well enough to reduce our food to a fine powder which can yet sustain a person. I can only imagine how different it would have been for people in previous eras.