Sunday, May 19, 2019

At Last, Nutrition Rules

I have Sterling to thank for much of the content below.  He sent me a system in January 2018 that I thought was simple and brilliant.  I have adjusted it, of course.  That is the nature of these things.  But I want to stress that the organization and the ground work is essentially Sterling's and he deserves much applause for it.

I'll be posting this on the wiki in a few days, but in the meantime I'm going to preview it here on the blog.  Poke holes in it if you can (with purpose, please) ~ it will make the wiki post better for it.


In addition to the amount of food that characters must consume, another consideration is the nutritional value of that food. Characters cannot simply live on bread and water, but should eat the best of possible foods. This isn’t always easy when adventuring, particularly when we consider how this food is to be prepared and cooked.

Each ½-day period follows the meal prior, either the breakfast/early day meal and the evening/late day meal. Bonuses and penalties therefore apply to either the day or the night, following the early or late meals.

Food Quality

Foods are rated in “quality” according to their durability and nature of ingredients. There are five standards of quality: durables, staples, fresh, selective and premium:

Durables include preserved meats such as jerky, dry sausage, salt-pork, sauerkraut and dried fish; potable plant products such as polished rice and dried pulses; and durable forage such as dried mushrooms, grains, wild nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Food that is foraged falls into this category. These are products that have a shelf-life of months, even years.

Staples include foodstuffs such as flour, salt, honey, cheese, butter and biscuits; root vegetables and tubers; and beverages such as beer, mead, wine or distilled drink. The weight of these latter beverages will raise the quality of the meal, but do not count towards the weight of food that must be consumed daily. These are products that typically have a shelf-life of 2-8 months.

Fresh foods include leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh meats, milk and cream ~ products with a shelf-life of 2-12 days. Longer shelf-life products include common herbs such as basil, chamomile, cumin, dill, rosemary, parsley and sage are included, as are dried tea leaves and roasted coffee beans.

Selective foods include fresh foods that have been collected in the last 24 hours, including butchered meats ~ all of which are of the highest standard, lacking bruised fruits, discoloured vegetables or meats that have been improperly butchered. Selective quality reduces to fresh after a day (unless somehow preserved).

Premium foods include items that are of the most distinct imaginable: caviar, foie gras, bird’s nest soup, eels, turtle, cabrito, suckling pig, unusual distilled spirits or wine, kumiss, cicitt and so on. These are of variable shelf life, and are often transported great distance (magically or otherwise).


There are six “standards” of preparation, requiring utensils and space that varies from nothing but the cook’s hands to a fully equipped kitchen. How foods are readied, cooked or blended can adjust the experience of eating, which subsequently affects the diners’ health and mood.

Cold camp fare describes eating in the outdoors, effectively cooking in one’s lap. This allows cleaning with water, peeling, the use of a knife or a scraping rock, mashing, pounding and mincing, but the food cannot be safely blanched or boiled, nor can it be browned and sweetened. Durables and staples are designed for cold camp rations. Fresh vegetables, fruits, beverages and spices can be used, but fresh meat would need to be eaten raw. Selective food is slightly better. Most premium foods are somewhat processed and can be eaten in a cold camp (caviar, for example), but without other viands it can be a dreadful waste.

Campfire fare describes the benefits of an open fire, the use of the open flame, boiling water, various means of wrapping foods to be cooked in coals and as much variety as a fire will allow. Most preparation is done on a rock or upon a board on the ground, cleaned with boiled water.

Galley fare describes the food that might be prepared around a rolling cookwagon or vardo, a kitchen or aboard ship. If there is a fire, it is built on a raised, open stone box, with a flue or opening above, or a campfire is employed. Ship’s galleys included a brick cook oven. Fresh and selective foods are rare aboard ship, due to the distance from land; but they were often procured for a few days.

Scullery fare describes food from a typical home kitchen, with small fireplace and chimney, counters, a large washbasin, bins for flour, grains and seeds, bottles, cold storage, a variety of utensils and space for large cooking pots. Typically a cook’s knife and a few cook’s tools would be all that a small house could afford. Many larger mansions include a scullery for secondary work, in addition to a guestkitchen.

Guestkitchen fare describes food that is cooked in a spacious and clean environment with excellent tools and good ventilation. A guestkitchen is designed to cook multiple meals at once for scores of people at one time. Typically the room has been seasoned by years of operation. A wide assortment of knives and other tools is available. Guestkitchens often have one or more sculleries attached, which may be used for baking or for washing up dishes.

Lord’s kitchen fare describes food that is typically prepared as a feast for hundreds of people at a time, from a massive stone building with a score of preparers working together and giving much attention to specific dishes. The knives are kept sharpened, the plates used for the elite diners are of high quality and even the barracks that are served from the kitchen gain the benefit of food grown on the property and stored in large amounts inside the kitchen. Resources to maintain the kitchen are plentiful. Enormous pots and continuous fires allow for long-term preparation that may stretch out over days.


Together, the food quality and preparation combine to produce an eating experience, as shown on the table.

In order, grub describes food that is hardly palatable but is choked down because it keeps us alive; chow is hardly better, but the diner can remain indifferent to the taste, enough that eating isn’t a chore; nosh is agreeable, encouraging the diner to scrape the remains from the plate; savory has a sharper taste gives a feeling of being content and wholesomely satisfied; tasty is distinctly pleasurable and almost always calls for seconds; flavorful causes the diner to cease conversation and actively enjoy the taste of the food; delicious calls for the diner to share aloud the eating experience, declaring its noteworthiness; piquant is distinct and memorable, the sort of meal that one would certainly recall weeks later; mouthwatering cries for the food to be gobbled, even protected from others, as the diner cannot get enough; and ambrosia is simply ecstasy, eaten with eyes closed and at one with one’s pleasure.


Depending on the taste of the food (coupled with its substantive healthiness), the effect upon the diner is organized on the included table below. Each result describes the health (mental and physical) of the character during the ½-day following either the breakfast or the evening meal.

Some of these effects will be severe if the character is already on half-rations or is somehow afflicted. The DM should treat such circumstances as increasing the effects of either half-rations or the disease accordingly.

Affliction: the character acquires an gastro-intestinal affliction, as described under disease.

Diarrhea: late in the ½-day period, the character will be struck with a round of violent bowel movements that will dehydrate the victim and force bed rest. They will receive a -3 penalty to strength and will have no appetite to eat the next meal, so that the penalty will last throughout the next ½-day.

Elated: the character is in such a fine frame of mind that they will display generosity (giving away gold coins to commoners and others, granting freedom to slaves, releasing persons from commitments) and uncommon bravery (a willingness to enter a joust or other combat, perform an act of risk for the pleasure of it). Treat them as if they are a full age younger with regards to their ability stats for the ½-day following the meal.

Grumpy: receive a -1 penalty to charisma and therefore to charisma checks as well. Lower the morale of hirelings when within two hexes of the character.

Happy: the character is in unusually good spirits, gaining a +1 saving throw generally, and a +2 save against charm and other mentally affecting attacks.

Misery: receive a -1 penalty to strength and dexterity, and therefore to checks as well. The character will be bad-tempered and moody; during the day, the character will demand a halt after half-a-day’s travel or labour, sullenly refusing to continue.

Sated: the character will rest especially well at night, gaining +1 hit point in healing without the need of a full day’s rest.

Tired: receive a -1 penalty to both intelligence and wisdom, and therefore to checks as well. The character will complain a great deal and be unable to push themselves to forced movement. Reduce daily movement by 10%.

Vomit: halfway through the ½-day period, the character will throw up a good portion of their dinner. They will receive a -1 penalty to constitution and will have little appetite until the next meal. Treat as being on half-rations (see food) until then.


Danielle Osterman said...

I love this. These rules are phenomenal.

JB said...

Seeing as how I am (at the moment) suffering from a bit of a hangover, I can't help but wonder how the imbibing of alcohol might adjust the effects of these tables. Could a flask of wine or mead provide a bonus to a roll such as to make a grub or chow somewhat more palatable to the "cold campers?" Does alcohol have any chance of reducing gastrointestinal illness (while increasing the effects of diarrhea?)? Wine is part of the standard equipment list, after all.
; )

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hangover, huh?

Distilled drink is listed under "staples." I do have a page on the wiki called "Intoxication," if you're interested in the effects of alcohol.

I believe I need a paragraph that discusses how various foods need to average out somehow, if we're mixing five different qualities. How much weight does each quality get? One for one? Is one pound of premium worth five pounds of durables, so that one pound of each (5 + 1) makes an average of 3? Still thinking on it.

Baron Opal said...

This looks interesting, and similar but more detailed that my rules, but I'm not sure how you implement them food wise.

Are you having the players buy "Durables, 3 days" and "Fresh Food, 5 days" and then having them declare "Tonight we will be using Bryce's Fresh Food with our Campfire"? Or, will they discuss "okay, Bryce shot the deer yesterday, Alphonse has a sack of potatoes, and Clarisse will cast Tiny Hut* so we have a kitchen (Scullery Fare tools). This should put us at Flavorful, if all goes well"?

*Or whatever magical assistance lends better tools for this thought experiment.

Alexis Smolensk said...


My prices table gives the cost for every item a player could want to buy. If it isn't there now, I can create the price from raw materials momentarily. So, food wise, you buy what food you want and I interpret that particular substance according to the definitions given.

If you buy apples at a market, they're fresh and they'll be less so after 24 hours. And soon after past eating. Same with the deer the ranger kills with hunting skill. My players have grown used to tracking their food in detail, so this system works fine.

I will have to go through my list of foods and add a notation for the five qualities, for greater ease of use. That will be on my agenda soon.

JB said...

(school auction night...a little too much white wine)

Oddbit said...

I'm remembering the absurd food tracking system I made for the blog game.

It really needed more emphasis on age of food.

That said, I feel like I could have scored some points on this between the food and the vardo.

I guess the question is, what about chef quality?
Can a master chef offset some of this?
Would a poor chef make it worse?

Or maybe the chef just modifies the roll of the effect table.
Which seems the most reasonable to me.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Having built the system, it gives meaning to sage abilities cooking and baking; so expect to see entries for those on the wiki.

Panny said...

Great rules, elements like this add a lot of colour and deeper meaning to a game. I do love the idea of simulationism in general, I just wish I was capable of juggling and remembering all the different variables you need to remember whilst in the midst of running such a system. Many props to GMs who can.

Ozymandias said...

What about fighter and ranger skills? As a Soldier, I'd argue for a skill that lets me ignore a minor penalty for poor quality food (like, I can push past the tired condition for a single 12-hour period).

Alexis Smolensk said...

So, I'm guessing you think that the worst quality food you've been given as a soldier was equivalent to the salt pork that was made in the 17th century. Hm?

1) charisma loss won't mean much to a fighter, they're mostly sour anyway having to eat such bad food.
2) intelligence/wisdom loss won't mean much to a fighter either. Can't miss something you don't have. [tongue in cheek]

So you're not really suffering as a fighter until you get down to a 7 rolled on 3-18; with the worst food, that's a 15/216 chance. Add a cook in your unit and with the cooking skill I plan, it drops to a 10/216, or 5 in 108 chance. About a 1 in 20.

A 1 in 20 chance of your losing a strength & dexterity point. Aw, gee. That really sucks.

He heh. Just kidding. Yeah, there's probably a rule for rangers at least, "stomach of iron," for expert level.

Agravain said...

What dice do you roll to check on the table? Just 3d6?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Correct, Agravain.

Sterling said...

The carrot on the positive side of nutrition effects is a brilliant addition. Funny how my rules, which were inspired originally by your rules, thence inspire these rules which in turn I use to improve my rules!

Structured Answer said...

obesity chart next please.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Not interested.

Ozymandias said...

Have you done rules yet for deprivation? (Starvation, thirst, exposure to elements, etc.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ozymandias, follow the link to "food" that's in the post.