In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss food. We discuss how food can define a scene, a setting, and a culture. We explore the starvation rules in DnD 5e and in Pathfinder 2nd edition, discuss what’s so frustrating about them, and propose some ways that you can make starvation a meaningful concept in a game where Goodberry exists.
Special thanks to @YaBoiMcBatman for this week’s question of the week.
Materials Referenced in this Episode
- RPGBOT.Podcast episodes referenced in this episode
- DnD 5e
- Pathfinder 2e
- Other Stuff
- Arcadia Magazine from MCDM Productions – As of this podcast episode’s release, the article on eating monsters has not yet been published
- Dead Alewives D&D (they don’t have an official site, but this YouTube video is probably the most popular way to consume the sketch)
- Do Not Let Us Die In The Dark Night Of This Cold Winter (affiliate link)
- Smaug (Wikipedia)
- Water World (IMDB)
- World’s Largest Dungeon on DriveThruRPG (affiliate link)
Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. I’m Randall James, and I am starving. With me is Tyler Kamstra.
And Random Powell.
All right, welcome to episode 15, the 16th episode of the RPGBOT.podcast. Tyler, what are we going to do today?
We’re going to talk about food. I am also hungry, so we’re going to talk about food. If we timed this, right, this episode releases on Thanksgiving Day, so it seems like a good time to talk about food, both in and out of game.
Awesome. I guess it’s funny, we’re bringing this up, because I feel like in tabletop games that I have played food does not actually matter.
Yeah, I’ve had similar experiences, if someone has trail rations written on their character sheet that is generally as far as people will go into food in their game. But I think that’s a really missed opportunity. Because both mechanically and as a storytelling device, food can be really interesting and it can really bring a lot of immersion to your game. Just just the kind of foods that you encounter in any given culture will do a lot to describe that culture. Like, drawing comparisons to real world cuisine, think of the world 1000 years ago, before we had like massive international shipping lanes and the ability to fly strawberries up to the United States from Chile. If you found yourself in a far off land, where you and your family and people you know had never been there before you show up. What are these people eating? It might be some animal you’ve never seen, it might be some grain you never seen, vegetables, etc. What food a culture serves, what staples they live on, define cultures and civilizations in a lot of ways that I feel like people really overlook.
Yeah, I think we actually strangely had this conversation offline the other day, but, you know, the tomato being a plant from the Americas, which we now think as being like, a critical part of Italian food. And when in fact, you know, nobody in Italy had seen a tomato 600 years ago,
In real world history crops that were first cultivated in North America and now make up like 70 or 80% of the food consumed worldwide. Corn, tomatoes, I’m sure there are other examples and people who know things better than me could come up with better examples. But foods like that…
It’s a good start, though. Yes, I feel like corn isn’t… corn is its own episode.
In addition to having this big cultural import that we can use for food, as it does have some really interesting mechanics, if you actually pay attention to it, and you don’t immediately spend your first 2000 gold on a ring of sustenance or take a trait which says “I can feed my entire party because we’re wandering through the Underdark,” then you can take something like Dungeons and Dragons, or even other rule systems that are designed to be less of a power fantasy where this will work better. And you can take food and turn it into something meaningful in your game by making it something that is not just ignored, making it so that even if you’re not having these fun cultural interaction, you’re still forcing people to actually think about, what am I doing during downtime? We basically think of this long rest as like, here’s eight hours where nothing interesting happens, and then we go back to adventuring. And like I talked about, you know, way back in episode zero. If you’re reading a story or engaging with some media, in general, the character development is not going to happen during fights, during this exploration. I think that PF2 does a really good job of calling out that you have three pillars and you need to actively explore all of those pillars, you’ve got your combat, you’ve got your exploration, and you have your downtime. As an example, the game that I play in, we have been going for, I don’t know, 10 sessions or something. And I just today learned that one of my party members has proficiency in chef’s tools and could probably have done some really cool things with, like, been taking all these mushrooms I’m feeding us with and doing fun things with them. That would have built a lot of engagement with that character. And I’m not at all calling out that player, it’s just like, here’s the thing where it You stopped to think about it. This is a way that you can introduce a lot of, please forgive the pun, flavor into your game.
Yeah, I mean, you say that in one of the regular games that Tyler and I are playing in we, you know, Tyler plays this character which is Bugbear Grylls. And what is the feat that you took recently?
Chef. Bugbear Grylls is a bugbear survivalist who grills. Thus the name, it’s… there’s layers to the joke. We have made sausages out of basically every edible thing that we have encountered. We have not encountered any vegetables, so there have been no vegetarian friendly sausages, but…
The days coming .
It’s a plot device .
But it is, like, it is a lot of fun. And it’s actually playing a role mechanically because those sausages give us great gifts. But occasionally, like, at some point, if we’re fighting with some NPC or trying to resolve an issue, at some point, inevitably, Bugbear Grylls is gonna whip out a sausage and just be like, “Hey, let’s, let’s let this go. Hmm?” Luckily, everybody’s starving, so that tends to work. Yeah, so that’s a good, that’s a good range of thing. So we’re going to talk about using, essentially food to advance the plot and to, er, I guess before we even advancing the plot to set the stage. How do we world build with food? What are folks doing? What does it say about the world? You know, what are the feasts look like? If you happen to be in an environment where this is happening? We’re going to talk about a lack of food, and mechanically how that impacts the game. And then in general, like what are the rules that are available to us? And then finally, let’s wrap all this up to say, like, as a DM or as a player how can we use the food rules? Probably focusing I guess, and D&D 5e and then Pathfinder 2, how can we use the food rules to make our table better? Is that about right? Yeah, I think so. Alright, let’s dive a little into culture. So I want to I want to play a little game. I’m going to read something about a feast that the party is attending. And I want you two fellows to tell me what you think. Yeah, what do you think is going on? What environment are we in? What do you read from the description that I gave you? Are you ready?
Yeah, let’s do it.
Alright, so you arrive at the feast. A sunfish as large as the Duke himself smoked and served is served on a plank of alder wood. At the end of each table sits a serving platter, three stories each loaded with raw oysters, shrimp poached in butter, and legs of crabs as large as a halflings arm. What’s going on?
Well, clearly, we’re somewhere coastal. Somewhere with a major current since sunfish is… I’m forgetting my marine biology here. But sunfish is basically the world’s largest… Plankton isn’t the word I’m looking for fish that just gets stuck in currents and goes that way. There’s a word for it. And I know people who could explain it to me, and I can’t remember the word, but…
Phone a friend?
Somewhere with a major current coves and stuff for oysters and crabs to hang out in. But somewhere that has both a large fishing industry and enough space to raise cattle to make butter.
Okay. What’s. uh, what’s the smell in the air?
Brine, largely. Brine and fish. So smoked fish, that’s a really interesting and honestly gives away that maybe some time was spent in the Seattle area, you.
I’ll smoke anything, it’s fun.
Any feast immediately is going to be something out of the ordinary is happening. Maybe this is a feast because this is a festival. This is a particular religious holiday. This is some great event has just happened and we need to celebrate it.
Maybe just somebody caught a giant fish. It’s possible.
It’s also going to depend on the setting. If we’re saying that this is at court, then maybe this is just the head of state showing off largess if this is like the town square and the whole city has come together to put this on, then maybe that is something like people returning from a war a hunt some something to really bring a community together. So any feast is going to immediately clue you in that something out of the ordinary is happening in general. And yeah, as for this one, I think Tyler really nailed it with like, Yep, here we are on the coast. They have based a lot of their, like, work, but at least their culinary lexicon on the bounty of the sea.
Perfect. All right. I have one more for you. You ready?
All right. So again, you’re going to arrive at a feast because I’m not imaginative. At the center of each table sits a large wheel of cheese. Roll for cheese. All right, so good, we get some good rules. You know, some somebody really gets up there and their cheese roll. You recognize an edum, with its telltale tiny bubbling and soft yellowing of cave aging. You notice a gnome dipping a dab of what can only be bri with the crusty bread, spreading a dark preserve before popping the entire scrumptious morsel indoor mouse. a party host carries a fresh tray of berries total towards a bowl of sweet cream, with hungry attendees following quickly behind. What do we know? What do we know about the people now?
One interesting thing that immediately jumps out to me is a complete lack of meat. And maybe that’s just my own biases. Interestingly,
That was definitely intentional by the way.
Neither of these had descriptions of anything… I wouldn’t so much call these feasts. It’s… because one of the big thing about feasts that you see a lot of descriptions of in general, you’re going to find a lot of variety. And there’s not a lot of variety in either of these. So I don’t know if that’s just because this is just a single paragraph that you’ve give me for each of these.
Yeah, I didn’t want to go like Brian Jacques from Redwall and give you 14 pages of like, and then on this table, they had… No, no, it’s fair,
It’s interesting to see, you know, just immediately you’re seeing Okay, whereas the first one was just these are people who live near the ocean and therefore have a lot of access to seafood. This one is, this is a culture that has put in a lot of work into making different types of cheese. You know, if you’re going to get just like a farm cheese, you just get a farm cheese. And it’s not anything particularly interesting. Making specific different types of cheese requires work. And it requires actual cultivation of the the molds that you’re going to use or, like, not all of them require mold. Some of them are just like a curdle, but…
This is acid, that acid.
Right. That that is a particular, like, that’s a culture who has actually put work into not eating meat and having cheese instead.
Well, and I’ll point out, like you brought up the fact that I didn’t describe any meat products, and that was definitely intentional. But also they’re obviously raising livestock. And so it’s, it seems to be some balance between maybe not consuming meat, but still not… still still raising livestock. So I guess I wanted to do these just to like highlight, even just from your description of food or your description with how locals are interacting with food. You know, street food is awesome and describing, like, as somebody who’s walking through the streets, not just saying what the buildings look like, and whether or not there’s like horses in the streets and hay on the ground, but actually calling out there’s the street food vendor, what are they selling? Why are they selling it? Tying that in can really develop the world in a way where your players will understand the environment they’re in, without you explicitly having to tell them what environment they’re actually in allowing their imagination to fill in the blanks because you told them things that are just so intrinsically tied with their own life and their own lifestyle.
I really liked that idea. I listen to a few actual play podcasts. One of my favorites is Dames and Dragons and they they kind of explore the street food vendor concept a couple of times. They have a chain of street food vendors called “The Hungry Boy.” And it’s it’s some combination of gyro stand and Cheesecake Factory, where they have an impossibly large menu and none of it’s especially good, but there’s one in every town.
So it’s just Cheesecake Factory then.
Your, your wife’s gonna find me.
Well, if there’s anything we know about Cheesecake Factory, every time my wife goes to a Cheesecake Factory, there is some form of apocalypse. That’s a subject for a different episode.
End of time.
Yeah, so the the Hungry boy, like they find one in every town. And it’s this weird bit of in game culture that they have. And they’re there’s bits of their setting that are like super serious and bits that are really comical and bits that seem like they’re just kind of an out of game joke until you find out that there’s some like, big plot thing behind it. And I don’t think they’ve had anything behind the Hungry Boy carts yet. But the existence of the Hungry Boy carts kind of sets the tone for the game as like, Hey, this is going to oscillate between stuff that’s really serious and, and brooding and interesting. And then stuff that’s kind of goofy and like, Yeah, we’re gonna get gyros from a hotdog cart.
Nice. And yeah, we’ll link we’ll put a link in the show notes so folks can find them. Absolutely. I guess, let’s hit let’s hit the heavy stuff. What happens if you don’t have food in 5e?
Well, this is actually really easy. The short answer is there’s a few pages that, well, and sorry, there’s a few lines on one page and it’s basically you get to not eat for three plus your con mod days, which is a little bit odd. That sort of thing feels like the sort of thing that Wizards of the Coast would tie it to. And then, basically, you just start getting levels of exhaustion. The way that fifth edition works, one level of exhaustion, some minor penalties. Two, some more severe penalties. And then if you get to five you’re, once again, you dead. You can go eight plus your con mod days without food, and then you die.
So it’s it’s every day thereafter you gain one more level of exhaustion.
And what level of exhaustion Do you start like rolling everything with disadvantage?
Well, at one you roll skills with disadvantage. At two you start doing attack rolls and saves a disadvantage. I think three your speed is halved, and also, your life sucks. Four your hit point maximum halved. Five is speed reduced to speed reduced to 0. 6 is dead.
Okay, so one and two would both be impactful in a very significant way, especially disadvantaged during combat. Even… I don’t even know how you would think about the CR in that situation, like, what does it do? What would normally be like a medium difficulty fight become when you roll every attack with disadvantage?
Absolutely. Yeah, it’s crippling.
I want to ask the question: Has anyone ever played in a game where you got exhaustion because you couldn’t eat?
Okay. I’m gonna hammer this point later. But I just wanted to ask that question.
Randall, you and I are playing through Icewind Dale right now, which is supposed to be kind of a survival horror in some aspects. And maybe it’s just because of the the way that we’re playing the game, ut the survival horror really hasn’t come up a whole lot. Both because we keep turning everything we meet into sausages and because we’ve spent a lot of time in towns, we’ve never really had to worry about going days at a time without food. And that three plus con days without food, like, a typical player character will have 12 or 14 constitution at a minimum. So four or five days before food even becomes a problem. As long as you have access to water like that’s, that’s barely a threat.
To hammer down that they really don’t care about making this a real mechanic. Then once you eat, then that resets that count back to zero.
So it a day of normal eating. You can go another, like, if you really needed to and you had a week’s worth of rations. You could make that last a month and a half.
Something like that.
Where you just go to day seven, and then, er well, to day four. And then you eat and then go again to day four and eat.\
No, you get a you get a high Constitution, you eat on Tuesdays and you’re fine!
And I mean the absurdity what you bring up right like I’m gonna just Michael Phelps down a 15,000 Calorie breakfast on the day that I finally get back to town and then boom, I’m good again for a week. I don’t have to eat anymore.
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Okay, so I don’t know if you guys have taken a peek at the starvation rules for Pathfinder second edition, but Pathfinder generally tends to have rules for everything. When you look at the rules for something in Pathfinder and find that they’re, like, weirdly shallow it’s always a surprise. So Pathfinder second edition’s rules for starvation and thirst are one paragraph, which is less than fifth edition, which is super weird. If you can eat and drink enough to survive comfortably, you’re fatigued. And then you can go without water for constitution modifier plus one days, you can go without food for same amount of time. Okay. After a number of days without water you start taking a d4 of damage each hour. And then after a number of days without food you take one damage each day and the damage from those can’t be healed until you eat or drink, whichever. As long as you have access to water, a high level character can go like a year plus without needing. Random you’re familiar with the number scale in 3.x. So, Barbarian. Assume you roll maximum hit points, maximum constitution, toughness, etc. So you’re getting like 20 Plus hit points per level. Plus in Pathfinder second edition, you get base hit points from your your ancestry too. So add like 10 or 12. On top of that 20th level character you’ve got like 450 hit points, and you take one point of damage per day. You can go well over a year without eating and then have a snack one day and then just, like, use Medicine on yourself and like just slap band-aids on yourself until you get all your hit points back and then go another year plus without eating. It’s… it is nonsense.
I guess I want to make the assertion, I think the reason it is the way it is the reason we have a paragraph in Pathfinder 2, the reason it is, you know, several bullet points in, in the PHB for 5e, is that nobody cares, and nobody wants to manage their food. It isn’t… I, I’m actually, I’m gonna say this, and I’m gonna back off it. It isn’t interesting. If you make me in every single game, tell you, I have these rations, I picked these things up, I bought this ring. You know, I have an aquaponic setup in my backpack, like whatever it’s gonna be. I go, I forage in the woods, because there’s mushrooms out there or something. Like, you make me do that every game. It isn’t fun. It isn’t interesting. And I don’t want to do that.
I definitely agree with you. And with that said, one of the things that I frequently say is that fifth edition generally does a really good job of being a framework that you can build stuff onto. The problem is there’s so little here that you can’t. And I mean, technically speaking, I would agree with you. In a lot of games, D&D is meant to be a power fantasy, right? You’re not meant to care about what you have, carrying around for your hard tack. That, as you say, that’s not a thing that most people find interesting. The fact that they have given you some mechanics, which are then frustratingly shallow, means that it’s hard to say, you know, make a game around what if I do want to have a 5th edition game where food is an important piece of it? What if I do want to have people wandering through the frozen wastes? And then you know, we look at things like Goodberry, which is a first level spell that solves the entire problem of hunger, which is absurd. And, now, there are some people who try and fix this. You know, okay, let it has a material component a holly sprig. Okay, well, if it consumes the material component, that’s at least a little better, until you realize that a Druid is what has to cast Goodberry, and a Druid can cast Druidcraft, the cantrip, to make a sprig of holly. So, realistically, you should probably also, if you’re going to go that route, you should make sure that you also specify that things created by Druidcraft cannot be used as material components the same way that other full level spells do.
I want to pause for a second. So for folks who aren’t familiar with Goodberry, what’s Goodberry going to do for me?
It makes a handful of berries. Each berry heals the person who eats it by one hit point and also provides an entire day’s worth of food. Like, all of the sustenance of a day’s worth of food in a single Berry.
If you’re familiar with Lord of the Rings, it’s lembas bread, but fruit.
Okay, is it the same as the gum that the little girl ate and Willy Wonka?
Except that you’re actually supposed to eat it.
It’s like, you know, it’s a whole TV dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. Like, do you have that experience?
I guess that would depend on the Druid casting it.
Tha’ts fair. It tastes like oatmeal and you’ll like it. No, I, Okay, so yeah, you can we just call it as perfect, right. So if I have a Druid, they can summon a sprig of holly, and then use that to make a Goodberry. And now the party literally never has to worry about eating again. The mechanical issue of exhaustion from starvation will not come.
Even if the Druid isn’t available, Survival, the skill essentially solves the same problem, you just roll a skill check to forage for food for some number of creatures. And, like, this skill, the results for the scale are specifically built around the normal size of an adventuring party. I think in 5e the the the DC is fairly low to get enough food and water for like six creatures. So that is enough for a typical adventuring party plus maybe a couple of animals. So if somebody has, like, if someone’s Beast Master Ranger, then yeah, you’re gonna feed everyone just fine.
So it’s once again the ruleset saying “please, please, please leave this alone.”
But it’s weird because I think bother to call it out and then give us frustratingly shallow answers. If they just said, a thing you might want to consider in your game is that beings need to eat. And, well I say beings, and then once again, they give us a lot of races and other options where things don’t need to eat. Warforged, a prime example. They just don’t bother eating, which is fine. But then how does that feature into if you do want to try and run… The thing that has always felt weird to me about this is that for as much as they try and minimize the impact of food on the game, they also include a lot of things that specifically mentioned that they don’t care about food. Another, um, so in 3.5 there was a magic item that was literally just a bowl and a spoon, and if you put the spoon in the bowl, it would fill with tasteless gruel that could feed… I mean, it would feed up to like 10 people a day.
So Robin Williams with the Lost Boys in Hook.
Exactly. They keep bothering to mention, like, we care that that people are eating. We care that people are eating. But we also don’t want you to care that people are eating. And that’s that’s the part that’s always felt really weird to me about how D&D has handled food.
Okay, I want to… I really want to tear this apart. Let’s let’s hit a couple, like, what are what are the tools in our bag to deal with food? What are the all the mechanics that we have available to us? And then let’s come back and let’s actually talk about how we, how can we possibly make this interesting?
The the most obvious one is, like, first go a place, buy food, like go to your inn, buy dinner. More frequently while you’re out adventuring it’s going to be trail rations. And then if magic is an option, Goodberry. There asre higher level spells. Create water has been like a different level in every edition.
It’s third right now for clerics, like, create food and water can just be as many people as you want.
Don’t you have the jars that will make like oil and mayonnaise and water and that sort of thing?
The alchemist jug.
Just create, like, flood the local mayonnaise economy.
Although, realistically, if you have water and you have mayonnaise, right, you’ll make it. They never said you had to hit a proper like macro blend. We don’t need protein. Where we’re going we don’t need protein.
At high levels, you’ve got options like Heroes’ Feast, which, depending on the edition, Heroes’ Feast can be like just amazing as a buff, but in some editions is also super expensive. There are options like Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion, which will allow you to summon a house, go into that house, and then servants will serve you a feast. If magic’s on the table, like, starvation is not a problem unless you intentionally just go around all of those spells.
And I do want to clarify, like, you called out the simplest thing is going to you’re inn. So we have the lifestyle rules and the lifestyle rules are calling out, like, if you’re super broke, you have this experience if you if you have some money, you know, it’s the difference. Like do you get a half a chicken and a bottle of wine? Or do you get like a chicken wing get half a glass of beer? But for any of these things, they still count as eating and so as far as starvation goes, we can wave it off with the popper-ist of popper lifestyle rules in 5e.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, even if, even if it’s, I’m spending no money because I am going to go dumpster diving at the back of that inn and eat the you know, remnants of chicken wings that’s gonna get you the food you need.
I’m gonna I’m gonna eat the knuckles it’s gonna be great.
Uh. Mmm, yup.
Chicken knuckles. Delicious.
You’ve never had a chicken finger?
No, but I have learned that whales have thumbs. A deep cut. No, but lifestyle rules, which will get their own episode at some point. You, so, like you say it’s throwing the… one of the other big problems in in both third and fifth edition. And they’re different problems. So in third edition, the economy was preposterous as a player character, because by the end of level one, you had more money than a typical commoner would see in their entire lifetime, and their kids’ lifetime. A typical farmer would subsist on a silver a week. A single gold piece is two months worth of their life. And if you think about it, that a plus one weapon costs 2000 Gold. And that’s like one of the bare minimums that you need to, you know, go adventuring past, like level three. That’s insane. In fifth edition, it’s a slightly different problem, where money sort of doesn’t matter. Because you get money as a reward and have nothing to deterministically spend it on unless you’re DM is graciously providing you a wandering menu of magic items with set prices. But, again, that you know, that’s that’s not like what the rules say to do. There’s some ranges and stuff, but again, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to spend all this money you’re making. Given that we have all this money, then yeah, why wouldn’t I just every time I’m in town, just I’ll buy every trail ration in the town because what’s it going to cost me? 10 Gold? Great. That’s… because that’s been the case, there’s never really been any scarcity if you were near people, and if you weren’t near people then yeah, like Tyler was talking about, Survival. What I was calling out earlier, I mean this underdark adventurer and there is a specific alternate background where, yes, you don’t have to make a check. You’ve just, you have been exploring the Underdark for so long that you know how to feed six people a day by just existing. So, there we go, one person takes a background and food is fixed for the entire party
There are several backgrounds in fifth edition where that’s a thing. Pathfinder second edition it’s, a, well first and second edition, it’s so easy to, like, just bare minimum invest in Survival to make food not an option. Like, Pathfinder, 3.X, like one rank and survival and you’re fine. Pathfinder second edition if anyone in the party is trained in survival you’re probably fine. Like, the these are not gains for starvation as a realistic threat.
So I have a question both for 5e and for, I guess, let’s focus on PF2. I hear this idea of like if I hit a certain survival check, I’m gonna find food for my group. And so if I’m trained, I’m probably good to go if I have extra levels in PF2, I’m absolutely good to go. Is there any allowance for like I am in the darkest of dungeons where there is no moisture and therefore no mushrooms, no lichens, nothing like this? Similarly, like I’m in the middle of desert, and again, there is no cactus for me to knock on, there is no road runner running through. What am I going to do? Is there a point where you say look, the survival check just isn’t gonna do it because there is no food to be found.
I think as a DM the best… you could impose disadvantage on that or as a DM you could just outright say like there is nothing to eat here. But then that raises the question of, okay, but there’s monsters. What are the monsters eating? And can I eat the monsters?
Wait, can I can I eat the monsters?
What a great question! I don’t know.
If the monster is a walrus, absolutely!
Yeah, like if you fight a bull, yes, you can eat the bull. If you fight a Gorgon, which is basically a monster bull, can you eat it? I don’t know! That subject has been explored in a few mediums. I know. MCDM, which is Matt Colville’s thing, his company, they their most recent version… Their most recent issue of the Arcadia magazine has an article on eating monsters and the effects of that. One of the authors was on the Dragon Talk podcast recently and talked about eating Tarrasque mice? Minsk? No. Mince. Minsk is character, mince is a food. Goodness.
Make sense? Yeah.
So they have an article in the magazine about what happens when you eat monsters. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, unfortunately, and it might not actually be in print yet, which might be why. But it’s the thing. So, yeah, eating monsters is a possibility, but who knows what will happen?
Yeah, which, right, we can have a table for that to say, like, what, depending what the creature is, and whether they were venomous or poisonous and on and on and on. I guess that’s interesting. Like you say, there’s a monster. What if, what if there’s one monster? What if there’s a desert surrounding a volcano, with a red dragon living on the top of it? You’re you’re marching towards it, you are in the desolation of whatever this dragon happens to be.
The Desolation of Smaug.
Fine. You’re in the desolation of Smaug? Yeah, then then that solves it, right? Like, there is no food to be found. Because if there was, Smaug would have eaten it. And the only monster you’re likely to encounter is him doing flybys, like lighting you on fire when you’re trying to sleep.
And, realistically, that is a choice that you can make, but it’s a choice that very few DM’s make, and even if it does happen, you know, what are you going to do? You’re going to say, okay, great. I have between three and eight days, until I start getting levels of exhaustion. At the end of that time, I’m gonna have to be somewhere else or hope that we’ve killed something, or finally bother tracking the rations that I wrote down on my character sheet at creation, which I’ve never come up since.
It’s the, I’m just gonna kill a red dragon. I’m gonna eat it, obviously,
Obviously. And then, if you go listen to our Fizban’s bonus episode, maybe you gain cool draconic powers!
Almost certainly. Let’s let’s try to fix this. Again, I feel like nobody uses any of these rules, and I think if you told me we’re gonna play a hyper realistic game, where we are going to track this and we’re going to track gold like, people, I don’t wanna say they’re too lazy to track gold in their games, but I think many folks are hardly tracking gold and jewels in their game. Their DM is just saying, take a magic item. Hey, you’re cool enough now to take an ucommon magic item, take a rare magic item, as opposed to, like, I’ll give you one of those, but it’s gonna cost you 5000. gold and you gotta collect it. And so given, given that, I think the best we could do is we can say, we are going to have an arc, you know, we’re going to storm it at that desert. But before you even come close to approaching the desert, I’m going to let you know, food is going to be an issue, we are going to track it, you are going to hit levels of exhaustion. Yeah, account for it accordingly. And if their answer is, like, you know, we, we hire a Druid, I don’t you know, something like this. I maybe that’s okay, maybe what that says is that your players don’t want to engage in that kind of game, and so as a DM, you should back off this idea. But vice versa, if you get engagement, if people are like, Okay, this is gonna be fun, let’s buy these things and these things and like, we’re going to carry a potato plant, like they did in Water World, you know, like something like this. Like, that’s great, then you have buy-in, and let’s go play that. But I think the two things are basically make sure that the folks at the table are having fun with it. And I think the most important thing is like, you’re going to be a rules lawyer, you’re going to be poking at this for a period of time, let them know it has an expiration. As soon as we get out of this environment, we’re going to go back to the time where we didn’t care and you just ate something every day. I don’t, I don’t care what you ate, it doesn’t matter.
So if you’re going to play a survival scenario, or survival game, you definitely want to let your players know ahead of time and get buy-in. Like, just like if you’re running a horror game. Your players need to be invested in the concept. Otherwise, they’re just going to take the easy way out. Yeah, they’ll take a background that gives them automatic food, they’ll take proficiency in Survival and just be like, Yeah, of course, I’m just going to survival check and solve all of our food and water problems. Cast Goodberry, cast Create Water, like, all those things. So, having your players buy in to the concept is really crucial before you get started, even if it’s just a temporary part of the game. Because if starvation and thirst are a problem in the game, they’ll take up so much of your play time, like, unless people really want to do that and they’re having fun with that concept. They’re not like they’re not going to engage with it, they’re just going to find an easy way out. If you do tighten those screws too much, like, even… let’s say you’ve got a party of players, like, you’re you’re level one adventurers you’re lost in some environment, you are starving and like you have gone in saying yes, we are going to play a survival scenario. Food will be scarce, water really scarce, you’ll take exhaustion levels, you need to manage all of these things in addition to fighting monsters and all these things. Probably… in fifth edition, probably the best thing you can do is to use the gritty realism variant. The gritty, the gritty realism variant is present in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and in the description, it seems like the most important thing it does is just change how healing works. So what it does, a short rest becomes an eight hour rest, and a long rest becomes a week. If you’re going to take a long rest, you’re probably going to have to go back to civilization or some home base or something to do that safely because if you get attacked in the middle of that week, start over I guess. That really, really changes the mechanics of fifth edition beyond just oh yeah, hit dice. I’m back at full hit points. It solves basically… I don’t want to say solves, but it makes magic less of a solution for a lot of problems because spell slots returns so slowly. Goodberry is, a great example. You have it, you can get it at first level, it solves all of your food problems. But your spell slots only come back after a long rest. So, if a long rest is a week, and even the highest-level characters only got like three or four first level spells and like you can upcast and stuff, but let’s say you’re a level five Druid, you’ve got maybe 10 spell slots, I’m forgetting exactly, and you have to stretch those out over the course of a week. Are you going to use those spell slots on good bury? Are you going to save those to maybe not die in a fight and resort to trail rations and like foraging and things like that?
So the, so what I’m hearing you say is you be a multiclass Druid/Warlock. So you still get to Goodberry every day.
That would work. I think I am almost 100% sure that would work, yes. But then that would probably work but then you’re out your Warlock spell slot. So like there, there is an opportunity cost there’s always a way around it. The DM can just say “hey, don’t” because that will ruin the concept of the game but the, the gritty realism thing really, the gritty realism variant really solves a lot of those, like, I have solved all problems with magic things. Like, even The Elminster Problem becomes less of an issue because you can be like, oh, yeah, Elminster didn’t teleport in and solve this problem, because it takes him a week to recover teleport. So he’s just gonna get no hope like he’s gonna get on a horse and ride over land to this problem, because that will get him there faster than teleport.
Elminster being our all-powerful being who could theoretically solve all the problems in the world, but doesn’t, so why doesn’t he?
Yeah, we I think we discussed that last episode or the one before that.
That’s right, I’m just trying to help in case somebody hopped. Well, and, like hearing this idea, that grim realism, that does sound like a cure, and if somebody says, Oh, I will have a solution, I’m just going to multiclass to solve this problem. What that says is, your table doesn’t want to do this, you should back off, and you should come up with a different way to do it. If you’re going to do a one-shot where this is going to be central, gritty realism makes a lot of sense. I can’t imagine in a long-standing campaign where you want to, well, let’s take a step back, if somebody wants to play a long-standing campaign, with those rules and take that on, and a part of that is going to be the potential for starvation or dying of thirst. Gritty realism seems like the only way to really accomplish it now that you brought it up. If that’s the level of realism, your table wants to play it, you go for it. My, my offer is kind of like you do it for an arc, you know, you do it for one session, you know, one all day session or you do it, you know, if you’re you play games, like we do, where it’s a couple hours at a time, you know, for a month, it’s gonna be like this and it goes away. Gritty realism probably isn’t a solution for that, right? Because there’s no reason to justify this, like, oh, I used to get these things back after eight hours. And now it takes me a week. But I do, I really liked that idea. As, is, like I said, like, if we’re gonna do a long shot, a long shot, well, if we’re gonna do one-shot, it’s a great way to get there.
It’s probably my favorite variant rule in fifth edition. Fifth Edition has a lot of issues around pacing, and related problems, so gritty realism really makes a lot of those work in more interesting ways. The… hard mode kinda. The default rules are really good for dungeon crawling, I’m going to go have like five or six fights in any given day. But most people don’t run games like that. Randall, you and I are in a published a we’re playing through a published campaign where I don’t think we had more than three fights in the same day. And walking into one fight a day makes the game pretty easy because you’re always at full of resources, you can just go crazy and one encounter. This should be its whole own episode, but the gritty realism variants in fifth edition are really good. I don’t know of any equivalent in Pathfinder. I don’t know of any equivalent in Pathfinder second edition, like if you’re playing 3.x, which is 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder first edition, you could just say like, yeah, okay, long rests, take a week. And there you go, you have your you have your variant. I don’t know how you would do it in Pathfinder second edition, because you have the option of using the skill Medicine to to treat injuries. So the expectation in any given situation is like, I mean, I have a fight, I’m going to spend an hour treating wounds and like eating snacks and stuff. So there’s more, there’s more you have to fiddle with in Pathfinder second edition to make something similar work. But just slowing down the pacing of the game like that can make survival scenarios much more interesting.
And if this is something that your players are willing to engage with, and 100% it makes sense to take advantage of it, you know, it might create a more interesting game if folks feel like, this is too much of a cakewalk, or there is no fear of death. So absolutely. So I want to offer a couple ideas for things that folks might do to have an arc and then be done with it. Like, let’s tease this out. Let’s have a little bit of fun with it. And then we never have to think about eating again, other than the fact that we just assumed we ate. One that I think would be a lot of fun, not just for food for a ton of reasons. Imagine being in a city under siege.
That could be a lot of fun for, like, food is going to become scarce. So even if you had infinite money coming in, maybe you can’t even buy food with coins, because there’s too much coin, there’s not enough food. You know, maybe folks are trying to say like hand in your magic items or you know, you’re going to go do work for me. And if you go do this work, like, if you steal this, take that, if you protect the wall, I’ll make sure that you get fed. Something like that. You can make getting access to food an issue but a siege is absolute something that has a time limit, and even coming back to the idea of like having the Goodberry. If you can get your party to love the people that are under siege with… Sure, you can do survival and you can feed your party and two extra people, you can get Goodberries, and you can feed a view extra people, but you can’t feed the town or you can’t feed, you know, the orphans, they’re trying to protect, like, you are going to have to come up with something else. And that’s where using your skills, using… doing the real roleplaying of, like, okay, no kidding, what can you do? I think for a session or for an arc, would be a ton of fun for a lot of characters, especially knowing that they get to escape it.
I do like the siege idea for a lot of reasons. And if you hadn’t touched on the fact that yeah, you know, if you are a even remotely good-aligned party, wanting to feed the people who are struggling through that, too, that, that… I am glad you got there. Something that I would think would be really fun, if you… while there are things out there like the World’s Largest Dungeon, which is like a, something preposterous, like meant to take you from levels one to 25 or something, you know, it’s enormous. And it’s just dungeon crawl. Realistically, if you are dungeon crawling for weeks at a time, that could well be a thing that you need to figure out where is this food coming from? you know, we sort of go back to the problem of I can feed the four of us by any of these number of methods. If that is something that you have built into your your game to say, hey, we’re going to do this long dungeon crawl. Absolutely, you will not be able to find food there. There’s nothing nearby for you to be able to stock up. You expect to figure that part out. That could definitely be a in the same way that, like you were talking about, the desert where, like, there’s at least little things you can find like I can’t find a cactus. If you’re just in a well-sealed dungeon, There absolutely could be a way that that is something where you can’t find food.
That makes sense. Like there’s there’s only so many rats in the dungeon you can eat.
Yeah, or making a cost of play or something like if, you know, they come to a fork in the tunnel, and they hear voices in the distance. And so it’s a choice of like, I think I need to go this way, but I hear voices the other way. Am I going to go out of my way in order to potentially find something else living and then figure out what they’re eating and steal it? Or am I going to keep going the way that I think that I need to be going? Like, you can absolutely create dynamics. The other thing that I would say here is be a good DM. Don’t, don’t be a jerk. If if they are doing their best, and they’re playing along and they’re having a good time with it. And they’re just running out of rations, because it’s taking longer to get through the dungeon that you laid out for them. Maybe, maybe you let them find a crate of four extra rations, or the next monster that they find, you know, happens to have something on them or if they find like goblins or orcs or something, there was some food with them. You can offer a lifeline. You know, playing this kind of game doesn’t have to mean that you cut them off from everything, it just means that it isn’t free. They’re gonna have to work for it. And when you do say, and you search his bag, and you find two whole rations, you know, they’re gonna freak out, right? It’s like, Oh, my God, this is great! It’s gonna be exciting. I think that’s gonna be a real payoff in your game. No, I think that’s a, that’s a great idea. It’s just like using the dungeon crawling itself to create this. But again, like warning them ahead of time, like, you know, there’s an old man standing outside with a cane. It’s like, oh, people starve to death in here. And then they have to take it seriously, I guess. Yeah, I mean, one, one other fun classic would be, you know, what if you were like either stranded on a boat, or even like stranded on an island. You’re in an environment where there’s the potential to find food, like you can fish and so you could do your survival checks and hit it that way. But making the RP work to get through that I think it’d be a lot of fun.
I think that could be an interesting scenario for… probably not for like a full-length campaign, but definitely for an arc. I could see exploring that and having a lot of fun.
No, absolutely. All right. So I think, yeah, I… That’s my fix. So I like the idea of a one-shot where you focus on this. I like the idea of an arc, where you let folks know that it’s gonna be it’s gonna be bad, but it’s gonna get better. And if everybody’s into it, then you can have a good time with it. But I think that’s the end of the food rolls. I think one of the things that we want to talk about is, us, us the players, not the player characters, but the the player and the Game Master. We we like to eat things and we get hungry. And so whether you’re getting together as a group, which is a lot of fun, I feel like doesn’t happen as often these days. Or if you’re sitting on Roll20, or you’re sitting on a video chatting, you’re playing that way. Yeah. We gotta eat.
We do. And there’s kind of a lot of ways that this goes and it it’s almost like a flowchart for me. So, like, step one, is this a three-hour game? Your three to four-hour game, or is this an eight-hour game? Once you start looking at that, then this becomes, okay, is this just we should have some snacks? Or is this we need to plan a meal? At that point, if you know, if it’s snacks, then it really boils down to where are we? Having played in many games in many places, you’re going to come across all kinds of answers. So am I in a local game store? Am I at a player’s house? Is this a place where hosting rotates? Is this a place where we’re all going to the DM or we’re all going to one player? As much as I like to social cure for game mechanics. I also like the social cure for out of game mechanics. If one person is consistently hosting and everyone else is driving to them, maybe their contribution is that they’re going to provide the snacks. If this is a thing where you know you’re meeting up at a local game store, it may be it’s just expected that everyone is bringing their own stuff. If you are going to have longer things, and it’s a meal, we should be taking a look at do we want to try and set up some kind of rotation? Because it’s it’s unrealistic to expect that any one person is just providing food, unless that’s part of an overall compromise to make things work better. That’s where… as I do for, like I said, as I do for the in-game mechanic, I’m gonna for the meta mechanic say please, please take the social care first because let’s let’s not have the Munchkin thing where you give the DM food go up a level.
So you talk about this. So I am… alright AmateurJack.com There’s not a lot of content today, on November 14th of 2021. One day there will be a lot more and a big focus of it is food and recipes and cooking things that are amazingly fantastic, but easier to do than you think they are. So, like, I love to do smoked briskets or pork. Like, I make my own sausage. We’ll make, like, our own gyros. Like there’s, there’s a lot of… and, yeah, all of this Random is like I don’t care about any of those things. And so I apologize. But I mean, this is a good point, too, and we should talk about it. I love to cook for a party. So I’m I’m from Louisiana, I, right, I have a kitchen background, I love to cook Cajun food, make gumbos, jambalayas, like, big dishes. And food culture is like a big part of how I think about socializing with people. I want to have people over. I want to make them eat my food. And I want to watch them be happy when they do. If I’m DMing a live game, 100% I’m up for, like, cooking the day before and cooking right before everybody gets there to have things to be part of it. You know, I can think of nothing better than like, I’m gonna smoke a ton of turkey legs, and that’s gonna be great. But not every part. Like not every group is like that. Not every party is like that. And so if there’s somebody who really loves it, maybe let them take advantage of it. And if not, maybe if it is a burden, then we should share the burden. And if it isn’t a burden, if it’s something that’s part of somebody’s joy, then maybe you let them have that joy. But, and this is a big but, we should talk about dietary restrictions. And I think people feel awkward about that. But you, yeah, we should. And I think the easiest way… So, like, I’ve done catering for groups, this sort of thing. I think the easiest way to do this is just bluntly, like, Hey, does anybody have any dietary restrictions? And then you’re not making it about just allergies, or just preferences. Whether it is I have a nut allergy, I am a vegetarian, I’m a vegan, I’m a pescetarian. I don’t eat fried food, because I’m trying to eat healthy, or I don’t eat anything that is the color orange. Whatever it is, you catch them with that dietary restriction, and then find a way to accommodate without being a pain in the ass about it. So I think that’s the, that’s the cut both ways of like, if you were offering if you’re saying that you’re going to take care, make sure that you’re actually taking care and that you’re not it’s like, yeah, you’re vegetarian, you’re good with chicken broth, right? Like, I can throw that in? No!
And so it was, actually. I mean, obviously this, if you are playing with people you know, this becomes a much easier thing because you’re going to know that somebody is intolerant to a particular food or is a vegetarian, for instance. But this is not a thing that is weird to ask, as long as you frame it of like, Hey, I’m gonna maybe try and make something, can you let me know? Are there any dietary restrictions? And and so it is that I ended up making vegan gluten free garbage plates for people once for my Strahd-erday game, and they were delicious! But, you know that IT had to be that way. And it was good. What I have made it gluten free if I hadn’t known that there was a person who was insensitive? No, absolutely not. So definitely, definitely get on that. even even with people who you’ve known for a super long time, if you haven’t made food for them before, check if they have any dietary restrictions. Like ,people’s diets change over time. Random and I have a mutual friend who we’ve known for years and years and years. Like, decade plus. Last campaign we were in together at some point asked if anyone had any food restrictions, and he had a nut allergy that I didn’t know about. And nut allergies kill people. So if I’d shown up and been like, Hey, I brought like mix nuts for everybody, have fun dying.
I wanna say that, that’s not the problem. The problem is when you’re like, I made these candy bars, and they’re delicious. And everybody’s like yay candy bars! But, just smeared with peanut butter. No!
Yes. Yeah, so definitely ask. And Randall, you you brought up how much you enjoy hosting and serving food to people. In a lot of groups, the Dungeon Master is carrying a lot of burden in a lot of cases, so the Dungeon Master is frequently hosting and running the game and sometimes cooking. In my opinion, if it’s an option, like, unless the Dungeon Master says like, hey, I want to cook for every game. I’m excited to do this. Like, give them an out. At least offer, like, sincerely offer to bring food every time. The Dungeon Master is already doing enough usually. And to make a really, really dumb joke. They are the land. They hunger.
Yeah, okay. You’re right.
I told you it was a dumb joke.
It was also perfect because, I mean, the the Strahd game that I was in. I mean, that was just one of the standing things is, you know, while the DM did host another person who lives there was in the game and it was just the DM does not participate in the plans for making or eating food because they’re doing way too much stuff.
100%. Like, find that social care, like work that out make that work. And that’s kind of what I was trying to emphasize is like if somebody really takes great joy in it, then find a way to to allow it to work. But 100%, be nice to your DM’s, people. Come on. Well, I think we did it. I think we talked about food. It’s like meatloaf, the man Meat Loaf the food. My favorite combo. But anyway. We can cut that if you want, or we don’t. Either way. Yeah, so the question of the week this week: What is your opinion on diversifying saving throws? That comes to us from @YaBoiMcBatman Twitter.
This is our second question from @YaBoiMcBatman. So if you’re, if you’re… if you started D&D at fifth edition, you are familiar with a world where every ability score has its own saving throw. If you’re a native of previous editions, there were only three saving throws in third edition and fourth edition. It was Reflex, which is today’s Dexterity save. Will, which is today’s Wisdom save, and Fortitude which is today’s Constitution save so in fifth edition, there are now saves on all six ability scores. Pathfinder second edition has still stuck to that reflex fortitude will trio. Previous editions, they were called something different, like fortitude was saves versus death. And there were saves versus spells, like, go play Baldur’s Gate, you’ll figure it out.
Fourth Edition, interestingly, I think was their sort of trial to splitting things out because in fourth edition, there were still just three saves, which were a Reflex/Fort/Will, but you got to use your better of two stats for each of them. For Fortitude save your higher of Strength or Con. For a reflex save. your higher of Dex or Int. For a Will save your higher of Wisdom or Charisma. And then they sort of said, Okay, well, now that we’re getting all these stats, and maybe let’s just split them out. And I think that’s really cool. And to get to the point of actually diversifying them. That would really upset a lot of balance, and here’s why. Every class is given saving throw proficiencies based around the fact that the majority of effects are going to target one of those three main ones, right? Dx, Wisdom, or Constitution. If something gets to an Intelligence save, if you are targeting something on a Charisma save, that’s something that a lot of classes are less prepared for. And so that every single class is built around having one primary save, and one off save, basically. And no class gives you Con and decks or decks and wisdom. They did that very intentionally. So if you are going to start throwing more things at Charisma, now we’re making it okay well so now Constitution and Charisma are both common, then your Warlock and your Sorcerer are suddenly having fabulous times, right? Because you’re, you’re now targeting things that they’re really good at. I would say that I would want to be really careful of doing that, and if you’re going to do that, it involves a lot of tweaking in a lot of places to make it more interesting.
I think the diversification in saving throws was kind of a risky choice, and I feel like they haven’t leaned into it very much in fifth edition. Most things, like Random said, most things do still target Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom. But you do have occasionally outliers, like, mind flayers their mind blast thing, targets an Intelligence save. There are some spells that target Strength saves like Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp is a Strength save and boy, that is a great spell. Banishment, I believe, targets Charisma. So there are a few standout spells that target those off saves. But they’re so rare that it’s… every example you can think of is a notable exception just because they’re rare. I do like that they diversified personally, I wish those a bit more of an even spread of things that target each saving throw so it didn’t feel like ah, yes, Strength saves, Intelligent saves, and Charisma saves are the, you know, redheaded stepchild.
I just like hearing Tyler say redheaded stepchild. That’s all.
I know, it gets me every time.
All right. On that note, on the next episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we’re going to talk about keeping the party together. Yeah, we have the holidays coming. A lot of times, this is where good adventuring parties go to die. And so let’s talk about strategy to get through it, keeping calm, letting cooler heads prevail, being flexible, and keeping playing the game that we love. Yeah, I’m Randall James. You can find me on AmateurJack.com and @JackAmateur on Twitter and Instagram.
I’m Tyler Kamstra. You’ll find me at RPGBOT.net, You’ll find me on Twitter and Facebook at RPGBOTDOTNET, and patreon.com/rpgbot.
I’m Random Powell. If you Google me,you get a book publisher. Realistically, you won’t find me much on social media. So you’ll generally find me here contributing to RPGBOT, both by way of the podcast and contributing some articles. And you may find me in places people play games as Hartlequin or Hartlequint
Awesome. This episode was made with producer Dan. All hail the Leisure Illuminati.
*The sound of dogs barking, for some reason.*
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Yeah! Like, why is Mountain Dew such a thing? Every gaming group I’ve–
Like, Dead Alewives.
Like, everyone I know drank Mount– Sorry, what? Oh, Dead Alewives, yeah.
Yes, caffeine, sugar and marketing. 100%