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5E Food weight consumption and weight of food/rations

So I am about to run a campaign with an austere environment and I am refreshing my memory on the rules for food and water consumption, travel distance, weather impacts, and exhaustion.

However, I’ve come across a weird incongruity in the rules regarding feeding requirements.

According to the DM’s Guide, a medium creature requires a pound of food and a gallon of water per day.

However, the rations, which provide food for one day, weighs 2 lbs. (Player’s Handbook). I suppose I can assume that the extra pound is due to packaging (excessive apparently).
I'm guessing 2lb of food is enough to keep you feeling healthy and able to carry on marching.
1lb of food is just enough to not die.

How has anyone else managed food weight requirements (especially in an austere environment)?
Rangers, the outlander background, and assorted spells make it very hard for that sort of thing to matter.

The problem with this interpretation is that eating a half ration is explicitly stated to count as going half a day without food, despite half a ration equaling the daily food requirement by weight.
Half-ration as in half the amount they are talking about, which is the 1lb of food. As opposed to half of one of the rations detailed in the equipment chapter. I believe they are using it as a general English term the first time rather than talking about the game term in the other chapter at the time.
 

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Unless it's hot and you are sweating a lot, a gallon is too much. Even the frequently reported value of 2 litres a day is an exaggeration (you have to read the entire paper), although I would expect rations to be lower in water (and then you might actually need the 2 litres)
Well, it's not so much an exaggeration as it is poorly explained and taken out of context. You do need 2 liters or eight 8 oz glasses of water a day, but those 2 liters includes the water contained in the food you eat. That's your total water needs for the day. Your bowels reclaim water whether you drank it by a glass or by eating a steak and salad. Something like half or more of the water requirement comes from the food you're already eating on average because a major portion of the weight of your food is the water in it.

It's like the "people who died from COVID are only 6% of the number reported," when the reality is that only 6% didn't have a co-morbidity, which means something entirely different. People misinterpret something and then run with the misinterpretation because it sounds absurd. Turns out the misinterpretation is absurd, but that's because it's wrong.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Half-ration as in half the amount they are talking about, which is the 1lb of food. As opposed to half of one of the rations detailed in the equipment chapter. I believe they are using it as a general English term the first time rather than talking about the game term in the other chapter at the time.
Interesting then that the equipment called a ration is double what they’re using the English word “ration” to refer to later in the book. And that it’s double what it was in the past two editions despite costing the same amount. Almost like it’s an oversight or something.
 

Interesting then that the equipment called a ration is double what they’re using the English word “ration” to refer to later in the book.
No, the English term "half rations" is, I believe, being used to refer to having half of the 1lb of food that they are talking about in that sentence.
As distinct from the ration as a piece of equipment, which is 2lb, and only eating half of which won't kill a person in a couple of weeks.

And that it’s double what it was in the past two editions despite costing the same amount. Almost like it’s an oversight or something.
Bit more realistic, certainly
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Which brings you back to the 1 pound thing. You'll die eating only 1 pound.
1 pound of dry oatmeal has over 1700 calories. You're not going to die.

Oatmeal and salt was used as rations by the Scottish highlanders.

A pound of pemmican has over 2600 calories. It was routinely used on long journeys. The coureurs des bois needed 60 pounds of pemmican per 500 miles traveled by canoe (including portages). I wish I had more precise data.
 

1 pound of dry oatmeal has over 1700 calories. You're not going to die....A pound of pemmican has over 2600 calories. It was routinely used on long journeys. The coureurs des bois needed 60 pounds of pemmican per 500 miles traveled by canoe (including portages)....
That entirely depends on what the food is. A pound of celery, yes, you're going to have an issue. But moose goo (a honey, peanut butter, and corn flour mixture favored by some hikers) runs at like 130 calories per ounce - a bit over 2000 calories per pound....
Those examples illustrate the nature of rations. You don't eat them unless absolutely necessary for survival. Long term, absent a daily multivitamin supplement, they're not good for you. Your body will shut down and suffer from lack of proper diet and essential nutrients if you were to only eat dried oats or pemmican or moose goo (which doesn't sound that bad). Scurvy comes to mind. The weight or calories won't matter. But, ultimately, those types of rations are about getting you by for the short term with the least amount of baggage, presumably to the next battle.

Circling back to the OP, since D&D doesn't have any penalties for non-nutritional meals, you can ignore the incongruity with what it takes to actually survive. The 3-4 pounds I cited earlier reflects a variety of foods to avoid those nasty health issues. Still, I again propose a simple fix of 2 pounds for a medium character and scaling up from there. This gets you your "2 pounds" of rations and matches the real-life weight of a MRE. Beyond that, it's really up to what your players want from a game.

My current group is tackling Dark Sun, an apocalyptic desert setting where food and water aren't always easy to come by and spells to magically make food appear don't exist. Combine that with slot-based encumbrance (everything you carry has to fit somewhere), and players have tactical decisions to make on what they take. Rations and full waterskins can bulk up that encumbrance pretty quickly. In this, it can add a tactical element to your game and introduce some old-fashioned concepts like the pack mule, the hireling, and so on. But, if that doesn't sound interesting, then I'd just let it all be as-is.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Those examples illustrate the nature of rations. You don't eat them unless absolutely necessary for survival. Long term, absent a daily multivitamin supplement, they're not good for you. Your body will shut down and suffer from lack of proper diet and essential nutrients if you were to only eat dried oats or pemmican or moose goo (which doesn't sound that bad). Scurvy comes to mind. The weight or calories won't matter. But, ultimately, those types of rations are about getting you by for the short term with the least amount of baggage, presumably to the next battle.
The coureurs des bois would go on 1000 miles journeys through the Canadian wilderness to trade furs, eating pemmican. It's a mixture of meat dust, fat and berries. It kept them going. Was it the best diet? No. But clearly it performed well in pretty long and strenuous circumstances.
 

Hriston

Hero
I’m almost willing to argue that those weights are intentional. A human might need 1lb of food, but that’s the minimum to keep you from adverse effects in the long run. However, you might feel hungry most of the time. Rations of 2lb per day would give you enough to actually feel nourished, as opposed to just surviving. So, you can eat half a ration per day to keep going, but that doesn’t mean you ain’t miserable doing it...
I unravel this knot differently than how I suspect most do (at least in this thread) and agree with @Blackrat. When taken as a whole, the rules for food are workable as-is, although my reading might not be the most natural. It makes sense to me, so I'll give a try at explaining how it works.

First of all, is the item: Rations (1 day), which weighs 2 lb. Notice there aren't any specific rules attached to this item, just that it's 2 lb. of dry foods that a person can presumably be expected to eat in 1 day.

Then there are the Food rules. Let's take them one bit at a time.

"A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations." So while 1 day of rations is 2 lb., a character only needs 1 lb., a "half ration", to subsist, thereby stretching 1 day of food over 2 days. So far, so good. I also believe this is the "full required amount" of food that must be eaten to remove exhaustion caused by lack of food and water.

"Eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food." Okay, so while subsisting on half rations, or 1 lb. of food per day counts as a day with food, cutting that in half and only eating 1/2 lb. results in half a day without food, because 1 lb./day is the minimum you need. I think this makes sense.

"A character can go without food for a number of days equal to 3 + his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 1). At the end of each day beyond that limit, a character automatically suffers one level of exhaustion. A normal day of eating resets the count of days without food to zero." This is why food is important and how not eating results in exhaustion. Every time you eat less than 1 lb./day, you accrue a day or a half day without food, and these just keep adding up, which results in levels of exhaustion once you exceed your limit. The only way to reset the number of days back to zero is to have "a normal day of eating", but what's that? It isn't defined anywhere, but I would venture that a normal day of eating is the 2 lb./day implied by the item.

So we end up with a scheme like this:
Amount
Effect
Eating normally
2 lb./day​
Resets days without food to zero​
Subsisting
1 lb./day​
--​
Half a day without food
1/2 lb./day​
Accrues half a day without food​
A day without food
<1/2 lb./day​
Accrues a day without food​
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I could live with those rules. I'll note that it leads to rapid death with zero food (perhaps more than in real life) but apart from that it's pretty solid.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Unless it's hot and you are sweating a lot, a gallon is too much. Even the frequently reported value of 2 litres a day is an exaggeration (you have to read the entire paper), although I would expect rations to be lower in water (and then you might actually need the 2 litres)
For a regular person, maybe. However, these adventurers fight repeatedly every day with up to about 200 pounds on their backs. That has to consume at least the amount of water a top-tier athlete does.

Plus, different races might have different water retention. Although WoTC wasn't going to add unnecessary complexity in something so insignificant.
 



Hriston

Hero
The problem with this interpretation is that eating a half ration is explicitly stated to count as going half a day without food, despite half a ration equaling the daily food requirement by weight.
I don't think this is necessarily the case. What's stated is that eating half rations meets subsistence requirements. Then, it goes on to state that eating a half pound counts as half a day without food. It doesn't state that a half ration weighs half a pound, contradicting the item weight. What do you think of the alternative interpretation that I've set forth in my post up-thread?
 

Reynard

Legend
D&D survival rules have always been a combination of hand waving and misinterpretation. People can survive a very long time without food, even while remaining pretty active. See "Naked and Afraid" and "Alone" for examples.

That said, the goal of D&D survival rules should not be emulate reality. The goal should be to be fun for the group involved, and so they should be broad enough with a few dials that one group might not bother at all and another might count every calorie. With that being the case it is probably a prime example for one of those modular rules systems were were promised back during the playtest period.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
psst take fat halflings with you. They count as short rations. Hey the rules down say you have to have a head to see or be a barbarian. And if you bring gravy with you, Dragons will like you.
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
The problem with this interpretation is that eating a half ration is explicitly stated to count as going half a day without food, despite half a ration equaling the daily food requirement by weight.
I don't think this is necessarily the case. What's stated is that eating half rations meets subsistence requirements. Then, it goes on to state that eating a half pound counts as half a day without food. It doesn't state that a half ration weighs half a pound, contradicting the item weight.
This. The actual rule is:
A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations. Eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food.


Now, I'm not defending the way it was written - it seems designed to mislead because the implication to most native English speakers is that they are equating half rations to half pounds. But given that the sentence does not exist in isolation (the book says a ration is 2 lbs and that you need 1 lb per day), if we look at it carefully we can see they are not saying that a half ration counts as half a day without food.

The interpretation we're left with is that rations are 2 lbs, you ought to eat the whole thing, you can eat 1 lb but the negative effects are not sufficient to affect the game, and if you eat 1/2 lb it starts to have game effects.

Again, poor wording but not actually contradictory.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
This. The actual rule is:
A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations. Eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food.


Now, I'm not defending the way it was written - it seems designed to mislead because the implication to most native English speakers is that they are equating half rations to half pounds. But given that the sentence does not exist in isolation (the book says a ration is 2 lbs and that you need 1 lb per day), if we look at it carefully we can see they are not saying that a half ration counts as half a day without food.

The interpretation we're left with is that rations are 2 lbs, you ought to eat the whole thing, you can eat 1 lb but the negative effects are not sufficient to affect the game, and if you eat 1/2 lb it starts to have game effects.

Again, poor wording but not actually contradictory.
I disagree. This reads as a post-hoc justification rather than a natural interpretation of the text. “A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations.” Regardless of what the ration equipment weighs, the implication of this sentence is that one pound is what is needed, but eating half as much as you need can extend how long you can subsist on limited resources. The following sentence, “eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food,” further clarifies the long-term effects of eating half as much food as your daily requirement.

Ask yourself, if the weight of a ration had been one pound, as it is in other editions, would reading this sentence have made you think it should be two pounds? Would you have questioned the apparent incongruity, as many people have done with the two-pound ration?
 

Hriston

Hero
This. The actual rule is:
A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations. Eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food.


Now, I'm not defending the way it was written - it seems designed to mislead because the implication to most native English speakers is that they are equating half rations to half pounds. But given that the sentence does not exist in isolation (the book says a ration is 2 lbs and that you need 1 lb per day), if we look at it carefully we can see they are not saying that a half ration counts as half a day without food.

The interpretation we're left with is that rations are 2 lbs, you ought to eat the whole thing, you can eat 1 lb but the negative effects are not sufficient to affect the game, and if you eat 1/2 lb it starts to have game effects.

Again, poor wording but not actually contradictory.
I agree that it's a poorly worded attempt to express what I think the author(s) probably had in mind. If it's read, however, with the assumption that a ration is two pounds, it not only all makes sense, but it also becomes apparent that eating a full ration has a purpose, namely to reset your days without food to zero.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Hmm holding the books to my head. You Reek AH! No one in WOTC cross reference these sentences. We shall beat the editors.
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
I disagree. This reads as a post-hoc justification rather than a natural interpretation of the text
I’m not trying to justify anything, I’m only trying to find an explanation that fits the facts. Interpretations of implied meanings are only that; however confusing their text is, it does not explicitly contradict itself.

You can try to change the facts to fit your interpretation, but I wouldn’t consider that to be a particularly fruitful endeavor. If you genuinely believe the explicit parts of the text to be in error, you should submit errata or tweet Crawford for confirmation.

Until the text changes, I think it’s only rational to assume that what it says is true for the game.
 

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