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How do you handle food and drink?

Hi there,

I'm a rather new DM, and I'm beginning a campaign next month for a group of also new players.

I've been thinking about how to handle food and drink, or if I should even handle it at all. It seems like an important thing for immersion, but at the same time could be something that bogs players (and myself) down in boring minutia. I enjoy the food/drink mods in games like Morrowind and Oblivion, but even they, at times, can get annoying. So what is the consensus here? Does anyone include needing to eat and drink to stay alive, and if so, what rules do you use? If you don't, is it because it can be, well, boring? Do you need a very specific group of players in order to use it effectively?
 

Stoat

Adventurer
The vast majority of the time, I ignore/handwave the issue.

From a metagame perspective, that type of bookkeeping bores me, and I'm not interested in keeping up with it. The times that I've been strict about the issue, my players have circumvented any need to worry about rations by either (a) loading up their PC's personally with food and water; (b) loading up pack animals, hirelings, etc. with food and water; or (c) using magic.*

From an in-game perspective, the majority of the adventures I run are set in relatively temperate climates with plenty of wild game and edible vegetation available. My PC's like playing rangers and druids, so it's easy enough to assume that they can scrounge up enough to eat.


*Depending on the edition in question, a group of players who wants to avoid worrying about rations can do so using either spells or rituals by around level 5.
 

Siberys

Villager
It's only really worth tracking if the PCs get put into a survival situation, such as wandering through the desert. The Dark Sun Campaign Guide describes an abstract resource - supply days, I think they're called? - that represents how much food, water, and other necessary supplies the party has.

If you aren't doing anything where survival is important to track, though, just handwave it.
 

The Red King

Villager
It's only really worth tracking if the PCs get put into a survival situation, such as wandering through the desert. The Dark Sun Campaign Guide describes an abstract resource - supply days, I think they're called? - that represents how much food, water, and other necessary supplies the party has.

If you aren't doing anything where survival is important to track, though, just handwave it.
I agree. If I wanted to bog down the game with unimportant stuff, I'd make them stop to go to the bathroom too!
 

Zaukrie

Adventurer
Agree with the above, but it is largely driven by what you group likes to do. I have only worried about food in survival situations or at party or dinners their characters have gone to

Sent using Tapatalk 2
 

Ferghis

Villager
What Siberys said about food and water. I'd rather assess them a "lifestyle cost" that goes along with their purported lifestyle: this covers all day-to-day costs involving shelter, entertainment, food, mundane ammunition, the needs of a mount, and gives other benefits for those who choose to spend more. To parse out these "extra" benefits, the population of the setting is divided up into 4 classes, with first level adventurers being in the second to bottom class, unless their background is different (this is stolen from a poster here at Enworld, but I lost the source - if you recognize it, please pipe up for proper credit):

Less than 1% of the population are wealthy individuals that spend about 200gp per month. That kind of cash establishes you as a person of power, lets you develop useful contacts, and yields other in-game benefits.

About 5% to 15% of the population belong to a growing minority, the middle-class, and spends about 40gp per month. For most people, this is a successful life, and it includes skilled craftsmen, officials, most nobles, officials and officers.

About 15% to 20% of the population spends about 10gp permonth. This is the category of individuals who are clawing their way out of poverty. For the unsuccessful or novice adventurer, they sleep 5 to a room (1 sp) and eat 1 meal/day (2sp), the 3sp/day is 2gp/week or 8gp/month for long-term stay. Call it 10gp/month including equipment, clothes, booze & sundries. A little less than what a mercenary sergeant or elite soldier makes. Also covers journeyman artisans and similar levels.

The vast majority (70%) of people live by spending about 3gp per month, or living off the land they cultivate. A peasant labourer sleeps in a ragged blanket on a dry(ish) stone/reed floor with 30 other men for 1cp/day, gets your food from the market with plenty of hot broth and porridge and you can eat for ca 5 cp/day, if there's regular work you still have 4 cp/day for patching your rags and drinking plenty of weak beer at ca 2 cp/gallon... Not such a bad life by historical standards. But if there's no regular work, you better hope you saved some cps, or it's a choice (at best) between starvation and begging.

Costs roughly equate to 1 cp = $1, 1gp = $100.
 

Will Doyle

Villager
Yeah, I don't bother with it either, unless they're low on cash and on the trail (and the trail's not going anywhere soon). I've come to do the same with most small change expenses - inn stays, buying a round of drinks for the locals, purchasing torches, etc.

Most of my current group's cash goes on rituals and consumables - the rest I just handwave away.
 

Paxter

Villager
I agree. I usually hand wave the costs, unless they players make a big deal about it. For example, the players have a favorite tavern they patron, and like tipping the wait staff, so they record how much they spend on room and board (even though they can more than afford it).
 
I believe its best to assume that players will knock off a gold piece or two for routine supplies. A night of feasting and / or heavy drinking is not likely to put a dent in the wealth of a typical PC. A suit of heavy armor costs the same as a small farm. A 100 gp gem is worth twenty times what a laborer makes breaking his back for a year.

When does it become important?

At first level when they might only have a few coins left after purchsing gear.
When its important to the story (famine causes local food costs to skyrocket)
Survival in the wilds.

I am sorry, but providing five people with fresh water and enough food to keep them marching is a difficult task when you are living off the land. Taking care of mounts adds a bif complication. If character do not outfit themselves for the journey or lose their supplies through misadventure, they should have to go through skill challenges to survive the experience, risking healing surges or not getting hp from rest if they screw up. I also make foraging an all day thing, not just a hours job. A good set of rolls gets the characters enough food to keep moving again, partial sucess is enough food for the night, failure means grumbling bellies.
 
Hi there,

I'm a rather new DM, and I'm beginning a campaign next month for a group of also new players.

I've been thinking about how to handle food and drink, or if I should even handle it at all. It seems like an important thing for immersion, but at the same time could be something that bogs players (and myself) down in boring minutia. I enjoy the food/drink mods in games like Morrowind and Oblivion, but even they, at times, can get annoying. So what is the consensus here? Does anyone include needing to eat and drink to stay alive, and if so, what rules do you use? If you don't, is it because it can be, well, boring? Do you need a very specific group of players in order to use it effectively?
I recently read Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England. Before reading that, I wouldn't pay much attention to it. Even afterward, it's just flavor text. (Get it? I'll be here all night!) Eating is an activity carried out approximately 21 times per week. You simply will not have enough time in-game to focus on that.

D&D should have some kind of maintenance cost. You pay 1 sp (or whatever) per week to eat decent-quality food. Maybe more in expensive or exotic areas. PCs probably typically carry a certain amount of hard rations, and will buy more if they're going on a desert trek. The money hardly means anything, considering a typical combat encounter nets you enough to eat hundreds of meals.

I've seen food be used really well in a game once... Our characters had been stranded on an island for at least 10 days in game terms (while facing horrible zombies and nearly getting killed numerous times), and when we finally got back to civilization (with not one but two starved rescued ship crews with us, plus captured pirates) we pigged out, some of us got drunk, and then (in an even more civilized area) did so at a really expensive restaurant. That time my character got drunk, and other than barring the door to his room took no precautions. But that kind of RPing is rare.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
The simple answer is that most games ignore it completely and that this is okay.

After all, tabletop role-playing games are a group activity. With limited time together. So for most groups, the focus is on having fun and moving the story along.

As you say yourself, the "simulation" minutae is more appropriate in a single-player experience, when there is no risk of "what interests one might bore another" since you're by yourself.
 

Sadras

Explorer
Daily lifestyle expense easily handwaves all the mundane items such as food, drinking, stabling, maintenance/replenishment of clothing and equipment, general entertainment...etc
 
If we are in town, we only role play it if we need to discuss something over a meal, otherwise we just double-check that we paid for it. If we are on the road, we make sure we have enough supplies, but otherwise do the same thing.
 

the_redbeard

Explorer
It depends upon what style of play suits you. I'm running 5e in an old school style with enforced (vastly simplified, but enforced) encumbrance. I've put food and drink requirements on short and long rests (consumption of rations and water in order to benefit from the rest). During city or social encounters, this often doesn't come up and it's all handled with lifestyle costs. But in wilderness, travel, or dungeons, it gets important. How much you bring in supply and equipment limits how long you can stay, how much loot you can bring out, and if you are encumbered or not. It's an aspect of resource management and planning that isn't part of most people's games anymore.
 
My approach is that you need to list what you are carrying in food & water in your equipment--realistically only for encumbrance purposes. I note what people are carrying but ignore it unless they are in a situation where there is no resupply to be had for a period longer than what they are carrying.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
I use drinks in my pirate campaign as a means of world building. Whenever the players visit a new region, they may see drinks on the menu named after notorious pirates, and be tempted to give them a try. I use a random alcohol effect listfor when the players fail their con saves, which often results in hilarious bits of roleplaying.
 

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