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5E Military food in dnd

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
Iron Rations!

At higher levels, meteorite rations, mithral rations, and adamantine rations.

In more primitive societies, bronze or stone rations.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
More nearly serious answer: it depends on what you have in mind for the setting. A more realistic medieval army might mostly 'forage' (steal food from the folks they're conquering as they go, serious supply lines were, IIRC, a Napoleonic thing? (history buffs can correct me on those). A fantasy army might have fantastic foodstuffs like Tolkien's lembas or magic items that produce food and water (D&D has had a few of those over the editions - Decanter of Endless Water, Murlund's Spoon). An evil humanoid army might kill and eat their foes as they go. Spellcasters can create food. In a sufficiently fantatic world, where little things like the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics aren't even rumored, an army could use weird/impossible closed-loop provisioning strategies, like mounts that give birth every night, after which you butcher and eat them, sharing the food with their young who grow to full size by morning, and off you ride.

edit: specific D&D races? Well, in one edition, Dwarves made 'stonemeal biscuits' that were a day's worth of food in a compact package if you could bear to chew them. Elves, of course, would get the traditional tasty cakes from Tolkien. Gnomes might have magic mushrooms that grow instantly but only nourish gnomes (giving anyone else hallucinations). I could see an Eberron setting having canned goods and huge, intimidating-looking seige engines that are really just carrying the tons of canned goods it takes to feed an army. FR, IDK, I could imagine common infantry men griping about having to use Rings of Sustenance for weeks on end. More normal humans, I'm betting, would forage, because we're supposed to be all resourceful and adaptable.
Orcs would eat whichever of the above ran the slowest at mealtime.
 
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Savage Wombat

Adventurer
Ages and ages ago there was a whole Dragon magazine article about provisioning an army - namely, that no-one could afford to feed an army by buying iron rations for everyone. So yeah, you provisioned armies by looting the countryside and foraging as best as possible, for the most part.

Otherwise, you need one fifth level cleric for every thirty soldiers (counting himself). If you're lucky enough to have access to druids or others that can cast goodberry you can get by with a first level one for the same ratio, or slightly higher at higher levels. You didn't really think you brought the priests along to tend to the wounded, did you?
 

discosoc

Villager
Depends on how 'fantastic' your world is. Historically, armies that were on the march relied on a combination of hunting, gathering, and (in more settled regions) the "kindness" of the locals. Maintaining good supply lines were really important because none of those methods are really good enough to support a large army for long, and long-term storage of food was more or less limited to salted and dried meats. The concept of "iron rations" is relatively new, and not really used in the same way as DnD tends to assume.

But for most DnD settings, I think the logistics of warfare would be *very* different from history due to the presence of magic and various monsters. Castle walls started losing out to canon fire, so I have a feeling a world with mages throwing fireballs around would result in castle construction looking very different (maybe a focus on large moats). And what king wouldn't love to have his beast master release half-trained monstrosities on his enemies, given the chance? With basic historical elements of fantasy that we all take for granted in question, it stands to reason that simple things like feeding an army would probably end up a rather trivial affair; either large armies are too vulnerable to magic and thus not used, or the ability to conjure up some food as needed results in even larger armies than in history (or armies with a much lower percentage of support staff).
 

Jester David

Villager
Grains, beans, nuts, and tubers mostly. These store easily and last a long time when dried. Pickled vegetables would also be common, as would dried and salted meat. Anything that travels and doesn't go off quickly.
They'd also start with livestock, which would slowly be slaughtered as the army progressed. Plus whatever they could forage from the land (or "requisition" from farms and ranches they pass by).
 

BoldItalic

Villager
Part of basic military training is to learn the "Transmute Mud to Cake" cantrip. Recruits who prove unable to learn it are sent home, leaving an army that is happy and well-fed, except in desert campaigns. For those, you need elite troops who know "Transmute Sand to Porridge". They tend to be less happy because porridge is not as nice as cake but they have other things to worry about, such as shortage of fruit pies and custard.
 

R P Davis

Explorer
[dons historian hat]

No army was supplied solely by foraging, to my knowledge. Even as far back as Xenophon, armies had logistical tails. Richard Lionheart kept his Crusaders near the coast so they could be provisioned by ships in the Mediterranean.

Rations were supplemented to a greater or lesser extent by foraging. English troops during the Hundred Years War were well provided with food supplies although foraging came later. Joan of Arc, uniquely among medieval commanders, prohibited her men from foraging. Armies foraged, at the farthest, 60 miles from their lines of march. Within each unit, a mounted group of soldiers would ride forth to steal all the food they could find and defeat any opposition to their quest. As a result, a medieval army would create a path of wasteland of 10 or more miles in its wake. Because of the time invested in foraging, this method of logistics would slow the army’s progress to 5 to 10 miles a day. In enemy territory, looting and pillaging was seen as part of the damage inflicted upon the enemy. In friendly territory, a general would sometimes send ahead a herald to tell residents to provide a certain amount of food and fodder at a designated place and time. In return, the army’s soldiers would not be allowed to forage. With good management, a town could support an army equal to its population for a week or two without undue hardship.

Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience has a chapter on logistics. Wheat is the most-mentioned foodstuff, followed by malt, oats, beans, peas, cheese, oxen, sheep, pigs, bacon (salt pork), herring, cod, salmon and stockfish. Meat also went on the hoof. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's expedition into the American South West drove not only cattle but sheep and pigs along the trail. The numbers of the animals were closely tallied. ("Medieval" is a tough nut to crack. There are stories, but not a lot of data. Once we get into the Early Modern era, proper records start to appear.)

The preferred beast of burden was the ox, which was not only eaten, but also pulled the great wagons loaded with arms, provisions, and the parts for siege engines. Cows were kept since they produced milk which was turned into butter and cheese as well as new cows. A live cow was worth far more than the meat on its bones. This was convenient for resupply, but it also slowed the army's march considerably. Slaughtering animals takes time. It also contributed to hygiene issues, as the distribution of the fresh meat to the men took a considerable amount of time, and by the time it actually reached the men the quality was poor. Add in the lack of proper disposal for the carcasses and you have a fairly foul situation.

Bread was the primary constituent in "rations," almost invariably (since Roman times) some form of hard-tack. Hard-tack is simply bread baked until most if not all moisture is removed, which makes it last a long time, sometimes years. It is nearly impossible to actually eat without moistening it in broth or beer. The most common meal would be stockfish or salt pork mentioned above, boiled with beans or peas, and the hard-tack dipped in to soften it enough that it could be eaten. This would be accompanied with cheese and table beer/ale, as well as whatever fresh vegetables were to hand.

Bread and cheese were the staples, as they were easy to carry as personal supplies when the army outpaced its logistical train or the tactical situation dictated different routes of march. A veteran New Model Army officer wrote, "In the late wars both Ireland and Scotland were conquered by timely provision of Cheshire cheese and biscuit."

In the English Civil War, the official ration (at one point) for soldiers on the march was two pounds of bread, one pound of meat and and one bottle (ration) of wine or two of small (weak) beer. Popham's Regiment of Foot, which numbered about 100 men during August 1644, received a daily average of:

Bread & Biscuit: 10.5 oz.; Salt: 1/17th pint; Peas: 3 oz. dried (6 oz. cooked); Beer (weak): half a pint; Meat & Dairy Products: 5 oz.

Rations when in garrison were different. Between January and June 1645, the two hundred Parliamentarians stationed at Chalfield House,Wiltshire ate:

40000 lbs beef
1600 lbs bacon
580 lbs pork
1900 lbs mutton
64 lbs veal

That works out to roughly 1.25 pounds of meat per man per day. They also ate:

15000 pints of wheat
27000 pints of oats
20000 pints of malt
5000 pints of beans
5000 pints of peas

It is dangerous to use English Civil War ration data, however, except where circumstances of supply are known, because ECW armies on the march did not usually expect to supply themselves to any great extent. Rather, householders were expected to billet soldiers at a set rate in exchange for an IOU that often as not was never paid. They were expected to provide food and ale and fodder for horses. The cost to England of free quarter was enormous. In Cheshire £120,000 of free quarter was said never to have been reimbursed, not to mention the claims of villages in the same county which lost as much as £190,000 worth of goods and livestock in plunder. To bring that into perspective, that's £659,097,197 in 2016 £ Sterling, or almost a billion $USD.

Anyway, those are my pre-coffee thoughts. :) Hope you find them helpful.

Cheers,

Bob

www.r-p-davis.com
 

R P Davis

Explorer
[...]long-term storage of food was more or less limited to salted and dried meats. The concept of "iron rations" is relatively new, and not really used in the same way as DnD tends to assume.
Not really. "Iron rations" as a name dates from just before the Great War, at least in English. But "rations" as the D&D 5e PHB describes - "dry foods suitable for extended travel, including jerky, dried fruit, hardtack, and nuts" - go back quite a long way, at least to the Romans, and arguably farther, if Xenophon's Anabasis is to be taken as fact and not allegory.

Castle walls started losing out to cannon fire, so I have a feeling a world with mages throwing fireballs around would result in castle construction looking very different (maybe a focus on large moats).
I know it's picking nits, but there's a big difference between canon and cannon. ;)

I don't agree about fireball. The PHB does not specify what type of damage the spell produces, but even if it is a mixture of bludgeoning and fire, it will have far less effect on a stone structure than a cannonball.

Better to summon elementals or stone shape or earthquake or something.

And what king wouldn't love to have his beast master release half-trained monstrosities on his enemies, given the chance?
There's a thought. I mean, authors have explored "standard" arms of service in terms of different creatures - goblins mounted on wargs, for instance, acting as cavalry - but just unleashing a pack of owlbears? Whoa dang.

With basic historical elements of fantasy that we all take for granted in question, it stands to reason that simple things like feeding an army would probably end up a rather trivial affair; either large armies are too vulnerable to magic and thus not used, or the ability to conjure up some food as needed results in even larger armies than in history (or armies with a much lower percentage of support staff).
I don't know about that. Create food and water is a third-level divine spell. That means for every fifteen humanoids or five steeds, you'd need to have one 5th-level Cleric, 5th-level Druid, or 9th-level Paladin expending a 3rd-level spell slot every 24 hours just to keep the army fed. Given that persons with adventuring-class levels are supposed to be somewhat rare - not every soldier has any Fighter levels, after all! - that means a very small army, not the larger one you imagine.

The idea of large armies being vulnerable to magic is the most intriguing of all your objections. If you can get your wizards to fireball or earthquake or summon elementals, you're right that large armies can suffer appalling casualties. But casters working alongside regular soldiers are a standard fantasy trope, even in the Forgotten Realms (Cormyr, Thay, etc.). And not all military engagements will feature casters with adventuring-class levels sufficiently high to cast mighty destructive spells.

Interesting!

Cheers,

Bob
 
Soylent Troll [sblock] ..it's made of troll[/sblock]

It is heavlyy flavoured to taste like chicken and salted to last. You can feed 200/day men on a single troll, assuming you make sure to remove its limbs and jaw.
 

aco175

Explorer
Soylent Troll [sblock] ..it's made of troll[/sblock]

It is heavlyy flavoured to taste like chicken and salted to last. You can feed 200/day men on a single troll, assuming you make sure to remove its limbs and jaw.
They're TROOOLLLL

-Excuse me, Sparticus, you can take your seat now.
 

Uller

Explorer
In the early part of Julius Caesar's account of his Gaul campaign it's pretty clear he is not looting and pillaging. He is being provisioned by local chieftains along the Danube River in exchange for cash and/or political favors. A few of the chieftains start having "delays" in their shipments. IIRC, it was a plot to gain an alliance through marriage or something like that. JC needed to move to pursue a Gaulic army he had already defeated once. They were purposely holding him up...He considered executing the plot leader but then ended up holding him hostage or something like that (it's been awhile so my memory is fuzzy).

In any case, yes, armies often looted and pillaged as they campaigned but it wasn't as simple as that. A good commander knows he is reliant on not angering the locals. As long as he is winning and supplied with cash, he has some assets he can trade for supplies. Armies travelling with powerful wizards or clerics in a fantasy setting might have some additional assets to ply the locals with for support (local leader's heir has an 'accident' and the price of a raise dead spell is a month's supply of grain and meat for the troops).

Armies up until fairly recently lived primarily on grain of some sort (preferably milled into flour), salted low quality meat that could be boiled or roasted to make it edible and whatever else they could find locally.
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
Dwarf Bread

Rock-hard (and indeed contains various rocks such as gravel), never goes stale, and is terribly sustaining. A traveller can go for miles, just knowing there's dwarf bread in their pack. A traveller can think of just about anything to eat rather than dwarf bread including their own foot and even pumpkins (see Witches Abroad).

Various forms of dwarf bread can be used as weapons, e.g. battle muffins and drop scones. Fine specimens of dwarf bread can be found in the Dwarf Bread Museum, Whirligig Alley, Ankh-Morpork, open to the public whenever volunteers have time (Feet of Clay). Dwarfs away from home often miss dwarf bread very much, and complain that mass-produced breads by Mr. Ironcrust hardly meet the standards, but dwarfs are too busy working to go and see the exhibits in the museum, much less to volunteer there.

Proper dwarf bread has to be not just baked, but forged (with gravel, of course) and dropped in rivers and dried out, and sat on and left, and looked at every day and then put away again. For preference, its use as a cat's litter box is also recommended. Dwarfs generally devour it with their eyes, because even dwarfs have trouble with devouring it any other way.

Source: Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels https://wiki.lspace.org/mediawiki/Dwarf_Bread
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I know the OP asked for the military, but I want to focus on the adventuring party if I may.

Assuming the average adventuring PC party is not an army, and won't have the logistics of an army (supply train), and assuming they don't have someone to conjure up foot at will, these are what a typical adventuring party would eat (and while I'm not a professional historian, I am an amateur one and bushcrafter and survivalist, so I have knowledge of what was used and have made and used it myself in reference to the first 2 points below).

* hard tack and parched corn. Both have been used for centuries, and store many, many months. In fact, ground parched corn was used by the native Americans for thousands of years, and is still to date one of the best long haul foods you can have. Many people mix in cinnamon or chocolate bits or dried fruit or other things to give it flavor. Think of eating ground parched corn like Malto Meal. I.e., it expands greatly in water, and takes longer to digest. So what people would do is take just a couple tablespoons on the trail and drink water with it, and it would keep them feeling fuller and nourish them for a long time. Both hard tack and parched corn (in its kernel form) were used extensively by the Confederates in the Civil War. Seriously, those things last a LONG time, which would be important for an Adventuring party that might find themselves on the trail between settlements for weeks on end. To the OP's question, the D&D military would most certainly have hard tack and parched corn as a staple, especially if they didn't have the logistics or funding to keep better food around.

* Pemmican, which also seems to last for freaking forever. High in protein and fat, which are greatly needed. Also salted meats and dried fruits and nuts (for shorter journeys expected to last less than a couple months).

* Local sources (hunting and gathering) when available. D&D makes this a nice survival roll and that's it. In fact, D&D makes it way easier than it traditionally has been done, hence the need for long lasting rations like the aforementioned parched corn and hard tack

* Civilization. These are you scattered farmhouses and inns and taverns.
 

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