The dungeon is an eat-or-be-eaten world. Eat your rations, or you’ll get all woozy and a fuscous slime will eat your lunch. And your legs.
Delvers far from the nearest inn don’t need to worry. Travel-ready rations are cheap and light: just $2 and 0.5 lbs. per meal in the worlds of Dungeon Fantasy (DF) and Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (DFRPG).
But… What is that stuff? Hard cheese and harder bread, again? With some over-salted, meat-like stuff you dismiss as Dire Pemmican?
It gets old. So you dabble in dwarven rations, stocking up at that one Costco a mile under Ghrimmbil’s Gate. At $5 and 1 lb. per meal, it’s as pricey as mithril and as dense as a dwarf, you joke. Sure, “keeping khôsher” does amazing things for your poison resistance, which is great – but only if that’s all you eat, for at least a month. Ugh. No wonder Ghrimmbil’s folk are dour and drink a lot. (And please tell me that that’s not cave cricket “flour” in the Pickaxe Power® energy bars…)
Time for a change. Go elven! You stock up on pointy-ear rations at that one magical provisioner by the Enchanted Glade (ooh, a Whole Foods, lah-di-dah). Hmm, it’s like shortbread cake with granola ambitions, and it ain’t half bad, either. But while each $15, 0.5-lb. wafer is good for three meals, that’s still pricey at the early stages of delving (“the copper years”). And the darned things are so crumbly. (Mark my words, you say: someday, somewhere, elven waybread crumbs on the cloak are going to cause someone trouble.)
Given that every MRE scarfed down in a crypt could be your last meal, you want choice. Hmm, what do other dungeon-delving races take on travels? Let’s peek into their backpacks for ideas, sticking to the DFRPG races for simplicity.
First, a few ground rules that I think are in order:
The books don’t tell us how long rations last, but they’re made for storage and travel; a “meal” here is not a juicy pork chop that’ll turn green by Thursday. Then again, it’s not the product of modern sterilization, sealing, and refrigeration, either. I’ll assume that, even with the extreme temperatures, humidity, and acid breath attacks that delvers face, rations are good for about a month after purchase.
Like the dwarven rations found in DF/DFRPG, some of the fantasy rations below confer an effect on the eater (the reason you’d go out of your way to buy them). The length of the “steady diet” required to gain the effect is noted where appropriate. Once some effect kicks in, assume that it continues as long as the eater continues eating the rations three times per day.
Off the diet
What happens when you stop eating the special rations? Unless noted otherwise, special effects will cease, sooner or later. Make a call: either the special effect ends as soon as you miss one special meal, or it fades over time. For the latter, a reasonable length is the same “steady diet” time length required for the effect to appear, e.g., one month for the poison resistance of dwarven rations. The GM can have the effect gradually weaken during that time, rather than suddenly disappear at the end. The character will have to restart a regular diet to halt the fade and gain back the effects.
Unless the GM wants to rule otherwise for some truly odd combinations, assume that characters can enjoy the effects of mixing multiple types of rations. The problem lies in quantity: if you select dwarven rations or gnomish rations for each meal, you’re not getting a steady diet of either! The solution is to eat both at each meal – though the GM will have to limit how many meals you can reasonably stomach at once, and how long you can keep it up before having to refit your armor.
By contrast, stuffing yourself with multiple meals of the same rations should have no special effect (besides bloating).
When it would matter, assume that breaking out any normal foods, including the rations on this page, adds to the ever-interesting melange of odors that surrounds PCs. This might grant +1 to the scent-based Tracking rolls of creatures on the PCs’ trail, or +1 to the chance of wandering monsters during what should be a relaxing tea-time break. Exceptions are noted below (namely, +4 instead of +1 on those scent rolls for Pungent foods, and no scent effect for Tidy foods).
The message to delvers: Always double-check the safety of your lunch location, or whip up some deodorizing sorcery, before unwrapping those vittles. (Setting food aside, delvers would also do well to tame their own aromas. Take a cue from dwarven miners, who shout their mantra of “de-scent before descent!” as they pass around the Axe/Mace Body Spray.)
Here’s what a few races just might be packing for a delver’s dinner (all romantically torch-lit, atop a cursed altar):
Cat-folk rations: $4, 0.5 lbs.
“Kitty kibble” consists of hard, odd-shaped bits made from meat, fish, dairy products, and slow small animals. (Cat-folk insist the rations are designed for their particular “finicky tastes”; you suspect cat-folk would gnaw on shoe if it smelled of dungeon rat.)
A month of steady adherence to “the Catkins Diet” gives most races Night Vision 1. Cat-folk, though, gain Night Vision 3 (and a silkier, shinier coat).
Halfling rations: $4, 1 lb.
Halfling rations are just normal rations, doubled. Or you could start with other rations; the point is the double part. Pretty much anything edible will do, though halflings generally won’t buy rations that aren’t “decent” food. The usual preference is plenty of sausages, occasional tomatoes (make that lots of tomatoes if some picky player grouses about “anachronistic”), and almost always taters (that’s “PO-TAY-TOES”).
If you’re a halfling, you want this. As long as your last meal was doubled rations and you’re not down any FP, your full stomach grants you a +3 bonus on your self-control roll for Gluttony. If your last meal was anything less than double-sized, though, you’re back to normal Gluttony rolls and lots of complaining about “second breakfast” and “elevenses” and all that. (Side thought: If a GM allows this +3 bonus to Gluttony control rolls after double-sized meals, it’d be fair to apply a -3 penalty if the character is overdue for even a normal-sized meal.)
The same benefits could be extended to any individual with Gluttony, Halfling or not. For characters without that disadvantage, though, doubled rations simply mean the eventual onset of Overweight.
Gnome rations: $3 (before CF), 0.5 lbs.
Basic gnome rations are “normal” food, but cleverly packaged and well protected. The extra cost nets a +1 to resist any destruction of the rations by water, fire, slime, etc., and a minimum shelf life of 3 months instead of 1 month.
Delvers want the special stuff that gnomes concoct, though. Gnomes start with their basic rations, then combine herbal knowledge, secret recipes, fanciful kitchen gadgets, and a pinch of magic to imbue rations with useful, even potion-like, effects.
Below are some common effects offered by gnomish provisioners. These definitely count as “special orders”, and won’t be available just anywhere!
Each effect modifies cost by +1 CF. Unless the GM rules out some combination, these can be stacked! (Example: Most towns carry a product combining Pungent and Repellant (+2 CF) in a single $9 can, marked with the mysterious gnomish word “Surströmming”.)
Effects on characters (+1 CF each)
Bulking: These waxy bars of soy protein and brown pudding whey will pump you up! A steady and continued diet (1 month or more) gives you free +1 Lifting ST. (You can pay 3 character points to make this freebie permanent, GM willing; continued use of bulking rations will then grant you a new free +1 Lifting ST. But the free ST will disappear within a month if you quit the diet.)
Should you want to intentionally “bulk up” (i.e., further increase ST or buy off Skinny through normal use of character points) but the GM also requires time for training, bulking rations will speed up the process. Training time while on the rations counts as double – e.g., a week of strength training on the diet counts as two weeks of training. (Once the time has passed and the character points are paid, whatever effects you bought are permanent. You don’t need to stay on the rations, other than to keep that free +1 Lifting ST.)
Calming: A steady and continued diet (1 week or more) of this gnomish “comfort food” adds +1 to Meditation and Autohypnosis rolls, as well as +1 on rolls to resist Fright Checks, Bad Temper, Berserk, Bloodlust, Bully, Combat Paralysis, Nervous Stomach, Phobias, and Post-Combat Shakes.
Cooling: A steady and continued diet (just 1 day or more) confers 1 level of Temperature Tolerance (Hot), keeping the character cool in hot climes.
Energy-boosting: Full of dire bison protein, crushroom extract, and a pinch of powdered wyvern scale. A steady and continued diet (1 week or more) confers +1 FP.
Fancy: This food has no special powers; it’s just aesthetically pleasing and awfully good for rations. (Think airline food, but Business Class.) This could be worth a +1 in checking a monster’s reactions to a food bribe, the morale of a fed hireling, etc. (For a little more detail, borrow a rule from the ornate weapon modifier in DF/DFRPG: +1 to reactions for +1 CF, +2 for +4 CF, and +3 for +9 CF. Scrumptious!)
Preventive: A steady and continued diet (1 week or more) grants +1 to prevent or recover from one predetermined disease. Increase the cost to +2 CF to combat all diseases. (This is a bit pricey and weak as a counterpart to dwarven rations, but outside dungeons, disease is a far bigger problem than poisons.)
Pungent: This food has a smell that’s not necessarily bad, just powerful. Pop the lid, and a scent with uppercut punch travels at least 10 times the normal distance and lingers for 10 hours indoors (1 hour outdoors, or far less if windy). Any Smell roll to detect the odor (such as at a distance) gains a +4 bonus (replacing the +1 suggested for food in general). Scent-based pursuers will easily be drawn to the food, but rolls to pinpoint anything else in the area by smell, including picking up trails via scent-based Tracking, are at -4.
Delivers can use these effects to confuse keen-snouted trackers or lure beasts into traps. However, they can also expect to draw monsters (including the wandering kind; the GM can apply up to a +4 to checks!), and should be careful to avoid “perfuming” themselves. (A Hazardous Materials roll wouldn’t be out of place to keep from fouling hands and beards.) Should any PC decide to live on the stuff, a steady and continued diet (a week or more) will cause the character’s natural smell (whatever that may be) to gain the effects of Pungent.
Repellant: This food smells bad, repelling most humanoids and animals (as well as those monsters that don’t actually like sewer-and-carrion scent). Determined beasts may still attack, but those within 2 yards of the open food must roll vs HT every turn to avoid Nausea (which, on subsequent turns within 2 hexes, requires further HT rolls to avoid retching). The smell lingers for 1 hour, although the Nausea-inducing effect lasts for only 10 minutes.
Combined with Pungent, the effect times and overall range increase 10-fold, while the 2-yard Nausea range increases to 4 yards. All that said, these rations are still food; if you can get past the smell, it tastes fine and is nourishing. (A steady and continued diet for a week – or a food spill – will grant you your own personal case of Bad Smell, though.)
Slimming: These rations help dieters lose weight. Treat as Bulking above, but for the purpose of shortening time requirements to buy off the Overweight disadvantage. (Whether the weight then stays off without the rations is up to the PC’s Will and the GM’s mercy.)
Stimulating: One meal grants +1 on rolls related to focus and alertness, including Perception, recovering from surprise, resisting sleep or daze effects, and resisting the effects of Absent-Mindedness, Laziness, or Short Attention Span. The effects last only an hour, though, after which the character suffers -2 on those same rolls for two hours. In addition, immediately upon ingesting the rations, the character must make a HT roll or suffer shaky hands (-1 on any tasks covered by High Manual Dexterity) for the entire three-hour period of effect. (The Stop Spasm spell ends these shakes immediately!)
Targeted: The rations’ effect, or combination of effects, works on only a certain creature or class of creatures. This is typically used to create foods with Pungent or Repellent effects that affect only some type of monster. Use +1 CF for a specific monster class (e.g., Mundane), +2 CF for a smaller group (e.g., Goblin-kin), and +3 CF for a specific creature (e.g., Hobgoblins). Very rare monsters may require higher CF, or unique ingredients (which the PCs may have to procure).
Warding: You don’t need expensive Repellant and Targeted rations to drive off vampires and werewolves; these monsters happen to be affected by cheap ingredients that gnomes will happily bake into rations. Rations with Warding are packed with garlic or wolfsbane (or both for +2 CF) – as good as the real thing (or so the gnomes say), though the effect lasts only three hours after opening. A steady and continued diet (a month or more) will leave you smelling like the real thing! (The effects of garlic breath on Sex Appeal are up to the GM.)
Combine Warding with Pungent, and those bloodsuckers and furfaces will think twice before coming within a stone’s throw of you.
Warming: A steady and continued diet (just 1 day or more) confers 1 level of Temperature Tolerance (Cold). At the GM’s discretion, a managed diet of Cooling and Warming rations may also yield a small bonus to benefit from Esoteric Medicine (Chi) or other treatments that “balance chi”.
Other properties of gnomish rations (+1 CF each)
The following are not effects on partakers, but rather special properties that gnomish rations can take. Each of these is also +1 CF. Any meal can have one of these properties; they don’t stack with each other.
Goop: The food has a paste-like form that can be watered down to make crude writing ink, used like fingerpaint to mark walls, or applied as face paint (Adventurers p. 113). A meal is good for 5 applications of face paint, but it quickly spoils once opened and will attract insects (or worse) until washed off (treat as food scent).
Long-lasting: With this +1 CF effect, gnomish rations boost their standard 3-month shelf life to a full year without special care. Make that 3 years for +2 CF, 10 years for +3 CF, 30 years for +4 CF, or 100 years (!) for +5 CF. Such decades-old rations, still edible, would not be an unusual find in a dungeon storehouse or hidden shelter.
Smoothie: The rations are in the form of a thick liquid that can be drunk or splashed like a potion. It’s a meal and a drink! (What happens to a vampire doused in a garlicky Warding Smoothie? Go find out!)
Tidy: Favored by stealthy types, fastidious campers, and cheating dieters, this food is crumb-free, odor-free, and leaves no trace, thanks to edible leaf packaging. (This means no food scent to modify wandering monster checks or trackers’ scent rolls, and no meal remnants to potentially aid sight-based trackers.)
Orc rations: $0.5, 1 lb.
Goblin-kin may be monsters, but they make things (when they have to), they’re organized (sometimes), and they travel (for war, migration, or their own piggy purposes). Orcs in particular are likely to travel with some sort of rations.
There’s no need to assume that “goblin-kin” equates to “prefers gross food”. Even hobgoblins might appreciate truffles and brandy as much as the next humanoid (with gourmand pretensions explaining at least some raids on civilized lands). But orcs on the march for war or adventure won’t be picky.
What goes into the rations of soldiers that shrug off disease, poison, and even injury? Don’t ask. Goblin-kin can thrive on victuals so cheap as to almost be free (in fact, a Scrounging roll and a bit of dungeon dumpster diving should net you the equivalent of orc rations). But even the most slumming of delvers had best stay away.
Treat generic orc rations as being Repellant (above) to non-monsters in general, at no extra cost. (Maybe the stuff is repellant to goblin-folk, too; they just deal with it.)
Alternately, get creative and roll 1d to see what any given orc meal does to the poor soul who partakes of it:
How bad does it look and smell?
- 1-2 Gross, maybe, but not horribly so.
- 3-4 Repellant
- 5 Pungent
- 6 Repellant and Pungent
Then roll 1d again on the table below:
How bad is it really?
Roll 1d6 and enjoy. Modifiers: +1 if Pungent was indicated above; +1 if Repellant was indicated above; +1 for Nervous Stomach. (Resistant to Poison and Resistant to Disease don’t affect this d6 roll, but have their usual effects on HT rolls if poison or disease are indicated.)
- 1-2: You feel a little queasy, perhaps, but nothing serious.
- 3: Make HT roll to avoid Nausea (with HT roll to recover every hour).
- 4: Ugh. Treat as 3, but HT rolls are at -3.
- 5: Make HT roll to avoid mild disease (treat as sewer rot, with added ongoing effects of Nausea until cured).
- 6: Make HT roll to avoid mild poison (same effects as 5, or make up something appropriate).
- 7: Make HT rolls to avoid disease and poison.
- 8+: As 7, but roll 1d6+1 on this table again. If Nausea comes up, recovery rolls are every day, not hour. If poison, disease, or both come up again, they’re really bad cases.
These same rules can be used for any “mystery meat” or expired rations that PCs really shouldn’t eat (but may have to if starving). Good luck out there…
Other monster rations
Few other DF/DFRPG monsters could be expected to prepare and tote what we’d call rations. Most monsters simply eat what they eat – livestock, carrion, stone, spectral energy, swashbucklers – when they get their paws on it. Or they don’t eat at all, at least not in a way we’d recognize.
Others might lug food on travels, but it won’t necessarily be something interesting: what would a lizardman carry, besides a brace of captured birds, or a hunk of dried meat? Still, you can always give any monster a sack full of what’s essentially orc rations – or anything else you care to make up. Mmm-mmm!
“Let me check in the back…”
Wait – the next time you’ve got a hankering for your preferred provender, will it even be in stock? Here’s how I see the availability situation, using the categories of everyday “Basics” or not-always-available “Special Orders” (a la dwarven and elvish rations):
- Cat-folk rations: Special order for sure, unless cat-people are thick on the ground in your world.
- Gnome rations: Definitely special order!
- Halfling rations: Either basic or special order, depending on what it is you’re buying in duplicate.
- Orc rations: Are you kidding? Sub-basic. (Dead rats are everywhere.)
So what can you do if some special-order sustenance isn’t on the shelves? That’s up to the GM: maybe a bespoke mini-adventure to locate supplies, maybe a terse “tough luck”. Or maybe a quick resolution like this: Roll vs Merchant, Savoir-Faire, or Streetwise, with all the usual mods for dealings in town, and another -2 if it’s not your people’s food (those cousin connections count!). If the roll succeeds, the GM can make a stash available – say, 3d6 x Margin of Success meals (1d6 meals for success by 0). This should probably be at an inflated price – at the least, no Elven Gear or Dwarven Gear discount.
Is kitty kibble right for you?
Special cases aside, all of the above assume that rations are rations, whoever eats them. That lets delvers treat rations as any other resource: load up on canned cat-folk food when lots of dark dungeons are in the future, visit the gnomes to charge your wizard with energy-boosting provisions, and so on.
But will months of nibbling on kitty kibble really leave a human or halfling PC unchanged? Or will it lead to unexpected oddities, perhaps even feline quirks? Like playing with food, casually knocking objects off of tables, and replacing baths with tongue-based grooming? That’s up to the GM! (And if such lifestyle changes are in order, it’s up to the player to decide whether a little extra Night Vision is worth the hairballs.)
Shopping at Samwise’s Wholesale Club
Special deals for stockpiling rations seems fair. This reflects realistic bulk purchase discounts, and is also a way to clean up calculations for quicker play.
Below are some quick load-outs for a day, a week, and a month (30 days) of rations. These are followed by suggested bulk purchases of a week’s and a month’s rations, with savings on price and also on weight (thanks to consolidated packaging). Advantages like Dwarven Gear, as well as haggling with merchants, can reduce bulk prices even further.
- One meal: $2, 0.5 lbs.
- One day: $6, 1.5 lbs.
- One week: $42, 10.5 lbs.
- One month: $180, 45 lbs.
- One week: $40, 10 lbs.
- One month: $150, 40 lbs.
- One meal: $4, 0.5 lbs.
- One day: $12, 1.5 lbs.
- One week: $84, 10.5 lbs.
- One month: $360, 45 lbs.
- One week: $80, 10 lbs.
- One month: $300, 40 lbs.
- One meal: $5, 1 lb.
- One day: $15, 3 lbs.
- One week: $105, 21 lbs.
- One month: $450, 90 lbs.
- One week: $100, 20 lbs.
- One month: $400, 75 lbs.
- One meal: $5, negligible weight
- One day: $15, 0.5 lbs.
- One week: $105, 3.5 lbs.
- One month: $450, 15 lbs.
- One week: $100, 3.5 lbs.
- One month: $400, 15 lbs.
(There’s no weight reduction here for bulk purchase; the rations are just wrapped in leaves to begin with!)
- One meal: $4, 1 lb.
- One day: $12, 3 lbs.
- One week: $84, 21 lbs.
- One month: $360, 90 lbs.
- One week: $80, 20 lbs.
- One month: $300, 80 lbs.
Gnome rations (one effect)
Prices below are for rations with one special effect of your choice (+1 CF), which is probably what PCs will be most interested in. Increase the cost for additional effects; halve cost for basic gnome rations (no special effects, just the protective packaging and boosted shelf life).
- One meal: $6, 0.5 lbs.
- One day: $18, 1.5 lbs.
- One week: $126, 10.5 lbs.
- One month: $540, 45 lbs.
- One week: $120, 10 lbs.
- One month: $500, 40 lbs.
- One meal: $0.5, 0.5 lbs.
- One day: $1.5, 1.5 lbs.
- One week: $10.5, 10.5 lbs.
- One month: $45, 45 lbs.
- One week: $10, 10 lbs.
- One month: $40, 40 lbs.
There. That’s a nice sampling of oddball dungeon rations, the perfect way to hyper-charge characters’ meals for Peak Delver Performance™, or just spice up lunchtime swaps among bored travelers. Remember that these only cover DFRPG races. Dip into Dungeon Fantasy 3 – The Next Level, and you’ll also find bug people, fairie folk, and eleventy-twelve kinds of elves, all waiting for you to concoct some new, signature trail mix.
Some of their eats are likely to be pretty good, too. I don’t know about those fodder cubes that minotaurs go for (is it alfalfa?), but what’s that stuff the dark ones have over there? Is that black licorice? I love black licorice! So that can’t be too ba… dear gods, why is it crawling!?
Version history: See Games Diner Site Updates.
“Samwise’s Wholesale Club” — ha! :DI never thought much of examining dietary choices in a game before, but the topic suddenly makes me curious about what real people ate in different regions, and whether it’s all been blended into a sort of faux-medieval menu for RPGs.There can be quite a shock to one’s digestive tract when trying mere intra-species foreign foods, so I wonder if a hard-science fantasy setting might warrant Restricted Diet between humanoid types.
It was the dwarven rations and elven rations that sparked interest. Actually, it’s all a bit jokey – really just an excuse for cat jokes and halfling jokes – but that works just fine in DF/DFRPG. And I’m the sort of yutz who finds detailing mundane equipment as interesting as cataloging magical artifacts. (Coming soon to this site: More equipment kits for adventurers and healers and the like. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!)
To get serious about the food thing: Swapping foods with fellow mundane mammal races might not be a big deal, but once magical creatures, bugmen, fishmen, and so on come into the picture, incompatibilities sound plausible. Restricted Diet would be a reasonable disad for many uncommon races. Possibly Unusual Biochemistry, too, for odd races (say, gargoyles; who knows what they’re really made of?).
So, I love the article, but you’re missing the effects of the Essential Food enchantment!
If we go by Pyramid #3/60’s Wizardry Refined, Essential Food costs 30$ to apply to a pound of food. This makes mundane Rations 17$, 0.5 lbs, and satiates a day’s worth meals for a regular Human… But what happens when it’s applied to Elven Rations? I can see Guilds handing out Essential Food at discounted rates for members, and Clerics guarantee Religious institutions would have Divine Origin Essential Food available for… basically anyone who’s a member of the church.
Essential Food also makes it impossible for food to spoil, so it might bypass your homebrew Shelf Life. The only downside I can see is that there’s no real way to protect these enchanted rations, other than putting them in a heavy-duty box or something.
Don’t know how to end this comment or where I’m going with this, so I’ll just leave this as is.
Thank you for the kind words! Re Essential Food: I don’t know about monetary costs for the enchantment, but the Pyramid article and DFRPG‘s spellbook have Essential Food grub lasting only a day – eat it all today, or say goodbye. (Very different specifics from my placing stuff into the victuals purgatory that is my fridge, but similar end effect.) But whatever’s in the books, yes, there should be some magics that greatly improve on food preservability and other properties. I admit that my article doesn’t consider magic food alternatives at all; bypassing all the food shops and heading to the Wizard’s Guild for a tin of Mage Biscuits should be a viable option. Might shake up the prices of the traditional elvish and other provisions, too!