Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Eating on the Move

A Guide to Trail Rations
Part 2 of 2

Welcome to the second installment of Eating on the Move. Last time, we introduced the humble trail ration: a small kit of preserved food that can help your character to stay alive while far away from the comforts of civilization. We discussed what goes into rations, and the effects that living on rations for extended periods of time can have on your character.

In this installment, we'll be discussing some exotic ration kits that you may want to use to help spice up your campaigns, examining some of the spells that create food and introduce some new magical items that can help your characters to eat better.

If you haven't read the last installment, please take a few moments and check it out. It contains some helpful information for players and dungeon masters who are looking to add some detail to their campaign. This article also touches on a new status effect: ration fatigue, which was introduced in the previous article.

Racial Rations
The standard trail ration kit is made by humans, for humans. Although they can be consumed by members of just about every sentient race, they don't reflect the tastes and preferences of other cultures. Below are some examples of trail ration kits that might be used by people other than humans.

Elven rations tend to be light, but strongly flavored. They often contain dried bread or simple crackers that have been both sweetened and usually contain herbs. Dried fruits and nuts are also very common and tend to make up the bulk of these kits. If the kits contain meat, it is often dried fish, game or sometimes fowl.

Dwarven rations are simple, but extremely hearty. They often contain dried sausage, cheese or a combination of both as well as hard tack. They also commonly come with a small jar containing pickled greens, such as cabbage, kale, spinach or chard. A less common component is fruit, although dried quinces are preferred by dwarven adventurers. Dwarves generally supplement their ration kits with alcohol (see Eating on the Move part 1 for more information).

Gnomish design and ingenuity lead to the invention of the two components of a unique trail ration kit. The first part is a small cube wrapped in waxed cloth. The cube can be dropped into a container of water, usually a waterskin, to produce a nutritious broth. The second component is a compact bar of food. The exact composition of these bars is a trade secret, but they are known to contain both goat meat and mushrooms, dried and shredded before being processed into an unidentifiable mass. Both components of the kit are designed to be eaten together, and neither produces enough nutrition to sustain a person on their own.

The halfling people are renowned for their skill in cooking. As such, their trail rations are exceptionally high in quality. A variety of dried fruit, cheese, meat, vegetables and simple crackers are supplied in every package. Although the quantity of each is not as much as you would find in a standard kit, there are many more components. Often, small paper sachets containing complementary spices are included in the packages to further enhance the flavor of the meal.

Orcish trail rations most often consist entirely of meat. More civilized tribes dry or preserve their game for use in ration kits, and may even include hardtack in the packages as well. In more remote locations, savage orcish tribes may not have the knowledge to preserve their kills, and the rations they sell may contain only lightly smoked, or brined meat, often of a dubious nature. In extreme cases, the meat may be raw or in the process of rotting. For most humanoid races, excepting goblinoids, these more savage varieties of rations are inedible.

Exotic Rations
Trail ration components may also vary by region. In far-off climes, certain components may no longer be available, or an alternative might be far more popular. Here are some examples of trail ration kits that might be found in more exotic locales. Using them may provide some extra flavor to your campaign.

Asian Settings:
In Asian settings, ration kits generally contain rice cakes as their main component. This may be supplemented by dried fish and pickled vegetables such as ginger. Other kits may include simple crackers or dried cakes composed of millet or barley in place of the rice cakes.

Life in the open tundra is difficult. In the harsh, cold climate, the ration of choice is pemmican. This combination of meat, fat and berries contains enough energy to keep a person alive for long periods of time, and comes formed in a bar-shape, which makes for easy storage. The meat and fat used in pemmican comes from wild game like elk, moose, deer or bison. The berries are varied, though cherries, currants, blueberries and cranberries are most common. A similar product made with more fat than pemmican, and containing either caribou or salmon is known as akutaq.

The High Seas:
Sailors on the open seas rarely need to worry about taking care of their own rations, as the ship they sail on will likely have a food store of its own. Sailors can expect to live on a strict ration consisting of hard tack, meat (often salt-pork or salt-beef) and usually a citrus fruit, such as a lime. This diet is supplemented with either weak ale, or a combination of water and rum known as grog (the rum helps to keep the water from going bad and more alcohol is added to the water stores over time). Sailors can improve the variety and quality of their diets by catching fish or other marine life and eating it fresh or preserving it in salt, or from foraging and hunting on islands found during the voyage.

Magically Created Food
Characters wielding divine or arcane magic can create food out of thin air. All of these spells are undoubtedly useful while travelling, but not all of them are created equal. Some of them are capable of creating delectable dishes that inspire the soul, while others create a slop that could double as sovereign glue.

Here is a quick list of some spells and magic items that create food, along with optional rules for using them with ration fatigue (see Eating on the Move part 1 for more information on ration fatigue).

Create Food and Water: This spell allows a cleric to create enough food and water to sustain three people, making it extremely efficient for keeping adventurers alive in a dire situation. Unfortunately, the food it creates rots rather quickly, preventing a cleric from stockpiling it. More importantly for adventurers, it is quite bland, and one tends to get tired of it quickly. A person living solely on the products of a create food and water spell gets ration fatigue after a week.

Goodberry: Goodberry allows a druid to create a small handful of curative and extremely nutritious berries. A single berry enchanted by the spell is the equivalent of a full meal for a medium-sized creature. Due to the magical properties of the berries, a person living solely upon them cannot get ration fatigue.

Heroes' Feast: Bards and clerics can use this spell to summon forth a feast, along with a table, chairs and utensils. Although it takes a long time to consume the meal, those who partake receive several bonuses. Those who choose to live on the food provided by a heroes' feast do not get ration fatigue thanks to the wide variety of food made available by the spell.

Murlynd's Spoon: This remarkable item creates an extremely nutritious and extremely bland paste that can feed up to four people per day. While it is more than capable of sustaining a person indefinitely, not many people would relish the thought of eating that substance for every meal. It takes only three days of living solely on Murlynd's spoon before a person receives ration fatigue.

When Your Character Doesn't Need to Eat Anymore
In the course of an adventuring career, a character may come across an item like a clear ioun stone or a ring of sustenance. These two items are extremely useful in making sure that a character need never die of thirst or starvation. One question you may want to ask yourself is how your character reacts to such a situation.

Some races, such as the elan can sustain themselves on their own inborn powers, and may not ever need to eat. Others might be like the warforged and are either incapable of eating or do not benefit from consuming food. Unless your character is like this, they have, from the day they were born, eaten. Eating is a habit that they've acquired over their whole lifetime, and it may not be easy to let go.

Does your character still eat, despite the fact that it is now unnecessary? Perhaps they do so as to not unnerve others around them. They might enjoy eating and do so simply for the experience. They may just eat out of habit, or because even though they know they don't have to, that fact hasn't yet sunk in.

There are no explanations in the rulebooks that describe what it's like to survive purely through the use of a magic item like a ring of sustenance. By default, players should assume that while the item nourishes them, it also keeps them from feeling hunger pains.

Dungeon Masters may state that using an item like a ring of sustenance in place of ordinary food is a wholly unpleasant experience. Without any food in their bellies, they might feel hunger pains or slight nausea at first, and perhaps for weeks, until their bodies get used to the experience. Players may find it unnerving to feel like they're dying of hunger, but without any of the weakness normally associated with the event.

Making Ziploc Bags with Magic
So, the ranger bagged a deer, and that night, the party feasts like kings. When it's time to break camp the next morning, the party can butcher what's left and take it with them. The problem is: how can the party keep the meat from going bad before they can eat it?

Gentle Repose: Normally reserved for adventurers who have lost anything from an arm to their life, the gentle repose spell can also be used to keep fresh food from decaying for up to days at a time. This spell can be extremely useful in hot, humid locations where food may start to go bad fast.

Purify Food and Drink: Once food has gone bad, the simple application of the purify food and drink spell can make it potable once more. The spell restores the food back to an edible, and thankfully, stench-free state.

Bag of Holding: Bags of holding can hold large quantities of material, including food. Since the bag doesn't contain any air, fresh food placed inside is effectively in a vacuum, and will not go bad.

Mundane Methods: If all else fails, players might consider preserving their food the old fashioned way. In the field, they may consider packing the food in salt or smoking it in order to draw out the amount of time that it will remain edible. Unfortunately, mundane methods of food preservation can be time consuming, and are best left to people who don't have important adventures to pursue, such as hirelings or the new guy in the party.

New Magical Items
Sometimes you need more than a couple of spells to spice up your adventurer's diet. Consider one of these magic items to help your character get their recommended daily dose of food.

The Essence of Perfect Flavor: This small crystal vial contains a small amount of a liquid completely devoid of any color, odor or taste. However, a few drops added to any meal are enough to bring out the hidden true flavor within. Adding this liquid to any food, magical or mundane is enough to cure ration fatigue, or to keep it from setting in. Using it as an ingredient while cooking a meal provides you with a +5 competence bonus to your Craft (cooking) check. Each vial contains enough liquid to enhance 10 meals.
    Faint conjuration; CL 3rd; Craft Wondrous Item, prestidigitation; Price 25 gp

Nockgnee's Perpetual Provisions: Invented by an absent-minded gnomish wizard, the famous perpetual provision is a roughly cylindrical bar of unidentifiable foodstuff. It takes about an hour to eat, but provides enough nourishment to sustain a single person without food for an entire month.
    Faint conjuration; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, create food and water; Price 15 gp

That's it for Eating on the Move. We hope that this has given you some ideas for how you can add some flavor to your campaign by focusing a little bit more on what your characters eat. If it's surviving the harsh reality of a frozen, snow-blasted wasteland or just looking for a nice supper at the local inn, characters depend on food to survive, so why not make it interesting?

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