And yet we tend to undervalue it in the Dungeon & Dragons game. "Mark off a day's rations," is about the extent of our interaction with food, unless we're talking about some sort of magical trick/trap found in the dungeon. It's just not as interesting to our game as, say, which spells the wizard has available, or the damage output-to-hit point ratio of our front-line fighters. There aren't even rules relating to starvation or malnutrition through the first half dozen iterations of the game; the closest B/X gets is this note in the Cook/Marsh expert set (page X51):
Characters who run out of food may face a variety of circumstances that must be handled by the DM. Possible effects of hunger might include the need for more rest, slower movement rates, minuses "to hit," and gradual loss of hit points.
[Aaron Allston's 1991 Rules Cyclopedia is the first place I find any hard rules on starvation, and it simply incorporates these four suggestions (need for rest, slow move, attack penalty, HP loss) into a single system...and a ridiculous one at that (a first level character who goes a single day without food and water will probably die, suffering 1d10 damage). But at least Allston was trying!]
Food and issues around food scarcity were driving factors in the European conquest of Latin America; truth be told, it is still the driving issue of these slave nations (you can't really call them developing nations when no real "development" is being done and when they are purposefully kept in a state that allows for exploitation of people and resources). You can't eat gold, after all.
Everyone reading this probably understands that the regions I'm talking about had large concentrations of people...many, many times the number of people living in the regions now known as Canada and the United States. These Central and South American (and Caribbean) lands could sustain this multitude of people precisely because it was so abundant with food supply, and the civilizations that existed had developed societies designed to make the best use of that food supply. True, there was some cannibalism among certain indigenous groups, but this appears to have been more of a ritual nature than a source of sustenance: the land already supplied the nutrition needed to grow people.
Our history books tell the story of how the indigenous Americans were mainly wiped out by diseases to which they had no immunity, germ warfare spread by plague-ridden "Old Worlders" either by accident or purposefully (the anecdotal "disease-ridden blanket" is actually from North American sources). But the human body is remarkably resilient, when in good health. Our immune systems work exceptionally well to fight off infectious diseases when we keep ourselves rested, fit, and fed with nutritious foods. Many of the issues Europe had with its own "black plague" incidents came from the poor living conditions of the people at the time.
Nearly all the European action during the first fifteen years following Columbus's discovery of a "New World" took place in the Caribbean; the first real city founded on the continent wasn't established till 1510 (a fort was built in 1509, but was abandoned after eight months). By that time, there were nearly a dozen settlements in the Caribbean, the vast majority of them being in Hispaniola. The first recorded small pox epidemic hit Hispaniola in 1518-1519 and killed 90% of the the indigenous people remaining. However, by 1508 (ten years prior) they'd already been reduced in number from a pre-Columbian estimate of 600,000 down to 60,000.
[Bartolome de las Casas writing at the time after living in Hispaniola for decades, puts the pre-Columbian population even higher, stating more than 3,000,000 of the native Taino people were killed between 1494 and 1508. Modern scholars feels his figures are an exaggeration, however, despite the fact that more than 20 million people combined currently inhabit the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the two nations that comprise the island once known as "Hispaniola"]
What changed with Columbus's arrival that caused such a steep decline? Half a million bullets? No, the Spanish weren't interested in killing the native population, whom they had enslaved to work the gold mines of Hispaniola (Pueblo Viejo is still the largest gold mine in the Americas and the 2nd largest gold mine in the world); the first African slaves began to arrive in 1503 precisely because of the declining population and high infant mortality rates among the indigenous people led to a smaller workforce for the mines. No, it was starvation and lack of nutrition (exacerbated by overwork in harsh conditions).
The food that sustained the peoples of the Americas...the beans, corn, squash, and small game...were not the foods to which the Spaniards were accustomed: bread, olives (and olive oil), meat (domesticated), and wine. Not only did they want the familiar foods of their homeland, they had an aversion to eating the native produce. Part of this was due to a philosophy of "right food" based on class and status; not only was it a mark of prestige in Spain to eat better (i.e. expensive) food, especially meats, but eating the food of the indigenous risked becoming like the indigenous: ignorant, heathen savages. When Columbus returned in 1494, he brought Spanish livestock with him...cows, pigs, goats, and sheep...which, devoid of natural predators, multiplied and devoured the native habitat, Planting of Spanish crops (including cash crops like sugar) helped displace the native flora as well.
But for the Spaniards, having their own food was more than a matter of comfort; it was a matter of faith. What is Catholicism without the Body (bread) and Blood (wine) of Christ? The acceptable and preferred foods of the Spanish had been ingrained through both their faith and the propaganda of times: the end of the 800 year Reconquista in 1491, the Alhambra Decree (issued in 1492, four months before Columbus's first voyage) required the expulsion or conversion of all Jews from Spain, and the Spanish Inquisition (formed in 1478 and largely used to suss out Moores and Jews) all contributed to the mindset of a "unified Catholic nation." And Catholics, unlike Moores and Jews, eat pork. Pork and pork products (like lard, used as a replacement for olive oil in the Americas) was a strong symbol of the conqueror's faith, a sign that they belonged in this new land which the Church had insisted be converted to Catholicism.
[mmm...originally was going to devote a big section to the Reconquista and why it wasn't really all that much about religion at all...but I'm already running long; will need to change the title of the post]
|So yummy to nosh!|
Alexis has done a lot of work on food in a D&D campaign: the gist is that characters require two or four pounds of food per day depending on whether or not a person is "resting" or "laboring" (characters that actually engage in fights require a lot more) with penalties (and eventual starvation) resulting from failure to eat the required amount. This is very reminiscent of the rules for food in the post-apocalyptic game Twilight 2000, in which a character must consume three kilograms of food per day, modified by the type of food being consumed ("civilized food" counts for 1.5x its weight, MREs count for double). Alexis's rules are a bit more generous, but his penalties (including checks for contracting maladies) hit rather hard. I'm not sure about his starvation rules; I'm not taking the time to run the math on his system. T2000 simply has individuals starve to death "after about a month of no food or several months of half-rations." Very abstract, with accumulating fatigue levels reducing ability scores prior to actual death.
AD&D, like B/X and OD&D, has two entries for "rations" on its equipment list: iron and standard, both of which provide seven days worth of food to a single individual. Unlike those latter editions, AD&D defines the weight of these two different foodstuffs as being 7.5 pounds (iron) or 20 pounds (standard). Doing the math (and assuming no increase to weight for "bulk") this works out to about a pound of food (iron) or close to three pounds of food (standard) per human per day. I'll also note that 3rd edition only provides weight for trail rations (defined as "jerky, dried fruits, hard tack, and nuts") at a rate of one pound per person per day (less for "small" characters, despite hobbits' notorious appetites); this appears to be the 3E equivalent of iron rations.
But just what are "iron rations?" Hard to say as I can't find an origin for the term. Australians in WWI used an "iron ration" (field ration) designed to be eaten in case of emergency (i.e. because supply lines were unavailable) and consisted of a bit more than two pounds of food including both dried meat (jerky) and hard tack. WWII Germany issued three types of ration: the march ration, iron ration, and iron-half ration, of which the "iron" is more of a "half ration" (and weighs 1.5 pounds without packaging). The United States military's "C-ration" (a term in use from 1958-1980 and a plausible source of inspiration for an RPG designed by war-gamers of the period) had a packaged weight of 2.6 pounds. None of these were designed to be consumed for long periods of time, and all were supposed to be supplemented by fresh food or prepared food whenever possible.
I suppose in a magical world (i.e. your typical D&D setting), one can simply say the magic-infused foodstuffs provide double or triple the caloric value of our real world...but is such "cheating" necessary in a world where a 5th level cleric can conjure nourishing, life-sustaining sustenance out of thin air? It does seem that the figures provided in all published editions of Dungeons & Dragons are grossly under-representative of the actual amounts of food necessary to sustain (human) life...but without a system in place to track the very real problems of over-exertion and malnutrition, why should it bother your average Dungeon Master? It's why purify food and water is so under-utilized in your average campaign.
Yet another batch of thoughts, facts and figures I need to take into account as I build this thing.