Special – Horn, Tooth, Shell
Mouse – 2 food
Fox – 4 food, 2 Hide, 2 Fur, 2 Bone
Deer – 32 food, 10 hide, 2 Fur, 10 Bone, 2 Antlers
Coyote – 16 food, 6 hide, 2 Fur, 6 Bones
2 – 4 food, d12+10 feathers
Berries – 1 food
Mushroom – food (poison?)
Back when I used to play an adventurer wandering through the woods I noticed something: Characters have nutrition-deficient diets. Now this may not matter that much in the scheme of things, but if we weren’t eating “rations,” maybe one of us would happen to go hunting for a rabbit or something and cook it over a fire. Whee!
Truth is, most game groups don’t care what their guys are eating. No vegetables and tapeworm-ridden animals, that’s awesome. Except that these people would be so sick with dizziness, spots in front of their eyes, and nausea, they shouldn’t be on the trail.
Most ranger-types and a large portion of other wilderness-friendly people and Races would have a real understanding of the fact you can’t survive off of meat alone. So, for those groups who want to add some realism to their games, and also for those occasions where a character just happens to decide to go off picking berries, this article is all about common knowledge of foraging.
In game terms, when a character is foraging for food, you have to consider several factors to determine his success rate.
Most important: is the character a city boy or a country boy? Even merc fighters have a general idea of foraging. Figure this is a single advantage to the outdoorsy type and a disadvantage to the city-folk.
Second would be whether or not the character is familiar with the region. Add another advantage or disadvantage.
Add a third advantage for those characters that are definitely wilderness lovers, like rangers, herbalists, and Elves.
Factor these into whatever their smarts are, and that gives you a decent clue as to how they’re going to do.
Failing a roll during foraging won’t necessarily kill a character straight up, but it could. There are berries, roots, leaves, and bark on common plants that will mess with the heart, lungs, or liver, and this isn’t counting the joyful fun of perception alterations.
As a rule, ripe berries are the least likely things to kill a character. There are toxic fruit out there, but in most cases the character will just have some stomach cramps and maybe some nausea and vomiting. Flowers are also generally nontoxic, as well as shoots and stems. It’s the leaves, roots, unripe berries, seeds, or sap that has the potential of making someone very sick. Also, there’s less potential harm if the character treats the food by cooking it. So, as a general rule, a character who only slightly messes up gets a stomach illness, with increasingly worse symptoms the further off the roll a player is. In cases where a player has a truly skilled wilderness character in his own region and botches a roll, either have the character confuse a poisonous plant for the one he wanted (lots of look-alikes out there), OR tell him the plant was diseased.
These are foods you can grab on the fly and that would be considered obvious to natives of the region. Again, this is assuming that your world setting is similar to ours.Spring: Shoots, buds, sap, young leaves, roots Early Summer: Add some berries and flowers and take out the shoots and saps Late Summer: Add more berries and some fruit Fall: Mostly fruit and roots.
In the winter, there may be some fruit left on trees and some vegetables under the snow, but unless you know where to look, it’s unlikely to be found. In regions of warmer climates, follow similar considerations, but there are more fruits available throughout the year in tropical regions. In arid regions, the first concern is water, but a few edible plants can be had when the animal sources get scarce.
Regions with Four Seasons
Trees fruits include carob, walnuts, apples, and elderberries. Members of the prunus family—apricots, sweet almonds, peaches, plums, cherries—are edible, but the seeds, barks, and leaves of most contain toxins. The sugar maple of the deciduous forest has sap from first spring flow until buds swell that can be drunk fresh. In the cases of most nuts, such as chestnuts and beechnuts, the seeds must be roasted to become palatable. With the common mulberry, white or black, hallucinations can be caused by eating unripe fruit. Elderberries are commonly mentioned thanks to some comedy, but it should be known that everything but the flowers and berries can make you sick.
Shrubs are key foraging plants. You have gooseberries, blackberries, and raspberries throughout the temperate zones. Further north you have service berries or juneberries in the wet woodlands; bearberries on the moors and heaths, checkerberries or wintergreen in the woods and moors, and cranberries in the boggy heaths, which has berries that remain on the plant throughout winter. Heather, while only edible for humans in a tea, is a key fuel and fodder plant, and can even be used for quick thatching in emergencies. Barberries are edible but are also a laxative, leading to fun times later. Roses live in both the temperate and warmer drier areas and their hips are loaded with vitamin C. Along the coasts you have sea buckthorn berries. Then we have staghorn sumach’s lemony berries, witch hazel’s edible seeds and leaves that make a warming tea, and crampbark, which has poisonous fresh berries made edible when cooked. In very early spring, the butcher’s broom has emerging shoots that are edible. Finally, in warmer temperate zones, you have the hazelnut.
In the dry areas of the chaparrals around the Mediterranean, you can find the aromatic herbs shrubs that are known today: lavender, thyme, sage, and rosemary. While not exactly emergency food rations, these plants are used as flavoring agents and can certainly be added as such.
Perennials are where the action’s at for early spring greens in temperate zones. In the earliest spring you have coltsfoot, then dandelions and violets, then hundreds of leaves and shoots throughout the season into fall. All of the following can be eaten as salad fixings: bugle, lady’s mantle, horseradish leaves, wild ginger, yarrow, sweet flag, garlic/onions, mallows, alkanet, daisies, lovage, rampion, lady’s smock, ground ivy, and mints. Edible plants that grow up to the tundras include sorrel, wild ginger, and rose root, which can also be found in alpine regions along with burnet. Strawberries are the first berries to appear in the early summer in these regions. Plants with parts boiled as vegetables in latter parts of the year include milkweed, daylilies, peonies, primrose, bamboo tips, silverweed, and early purple orchids. The camas, found in mountains, fields, and woods has a bulb high in sugar, but looks similar to Death Camas, which is a fatal mistake. Near water you have edible plants such as purple loosestrife, bogbean, watercress, skirret, and reed grass. In the drier regions and the chaparrals, adventurers may find hypericum, elecampane, saffron crocus, globe artichokes, marjoram, fennel, and asefetida. Three special-setting plants are the white dead nettle in wastelands and dead forests, alfalfa in the grasslands, and the rock samphire in saltmarshes.
Annuals and biennials produce plenty of seed but die off after a year or two. Salad and raw edibles include chervil, smallage, wild cabbage, calendula, shepherd’s purse, bittercress, chicory, wild carrots, arugula, and chickweed. In the warmer temperate zones characters can find basil, alexanders, and caraway. In the cool, mountain regions potatoes are available, but only the tubers are edible. In the grasslands, goatsbeard is eaten. Glasswort, saltwort, purple orach, and smallage are found near the salty coastlines.
In the temperate forests, more vines are poisonous than not, but one edible vine is the hops vine, which is more commonly known as the ingredient for beer than as a vegetable. In the warmer temperate regions or in cultivated areas, you also have the grapevine, which again has more popular recreational uses. In terms of non-plantlike plants, male ferns and horsetails are both edible, as is the bladderwrack and sweetwrack varieties of seaweed in the oceans. The temperate regions also have mushrooms, although many can be confused with more deadly varieties. One that can never be confused with others is the giant puffball, which can grow to be the size of a basketball.
Wet Humid Regions
There are a lot of fruit in the wet tropical regions, such as soursop, jackfruit, star fruit, papaya, citruses, elephant apples, and durian, which smells revolting but has a creamy refreshing taste. Mangos may be thought to be an island fruit, but in fact would only be found wild in Asia, as opposed to coconuts that are found in tropical salty soil. The Bead Tree or Circassian Tree has seeds that can be roasted and eaten. The Betel Nut Palm has edible inner shoots and young flower stems but the nut of it and the cola nut are chewed as a stimulant.
There are few food-providing shrubs available in the tropics. The palm lily has edible roots and leaves. The cassava’s tubers are eaten as a vegetable, but must be soaked, pressed, or cooked to remove poison, and the poroporo has fruit that is only edible when fully ripe (skin starts to burst). Its leaves and unripe fruit are deadly poisonous.
Perennials of the rainforests and jungles are few and far between. Galangal, ginger pineapple, sugar cane, and cardamom are all popular foods that are more likely to be found on farms than in the wild, but it’s possible in your setting to make them wild plants. Bacopa has salad leaves and is found in marshes and pond edges in the warm temperate to tropic regions. Turmeric is found in monsoon areas, and its inflorescences and shoots are used as vegetables. Arrowroot preferws moist soils and has thick rhizomes that are ground and boiled to make gruel or used as a thickening agent. Lotus Stalks in the water has leaves, petals, seeds, and a rhizome that are all edible.
In the hot, humid regions, annuals and biennials include peppers, both hot and sweet, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, purslane, and evening stars. Two vines that are known for their edible properties are the cerimen and the maypop, both of which have fruit.
There are few edible trees available in and around the arid regions, but more aromatic spice trees for flavoring. Trees with edible fruits or nuts include the olive, date palm, and pomegranate. The Baobob tree has fruit used like a lemon and the inner bark can be tapped for water. The Cashew tree has nutritious nuts but the older leaves, flowers, bark, and oil will make you sick.
Shrubs are more common in the dry regions. In the desert you have the jojoba with its edible seeds and the yucca, which is a popular plant for Native Americans. The flowerstalks are eaten before the buds open, the flower bud and petals are cooked, and the fruit is eaten raw. In the savannahs you have acacias—its leaves, shoots, and seeds are boiled and its roots are tapped for water. For entertainment purposes, the pods are irresistible to elephants. In the scrublands, lemon verbena is used as a flavoring or tea.
Dry regions have the fewest perennials to eat. The polpala has leaves and stems used fresh in salads, lemon grass is used as a lemon flavoring, and houseleeks, found among rocks in dry thin soil, has leaves that can be used in salads.
There are several annuals and biennials around the arid settings, such as epazote, chickpeas, thistles, sunflowers, sesame, fenugreek, corn, and nasturtiums. Most of these plants require a short rainy season in the spring to get them started. In the desert, winter purslane can be found. There are few vines that grow in the arid regions, one of which being the smooth loofah. Its fruit is a vegetable when fresh, and a sponge later in the season. Dry arid regions also have cacti and prickly pears, which can be tapped for water or eaten after being prepared.
There is another way to obtain food on the road. As you pass by someone’s field, you grab a few things on the way. Sure you risk getting caught, but in times before guns, you’re more likely to escape. Problem is, people assume that food is just there for the taking and often it’s not so easy. Grain plants are usually only viable food if the grains have been processed—threshed and ground into meal. So all those grain crops you see are useless. Poor people and villagers usually kept their personal gardens nearer to their house than most people would assume. Gardens of estates are usually within the outer walls.
Next Up: Cultivation and Trade: What are the Chances a Character can get a MLT?Small game is stuff like pigeons, mice, and other tiny animals; they’re common, so finding them (or traces of them) takes turns of time. Medium game is a little larger, like rabbits or raccoon; large enough to make a small meal for more than one person. Finding them takes hours. Large game is deer-size and will feed an entire adventuring party, perhaps for more than a day. Finding them takes a number of four-hour hunting periods (really big game takes days.)
Ask the player what kind of game the hunter is looking for, to determine the base time period of the hunt. Some areas like mountains or deserts also shift the time unit up one or two categories. Roll a d6, adjusting up or down based on background and difficulty of hunting in the area. On 5+, the hunter find game or a game trail in the very first time period. If the roll is lower than 5, describe how poorly the first time period of the hunt went, then ask the player how long they wish to continue the hunt. Don’t roll again; each extra time period adds . If the hunter doesn’t hunt long enough, no game is found.crude: -1 impact, -10% skill rough: -1 impact decent (no change – standard ‘nonamed type’) fine: +1 impact masterwork: +1 impact, +10% skill Squirrel – 7 cuts Ermine – 8 cuts Weasel – 9 cuts Hare – 14 cuts Badger – 25 cuts Fox – 62 cuts Arctic Fox – 62 cuts (Regular fox fur is currently just as valuable as arctic fox fur. Isn’t arctic fox fur supposed to be worth more? *May just be due to hide damage) Polecat – 62 cuts Beaver – 123 cuts Forest Reindeer – 123 cuts Stag – 123 cuts Elk – 135 cuts Pine-marten – 138 cuts Wolf – 184 cuts Glutton – 276 cuts Bear – 303 cuts Lynx – 306 cuts
*each ‘cut’ here refers to Delicious dried elk meat and the fur quality is superior
*also note this is from version 3.17
Current testing on 3.20 indicates the fur itself is more valuable than any clothing made from it, especially since player-made clothing is always of decent quality. (Tested with Bear fur of both superior and decent quality & made various items to test)
As of 3.20 or earlier, the most profitable use for each pound of fur, even the most valuable, seems to be turning it into cords and making shortbows. However, this depends somewhat on your crafting skills (timbercraft for the boards) and ability to make at least decent shortbows. Also, it is very time intensive, but an excellent use of “in-between” moments or winter months if other survival needs are met.