11 May 2012

Foraging by the Book

Basic/Expert D&D, unlike AD&D (as far as I can discern), has rules for foraging, which is a fine idea. The implementation, however, is not so fine. I'll take it line by line. The following (in boldface) is quoted from page X51 of the Expert Rulebook.

"Characters travelling in the wilderness may attempt to search or hunt for food, either to extend their normal supplies or prevent starvation." Extending one's normal supplies of food is probably always a good thing. Foraging to prevent starvation, however, may be futile, as we shall see.

"Searching for food may be done while travelling." This is good news. One can search for food without losing valuable time on the way to or from the dungeon or other destination. Gather as you go.

"If 1 is rolled on a d6, the party will have found enough to feed 1-6 men for one day." This is not good news. An entire party, regardless of how many adventurers compose it, has only a 1 in 6 chance of finding enough food for 1-6 of them. Were it not for the fact that they can search as they travel, it would be a complete waste of time. "If 1 is rolled on a d6, the party will have found enough to feed itself for one day," would have made a little more sense. Why a party of two would have the same chance of feeding 1-6 persons as a party of six or eight defies logic. Better yet, "If 1 is rolled on a d6, the party member will have found enough to feed 1-6 men for one day," gives each adventurer a chance to help provide for the party in much the same way that each adventurer has a chance to detect secret doors or listen at a door or break the door down.

"This food will consist of nuts, berries, and possibly small game." To which I would add or other edible plants appropriate to the environment in which the party is travelling, since they will sometimes find themselves in grasslands, jungles, or deserts. "Small game" would more accurately fall under the category of hunting.

"To hunt, characters must spend a day without moving." Methods of hunting that involve little or no movement often require the use of some sort of bait, which would not normally be used by a party of adventurers (as opposed to hunters). Other methods may involve a considerable amount of movement as the prey is tracked and pursued (probably not very often in the convenient direction of the party's destination).

"There is a 1 in 6 chance of having an encounter from the Animal Subtable on the Wilderness Wandering Monster Tables." Regardless of what the party intends to hunt, what it will end up hunting is a randomly determined beast that might be an antelope or might be an ape. The party might be dining on a crab spider, a giant leech, a hawk, or perhaps a unicorn. And why exactly is a mule in the subtable as a wandering animal? If a mule can be found in the wilderness waiting to be killed, surely cows, pigs, chickens, and geese would be reasonable. Seriously, though, there ought to be a separate subtable for legitimate prey, such as deer, rabbits, wild boars, pheasants, and other animals that human beings actually eat.

"This encounter is in addition to any normal encounter rolls for the day." Actively hunting increases one's chance of encountering living things. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I'm willing to give it a pass.

"Days spent resting cannot be used for hunting." Fair enough, but what about fishing? Fishing can be pretty restful...

The inclusion of rules for hunting under the subject of foraging is odd. Hunting and foraging are two different activities. If one is searching for food (i.e. foraging), one has a 1 in 6 chance of finding x amount of food. If one is hunting, one has a 1 in 6 chance of encountering a random animal that one may or may not consider worth eating. If it is deemed worthy to hunt and eat, how many does it feed and for how long? This information is not given. Does one need to roll "to hit" or otherwise engage in combat to kill it, or is the daylong immobile encounter considered an automatic hunting success? The rules do not specify. Unless a successful hunt provides a much greater amount of food, the lower odds of success combined with the restriction on the party's movement would make it a foolish choice compared to searching for food.

Basic/Expert D&D is an excellent example of clarity and brevity in most respects, but I think house rules are unavoidable in this case.


  1. No travel while hunting makes sense in regards to meaningful travel between point A and point B as game doesn't politely wander on a straight path from Safetown to the Dungeon of Hideous Death.