Survival Out in the Wilds Part 4: Cooking

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , ,

As the torch lit shadows danced across Duncan’s face he surveyed the cave “Well I’m glad you all brought extra rations this time but we must be careful and conserve what we can.” looking over to his dwarven companion he found Sandell already answering the question he was about to ask. “Well there's too much snow to dig through without tools if you wish to keep all your fingers.. though we are in luck. This stone looks worked.. crudely so its not my clans work but if it was some human prospector we may find some tools we can use further in.” Stepping past the group so the torch would no longer hinder his darkvision  the dwarf surveyed darkness of the cavern ahead. Holding his hand out to signal to the others not to advance yet the dwarf stepped forward across the icy stone floor, his free hand now moving to his pack unhooking the throwing axe drawing it slowly he raised his arm if taking aim before hurling it towards the darkness of the ceiling.  

The darkness seemed to get even blacker for a moment before a startled bat fluttered down panicked as Isabel rolled her eyes shaking her head “You missed the bat.”, responding with an annoyed grunt Sandell  waved his hand dismissively “I wasn’t aiming for the bat...” a stalactite seemed to sway for a moment before dropping to the floor, stepping towards the now dead  Darkmantle Sandell retrieved his axe with a smug grin. “Well now we have dinner.”

Welcome to part 4 of the Survival Out in the Wilds series, in this last article we are now going to address possible uses of beasts and monsters as food, the possible things to consider and if Orc really is the other white meat.
This article is a little different from the others, its not going to be as rules focus as the previous three as Craft cooking has an excellent rule variant already available on the D&D wiki provided by the user Eiji which I will post a brief overview of below:

Table: Skill Synergies

Cooking skill creates...DC
A basic meal10
A delicious meal, +2 social skill checks involving food20
Rare dishes made from monstersVaries starting at DC20
Identify ingested poison or disease swallowed, +3 save if check is successfulEqual to Poison/Disease DC
As Detect Poison in food without tasting a potent amountEqual to Poison DC + 10
Detect Disease in food without tasting a potent amountEqual to Disease DC + 10
Reflavour food (cosmetic)15
Reflavour food to hide taste of poisonEqual to Poison DC

Epic Check
You can cook foods that have an almost magical quality to them.
Advanced CookingVaries
Mimic Goodberry30
Mimic Heroes' Feast80

Advanced Cooking
Certain recipes possesses advanced cooking methods which mimic spells. You may only benefit from these cooking based spell effects 1/day, though you may cook any number of meals you wish.
In general, the formula is DC 20 + (10 x spell level) (cantrips are just 25), and typically with a lower caster level to not as to outdo actual magic. For example, a Cure Light Wounds effect would likely be DC 30. Appropriate material components in the form of ingredients should always be provided.
As you can see these rules are extremely simple and quite effective at making the craft skill useful but not overpowered, I’ve refrained from listing any particular special meals for now though I may cover these in a future article.
As a basic rule of thumb most animals are edible when cooked for long enough apart from a few rare cases however it should be noted that with more unusual creatures the Survival skills from our first article should be used to prepare the creature before cooking.

Here is a few points to consider when your players decide to start preparing dinner:

1. Eating Sentient creatures intentionally is consider an evil act and taboo by many cultures.
This may seem obvious and various races are known for this (Orcs, goblins and kobolds) however you have to remember not all sentient races are humanoid nor are they immediately recognisable as sentient, there have been some cases of some parties killing and eating monsters only to later find out that the monsters are sentient.
The initial case can be considered an accident (in the case of alignment, the locals may still be angry)  but if the party does not regret their actions or continues to hunt these creatures they are definitely committing evil acts.
Eating the flesh of sentient humanoid regularly also runs the risk of ghoulification or in the case of brain eating risk exposure to the hard to detect and deadly prion and is addictive.  

2. Carnivores probably have a higher incidence of parasites and possible toxins, due to biomagnification.
If you are not familiar with about biomagnification I suggest the wikipedia article for more details but in game the effects of this are relatively minor but here is an example of how it can be used from one of my previous campaigns:
The party has recently killed a Dire Boar on the way to a mages tower and fancy pork chops for dinner, boars do actually eat smaller animals and rodents and this Dire Boar been eating the local rats and Dire rats from around the tower.
These rats have been living off the trash from the tower which includes spoiled potions, old remnants of spell components and even the odd discharge magic item or creature, each ingesting a small amount of magical pollution which is then passed up the food chain to the Dire Boar becoming more concentrated and powerful before been passed onto the characters eating the Dire Boar who lack any of its natural built up resistances. This can be particularly deadly in real life though in the game above one character’s skin turned green for 5 hours and another grew a cat tail.

3. Just because its edible or tastes nice doesn’t mean your characters will actually be able to stomach it.
Have you ever been offered fried insects, bulls testicles, sheep's eyes, raw octopus, codfish sperm or Haggis?
Some of these are delicious but by simply knowing what they are or their appearance when served has caused people to vomit or wretch so why would your characters be any different?
In certain cases it may be suitable to have the player roll a Fortitude check to eat (or keep down) the meal at a basic DC of 12 which you should modify to the situation.   

4. How to describe the taste?
I’ve found that the actual difficulty with players who wish to have cooks as characters is when cooking a monster or creature for the first time, they often want a detailed description of the taste.
I find the best solution is to often compare it to existing meals, this can be quite difficult on some occasions especially for the stranger creatures.

If you are having trouble with description it should be noted that carnivores typically have stringy, unpalatable meat with a greasy very distinctly metallic gamey taste, also due to going up the food chain, each consumer processes minerals and vitamins, leaving behind meat with less nutritional value than the food it consumed, with carnivores yielding the least nutritional value. This means the character probably wouldn’t feel as much energy after eating it as he would when eating a steak or turkey meal.

Finally regarding our last topic regarding orcs, the answer should be no unless your using the old boar headed orcs in which case the answer changes to maybe.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of articles as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them and please feel free to post any comments or to contact me.

Quick Link: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Grimacing as he bit once more into the cooked rubbery flesh Samuel chewed slowly barely swallowing his meal as he looked on in amazement at Isabel hastily devouring the greasy meat of the darkmantle.  Shuffling towards her trying to distance himself from the small campfire as Sandell cooked another skewered tentacle he plucked up the courage to ask the question “With no disrespect to Sandell’s cooking and thanking the divines for the food, I have to ask how can you eat this so... eagerly.
A look of contemplation crossing her face the young Enchantress paused for a moment before answering “Well when I was an apprentice nearly every meal I ate was porridge so I enjoy the chance to eat anything new after so long..” taking a handkerchief from her she started cleaning her fingers and lips as Sandell nodded approvingly as his rough chuckle echoed in the cave. “Ahh then you’ll be in for treat when we get to my clans outpost, blind deep fish cooked in ale sauce with three different type of mushroom, perhaps with a side of goat.”
As the dwarf stroked his beard imagining the  feast Samuel felt Isabel press against his side now giving him a sly playful smile behind her handkerchief  as she whispered to him “It also helps that the first cantrip I learnt let me give anything the flavour I chose.. I think I be practising it alot if we’re both to to survive honoured grandfathers cooking and his clans hospitality.”   


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