Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Hurt Locker: Iron Rations - A Compleat Guide to Victualing in Ye Olde Dungeon, Part II

Guest Post by S. A. Fisher

Continuing my post from before, I have some more goodies for the inquiring delver!

More seasoned adventurers will skip the expense and novelty of the iron rations and so forth and simply buy food in bulk. Adventurers can certainly get by on iron ration levels of food for a couple of weeks, but after that, they will begin to lose weight, become irritable, and desire “real” food. A long-term sustainable diet is generally about 3-5 lbs. of food per day, interspersed with short periods of “iron ration” levels of scarcity. A good food planning rule is to spend $5-20 a day on food per adventurer. Of course, you’ll probably need to hire a Cook to prepare these ingredients into a heart-warming meal (see GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Henchmen).
Here’s a few choices appropriate for a group that is campaigning:

Dry Beans, $10, 20 lbs.
Dried Vegetables, $3/lb.
Pickled Vegetables, $5/lb.
Dried Fruits, $4/lb.
Candied or Sugared Fruits, $7/lb.
Nuts, $4/lb.
Meat, Salted and Dried, $3/lb.
Meat, Pickled or Brined, $5/lb.
Meat, Brined and Smoked, $6/lb.
Meat, Hard Sausage, $6/lb.
Bushel of rice: $15, 45 lbs.
            Bushel of whole oats: $5, 32 lbs.
            Bushel of barley: $8, 48 lbs.
Bushel of whole wheat: $10, 60 lbs.
Bushel of wheat flour: $15, 60 lbs.
Hardtack, $0.50/lb.
Two dozen eggs: $2, 2 lbs.
            Two dozen pickled eggs: $4, 2 lbs.
Olive Oil or similar, $8/gallon/8 lbs.
Vinegar, $7/gallon/8.5 lbs.
Salt, $1/lb.
Honey or Sugar, $5/lb.
Herbs and Spices, $7/lb.
Black tea or coffee beans, $36/lb.

These foods will need to be packed into a sturdy container (see GURPS Low-Tech) which adds cost and weight.

Drinks serve to quench the thirst, but they sometimes also have a fair number of calories and so can fill in for a missed meal as needed.

Posca: This was a common Roman drink, a mix of water, wine vinegar, honey, salt, and spices. It served as a sort of primitive sports drink (see GURPS High-Tech). Three quarts counts as a meal. Each quart costs $1-4 and weighs 2 lbs. A posca powder, enough for a three quarts, is $10, neg. – just add water!

Wine: It is surprisingly rich in calories because of its high alcohol content; each quart counts as a meal. Each quart costs $5-20 and weighs 2 lbs.

Ale: Like posca, three quarts of ale counts as a meal. Each quart costs $1-4 and weighs 2 lbs.

Fermented Dairy: A dried milk curd or yoghurt beverage befitting of mountains or plains barbarians. Two quarts counts as a meal. Some find the drink appalling and become nauseous at the smell of it. Each quart costs $1 and weighs 2 lbs.

Stoves and Ovens
Discerning adventurers may demand a certain lifestyle in their dungeon crawls. Knights, nobles, clerics, and wizards may demand their henchmen carry real cooking gear, and serve them delightful meals, even in the dreary dungeon. Gadgeteers may carry some of this gear simply because it’s nifty! Of course, GMs may rule that some of this is included in group basics.

Campfire Tripod: Three ½ inch rods of iron about 5’ long and curled at one end. They hook together and make a strong tripod from which one can suspend a cauldron, Dutch oven, or spit. Each rod makes an acceptable light club or jo staff, too. It has a short chain for suspending cooking equipment. $20, 12 lbs.

Portable Stove: A heavy iron frame about two feet long by a foot and a half wide by a foot tall; it folds flat on hinges for storage. When unfolded it has an adjustable grate for a couple of large pots or skillets and spot for two large boilers. It burns charcoal or wood. The Romans called this a craticula. $250, 40 lbs.

Reflector Oven: This is a copper or bronze box about a foot square, open on one side, with a baking rack in the middle. When placed next to a pile of coals or a campfire the inside of the box heats up quickly and makes a nice oven for baking bread, pastries, biscuits, cookies, etc. It can bake half dozen biscuits or cookies in about 10-15 minutes, and a one-pound loaf of bread, a small pie, etc. in about 30 minutes. It can also be fitted with a stake for roasting meat or vegetables. It takes about a minute to pack or unpack, and folds flat for storage. $50, 3 lbs.

Wax-Burning Stove: A perfect item for a seasoned adventurer or campaigner, this is a small waterproof, long lasting heat and light source. This is a small copper cup (with a watertight lid) filled with 12 ounces of beeswax and fitted with three wicks. With one wick burning it will last for 50 hours, with two for 33 hours, and with all three wicks it will burn for 16 hours. With all three are lit it is a very efficient little stove and will boil a pint of water, or cook a small meal for one person, in 10-15 minutes – use the small boiler or skillet, below. It’s a perfect light source for the helmet lantern, too. $10, 0.5 lb.

Jacket Boiler, Large: A “chimney kettle,” or samovar, is a perfect adventurer kit for a small group. Romans used chimney kettles in their homes, but there is no reason a small one would not have been hauled along when traveling. It is heated by placing it in the campfire, or building a small fire beneath it. The heat escapes out the top of the chimney and heats up 2 quarts of water stored in the jacket surrounding the chimney. This brings the water to a boil quickly; a couple of handfuls of twigs, bark, pinecones, etc. will boil 2 quarts of water in 5-10 minutes. A rack ($10, 0.25 lbs.) fits over the mouth of the chimney for cooking with a small skillet or pot. $75, 2 lbs. LC4.

Jacket Boiler, Small: A small “chimney kettle,” like above, but built for one person. It boils a pint of water in four minutes with a handful of dry fuel, or if using the wax-burning stove (above). It has a stopper and strap and works as pint-sized canteen, too. A wax-burning stove, a small folding skillet, and a set of utensils can be crammed inside the chimney for efficient packing. $50, 1 lbs. LC4.

Clockwork Kitchen: This is wheelbarrow- or cart-mounted cooking machine. To use it requires some preparation – it requires winding (5 minutes) and the stove must be filled with 20-30 lbs. of firewood. Its hoppers must be filled with food, as well. After that, pull the lever and stand back! The stove belches fire and smoke, and the various gears, arms, and turntables spin and whirl. This will frighten horses, dogs, and most barbarians, but will delight gnomes and gadgeteers. After about an hour the device stops with a muffled bang and a door opens – from which the user may withdraw food which can feed 1d6+1 people (this is always a random roll). The device has a Cooking skill of 10, and it uses at least 50% more food than is necessary. After each meal it needs 2 hours of cleaning, oiling, and calibrating or the Cooking skill drops by 1! $25,000, 200 lbs.

Chef’s Tin: A magical box the size of an iron ration tin (see below). Three times per day it produces a tasty, filling meal when it is opened. The meal varies wonderfully, appropriate to the age, status, race, class, (and hunger level!) of the opener with dishes fitting for the time of day and the season. $24,000, 1.5 lbs.

Cooking Utensils
Boiler, Large: This is a lightweight multi-use copper or bronze jug with a tight fitting lid. It can be used to boil liquids for tea, coffee, etc., and for boiling stews, porridge, etc. It has a 2-quart capacity. $30, 1.5 lbs.

Boiler, Small: A smaller 24-ounce version of the above with a watertight lid. It’s the perfect size for a simple adventurer’s one-pot meal kit, and can store utensils and a cup inside when not in use. It can serve as a canteen, too. $20, 0.5 lbs.

Cauldron. A large cast iron cooking pot with a capacity of ten gallons. It can cook enough beans, stew, etc. to feed a small army (or 60 normal human-sized appetites)! $180, 60 lbs.

Dutch Oven: A 12” diameter cast iron pot about 4” deep with three peg feet and a flat, rimmed lid with a handle. It holds about 8 quarts – big enough for a hungry adventuring party. These ovens are good for all types of cooking and baking. They can be stacked on top of each other for maximum efficiency, with hot coals piled on top of the lids, thus heating the oven above and below simultaneously. Comes with a lid stand (0.5 lbs.) and a lid lifter (0.5 lbs.) which can fit inside the pot for storage. $100, 21 lbs.

Hanging Rotisserie: This is a C-shaped hoop of iron suspended by a small loop or hook from its middle. The ends of the C-shape are curled and provide a rest for a meat spit. Holds a whole small deer – or a haunch of a large one – or several rabbits, chickens, etc. $10, 2 lbs.

Hanging Spit: A standard adventurer’s grappling hook, if it is suspended over the campfire from a branch or tripod, makes a nice spit for a haunch of meat, rabbit, chicken, etc. Soak the rope in water first, or use a chain.

Iron Ladle: A ½ cup capacity and 15” long; acts as a small mace in combat, at -2 to damage. $10, 2 lbs.

Skillet, Large: A 12-inch pan for cooking; treat as mace at -1 damage, or block as a light shield. $50, 8 lbs.

Skillet, Small: Minimalist’s gear, this a folding 6-inch bronze or copper frying pan with a foldout handle. Fits in a pocket, and if scrubbed clean and polished it makes a good mirror. $30, 0.25 lbs.

Roasting Spit: A pointed iron rod about three feet long; treat as smallsword at -2 damage. $20, 2.5 lbs.

Eating Utensils
Gourd Bowl or Cup: Small and cheap, for the poor or undiscriminating. It can serve as the cook pot, too, if used with care; roll versus IQ or Survival or it burns up on the fire! Holds half a pint. $ 0.50, 0.25 lb.

Gnomish Cup: An extendable pop-up copper or bronze cup for the minimalist. Has a small burning glass in the watertight lid, and folds up flat when not in use. Holds half a pint. $ 25, 0.25 lb.

Place Setting: A set of simple rugged dishes and eating utensils. $5, 2 lbs.

Foon: An iron eating implement with a fork on one end and spoon on the other. May confuse barbarians (make an IQ roll, treat failed results as if the character were Dazed and can make an IQ roll every turn to snap out of it)! $5, neg.

Canteens and Such
These all have a heavy cork stopper and a strap firmly attached.

Gourd Canteen: Cheap! This is coated with beeswax or pine pitch inside. Holds one pint. Weighs 0.5 lbs. empty. $1.

Copper Canteen: Holds one quart. Weighs 1 lb. empty. $15.

Hip Flask: A small, concealable copper canteen (with no strap). Holds 1 pint. $10, 1 lb.

Leather Bottle: Holds one quart. It is stiff enough it can stand up. Will pack flat when empty, and it “sweats” – it loses about 5% of its weight per day to evaporation, but this cools the contents and grants +1 to Survival in hot climates. Weighs 1 lb. empty. $5.

Charcoal-Filtered Canteen: an ordinary, quart-sized copper canteen, with a charcoal filter; +2 to HT rolls when drinking bacteria ridden water. $25, 3 lbs.

Final Thoughts
Adventuring is many things to many people. For some players its wild stunts and flashy magic tricks. For some of this, but also it’s the challenge of planning, accounting, and overcoming obstacles along the way. Adding a bit of resource management beyond counting crossbow quarrels can be a welcome change of pace, and it can serve as a way to draw the party deeper into the world the GM has created for them to explore.


  1. Replies
    1. All S. A. Fisher. They're freaking brilliant. I can't wait to put out the one he made for crafting stuff in the dungeon...

  2. Good stuff.

    And interesting loot too. At least when the PCs find a very high quality one made of new fangled material.

    1. I agree. It's probably one of the coolest things to come out on my blog and I didn't even write it. :-D

  3. With this, I'm hoping that S. A. Fisher is busy working on a Dungeon Fantasy book covering delving gear and equipment in detail! Because that would be awesome.

    1. I agree. Something like an Aurora's Whole Sale Catalog from the Realms. I <3 that book.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Good stuff! I definitely like the Clockwork Kitchen!