Hunting in Dungeons and Dragons

Or How I Stopped Starving and Learned to Love the Crab Spider.

Currently, I’m in the process of writing and designing a setting for use is Old School Essentials (or your OSR system of choice really). As I work through some of the optional mechanics, I plan to publish them here for feedback and for you to use, or modify, as you see fit. In this post, I share some thoughts for hunting for Basic Dungeons and Dragons and Old School Essentials.

In an effort to supplement the various procedures for my wilderness campaign setting, I felt that hunting should be addressed. The rules that I base much of the design of the campaign around are Old School Essentials, which is B/X Dungeons and Dragons cleaned up and reorganized beautifully, but this is one instance I found that rulings would need to be made by the Dungeon Master. The entry for hunting only mentions you have a 1-in-6 chance for finding quarry, but it doesn’t say how much food you can acquire. Never fear, I got this—hold my ale!

The matter of whether a player character can catch and kill their prey can be worked out as a regular encounter; one where the critter hasn’t caught their scent and they have the element of surprise. What we want to figure out is what do they get as reward for their effort. For that we need a simple way to determine how much an animal can yield in meat. 

For Funsies, let’s take a look at the animal encounter table from the Cook Expert rules:

Animal Encounter Table from D&D Expert rules

Now let’s go hunting! 

We need an animal as an example—just picking at random here, hmm, oh—how about a FUCKING CRAB SPIDER?? I guess beggars can’t be choosers. Let’s say the party is that desperate and will eat said spider. Gross. How much spider meat can they get out of a field dressed, 5 ft wide spider? For that, we need a way to measure the resulting meat quantity in a simple, quantifiable means—a ration. 

By turning hunted food into rations the player characters have the option of remaining in the wilderness longer instead of needing to return to town to stock up. They may still need to return to town to cash in the dungeon loot they acquired, but they may not always have the luxury. They may be too far out and some bandits robbed them of their food or maybe they get delayed by bad weather

It is only fair to the party, considering that it takes an entire day, with no rest allowed mind you, to engage in hunting—let alone they only have a minimal chance of actually finding something to hunt. So the day of hunting can include smoking and preserving the meat as well*.

*You could go further and make the preserving process an ability check based on wisdom or intelligence, but for me that’s getting a little too fiddly. Keeping it simple here.

Back to our friend, the crab spider *shudders*. An easy way to determine salvaged meat = rations is to roll for it. The number of dice rolled could be based on the creature’s mass, but there isn’t really a stat in B/X that tells us the mass of a creature. We can just rule based on the fiction. In the creature description of a crab spider, it says that they are 5’. That sounds like a fair amount of meat to me. 

Crab Spider Art from the 1e AD&D Monster Manual

Below I’ve got a table to roll on for rations based on creature size per critter. Keep in mind of Number Appearing: that’s 1d4 crab spiders—a veritable feast! *barf*

Quarry YieldRoll Rations
(work in progress)

For encumbrance, you could count these smoked rations as unique items that count separately from equipment weight, but I think that is outside the bounds of this post. Let me know what you think.

The same goes for how long your nasty smoked spider rations will last. There isn’t any clear indication of how long unpreserved rations last in the book, but I don’t think they’ll keep too long. Dungeon Master’s choice on how to rule that.

3 thoughts on “Hunting in Dungeons and Dragons

  1. Why not base the number of rations on the hit dice of the critter. Say 1HD of critter yields 1D4 rations? So a 4HD creature would yield 4D4 of rations.

    As HD incorporate the concept of the body’s ability to survive damage, it kind of stands to reason that it encompasses these attributes of a creature such as overall health, mass and pain tolerance. Hence a hit dice could yield a random die roll of rations.

    Liked by 1 person

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