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Is there any official stand on the exact way a Ring of Sustenance works? There have been a number of questions that have come up in my game regarding this item that is so useful it has become standard gear in my world for most adventurers from mid-level on. (Only those fortunate enough to possess two awesome rings don't wear one.)

  1. Does someone who has adjusted to the ring constantly have an empty stomach? (Thus speeding the absorption of alcohol, drugs, and poisons)

  2. Does the ring suppress appetite as well? (As a comparison, a person in the modern world could probably survive on meal replacement drinks, water, and nutritional supplements, but they would not necessarily feel satisfied if that was all they were getting.)

  3. If it does suppress the appetite does the wearer have any problem eating food when they need to, such as if they are a member of court and have to attend a state feast? Do they feel nauseous as if they are overeating?

  4. Does the provided sustenance adjust if the character suddenly needs more than one man-day worth of food per day? For example, what if they're pregnant, or have a tapeworm?

  5. If a character's ring gets hit with a dispel and shuts off for 1-4 rounds, does that mean they have to spend an entire new week attuning themselves to the ring?

  6. If a character does need to reattune themselves, either because of the answer to the previous question, or because the ring was removed and then put back on--for whatever reason--do they start out full or just as hungry as they were right before they last attuned to the ring?

All of these questions have come up in my game over the years, but did WOTC ever officially address them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ If the answer is No (which I strongly suspect it is) are you then open to speculation from those with experience with the ring? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 16 '18 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I am definitely interested in supported speculation, as in, reasoned opinions that provide the logic behind their reasoning, as opposed to mere "I think it should be this way" comments. \$\endgroup\$ – Cadrac Feb 16 '18 at 21:20
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I'm pretty sure the answer to your question is "no". The ring of sustenance first appeared in Unearthed Arcana (1985), and the description did not change until it disappeared from the game after 3.5e.

Some speculation on your questions:

  1. No. There's no rule in the game for absorption of poisons being hasted by empty stomachs.
  2. No. The description of the ring does not say it suppresses the appetite.
  3. No. The description of the ring does not say that the wearer suffers any detrimental effects from eating food.
  4. Yes. The description says nothing about "man-days of food". It says the wearer is supplied with life-sustaining nourishment. The game effect is that the wearer will suffer no fatigue or damage from not eating. This should work for large or small characters with wildly different nourishment requirements.
  5. Unclear. Dispel Magic turns the ring into a non-magical ring (per the spell's description), so you could rule that it should have the same effect as taking it off. You could also rule that Dispel Magic merely suppresses the nourishment temporarily. I'd rule the former since it creates more drama.
  6. No. Since the ring provides actual nourishment, the wearer will not be hungry. Effects of starvation and thirst (DMG page 304) should come into effect 3 days after taking off the ring.
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Officialy, no. However, this depends on the creativity (or sadism) of your DM.

The Ring of Sustenance has the following description:

Ring of Sustenance -

This ring continually provides its wearer with life-sustaining nourishment. The ring also refreshes the body and mind, so that its wearer needs only sleep 2 hours per day to gain the benefit of 8 hours of sleep. The ring must be worn for a full week before it begins to work. If it is removed, the owner must wear it for another week to reattune it to himself.

That is all. No negative effects are explicitly listed.

Note that if the ring is removed, it has to be reattuned, which is a week-long process. Therefore, a dispel effect, which would suppress the ring for a short amount of time, may count as removal for these purposes.

Historically speaking, the ring was coveted for the same reason that permanent sources of light were coveted. In older versions of the game, encumbrance was religiously tracked (gold pieces, anyone?), as was light sources, distance of visibility, and area of illumination, and your food supplies (and there were encounters back then specifically designed to ruin your food, and thus place you at risk).

The infamous previous-edition ability of infra-vision allowed monsters (and a few playable PC races) to see in the dark, and track via heat-signatures and/or heat-footprints. However, monsters always had a greater range than any PC playable race. Also, light sources gave your position away.

This was back in the days when players were punished for doing logical things or for forgetting to state that they were doing logical and/or common sense things.

  • Carrying a light source? Monsters can see you now, and will subsequently ambush you.
  • You can see in the dark? Well, the monsters can see further, so there.
  • Didn't carry enough food? Oh, too bad, you get to starve to death in the dungeon. Or risk eating this questionable jello-like substance you found in the dungeon. (It's poisonous, or it's actually a baby slime monster playing dead)
  • Oh, look at that, your food was soaked/poisoned/burnt/disintegrated/eaten/other random event Guess you'll die of starvation down here, unless you'd like to try the local delicacy of jello? It even comes in green.
  • Ran out of torches? Guess you get to stumble around in the dark. Oh, and since you can't see, let me take away the map you've been painstakingly making this entire time.
  • Picked up a duck (insert any other random seemingly innocent object/creature) in a dungeon? Well, you should have known better than to touch a duck (or insert any other random seemingly innocent object/creature) in a dungeon.

Keep in mind, this was back in the day when Gygaxian game design ruled, and sudden-death, choose-your-death, wish-a-death, insta-kill, save-or-die, and never-mind-just-die tricks, traps, and encounters were common, ala Fafhrd/Conan style.

So the purpose of the Ring of Sustenance was to remove the food portion of this inventory-sadism from the equation. Some may even get my various famous adventure and game references from the menus of death and discomfort listed above.


Having commented on all of this, I will paint one possible negative scenario of having a Ring of Sustenance, which is also a famous reference, for those who have read the rather disturbing source in question.

Imagine if you will, being the victim of a cave/building collapse. Your limbs are pinned, but not crushed. You can still breath.

You are in the dark.

Alone.

You can't move your fingers, so you can't take off the ring.

Hours pass.

You can only welcome the oblivion of unconsciousness for 2 hours out of every 24, because of the blasted ring.

Time ticks by slowly... excruciatingly.

A drop of water can be heard periodically.

Drip.

Pause.

Drop.

You can't drink it, but you can hear it.

Hour. After. Hour. The memory of the taste of water torments you, even though you don't feel thirsty.

Days pass.

No one knows where you are.

No one comes.

Weeks pass.

Then months.

Then years....

You can't die, all because of that cursed ring. You slowly go insane. All because of that ring.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You are suggesting that the DM can massively change the tone and style of the game by “reading in” negative attributes to the ring of sustenance. I think that this is only going to cause strife at the table if the DM does so without talking about the tone and style of the game ahead of time. The kind of game you describe simply isn’t D&D 3.5e to me. If I thought I was playing D&D 3.5, and got this, I would be upset. I think this answer would be much better if it introduced these possibilities more clearly as departures from the base game, and the need for communication of these changes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 17 '18 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan RE: "You are suggesting that the DM can massively change the tone and style of the game by 'reading in' negative attributes to the ring of sustenance." I'm not seeing where that's suggested. There's an introduction as to the reason the ring was traditionally valued so highly—not an answer but it's useful for those new to the game to know why the ring has the price it does—that transitions into the possibility of dying of old age after being the victim of a cave-in… which, in some campaigns, may be a valid concern. Where's the ring (or the game!) redefined? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 17 '18 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan You’re right, it’s not explicitly suggested. What I meant is that it’s not explicitly warned about, which could suggest that no warning is necessary. I haven’t downvoted, I just think that it’s something that deserves to be said and would improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 17 '18 at 18:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'm honestly not following or understanding your suggestion for improvement. I mentioned that the answer IS "no, there are no negative effects". I give some history about the item and usage/reasoning behind said item, and then I show how the otherwise positive effects could become a negative in a logical, if very specific, niche, and unlikely situation in an effort to show the OP a possible method of accomplishing the implied desire. I am also referencing pre-existing scenarios for my example. Please help me understand your stance? \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Feb 18 '18 at 2:11

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