14
\$\begingroup\$

In a campaign where securing sustenance is part of the challenge, a player with an alchemy jug has decided the party will never have to buy/gather/magically summon food/drink ever again for the rest of the campaign.

They are forgoing other sources sustenance or magic. There are no negative environmental effects beyond the complete lack of food in the surroundings.

The alchemy jug (DMG, 150) provides one of the following quantities of liquid per day:

\begin{array}{c|c} \text{Liquid} & \text{Max Amount} \\ \hline \text{Acid} & \text{8 ounces} \\ \text{Basic poison} & \text{1/2 ounces} \\ \text{Beer} & \text{4 gallons} \\ \text{Honey} & \text{1 gallon} \\ \text{Mayonnaise} & \text{2 gallons} \\ \text{Oil} & \text{1 quart} \\ \text{Vinegar} & \text{2 gallons} \\ \text{Water, fresh} & \text{8 gallons} \\ \text{Water, salt} & \text{12 gallons} \\ \text{Wine} & \text{1 gallon} \\ \end{array}

I don't want to cause the item to be destroyed or lost, but I also don't want goodberry, create food and drink, etc. to be functionally useless.

What DC should I use for someone trying to survive indefinitely solely with an alchemy jug as their only source of food and water? What DC (probably a Constitution check) would I set to discourage excessive use of this behavior?

Campaign Background

Food is not a trivial concern in this campaign. Planar travel is a huge part of the campaign, including destinations where there is lots of water, but not food (certain areas of the plane of water), or lots of food and water but eating the native wildlife carries some issues (like the Beastlands).

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think there is anything wrong with the original formulation of this question. I have reverted the edit and reopened. It's getting good answers which tells me it's not POB and I don't think the question is POB at it's core either. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 8 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 8 at 3:19
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Related question on Medical Sciences.StackExchange for the real-world survival chances from the food your party has access to via the alchemy jug: Can a person survive off of a diet alternating daily between mayonnaise, honey, beer, and wine? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Nov 8 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron that is fantastic. \$\endgroup\$ – kent Nov 8 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you certain that the players want food to be not a trivial concern in this campaign, that this is a type of challenge that they desire to spend attention on in this game? \$\endgroup\$ – Peteris Nov 8 at 22:24
35
\$\begingroup\$

Rules-as-Written, the Jug can sustain up to 5 players

The Player's Handbook has explicit rules about food/water consumption you'll want to reference.

Food

A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations. Eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food.

A character can go without food for a number of days equal to 3 + his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 1). At the end of each day beyond that limit, a character automatically suffers one level of exhaustion.

A normal day of eating resets the count of days without food to zero.

Water

A character needs one gallon of water per day, or two gallons per day if the weather is hot. A character who drinks only half that much water must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion at the end of the day. A character with access to even less water automatically suffers one level of exhaustion at the end of the day.

If the character already has one or more levels of exhaustion, the character takes two levels in either case.

Food and Water, Player's Handbook, pg. 185

An alchemy jug is more than capable of producing a gallon per day (up to 8, in fact, of fresh water), and there's no rule that fluids produced by the alchemy jug vanish over time, so in a temperate climate, an Alchemy Jug could produce enough water to sustain 8 humanoids, meaning the excess can be put towards food instead.

A Humanoid must consume at least 1 pound of food to stay nourished, and an Alchemy Jug is capable of producing 1 gallon of Honey, 2 gallons of Mayonnaise, 4 gallons of beer, and 1 gallon of wine. 5th Edition D&D doesn't have rules about Macronutrient balancing, so at least per the rules of the game, 2 gallons of Mayonnaise (or about 16 pounds) is enough to sustain up to 16 creatures per day.

So realistically, a party of up to 5 characters could subsist on nothing but an Alchemy Jug, producing water 2 of every 3 days (5 × 3 = 15 gallons of 16 gallons produced), and producing Mayonnaise every third day (5 × 3 = 15 pounds of 16 pounds produced), with an excess of 1 gallon of water and 1 pound of mayonnaise every third day.

So unless the party is bigger than 5 humanoid creatures, there's no need to call for any kind of checks in the first place. They are fully capable of keeping themselves fed and watered.

So what can you do about it?

I mean, you have to take the Alchemy Jug away if you intend to run a proper survival campaign.

Even if we rule that only the water is nourishing, and that surviving on Honey/Mayonnaise/Beer/Wine doesn't provide enough nutritional value to subsist on (which, if you're running a survival campaign, is not an unreasonable houserule to implement), water is easily the much more difficult substance to obtain. Literally, professional survival guides in the real world emphasize the securing of water to be the second priority, coming only after securing safe shelter from predators/the elements. And in the mechanics of the game, going a single day without water (or even substandard water) is far more taxing than going several days without food.

So an item whose only purpose can only ever be to trivialize that part of the difficulty is always going to be a problem, irrespective of any attempts by the players to also let that item sustain their food needs.

So if you intend to properly restore the survival mechanics of your campaign, you're going to need to remove that item. Talk to your players, explain the issue (and make sure you're all playing the same game), and then, having done all that and having gotten assent from your players, contrive a narrative justification for why the jug is gone or doesn't work anymore.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 53
    \$\begingroup\$ @kent There is a very, very good chance that you are using the wrong system for the game you have in mind. D&D, at least in recent editions, does not focus on survival issues and abilities to eliminate sustenance concerns are not valued highly in the system, making them trivially available to players. Even with those removed, the lack of depth in this area will make this a fight against the system rather than the system helping you to implement your campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 8 at 2:59
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Grant the ability to use the jug for food only to characters of players able to subsist on a diet of honey, mayo, beer and wine for a week. :) \$\endgroup\$ – ikegami Nov 8 at 9:11
  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ honey is a good example of a food where it's unrealistic to the point of implausibility if it would spoil within three days. Honey is safe and nutritious at least for years, in some cases much more - IIRC we have archeological samples of honey that's multiple millenia old but according to analysis still would be good to eat. \$\endgroup\$ – Peteris Nov 8 at 16:00
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Peteris: That ancient honey was stored in air sealed containers, which allowed it to absorb all ambient moisture, making an arid environment completely hostile to microbial life. Without the air seal, it crystallizes in days, and (depending on environmental conditions) can ferment. Not saying it's going to go truly "bad" (especially not in three days), just pointing out that that "honey lasts forever" thing is somewhat oversold. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Nov 9 at 1:26
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowRanger If ancient Egypt could manage sufficiently air-tight jars without magic, I’m pretty sure Faerûn can too. If nothing else, because Mulhorand basically is ancient Egypt. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 9 at 12:23
20
\$\begingroup\$

4 gallons of beer is a lot of beer

You can survive off of beer for a long time. Like, "don't bother tracking it or applying any penalties" long. The jug can comfortably sustain at least 3 Medium creatures and maybe 4 with all of them living an active adventuring lifestyle and not particularly conserving resources (see PHB 185). The beer needs to be very low in alcohol, of course, and preferably high in vitamins/proteins but that isn't a problem (protein) (vitamins) for your alchemy jug except in terms of taste (drinking citrus beer in fall? So tacky).

Now, if your players insist on only drinking modern-style high-alchohol draft beers, there are lots of ways that will kill you, eventually. But there is no reason for your adventurers to do that, unless they are suffering from alcoholism or something.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ 40 days (Lent) on beer only has been tried by countless monks and proven to be fine. But it was not like a beer we have now. Unfiltered, cloudy, bit sour, full of grain particles... I brewed it once, one pint was like a reasonably big dinner. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 7 at 21:59
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Yes, that is precisely the sort of beer the PCs should be pouring from the jug, though they will want high-protein and citrus-infused variants at least sometimes. The technical term for that kind of beer appears to be "small beer". \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 8 at 1:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil Actually, "small beer", as I understand it, is a second brewing from grain already used in a brew. Essentially, the "sparging" water (rinsing the grain a second time) is kept separate from the main batch of wort, lightly hopped and fermented. The result is low alcohol, pale, and basically a medieval version of "light beer". \$\endgroup\$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 8 at 18:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ZeissIkon no, that's a completely different process that happens to use the same name. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 9 at 4:50
6
\$\begingroup\$

Using an alchemy jug to produce enough food and water to sustain one creature shouldn't require an ability check.

The basic purpose of the alchemy jug is to produce water and various foodstuffs. The quantities that it produces are obviously sufficient to sustain one creature. There is nothing in the item description to indicate that any ability check is needed to use it. As long as the PC is stating what they are creating with their jug each day, allow them to benefit from their magic item without imposing additional requirements.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think OP is asking about ability check for using it. They're asking if contents would sustain someone, and if not, what DC for some save/check should be used to see if it's enough? BUt i'm kinda guessing here at what OP is going for. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 7 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch one of my players has decided the party can stop buying/gathering/magically summoning sustenance for the rest of the campaign. And rather than break that item I want to see how I would restrict that. \$\endgroup\$ – kent Nov 7 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm specifically answering the question "What DC should I use?". The answer is, DC is not applicable because a check is not needed. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Nov 7 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mdrichey I should have added more backstory to begin with. The DC not being applicable is not appropriate to the campaign. I could simply make it very hard to stomach only mayonnaise. But I don't have experience setting initial DCs that build, or nerfing magic items after the fact without upsetting players. \$\endgroup\$ – kent Nov 7 at 21:59
5
\$\begingroup\$

Can an alchemy jug produce enough food and water?

Adventurers need 1 pound of food and 1 gallon of water to remove the need to make Constitution saving throws to persist:

Food

A character needs one pound of food per day and can make food last longer by subsisting on half rations. Eating half a pound of food in a day counts as half a day without food.

A character can go without food for a number of days equal to 3 + his or her Constitution modifier (minimum 1). At the end of each day beyond that limit, a character automatically suffers one level of exhaustion. A normal day of eating resets the count of days without food to zero.

Water

A character needs one gallon of water per day, or two gallons per day if the weather is hot. A character who drinks only half that much water must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or suffer one level of exhaustion at the end of the day. A character with access to even less water automatically suffers one level of exhaustion at the end of the day.

If the character already has one or more levels of exhaustion, the character takes two levels in either case.

The alchemy jug could produce 2 gallons of fresh water, allowing the adventurer to save 1 gallon for the next day where it produces 1 gallon of honey. 1 gallon of honey weighs 12 pounds, so you could save plenty of honey for the next day when you are creating water.

Since the alchemy jug can provide ample food and water for the adventure, no check is required.

Nutrition question

This may raise the question of whether a person can live off of honey and mayonnaise. Unfortunately, the rules don't make any special mention of nutritional requirements. So by the rules-as-written, the adventurer will be fine.

If you want to add some more realistic elements involving nutrition requirements, a Constitution saving throw would make sense. However, this dives into the realm of house rules, where a number of systems could model nutrition requirements. In this case, it is up to the GM how such rules would be implemented.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ This might be too nitty gritty, but the question now specifies that they are attempting to survive indefinitely. This almost certainly would be problematic due to the lack of vitamins and other essential stuff. I'm not sure how I'd translate that into a DC though... \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 7 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose That's why I think this is kind Primarily Opinion-Based. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 7 at 21:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Certainly the rules never mention them that I've ever seen, and I wouldn't expect them to. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Nov 7 at 21:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have a feeling that it is this bit on Nutrition that OP is actually asking about. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 7 at 21:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This may raise the question of whether a person can live off of honey and mayonnaise wait, I thought that beer is food? 8^o \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 7 at 22:45
3
\$\begingroup\$

Motivation and willpower

The big question here isn't whether the characters would suffer from long-term malnutrition when surviving for months on mayonnaise and honey. The reasonable question to ask is whether they'd be willing to do so if other options are available.

Long before you'd need (or want) to have them make some difficulty checks about health consequences, you'd rather want to impose some penalties or checks for doing arbitrary questing (unless there's a threat that's really immediate and overriding) instead of prioritizing efforts to find food that's simply more pleasant than the boring stuff they have now.

Of course, if they're (for example) literally starving on a liferaft in the middle of the ocean, that's different; but if they're in an open environment where they do have options for spending time and effort to get better food, it's reasonable to expect that whenever they can spare any time and effort for that, they will want to do so.

This is a difficult subject, there's a contradiction between preserving player agency and the metagaming issue of the players having the characters do something that the characters, realistically speaking, really do not want to do.

Food quality - not limited to nutrition, but also taste and variety - is really important for morale and motivation even in difficult conditions. For example, WW1 and WW2 soldier diaries (as well as literature classics e.g. "All Quiet on the Western Front" comes to mind) include so many mentions of various acts showing the importance that warriors in literal life and death situation placed on food specifics (not merely having enough sustenance), that it's implausible to have people simply ignore these for prolonged time.

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

As an alternative to trying to decide whether or not the survival is or should be possible with the jug, if you're concerned with its use gimping your campaign...

Tax their resources more. Add campaign situations that test the character's generosity. Occasionally, as they try to rely solely on the jug instead of using a combination of spell slots and other resources, introduce other NPCs - a family lost in the wilderness about to starve to death, a war hero lying on the battlefield in need of dressing (could use a lot of water for that), a leper or otherwised diseased/sickly colony that needs fresh clothes (again use a lot of water to wash out the clothes), etc.

This way they can use the jug, but also still have to balance out the other resources and abilities to survive...they'd also have to make sure as they help people that they keep the magical nature of the jug secret or they might have some people try to take it away.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ If there's only one jug and your players metagamed around it, a single party split could be disastrous to those left lacking in jug-produced supplies. Or if they were forced to conceal it for a duration. \$\endgroup\$ – user2943160 Nov 10 at 1:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.