According to the food rules,

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.

According to this, a character with a Constitution modifier of 0 can eat normally every 4th day*, and get no penalties from hunger despite only eating twice a week. This seems a tad ridiculous, and I'm wondering if there are other rules that I'm missing that make it a bad idea to eat less often like this, or if eating every 4th day is a totally fine thing to do, by the rules.

* They can get away with four days, because they'll only get the exhaustion penalty if they don't eat by the end of the fourth. This is even assuming the 'minimum 1' doesn't apply to the con mod portion.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ One thing: I suspect the (minimum 1) means that 3 + x is at least one, so if you have -3 CON modifier, you can stay 1 day minimum, not that the CON modifier is minimum +1, so ha 10 CON character can last 3 days. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 9:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ For reference, this rule is located on p. 185 of the PHB. \$\endgroup\$
    – user53884
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 20:03

4 Answers 4


Seems legit. Real people having a hard time finding meals can eat like that, and hard-luck adventurers are the kind of people who might see a lot of time between meals.

For someone who can afford to eat though, going hungry is foolish. Having a full belly when you have the opportunity to get one is just a matter of being prepared for the worst when you're venturing into the unknown. You never know when your mule with all the food is going to get eaten by a dragon or your pack might get dropped down a chasm, and then your carefully-timed starvation diet becomes actual starvation, with who knows how long before your next meal.

Mechanically, it would not be unreasonable for the DM to rule that being hungry can cause Disadvantage under the right (or wrong, I suppose) circumstances. If you haven't eaten for three days and you're sneaking through the orcs' kitchen, even revolting cooking smells are potentially distracting and might make the difference between failure and what would have been success—which is nicely modelled by Disadvantage. Similarly, exhausting activity such as climbing or swimming might be harder when your body is being systematically denied fuel.

So yes, you only need to eat every four days to avoid starvation. But as we well know from real-life experience living, going hungry sucks and is worth avoiding if you can, especially if you have any doubt about where your next meal is coming from.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I start to feel a little dizzy and weaker after 12 hours or so (time spent asleep counts for less), but then I'm kind of tubby and used to frequent meals. I doubt that many athletes or martial artists would consider themselves on top form after eating nothing for 72 hours, but of course real life is more granular than the game, so "not on top form in real life" needn't imply any in-game penalty. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 12:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's quite different in the real life. You feel an extreme urge to eat for the first three days, and then hunger dulls. You can perform normal activities with no exhaustion. You don't lose weight. It's not recommended fasting for more than ten days straight, though. This doesn't relate to drinking, though. Three days with no water and chances are you're dead. Even though the rule sounds ridiculous, and it goes against both the traditional nutrition and fasting, it's a good enough approximation for the game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 23, 2021 at 13:59

Mechanically, this rule covers starvation. And yes, you could get away with eating only twice a week on purely mechanical basis.

However, that does not mean that you should. For example, the rules do not say you need to bath or shower. Ever. Personally, I feel uneasy if I did not shower once a day. Although if I were a Warrior battling slimy green goo a few times a week my tolerance level for "ick" would probably rise, not washing all my life would not be acceptable. Not for my character and surely not for the party I'm part of.

Mechanically, just not starving to death is fine. From a roleplaying perspective, if you aren't playing some weird monk on fasting rituals, you should eat normally. It's what people do because everything else would be painful. That's the roleplaying aspect, if we only had the pure mechanics, it would be a board game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I could see a GM deducting CHA points for not bathing in a while, especially for diplomacy checks. Intimidate, on the other hand... Stinking like a decaying ox without reacting to it might intimidate people. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nzall
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ From the POV of "historical accuracy" of a fantasy medieval setting, it's not unheard of for people to rarely or never bathe as we think of bathing. Myths abound, but for example in Tudor England bathing was considered unhealthy and done "as necessary" on a frequency of months rather than days. People smelled, that's how it was. Change and wash clothes, though, yes. So it's really a question of how clean and tidy you like your fantasy setting to be. If you want your characters to not really notice or care that each other stink, get on with it, it's not implausible ;-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 12:49

I believe you have misread the quoted passage and "(minimum 1)" is meant to apply to the total (3 + CON mod), not to the CON mod alone.

Under this interpretation, characters with a CON mod of less than +1 need to eat more often than once per 4 days to avoid penalties.

  • CON mod 0 must eat every 3 + 0 = 3 days.
  • CON mod -1 must eat every 3 - 1 = 2 days.
  • CON mod -2 must eat every 3 - 2 = 1 day.
  • CON mod -3 must eat every 3 - 3 = 0 days, but that becomes every 1 day because of the "minimum 1".

In any of these cases, the character may go one additional day beyond the required frequency of eating before taking any actual mechanical penalties. e.g., A character with CON mod -1 "must" eat every 2 days, but isn't actually penalized until the end of the third day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about those with average Con? (This still doesn't answer the question except perhaps indirectly, and moreover spends the bulk of its text on a point not asked about.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1: You use some incorrect math here, and you don't answer the question. Characters with a 0 Con mod need to eat every 4 days, according to the rule I quote, which means that "characters with a CON mod of less than +1 need to eat more often than once per 4 days" is incorrect, since 'less than +1' includes +0. You're correct that the character with a -5 Con mod needs to eat more often, but that's not what I'm asking. I'm specifically asking for clarification for the case where a character has a Con mod of 0, and assuming that I can extrapolate the rules from there. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl, this answer is assuming the "(minimum 1)" applies to the total number of days without food, not the CON modifier alone; he's reading the same sentence and disagreeing with your interpretation of it. I agree with Dave, but that's where it comes from. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 1:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dave I can't vote to delete, that's like a 20k moderation thing. :P The question was edited to make it pretty clear the "(minimum 1)" is not being confused. Each of your equations ought to have a +1 on the end of it which accounts for the extra day beyond your limit you can go - factoring that in, that's the +1 you thought was the author being confused about the "(minimum 1)". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 8:23

From your question:

"I'm wondering if there are other rules that I'm missing that make it a bad idea to eat less often like this"


The other rule that you are missing here are the rules about Expenses, especially life style Expenses.

Page 52 of Basic Rules (v0.2)

Lifestyle expenses provide you with a simple way to account for the cost of living in a fantasy world. The y cover your accommodations, food and drink, and all your other necessities. Furthermore, expenses cover the cost of maintaining your equipment so you can be ready when adventure next calls. ...

At the start of each week or month (your choice), choose a lifestyle from the Expenses table and pay the price to sustain that lifestyle. The prices listed are per day, so if you wish to calculate the cost of your chosen lifestyle over a thirty-day period, multiply the listed price by 30.
Your lifestyle choice can have consequences.

The rules then continue to explain some of the consequences of your lifestyle choice. These rules assume that you eat and drink and sleep an appropriate amount every day for the period in which you choose. Some of these consequences are about your social contacts, some about disease, some about plots or thievery etc. But basically, in order to maintain your lifestyle you need to eat, the rules you cited above are purely for starvation issues, and normally should not come into play if you are maintaining your lifestyle expenses.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Lifestyle Expenses section is specifically about the time between adventures. If you want to say that those rules are relevant to during-adventures time, you should add an argument for why it's reasonable/right/useful to extrapolate from downtime rules to adventuring time rules. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 15:29

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