My Dungeon World party is now two weeks out from civilized lands. They've had the usual amount of foul luck, and lost more rations than they planned due to bad rolls. Mostly due to picking up some extra allies who were in need, and prioritizing rations really low whenever I put it on a hard choice. They now have enough food for the next three days, but are a week away from where they were going. When I pointed this out to them, they thought about it and asked what happens when they don't have food and how long they can last.

And I have no idea.

The rulebook mentions rations as being important, and the fiction says they should be very important- running out of food without a way to get more seems like it should end badly somehow, or at least complicate their lives considerably. I know you mark off rations when you Undertake a Perilous Journey and Make Camp, but it doesn't say what happens if you can't. I fully plan on offering them some way to get more food (Goblin warcamp, merchant caravan who'll overcharge them, whatnot) but it seems they should be aware of what the consequences of passing these opportunities up is.

My first guess would be to follow the fiction- A human can go for a week without food without being in any danger of starving no problem, so they aren't going to die before they get there. (It takes a little over 30 days to starve a human.) That said, if they run into a fight after five days of hiking, it seems that should at least be distracting. It makes a kind of sense that they aren't going to be naturally healing (after all, they can't quite trigger the Make Camp move) but I don't imagine a human body just stops healing after 24 hours without food. Plus, that's only interesting if I harass them with a few random encounter style problems. Which I was going to do anyway I suppose. My other thought would be to offer them either healing and a debility or neither for ever X days they went without food, as fitting with the distracting level of hunger they're in. Or I could just make things narrationally more difficult.

What are the consequences of going without food in DW?

  • 3
    Note that they should only encounter one "random encounter" per trip, regardless of the length of the trip. "Undertake a perilous journey" is a single move, the three chosen PCs each roll one time, they have one encounter. If it furthers your story, you can have the encounter happen after the quartermaster's poor roll causes the rations to run out, sure, but they should still make it where they were headed (they'll just be out of food when they arrive) if they left with enough rations to get there. This DOESN'T apply if they chose to make side trips, of course, only a straight shot. – gatherer818 Sep 27 '14 at 10:22
  • They're traveling along a line of small ruins built in enemy territory picking up macguffins, each about a week apart. I treated going from one to the next as being a different journey- was that a mistake? (Not that that would save them- they picked up about a dozen hirelings at one of the ruins who were without supplies, and it's feeding those that's eating into their resources.) – IgneusJotunn Sep 27 '14 at 20:05
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    Nah, not really. They're undertaking multiple perilous journeys, doing it that way. If they're not seriously pressed for time, though, they should probably consider a trip to town between ruins now that they're hungry ^_^ – gatherer818 Sep 27 '14 at 23:40
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    @gatherer818 I think your first point may be too strongly stated. Even if they're only making a single perilous journey, the fiction rules, and if that journey is especially long or perilous, or other story wheels are turning, it may be completely reasonable to have multiple events or encounters. However, if there's not an important fiction reason for it, it should be streamlined as you point out within the rules. – Samthere Aug 7 '17 at 14:28
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Your first guess is right: go with the fiction.

First, a dozen hirelings without food for some days will get angry and non-compliant. They will probably run off or even turn against their employers. How should they believe that they will get their agreed cost if not even food is prapared for by the PCs?

Second, the PCs will get hungry, weak and eventually sick. Add in the according debilities to show them the effects. Without rations they cannot Make Camp or Undertake A Perilous Journey. Travelling will be cumbersome and inconvenient.

If there's really no way for them to find food (it is hard to imagine that in most common environments there is absolutely nothing edible to be found), Show Them Signs Of An Approaching Threat: the few hirelings that are still with them start to turn mad with hunger. How long will it take until they start killing and eating each other?

However, with a good Spout Lore or Discern Realities, the PCs might be able to find something edible in the area. There's always some worms under a rock, some strange berries that the local animals avoid, the random vicious beast in its lair that noone dares to hunt...

There's a simple mechanical consequence: You do not gain the benefits of the Make Camp move without food. No new spells, No HP recovery etc.

Then of course feel free to introduce more serious complications if they go without food for longer. Increasingly prefer hard moves over soft moves when they miss.

… Fightgar, you would have easily blocked that goblin's dagger, but days of hunger has left you weak. Mark off 4HP as the dagger digs into your thigh.

… Wizzrobe, your mind is fuzzy as it is constantly being bugged by your empty stomach. You realise that you have no recollection of where you left your spellbook, as it certainly isn't on your person right now.

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    Is getting new spells related to the Make Camp move? Both cleric and wizard mention they need an hour or so of quiet, and Make Camp triggers when you hang out for "more than an hour or so" but I assumed they were two unrelated moves happening at the same time. Make Camp mentions that you'd do it to prepare spells, but neither Commune nor Prepare Spells mentions needing food. That makes sense to me fictionally, but I don't quite have system mastery of DW yet. Your take? – IgneusJotunn Sep 27 '14 at 19:54
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    @IgneusJotunn is right in that Commune and its equivalents do not hinge on Make Camp at all. – iraserd Sep 28 '14 at 8:44
  • @IgneusJotunn, I think I should correct that mistake after four years :) – edgerunner Apr 4 at 8:04

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