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For one of the campaigns I'm going to be starting soon, most of our time will be spent out of 'civilization,' so our GM ruled that we would have to either acquire our own food from the wilderness (through uses of the Survival skill), or we would have to buy enough food to sustain us as we travel.

After hearing this, I ask our GM if it would be helpful for me to take ranks in Profession (Cook) to prepare food while we were out (because it might be possible that we could buy some ingredients and then make a lower DC Survival check to find enough food to supplement the ingredients we had already bought). He said that this would be a great idea, I just had to find reasonable rules for buying ingredients.

So I pored over Ultimate Equipment trying to find ingredients, and I found these "ingredients:" Bread, Caviar, Cheese, Chocolate, Fortune cookie, Honey, Ice cream, Maple syrup, Meat, Travel cake mix, and Yogurt, within the "food and drink" section; and Allspice, Basil, Beans, Cardamom, Chicken, Chilies, Cinnamon, Citrus, Cloves, Coffee beans, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Flour, Garlic, Ginger, Mint, Mustard, Nutmeg, Nuts, Oregano, Pepper, Potatoes, Rosemary, Saffron, Salt, Sugar, Tobacco, Turnips, Vanilla, Wheat in the "trade goods" section.

This is a decent amount of ingredients yes, but there arises a different question, how much of what is needed to make a given meal? Then, how could it be edited to fit the survivalists helping supplement?

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If the results are to be sold later, create food from raw materials using the Craft skill; if the results are to be eaten now, prepare a meal using the Profession skill

It's up to the GM to draw the line where a Profession skill ends and a Craft skill begins, but this GM tends to go with the Profession skill not allowing a creature to create anything; instead, this GM usually limits the Profession skill so that it allows a creature only to change, improve, and worsen existing things. A creature that uses the Profession skill is paid for his service; a creature that uses the Craft skill is paid for his product.

For example, in this GM's campaigns, a creature uses the Profession (cook) skill not to make a cheese or bake a loaf of bread but, instead, to put together the proper cheese with the proper bread (and the proper wine, obviously) so as to arrange an appropriate and satisfying meal. Further, the Profession (cook) skill may allow supervising kitchen staff or knowing that a meal's ingredients have subtly spoiled.

Likewise, to create from raw materials a cheese that's to be sold, this GM would have a creature use the skill Craft, setting the DC for the food's difficulty and having the craftsman pay 1/3 the finished food's price for raw materials. These "raw materials" are what this GM would recommend a creature purchase if it planned to employ in the wilderness a skill like Craft (baking) or Craft (dairy).

The skill Survival really is sufficient to get grub in the wilderness

One of the basic Survival skill uses is Survive in the Wilderness, which has as part of its description the following check:

Get along in the wild. Move up to half your overland speed while hunting and foraging (no food or water supplies needed). You can provide food and water for one other person for every 2 points by which your check result exceeds 10.

The Survival skill DC for that check? A mere DC 10. So, unless a creature has a Wisdom penalty, because the skill Survival can be used untrained almost any creature can provide itself drink and food by taking 10 on the check unless circumstances forbid it (e.g. being hunted, inclement weather), and the (ahem) seasoned guide by himself can provide grub for a whole group of city-slickers.

Thus, in this GM's campaigns, combining the Survival skill's results of foraging with the Profession (cook) skill means the meals will look and taste better, but the only actual change made to the foraged foodstuffs is in preparation and presentation. The skill Profession (cook) may make a squirrel into a really tasty squirrel stew that's ready to eat right now and won't kill the eater right after, but if the goal is a squirrel pie that's to be sold for real money, this GM would require the chef to use some kind of Craft skill.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Survival can get insane in 3.x -- I had an elven cleric in a 3.5e table who had some ranks in Survival, and she was easily able to feed the entire party. In fact, our DM was ruling she was having to throw spoiled meat out to the vultures and carrion-crows as she was getting more in than the party could eat or preserve! \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Dec 30 '16 at 3:44
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From the real-world side, the ingredients you'd take along are called "staples" -- things like flour, bacon potted in melted bacon fat (which keeps almost forever due to curing salt content), salt, other seasonings as preferred, dried beans or peas, dried meat, dried vegetables and fruit, sugar or honey, and so forth. Even fresh eggs in the shell can be kept for a couple weeks without refrigeration if sealed in bacon fat.

Add a little fresh meat (anything from elephant to grasshopper legs, depending on location and hunting prowess) and you've got meals from day to day. Add some skill in cooking (also useful to select the right combination of seasonings) and you'll get tasty meals. Don't forget pots, utensils, cleaning supplies, etc. All of this should be knowledge your Profession (Cook) skill will provide.

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Sometimes, a GM can hand-wave details for the sake of practicality, especially when dealing with tasks that are otherwise complex in real life. On one hand, it's realistic to capture every aspect of cooking, like measuring and preserving ingredients, or heating for specific durations at specific temperatures. On the other hand, that can get cumbersome, both in terms of slowing down the game and in terms of inventory management and carry weight. Therefore, you can simplify all of the details of cooking into a single Profession (cook) check, and spend less time worrying about exact measurements.

An easy way to handle this is to abstract your measurements into generic, unspecified units. This extends the reasoning of how a Spell Components pouch works; inexpensive and common ingredients are easily accessible, so you probably already have the required quantities. Also, since your character is a professionally trained cook, it's fair to assume that they know the exact recipes, so that you and the GM don't need to worry about it every time you take out the mixing bowl.

You can define a "unit" as "the amount of this ingredient consumed when cooking". For example, you could say that bread requires 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, etc, and then organizing your inventory becomes a nightmare. The simplified alternative is to say that bread requires 1 unit of flour, 1 unit of salt, and so on. The question of whether your character really had the correct amounts can be answered by how well you roll on your Profession (cook) skill check.

As for incorporating the Survival skill, a properly-trained cook such as your character would likely know how to scrap something together from random ingredients. The success of the Survival check could determine how edible the ingredients are. With a good Survival roll, you'll have fresh meat and a strong fire for cooking steak. With a bad Survival roll, you get poisonous leaves and rotten mushrooms, so they can't be turned into a salad. This ends up as one Survival check to get the ingredients, and one Profession (cook) check to use them, and the game can continue.

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