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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > D&D Ideas — Famine

D&D Ideas — Famine

D&D Ideas - Pestilence
D&D Ideas - Magic Items and the Mage Forge

Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is famine, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of on the fly some unexpected circumstances kept us away from the usual weekly live chat so this week it’s anything goes!


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Delving Dave’s Dungeon

Famine is a horrendous thing to experience. A thing that is hard to imagine in a world of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. There is so much magic that could circumnavigate famine. I won’t go into why there is a famine here or what is keeping the problem from being solved. Instead I’m going to offer suggestions for plot hooks during a famine.

  1. There are limited food stores so the town or city is rationing out the food. The storage area is being raided and the leaders of the community need adventurers to track down the thieves.
  2. There are limited food stores so the town or city is rationing out the food. The leaders of the community fear possible theft and are hiring adventurers to stand guard. They have to foil a possible raid on the food stores.
  3. A cult has risen up around the famine and has turned to cannibalism. They are kidnapping people. Adventurers are needed to stop the kidnappings and rescue any possible survivors.
  4. A caravan needs to be escorted to the next city over and back. The community elders hire adventurers for this task.
  5. A new city has been discovered in the underdark with resources that aren’t available on the surface. The community elders need the adventurers to act as guards and diplomats.
  6. A giant beast has been spotted moving through the wilderness. It could provide enough meat to feed the whole community. The adventurers are hired to bring it down.
  7. The local thieves guild has stolen the communities food stores and are holding it ransom for more gold than the community has. Adventurers are needed to either acquire the gold or to locate and retrieve the food stores.
  8. There is a druid living nearby in the wilderness. They aren’t known for their love of civilized people. They are known for their powerful connection to nature and its magic. Adventurers will be needed to try to convince the druid to use his magic to cast plant growth for the community. Bandits have captured their owlbear companion Suzy. If the adventurers free Suzy the druid will help.

From Ted’s Head

Famine is one of those words that can easily get a visceral reaction. A lot of people know the feeling of being hungry, whether they have missed a meal or several, it can be painful. So when everyone is feeling that times are tough, it brings society down and opens people up to desperate thoughts.

We talked about in the live chat that Famine can be a direct campaign arc. Regardless of the source, it is a problem that is fixable in the short term or long term and the characters have the ability to find and resolve it. But it is possible that famine is only a backdrop of the game.

Maybe you are playing a survivalist style game where resource management is a big part. With food shortage everywhere that is not solvable, makes for a different kind of game. The farmland is not producing, the lakes are drying up. The wild game is moving away or disappearing. This is how the game starts. There are games out there that have a dying world. Games like Mork Borg or Vast Grimm. In these games/worlds the problem is so massive there is no fixing it. You are struggling to survive. If you pull that concept into a D&D world what kind of game would that be? Have the deities left or is something greater blocking their power? Perhaps the last few clerics hold all of the gods’ power. Whatever is destroying the world is causing each person to find a way to survive for as long as they can. Is there a safe haven away from the end of the world? If so, how do you find it and how do you get there?

Resource management is not the only way to go about this style of game. Not having food after a fashion could result in levels of exhaustion or just some flat minuses. The food could be scarce and if not found that particular day then the penalties could occur. In games like this you would have to remove spells like goodberry and create food and water as they completely break the consequences, or you leave them in and that resource gets used for that purpose. Perhaps they spend more time feeding others trying to stabilize the health of everyone they can. It honestly can and should be however you want to play it out. One of the games I have in my Ideas document, while not quite a famine, does rely heavily on the characters having to find their food and resources and form a foundation of a home or settlement in an unforgiving world. So kind of close to this idea.

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Nerdarchy staff

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