Food and water in gamebooks


I’m finally getting round to writing about the things I said I would back in January 2011.  Better late than never!

So, does food restore about 17%- 28% of your entire stamina or do you lose 10%-14% of your endurance if you do not eat them? Or is food just another item that might come in handy?  Or does the gamebook rarelymention eating and drinking and lets you concentrate on other things?

It seems that food and water has mixed effects in gamebooks, but why is this?

Food, water and sword fighting in real life

We eat and we drink to prevent starvation and thirst.  It’s a constant struggle to hold off suffering.  Sure, substances in the food will eventually be used by out body to help with repair and healing.  The act of sitting down to a meal and taking your time over eating and drinking will help remove some fatigue and it will leave you feeling relaxed, but wounds will not heal up before your eyes as you eat.

Now, if you look at some real life sword fighting (number 4 on the list), it seems that people do not wound each other anyway, until the killing blow it seems.

Food and water in Fighting Fantasy

So it seems that if you were engaged in a fight using the Fighting Fantasy system and you lost stamina, you are wounded.  A meal of provisions cures the effects of two wounds (such as being hit with a sword twice), so food is unrealistic.  It certainly wasn’t written with simulation in mind.

Provisions also rarely come up in the text after the rules beyond buying them or feeding the odd creature, and, in most cases, we’re not even told what you are eating, so they have very little to do with the narrative.  Provisions in Fighting Fantasy were there for the game – the writers needed some way to replenish stamina and came up with food and water, and, if you play Fighting Fantasy books not expecting a detailed simulation, that is fine.

Ian Livingstone changed provisions to a healing potion in Crypt of the Sorcerer and Keith Phillips used healing herbs in Seige of Sardath (a narrative choice, as your character is a woodland ranger who would know where to find them) and there were various other items in the sci-fi books that may or may not have made more sense, but it seems that provisions in Fighting Fantasy are there purely for the game.
as being worn down, then sitting down to eat provisions and restoring 4 stamina points might be quite realistic.

However, it is clear in the Fighting Fantasy rules that every 2 stamina point strike you deal is a wound, so each meal cures the damage from two wounds.  Also, you are not allowed to eat during combat, but you are allowed to eat when being pursued by a horde of zombies, climbing down a cliff or swimming across a river.  So, provisions restoring 4 stamina is not very realistic and so it is not an attempt at

Water comes up occasionally in survival situations where you are likely to not have much water (the desert in Temple of Terror, a bit of Caverns of the Snow Witch and a bit in Island of the Undead are some examples), but the rules are inconsistent.  In Island of the Undead, being thirsty causes 4 stamina points of damage in Island of the Undead, which seems a bit much (but then it is quickly restored) and 1 stamina point in Caverns of the Snow Witch (which is also quickly restored).

Food in Lone Wolf (and Sorcery!)

Most food in Lone Wolf does not restore any endurance (unless it is a laumspur meal), but if you do not eat, you will lose 3 endurance points.  This is closer to the idea that if you don’t eat bad things will happen, but using this system, if Lone Wolf did not eat, he would be dead in 7-10 days.  Sure, not eating anything for a
day gives discomfort and hunger pains, but it will not bring you 10% closer to death.

It is possible for almost everyone to not eat for a week and survive, and food is rarely named, so this is added more for game reasons.Sorcery does a curious thing where food restores a small amount of stamina (2 for meal 1, 1 for every other meal) but lose 3 stamina points if you don’t eat at all.  This would lead to a player death in 5-8 days.  So not very realistic from that perspective.

Also, I like this less than food restoring stamina as it makes food just one more thing that could kill you.  It always seems less fun to have a task that does nothing if you fulfill it and does bad things if you don’t.

Ignoring food

So, it seems that Fabled Lands, by ignoring food and water, has the most realistic system.  It also lets you concentrate on more fun game things, such as exploring and levelling up.  There is recourse management in Fabled Lands (light sources, blessings, money), but food and water do not take part in it.  It seems to assume that if you are in good health, you will just find food and water or buy it for a negligible cost.  There is a section in book 1 where you might get enchanted to wander around for a few days without being able to do anything and you do lose stamina because you forget to eat and drink for several days, but otherwise, you don’t have to think about it.

Food for narrative reasons

Some gamebooks name their food items (such as Necklace of Skulls) and you can use this food to give to people, so it has much more of a narrative purpose.  There are also situations where you might want to nameOutsider has this example, where you might find a crust of stale bread at the beginning.  You are then given the option to feed it to a guard dog, but if you do, you are chastised for trying to feed it something inappropriate.
food – for example, you might want meat to feed the guard dog.

Conclusion

So, it seems that if food is a big part in your system, it will not play a realistic part, but, to be honest, I doubt anyone plays gamebooks for a simulation.  A system where food has a realistic effect will be too complex for most gamebook systems (which are usually very simple).  The most realistic option seems to be ignoring food and water until it might become relevant (if you are stuck in a desert, for example).

But we don’t play gamebooks for realism.  I, for one, am happy with carrying 40 stamina points worth of food around with me, and  the endurance loss in Lone Wolf is only mildly annoying.

So the conclusion is – if you want to be realistic, do not include food in the game system, but not being realistic is something we can live with and if the food can cure two hits with a bloody great axe, then no one is going to complain.

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One thought on “Food and water in gamebooks

  1. Nice post Stuart, very interesting topic (though there are some bits of text here and there which appear to have become misplaced or are incomplete).

    I agree with you – having no food is probably the best option, with an assumption that you have or can get enough to eat and drink without having to worry about it (and then building in loss of health in unusual circumstances). I'm not a fan of magical healing just coz you've had something to eat! It is a tricky one though, and probably need a lot more thinking about and working out of the implications of various approaches.

    Like

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