Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Going Through the Spells: Purify Food and Water

Things have changed. Probably for everyone. For a while. But somethings, like my dive into the Old School Essentials spell list, continues. This time with Purify Food and Water. A useful utility spell. In long delves or treks through hostile lands, this spell saves the party's collective butts. If you have a referee that tracks food and water, it becomes a requirement. I admit, I am not one of those referees. At the start of every campaign I tell myself I will track those rations and water skins. It'll add a sense of reality into the fantasy world. Yeah, no. I never do it.

Art by Luigi Castenllani

But Purify Food and Water adds interesting elements into an adventure because its not always the party's food and water that is spoiled. An entire village's population might depend on the spell. Cause shit like that gets import when you don't got it. Sound familiar?

Old School Essentials Mechanics
Duration: Permanent
Range: 10'
This spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and water pure and suitable for eating and drinking. On of the following may be affected:
- Drink: 6 quarts.
- Rations: One trail ration (iron or standard).
- Unpreserved food: A quantity sufficient for 12 human-sized beings.

I just did some whacked math. Then I found my answer in the book. I failed my roll...again. A water skin holds a quart, so this spell tops off 6 waterskins. How many waterskins does an adventurer need to drink during a day while plundering? No, I'm asking. I couldn't find a definitive answer in the books. For either water or food. As a rule of thumb I think I'd use the 3 skins and 3 rations a day. That is if I tracked this kinda thing.

I do think it's important to track these critical supplies because it presents interesting, strategical decisions. And the players I game with enjoy that level of depth. Maybe next campaign.

I don't find the spell equal in its treatment of the food items. It purifies water enough for 2 full days (by my home rule calculations), but only one meal of rations. And then you have the banquet table purification. I would have loved to have had this spell at a few restaurants I've eaten at. I'm not sure why the spell is so stingy with rations. You'd think they'd be a bit easier since they are already preserved, but maybe that's the problem. Bad shit has got to happen to have a ration go bad. Like a Twinkie. Most people think that Twinkies last forever. They don't. It's not pretty. 

The AD&D version takes a much different tact with this spell. Much different and more difficult to equate into gaming terms.

AD&D Mechanics
Duration: Permanent 
Range: 3"
This spell makes spoiled, rotten, poisonous, or otherwise contaminated food and/or water suitable for eating and/or drinking. Up to 1 cubic foot of food and/or drink can be thus made suitable for consumption. 
- The reverse of this spell putrefies food and drink, even spoiling holy water. Unholy water is spoiled by purify water.

I remember reading this description and imagining a giant 1' cube of Spam on the table. 

How the hell do you figure out how many days a 1' cube of food feeds a person? I have no fricking clue. With drink, doesn't specify water like OSE, it is a little easier to guess. I don't know. Sometimes AD&D likes math too much and it has weird descriptions that aren't helpful in a game. 

I like that this version can do both at the same time (and/or). So you can throw in a ham sandwich and tweak your local IPA. That allows you to use one spell to do both. But again you run into weird measurements.

And this spell has a reverse option. An option that can ruin holy water! I don't recall that from before. That's an interesting affect. And of course purify ruins unholy water which I don't ever remember seeing in a game, but it'll make an appearance now. 

There is a lot of flexibility with this spell, but for its practical use, the cubic foot of food and/or water is kinda useless to me. I'd wing it. Try to remember what I said then make something else up the next time it was cast.

There was no additional information in the DMG.

I chose Hackmaster Basic for the third system. However it only has Purify Water as a first level cleric spell. 

Hackmaster Basic Mechanics
Duration: Permanent 
Range: Touch
This spell eliminates all harmful bacteria and microorganisms as well as foul tasting sulfides, iron, and suspended solids from water. The result is water suitable for drinking. Casting it on beverages such as milk,beer, or wine is deleterious as they will be reduced to plain water. The spell does not affect toxins (alcohol is here considered a narcotic not a toxin) or magic potions.

It purifies 1 gallon per level. Something measurable. Something easily ported into game. But I find it strange that the spell purifies water unless its poisoned...that seems a bit nonsensical. And you can mess up a perfectly good bottle of rum or chocolate milk. 

And from what I saw there is no spell that purifies food. You are SoL. Up the famous creek without that famous paddle. So pack a bunch of lunchables. Those things will outlast us all. 

Deleterious? Okay. Wow. 

With that, I'm out.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A foot is about 30 cm so a cubic foot is 27,000 cubic centimetres or 27 litres ... 3.5 litres to the US gallon or you can just call it 27 quarts.
    A can of SPAM is about 4" x 4" x 2" ... about 54 to the cubic foot ... I would call that about 27 meals or maybe half that for hungry people. I'd be happy to call a cubic foot a days rations and water for 8 people in normal temperate conditions.

  3. The picture's caption is off: The spell does not "create(d)" food. It only purifies existing food.