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Create Food

By Shamus
on Sunday Sep 11, 2005
Filed under:
Tabletop Games


Level 1 clerics usually have a spell, “create food”. The book has lots of rules for how much food weighs, how long it lasts, how long it takes to hunt for food, the effects of starvation on characters, and a host of other subjects that assume players will be buying food and carrying it around.

Nobody would go to all this trouble and expense when they have a guy that can just MAKE food and water at will, anytime. This would just turn clerics into holy vending machines. Even a level 1 party would be self-sufficient with a cleric around, which doesn’t seem to be a fun way to play.

The ability to create enough food and water for a large extended family seems like a REALLY powerful thing to be able to do. In terms of life in the middle ages, this is a lot more useful than (say) being able to walk on water, force people to speak the truth, or any number of much higher-level spells. If you take this spell and look at how it would affect life, you’d see that in many ways it would be more practical for farmers to simply become clerics. A man could feed his family (plus extra) every day for little or no effort, without land, animals, or expensive farming equipment. He would never worry about pests or blight or vermin or thieves. He would just pray for food and take the rest of the day off. (Or spend it doing something else to make money, like smithing)

None of this makes the slightest sense to me. I agree that creating food and water is an interesting spell, but it seems like it should be MUCH harder to obtain, or else everyone would get it. Level 10 seems like a good point to give this to players.

Comments (33)

  1. DVS says:

    Although I have not used the d20 system, I used its ancestors back in the days of my youth. This discussion would open a large “can of worms” indeed. How would common low-level spells affect society and economy?

    What would the economy be like if common abilities included detecting precious minerals, creating food, and creating light?

    What would bar fights be like if all but the most major injuries could be easily healed, and lies were easily detected?

    And how about being able to give someone a long, intricate set of instructions and then Command them, “Obey!”

    So… good point, but somewhat pointless to pursue to a logical conclusion. Either you have a willing suspension of disbelief or you have “realism” that is totally unlike most fantasy settings.

  2. Telas says:

    Simple answer: Instead of “Food and water to sustain three humans or one horse/level for 24 hours”, change it to “Food or water to sustain one human/level for 24 hours”

    This should make the spell supplement the party’s food, not be the primary source of it.

    I’m doing the same with Cure Disease, making it a caster level check against the disease’s DC to cure one disease.

    Another option is to insist that the Cleric evangelize… kind of like the Salvation Army – to eat, you need to pray and listen to a small sermon.

  3. Greendrum2 says:

    The thing about all farmers becomming clerics couldn’t happen. The average person has ability scores of 10, which means the average person isn’t wise enough nor smart enought to cast divine magic or arcane magic.

    Even if all of them did have the necessary wisdom, wouldn’t they still have to go through a church to become a cleric? I would think that the churches wouldn’t allow 500 clerics to reside in their temples.

  4. Justin Cray says:

    2nd Edition Tome of Magic had a cool Cleric Spell: Focus. Basically a whole church full of clerics could cast one spell with a radius of a couple hundred yards with a nearly infinite duration.

    Naturally my players suggested Create Food and Water.


  5. Daviot44 says:

    I don’t know what you’re looking at, but /my/ 3.5 PHB says “Create Food and Water” is a 3rd level spell, meaning it would not be available until level 5, sufficiently out of reach for commoners. “Create Water” is zeroth level, and has obvious power in a desert campaign, but doesn’t help much elsewhere, without the food to go with it.

  6. Gwen says:

    Daviot44: I’d think that being able to create water would be extremely useful (although, agreed, not much use for staving off starvation without food to go with it). I don’t know what the rules are for water and how realistic it is, but on Earth in many places it would be really nice to be able to create water that is guaranteed to be free of poison, parasites, feces, urine, and other nasty stuff you don’t want in your drinking water. Rather nice to be able to just create it so that you don’t have to boil it out or make a filter that still lets in some things. I read somewhere that up until fairly recently in Europe and North America, even, it was a rule Not To Trust The Water–that’s why people drank so many alcoholic beverages, because they don’t spoil like milk and are safer than water from that river that the city folk dump their raw sewage in. My people in Oregon Trail II would probably really appreciate being able to create water and completely avoid cholera.

  7. Omnus says:

    You have to remember that D&D is a game, and, as such, has certain conventions. Feeding a group and healing a potentially deadly wound falls on a similar power scale when you remember that the focus of the game is on the action or adventure. Remember also that adventurers are a vast minority in any fantasy world, and priests a minority of that group (fighters and rogues being far more common). I don’t run a campaign world with clerics hanging from every tree branch making food, so the dilemma never occured to me. Also, unless the area was suffering a famine, such that the divine food would save lives (think manna from the Christian Old Testament, for example), most gods would think their powers granted to their mortal servants should be used rather more dynamic fashion that to fill the role of grocers.

  8. Pancakes Optimus Maximus says:

    In 3.5, Create Food and Water is a 3rd level spell, so 5th level is needed to cast it. All that aside, I think you are correct in your estimation of impact on a given game world.

    I’m about to start a ‘classic’ dungeon crawl using Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil and I’m trying to figure out a way to keep the players driving toward completion. My players tend to want to head toward the biggest city they know of as soon as they can afford a +1 weapon. Spells like this make it possible for them to stay in a hostile area for an extended period of time, so I’m still deciding how to handle it.

  9. d4b3ll3z says:

    I don’t know about you, but every source, book, novel, etc that I’ve ever read describes food created magically as being overly bland and not very appetizing. Just for that reason alone, I would prefer to have a good ol’ steak or chicken over magic food any day.

    On a more technical level, the spell is quite thorough when it says that the food spoils if not used in the 24 hour period. Course, you can purify is with another spell, but it seems a waste of a spell and highly inefficient if it were to be done to feed a village as in the example given here.

    Bottom line, it’s a great spell for adventurers who are in a place where food is scarce, but it’s impractical to think a farmer would rather become a Clr than simply grow his own food which last longer and tastes better.

  10. gedece says:

    It should be noted that although the said food and water allow sustenance, they are by no means a banquet. So in order to have wine, beer, and food that tastes really good, the world should have all sort of people.

    It’s also good to notice that cleric spells come from the Gods, who may decide not to allow priests to use in such a way the spell if it only helps it’s own people. One of the finer details about priests is that their spells are a means to try to converse more people to their faith, showing miracles. So a stationary priest that provides tasteless food for his own family is a big NO.

    Now, if the priest spend effort trying to get food in other ways for his family, and somehow failed, the god will not allow the family to die, thus allowing the spell to work, but this is a miracle for a time when miracles are needed, not a thing that becomes so common that it’s cheapened.

    • Skye says:

      Best DM I ever played with would deny me (I was playing a cleric) spells sometimes, occasionally with the reasoning that I would use them for something clearly unrelated to his aims, but most often with simple silence, or sometimes I would be granted different spells. My spells per day would also change- I once spent a day in town preaching in the town square, (The rest of the party was buying supplies/playing music/picking random pockets) and woke up the next morning with double my usual spells.

  11. longcoat000 says:

    There’s also the question of the role of spellcasting clerics in the church. Is every member of the clergy a spellcasting cleric, or are they relatively rare, being that they channel their god’s power into making minor miracles here on the Prime. If it were as easy as waking up one day and saying, “I think I’m going to dedicate my life to the worship of Pelor,” then POOF! suddenly they can cast spells, clerics would lose their significance.

  12. Rizzo says:

    As a player who got a cleric to epic levels in 3e, I always got the opinion that to even become a level 1 cleric wasn’t easy. You have to devote your whole life to your god and his commands. Your average farmer has a family and a normal social life, which he would not have if he’d become a cleric.
    In other words, it may be easier physically for a farmer to be a cleric, but by no means is it easier mentally.

  13. jperk31260 says:

    I would say that since the DM is playing the gods then he can just say that what ever god is not granting that spell and have some sort of “approved” spell list. Then if the characters need it, the god can grant it. Link that with well its Gruel from the gods mentality, yeah it will keep you going and its good for you but do you really want to eat it AGAIN.

  14. Skwyd says:

    I agree that the gods hold the ultimate power in granting, or not, certain spells. If the clerics were going around just creating food for anyone and everyone, their god may become upset at the squandering of power and deny that cleric the spell.

    In 3.5e, however, clerics don’t have to worship a god, it can be merely a philosophy or deeply held conviction. In these cases, the various gods will grant, or not, spells from their own portfolios when these clerics are advancing their ideals (based upon the cleric domains).

    In either case, however, I think that the cleric, in working within their ideals and/or beliefs would have to consider if a repeated casting of Create Food and Water would actually be the best way to promote their faith.

  15. Thiago says:

    Not only you have the problem of Create Food and Water, you have rings of sustenance and the infamous Murlynd´s Spoon, that although is quite expensive for the average commoner, every party could get one at level 3 or so, plus, you can use a Cantrip to make the food taste as good as you like.

  16. One thing that always came to mind with me is to remember that the players usually play the above average people. Heroes, so to speak. Thats what sets them apart from their village of 100, or city of 10000. It’s been mentioned before. But. The Midnight Campaign setting to a degree, looks at this. It’s a world where evil won, at some point in the past. The only god left, is an evil god, and he sealed off the world from all outside realms. Now it’s just a matter of fighting off the shadow until…well. The rest of the world loses, kinda. Magic is forbidden. And evil has creatures specifically made to zero in on illegal magic.

    Admittedly, a cleric CAN create food/water every day. But, this also reduces his ability to cast other things which could also be useful. As a magic user I always take fly, if I Can. Fly is infetessimaly useful(although, underground, indoors, it can be less useful). But, just as the cleric can make food. He can’t do the damage of a barbarian, warrior, etc. He can’t cast spells that damage (as much/often) as wizards or sorcerers. He’s a support character. Granted, you can make war-priests, etc. I’ve seen clerics whom don’t take the “normal” cleric healer route, and although they have healing spells, they focus more on war, or more on (theme here). Then again, I’ve seen a cleric who refused to do any damage(everyone has, I’m sure at one point in time) to anything unless it was undead. Wouldn’t wield a weapon against any living thing. *shrugs* Food is usually the least of my worries. Wilderness lore(survival), + a bow, or making some snares, and you can eat most of the time anyway. And it saves pack space for more important things. All that gear that we take that we know we need, but never really use. *nods*

    By the way, I found the site yesterday. I’ve read all the rants. I’m reading the comic (I’m in Iraq, it loads slowly) and will work my way through more of the site as I Can. I enjoy it a great deal.

    Yay gamers!

    I Brought my dice to Iraq, but have yet to find a gaming group. Boo.


  17. onepointbless says:

    In game worlds with gods that take an active role in ensuring the survival of their worshipers I don’t see a problem with priests providing community services like healing and emergency supplies.

    In worlds such as these it really is a big thing to have a church or temple set up in town and the appearence of a wondering cleric is a big deal.

    All of a sudden the bloke who falls under the plow can get his leg reattached, providing he has (or promises in the future to) correctly followed the appropriate feast days etc.

    The communities the gods choose to favour are always going to be noticebly better of than those the gods ignore.

    PC and NPC clerics should be routinely asked to provide random services by commoners and nobles alike.

  18. Miako says:

    Level 5 Commoners kick ass. Well, not at fighting, but certainly at bargaining.

    Not all games insist that Level 1 characters are “UBER”. In fact, a level one fighter might be hard pressed to stave off a level five city guard, even if that city guard has far less strength than the player does.

  19. Rune says:

    I can see the reasoning behind the need to removing “create food and water” or “create water.”

    I once ran a sea fareing game where I tried to build the suspence of not having enough food or water on the high seas. I got caught up in the story and when my players got to that part the claric goes “thats okay I’ll just create the food and water.” well…shit. Minor oversite on my part. luckly there were over fourty crew and others which lead to a bit of a problem deciding who would eat that day.

    On the otherhand I can sea why it’s in the game too. Some DM’s don’t want the hastle of trying to figure out how much food people have and who has eaten and who hasen’t. So just throw in a cleric, have em take the spell, and your all set. You can concentrate on that deamon that’s stealing children… or whatever.

    My big beef is with the various expansions that make clerics into veritible death-dealing tanks. My munchcaning players have figured out that with such expansions as “Book of Exalted deeds” clerics can deel out dammage as an arcane spell caster and fight like a fighter. I guess I gotta pull out a stamp and put the nex on a few more rules.


  20. just wanted to post ^^


  21. axcalibar says:

    I was looking through the original D&D booklets and noticed that Create Food & Water is listed as a 5th level spell. I guess Gygax and Arneson realized the impact the spell’d have.

  22. God of Awesome says:

    I had no idea cleric could make food. What domain is that? Artifice?

  23. Laserstrahl says:

    See, you seem to be harbouring the misconception that D&D is balanced for any other purposes than dungeon crawling. D&D is little more than the tabletop equivalent of WoW: fun to play (I guess, never played WoW), but you can’t create a coherent and believable world with unchecked high fantasy.

    It’s this sort of thing that makes me partial to Ars Magica.

  24. FlameKiller says:

    In WoW the mage has the arcane ability to conjer food and water for the mage to use and trade to other players. not to sell, otherwise they would be rolling in the dough. but the items disapper after 15 min of logout time. as the mage levels up it can create more items and the higher the spell level the better nuisment the items bring.

  25. Michael says:

    You should not forget that no immortal being would give cleric powers to a farmer just so that he does not have to work anymore. There is more to it.

    A divine class should never be picked up because of something trivial as that. It has more to do with destination.

    Come on, it’s not like we are discussing a videogame here!

  26. Crowbar says:

    Dragon Warriors gives us the spell Banquet. Create enough food for five people. While the food was quite nourishing, it tasted like crap. Also, the 3 MP cost is a little expensive. 3 MP? That’s like three fireballs.

  27. […] of players just find impossible to deal with. A lot of people write their own little patches to fix these up, others have house-rules like “No one is allowed to grapple anyone else” (when […]

  28. Skid says:

    d20 –
    A 5th level cleric is needed to cast Create Food. A 6th level can do it much more efficiently, of course.
    According to the DMG, assuming average rolls (over a large number of communities, this seems a safe assumption), you need a large town (2001-5000 inhabitants) to have a single level 6 character. This character, assuming average stat for a PC (note – not an NPC), should be able to support 9 people indefinitely with food and water, not 3500.

  29. Zak McKracken says:

    We handled it like this: Everyone agreed that for such a cheap spell, the food can’t taste like much, and so every party member went to very great length in order to avoid having to eat the stuff my cleric was producing, without the DM actually interfering much.

    Really great length.

    Some even accepted penalties to stats if they could eat less. And after that desert hike, my character was kind of not everyone’s favourite, although he should have been. (“don’t worry, I can make enough food and water for us all, we don’t need to pack so much food for the trip!”). Worked out pretty well, role-playing-wise :)

    If your players aren’t so willing to just play along, you could still just rule (as DM) that the food will be able to keep people alive but is dangerously low on vitamins or something, so if you try to live on it for a certain time, you’ll get weaker or somehow impaired.

  30. Kunou says:

    The “Tippyverse” suggests simply using traps with the desired spells. The rules of the game don’t actually say you can’t make a reloading wish trap activated by pushing a button. Create food/water traps are infinite food and water with even a single one. Combined with other spells you can crash the economy of an entire world with a box the size of your head.

  31. RCN says:

    Create Food.

    Only one group had no problems with this spell. My father’s group. Because they were old-school D&D players. Food should’t be and wasn’t a problem for them.

    In other groups we usually assume the food is so bland the characters would really, really rather not have to resort to it.

    In one my character was a neutral good halfling transmuter with this obsession of finding a solution for world-hunger (well, realm hunger). Among other things, he was quite a gentleman, went by the title “Jaggerlëin, Halfling Extraordinaire” and was an accomplished cook. Whenever we stopped on town his first order of business was to take off and hand-pick ingredients to a feast in homage to the group reaching their destination, which most of the party (except the Lawful Evil fighter with 8 charisma) was really grateful for, finally not needing to survive on scavenge, hunt or, worse, create food.

    Then, after the feast, he’d go out for the scrolls, equipment and the “frivolous stuff” (as he put it).

    Oh, and he was a mage of the Arcane Order, and thus had a ring to call spell levels from once a day. He treated it very much like the Green Lantern’s Corp.

  32. Dimitris says:

    First of all I completely agree, secondly I have to admit that many of the “traditional” low level spells that D&D and Pathfinder are introducing are quite broken. I think that a Storyteller should be very careful which spells, level aside, are commonly known in his world or the game can become really skewed and a continuous effort to just find creative solutions to problems that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

    In my campaigns I have banned, or made rare, several spells and changed the level of others

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