I find myself running a game where an ongoing famine is a feature of the setting. I started back at the point of "hear tell food's running short around these parts" for the players, but things are going to get worse before they get
better even worse still after that.
And I'm having a hard time picturing what that looks like in game mechanics. So far I'm just playing inside the price range for rations - we started on the low end and I'm raising those up as time goes on. But that's entirely ad hoc, and I'd like to give some thought to how to really model it.
I can see one approach is to go ahead and apply the market price adjustment out of the trade goods section to retail prices for rations and meals. So a percentage adjustment to the equipment list prices. I don't think that's out of bounds; I imagine it's just not normally worth tracking a 10% fluctuation in the price of swords, but makes more sense here. So go ahead and generate that percentage? Is there any difference between wholesale and retail I'm missing if I use the same numbers as for arbitrage?
And then I don't have a feel for what kind of modifiers to apply for a famine. I see that the 1d3-1d3 roll plus environmental adjustments gets you a number in +/- 1 to 4 range, and the market roll of 4d4 plus mods gives a theoretical range of about 10% to 200% of market price. (Presumably the outliers are rare.) So far so good... But what's the demand modifier for food in a famine? Or what's the normal range for demand modifiers, and is there any outer bound intended?
Or from the other end, how high did prices go in historical famines compared to normal? I can just work back from the desired result if I know what it is. Some cursory googling gets me some instances of food price increases in the 100% to 200% range in modern Africa, but I'm not sure that's typical of pre-modern economies. I can picture it going higher still, but I don't know.
And separately, they've already tried selling boar meat; this hit as we were wrapping up a session, and I just assigned a price ad hoc rather than stopping to look up arbitrage. But given what I've already told them, and that food prices are going higher still after this, I can reasonably expect they may want to convert between loads of trade goods and butchered animals and days of rations. If they want to convert an ox into rations, or poach elephants to turn into meat comma preserved and sell in town, or buy a trade load of grain and a trade load of preserved meat at the port city and throw it into a wagon as party rations, what's the conversion rate there?
I see from googling that the weights for cows and pigs under livestock look very much like the dressed weight after butchering rather than the live weight of modern animals. That's handy. If I decline to drill down into the weight of barrels and moisture loss from drying, I can assume that 1.5 cows or 6-7 pigs yield 10 barrels/one load of meat. But there's no particular weight specified for rations or for meals, so here I have to start speculating.
I can guess that maybe 1 pound of meat equals either a meal or a day's rations, but I can't tell which. Not that I have personally ever sat down to a meal of one pound of hamburger, but split three ways and filled out with grains and vegetables I can imagine using that as a round number for one meal. Or for a day's rations? So this may belong in Ask the Autarchs, but I'll leave it here with the rest of the post.