Hunting game (food) in table top gaming

Does anyone know of any good resources on the interface of weapons, hunting and culture over the ages? And how that might be reflected in table top gaming?

A few observations and questions occurred to me:

Weapons of war are not necessarily effective at hunting. The classic Roman Legionnaire likely needs someone to feed him, although a Mongol horse archer can likely feed himself.

Obviously, culture plays a role. As sources of food become reliable, hunting becomes the province of nobles and specialists. However, a noble who might be proficient at safely slaying game, might not be able to track or prepare the game without his entourage, animals, etc.

At what point do firearms become a weapon of choice for hunting? Perhaps as late as rifled, later-design (reliable) flintlocks? I’m thinking a Spanish Conquistador likely needs someone to feed him as well.

While writing this post, I thought to peruse the 1E Wilderness Survival Guide. A great book for the time, but not much on hunting. Interestingly “The only characters who can hunt successfully are those who are carrying (and have proficiency in the use of) missile weapons with the capability of causing an average of 3 points of damage …”

I think a certain amount of hunting occurred with (held) spears, and I’ve seen references to ancient use of lassos and nets.

Hmm, you might try Carlton Coon’s The Hunting Peoples. But I’m not sure if you are really asking the right question to get at what you want to know.

Firstly, “hunting” with weapons is only one way to put meat on the table. Most traditional peoples rely quite a bit on trapping and fishing. Often, all three activities, along with foraging, are taking place at the same time.
It will entirely depend on location and season, but trapping may well provide the most reliable source of meat, although drive hunts are a favored technique from prehistory to the present. The lone hunter has a much harder time of it, usually.

Weapon technology doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Most kills in most places will take place within 30 yards - well within the range of almost any projectile weapon of any era. Where guns can make a real difference is big game. It is much safer to shoot a polar bear with a magnum round than an arrow.

On this topic, one question I’ve been wrestling with is what the distribution of wild animals is in any sort of ancient or medieval society.

For instance…

  • How many lions per 30 square miles of savannah?

  • How many elephants, wildebeestes, and gazelles in the same 30 square miles?

  • How many jackals and vultures in the same 30 square miles?

  • How many wolves in an English forest?

  • How many bears in a German mountain range?

Hard pressed to find data like this. Modern data seems totally compromised by the influence of civilization and settlement.

It’d be a little weird but if there’s data on how much vegetation the herbivores need to eat per time period, and data on how much herbivore the carnivores need to eat, you could at least get a general idea of the calories available in any given hex, perhaps.

I’d imagine the only thing left for mostly natural herd sizes would perhaps be English reports out of Africa as they harrumphed through that continent; the same would be said for west-bound settlers in America?

Thank you for your comments.

The catalyst for my questions was the realization that in RPGs we track torches, 10’ poles and rations, but when the rations run out, a simple die roll produces more rations with very little requirements or limitations. (ACKS, in concise fashion, actually seems to have more structure to foraging and hunting than many RPGs.)

An individual might survive with only a knife and fishing line, but feeding larger numbers likely requires more preparation. In many campaigns, a nod to realism with descriptions, costs and weights for a “hunter’s kit”, a “trapper’s kit” and a “field kitchen” may suffice. In a post-apocalyptic or other survival-oriented campaign, lack of forage or game might be an effective cap on the size of adventuring parties/expeditions. Or expeditions must be very well planned or risk starvation.

Unscrupulous adventurers might repeat the sins of historical soldiers of the past, raiding and killing just for food. But if a die roll produces food, they may never face the choice of taking someone else’s food or going to battle hungry.

In a world where grocery store shelves are filled with food, it’s easy to forget that earlier societies invested tremendous effort ensuring they had enough food. (Similarly, I once heard that most wild animals are one meal away from starvation.)