Annoying Plant Feast

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
The Undying
Posts: 95
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:10 am

Re: Annoying Plant Feast

Postby The Undying » Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:14 pm

I think there's a pretty healthy amount of room for any GM that wants to shape the spell to meet their goals. However, on critical analysis, I don't see how Plat Feast specifically could be used for an industrial-style centralized food production and distribution capability.

Here's the tl;dr:

Appearance and Appeal is very much GM discretion, though it's likely a stretch to say that food has smell or radiant heat, making it far less appealing that non-magical food.

It takes ~1-2 hours to eat a five course meal. It takes 30-60 minutes to package meals for distribution at production point, same for breakdown at service point. We're at 2-4 hours for centralize production, transport time excluded, and 1-2 hours on-premise production. Duration is based on Spellcasting rank, which likely is only 3-6 with 6 being uncommon. Therefore, in the best case, centralized production needs to be within 1-2 hours transport of the service point.

Finally, this spell has a range. Other than preventing the magician from spawning food in space, this can also be interpreted as 'the magician needs to be within range for the duration of the spell.'


Now, here's the sausage making...

Here's the spell text:

Plant Feast
Threads: 3
Weaving: 7 / 12
Casting: 6
Range: 10 yards
Duration: Rank hours
Effect: WIL + 2
Wood. This spell converts any kind of plant material into a tasty feast. The spell requires three intact plants, no matter how scrawny.
The magician cuts or tears the plants into small pieces, then makes a Spellcasting (6) test. If successful, his Effect test determines the number of meals produced. Each meal has the following parts: appetizer, soup, salad, bread, entree, vegetable, and dessert. All of the meals are identical. Although they can appear to contain meat, none actually do. The meals are as nutritious and tasty as their real counterparts.
The spell only creates types of food that the magician has tasted within the last year and a day—a good reason for him to occasionally eat fine food to excess. Uneaten meals vanish when the spell ends.
Success Levels: Increase Effect (+2 Effect Step)
Extra Threads: Increase Duration (+2 hours), Increase Effect (+2 Effect Step)


Based on this, here are some of the critical pieces:

- Appearance: Very much GM discretion. The only things we have to go on are that it definitely starts as plant matter and "Although they can appear to contain meat, none actually do." I think that reading this statement to say the meal is a faithful reproduction of the original is over-reading. You can make a hamburger out of play dough (indeed, they have 'fun factories' for this) and it APPEARS to have meat, in the same way that an artisan-crafted tofu burger APPEARS to have meat, in the same way that a photo/video APPEARS to show something (e.g., we hear newscasters say things like this all the time: "it appears in this video that the man is stealing the hamburger"). All that is happening here is someone drawing an assumption from appearance and context - it does not imply more beyond that, specifically speaking.

- Appeal: This one's more iffy, but can't really fault a GM for expanding it. The only text we have is "The meals are as nutritious and tasty as their real counterparts." Since we are talking magic here, all logic goes out the window. It's entirely within reason that you could put this into your mouth, and despite being at room temperature, composed entirely of plant matter, and either stinking of a freshly mowed lawn or otherwise having no scent, it SUDDENLY has all of this as soon as it hits your tongue because these are all important elements of flavor. However, the only thing expressly noted is FLAVOR - the spell doesn't say that the food has the same aroma, the same temperature, or the same texture/consistency as the original food. IMHO, it's not fair to say "well, it TASTES like it's hot and oozing with juices and fragant, therefore it is also all these things even when not in your mouth" - we are talking magic, and the more you warp the magical word to force real-world logic onto it, the more you rob the magic of its magic-ness.

- Volume: Regardless of whether one thinks that an Adept, or someone with Adept-like powers, would spend their time mass producing food for profit, I think we can all agree that MINIMALLY, no one with a high Legendary status would be doing this. So, let's limit this to say RANK 6 in Threadweaving and Spellcasting, average STEP 6 in Perception and Will. We'll ignore extra threads since the idea of Adept-like people show up, and non-Adepts shouldn't receive Discipline-based extra thread powers. Step 12 Threadweaving over 3 threads means it'd take an average of three turns to cast (2 Threadweaving, followed by 1 Spellcasting). That leaves us with Step 12 on a Difficulty 6 roll, resulting in 1 extra success, meaning WIL+4 effect, resulting in an average of 10 meals produced. IIRC, we now have 10 second rounds, resulting in 2 casts per minute. So, in theory, this person could feed 100 people after five minutes of continuous (and I *DO* mean continuous) effort. Even if we assume they need a break equal to the amount of time spent whipping all this up, meaming 30 minutes casting and thirty minutes during an hour, we're talking 600 meals an hour. This is MORE than enough for a town and a small village. A single person MIGHT be able to support a large village (3 meals a day), but this is now what they do full time. For a city, you'd have multiple people working full time around the clock. This is straight numbers, so no real wiggle room for GMs, and this is assuming some pretty well powered Adepts or Adept-like people, who mathmatically should be in low supply (we're now talking in the hundreds from my early numbers).

- Distribution: Honestly, of all the things, I'd say this is the biggest problem with the idea of using Plant Feast for mass/centralized food production. The spell creates ready-to-consume food, meaning it is individually portioned and served food. Centralized food distribution relies heavily on bulk packaging, which we have completely lost. If the food is made off-premise, then it all must be carefully packaged into portable dishes, which take up much more space then bulk packages, and then carefully unpacked at the service point. Since no one is going to be moving individual meals, that means you have packaged food sitting around while the rest of the food is packaged for transport. I think it's fair to say this takes AT LEAST five minutes per meal, since you're not just throwing it into a box and hoping it comes out on the far side. Assuming you're shipping 12 meals at a time, which is pretty slow, you've lost an hour in preparation for transit and then an hour upon reception.

- Duration: As above, we have people with RANK 6 Spellcasting. That means that the point of production, plus distribution, plus service, plus consumption must all be within 6 hours. And, again, this is with mid-Journeyman powered Adepts, which is no slouch, and is much more likely to be 2-4 hours, based on 'Adept-like' people performing the service. A five course meal takes a good hour to consume, up to two if you're talking business/pleasure while doing it, and I can guarantee it'd be bad for business if the food someone bought disappears while they're eating it (which will happen, per the spell). So, we are now at 4 hours from production to service with the strong contenders, 0-2 hours for what is more likely. At this point, the idea of production from anywhere other than within the village/city is out of the question, it just isn't feasible from a time perspective. Worse, even centralized, off-premise production is basically out of the question as a further ~2 hours is lost in setup and teardown of distribution. Again, this is straight numbers, no real wiggle room for GMs.

- Range: Of all the things that say to me "Plant Feast is made for on-premise use", this is it. The spell has a RANGE of 10 yards. Other than keeping the magician from spawning food miles away, why does this spell even need a range? My argument would be that the magician needs to stay relatively close to the food (i.e., within 10 yards).

The Undying
Posts: 95
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:10 am

Re: Annoying Plant Feast

Postby The Undying » Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:54 pm

I completely forgot about the material component of the spell!

The spell requires three plants that are destroyed as part of the spell ('converts' plant matter, and magician 'rips up' the plants). It's not really fair to say "oh, a big plant can count for three or be reused" - the spell is throwing adventurers a bone by saying that it doesn't matter how scraggly a plant is, so try to say big things count for more should only support the counter argument where little things count for less.

Our Plant Feast factory feeding 1000 people a day must create 3000 meals per day. At 10 meals per cast, that's 300 casts, requiring NINE HUNDRED plants. PER DAY. That seems impossible to me within an urban mass (i.e., city), and the city/village would have to be relatively small for this type of vegetation to be renewably available within a ~1 hour wagon ride from the service point (if we're producing it outside the city).

Our other Elementalist are of limited help here. Thrive is basically instantaneous and can only be done once per week per area. Nutritious Earth allows plants to grow at double the speed, but it would still takes a day or two for a see to germinate, and if we're using freshly germinated seeds here, I think we're really, really warping the spirit of the spell.

I suppose multiple large caravans every day could be shipping seedlings into the city to this bizarre factory building where massive amounts of food comes out, but I really don't think that'd go unnoticed. And since we're now even further out from the city for production otherwise, we've broken our spell duration.

I think this really puts a pin in the idea of Plant Feast for industrial urban use.

ChrisDDickey
Posts: 55
Joined: Thu Jun 04, 2015 6:44 am

Re: Annoying Plant Feast

Postby ChrisDDickey » Thu Aug 25, 2016 2:15 am

One thing that has not been mentioned yet is Astral Clouding. This could turn out to be a huge problem for any large scale long term centralized spellcasting operation in any but a totally clear area.

As the spellcaster casts the spell, his matrix filters out the astral corruption, which stays in astral space. Anybody who casts hundreds of spells a day at the same place is going to find the astral space of the area where they cast all these spells quickly gunking up.

Adventurers can chain cast all their protective spells many times per day, but they are usually on the move when they do so. Anybody trying to sit still and cast hundreds of spells per day are within days or weeks going to find themselves in a tainted, or eventually corrupt area.

The Undying
Posts: 95
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:10 am

Re: Annoying Plant Feast

Postby The Undying » Thu Aug 25, 2016 6:42 am

I don't think Astral Clouding is a thing in ED4, much like I don't think there are plans to reintroduce Depatterning. Could be wrong though.

Still, whether Clouding is still a thing, it's a good point - with that amount activity, even with spell matrices, I imagine it would attract a good amount of attention in astral space, perking the interest of the many entities that can see or travel there. Plus, as I think someone mentioned earlier, if someone/something wants to make a major splash with minimal effort, then tainting/corrupting the people manufacturing the food would be HUGE.

Slimcreeper
Posts: 394
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:18 pm

Re: Annoying Plant Feast

Postby Slimcreeper » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:15 am

- Appearance: Very much GM discretion. The only things we have to go on are that it definitely starts as plant matter and "Although they can appear to contain meat, none actually do." I think that reading this statement to say the meal is a faithful reproduction of the original is over-reading. You can make a hamburger out of play dough (indeed, they have 'fun factories' for this) and it APPEARS to have meat, in the same way that an artisan-crafted tofu burger APPEARS to have meat, in the same way that a photo/video APPEARS to show something (e.g., we hear newscasters say things like this all the time: "it appears in this video that the man is stealing the hamburger"). All that is happening here is someone drawing an assumption from appearance and context - it does not imply more beyond that, specifically speaking.


This by Undying is all you need to prevent large-scale abuse - or even PC parties feeding themselves exclusively off this.

The Undying
Posts: 95
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:10 am

Re: Annoying Plant Feast

Postby The Undying » Sat Aug 27, 2016 7:44 pm

I don't think parties feeding themselves exclusively with Plant Feast is out of bounds. The spell explicitly states that it is as nutritious as the original, so even if the juicy ground beef as been replaced by mildly repulsive brown twigs and berries, it still gives you all the macro and micro nutrients you'd find in the beef.

Here are the ways adventurers can feed themselves when they're in the wild:
- Wilderness Survival (risky, but doable)
- Rations (food brick)
- Plant Feast

Rations are the true food brick - unappealing in most every way, but completely capable of sustaining an adventurer. Plant Feast, meanwhile, tastes incredible once you get past the appearance, and is also completely capable of sustaining an adventurer.

As someone said early, relying solely on Plant Feast can be risky. The Elementalists could fall ill or be captured, and there may be no plants (very likely if you're subterranean or high in the mountains). Any adventurer should really carry a few days, maybe a week, of rations, just to be on the safe side. Also, IIRC, Wilderness Survival is a default skill ... but that's gonna peter out quickly in anything but very forgiving terrain.


Return to “For Game Masters”



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest