Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Dire Chicken

A while back (May 27th, to be precise), Chgowiz posted on his Old Guy RPG Blog an essay about economics in a D&D campaign. Quoting the relevant bits:
The name of the game for human civilization in the current time of my Dark Ages game is survival. Civilization is sliding backwards thanks to a cataclysmic event. Food is the "driver" of the current economy, moreso than property. In better times, property and goods were more of a basis, but it was related to food. Now food is king. People want to eat and the economy drives on the unit of food - how much someone eats per day.

What you're about to read below will probably make you wince. It's not an accurate simulation by any means. I used my cost for a chicken (10sp) as a starting point. Why? Because it "felt" right to me. I'm not much of a simulationist, but I am trying to be somewhat reasonable in my thoughts - and I needed a starting point.

I've calculated that it costs roughly 3sp a day to eat a portion of meat, bread and beer/water to have a decent living. This does represent a change to what I had originally just "winged" as a cost of living. How did I get there?

Let's take a chicken and a cow. On "just pulling numbers from books and whatnot", a chicken costs 10sp in Enonia, and a cow costs 20gp. I think that came from the 1EPHB, or perhaps OSRIC.

This means a chicken, which can feed 10 people (8oz meat per person, 80 ozs, 80/16oz in a lb is 5 lbs which is a reasonable weight of a chicken) costs 1sp/day/person. A cow, which can feed 820 portions from a 1,000 lb cow at 42% usage (rough estimates), would cost about 82gp on the basis of meat alone. A cow and chicken have the ability of reproducing and bringing more animals and therefore increased profits, so they should cost more. This is all "napkin math" to get us to a certain point. I like the feel of a chicken feeding 10 people a day, so I feel good about the 1sp a day for meat.

Then someone else said in the comments:
Not sure if this feedback will be helpful or not...

But your meat yields are off.

An average chicken is about 4lbs, with about 2.5 - 3.0 lbs of usable meat per.

An average cow will give you about a 65% yield of meat ... maybe as high as 75% if you take a liberal view of "edible".

I know this is extremely retentive, but I figured since you were going to all that trouble anyway...

And then I weighed in on the subject in my typically helpful manner:
Maybe they're Dire Chickens?

Okay, I originally meant that as a joke, but why not? If there are dire versions of other animals around, including herbivores (I know I've seen a Dire Caribou in one of the books) then why *not* a Dire Chicken?

On the upside, it would feed more people, do better in harsh environments, produce larger eggs and could actually defend itself against thieves and/or predators.

On the downside, you'd need a much sturdier coop; getting eggs would be a potentially life-threatening experience (which is why you have level 2+ peasants running around); they'd eat more than regular chickens; and beware the randiness of the Dire Rooster...

And now, months later (mostly because I only just now remembered it) I am proud to present to you the stats for....

Chicken, Dire

Small Animal (Dire)
Hit Dice: 2d8 +2 (10 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft. (clumsy)
Armor Class: 17 (+3 dex,+3 natural, +1 size), touch 14, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/-1
Attacks: Flurry +5 melee (1d4 +1)
Special Attacks: Crow, pounce
Special Qualities: Ferocity, limited flight
Face/Reach: 1 ft./1 ft.
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +1
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 16, Con 12, Wis 12, Int 2, Cha 12
Skills: Balance +9, Bluff +3, Escape Artist +7, Hide +9, Intimidate +3, Listen +3, Spot +5, Survival +7
Feats: Weapon Finesse (a Dire Chicken gains a feat every 3 HD)
Climate/Terrain: Any temperate or warm land
Organization: Solitary, 2-4 Clutch, 5-20 Flock
Challenge Rating: 2
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always Neutral
Advancement: 3-6 HD (Small)
Level Adjustment: --

It's unclear if the dire chicken is an atavistic throwback to a fiercer, more primordial breed, or merely the product of a sufficiently mad wizard. However, one thing remains indisputable: pound for pound, the dire chicken is hardier, more adaptable, and can feed more people than any other kind of domesticated poultry. Their eggs are large and healthy, and only the most foolish of foxes will raid a dire henhouse more than once (assuming they survive a first time.) Just be careful not to lose an eye when you go to collect -- dire chickens have been known to kill their handlers.

(In fact, dire chickens nicely explain the existence of peasants of level 2 and up. Suddenly, the grizzled old farmer at the edge of town is now the scariest dude around.)

Dire chickens are bluffers, pretending to peck the ground and search for food, sometimes even walking off, before suddenly flying into the air to strike an opponent with a Flurry of beaks, claws and spurs. They spread their wings to intimidate and appear larger.

Ferocity (Ex): A dire chicken is such a tenacious combatant that it continues to fight without penalty even while disabled or dying.

Crow (Ex): As a full-round action, a dire chicken can utter a piercing crow that will awaken those that slumber naturally within 200 feet and can be heard for at least two miles.

Limited Flight (Ex): A dire chicken can fly, albeit poorly and for short distances. It can use its flight ability to prevent taking falling damage or to fly upwards up to 30 feet. The dire chicken must always land at the end of each round of flight.

Pounce (Ex): When a dire chicken charges, it can follow with a full attack, including a spur attack (+5 melee, 1d3 damage).

Dire chickens have a +2 racial bonus on intimidate and bluff checks, a +4 bonus to balance, escape artist, hide and spot checks, and a +6 bonus to survival checks. While in tall undergrowth this hide bonus increases to +6.

(Base stats for the chicken derived from Vorpal Tribble's stats for a gamecock, which is essentially a rooster bred for fighting, and "improved" using the Dire Template from Necromancer Games' Tome of Horrors. The section on skills and combat qualities is entirely the work of Vorpal Tribble. Basically, 90% of the work here belongs to other people, I just had the crazy idea and adapted it.)


  1. My dear, I believe there is something wrong with you.

  2. Nothing makes my morning like reading "your meat yields are off".


  3. Now from this template, can we extrapolate the level and skill of Brave brave Sir Robin, given that he almost defeated the vicious chicken of Bristol? I mean, it must clearly have been a Dire Chicken?


  4. It's no dumber than the rothe. For some reason the answers to "what do various races eat in D&D" is always "weird mutated beasts, but they really like elves." A better chicken,that's what any game world needs!

  5. @Nathan: You're just NOW figuring this out? :P

    @Bunny: Should be pretty easy. Since the Dire Chicken of Bristol had an epithet (Vicious) we can logically assume that it was at least 3 HD and therefore had an additional Feat which made it so vicious... let's say Flyby Attack, just for giggles. This ups its Challenge Rating to 3, meaning that it is a suitable challenge for a party of four 3rd level PCs.

    However, I must take exception with your assessment about Sir Robin's ability, as research indicates that he merely "almost STOOD to the vicious chicken of Bristol," i.e. he failed his Will save vs wetting himself. Therefore he was probably only 1st level.

  6. "Sufficiently mad wizard" sounds like a lead-in to a variation on Clarke's Third Law.

    And, in the face of this I told the player of a halfling PC raised by the clans of Atruaghin that his bolas had taken down a giant rabbit. He's got a good pelt out of it too.

  7. Which brings us logically to the next question.
    Extrapolating an upper limit for the entire team of grail knights in Monty python and the holy grail given that they were defeated by a vicious dire rabbit with leap attack. Thus they had to resort to using a divine artifact, or maybe the equivalent of a high-level potion of flamestrike (or maybe very high-level holy word or something).

    3rd edition DnD nerdery of the highest degree? Yes, but all the more reason! Clearly it is a question that needs to be answered!

  8. HAHA! I made a shade barbarian and he has an animal companion: Shuggoth the dire chicken. thank you for making the stats so i wouldnt have to.


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