Finding food on the run


I'm DMing for a D&D campaign where the PCs are currently on the run from a large group of Dragonborn. The pursuit was unexpected by the party, so they were forced to leave the settled areas without prepared rations or mounts.

Everyone is currently having a lot of fun with the running, which is interspersed with small combat sessions, and based mainly around stealth and speed. The problem is, the PCs are going to run out of food in about two days. There aren't any villages or settlements located nearby either.

Since the PCs are currently headed towards the next key part of the campaign, and were tipped off previously about that area being the next place to go by a quest NPC, I think the campaign is progressing at a great speed. However, it's going to take at least five days to get to the area running full speed eight hours a day.

I don't like the idea of having the players deal with continuous exhaustion or cutting down on rations – I want the current game progress to continue in this way, especially because it's going well and interestingly. I'm thinking about letting the players hunt food for themselves (they are currently located in a sparsely wooded region of hills, so there are rabbits and birds) but I'm not sure how this would balance with the pursuit.

How would the PCs be able to find food while on the run like this?

For clarification, the Dragonborn pursuers are not immediately behind, they are perhaps a day's trek behind. They are close enough so that the players have to keep moving 6-8 hours a day (and cannot double back to the village), but far enough that the players can have 1-2 hours of downtime and a long rest every evening, with opportunities for roleplay.

Best Answer

Depends on the marching speed

First of all, Foraging depends on a successful Survival check.

But there are three traveling speeds for overland movement; slow, normal and fast. Traveling fast prevents any foraging.

At a slower rate the Players Handbook (p. 183) states:

Forage. The character can keep an eye out for ready sources of food and water, making a Wisdom (Survival) check when the DM calls for it.

But note that:

Characters who turn their attention to other tasks as the group travels are not focused on watching for danger. These characters don't contribute their passive Wisdom (Perception) scores to the group's chance of noticing hidden threats.

In the Dungeon Masters Handbook (p.111) the DC for a successful Survival check is listed, depending on the general availability of food and water in that specific area: 'Abundant food and water sources': 10, to 'Very little, if any, food and water sources': 20.

Also, the result of a successful foraging, that is, how many gallons of water and pounds of food are collected: 1d6 + WIS for food and water each. For reference, there's also a table on how much food and water is needed for different character sizes per day (double water if weather is hot). For a medium-sized character it is 1 pound and 1 gallon.

Although it's not stated explicitly, I think that the amount of food and water that can be collected is meant to be collected during the whole day while marching. That is, if the party goes slower for only an hour in order to be able to forage, the collected amount would be 1/8 of the values rolled.