Food in Baldur’s Gate 3 is an interesting case study on how we apply realism to video games. On the one hand, we see a believable variance when looting food – different sorts of serving dishes and cutlery, while kitchens house hearty broths but dungeons have only rotten vegetables. We can loot the core ingredients of meals, fully prepared courses, or bottles of alcohol to wash it all down with. On the other, we chuck all this food into one big, invisible bag that we carry with us at all times, one which also has the space for six axes, four shields, my old shoes, and some bloodstained armour. I’d never given the whole thing much thought, until I watched my wife play Baldur’s Gate 3.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about the whole ‘encumbered’ thing in Baldur’s Gate 3. I understand why the game wants to stop me from carrying absolutely everything I’ve ever discovered with me, but the limit seems arbitrary. Passing things off to Lae’zel and Karlach lightens the load, while you can always send things back to your camp. This however can make outfitting companions not currently in your party with gear, or selling off surplus, a longer affair than it needs to be. But it’s an easy to understand system that means you’re never weighed down for more than a second or need to stop your adventuring to organise your stuff, so I can’t have too many complaints.
Like I say, I hadn’t thought about it much. On the rare occasions I did, it was about which weapon loadout worked best for each character. Food was all just food. One big mush of stuff that I needed to make add up to 40 every time I had a long rest – which, I learned too late, I should have been doing far more often. The only time I stopped to consider exactly what I was fuelling my long rests with was in my hard and eventually successful search for an alcohol-only rest. Aside from that, I make a point of never wasting a morsel on a 41/40 rest, but I often get around that by using a generic supply pack and thinking no more of it.
My wife, however, has unlocked the storytelling potential in these rations. She has only just started Baldur’s Gate and is relatively inexperienced at video games, so I’m directing her a little bit. As she goes into her first long rest, I tell her to click on the food items to fill the bar up to 40. She has a couple of supply packs, but for the first time I want her to get used to seeing how it works rather than taking the shortcut. How I do this is click the first few until one of them takes me over 40, then unclick it and find something with the right amount of supplies to replace it. This is not how my wife did it.
Instead, she read each description carefully. She had some fish and some vegetables, but then took the fish off because she wanted to add steak and it “wouldn’t go”. Coffee was selected, then abandoned again, as it was not a fitting drink to serve with her culinary preparations. A full-bodied wine went far better. This was then all thrown out entirely when she discovered she had bowls of stew, but when she only had three, she needed to find another entree otherwise “someone would be left out”. I explained that technically, everyone was resting, so she’d need five dishes to do it that way, but she told me she doesn’t like Astarion, which apparently means leaving him to starve. She’s yet to discover that Astarion has… other tastes, but when she does, her fate will be deserved.
The supply part of long rests has always been perfunctory for me, especially as resources are so freely available that conserving them is pointless. I’d tried to come up with a narrative justification for how I can carry so much stuff, and send it so easily to camp, but have always come up short. But the food being used for a storytelling purpose had never crossed my mind. Now, every time I take a long rest, I make sure I’m not serving red wine with fish.
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