There’s been some talk of “going native”, so I’ve been thinking: If you’re living off Survival (Dungeon), what kind of fare should you expect? The flip side of this question, of course, is, what are all the creatures in the dungeon eating?
At the bottom of the food chain, we find slime and fungus. Subterranean fungus grows on wood, refuse, corpses, or anything organic. In a DF world, some fungus, like the Crushroom, can walk around under its own power, while other fungus sheds light through bio-luminescence. It’s not too much of a stretch to expect a fair amount of edible fungus. It’s also not too much of a stretch to inflict toxic damage and/or Hallucinations if a character without Survival tries to sample them.
The subterranean world of DF isn’t devoid of plants, either. They just can’t get their energy from sunlight. Carnivorous plants do just fine for themselves. Some exotic plants might draw sustenance from geothermal heat, like hot springs or lava flows.
Next, there’s all the vermin and little creatures that don’t even get stats. We’re talking about normal insects, non-poisonous spiders, centipedes, mice, bats, rats, and such-like. In areas with water, one might find cave fish. The dwarves that built the ruins used to keep guinea pigs for their meat. The cave goat is not only domesticated, but is also found roaming the caves around Tembladera, wild.
Finally, you’ll find more exotic sources of nutrition, like the “cave calamari” of the title: fried darkmantle. Many nuisance wandering monsters can provide a meal after they’re dealt with. Giant rats are just as edible as their mundane relatives. Some of the more pragmatic species of underground dweller count goblin as a staple meat. According to the sidebar on page 24 of DF15: Henchmen, it takes a Recipe perk to dress out and prepare monsters as a meal. I imagine it’s a pretty popular perk, deep in the underground world.
In the real world, cold-blooded creatures with low metabolisms can live for astonishing amounts of time on little food. Some snakes can go months between meals. The same would apply to many of the “disguised trapper” monsters, like the mimic, the cloaker, the piercer, and the various oozes and jellies: anything that sits and waits for food to walk up to it can’t be burning that many calories, and ought to be set up for a long wait.
Sentient inhabitants of the dungeon might forage outside, at least where there’s easy access to the surface world. The goblin tribe formerly ruled by Ghorbash practiced a mix of rat-herding and night-hunting, as well as going on raids against traders’ boats. They supplemented their subterranean food sources with mountain goat jerky, gathered herbs, and stolen foodstuffs. Delving adventurers bring their own surface food into the underground world, as well.
Overall, I would say that the dungeon is probably on the leaner side, as far as foraging opportunities go, but I still wouldn’t rate it as bad as a desert. Nearly, though. Using the system from GURPS Low-Tech Companion 3: Daily Life and Economics, pages 4-5, I would say that most dungeons tend to be Poor foraging territory, with rare areas of Very Poor or Desolate territory, and even rarer areas with higher ratings. Any area rating Good or better would likely be treated as a oasis, either a neutral place to be shared by many or a resources to be hotly contested.