A group of people get trapped in an unknown construction. Uninhabited. Nobody takes care of the place. There are no living creatures around.

They were prepared to go inside and spend some time there, but not on long term. They have some equipment - sleeping bags, some food, some water. But they were prepared to go in for a couple of days maximum, and they definitely weren't prepared for such a long journey.

They cannot find the exit for three weeks.

Desciption of the place: This is a construction by an alien sentient race that does not know humans. It's a vast closed place with no exit and no food lying around. They get lost and spend about three weeks time wandering.

It's a alien projection of what a human lodging might look like. It includes artificial and natural elements, as a mish-mash of wooden corridors, cave tunnels, and passages that don't resemble much here on Earth.

There is magic in this particular construction. The world around isn't exactly magical (at least not the type of magic humans can use), so the characters are unfamiliar with the setting, but in the construction weird things can definitely happen. This is how they can't find an exit for three weeks: the corridors keep changing and making wormholes, so it's impossible for them to trace back.

The reason why there is no food lying around is because it is not built for humans. Instead, the aliens built a model, sort of a decoration, so they wouldn't put human food in there on purpose. Even if they wanted to, the aliens don't have a concept of what a human needs to survive. It is meant to imitate the elements you could find around humans (such as structures of buildings and natural structures), but there wouldn't be details you find in humans' daily lives.

There could be sparse water sources or other ways for the humans to get water, for example: open roofs, ponds, magic streams, etc...

Outside the construct, there isn't anything extraordinary. It's standing on a grass plain not far from a large city.

Rules:

  1. Whatever is inside the castle might not make sense to the humans, even though they would be able to describe it. For example, a brick corridor might lead into an underground tunnel that leads back to the same corridor. It's not typical for human architecture, but it's possible to imagine and retell.

  2. Space is weird. You cannot retrace your steps, because whatever is behind you changes.

  3. The basic architecture is passages and halls and rooms and open spaces, but all the places are mostly bare. No decoration inside, no objects.

  4. Basic setting elements would include: wood, brick, ground, rock, glass, water. they can be arranged in a number of ways to make it seem like the passages change, even though in the end the journey does become monotone.

  5. Other than that, modifications might apply.

Question: Given that there is no evident source of food, what element could be found in such a place that would either nourish a group of humans, or give them an alternative source of energy?

(So as not to make the question too broad, assume that water is not an issue).

closed as primarily opinion-based by John, bilbo_pingouin, Green, James Dec 10 at 6:32

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – James Dec 10 at 6:30
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    This question is still the same. "Given that there is nothing to eat, how will they eat? Short of making up things for you without details this is opinion based. I would also note that the edit to the question invalidated existing answers which we do not recommend. – James Dec 10 at 6:33

The main issue for them will be water. According to this website, you can live for weeks, even months, without food (as those on hunger strikes do), as long as you have access to water. The effects of dehydration are serious and fatal, and far faster than starvation - a matter of days (though it depends on various factors such as age, height, weight, sex, etc. as to exactly how long you’ll last).

If your castle is abandoned, perhaps derelict, they may be able to find an open roof - too high for them to climb out of, but with access to the sky for them to collect rainwater, for example.

I’d advise your explorers to make finding water a priority, and once they’ve sourced that, staying as inactive as possible to conserve energy, until the castle lets them out again.

  • Thanks, this is a good point. I suppose that since it's a magic castle, there might be something like never-drying fountains or another permanent source of water. That's easier though because it's a natural element, there can't be anything more substantial around. – L.R. Dec 8 at 22:37
  • live and hike around a city for weeks are different things. – John Dec 9 at 12:45
  • 3 weeks sedentary, yes, they can survive. Three weeks walking around is quite another matter. Looking over my Fitbit data I find hiking I use ~150-250 calories per mile (depending on how much up and down there is), my longest hikes more than double my calories for the day. 3 weeks of that and I would be at a lethal body weight (not that I think I would have the strength to actually do that.) – Loren Pechtel Dec 10 at 3:36

As K. Price said, water is the most pressing issue.

Once you've got a source of drinkable water figured out, you can dolve the food problem through cannibalism. According to XKCD What If no. 105:

If the average human weighs 50 kilograms and eats a couple thousand calories per day, then—according to Ryan North—then one person contains enough meat to feed another person for about a month.

So if half the team eats the other half, you've got some 30 days of provisions.

How much they can last in this scenario depends on the size of the team. A group of $2^n$ people will last $n$ months, i.e.: 16 people will last 4 months, with the last cannibal running out of food at the end of the fourth month.

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    Wow, that's pretty dark... Would solve the problem, yes, but that wasn't the tone I was setting for the story... Though I guess they could have a trained dog with them or messenger birds. – L.R. Dec 8 at 22:50
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    The maths may be a bit wonky: how do you account for recalcitrance of potential prey? What if the group breaks up or demands that the proposer of this solution go first? Realistically, would anyone really want to chow down on a 21 day old corpse? Don't forget to take into account the likelihood of survivors dying from eating contaminated meat. – elemtilas Dec 8 at 22:56
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    Of all the answers, this one is the only one I see that holds to the spirit of the question. If the area specifically lacks foods, and that's all we know about it, then the best answer is "you brought quite a lot more food along with you than you first thought." – Cort Ammon Dec 9 at 17:25
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    I think it holds the letter rather than the spirit of the question. For there to be literally no living creatures around makes no sense. Even in the harshest desert there is food sufficient. I read "no evident source of food" to mean no food ordinarily fit for human consumption as expected by ordinary modern Westerners who are likely to carry backpacks, sleeping bags, canteens, etc. Yes, cannibalism answers the question, but that is the uttermostly desperate of last resorts. I'd eat a rat or a snake before I eat you. And sure as he11 would not let you eat me! – elemtilas Dec 9 at 19:05
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    @elemtilas I'll eat you before I eat a rat. You seem cleaner and fleshier. – Renan Dec 9 at 19:13

According to the Rule of 3s, you can survive

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours in extreme heat/cold
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

None of which will be very pleasant.

The main problem your explorers will have is water. With rationing (assuming they realise they're locked in within a day), they can eke out their food so they don't feel starving. If there is water dripping through the castle's roof, then they should be able to catch it in their canteens. If they have pan or other containers with a larger surface area, then this is easier.

Assuming this castle isn't located in the Atacama Desert, water shouldn't be too hard to find. An old abandonned castle will certainly have wells at least and possibly cisterns with water. Lower levels may be infiltrated by ground water. Catching rain water may also be a viable option.

Food will be much more difficult. The kitchens will be bare and any food left behind will have long ago been eaten by rats, eaten by bugs or rotted away. That said, castles often had gardens. Your adventurers might be able to find some fruit trees or vines (if the season is right), or perhaps some wild onions or other edible herbs growing wild. Not a lot, perhaps, but in conjunction with any rats they're able to trap, will go a long way towards making the little critters more palatable!

Be on the lookout especially for leeks and carrots and onions and big juicy rats.

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Your adventurers set out with a generous rainy day fund.

obese ninjas https://tapirullanza.com/tag/the-morbidly-obese-ninja/

https://www.quora.com/How-long-would-it-take-an-obese-person-to-die-of-hunger

Back in June of 1965, a Scotsman weighing 207 kilograms, described as "grossly obese" and hereafter known only as Mr A B, turned up at the Department of Medicine at the Royal Infirmary in Dundee.

He was sick of being fat and wanted to lose weight by eating nothing and living off his body fat. He told the hospital staff he was going to fast flat out, whatever they said, so they may as well monitor him along the way.

He ended up fasting for one year and 17 days — that's right, he ate no food at all for over a year. He lived entirely off his copious body fat, in the end losing about 125 kilograms of weight.

So too your explorers. These are not buff, lithe athletes with 6-pack abs. These are individuals who have accumulated considerable caloric reserves, and wind up grateful that is the case. A pound of fat has 3500 calories in it, easily enough to fuel a day of moderate activity. 3 weeks is just 21 pounds and each one of this crew has a lot more than 21 pounds extra. They complain loudly along the way, but are in no risk of starving to death over the course of just 3 weeks.

Water is the main issue, they need some source of it, be it rain filtering in through the ceiling or a well or they are done. They can't last more than a week normally. Could they dig a hole in the ground without upseting the condition of emprisonement? They would get exhausted in the process but to find a layer of water would be their last possibility.

Food: it depends on what kind of ecosystem you have down there. Plants without sun are out of the question but you can have fungus. Is there some secret hideout of food for rats to be around? What about soil? If you have worms, you could have some insects like ground beetles, along with centipedes and flatworms. All of these have a lot of protein but they will lack of carbohydrates so they will eat up their muscle very quick. I don't take in account the risk of poisoning.

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If the very land is magical somehow I prefer that the castle actually take care of them sometimes. They wander into a store-room and there is food but then the magic re-arranges the room and forces them out.

I'm not sure that 'exploration' exactly applies to a place that does not remain stable, that there is no reliable way to backtrack but if you don't want (most) of the setting itself to be dangerous a lot can be done with this.

And even better if they are from someplace without magic watching a wall morph into a hallway tells them something weird is going on.

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