RECON: Chow Time Rules

One recurring theme in war movies – especially those set during the Vietnam War – is a soldier’s relationship with food. Whether it’s complaining about “ham and motherfuckers” (a.k.a. lima beans) or trading candy bars with the local hamlet kids, food was a big part of the daily lives – and the attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy – for soldiers far from home.

The following are the optional, homebrew rules I came up with for RECON to add a little more realism and depth to a character’s time “in country” through food.

Note that these rules require that you also use the optional Morale rules, found here.


New Rules:

Chow Time

Meal time with your fellow soldiers is a chance to bond and – for a moment – try and forget you’re a world away from home surrounded by hostile terrain and people trying to kill you.

What’s For Dinner?

MCI Rations

Although commonly referred to as “C-Rations” or “C-Rats”, military issue field rations in Nam are actually a newer form of combat meal called “Meal, Combat, Individual” (or MCI for short). MCIs are complete single meal packages that replaced the aging C-Ration packs issued during World War II. They are a “wet” ration, meaning they can be eaten cold or hot but require no added water.

A single MCI consists of a cardboard box containing several elements: a single “M”-unit canned main meal, a “B”-unit composed of a small can of crackers and candy and a flat can of spread, a “D”-unit small canned dessert, an accessory pack and plastic spoon.

There are several varieties of meals available. When a character is issued MCI rations to eat, roll percentile dice twice and consult the two tables below to see what they get.

1st Roll Main Item
01-08 Beef in Spiced Sauce
09-12 Tuna Fish
13-16 Chicken & Noodles w/Broth
17-24 Ham & Eggs, Chopped
25-32 Pork Slices in Juices
33-40 Beans & Frankfurters
41-48 Beef & Potatoes w/Gravy
49-56 Ham & Lima Beans
57-60 Meat Chunks & Beans
60-64 Spaghetti & Meatballs
65-72 Beefsteak
73-76 Boned Chicken
89-92 Boned Turkey
93-96 Chicken Loaf
97-00 Meat Loaf
2nd Roll Dessert Item
01-08 Halved Apricots
9-16 Sliced Peaches
17-24 Quartered Pears
25-32 Fruit Cocktail
33-40 Pound Cake
41-48 Fruit Cake
49-56 Cinnamon Nut Roll
57-64 Date Pudding
65-72 Orange Nut Roll
73-80 Pecan Nut Roll
81-88 Applesauce
89-00 White Bread

The Accessory Pack contains sachets of salt, pepper, sugar, instant coffee, non-dairy creamer, two pieces of candy-coated chewing gum, a packet of toilet paper, a four-pack of cigarettes (removed after 1975) and a book of 20 moisture-proof matches.

MCI rations are bulky and heavy; a single day’s ration pack (four cans plus accessories) weighs 2.6 lb (1.2 kilograms).

LRP Rations

For soldiers needing lightweight rations (such as Special Forces and SEALs), a new invention was created for Vietnam: the “Food Packet, Long Range Patrol” (LRP) ration.

These lightweight individual meal packets – nicknamed “Lurp meals” – were designed to solve the weight issues of older canned “wet” rations and are freeze-dried.

Each ration is packed in a foil packet covered with olive-drab cloth, with a brown-foil accessory packet

LRP rations have less variety, a trade-off for their light weight and newness to the field during the Vietnam War.

1st Roll Main Item
01-12 Beef Hash
13-24 Chili Con Carne
25-36 Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
37-48 Beef with Rice
49-60 Chicken Stew
61-72 Scalloped Potatoes & Pork
73-84 Beef Stew
85-96 Chicken with Rice
97-00 Pick from any
2nd Roll Dessert Item
01-12 Orange Cereal Bar
13-24 Coconut Bar
25-48 Chocolate Discs (2)
49-60 Lemon Cereal Bar
61-72 Fruitcake Bar
73-84 Vanilla Fudge Bar
85-96 Chocolate Fudge Bar
97-00 Pick from any

LRP rations include the same Accessory Pack and plastic spoon as MCI rations.

A single LRP ration pack weighs just 11 ounces (310 grams).

One drawback, however, is that due to its freeze-dried nature, LRP rations tend to spoil in wet or humid environments such as the Nam. To reflect this, any character carrying LRP rations should roll percentile dice when they open one to eat; on a 90-00, the ration is spoiled and inedible.

The other drawback is that LRP rations require 1.5 pints (700 ml) of water to reconstitute before eating, which can prove a problem if you’re in the jungle and the local water is full of parasites and bacteria!

Meal Preferences

Characters will no doubt come to develop a preference for certain ration menu items; some will love “Pound Cake” and hate “Ham & Lima Beans”, while others will despise “Boned Chicken” but do anything for “Spaghetti & Meatballs”.

Any character that has spent at least one month in service should pick a three Favorite Meals and three Despised Meals from the list/table above and record them on their character sheet; they can pick from any items on the MCI or LRP ration tables above, but keep in mind which type of rations your character will normally be issued (that is, an infantry grunt will normally be issued MCI rations).

Trading Food

Characters will often look to trade any “unfavorable” menu items with fellow personnel, bartering rations, cigarettes or other trinkets for meals that they prefer. Some will be happy to swap their rations as a friendly gesture, while others – the more unscrupulous types – may demand a higher price. Whether a pleasant meal is worth the trade is up to the character.

Characters bartering food with each other do so by making opposed rolls using their AL.

Meals and Morale Effect

Whenever a character gets to eat one of their Favorite Meals, they get a temporary +5 bonus to their Morale for the rest of the day. If they are forced to eat one of their Despised Meals, they suffer a -5 penalty to their current Morale until it’s time for their next meal (hopefully something tastier!).

If the meal they are eating is neither a Favorite nor Despised Meal, there is no Morale bonus or penalty for eating it.

What about the VC and NVA?

In contrast to US and other foreign forces in the Nam, VC and NVA forces carried dried rice as a staple ration, weighing around 2.7 lbs. This meant that they could typically move much faster (and quieter) than those burdened with heavy, noisy cans.

Image Gallery

Carton of MCI rations (shipped 12 per carton)
Typical MCI ration pack
Typical LRP ration pack

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