Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dungeons & Drunkards Part 1: A pub crawl through assorted editions of D&D (and some homebrew)

It took about the time it'd need to brew a decent beer, but here we finally are. +Charles Akins (Dyvers),  +Stelios V. Perdios (The World of Stelios), +Sean Bircher (Wine and Savages) and yours truly joined forces to serve you an inebriating series of posts about Dungeons and Dragons Drunkards. Over the course of the next 5 days we'll have strange rituals, weird monsters and letters from concerned readers. But today we'll start with talking about how to get a buzz in D&D. Please, grab a cold one, lean back and enjoy the show ...

Disclaimer: This post is a collection of rules and ideas about the simulated fictional consumption of alcoholic beverages in D&D through space and time. As much as those ideas and rules might have been angst-statements of those who wrote them, merely footnotes or as sober an interpretation of the rules as a virgin describing the beast with two backs, they'll always be part of A Game and, as such, really not about glorifying alcoholism.

Drunk Pixie by Jon Usiak, HackMaster DMG 4E, p. 170
The history of alcoholic beverages in D&D ...

... is a history of misunderstandings. At least that's my impression after spending nearly two days reading rules about intoxication and it's consequences in D&D. It's almost grotesque to avoid or even demonize culturally sanctioned drug abuse in a game that excels in it's rules about killing and looting.

Of course you have to decide (as a publisher) what content you really need in a product. And that's a fact most certainly true for the first editions of D&D and many of the clones out there. But there always comes a point where a "complete" game warrants some solution or another for what alcohol (among other things) means in the rules.

This could be a chance for good game design because every addition to a set of rules is a chance to make the game a bit better. Especially since our cultural and historical expressions of alcohol are already such rich deposits of ideas to mine from.

Or it could result in some boring solutions where a part of the game is just re-used and/or re-labeled, ending in something a DM could have done all by himself. You know, the stuff publishers do to get full pages with ...

But in a worst case scenario the result is something that wants to express a political position towards a "real-world" topic. I believe political correctness could be argued as a form of censorship. As a consequence it might be said that any rules in a game that try to manipulate not only how we experience a gaming world, but also how we should see our reality, aren't worth the paper they were printed on.

As a preliminary result I'd like to state that the people responsible for D&D made some really questionable choices down that road. So I’ll be the angry drunk in this illustrious round of bloggers. But I’m not out for a fight. There’s no Edition Wars in this Dojo ...

First Editions (pre-AD&D)

First stop of our pub crawl are the first editions of D&D, spanning from the first D&D ever published to the pinnacle of this edition, the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. We’ll just visit the core books, because time is of the essence and there are many other brands to visit.

Procedures: To facilitate a buzz in the first editions of D&D one has to get creative, since there is no such procedure mentioned but a general attitude to encourage people to brew the rules they need themselves.

That being said, I’d like to add that the Rules Cyclopedia at least delivers one good recipe to give a barkeep DM something to work with:
D&D RC, p. 150

Going with this a dead drunk character would count as stunned. You do nothing in this condition and this is how it should be. As soon as the head starts getting clear again, you may move with a third of your movement, attacks and saves are with a -4 and gets a +4 to his AC. He can not cast spells, use skills or magic items and his weapon mastery is down the drain. Sounds drunk enough to me, all in all.

Now, getting drunk should be the reversed process. Something like this:

starts drinking - minus 4 - passed out - minus 4 - may start drinking again

You might want to allow some CON-checks or saves vs. poison with that and you could scale the process a bit more subtle (a light buzz would be -1 to attacks and saves, +1 to AC, etc.), but it’s all there and it works.

Bang for the money: Not much, at first glance. But if you got some first-hand experience with home brew, all first editions make fine basic sets to manufacture your own brand.

Second Editions (AD&D)

Let’s crawl over to AD&D. And yes, again there is more than one second edition. I know, it’s crazy. Like before, we just go with the core books. And what a pleasant surprise, we get full service and the outfit is quite professional. Well, on we go …

Procedures: This is the good stuff. A full grown system, not only to get those synapses clicking, but also with instructions how to get a high out of it:

Lousy picture of the actual page ...
(AD&D DMG, p. 82)

Ah, very good. Why not stay here for a while? Relax, drink another one ... So this will get the job done. It’ll not only get a drunkard wasted, but make him tougher in between. Using this, your Level 1 magic user will fall down some stairs at some point, but he might survive the punishment, too.

Another great effect of this procedure is the social component. It not only facilitates the buzz on the body, but also changes a character’s perception of his surroundings. Drunkards are getting bolder and more open to suggestions. So if your group needs some cheap and willing henchmen, have at it, make them drunk, tell them tall tales, see how they fall in line …

Bang for the money: It takes a bit getting used to, but if you like the taste, AD&D is a very good brand to stay with. Brewers changed somewhere in between and many don’t agree with some of the flavors they brought to the market, but the basic procedures are solid, giving satisfying results throughout.

Third Editions (post-AD&D)

Arriving at Third Editions and Friends and I’m already a bit tipsy. Again, several brands of the same thing. There is a tendency where every edition fractures into several incarnations and one might get the impression that insights from earlier editions will help making a better, maybe even a more complete game. One might be wrong ...

Procedures: Going through the menu DMG I get all sorts of marketing and colors and square-dancing around (sic!), but no (like, none whatsoever) rules to get a decent brew anywhere. None. Not even poisoning. What were they thinking?

Desperate for a fix I go and look a bit deeper … no, wait! Maybe it’s like with the Rules Cyclopedia and we get something we could just as easy use. Okay, back to the menu DMG, a definition of stunned will be found on page 85 … And there’s two sentences: no AC bonus, no actions, +2 for the enemy to hit you. It’s a bit disappointing, really. No. It’s outright questionable, to be honest. Either you can do nothing, or you can dodge attacks, right? Anyway, no help here.

If you take the time to look beyond what passes as "core books" these days, the first official published book with rules about intoxication would be the Arms and Equipment Guide. Here it is treated as a poison, damaging WIS and DEX until your character is a wreck.

No other effects.

Bang for the money: None. The first time they treat the process, it’s labeled a poison, the second time would be as a drug in the (otherwise quite useless, but restricted by parental advisory anyways) Book of Vile Darkness. The impression I’m getting is some sort of bigot political correctness being at work here … Yeah, never mind.

Somebody recommended Pathfinder on my way out and, to be fair, if you’re the host and this is the brand you’re offering, I’ll participate. Most of all because Pathfinder seems a bit more refined. Anyway, need to go.

Viert Foth … fourth eDition’s (d&D oNly bY nam e)

It’s late and I’m too drunk from the older brands. Nothing good could come from this. I’ll leave you to explore this particular edition by yourself and be on my way to hunt down a kebap or something else to eat …

Fifth Edition (NewD&D)

I’ll just take a peek through the windows for this one. There are certainly no rules for intoxication in the free pdfs. Not much else to see … Ah, wait, there's Sean. Let's ask him ... His comment:
"There are no specific rules, but I would extrapolate drunkenness from the Exhaustion condition. It maps pretty perfectly."
You make of that what you want. But it is a young brand and we’ll see soon enough if it’s any good. I think I’ll leave it at that and get some home brew to finish for the night …

D&D Notable Home Brew and Recipes

To bring this somewhat erratic pub crawl to a more positive conclusion, I’d like to say that no matter what edition you’re playing, you’ll always be able to brew your own stuff with it. I’ll finish now with two famous brews distilled under the OSR-label. You’re all invited to linger around, but after that I’m done for the night. Here are the samples:

Liquid Courage: A home brew gone viral on the great Grognardia blog (once considered a master among OSR brewers, now somewhat fallen from grace), but (according to Jeff Rients) attributed to Sham of Sham’s Grog & Blog fame. It’s a fast and easy little brew, that’ll allow a drunkard adventurer +1d6 HP for the next encounter after imbibing a flask of strong liqueur.

Carousing: A brew made popular by the great Jeff Rients (at least I think he was patient zero ...), resulting in several variations across the blogosphere (like here, here and here, to begin with). The idea is that adventurers with sufficient funds might party hard to get xp for the gold they spend on it. But if they do, there’ll be a chance to get involved in all kinds of drunken shenanigans, from tavern brawls to waking up married to a lizard and no recollections whatsoever of how it came to pass (silly tattoos are in there, too). It’s great fun.

Closing words

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little pub crawl through the editions. Make yourself comfortable in the comments down below and share some of your home brew with us, if you like. We’re all connoisseurs here and know to appreciate good craftsmanship.

More glorious posts in our Dungeons and Drunkards-series:

Read now Part 2: The Dance of the Tarantella a short story by Charles!

And a bonus post by Sean: Boozing it up in 5e!

Here you'll find the fourth post in our series; When the DM gets drunk, by Stelios!

If you are in the mood for some great 5e monsters fitting our series,
check out Part 5Part 6 and Part 7 by Sean!

Stelios concludes this series with a letter by a concerned gamer in Part 8.

The End


  1. Charles Akins, Stelios V. Perdios, Sean Bircher, and Jens D all working on the same topic?yes please.

    1. Thanks, Mark :) It was quite the experience (and still is). I'm very curious how it'll turn out and I'm pretty sure my post is the weakest of them all ...

    2. None of them will be weak and your's is certainly not.
      great post.

  2. So know we know where the disorientation comes from. Sampling the wares.

    1. Yeah, I gave up on "Don't drink and write". Never could find the time to keep them separated. Erm, talking about "sampling" here, of course.

  3. In 5th ed I'd use 'poisoned' rules. The illustration is of a pretty drunk-looking dude anyway.

    1. Thanks! That's good to know. Sean takes a different route in the bonus post linked above (and indicated in the quote), but it really speaks for 5e that several approaches are possible.

      Poisons are generally considered something bad, though (which can be true enough for alcohol, of course) and I believe there could be more to it (as AD&D shows). Are drugs generally labeled as poison in D&D 5e?


Recent developments made it necessary to moderate posts again. Sorry about that, folks.