Dungeons and Drinking

Posted on October 16, 2012 by

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Summer is here. And that means DnD to me. But DnD wasn’t the only game I played during summer; two years ago, my friend Adam “ZMed” a fantastic and disturbing game of All Flesh Must be Eaten. Whenever summer comes along, I get the urge to play that game and, while playing, pour myself a nice glass of Irish Whiskey.

Drinking and gaming. It’s something that’s constantly come up in conversation with my friends; We all like gaming, and we all enjoy a good drink. But what’s the right balance? When is drinking inappropriate at the gaming table?

Along with my adoration of roleplaying games, I’m also an avid wine and spirits enthusiast, and sometimes I do like to combine the two interests. My memory of the zombie game is inexorably tied to my first experience with Powers Gold Label, an Irish Whiskey my father turned me onto that summer. It’s far more interesting and delicious than Jameson, but still with that smooth, easily quaffable, caramel tones.

And if anyone would like to send me a bottle of the 12 year old, I will gladly review the fuck out of it.

During the zombie game (which wasn’t actually about zombies, but physical manifestations of our inner guilt and fears made into living-dead allegories), we all imbibed. The Unisystem is a simple, straight-forward and intuitive game system, which made for an easy game to play, mechanically at least, while slightly intoxicated. However, it doesn’t take much for alcohol to turn from a fun compliment to the game into a complete derailer.

In the game, our party was stuck between two opposing groups in the strange zombie-limbo we were in. One group was held up in a catholic church, run by a malevolent priest. The other was a team of survivors hell bent on revenge against this priest, especially the group’s leader. It’s a testament to Adam as a GM how much I hated this leader; He really is the best GM I’ve ever known when it comes to developing vivid, evocative NPCs. Adam, playing this NPC, spend a good part of an hour explaining why the guy hated this priest so much. Supposedly the priest had captured and killed his son, who was a part of his church. Our characters offered our sympathies and understanding of his rage, but urged for a response other than bloodshed. He insisted on revenge. About ten minutes after the long exposition of his son, we were getting ready to come to the end of the game. The character mentioned his son, again, and one of our players (who shall remain nameless), leaned forward, intently, pounded the table with his finger and said, “Wait! Wait a minute! What. Son?”

We all paused. And stared at him.
“Are you kidding?”
“Dude we just spent the last hour talking about his son with him.”
“Yeah, you were talking with him even.”

He started a bit, “Oh, yeah. Right. Sorry.”

We called it a night, and he abstained from imbibing much in later games.

A year later, we were playing his game, which we were having a hard time scheduling. We settled on a night I had off, but I had a wine tasting planned for earlier in the evening. It was at a coworker’s house, and focused on Oregon VS Burgundy. I had a lot of fun, but was eager to get to the game. My friend in the group swung by with his truck to pick me up, and by the time we were on our way there the tasting hit me. Wine tastings have a tendency to sneak up on me like that.

Now I generally drank wine during this particular game. It was a Feywild game, and wine just felt appropriate to setting the mood. But this night it was all off. In my defense I did my best, and I managed to keep up in combat, but in role-playing I was obviously off, and it definitely made it less enjoyable.

Local and delicious? Yes. Conducive to roleplaying? Not in excess. I will also review this wine if anyone wants to send me a bottle.

Other times, alcohol has been great. I loved drinking summer wines during the Feywild game, and playing my friend Adam’s Drow game just didn’t feel right without a dark red wine (they were all out of spider toxins at the market). Of course there was the Powers for the Zombie game. Playing a hipster-super-hero for my friend Kyle’s game was a perfect excuse to choke down some PBR. I strongly encouraged beer and whiskey for my kick-down-the-door, banter, and pillage barbarian game (a concept I’ll get to later). And although I did not encourage one of my players to finish off a magnum of wine in the first hour of the game, it did teach me the best possible lesson about how to handle a game that’s thrown so far off the rails it’s careening down the hill, and it was bizarrely appropriate for the feel of the game (but still incredibly annoying).

I suppose that’s what I take away from this rambling post: Drinking is acceptable only when it’s appropriate for the feel of the game. There have been times when, because of the intensity of the combat, or where I think the roleplaying in the game will go, I ask my players not to drink. Game nights can be a great excuse to stay in and stay sober, and have at times been the only night of the week that I have done so.

But a drink or two can also help build the world of the game, and can easily be enjoyed during a game session with friends.

In moderation.

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Posted in: Metagame