Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let's Get Drunk

Players and taverns are as standard to fantasy RPGs as the sword and spell. Creative GMs come up with countless types of drinks from a wide variety of sources. But when will a character start to feel comfortably numb, unable to walk a straight line or slur his words? Here is a drinking system I use to check how incapacitated the players become after downing a pint or ten. The following system will be using a d20 approach, but can be easily adapted to fit a 3d6 system.

The first thing that needs to be done is a quick assignment of the strength of the drinks, what I call 'potency level'. I use a 1 to 5 scale, 1 being the weakest. Here is an example list from one of my taverns. This is a casual list and I've tried to reflect real world potency as closely as I can, but there will always be variables and it is a fantasy game so drinking a halfling draught of beer will be a weaker than a potent tankard of dwarven brew and both will be more potent than a Bud or Pabst.
Homebrew Beer (1)
Stout Halfling Beer (2)
Mead (3)
Blackberry Wine (2)
Purple Haze Spirits (5)

Each drink is assigned a potency level in parentheses. A rule of thumb I use is for every 5 points of health or constitution the player gets 1 free potency level he does not need to roll against. So a character with a 15 constitution could throw back his first mead without needing to roll. Or, he could throw back two stout Halfling beers and only have to roll against 1 potency level.

To make save vs. the alcohol and give the players a chance to drink a lot I reverse their constitution scores and add the potency level to acquire the save roll. So that character with a 15 constitution has to roll against 1 potency level will need to roll a 6 or better. As the player drinks the potency levels are added and after each drink the player must make a save again.
When the player fails he will start to roll on the tables below. Each section has three stages. If the player fails his save by 5 or more or rolls on the same section twice then that player goes to stage two. A failure of ten or more or rolls on the same section three times requires the player to go to stage three. This system allows the player to be on various levels at the same time. That is until he passes out from a jolly good time.

1-4 Table 1a: Talking (d6)
1-2 Stammers and slurs his words. Any skill, including spells that requires talking is reduced by 3 each time this is rolled. At stage three the player is completely incoherent and cannot use skills or spells that require talking.

3-4 The player talks a lot. Brags about things he's done and hasn't. There is a chance he will let a secret slip. His reaction roll is penalized by 2 at each level. At stage three the alcohol acts as a truth serum and any question asked to the player must be answered truthfully.

5-6 Player gets verbally aggressive and will argue with others over the simplest of things. At stage two the player will insult others, even friends. At stage three the player verbally threatens others. He may not act on the threats, but the player will get nose to nose and start shouting. Each time this is rolled the player gets -3 to reaction rolls.

5-8 Table 1b: Physical (d6)
1-2 Player is having trouble walking. At the first level the player staggers, but can keep his balance on his own and minimize his running into people. At the second level the player needs assistance to stay standing and falls down frequently. At the third level the player cannot walk. He will need to be moved by others.

3-4 Player gets touchy feely. At the first level the player slaps people on the back, grabs an arm or pokes them in the chest to make a point. At the second level the player puts his arm around others and will try to kiss a barmaid. He's getting those beer goggles on so appearance does not become a factor. At the third level the player is in the 'I love you man' phase and tries to hug people. He will continue to try and kiss the barmaid and won't notice that she is thumping him in the side of the head with an empty tankard. Players at this level the player does not have beer goggles, but blinders and could wake up with anyone or anything for that matter.

5-6 Player is getting aggressive. He will shove people who get in his way trying to start a fight. At the second level the player will just start the fight and slug who ever annoys him, but the player is still aware enough to know what is going on so if a bouncer or guards come in they can stop if they choose. In the third stage the player gets lethal and doesn't care. He wants his target down. He will continue to attack even after his target is unconscious or dead. If someone tries to stop him the player will attack the person interfering.

9-0 Table 1c: Unconsciousness
There are no rolls in this category just three stages of the save failure.

Stage One: Blackout. The player no longer has control of his character. For gaming purposes the character wakes up the next morning or afternoon and has no memory of the night before. The GM can really have fun with this situation.

Stage Two: The player passes out where ever he is. He will be unaware of anything going on around him. For one 1d6 hours the player must be forcefully woken up and will only stay awake for a short period of time. The player is unable to defend himself.

Stage Three: The player passes out and retches in his sleep. He must make a save vs. Constitution or be start choking. Someone will need to save the player if he fails or death can occur. There is also a chance the player could go into a coma and be brain damaged. It's up to the GM's discretion how far and severe they wish to take this. I've only had a player roll once for this because he was slipped a 'Mickey' (see 'Mickey ' rule below).

Some of the stages contradict one another, but that just goes with being with the erratic behavior of being drunk. This is a great opportunity for players to do some role playing. The GM should make sure to toss the player some extra XP if they can role play a drunk cleric who is looking for a fight while in 'I love you man' mode.

The 'Mickey' Rule: Someone has slipped something into the player's drink to incapacitate them. This would be a straight save vs. poison with a penalty of the potency level. If the player fails he immediately goes to the unconscious table and the severity is determined by the failure of the save.

All that frolicking and fun has a cost. Hangovers can be cured instantly by a cure poison spell or potion. Those are the only sure hang over remedies. Otherwise the player will suffer a hangover for the number of hours equal to the total potency level they drank the night before. While the hangover is in effect the player will suffer penalties to almost everything they do. I use the 5 rule here also. For every 5 levels of potency the player drank is -1 to all the player's skills for the duration. A GM can have local hangover remedies that can reduce a number of potency levels, but only one remedy will work at one time so the player cannot stack them. So if Edward the Farmer drank 10 potency levels the night before he's going to have a banger for 10 hours and -2 to all he does. If he drinks his father's remedy it reduces the potency level by 2. Now Edward will be hung-over for only 8 hours and be -1 to all he does.

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