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Faux-Alcoholism, Redux

Why does imaginary drink play such a strong role in, erm, role playing games? Is it because a lot of us started as teens and couldn’t drink, so we pretended to? Is it because Ale And Whores are such strong genre tropes? Is it because such activities, which usually have either no game benefit or an actual mechanical detriment, help ground the world in a kind of reality — there’s more to the universe than the Adventurer’s Supply Store and the Dungeon, there’s also the Tavern? Is it because so many adventures, ripping off Tolkein, begin with "You all meet in an Inn…."?

Got me. I just ask the questions. Y’all can answer them. I’d put up a little survey thingie, but I think I’d be depressed at how each day would go by with no one clicking on it. Honestly, I sometimes think I could write hard core porn here and no one would notice. "The Tiefling sorceress quietly slipped away from her partners at the inn. She made her way to the stables, where she saw Hans working diligently, his hard, tanned, body glistening with sweat. Slowly, she began to unfasten her…"

Anyway…

Building on yesterday’s little foray into mechanizing the Tragedy Of Alcoholism (hey, I forgot addiction rules… oh well, maybe some other time), I figured I could move onto the Outdrink Your Rivals skill challenge, and then a few beverages to use with said rules.

Read on!

Drink ‘Em Under The Table!

(Note: This incorporates many of the suggestions, comments, and ideas put forth by Mike Mearls for improving/enhancing skill challenges, which I hope will be "official" in DMG2. Skill Challenges were promised to us as a way of making non-combat activities as involving and tactical as combat; what was delivered was, ahem, not really there. It’s a good framework but underdeveloped, and I hope to see that rectified. What I imagined, and I suppose I have only myself to blame for getting upset that what I made up in my head wasn’t as good as what I actually got, was something much akin to Spycraft 2.0’s excellent "Dramatic Conflict" system, where car chases, seduction scenes, and computer hacking were modeled as a kind of mini-game with all sorts of cool options and maneuvers and descriptive text. Instead, we got "Instead of the party Diplomancer rolling one +30 Diplomacy check and the encounter being over, everyone but the Diplomancer rolls an Aid (Diplomacy) check and then the Diplomancer rolls six +30 Diplomacy checks." Anyway, there’s been attempts made to correct this, and this article will use them.)

The Drinking Game

Setup: It’s a typical raucous evening at the (Roll once on table 1: Verb, Roll once on table 2: Noun…. lessee, "Laughing Goblin") Inn. Our Heroes are relaxing after a hard day of killing things and taking their stuff. In comes another group of adventurers, bragging and boasting of their deeds, and not-too-subtly implying that the PCs only go after "wuss" dungeons. As the Minion-level townsfolk quake in fear of being massacred by any flying debris, someone says that this will be settled the way men of honor and nobility settle things… by seeing who can quaff the most ale!

Level: Equal to the level of the party.

Complexity: 3 (Requires 8 successes before 3 failures)

Primary Skills: 

Endurance (Medium): Endurance generally models just grabbing a tankard and quaffing it down. There is no limit to how many successes may be gained from Endurance checks.  Up to a total of twice in the challenge, players may opt to "Slam it down hard!", taking a -5 to their check but earning two successes if they make it, and losing a healing surge if they don’t. (In addition to the normal failure accrued.) At least four of the successes needed to win the challenge must come from Endurance.

Bluff (Hard*): "Of course I drank that mug! Didn’t you see me? You’re clearly already drunk, you big pansy!" Sometimes, it pays to cheat. Bluff can be used to model faking taking a drink, as well as any other act of deception or trickery the player can think of in order to get around making an Endurance check. A total of two successes can be generated using Bluff. 

Thievery (Hard*): "Here, Gronk. Have another!" Thievery in this context is the physical counterpart to Bluff. Want to slip the other buy a mickey, swap your full glass for his empty one, or look like you’re drinking when you’re pouring the contents onto the floor? This would be a thievery check. No more than one success can be generated using Thievery.

Heal (Hard): "Maybe you’d better have some of this…" A Heal check can be made to help one of your comrades stay on his feat and keep drinking! If this check fails, the target loses a healing surge (and his lunch) in addition to the normal failures accrued. No more than one success can be generated using Heal. You may also make an Easy Heal check to grant someone a +2 to their next Endurance check; this may be done twice.

Streetwise (Hard): "Hey, One-Eyed Gus is a pal of mine… lemme see if I can get him to help…": You bribe the bartender to slip you the watered down stuff, or otherwise use your knowledge of the local situation to your benefit. No more than one success can be generated using Streetwise.

Religion (Easy): "Sadly, this is the Holy Week, and I cannot imbibe." One character can make an Easy religion check to find some reason he has to sit this one out. No successes are gained, and the player cannot participate further in the challenge, not even to Aid.

Special: You can try to challenge the other side to a "contest" of, well, just about anything. Darts? That’s Acrobatics. Arm Wrestling? Athletics. Hell, you can borrow a page from Cliff Clavin and engage in a trivia match (History, Arcana, Religion). The DC of the check is determined using good ol’ Page 42, and the DM determines (either randomly or by considering the nature of the opposition) whether the check will be Easy, Medium, or Hard, and may apply bonuses or penalties based on circumstances (i.e, how drunk you are relative to your foes). You can engage in up to two contests. Losing an Easy contest counts as two failures; winning a Hard contest counts as two successed.

Aid Another: No player may use the Aid Another action more than once during this challenge. The special heal check, above, does not count against this limit.

*If the party has 5 or more successes and no failures, the difficulty for these skills drops to Medium.

Success: At least one of you is still standing, and none of them are. At the DMs discretion, this may grant you a circumstance bonus to Diplomacy or Intimidate checks for a day or so, as the locals cheer you as heroes or think twice before messing with the guys who out-drank Big Rolf.

Success With One Failure: You won, but at what cost? Everyone loses a healing surge.

Success With Two Failures: Owwww, my aching head. Apply the hangover rules from Roll The Dice To See If I’m Getting Drunk!, as if all the PCs had reached Stage 3 on the table.

Failure: It’s time for the classic barroom brawl! The PCs face an Easy combat encounter, but they’re going into it drunk, suffering the effects of Stage 2 on the table. If the DM doesn’t want to bother with running a full-on fight, the PCs lose all but one of their remaining surges.

There you go. I was going to do Ye Olde Exotique Beverage Liste, but I budget one hour for these things, and that hour is gone. Tune in tomorrow.


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