Strange Brew (aka Drinking And Dragons, Part 3)
Hey, eight days of Breakfast Crunch! If this were a typical "daily" updated webcomic, this would have taken two months! (It would also have a lot more readers, especially if my main character was, I dunno, a big-breasted catgirl and her sidekicks were something which is homocidally sociopathic but which looked cute, and a guy who was stupid, self-centered, and grossly immature, but everyone loved him just ’cause, y’know, he’s him. But i digress.)
I never intended "Drinking & Dragons" to stretch on for three days — that it has grown this much is made even stranger by the fact I don’t drink. I also don’t skewer orcs on pikes, slog endless miles through trackless wilderness to save the innocent from a terrible fate, or call forth demons from the briny deep, nor would I want to. Nonetheless, I like both having and writing rules for all of the above, so why not for drinking?
This last section, like so much of my work, owes a debt to Dave Hargrave and Arduin. (See also Green Slime Golem) He was the first game writer I encountered (please note, for the quick-to-correct people (like me)) that this is not the same as "first game writer to do it") who included random little notes and asides about day-to-day life in the game world, in ways that made it seem both exotic and familiar. Because much of the detail was sketchy, implied, or unexplained, I found his work inspirational rather than restrictive. I take a great and strange joy in tossed-aside names and references, because they seem to create a larger world, a world that exists outside the boundaries of the page. I like to ponder names and what they imply. A reference to "the lost and fabled continent of Zarn", or whatever, is inspiring to me, because it might make me think of what sorts of "lost and fabled" continents my own world might have. A 256 page "Zarn Explorer’s Handbook", complete with maps, charts, and 25 ready-to-run dungeons…. not so much.
(I also find it interesting, in terms of unexpected synergies, that a feature I’d intended to be nothing more than quick-and-easy Crunchy Bits has become a platform for me to rant about whatever interests me in terms of game design. Go figure.)
(Given how many pointless digressions my writing includes, you’d think I would have loved Tristram Shandy back in college. But I loathed it. What’s that saying? "What you oppose, you become.")
OK, enough asides. On to assorted interesting beverages for inclusion in your Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition games. (Yes, that was a blatant and crude attempt at getting search engines to notice this page. It’s very irksome that even if my site is nothing but Cool Roleplaying Stuff, I apparently have to work the actual words into the content of the article because people lie, cheat, and manipulate metadata so much that most search engines now ignore it.)
And Now, The Drinks!
Humans alone have concocted hundreds, if not thousands, of different alcoholic beverages, and have learned to combine them in uncounted ways. In fantasy worlds, you not only have the possibility of non-humans adding their own experiments to the mix (heh), you have the potential for magical beverages, and even beverages from worlds far beyond the mortal realm — the strange wines of the fey Eladrin, the harsh and bitter brews of the Shadar-Kai, the foul and soul-destrying swill from the Abyss and the nectars served by the gods to those who are welcome guests in their domains. Including such things adds color and depth to the world, and can provide memories which will last long after "that fight were we killed those orcs" has been forgotten.
The following lists the drink’s level, and a recommended potency, expressed as the difficulty of the Endurance skill check. (See Roll The Dice To See If I’m Getting Drunk!) Thus, a drink with 14/Moderate is a level 14 drink, and if it "hits", it’s recommended that the DC be read from the "Moderate" column. The DM can/should feel free to alter this based on circumstances.
Cost: 2 cp
This is not a drink, per se, but a term for the cheapest and foulest alcohol to be found in Dwarvish dives and taverns — the implication being that it was harvested by squeezing spilled beer out of the patrons beards. Applying it to any beverage of merit is a foul insult which can end in a fist fight or a generations-long feud. Nonetheless, even this bottom-of-the-keg stuff is potent by human standards. Dwarves will sometimes serve it to unwelcome "guests" when hospitality demands they serve something; the "guest" is expected to take the hint and leave.
Cost: 6 gp
The joke, of course, is that this is pure liquid — no meat, per se. This thick, dark, brew is virtually solid, and is actually packed with enough vegetable proteins and vitamins that it can serve as a meal, of a sort. Dwarves claim it can be dried like jerky and taken along on expeditions, but this is generally assumed to be idle boasting. Assuming one can endure a diet of nothing but highly potent drink, though, you can actually live off the stuff. (Counts as both food and drink for purposes of wilderness survival.)
Cost: 50 gp
When the dwarves first settled on the harsh mountains of Karathakos, after the Disembarking, they began to build a single great "root city". Surrounding this city, they planted fields using the supplies they’d brought from the Lost Home, and they asked for the blessings of the gods upon this new endeavour. It’s said the gods granted this blessing, and the crop that year, thousands of years lost now, was the single finest in all history. Kingbrew is ale made from grain grown only from direct descendants of that harvest, carefully segregated and stored. It is not merely described as "golden", it is — in darkness, the drink has a faint, sparkling, glow. Only a few dozen kegs are made each year, and even fewer are seen outside dwarven strongholds. The cost above is for a very small shotglass — a normal tankard would cost ten times that much. No matter how much Kingbrew you drink, you never suffer a hangover, provided that’s all you drink.
Cost: 10 gp
Eladrin often refer to the most mundane things in overly poetic terms, so one can be forgiven for thinking that "This wine is so-named because it is the distilled essence of song itself" is a bit of pointy-eared hyperbole. It is not so. Anyone drinking it will taste only a vague hint of the liquid, but they will hear strange, alien, and utterly enthralling music with each swallow, the song ending as the last trace of flavor vanishes from their palette. This can be an extremely addictive sensation, and those denied the drink will sometimes go to terrifying lengths to get more. Bards, in particular, have a fondness for this beverage.
Nectar Of Fading Dream
Cost: 15 gp
If Songwine is faint, this Eladrin beverage is effectively nonexistent. Many exposed to it for the first time consider it a joke, at best, or an insult at worst — they are presented with a seemingly empty class and told to drink the contents. There is no way to touch or feel the Nectar; not until the glass is upended to the throat does the sensation begin, that of consuming a warm, radiant, liquid which creates a dreamlike state almost instantly. The world becomes a place of soft glows and crystal air. (Anyone failing an Endurance check when "attacked" by this drink becomes Dazed in addition to all other effects.)
Cost: 40 gp
The Dragonborn have a variety of native concoctions, but this one is the best known outside their cities. It looks like silvery mercury, and smelling it has been known to cause nosebleeds in "lesser" races. Allegedly, each vat of it contains a miniscule bit of powdered scale from an elder dragon, infusing it with draconic essence that "tests" those who imbibe. Dragonborn can gulp it down without trouble (other than the usual effects of drink), but non-Dragonborn suffer an attack of +22 vs. Will. Those who fail take 1d10+7 points of fire, cold, acid, lightning, or poison damage. (The DM should determine which "breed" a particular barrel belongs to.) If the attack misses, the target can drink from the rest of the barrel without further danger, but will be attacked again if another barrel is opened. If the attack hits, the target will continue to be attacked until it misses (and he continues to drink). Nothing triggers this attack except a willing non-Dragonborn quaffing the brew; it cannot be weaponized.
Cost: 500 gp
A surprsingly literal term, this drink is a product of the Abyss, brought back by mortal travelers to that dire realm. It is obviously greatly illegal and is not found for open, obvious, sale even in such places as Corazain — which does not mean it cannot be found there. In the foulest places beneath the cities, in the forlorn castles of lich-lords, or in conclaves of the insanely cruel and the insanely powerful, that is where you will find a bottle or two of this. Usually stored in wineskins made of elf-skin leather, it is a swirling, oily, dark gold liquid that emits a faint howling noise when exposed to light. Each swallow exposes the drinker to the distilled anguish of some soul trapped eternally in torment. If they willingly imbibe this beverage, good-aligned beings suffer an attack of +27 vs. Will, suffering 4d6+8 points of psychic damage if the attack hits. For this reason, it is often used by the vile to test the true mettle of those who claim to be possible allies. For those who can stomach it, the effect is said to be exquisite, combining anguish and ecstasy in an inseperable blend.