Role--playing and alcohol have gone hand in hand for ages. Hopefully grown-up ages…
While any type of drink can be used in various amounts in order to create, enhance, or keep a warm, fuzzy atmosphere going, many people will tell you there are different kinds of drinks for different occasions and even moods.
Let’s face it, you’re not gonna’ pop a bottle of cider to celebrate your graduation, that’s what bubbly’s for!
“So why can’t RPG systems be the same?”
At least that’s what my subconscious came up with while struggling to find inspiration at the bottom of a German beer bottle. So, what’s the answer?
They can, and quite easily so, as you’ll find out following this short foray into roleplaying and alcohol pairings. I’m sure there are more, but I’ll be waiting to hear about them in the comments section.
1. D&D, the aged wine of the role-playing cellar
This one was too easy, really…
Sure, it’s obvious that not all years have aged as well or had the same success as others.
– Here’s lookin’ at you, 4e! –
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more varied selection than what the granddad of them all has to offer.
While retaining a signature bouquet across the years (the d20 + modifiers roll), there are so many hidden nuances and flavours to every “bottle” that only the true connoisseurs would be able to discern them all.
Meanwhile, anyone can just pick a year and have fun with a breezer – just don’t tell purists you’re diluting the essence with house-rules, wars have been fought over less…
I think I’ve seen people literally go for each other’s throats over 3.75 vs Pathfinder… That’s like grapes and slightly darker-coloured grapes, the end-result is still in the same ZIP code, sheesh, now put those katanas down, dammit!
2. Grab a couple brewskies and let FATE decide, eh?
Most aforementioned connoisseurs will say that you shouldn’t have beer after wine because ugh, seriously, what kind of savage are you?
But FATE can seem like a breath of fresh air after D&D.
The general feel of a session rests mainly on the group and the GM, fair enough, but FATE itself feels like the college freshman to D&D’s top hat and cane.
It’s the one thing you know you can count on with your friends, while watching the game, and you know you’ll end up having more than you should because it’s just so damn fun! Easy to pick up, with a setting range as wide as a German Highway - can you tell what country
I’m on holiday in yet? - FATE will have you clinking bottles and laughing about how ugly you all are in no time at all.
Plus, it’s cheap, too!
Now, those of us here at HLG recommend drinking with moderation, but we have had reports of FATE players waking up in Croatia alongside a camel and a two of clubs playing card, lacking a shoe, and any memory for at least three days…
The jury’s still out on how dependable those reports may be, but they’re also out for beers so it could be a while before we get a full report.
3. Cortex Plus – Gin for the win
Peer pressure when you’re the youngest of the group can be bad for your health, but I managed to dodge “getting another round” by having a gin and tonic and just dropping more tonic in my glass while the beers kept on rolling for the other guys. Pretty fun watching the chaos unfold, to be frank, and I could be a part of the fun while still maintaining a fairly composed appearance.
The first time we played Cortex Plus, using the Firefly setting, we went more than 2 hours without even rolling dice.
While that may – again – be attributed to me being very improv-oriented as a GM and the group as a whole loving the hell out of some browncoat action. However, I’ll always credit the system for allowing us to toy around with it, giving just enough overlying elements to guide us through the game, but not hammering us over the head with rules or other pesky details.
Just like gin, you can keep adding tonic to it and do it your own way without people hassling you for not joining in on the fun. Also, just like gin, if you forget to add any more alcohol to it you’ll end up having tonic on the rocks after 2 hours, which is why we made it a goal of actually rolling the dice once in a while…
Improv is fun and all, but we’re here to chuck some gorram polyhedrons for the ‘verse’s sake…
4. One tequila, two tequila, Shadowrun, floor…
As fate would have it – pun sort of intended – I haven’t played a great deal of Shadowrun. I do intend to clear up that mishap at the earliest, though. Tell Ian not to smother me in my sleep, will ya?
I have, however, played enough of it to realize it’s an acquired taste that comes with a few mandatory ingredients in order to make it palatable. Your salt and lemon, if you will.
Shadowrun really packs a punch in all of its multiple incarnations. In order to stomach that punch and prepare for the next one, you need a GM worth their salt – pun wrote itself, I swear – as well as a group of players who know what they’re getting into.
The surges that SHR lashes the players with, those short bursts of tension that arise due to the situation requiring great attention be given to how best your character performs can either leave you smashing your glass to the floor while yelling “another!” or otherwise scrambling to find your knees when you need them the most.
Like, just smashing the glass isn’t enough and you also want to stand up while shouting for another one.
5. West End Games on the D6 rocks…And boy, oh, boy, does this system rock!
For those of you that don’t know, West End Games had a ball in the 80s and 90s doing all things Star Wars – books as well as RPG miniatures – while using their proprietary D6 system. It’s them we should thank for a good chunk of the lore and info up on Wookiepedia or other similar SW-related sites nowadays.
Fast, loose, dry, and taking no prisoners, this exploding, force-die chucking experience felt and feels so sleek and clean it’s almost impossible to find a counterpart. Its barebones-ness is what gives it its appeal and it’s only as forgiving as you are aware of your limitations, otherwise it goes on to trash your face, throw you over the balcony and drop a Bantha worth of dice-chucking hurt on you…
This is the one system I actually felt bad for causing the characters pain and suffering, it’s as much a gentleman’s weapon as it is a dangerous tool in the hands of the unwise…
Now I’m not big on scotch, but I heard that’s more or less how it goes. I promise I’ll go down to the Ger-markt and find out once and for all.
This is by no means, as I’ve said, a comprehensive, all-encompassing guide on which systems feel like which alcoholic beverages, hell, even going into wine types would have us chatting for a fortnight… I wonder which system would be the Zinfandel…
But in any case, I hope I’ve whetted your appetite – I know my throat’s parched at this point – and gave you some drink for thought when it comes to choosing your poison.
I’ll see you guys down at the pub for some ‘role-playing’, shall I?
I’ll be the drunken monk having a chat with the cactus.
Writer, gamer, and - provided he's got the time for it - loving husband, Costin does not rule out sacrifices to the Great Old Ones in order to get into the gaming industry. He's been role-playing for the better part of 6 years, but has been a joker, gamer and storyteller for as long as he can remember.
His greatest pride is once improvising a 4-way argument between a grave digger, a dyslexic man, an adopted child and a sheep, all by himself. That moment is also the closest he's ever come to giving himself a role-playing aneurysm... thus far.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.