Gen Con 2010: Drinking Dungeons & Dragons

Now years ago, it started as a joke: making a drinking game out of 4e Dungeons & Dragons. After that, it became an annual tradition at Gen Con for some of our closest blogger friends those first two years, run by ChattyDM. This year, we were faced with two issues: we were getting too many people at the table, and Chatty was going to be busy with seminars and such leading up to Gen Con, limiting the time he would have to prepare.

I offered to step in and spear-head the DD&D game, if he would collaborate with me and run a second table. An accord was struck and the planning began: a Drinking Dungeons & Dragons event for Gen Con to top all the previous. As we planned more and more over the months leading up, it was clear this wasn’t just an ordinary convention game… it was an event. While the goal was drunken fun, the prep was serious business.

Last Wednesday at 8pm we ran the game to what I would call great success. We had 12 interested players, 2 DMs, a small audience, and over $200 in booze that would lead to quite an evening. I’d like to call out a few important things that went into the adventure… and I’ve invited ChattyDM to chime in with his thoughts as well.

(Chatty: Oh I’m there Dave! I’m there!)

Two Tables, Same Game

With two DMs and two tables to run, we could have just run the same adventure and be done with it. Instead, we decided to make the tables interact with each other. The setting was a time-lost dungeon, so we were able to make each table an alternate universe version of the other, but also incorporate a kind of race element into it. The tables were able to affect each other by completing parts first, and we wanted one team to curse the other team. Plus we made a few elements that affected cross tables: the expression on Chris Sims’s face was priceless as we dragged him from one table to the other.

(Chatty: It worked to everyone’s  advantage that we didn’t inform players about it as when a group shouted “DONE” and the other DM cleaned the ongoing encounter, a sense of urgency started competing with the rising blood alcohol levels.)

Photos courtesy Stupidranger.com

Pregens with Personality

It would have been easy enough to tell people to make characters of 8th level, or come up with a group of generic pre-gens. That would not have had nearly enough puns in the name. Plus, with our whole alternate universe thing going on, I thought it would be fun to have different versions of the same character, played by different people. (Maybe one has a goatee.)

I followed my rules of character generation for convention games (trying to choose powers and abilities that would come into play throughout the adventure), but I also gave them a strong personality that the players would be able to run with. From there, I added backstories, connections with the other PCs, and of course, drinking. An example is below, for Whit Rushon the Minotaur Paladin:

Advantageous Drinking

Drinking games tend to have rules, like “if you roll the dice with your left hand, take a drink.” Those kinds of rules, 5 beers in, tend to be forgotten, and you have to make a list to consult. Plus, there’s concerns in any drinking game about people drinking to excess, especially on day 0 of a big convention.

Thus, we took some inspiration from Gamma World and made a deck of cards that would grant the PCs powers… if they drink. I wrote 27 unique cards, each powered by drinking in some way. That way, they weren’t essential to play, and players could gauge how much they wanted to drink. Plus, every card had the extra effect that instead of using the listed power, they could invoke “The Cans of Time” and reroll any die in exchange for a drink, which let us avoid that whole pesky balance issue.

(Chatty DM: The “Cans of Time” was a placeholder name we use for the reroll power that ended up being too good not to use. And it was key to the success of the cards.)

In the end, the cards ended up being too tempting for most players, and a lot of drinking happened anyway, especially when they really wanted to hit. But that was their choice, at least, and we didn’t have to enforce any drinking rules.

Here is a sampling of the cards I made:

Mix Combat and Non-Combat Challenges

3 hours of drinking doesn’t go well with remembering to flank and make opportunity attacks. So we tried to keep the actual full combats early in the session, while people were still warming up. We failed a bit in that- we intended to have a major final boss fight against Miller, the lord of the dungeon, and that involved a big fight… right at the end. By that point, few players were lucid enough to fight effectively against 3 elites. Mix that in with a dimension-hopping toilet and that’s when the adventure threatened to go right off the edge. (That’s also when we decided to end the game.)

In between, we included a couple challenges that were completely non-combat. The opening was akin to an Action Castle/Parsley game, with a section in the middle consisting of complete roleplaying challenges, like naming drink recipes and dealing with the Dread Gazebo. It was during that we learned that Gamefiend’s drink is the Rusty Nail and Greg can walk a straight line even after some Dragon’s Milk Ale.

(Chatty: I wrote the Action Castle (created by Jared Sorenson) part because Parsely games were kind of the cult games of cons recently and I realized that many gamers had yet to be exposed to that awesome bit of reverse-retro gaming technology.  The players loved it.)

Here’s the stats for one of the combatants, as well as custom art we had made for the adventure from Jared von Hindman:

(Chatty: Jared went to town with that one.  I envisioned a Japanese coin-op Beer Machine when I designed it and Jared added the Kegger Frat Boy persona to it… Wonderful!)

The Big Question

A handle of rum was demolished, con fatigue was battled, a married man asked someone in the audience for a phone number, giant d20s were thrown, the Toastmaster was toasted, two universes were collapsed into one… and most importantly, we had a blast. We recorded the games, but it’ll be hours of work to get anything remotely publishable.

However, having heard all of this, the big question is: would you want to see this written up as a full adventure? Even if it cost money (to cover all the time we’d have to use to edit and format it)?

(Chatty: I’d like to see a package where we have the adventure, and suggestions to run awesome variant DD&D sessions)

Post-Publication Note: The drinking power cards and characters are now available.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to any comments or questions you have.

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.

Comments

  1. PLEASE! publish the full rules and the adventure! And the character! Everything!

  2. Dale Freya says:

    I love the idea. Thinking about running a drinking game myself now, although it would have to work for a smaller group of players.

  3. Awesome.

    Ed, over at robotviking.com, suggested our weekly gaming group rent a couple cabins and have our own 4 day mini gaming convention at some point in the future. I believe this particular version of D&D would go over VERY well at such an event. Hmm…

  4. I had a great time at the game, thanks for the invite Dave. And the great DMing Phil.

    I’ll bug James (Jake’s Friend =) to get that party picture scanned in tomorrow.

  5. Sounds like a lot of fun… but I’m wondering how the DM would fair as the evening went on… or is he a “designated” DM? I’d be afraid of what would happen at my ability to DM a game after a few too man… I’m imagining a messy TPK .

  6. I’d love to have it published, though I’d definitely have to edit it down for something less than 12 players hah

  7. @Balard: Want us to go DM it in Brazil? I would so love to. 🙂

    @Dale and @Braggo: The adventure would totally work for a single table… with just a few tweaks. The inter table chicanery was focused on just 3 aspects… The adventure does not lose much by cutting them off or changing them to other weird switching stuff (like a sex change! That’s old school!)

    @Lotpfsnow: Duly noted.

    @Neuroglyph: Let’s just say that’s one of those events where Dave and my 15+ years of experience as a DM come in. If you can’t keep a drunken group straight when tipsy, I’d stick with sparkling water.

  8. Please put this out there. I would love to run this with some people I know

  9. My friends and I signed up for a similar D&D drinking event – Hack, Slash, and Chug. It was AWFUL. Instead of a drinking D&D session, it was an awful variant of beer pong with no rules. My adventuring party would have LOVED such an event. Please run this again, as we will definitely sign up for it. It seems very well planned and organized. Bravo!

  10. @Stephanie: I ended up in Hack, Slash, and Chug as well. What Dave’s describing is what I expected that event to be. That said, free beer for four hours can really change my view on how fun my time spent was!

  11. I deny everything.

    Seriously, though, this was a fantastic way to meet new people and throw some dice just before Gen Con starts. I’ll reign in my experimentation and friendly fire next time.

  12. I have done DD&D a few times before, the first one inspired by reading about the original GenCon event on Chatty’s blog. It involved fights and skill challenges based around some fairy tales and was a lot of fun.

    In my previous experiences however, the DM, low-defense characters, and any Paladins in the party tend to get wasted due to rules like “if you get or give a critical hit, take a drink” and “when you spend a healing surge, take a drink,” while everyone else barely gets tipsy.

    The system you came up with for this is MUCH better! It puts the amount of drinking each player does into his/her own hands and gives them a cool benefit without outright forcing them to drink.

    I was thinking that I might steal the concept if I can work out a DD&D session with my current group, and if you were to publish this, I would certainly buy it for the drinking cards and pregens alone, even if I can’t get enough players to run the full adventure.

    Sounds like some awesome fun. Thanks for writing it up!

  13. SpectacledBear says:

    First, yes, please publish it!

    Second is a recommendation. if you could somehow print the adventure in a smaller format, include the cards and everything else needed to play in a kind of kit, and then package it in something like a Crown Royal bag, that would make it pop for me. 🙂 Of course that idea could be totally infeasible.

  14. Absopantsly print this up. I’ve dedicatedly turned many, many things in my life into drinking games but the closest I’ve ever managed with DnD was a group who had a policy of taking a shot when you crit. For something like this, though, I’d find myself a new group!

Trackbacks

  1. […] over $200 on booze. (Thanks again, Fred!) We then returned to the Hyatt to secure tables, and at 8, ran DD&D. I’m still delighted and amazed that the event worked out, and have even more ideas for next […]

  2. […] observed upon entering it. I took a page out of the old-school video-game style dungeon that Chatty DM and DavetheGame ran at Gen Con. The player didn’t really get to ask questions or elaborate on what they did. As soon as a person […]