Using Alcohol & Culture in your games
As the members of the party enter the bar, the old gnomish barkeep asks “What’ll it be?”
Everyone something standard, a stout beer for the dwarven cleric, an common (but nonetheless costly) elven wine for the party’s mage, a half-elf himself, a shot of whiskey for the draconic sorcerer.
In the opposite corner of the bar, a half-orc barbarian shouts “Barkeep, give me a P’Thap Nar Gourt, and make it snappy!” which translates to “Dragon’s Breath Beer” in orcish.
The barkeep pales at the request for the noxious mixture, but taps a cask, filling up a skull that was made into a cup, handing it to his rude guest, who then flips a royal crown to the barkeep.
Calling the barkeep back over the half elf whispers to him “Why did you serve such a rude guest? Throw him out!”
The gnomish barkeep chuckles, saying “The reason the drink has such a nasty smell is because it’s made of sweaty socks, stagnant water, and an earthy type of mushroom, poisonous to most folks, but orcs and half orcs can consume it without problems. These mushrooms grow wild here in abundance. It costs me a handful of copper to make, and I charge a gold crown for it!” Winking at the adventuring party, he continues “the dirty socks – that’s the half-orc’s laundry. They’re essentially drinking their own fermented sweat.”
This time the Draconian speaks up “And what of the skull mug you gave him?”
The gnome goes behind the bar and produces one of the skull mugs with a flourish. Despite looking like a realistic skull, it’s actually apparent that it’s only a piece of pottery.
What happens in most cases when starting a game? “You meet in a bar.” Where is most of the town’s gossip found out at, beyond the marketplace? The bar. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have more than simple beer and ale to serve the players? Use this table to help come up with some different, and hopefully exciting brews for your game.
Please note: when you roll one of the classes, the drink may give some benefit to them. For instance, a drink made for fighters might allow the imbiber to shake the effects of fear. A drink made for a wizard might allow the drinker to be able to memorize more spells, or do so with less sleep, and so on.
Take the alcohol type in column 1, and find out what type of container it’s served in and who’s serving it in column 3. Even though I’m using modern names for the alcohol or the container it’s served in, it’s meant more as a “point of reference” when describing what’s there than saying that’s exactly what’s there. When using these ideas in your game, I would encourage you to find some way of “twisting” them to a more devious idea, if possible.
Alter the results of these tables by considering the following optional ideas
- Is this part of some sort of celebration?
- Some sort of astrological sign? A solstice, a solar/lunar eclipse, or the beginning of a new year?
- Feasts of thanksgiving
- Parade to commutate some battle, remember the fallen warriors, or some supernatural event?
- A wedding
- A birth
- Successfully escaping the rule of another country
- Could this be commanded by the god of alcoholic beverages
- Could this drink be associated with the “guest’s right?”
- Is this drink associated with something politically, such as a treaty or a coronation?
- Does the culture/ race/ class have some specific ceremony that deals with the alcohol
- Was this alcohol part of a “drinking game” that is enacted every time the subject comes up?
- Do the bartenders of a specific region have certain alcoholic beverages they don’t have elsewhere and fancy glasses, cups, or mugs to go with it?
|Alcoholic Beverages||Container Served In/ Made out of||Culture or Race/ Class celebrated with|
|1||Dragon’s Blood Wine/ Ale||Wine Glass||Dwarfs|
|2||Orcish Beer||Shot glass||Elves|
|3||Elven Wine||Metal Flask||Human|
|4||Dwarven Beer/ Hard Liquors||Wineskin||Gnomes|
|5||Gnomish hard liquor(s)||Puzzle cup||Orcs|
|6||Kobold Beer||Beer stein||Trolls|
|7||Harpy Wine||Mini Wooden Keg, complete with tap||Gnolls|
|8||Eiswein (wine that’s made from grapes left on the vine until 1st frost)||Ice Mug (Technologically or magically formed)||Kobalds|
|9||Champaign / Carbonated wines||Cup made of bones/ Skull||Halflings|
|10||Fermented Milk (d8)
1. Goat/ Sheep
3. Horse/ Mule
4. Elf/ Dwarf/Gnome
6. Kobald/ Dragon
7. Orc/ Troll/ Gnoll
|Fruit/ Vegetable Cup||Giant|
|11||Barbarian Bravery (fermented and drugged mixture that turned into a substance that incites a barbarian’s rage)||Crystal Goblet||Harpy|
|12||Wines made of something other than grapes (d10)
1. Apple/ Apple blossom
10. Rose Hip Wine
|14||White Lightning||Woven cup (think “mini basket”)||Rogue|
|15||Cider||Rough Stone Mug||Bards|
|17||Gin/ Rum||Origami Cup||Sorcerer|
|19||Brandy||“Double mug” (meant to be drank with 2 people at once)||Monk|
|20||Tequila||Measuring cup/ measuring spoon/ “medicine dispenser”||Warlock|
Sample rolls & what you can do with them
- Warlocks serve White Lightning in a double mug to seal a pact between the entity and themselves.
- Whiskey is served in a bone mugs by Kobalds to send the raiding parties out
- Stoutfoot Halflings serve aged plum wine in a rough stone mugs to their visitors
- Gnomish war-parties drink silver thimbles of barbarian’s bravery before attacking the giants at their doorstep
- Harpy wine is given by the spoonful to the sick by elves
- Fighters celebrate marriage by drinking cider out of a double mug
- Dragon Blood Ale is passed around in a metal flask by orcs
- Giants serve rum in fancy origami cups to visitors who want to talk
- Peaceful Dragons give visiting sages and bards mini-kegs filled with Kobald beer.
- Harpies serve vodka in porcelain bowls to their captured victims before disemboweling them. They say that the drink sweetens the flesh of the sentient beings they eat.
As you can see there are a variety of ways that drinks can be used in your games. Using some of these suggestions may give ideas for adventure, plot, and just background descriptions in your game. As always feel free to comment, like, and re-share!