Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #502
6 Ways To Assemble The Party And Kick-Off Your Campaign
This Week's Tips Summarized
6 Ways To Assemble The Party And Kick-Off Your Campaign
A Brief Word From Johnn
Free City Encounters PDF And Dropbox Request
If you did not catch it last issue, you can download a PDF
of 650 Fantasy City Encounters & Hooks based on entries from
the recent contest, for free.
There was a small group of modern and sci-fi encounters
entries from the contest as well, and I'll be putting those
in an upcoming issue for you.
I also have a request. I've nearly run out of space in my
Dropbox account. I use it for backup, file transfer and
multi-computer file access for the newsletter, website and
other work. I also use it for my Riddleport campaign to give
my players access to images and files during and between
The service is free (2 GB of storage) and I have had great
success with it. If you are thinking of trying out DropBox,
would you sign up using this link and I will receive a bump
in my space allowance:
If you do not want to use my referral link, but want to
check out DropBox, use the link below. Again, it's a great
service for file storage and RPG: www.dropbox.com
Riddleport Campaign Musings
A player, Jeff, noted last game there were a lot more
considerations for character actions now in the campaign.
This is one of the key benefits of running an urban campaign
and I hope it continues to develop, as it adds a lot of
novel-like depth to the game.
By re-using NPCs and locations, more details pile up. Things
like relationships, balance of power, motives, tactics and
risk vs. reward factor in more and more because this
information has been gamed out and is now part of our common
For example, the PCs fought dragonspawn as they traveled to
a city district run by another crime lord. One PC perished
and the others fled, wisely.
The dragonspawn had blocked the group's travel and told them
to turn back. After a bit of parley the PCs attacked. Things
went south and they retreated back to their home base.
That was a couple sessions ago. Last session, #11 so far in
the campaign, the group opted for a different approach (pun
intended) based on their knowledge of the city and awareness
of the situation. They sought a first-time audience with the
crime lord of their district to either get permission to go
after the dragonspawn - minions of another crime lord - or
get some other advantage or method so they could reach their
The crime lord of the Leeward District - the PCs' home base
- is rumoured to be a vampire with his lair hidden beneath
the fighting arena. The group decided the best approach was
to meet with street boss Krug to arrange an audience with
crime lord Rictus.
The first test was being seated at a board room table with a
trio of foul creatures dressed in the latest business
fashion. Knowledge checks and detection spells flew, and the
PCs learned Krug and his flunkies were powerful undead -
vampire spawn. The PCs kept weapons and holy symbols
sheathed, and the street boss stayed polite. All good.
Through parley the characters succeed in getting their
meeting with Rictus. They are immediately taken further into
Krug's HQ to a room with three misty magic portals. He
steps through the orange one. Taking a leap of faith (more
puns, sorry) the PCs enter blindly into the swirling magical
They emerge in the middle of a pentagram in a dark room with
an altar at one end and door in the other. Krug leads them
to the door. I found it ironic the *PCs* were summoned into
a pentagram. I think it says something about their moral
On a side note, this issue has a bunch of tips for campaign
starts and getting groups together. Pulling a Sixth Sense
trick, I've always thought it a neat premise that the PCs
are summoned into the campaign without knowledge of such.
Could be fun.
Krug leads the group through a magic hall that requires an
arcane password to bypass the trap. Then they enter a large
meeting room in which sits Rictus and several lieutenants.
The PCs unleash knowledge and social skill checks to help
get their bearings and they have a successful meeting.
Rictus needs someone who can speak abyssal. The PCs offer
two solutions, one of which is very clever and unexpected.
They reach an agreement and the crime lord leads them to an
imprisoned demon he wants to question. That encounter-within-
an-encounter goes well, and finally the PCs can address
their main request.
Rictus gives them permission to attack the dragonspawn. This
might cause a row with the crime lord of that district, a
mysterious figure known as Skinrazor, but Rictus is fine
with that. He actually wants such a conflict, and the PCs
will serve as an excellent catalyst for his cunning plans.
Meantime, one of the lieutenants, a medusa, chats up the
party's pit fighter and arranges a match later in the week.
The group leaves this dark place. I did not mention the
gentleman's club for vampire spawn they had to pass through.
Despite being guests of Rictus, it was an unnerving moment
for the group.
Back in daylight, where a powerful blizzard rages, the group
breathes a sigh of relief, mission accomplished.
For the campaign, more details emerged about the PCs' lord's
lair and who he associates with. They also learned how to
successfully gain an audience with Krug and Rictus. I find
all this exciting, because unlike a dungeon where such
things are likely throwaway after the PCs cause devastation
and salt the ground as they leave for the next encounter
area, we can build on these details over and over in future
For example, the PCs might want to sneak into Rictus's lair.
They know the path and the requirements now, and this could
spawn many PC-generated encounters in the future as they try
to learn the magic hall password and bypass Krug's flunkies
and Rictus's various defenses. Or the PCs could become
information brokers. Knowledge of where Rictus's lair is and
how to gain entrance could be valuable if sold. Or the PCs
could try to approach the medusa and other lieutenants
privately to ally with, gather knowledge from, or do
For the session, there were a lot of dramatic moments and
small victories won without combat gameplay. This was made
possible because of the relationships and in-game
consequences based on details forged in the previous 10
For me, I was thrilled to introduce a dungeon where the PCs
did not move from room to room, kicking down the door and
gathering the loot. I hope we re-use this dungeon (Vampires
& Liches by Necromancer Gamers, if you're curious) often. I
also hope the place does become a combat and looting crawl
at some point in some sections, and we'll see how gameplay
It is tough when you start a campaign with new rules and new
setting. The characters would know the world, but we do not.
But we're getting there. As each session passes, more milieu
details emerge. Jeff's comment brought my head up out of the
details and tactics and helped me appreciate how well the
campaign is developing thanks to the group willing to
roleplay and consider all angles before acting. Well done,
Roleplayingtips.com Accessibility Question
Webmaster Steve B. has a question for any RPT readers with
I would like to get feedback from any Roleplaying Tips
readers who use assistive technology such as JAWS concerning
any hindrances they run into when trying to read the
website. I'm finding out that accessibility is a bigger and
more involved issue than I had realized and would like to do
what I can to improve the accessibility of the websites that
I work with.
Email any feedback to me and I'll forward it along. Thanks!
Have more fun at every game - and play more often!
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Reader Tip Request: Heists
RPT reader Karsten asks a great question about heists:
Hi, I was asked to run a heist in FATE 3. I was
wondering if people can contribute some ideas on what
to with that scenario. I am interested in a
contemporary, no magic-allowed heist - much like Oceans
Heists are a tricky proposition, Karsten. Like mysteries,
this theme lends itself to the problem of brittle plotting.
In addition, movies like Oceans 11 involve intense precision
throughout, and precision is rarely a strong suit for RPG
Readers, I look forward to your tips, experiences and advice
on this difficult topic.
Also, if curious about Fate 3, check it out at
Evil Hat Productions Wiki
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Return to Contents
6 Ways To Assemble The Party And Kick-Off Your Campaign
This week's feature article is inspired by three things.
First is a couple of reader requests that I've been
neglecting about getting PCs together for the first time and
kicking off campaigns. Apologies to James S., Patrick R. and
Matthew I. for the delay in these tips.
Second, last issue I rambled on about encouraging you to
play more often because life is short and stressful, and
with our busy lives, "now" never seems like a good time to
get gaming. I know I struggle to keep up with my every-
other-week game, but my goal is to game weekly despite the
hurdles. This week's topic of group origin is a natural fit
with the goal of having us all game more.
Third, I've just released a cool new ebook about how to find
great gamers in your local area. That is a big problem for
many folks, based on the emails I've received over the
years. Is your neighbour a gamer? They could be and you
might never know.
This ebook, called Filling the Empty Chair, compiles the top
40 or so gamer finder websites and services you can use to
find out if your neighbour or others nearby play RPG.
Wouldn't that be awesome? The book also offers 28 offline
methods to uncover local gamers.
Get more book details.
On to the tips!
1. Action First, Backstory Second
Sometimes, it's better to jump right into the action, then
deal afterward with the reasons why the PCs are together and
what the campaign premise is. This is a classic tip, also
commonly referred to as In Media Res.
You might do this for a few reasons:
- Some players, such as myself, take awhile to warm up to
their characters. I can write all the backstory and
personality I want, but not until the character is in play
and with the other characters do I start to get a true feel
for who that PC is and why.
- Pacing, excitement, a good start. Get players involved
right away with a combat or action sequence. If time is
limited, players are new to each other, or you are new to
GMing, an action-packed start launches the game forward
without awkwardness or hesitation.
- Missing players. A last-minute cancellation or late player
might derail your party-building plans. Stalling with action
is a great way to game on without delay.
- You don't know what the characters will be. I've started
many campaigns with character creation taking up the first
part of the session, leaving the second part free to begin
roleplaying. However, this means you don't know who the
characters are ahead of time. To stall, so you have between-
session time to think and plan, start in the middle with
action and then cover backgrounds and campaign hooks next
- A tournament, fair or competition. Classic! The PCs
compete in events and interact with NPCs without requiring
heavy plot hooks to establish yet what they're doing or why.
- Bar brawl. Another common start some might say is cliche.
Bah! It's easy, fun and accessible to the players. If you've
done this before with the same group of players, then think
up a clever twist to keep it interesting. Perhaps the brawl
occurs in some kind of aerial tavern. Maybe the staff or
some of the patrons reveal themselves as monsters
(lycanthropes, space mutants, zombies!).
- Mid-flight. The PCs are running from something. The why
can be settled later - they need to lose their pursuers now.
- At the dungeon entrance. Leave the reasons for next week -
the gaping cave and descending staircase beckon.
- Defending. All the players know at this point is they've
been ordered to defend a person, place or thing, and they
are under attack.
2. Know How You'll Bring In New PCs
Do characters die in your campaigns? Is your group small and
there's a chance a new player might join in the near future?
If so, plan an entrance strategy for new PCs so your
campaign premise doesn't get diluted.
For example, in a campaign I was in, each PC received
a bloodline. Unbeknownst to us as players, our characters
were tainted with the blood of creatures by a villain who
was trying to create enhanced minions to help him destroy
the world. This was a great premise.
Early on we discovered our heritage in a dungeon. However,
one player soon had to leave the campaign, a new one joined,
and then another new player joined. This put quite a strain
on things because one had to visit this dungeon to activate
their bloodline powers, and the group wasn't about to return
to that place over and over for each new stranger who wanted
to hitch a ride on the adventure cart.
In addition, the character who left had this active
bloodline thing going on in him, and he became a weird open
loop in the campaign. The GM had to put him down,
Before you weave your crazy web of character connectedness,
think about PCs joining and leaving and how you'll handle
3. Four Core Approaches
From Swordgleam chaoticshiny.com
Some players think it is entirely the DM's job to introduce
the party to each other and give them a viable reason to
stay together. Some DMs think this is entirely the players'
job. Players and DMs who feel one way generally feel
similarly about who is responsible for
creating/finding/following/figuring out the plot.
I've run a few campaigns of varying lengths, starting on
either end of the "whose job is this" spectrum. The
smoothest startups either way have all involved clear
expectations on both sides. Based on what I've experienced,
it seems like the core approaches, in rough order of how
well they've worked for me, are:
- Players work together to create characters with
interweaving backstories, then present this to the DM.
- The DM designs a campaign predicated on the PCs
- DM creates a situation that forces the PCs together, and
the PCs must go from there.
- The PCs put their characters in proximity, and the DM
gives them a reason to stick together.
Some examples that I've seen work:
- An urban fantasy campaign where all of the players were
descendants of various Greek gods, who were starting to feel
a bit smite-y. The party was told they would have to work
together to do the gods' will if they wanted to avoid
- The party members were all thrown in jail for reasons of
varying validity, and ended up in the same cell. It was up
to them to decide if they needed each others' help to find a
way out and avoid recapture.
- The players all explained why their characters would be
on a merchant ship headed to a certain city. Pirates
attacked the ship, and the party ended up escaping together
with nothing but a waffle maker, a rowboat, and a vision of
one day seeing land again.
The first approach involves a lot more work from the players
than the others, but it also gives the players more freedom.
This, in turn, is more work for the DM, but I'd argue that
coming up with a campaign for an already functional party is
much less work, or at least less frustrating work, than
coming up with excuse after excuse as to why a dysfunctional
party needs to stick together for one more session.
This can only happen if the players are up for it, which is
probably why it seems to be a relatively rare approach.
Still, pinning all of the work on the DM has always struck
me as unfair, unless getting the party together is a
fundamental part of the plot.
Having the categories is helpful for brainstorming. Defining
what you're trying to accomplish (full-blown party cohesion,
versus starting the PCs off on the right foot) makes coming
up with ideas a whole lot easier.
Making things clear at the start avoids the, "You bought me
a beer, so I trust you. Let's go adventuring!" scenario and
inevitable fallout when expectations don't get met.
Listing possible kick-off scenarios by category also makes
it easier to find the right fit for the current party -
being told you're all soldiers in the same unit isn't going
to work for players excited to play outlaw heroes, just like
starting out marooned on an island won't work for players
who want the DM to walk them through every step of the
4. Taverns, Prison, Enlistment, Chance, The Deep End
From Casey Dare
I've used a few successful and fun methods to introduce new
characters to each other and get the game going.
- Chance Encounter
- The Deep End
Each of these can be tied into the main plot of the campaign
or pre-story campaigns to get the group to know each other.
If a part of the main campaign, the encounters should be
scripted and used to move the party along to the next
If solely to introduce the group together, these can be
loosely written and more random, with "what do you want to
do" events tied to NPCs typically found in those venues.
- The Deep End always starts with a bang, and is followed by
an "uh oh" from the group.
For example, I had a group wake up after an inn keeper
drugged the ale and was caught lighting the inn on fire. The
place was ablaze and they couldn't exit the front for fear
the folks outside might accuse them of setting the place on
fire. The story evolved into them seeking to understand why
the inn keeper set the fire.
Another good one is using a ship running afoul in shallow
waters or encountering a pirate to unite the strangers into
a group. They have no choice but to respond to the events
because they are "in the deep end" and have to swim or
- Throwing the PCs in prison is much fun. A few quick "in
the hall" meetings with each PC can orchestrate running
afoul of the local constable and finding them in jail.
Having the biggest bruiser in the joint decide to pick on
the little mage or priest can pull the group together, and
their decisions on escape or talking their way out is always
entertaining. And this can be used as a pre-plot adventure
just to get the group to know each other.
- Enlistment is often a quick way to join a group; a large
contingent of the Duke's Own riding into town, herding all
the men into the square and pointing "you, you, you and you,
in the wagon" can start an adventure quickly.
- A Chance Encounter should almost always be linked to a
greater plot and is easy enough to do. For example, the PCs
all happen to turn down the same street when a young woman
frantically rushes into their midst, looking over her
shoulder, and whispers, "I must hide from him; please help
me or I shall die!"
Around the corner a towering brute strides down the center
of the street. Four burly henchmen flank him and all are
scanning around looking for something - or someone. How the
PCs react sets up the adventure and can lead to a great
Flexibility in story and ability to adapt is key for a GM to
succeed when using these approaches, because PCs will
respond in unexpected ways, yet the GM still needs to keep
gameplay focused on bringing the group together and moving
them along in the story.
But they are fun ways to quickly bring together a new group
without spending hours detailing each character or meeting
individually with each person prior to starting.
5. Model Real Life
From Marc K.
In response to the problem of how players have their
characters meet each other, I just borrow from real life.
How the players actually met each other in real life is how
their characters met in game. It's simple and somewhat
For example, in my current campaign there are six players.
In real life we all met each other through a mutual friend
named Chad. Chad is not a player in our game so I created an
NPC bard bearing the same name. I based his personality
similar to the real life person (much to the amusement of
the other players).
Another idea I used that I borrowed from real life was The
Party. It just so happens that all the players knew each
other from a big party one of us threw a couple of years ago
at his parent's chalet up in the woods.
So before the game, I gave the character whose player hosted
the party a cabin in the woods and told the others that is
where they met initially. This set up was great because all
the players were familiar with the cabin and the layout of
the surrounding area. There was even an unused well on the
grounds (which served as the kickoff to the first
For groups who have trouble figuring out how their
characters know each other (especially large groups) I say
just look at how you all met in real life, transpose it into
the setting, and add any NPC characters, events, or sites
that would make it easier for everyone to associate and
voila, instant introduction!
6. Start With A Simple One-Shot
From Soylent Green
One thing I have noticed is the most successful campaigns in
my group are often sleeper hits - flexible and unassuming
one-off games that just tend to carry on and grow.
The high profile new campaigns, with extensive GM notes,
hype and pre-game discussions among the players tend to hit
problems within the first few sessions. Not sure why this is
or if it's just us.
7. How I Plan To Start My Campaign
From name withheld
[Comment from Johnn: this is not a tip per se, but I thought
the reader had a lot of great ideas for a campaign start
that might inspire you for your next campaign.]
I have two ideas I want to use in my forthcoming campaign.
One is stolen straight from the Heroes of Horror source book
for D&D 3.5 - the example campaign they suggest called
In Nightwatch, the heroes gradually become aware of a
growing taint in their city that comes from a nearby shrine
to a previously forgotten or deposed evil god. After a few
sessions, they come into contact with a group called
Nightwatch that has been set up by a few of the ruling
Duke's knights with a view to combat this growing evil.
The heroes get enrolled into the group and spend several
sessions combating various urban evils. Eventually they
figure out this is the work of a cult, find the cult
headquarters and do 'em! There they will find reference to
the shrine in the forest outside of the city.
The sessions then move out in the countryside looking for
the shrine and eventually the PCs put rest to the evils
there. However, while there they find correspondence to
someone within Nightwatch - there is a traitor! Back to the
city for the final showdown, which may result in the god
being summoned onto the material plane.
Within the bounds of this, I also want to try out an idea I
think came from your newsletter to take a work of fiction
and translate it into an adventure. I am going to use my
favourite PS3 game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, which I
think would translate well, with a little work. I am
planning to reveal bits of the Drake's Fortune story arc
gradually over the campaign so it will fit in and around the
main story, and may even be linked.
Anyway, back to the first session. After racking my brain
repeatedly I have come up with the following plan:
- The first session will start as some form of tournament
that will have 4 individual events and one team event.
- The winner of the tournament will get an introduction to
the Duke who will set them on the path of the Drake's
Fortune (as well as providing more immediate work and 500
- The four events will be designed so each of the characters
can shine in one of them, and then the team event is looking
likely to be some form of contest where they have to team up
to be effective.
- Against this backdrop I will have stalls around the
tournament the characters can go to and interact with NPCs
who will become more important as the campaign continues, as
well as roaming NPCs.
- The other teams will also provide roleplaying
opportunities. I am considering a team made up of four anti-
heroes who may become firm rivals as the campaign develops.
The twist to all this is the person designed to provide the
winners with their 500 gold crowns, as well as the
introduction to the Duke, gets assassinated just before the
winners go through to meet him. This person (at the minute
just called "The Duke's Emissary") is actually a member of
the evil cult, and the assassin is a member of Nightwatch.
The Duke then engages the heroes to investigate the murder,
which will give them the beginnings of awareness about the
cult, as well as an opportunity to run in with Nightwatch.
Knowing my lot, they're likely to kill the assassin if they
can catch him, even if he surrenders, and I want to ensure
this has consequences for them.
* * *
Stay tuned for more examples and tips on assembling parties
and kicking off campaigns and first sessions.
If you have any tips or examples, please do send them in as
this is a great topic to explore further.
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For Your Game: 10 Disasters
- Blue Crush
The water seems to recede, as if something was drawing it
away from the shore. A few turns later, a wall of water 12
feet high rolls over the beach causing a great deal of
damage, washing anything not bolted down away and toppling
structures made of anything weaker than stone. PCs are
jostled, take minor to moderate damage and can lose items in
the surge of water.
- Wyrmfang Spill
A wagon ahead of the PCs has an accident (breaks a wheel,
horses spook, orcs attack and kill the driver) and its
contents are spilled. A strange green cloud spills from the
damaged wagon, plants quickly wither and die and animals in
the area of the cloud sicken and also die in a few agonizing
- Red Skies
The PC on night watch notices a red glow, and in a matter of
minutes, the PCs are being threatened by a raging wildfire.
Trees explode into flame, the heat sucks breathable air away
and water quickly evaporates in the inferno. You wake up,
the forest is on fire.
The bad storm takes a bad twist. Winds kick up to incredible
speed, ripping houses apart and flinging debris around.
Then, the rain, hail, wind and lightning stop. A muted roar
announces the presence of the tornado as it marches
relentlessly across the earth for a few miles of sheer
destruction. Well mage...can you counterspell that thing?
- The Zombie Strain
A necromancer made a big mistake, creating a highly
contagious version of the animate dead spell. Rather than
creating a self replenishing army of dead under his control,
the zombies spread their affliction to the living by fluid
exchange. The PCs only have a few days before succumbing to
the infection and becoming zombies themselves...unless there
is a cure.
- The Tower Inferno
Galas and fetes are things of courtly grace and splendor,
events of decorum and etiquette. The stately tedium is
interrupted by a fire spreading quickly through the palace,
and the PCs are involved to help put out the flames and
rescue important or self-important people from the blazing
- Amphibious Assault
A night by the river turns strange as the ground is quickly
covered by a thick carpet of frogs and toads of all
different sizes. Anything edible the amphibians eat,
including each other, travel is done on a slick of frog
blood and gore, and the smell after a few hours is
- Who turned off the lights?
One morning the sun doesn't rise. No reason is to be given,
other than a faint smile or a fiendish chuckle.
- Dead in the Pasture
The PCs' mounts perish during the night for no apparent
reason. The next village has been hit with the same
affliction some days before and there is not a horse, ox,
cow, or any other such critter to be found for miles.
- Fly Hollow
Traveling, the PCs find the ruins of a town, complete with
macabre skeletons and dried out corpses. A steady drone
fills the air and the sky is darkened by the wings of
millions of black biting flies.
For 20 more disasters, visit:
You might also want to check out Issue 464:
12 Disasters in Fantasy Campaigns
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Exotic Brews And Drinking Customs
By Dariel Quiogue
What do characters drink in your world? If like me, you like
to run games in worlds inspired by Asia or Africa instead of
Western Europe, then coming up with a local tipple that's
not just ale or wine can add flavor of the game. It helps
your players remember they're not in Kansas anymore.
To come up with original brews for your own campaign, just
remember a few things about alcohol and brewing. All
alcoholic beverages are created by a fermentation process
that turns sugars from plant products into ethyl alcohol, a
substance we can safely ingest in moderate quantities.
So, if a plant product has sugar in it, it can theoretically
be fermented into a drink. (There are other factors why not
all fruits can be made into a good beverage, but let's leave
that aside as we're doing a fantasy setting after all.)
What's it made of?
The most common alcoholic beverages are made from the
fermentation of grapes or grain. Vodka, also common, was
originally made from grain, but now some vodka is made from
potatoes. Rum is made from sugarcane.
So much for the common stuff. What else is out there?
Mead, as Ibn Fadhlan found out to his great encouragement in
the movie 13th Warrior, is made from honey. Mongolians make
kumiss from mare's milk. Some African peoples brew a kind of
beer from plantain bananas. Palm toddy, also known as arak
in some countries and as tuba where I live, is made from the
sap of the coconut palm.
Tuba is further refined by distillation into a hellish (but
delicious!) potation called lambanog. In the provinces of
the Cordillera range, far to the north of Manila, a wine
made from the berries of the bugnay bush is becoming
popular. In Polynesia, the root of a pepper-like plant is
pounded to make kava. How about a wine made from a spicy
fruit? Or a fruit that is naturally alcoholic when ripe? I
also can't forget my first taste of ice wine, wine made from
grapes that were allowed to shrivel on the vine in frost.
As anything with sugar can theoretically be fermented, you
can also look elsewhere for your sugar sources. How about
nectar? In my Twilight Age setting, I came up with the idea
for Nineflower Wine, an exotic and very rare wine made from
the nectars of nine different rare jungle flowers. And
because of the exotic ingredients, I decided the wine also
had some extra side effects - it was an aphrodisiac and
Where's it from?
Another major factor to consider in creating your world's
booze is where it comes from. Today we can often expect to
pay much more for a certain bottle of wine just because it
came from a reputed winery.
What regions in your world are known for their beverages?
Why are said beverages famous?
What else is in it?
Many liquors are made with the addition of other ingredients
for flavoring. A lot of spices and condiments make their way
into liquor as well as food in our own world - from
chocolate to caraway seeds to citrus fruit essences to worms
What else might your fantasy world's people put in their
drinks? The blood of rare and dangerous monsters? Venom from
a sea serpent?
What does it do?
We all know what alcohol does: it gets us drunk. But what
else could drinking an exotic liquor do? You can think in
terms of drug-like effects or aspects of your game world
that might be interesting to affect in this way.
How about a rare and expensive wine that slows down aging?
Or a wine that causes you to dream prophecy? A wine that
saps the ability to work magic? A wine containing sea
serpent venom that gives you water breathing and the ability
to understand the languages of sea creatures and marine
races? Lots of possibilities there that you can arrive at
just by free association.
Sometimes it's not so much what you drink as how you drink
it. Here's a table of possible drinking customs your world's
societies could have, many of them culled from various real-
- You may never refuse a drink offered to you, otherwise
you insult your host's hospitality.
- When someone offers you a toast, you must toast that
person back or offer a toast to another guest.
- It is an honor to be invited to drink from the host's
cup, and an insult to your host if you refuse.
- You may only offer a drink to your social inferiors or
- You must always offer the first drink to the gods or
- There is a precise order in which toasts are offered,
e.g. first to the King, then to the Queen, then to the
patriarch, then to the local lord, then to your host.
Missing any of them is considered discourteous and
unpatriotic, maybe even treasonous.
- Before taking your first drink, you or a representative
of your party must offer a verse in praise of your host.
- Some kinds of wine or other liquor are considered
reserved for ceremonial uses, and consumption of them
outside of the ritual or by non-priests is sacrilegious.
- If you leave a banquet sober, you have insulted the
hospitality of your host.
- Being offered a cup by a maiden is a sign she wants to
be courted by you. By extension, offering a cup to a person
of opposite sex is considered a courtship ritual or the
preliminary to a proposition.
- You must consume exactly as many cups as your host, no
more and no less.
- No banquet is complete unless it ends with a drinking
game in which the loser of every round must drain a full
cup; the game may involve guessing or riddles, contests of
poetry, knife- or dart-throwing in a warlike society, maybe
even insults and contests to see who can tell the bawdiest
If you want to use these in your campaigns, feel free to
just roll a d12 on this list. Cheers!
* * *
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