Dungeons & Flagons: Alcohol Rules for Dungeons & Dragons 4e

Dungeons & Flagons: Alcohol Rules for Dungeons & Dragons 4e

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A thin drop of condensation rolled down the glass, mirrored by the small bead of sweat running down the side of Grafton’s face. The druid fingered his drink, sliding the perspiring glass back and forth across rough wooden table, leaving behind a thin trail of water. He glared across the table to where Umalli was sitting. The half-orc wizard swallowed his shot and slapped the glass onto the table with a loud hollow tap, setting it beside the growing stack of empty glasses. Umalli smirked at his competition. Grafton picked-up his drink, the liquid trembling in the shifter’s fluttering hand. This could be going better…

Alcohol has a long history in the Dungeons & Dragons game; innumerable campaigns have started in a booze-serving tavern, heroes often relax with a cool ale at the local inn between delves, and every gamer should be familiar with the archetypal player calling-out that he’s “getting drunk” while at a bar.

Curiously, there have not been many hard rules for actually getting drunk. Gygax had rules for intoxication back in the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, but these were excised in the more family-friendly years of 2nd Edition. This article aims to restoring the drunkenness to D&D, easy to remember and easy to use rules, which follow the design of 4e.

Getting Drunk

Being intoxicated is treated like a disease. It uses the standard disease track with the following additions:

  • Checks: Endurance checks are used to improve or maintain your condition. You cannot worsen through failed Endurance checks.
  • Short Rest: Endurance checks are made after each short rest and not after extended rests.
  • Cured: A successful check at the Hung-over state removes the disease.
  • Good Night’s Sleep: Taking an extended rest moves you to the Hung-over state.
  • Sober-up: As normal, a Heal check can be used in place of an Endurance check.


Types of Booze

Different types of alcohol are not identical, there are subtleties created from the material the drink is created from, and through different methods of fermentation and brewing. Regardless of the variety, all drinks lead to intoxication.

After finishing a drink, the character makes an attack roll against their Fortitude defence. The attack bonus varies depending on the variety of alcohol and the character’s level. Consuming a drink uses the following rules:

  • Being Hit: Successful attacks impose the associated penalties and the character is intoxicated.
  • Penalties Do Not Stack: Penalties suffered from being hit by identical drinks do not stack.
  • Effects Stack: Penalties from the Effect line are cumulative.
  • Intoxicated: Being hit moves the character to the initial effect on the Intoxication disease track.
  • Worsen: If the character is already intoxicated they move down a state on the disease track.
  • Ends When ‘Cured’: Unless otherwise noted, penalties last until the character reaches the Hung-over state.

Additionally, some drinks have an extra effects dependant on the state of Intoxication. The character only suffers the effect of the drink consumed to reach that state, even if different types of drink had been consumed earlier. This effect lasts until the character moves up the disease track.

Drink 1

Drink 2

Drink 3

Drink 4






Competitive Drinking

Many adventurers engage in alcohol-related challenges, each attempting to out-drink the other. These drinking games either involve seeing who can drink the most before passing-out or seeing who can drink faster.

For the first variety of drinking game, the standard rules presented above are used. The loser is the first to be “drunk under the table”, which is the first to reach the falling-down state and fail a saving throw. It can be played as a party, with the winner being the only person who doesn’t pass-out.

Instead of rolling attacks against themselves, in a drinking competition characters can roll attacks against their opponent’s defence. Applicable powers – such as Utility powers – can be used normally, but outside assistance is generally discouraged or seen as cheating (but does not always prevent help from allies).

Contests of speed require additional rules, and can be played as a simple Skill Challenge paired with the above drinking rules. This adds an additional layer of difficulty to the Skill Challenge: succeeding before falling unconscious.

Speed Drinking

Level: Any
Complexity: 2 (requires 6 successes before 3 failures); if multiple characters are competing this could increase to Complexity 3.
Primary Skills: Athletics, Bluff, Endurance, Heal, Intimidate
Acrobatics (moderate DC): Drinker only. With a successful check, the character can keep finding new drinks and not stall or stumble.
Athletics (moderate DC): Drinker only. A successful check allows the character to keep drinking without losing their concentration or slowing their pace.
Bluff (moderate DC): A successful check distracts and slows down the character’s opponents.
Endurance (moderate DC): Drinker only. A successful check allows the character to continue drinking despite the alcohol already consumed.
Heal (moderate DC): A successful check before the competition allows the character to better prepare for the drinking. A check during the competition allows a character to prevent or quickly recover from gagging.
Intimidate (moderate DC): With a successful check, the character startles or throws an opponent off their game.
Secondary Skills: Nature, Thievery
Nature (hard DC): The character knows herbs that absorb alcohol. With a successful check the character can grant a +2 bonus to one check during the challenge.
Thievery (hard DC): The character can slip something into an opponent’s drink with a successful check. This grants a +2 bonus to the next skill check. Alternatively, the drinker can palm a drink instead of drinking it, with a successful check this cancels one failure.
Success: If the characters earn 6 successes they have out-drank the competition, downing more glasses of liquor. If multiple characters were competing the PC with the highest number of successes wins, with the least number of failures acting as a tie-breaker.
Failure: The character was unable to keep-up with the competition and has lost. But they still have their pride… until the drink catches-up to them. Additionally, the character takes a -2 penalty to all Endurance checks.

Drinking in Combat

Significantly intoxicated PCs are at a disadvantage in combat. They might be dazed and suffering penalties to skills making encounters more difficult without an equivalent bonus to experience.

If combat is taking place in a bar or similar location, DMs should consider applying similar penalties to monsters. If the PCs are inebriated it makes sense that their opponents might also be somewhat drunk. If the majority of the part is hammered and thus dazed, instead of denying actions and reducing combat to a crawl, it’s possible to award addition Move actions each round to any sober creature.

If a character drinks to excess knowing or suspecting they may be involved in an encounter then intoxication was their choice and the DM is under no obligation to adjust the encounter. However, if the player did not suspect an encounter was likely, the Dungeon Master can treat the intoxicating effect as terrain and adjust the level and difficulty of the encounter accordingly.

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About the Author

David aka Jester has contributed to the Powersource Podcast, Goodman Game's "Book of Rituals", "Dragon" magazine, and has been a longtime member of the Ravenloft fan-community the "Fraternity of Shadows". His semi-regular blog can be read on the Wizards of the Coast community site. Follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/DnDJester