• Food for Thought: Rotgut and Moonshine

    by and  • June 12, 2012 • Essays • 9 Comments

    One thing we’ve learned over the years is that hungry gamers are grumpy gamers. We’ve also learned that a good food experience makes for a better night than an utterly forgettable food experience.

    Food for Thought is a series where we talk about food at the table.

    Rotgut and Moonshine

    After a hard day of dungeon delving, the party of adventurers gather a a nearby inn and raise tankards of ale in celebrate of their victory. A vampire sips at a glass of red wine, rolling the taste over his tongue while eyeing a new victim. A hard-bitten detective slumps into a bar and demands a bottle of whiskey to drown her sorrows.

    Alcohol often makes its way into the game fiction to lubricate the storytelling. Of course, sometimes alcohol makes it’s way into the gamers as well. Let’s discuss libations, shall we?

     Finaira: Barkeep! Another round!

    Everyone does alcohol differently. Some people like to drink a lot, others like to have only a few drinks, some don’t drink at all. Sometimes people who like to drink just don’t feel like it. So the first rule of bringing drinks to game is to remember that everyone is different and if they don’t want to partake (or if you don’t want to partake), that’s fine and they should not be made to feel left out or unwelcome. So provide an alternative.

    Plan in advance if you know there will be drinks at game. If you can, I’d always suggest trying to fit the alcohol to the theme of the game. If there isn’t a theme ask around if people have preferences. I know that my favorite drink right now is rum, so if you offer me rum, I’ll be much happier than if you drag out beers.

    But also plan for how much drinking you want around the table. No one wants to get caught with that one person who has just had a few too many drinks and are now acting like a drunken lout. No one, usually, wants to be that person. One or two drinks per person is the norm in my group. If you have 6 games, 12 beers is plenty. If you bring hard liquor, this can quickly exceed whatever arbitrary maximum you want to set so be prepared to police the bottle if you want to keep the drinking to a minimum.

    There are plenty of bizarre little rules that I’ve seen both implicitly and explicitly. Don’t start drinking at someone else’s place until the host either okays it or starts drinking themselves unless you know them very well.  Don’t be the only person drinking. That usually ends badly. If someone else is mixing drinks, don’t impose on their time and keep them from the gaming table. Don’t drink all the expensive stuff without permission.

    Know your limits and know the limits of those around you. Just like any other time that you go drinking with friends. Gaming is supposed to be fun and alcohol is good at making social situations fun. So let it be fun.

    Kim: Bourbon and branch, please.

    I am a lightweight. I can manage a drink or two in an evening, provided I nurse them and have something to eat. The unfortunate thing is that I like hard liquor. Rum is my favorite but I won’t say no to scotch or bourbon. That means that if I want to have a drink, I need to be picky. Drinking a mediocre drink isn’t in the cards because I only get one. For me, mixed drinks are the way to go because I can have something that’s pretty, that tastes good and that doesn’t make me want to fall asleep.1

    Thankfully, geeky themed drink recipes abound on the internet. For instance, the Drunken Moogle is a blog with drink mixes inspired by geek media, including video games and movies. Alternatively, you can find a site that has mixed drinks (like Drinkmixer) and rename them to be appropriate for your game. To be fair, you might not even need to rename them. For instance, having a bowl of Ambassador’s Punch for the game when the party is trying to be diplomatic at court certainly wouldn’t be out of place. The nice thing about a lot of mixed drinks is that some can often taste good without alcohol, so if you have some who would rather not drink alcohol, you can leave the booze on the side and let people add as much as they’d prefer.

    Of course, the recipe is just part of the equation. Ingredients matter. Ultimately, it depends on what tastes good to you. Just because something has a high price tag doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it as much as something a little less pricey. If you can, sample. I have very indulgent friends who are willing to let me take a sip of their drinks when we’re out and about. I find that small, local liquor stores are the best places to find informed clerks who may have helpful advice on what to try.2 It can take time to discover which brands are the best for you but that can be part of the adventure.

    Words from the Peanut Gallery

    Do you sometimes bring alcohol to your gaming table? What are some of your favorite recipes or drinks?


    1. Yes, I’m one of those very boring drunk people that just turns in early if I’ve had too much.
    2. The store that I tend to go to let’s me taste test new products. This typically means that when I go in I budget for bringing back a surprise bottle.


    I'm a tabletop roleplayer, a larper and a video gamer. I run games, play games, remix games, talk about games, critique games, read games and have opinions about games. Sometimes, I do that online. I also have a passing fondness for making food.



    I am a casual tabletop gamer and occasional larper who likes to hold forth on gaming in general and draws like a crazy monkey who was given coffee by accident.

    9 Responses to Food for Thought: Rotgut and Moonshine

    1. avatar
      Melody Haren Anderson
      June 12, 2012 at 16:25

      Heh, I can’t say I’ve ever had an experience with alcohol being allowed at a game. When I was LARPing, a friend of mine once ducked into a room I was in looking harried. See, he was running the LARP and it was at a Con. So, I quick poured and handed him a drink, which he took the tiniest sip of and said, “Oh no, I guess I can’t ST anymore, I’ve been drinking!” with a relaxed sigh. Though to be sure, we hid him for a while.

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    2. avatar
      June 12, 2012 at 17:37

      Craft beer and cider have been our mainstays. We buy variety cases to keep everyone’s palates happy and favor Leinenkugel, Fat Tire, Woodchuck, and just recently finally got around to trying some Sam Adams. Our local microbrewer quite frankly hasn’t really impressed us enough to warrant buying growlers from them, which really disappoints me because I like trying other brewers.

      It’s been a long while since I’ve done this, but there was a stretch of time that, with a couple beers in me and inhibitions loosened but not completely gone, I became more assertive and confident in my gaming style and played better for it. Kind of a variaton on the “ten feet tall and bulletproof” type of drunk, if you will, but not so impaired. I think… 😀

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      • avatar
        Melody Haren Anderson
        June 12, 2012 at 17:40

        See, I couldn’t do that. I’d never, ever, EVER allow beer at a game I was running. Not because the drinking would upset me, but because the smell makes me seriously want to retch and I end up gagging a bit. Working at a bar had some major problems to it.

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    3. avatar
      June 12, 2012 at 18:04

      We used to drink cherry juice with a generous helping of vanilla icecream and whiskey while playing Vampire, but only one glass per evening usually. Anything more and the roleplaying got decidedly silly.

      My weekly group occasionally drinks gin tonic or the odd whiskey, but no-one ever gets drunk and no-one make a big deal out of it if a player doesn’t drink. I usually don’t and I think it’s a very important point: if you have alcohol at the gaming table, don’t be a dick about it if someone wants no part of it. Don’t pressure them, have something else available and don’t make fun of them.

      I recently played Shadowrun and shared a bottle of port wine with the GM. I’m never doing that again, although I was amazed by how well I handled it – my character even survived a shoot out. But it definitely was too much for me. I prefer my gaming sober, on the whole.

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    4. avatar
      Melody Haren Anderson
      June 12, 2012 at 18:17

      Oh wait! I forgot the incident. A friend had given me one of those big boxes of wine, and I took a tiny sip and decided it wasn’t for me. The GM for a Mekton Z game came over, and pulled the box out, and goes, “Who does this belong to?” I nodded. “Can I have it?” Again, I nodded and said sure. At which point he pulls the bag out of the box and starts drinking his “spaceman wine”. He still ran game, and we ended up getting a BILLION experience points. Then he retreated to the bathroom, and was too drunk to aim for the toilet. We found him half in the bathtub (in MY bathroom, since I was the only one living downstairs on the main floor of the house) blacked out with the obvious results.

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    5. avatar
      June 13, 2012 at 00:20

      Booze can be one of the more problematic chemicals at the table if people get belligerent when they’re drunk. Handling it can be problematic because of gender power dynamics too. What people find acceptable to handle male and female drunks is very different, even if the behaviour of the drunks themselves is similar (in one of my current groups, the heaviest drinker is a woman who is a loud, demanding drunk; also I had a relationship with an alcoholic for years, so my experience being a dude handling drunk women comes out of those and some other similar experiences involving people who were out-of-control drunk, not just tipsy or buzzed).

      Frex, if some bro of mine is super-wasted and causing a scene, you can just grab him and go “Alright you drunky fuck, cut that shit out” and it’s pretty much OK, but that would be a bad scene if you did it to a woman, especially if she’s the only woman in a group of guys, and super-especially if she’s the only drunk woman in a group of sober guys. I find that I end up repeating things like “Stay frosty” and having to go to the troggy alpha male stuff I hate to get the situation under control, or at least to keep her from shouting incoherently but with great excitement into my ears (she sits next to me, and even though I’m not the DM when drunk she shouts out what she wants her character to do right at me – I hate loud noises, and have to keep from blowing my top when people start shouting close by).

      The difficulty of handling that kind of situation is one of the reasons that I discourage, without banning, booze consumption at my own gaming table.

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      • avatar
        Kim Lam
        June 13, 2012 at 05:26

        It does sound like booze doesn’t add much positive to your game so it’s definitely best to discourage consumption in that situation.

        • avatar
          June 13, 2012 at 06:14

          The main thing I’d encourage others to try is harmonisation. Everyone should be about equally drunk, if you’re gonna do the booze thing. It’s when one or two people are hammered and no one else is, or when everyone but one or two people is drunk that problems tend to occur in my experience.

          A couple of your suggestions are pretty good for that, I think. If you have a themed drink for a scene, and you make only a reasonable amount, then folks may pace themselves while the scene is going on, instead of just leaning back with a bottle of rum. Plus, you can control the strength of the drinks instead of having folks top off a splash of coke in a highball with vodka.

          One thing we’ve done before is bought a real fancy bottle of say, whiskey, and used it for toasts when the PCs accomplish goals. If you link drinking with being a reward for accomplishing things, you can get really good goal-oriented play and problem solving and PCs will regulate one another pretty well. It’s gotta be better booze than the usual swill for that to really kick in though – a nice Maker’s Mark or Johnny Gold or something.

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    6. avatar
      June 13, 2012 at 08:02

      First drink I ever had was a blackberry wine homebrew my grandmother used to make and I had when I was 6 or 7, it was just a glass of really weak alcohol with a blackberry taste being left in my mouth. These days I stick to the strong stuff and I avoid wines as most of them give me a headache.

      Anyway whenever I go out with people I do find my self in clubs or bars and I usually like to order a glass or two and experiment with mixed drinks (some have been OK, some great and some just meh). As for getting drunk I do not go beyond a pleasant buzz territory as I see no point in getting hammered, especially since I have seen and heard about what some of my friends have done while hammered.

      So back to what this article is to talk about: drinks at the gaming table. Stay away from mixing something strong like vodka or tequila (not the watered down versions) with beer, getting drunk on such a mixture is called concreting and out of all the hammered stories I could tell you these are the worst and not just because concreting is an easy way to get drunk really fast but because the hangover the day after is actually worse then your run of the mill hangover. And it is called concreting because of the hangover: most people feel like someone injected concrete into their veins the morning after such a binge.

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