One of your players has smuggled a 24-pack of Natty Ice into the game (or paper bag full of industrial glue, we won’t judge) and now half the players are giggly on Irish medicine. How do you, the Designated Dungeon Master, wrangle a room full of inebriated nerds? Is the game even salvageable? Do you just throw up your hands and call the night a bust?
No. Because that’s what quitters and responsible friends do– and you’re neither. Instead, try these 4 easy ways to manage the worst offenders without kicking them out of your game or turning it into an intervention.
Step 1) buy any other brand.
1) Give Drunk Players Simple Tasks
AKA downgrading to Diablo III-style Progression
The picture above is only a slight exaggeration from what I’m talking about when I say ‘Simple Tasks.’
Dungeons and Dragons, depending upon the version or spinoff, can get complicated as hell. I understand that nerds are supposedly all math rockstars, but apparently I forgot to check the Algebra box when I was filling out my IRL character sheet. Eventually drunk players will get sick of fudging their numbers, screwing with all the pesky +1’s, and start outright cheating or ignoring the rules.
The solution is to offer them a lever, metaphorically. Give them a role to fulfill that’s game-mechanically simple. Have them man a catapult so they can participate in the battle by picking their target and cranking a lever. Trap them in the body of an NPC, possibly an animal, so their decisions are severely limited. They’ll still be a distraction to the group, especially if there are multiple drunk players, but they won’t have to agonize over the 40+ spells at their Wizard’s disposal.
2) Get Them More Drunk! (In Game)
This seems counter intuitive, as most DM’s shy away from giving their players more reasons to act like dicks.
When the player-character polishes off his fourth dwarven ale it’s generally assumed the establishment will end the night as an inferno. And for good reason. But here’s the thing to remember about being really, really, pants-on-head four-sheets-to-the-wind drunk: everything is a goddamn dexterity check, and you’re on a time limit before passing out.
If the player-character is too drunk to stay on his bar stool, then he’s too drunk to murder, loot, or arson. Oh sure, he can try to get into trouble, if he passes all the requisite checks to get a match to light, or to wrest the sword from his scabbard. Get the character drunker than the player and you’ll accomplish two things: the players will be amused, and you’ll limit the danger a drunk player and his character can pose.
3) Use Their Distracting Behavior As A Plot Device
I already mentioned having a drunk player RP as an animal, but this can be taken much, much further. Magic can (and does) account for some amazingly strange behaviors. If you see the player’s eyes gloss over from the hooch, immediately tell the rest of the party that Drunky’s character has been bewitched, bespelled, possessed, or is otherwise out of his/her right mind. This gives the offending player leeway to act out (which drunks are wont to do) while also warning the party that they’ll be required to keep the drunkard/demonically possessed barbarian in check.
Warning: I’ve witnessed this backfire if the group, as a whole, is too apathetic to keep their friend in check. Before turning the drunkard’s antics into a plot point, ask yourself: Are my friends the type of people who would escort me from the party and call a taxi, or would they let me urinate on a sleeping Umber Hulk while they laugh?
4) Play The ‘Quiet Game’ With The Player(s)
If you limit the player’s ability to speak it can keep them from being a disruption. However, if they are completely unable to communicate, they will soon find other ways to amuse themselves, probably de-railing the game entirely since they are no longer actively contributing.
Instead, tell them everything they say will be considered in-character, and their character has been cursed with silence, or gagged, or had their tongue removed in jail. But always, always allow them to communicate in other ways. This can be both beneficial to policing their behavior, and funny for everyone around the table.
An example of this comes from a game I attended some eight or nine years ago. One of the players was drunk at the table, and for once it wasn’t me. He was loud, obnoxious, and very intent on trying to convince a noblewoman her undergarments were haunted. Our DM, who was more clever than I, struck the character with a “wordless curse.” The PC could neither speak nor write until the noblewoman-turned-sorceress deemed him worthy. Instead, the player was given a pad of paper and pen– but not for writing words.
Thus began a hilarious game of pictionary that lasted until the end of our session. The player happily doodled (and drank) the entire game, in silence, making funny faces when players failed to guess the actions and party suggestions he had drawn. Of course, this can still lead to distraction when the player draws himself climbing a giantess like a tree without using his hands, but some distractions are preferable to others.
Featured image from Wiki Commons.
Written for Statbonus.com