Friday, March 26, 2010

TnB RPG: Carousing, Brawling, and Feasting

With a game sporting a title like "Tankards and Broadswords", I always envisioned there being at least some tankard-raising and tankard-emptying (or it's setting-appropriate equivalent) in every campaign run using the rules set. For my players and I, gaming has always been as much about the food, the drink, the laughter and the hijinks around the gaming table as it has been about the gameplay, and so I feel the same should be reflected in the actions of the player characters; they should partake of carousing and feasting and horseplay together as much as they go off and partake in grand adventures.

I'll take this moment to point out that, as I begin this column, I've cracked open a bottle of home-brewed beer given to me by one of my players. It's her first batch, but still eminently drinkable. A fitting libation for what I'm writing about here.


When I created the skills set for the Rogue, the Carousing skill was foremost in my mind, and I consider it a critical component of adventure gaming. Allow me to cut-and-paste in the section on Carousing from the Gameplay section of the rules:

Although the "Tavern Scene" in most adventure RPGs is simply a way to introduce the next adventure, a clever GM and / or clever players can put their PC's hard-partying skills to good use in order to dig up good gossip, pocket some gambling coinage, impress some potential henchmen, or earn some local goodwill by offering to by the next round or three and showing that the PCs can put it away with the best of 'em. As many businessmen can tell you, it's often not in the boardroom but in the barroom that business deals succeed or fail (that's what those expense accounts are for, after all...). Being able to out-drink or arm-wrestle a mercenary captain might mean the difference between having an ally or an enemy on the next adventure!
Because of the above, I whole-heartedly encourage T&B GMs to put some thought and creativity into their taverns or other drinking and carousing establishments. Populate them with interesting and useful characters, invest some effort into putting foods and beverages appropriate to the setting culture on the menu, and even, if your players are amenable to it, do a little research into period games of chance or other tavern games, and see about incorporating them into gameplay. You may even be able to go so far as to get the players to take the place of their characters "at the card table" so to speak, and play some games of chance for the benefit (or detriment) of their PCs. This gives the opportunity for the "game within a game" aspects that many folks like to see incorporated into their gaming.


Nothing says having a good time at Ye Olde Tavern like a full-blown barroom brawl. It's the staple of many an adventure story, and it allows players (and their PCs) the chance to blow off a little steam while at the same time, not unduly endangering themselves or racking up an unfortunate body count with the locals. The following is an excerpt from the T&B Core Rules:

The Brawling Rules
Characters sometimes have the option of fighting using the Carousing skill - this is generally known as Brawling. "Brawling" in T&B represents not just fighting with fists and feet, but with a tankard, beef bone, wine bottle, rock, tavern bench - whatever makeshift clubbing / bashing / smashing implement happens to be at hand at the moment (note that just because it's part of the Carousing skill, that doesn't mean Brawling can't be done outside of a tavern...).
An unarmed character who uses the Carousing skill in a fight first makes a Chance roll to grab an impromptu weapon and augment their damage rolls. Normally, an unarmed character would roll 1d-1 for damage (because they lack even a Light weapon), but the PC can take the result of the following roll to see if they have acquired an impromptu brawling weapon:

1: No Suitable Weapon Available
2-3: Light Weapon (tankard, beef bone, rock)
4-5: Medium Weapon (chair, fire iron, table leg)
6: Heavy Weapon (bar bench, lit brazier, burning log)

There is one other important factor to consider with Brawling fights - because Brawling combat is made up of attacks with an odd assortment of makeshift weapons as well as unarmed attacks like headbutts, throws, kicks to the groin, etc., and a "brawl" is usually not meant to be a lethal combat, damage is not always of the slice-you-open, crush-your-skull variety. Because of this, any time a blow lands and damage is dealt, only on a 1d/5+, is the damage "real"; otherwise, the damage is considered Temporary.

It's important to note that while the Carousing skill can be used for Brawling, and Brawling attacks can do damage and eventually incapacitate foes, one does not "brawl" with a battle axe or broadsword; Brawling is barroom-style combat, where the object is to knock each other's heads together and give someone a few lumps. While it can come in handy in a pinch when your rogue PC finds themselves in a tight spot, I don't recommend letting characters substitute Brawling for real, serious do-or-die combat skills. If a character wants to make the attempt, I'd suggest the GM impose a -2 or -3 penalty on their Brawling rolls, as the character discovers that the same tactics they use to knock about a couple of drunk farmers at the local watering hole don't work so well against a mob of rampaging beastmen.


It sounds a little silly to admit it, but one of my favorite parts of well-done swords-and sorcery adventure fiction is the food and the drink. Heaping platters of steaming meats, loaves of fresh-baked breads, finely aged and fragrant cheeses, delicate sweetmeats and exotic desserts, and of course a plethora of beverages; tankards of foaming ale, cool crisp hard ciders, sweet refreshing meads, delicate white wines and robust reds, glasses of port and snifters of brandy, along with more potent elixirs auch as schnapps, aquavit, sake, or kumis.

Determining what your characters eat and drink in different portions of the campaign world, and stocking the taverns and mead-halls accordingly, can lend an air of interesting immediacy to what is usually just a boilerplate bit of session-filler. Almost two years ago, I wrote an article on alcoholic beverages and how they can factor into your gaming experience. In a Tankards & Broadswords campaign, this attention to detail would be expected.

Now, I'm typically not a fan of drunkenness mechanics, although GMs are more than welcome to incorporate them into their campaigns. I did, instead, work in another sort of optional rule (and yes, all rules are optional; I mean "optional" in terms of appropriate to the system, but not an integral part of the core rules) that promotes the rejuvenative powers of good food and drink. Copied from the T&B Core Rules:

Optional Rule: Heroic Feasting!
Sometimes after a day (or week) of perilous adventuring, a PC just needs a good meal and some fine spirits in order to recover from the trials and hardships they have endured. Whenever the PC is injured and has found a suitable eating establishment (GM's discretion), the PC may spend the equivalent of one Treasure Token and have themselves a true hero's feast of the finest food and drink the establishment has to offer, gorging on enormous portions of meat and other exotic foods, and guzzling tankards of the finest ale, mead, or wine (whatever's the most setting appropriate).
In the morning, and only after a solid eight hours of sleep, the PC will wake up to find that they have recovered 2d Health (but might have a bit of a hangover - sometimes you take the bad with the good...).

Giving the players several good reasons to have their characters spend some of their hard-won treasure in the nearest tavern (and support small business owners in the process), should encourage colorful scenes of feasting and merriment, both in game and out (within reason, people - let's keep things from getting too out of hand around the gaming table!).

1 comment:

sirlarkins said...

My favorite installment in this series so far!

In my Pendragon campaign, feasting always plays a central role and we've gotten quite a bit of mileage out of the Feasting Event table from one of the supplements.