Drinking Games: Beverage-Based Mini-Games for Your Taprooms and Taverns

Traveling adventurers often congregate in common rooms where alcohol is served – the classic medieval tavern, the neon-noir cyber-bar, and the scummy/villainous spaceport cantina. Such watering holes are excellent establishments in which to kick off a new quest, introduce an NPC, or count credits at the end of a mission. But if your group seems in need of a little unwinding, consider the possible perks of a well-placed pub game.

Below is a quick list of drinking mini-game ideas that you can customize for your campaign’s saloons and speakeasies. Rules for drinking will vary by game system. (Please try to keep in mind that not all players are comfortable with alcohol – even fictional depictions of it – and such subjects should be considered and discussed before their introduction into a game.)

ARMADA SHOTS – Two grids of 10 letters and 10 numbers is drawn on paper (or carved into the table) and a visual barrier is placed so that opponents can’t see each other’s side. They each set down lines of shot-glasses or small drinks to represent “ships.” The smallest ship is 2 shot-glasses long, two ships are 3 glasses long, one is 4 long, and the last is 5 long. The first player, without looking at her foe’s “armada” guesses a grid coordinate by saying a letter-number combination (like E-7). If her opponent has a glass there, he says “HIT!” and drinks the contents of the glass. If not, he says “MISS!” Play passes to the next player. If an entire “ship” is eliminated, the player must say so. When all ships are sunk, you lose.

BEER BALANCE – A board or plank is placed atop another object to balance it at the center, and two opponents or teams are tasked with drinking the contents of a container, placing empties cautiously onto the board, and arranging their side to keep it all from crashing to the ground. If it stays upright, it’s the next side’s turn. If not, you lose (and have to clean up). You may wish to use Dexterity, Manipulation, Balance-based skill or ability checks, or even Intelligence, depending on your game system – keeping in mind that the more drinks you chug, the more penalties you must endure.

COINS – Use your throwing skill or ranged attack to toss or bounce a coin from your side of the table to the other and (hopefully) into a cup full of bubbly. Your opposition gets to keep any missed coins, but has to drink the contents of the cup whenever you land one. To increase the stakes, balance more coins on the edges of the vessels and roll randomly to see if they fall in or out when bumped. The loser is the side with no cups left to drink and the winner keeps all the wet coinage.

FLIP CUP – Similar to “Coins,” you must use a skill or attack that relies on manual dexterity to flip an empty cup from the edge of the table into an down-facing position, which forces the foe to drink (and suffer penalties for inebriation on their turn). Alternate rules include flipping the cup into an upright position, landing it on a bottle, or getting to inside of a bowl or other target-area. Betting on ever more elaborate cup-stunts is encouraged.

NEVER HAVE I EVER… – The perfect game for revealing interesting backstory tidbits about your character, this game involves saying the titular phrase followed by a scenario like, “Never have I ever been put in a dungeon,” or “Never have I ever fallen in love with a hologram.” Any contestant who has done the thing in question must admit to doing so by guzzling their grog. Play continues until someone reveals something really uncomfortably dark or cringe-worthy and everyone finds an excuse to play something else.

NO RHYME OR REASON – Players of this game must tap a slow beat with their cups (or fists or feet). Player one says a word on the beat. Player two must either say a word that rhymes or a word related to the previous word on the next beat. For example, the first player says “shield” and the second player could say either “field” or “block.” Failure to speak on the beat, bad rhyming, or poor choice of related word (as determined by drunken booing) are counted as a fail and a drink is required. The beat will naturally get faster during the course of play. If players are not as good at word-play as their characters ought to be, feel free to use appropriate checks to give them a small number of “skips” to account for the discrepancy.

ORCISH TOAST – Participants of this “game” take sides and take turns making insulting toasts about other creatures in the room (and their mothers.) Small sips and speedy refills are probably necessary. The game is over when one side concedes that the other has made the best insult of the night and has to down their drinks all at once, or when someone throws the first punch, which also counts as concession.

VINTAGE CHESS – A drinking game for the more well-to-do patrons of finer establishments, “Vintage Chess” is just like normal chess, except it is played with different sized glasses of various wines or other expensive libations. Taking an opponent’s piece means you get to choose to either force them to drink the “pawn” or, if the vintage is particularly fine, sip it for yourself. Whoever masters his mate gets to claim any remaining glasses and bottles for himself, and the loser gets stuck with the bill.

WIZARD’S STAFF – A party tradition from the best arcane academies, players stick together a stack of empty mugs (or cans or cups) with glue, tape, or cantrips during the course of their carousing. When they want another drink, they must stick on another container and sip from the top of the staff without spilling, or else they’re out. Dropping your wizard’s staff after one too many is also grounds for magical disqualification. The goal is to end the party with the longest staff of the night. The college of war-wizards also introduced a rule variant where any wizard with at least a 10-stack “staff” can challenge another sauced sorcerer of similar span to a “staff fight.” A snapped-staff means your conjurer must capitulate. There is a LOT of innuendo in this paragraph.

And of course, there are loads of libation resources online, which can infuse your games with even more spirit. Here are just a few to get you started:

Redditor Al_Dimeneira wrote a quick primer on alcoholic beverages with basic prices and effects, for those who are not well-versed in well-drinks.

Aurican’s Lair created The Great Big Random d100 List of Tavern Drinks, which includes 100 drink names, descriptions, special effects, and prices. Sword and Torch Inn has a list of 100, as well.

Fantasy Name Generator has a randomizer for drink names, of course.

Chaotic Shiny has a Fancy Drink Generator, which concocts random, nameless drink descriptions. I also recommend the Tavern Generator.

The Forgotten Realms wiki has a whole category page on alcohol, as does the Pathfinder wiki, and the Star Wars wiki.

Lastly, Skywarka was inspired to write up this reddit post, which details a low-level mini game to slot into your adventures based on the idea of a pub crawl/race for a magical prize.

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