D&D General Carousing Rules

I've just started a new campaign, and my players told me they wanted leveling up to feel a bit more significant (we use milestone leveling). We came up with three rules. In order to level up after an adventure, the characters must:
  1. Return to their home base (the city of Iskandar)
  2. Undergo training (the players have to write some flash fiction explaining what they learned and how)
  3. Complete a night of carousing
The idea is to create a rhythm that feels a bit more balanced, rather than the players feeling like the characters are just moving from one conflict to another.

This post I want to talk about step 3, carousing. I'm not sure when carousing rules were first codified in D&D-style games. The earliest article I'm aware of is Rient's "Party likes it's 999" but there may be earlier references. I've seen more than a few carousing rules lately, most recently in Shadowdark.

Some might object to having rules around this. Why not just say "You to the tavern after you get back from the dungeon - what do you do?" I think that works well for good improvisors, but many of us need a little more structure, a little more prompting.

Following are the rules I came up with. As is often the case, it reads a little clunky but plays smoothly.

The characters go to the local tavern after the adventure. I post up an image with an assortment of NPCs they can interact with (some they know, others they don't). I also had a list of 10 secrets and clues (a la @SlyFlourish), to drop into conversations as needed.

1700775139787.png


The evening is divided into a number of phases. This is nothing very heavy - the purpose is to just give the characters something to bounce off. I explain the phase and then ask who wants to talk to someone. So, I might say, "The tavern has filled up now, and the atmosphere is noisy and cheerful. Everyone suddenly wants a drink, and there is a long, jostling queue at the bar. Who wants to talk to someone?" When two players have spoken, we move on to the next phase.

Here are the phases, which are meant to reflect the ebb and flow of a night out.

Phases
Dinner
Lining Up At the Bar
War Stories
Singalong
Bathroom
Confessions
Chaos
Closing Time
Munchies
Antics

Finally, I've codified some activities for the characters. Between them, they have to complete at least six of the following twelve tasks. Once they have done so, the night of carousing is a "success" and they can retire.
1700775210201.png

I've dabbled with precursors to this system before, but last night was the first time we ran the full system. It was a huge success! There were a couple of clunky transitions, but by and large it ran very smoothly. Everyone got some spotlight and was able to develop their character a bit. They also learned several rumours and bits of gossip that may come into play in the future. And there were several laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some surprisingly heavy bits (like when the cleric decided to comfort the grieving widow).

Your feedback is welcome. I'm also keen to hear how you handle carousing and if you have any particular rules around leveling up.
 

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I like it.

It reminded me of something I read, probably on enworld at some point, about the old rules about magic items in 1e being worth xp. Anyway - someone mentioned that, to capture that Conan/Fafhrd feel, gold didn't get xp - SPENDING gold, specifically wasting gold, gave XP. Buying useful things, upgrading armor, etc didn't. Wasting money on booze and song DID... leading to characters being broke and needing to start over again.

I'm suddenly reminded of the first campaign I played outside of my family playing. My character decided to go out on the town the night before the group were going to be knighted for their heroics. I ended up missing it because I went and spent 1000 platinum going out for the night. Everything in this game world back then, coinwise, was factors of ten... so I didn't even realize I'd dumped 10k gold... but in all fairness,w hen we'd rolled the character up using Central Casting, the character was decadent... so, no knighthood from the Invincible Overlord...
 

I've just started a new campaign, and my players told me they wanted leveling up to feel a bit more significant (we use milestone leveling). We came up with three rules. In order to level up after an adventure, the characters must:
  1. Return to their home base (the city of Iskandar)
  2. Undergo training (the players have to write some flash fiction explaining what they learned and how)
  3. Complete a night of carousing
The idea is to create a rhythm that feels a bit more balanced, rather than the players feeling like the characters are just moving from one conflict to another.

This post I want to talk about step 3, carousing. I'm not sure when carousing rules were first codified in D&D-style games. The earliest article I'm aware of is Rient's "Party likes it's 999" but there may be earlier references. I've seen more than a few carousing rules lately, most recently in Shadowdark.

Some might object to having rules around this. Why not just say "You to the tavern after you get back from the dungeon - what do you do?" I think that works well for good improvisors, but many of us need a little more structure, a little more prompting.

Following are the rules I came up with. As is often the case, it reads a little clunky but plays smoothly.

The characters go to the local tavern after the adventure. I post up an image with an assortment of NPCs they can interact with (some they know, others they don't). I also had a list of 10 secrets and clues (a la @SlyFlourish), to drop into conversations as needed.

View attachment 332407

The evening is divided into a number of phases. This is nothing very heavy - the purpose is to just give the characters something to bounce off. I explain the phase and then ask who wants to talk to someone. So, I might say, "The tavern has filled up now, and the atmosphere is noisy and cheerful. Everyone suddenly wants a drink, and there is a long, jostling queue at the bar. Who wants to talk to someone?" When two players have spoken, we move on to the next phase.

Here are the phases, which are meant to reflect the ebb and flow of a night out.

Phases
Dinner
Lining Up At the Bar
War Stories
Singalong
Bathroom
Confessions
Chaos
Closing Time
Munchies
Antics

Finally, I've codified some activities for the characters. Between them, they have to complete at least six of the following twelve tasks. Once they have done so, the night of carousing is a "success" and they can retire.
View attachment 332411
I've dabbled with precursors to this system before, but last night was the first time we ran the full system. It was a huge success! There were a couple of clunky transitions, but by and large it ran very smoothly. Everyone got some spotlight and was able to develop their character a bit. They also learned several rumours and bits of gossip that may come into play in the future. And there were several laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some surprisingly heavy bits (like when the cleric decided to comfort the grieving widow).

Your feedback is welcome. I'm also keen to hear how you handle carousing and if you have any particular rules around leveling up.
We do basically this and have for almost the whole run of 5e. Every level requires downtime (training/research) in order to level up. Oh and also gold can be lots of gold.
 
Last edited:



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
About the nearest I get is that if a character or party decides to tie one on I'll have them roll Constitution checks to see how well they handle their imbibations and-or whether they're in any fit shape the next morning. I'll also quietly check to see if they get robbed; it happens now and then.
 

One of my dm's has a carousing table that he really likes - it's just roll a d100 and get a prompt. They all start with "you wake up..." because "carouse = black out" according to the table's author.

Still, it's fun, and sometimes you get a pattern emerging from the chaos - my paladin became the mysterious Madam Moustachio, who apparently also fought crime with a whip but sexier, and my eladrin bardsorlockadin changed names several times.

I've never considered incorporating that into the leveling rules... but I can see it.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Hey M.T. 👋:) First off, thank you for putting Iskandar out there - it's great!

You're going deeper than I ever have with carousing, but I have touched on a couple of the "roleplay prompt" ideas that you're exploring, so I'll try to offer something helpful.

One of the things I love about your approach is that the 12 roleplay prompts are pretty evenly divided between type (a) get to know the PCs better, and (b) hilarious hijinx. That actually sets up a nice pacing within the carousing scene itself, as some hijinx are bound to ensue as well as some deeper moments. I think that really plays well with your recognition of the carousing scene as a much-needed break from more intense conflicts.

I know the degree of player prompting needed to get them to engage varies greatly from table to table, but I can see "Who wants to talk to someone?" being either just right or too vague (similar to the "what do you do?" blank faces issue). That's why I love the specificity of the prompts... it's something very clear & very immediate for the players to springboard their imaginations off of.

The NPC faces is a nice flourish. The phases is a nice behind-the-screen tool for the GM to fold into the pacing and narrative. But, at least for me, the core of the "creative juice" is in those prompts.

If I were to take your system and refine / adapt it for me to GM with, I would make those prompts even more specific, tying them into specific NPCs in the tavern, specific secondary story beats, ongoing jokes, and even foreshadowing of the next adventure. For example: Get Snorri Oldback to unburden his troubles and confess what is gnawing at him.

One thing I have had good success with is writing prompts as questions for the PCs to ask each other. The context was a Freebooters on the Frontier (PbtA) two-shot I ran where the PCs began around a campfire (en route to hunting a monster called The Caterwauler), and I wanted to give some structure to get them engaging with each other right out of the gate, putting each other on the spot with some creative prompts. So my list of questions was very leading...
  1. I heard you lived in Silverbrook village long ago. What do you remember was different back then and why did you leave?
  2. So you're in dire financial straits too... Why does the silver from this quest mean so much to you?
  3. I heard you know a rumor about the Caterwauler. What is the rumor? Roll 2d6+INT to Establish a potential fact.
  4. My condolences that someone you know passed away in Silverbrook - I heard the circumstances were odd. Who were they, what was your relationship, and what do you know of their death?
  5. You said you're a census taker. What's so strange about the population numbers in Silverbrook village?
  6. You're of Dowe-ish blood, I can see it in your eyes. Is it true what they say about your people worshipping a dark god?
  7. So you once served the Leget family... What really happened to them to make them abandon Silverbrook and the manor?
  8. I heard your family’s herd suffers the Stygian Fever originating in Silverbrook. Where do you think a cure might be found?
Feedback from the four players was that they enjoyed getting to know each other and the setting in that "Questions around the campfire" scene, they enjoyed how the things they established in that opening scene fed back into the conclusion, and felt like their characters were more than playbooks (something some of them mentioned as a drawback of PbtA games).

I think you have a terrific foundation that sounds like it's working great for your group. My only adjustment might be playing around with those prompts to make them even more bespoke for your game/players. Otherwise, enjoy the carousing!
 

I think you have a terrific foundation that sounds like it's working great for your group. My only adjustment might be playing around with those prompts to make them even more bespoke for your game/players. Otherwise, enjoy the carousing!

Hey Aaron - it's great to hear from you again! It's been a while. Many thanks for the ideas - I'll dig into them :)
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Some might object to having rules around this. Why not just say "You to the tavern after you get back from the dungeon - what do you do?" I think that works well for good improvisors, but many of us need a little more structure, a little more prompting.
The tyranny of the empty page is a blight to many, and the current climate of disbelief about said blight merely makes us all the more frustrated.

I don't know that I would use this specific structure myself, but I support you giving structure to it.
 

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