Alternatives to beer & pretzels gaming

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a particular style of, or approach, gaming is especially suited to play while drinking beer and eating pretzels¹. It’s not a matter of the game content, I think, but of the mood and approach of the players. I have often wondered whether there is a different style of gaming that is analogously suitable to other categories of snacks. What sort of game goes with cocktails and canapés? What sort with champagne and oysters? What sort with tea and Vegemite® toast? What sort with blue Stilton and bitter? What sort with almonds and brandy? What sort with fruitcake and rum?

1 Being Australian I of course drink beer (by which I mean over-alcoholic and over-chilled lager), but I’ve only ever once eaten a proper pretzel. I pretend to understand what “beer and pretzels game” means only to avoid revealing my ignorance.

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Champagne and oysters is best reserved for one-on-one play, I think.

Marathon dungeon crawls are traditionally potato chip and Mountain Dew affairs, although personally I substitute Diet Dr. Pepper for the Mountain Dew.

I don’t consume alcohol, and my players who do refrain from doing so at my games, though I’ve never said anything about it. On the other hand, one of the two best roleplayers I’ve ever seen used to go through quantities of beer and chaw in the course of a typical game of mine.

At my ongoing game in San Diego county, each player chooses their own beverage (Diet Dr. Pepper for me), but we try to come up with snack foods everyone can eat—berries, hummus, chips, ginger snaps, chocolates, and so on.

My experience in the UK is that groups tend to be either drinking (usually if meeting in a pub) or non-drinking. Members of a drinking group won’t drink as much beer as the pub would like, usually a pint or two at most during an evening, so players don’t become noticeably impaired.

(Ditto with boardgame groups.)

Is there a style or mood of games that goes with these refreshments in the way that “beer and pretzels” gaming goes with beer and pretzels?

I’m not sure if I can identify what’s distinctive about my “soda and hors-d’oeuvres” games, since I don’t have much of a contrastive sample; the other people in the “Stoddard gaming circle” largely ran things the same way. But it seems to me that we have a nearly complete avoidance of published scenarios; a tendency to original worldbuilding or modification of published worlds; a lot of character interplay and dialogue; and a strong expectation of player/character firewalling.

For example, in Tapestry, one of the PCs, Hanno, is ready to look for a wife. So I’ve drawn up character sheets for the three possible brides his mother has come up with, and recruited three of the other players to take them on as secondary roles—in effect, they’re acting as guest stars. One of them just exchanged mail with me, saying that she wanted Hanno to pick her cameo character; I noted that the character herself would probably be less eager to marry, being a career woman, and the player said, oh, no problem, she’d make Ettu look really appealing but not have her pursue Hanno, instead making him come after her and talk her into changing her life plans.

For RPGs, “the sort of RPG Roger runs” predominates over refreshments. To a first approximation this:

  • is set in the real world, usually plus some kind of special power (magic, psi, eldritch weirdness)
  • has PCs among the few who have this power, though they tend to be integrated with society more than they are loners
  • is mostly investigative, somewhat conversational/problem-solving, very little fighty

Not every game of mine has all of these, but most have at least one.

“Set in the real world” is comparatively rare in my campaigns—set in fictional worlds, in published game worlds like Transhuman Space or the World of Darkness, or in invented worlds is my usual style—but otherwise, our styles have a lot of similarities.

I’d count the WoD as “the real world, plus some sort of special power” in that you can use real maps, historical events, and the like, even if for my taste it’s a bit prone to “everybody important was really a supernatural being”. Transhuman Space is sufficiently different that maps aren’t especially useful any more.

I suppose I can see that. I felt as if the metaphysics of Mage was so unlike how I see the real world that it didn’t count, but my first campaign did use actual maps of Hong Kong.