In the routine of running my online blog, the party came across some barrels of ale - and as they were beat up some, and as I remembered something about the intoxication table in the DM's Guide increasing hit points, I went for the first time in years to look at that table.
Only to find, not much to my surprise, that it was virtually useless. It was quite obvious that intoxication was seen as a strictly negative influence, and so any level of intoxication began at once to degrade your character. No wonder I hadn't every played the table, nor bothered to keep any accounts of how a player's drinking might affect a player's abilities.
There had to be a greater give and take, I thought. And what better than a meaningful increase in hit points ... which much less of an influence on a player's to hit table.
I think I've come up with a pretty fair gradient, one that allows the players the benefits of practical drinking:
Slight Intoxication: gain 1 hp, -1 wis & int, +1 morale & bravery
Moderate Intoxication: gain 2-5 hp, -2 wis & int, -1 to all other stats, -1 to hit, +2 morale & bravery
Heavy Intoxication: gain 2-7 hp, -3 to all stats, -2 to hit, -1 damage, +3 morale & bravery
Great Intoxication: gain 2-9 hp, -4 wis & int, -5 to all other stats, -3 to hit, -3 damage, +4 morale & bravery
Both the online party and the offline party seem to appreciate this. My offline party especially - they actually got excited at the prospect of being able to drink at least to moderate intoxication, while taking only a -1 on their to hit. For some characters, like a high level fighter with strength and a magic weapon bonus, it's not much of a penalty in exchange for 2-5 hit points. 18/51 strength, +2 sword, +1 for bless, +1 bonus for having a bard singing in the background, and needing only a 9 to hit AC 5 ... hell, what's a -1 to hit penalty? Even a -3 isn't that crippling.
And after all, if you're already at -1 hit points, and you don't figure you're going to do much more combat at this point as you stagger along with the rest of the still-healthy party, why not get plastered drunk? That extra 4 or 6 or 9 hit points might be the difference in being killed by a trap or not.
I suppose some might argue that a trap should kill you no matter how drunk you are ... but what the hell, this is D&D. Perhaps your drunkedness just makes you lucky.
Well, with my offline party talking about playing some of their characters in a permanently drunken state, I thought I should work up another table, one that no one seems to think needs to be made. How much do you have to drink to get drunk:
And this should be adjusted for weight, too. I'd suggest using the base weights for various characters as a measure, modified for some races to be able to drink better than others.
Take the weight of your character and divide it by the average MALE HUMAN weight. For humans, gnomes and halflings, do not adjust the ratio; multiply it against the table above. For elves and half-elves, reduce the ratio by 20%. For dwarves, increase the ratio by 50%.
Thus, assuming everyone has a equal constitution (17), the average elf (100 lbs.) requires 2.8 pints of ale to reach moderate intoxication. An average human (175 lbs.) requires 6.1 pints. An average dwarf (150 lbs.) requires 7.9 pints.
But I never thought elves could hold their liquor. The gentle reader may think otherwise; or they may have an alternative means of taking weight into account. For me, this works ... and a table that works is all I ever need.