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Friday, June 3, 2016

DNDUI - Episode 248

Today we're going to check out another D&D show: DNDUI, which stands for Dungeons & Dragons Under the Influence. This is an audio show, though they are starting to branch out into videos like this one.

I didn't start at episode 1 because the first four seasons use 4th edition D&D. While I love 4e, I'm kind of done with that system. I asked the DNDUI guys what show I should do, and they suggested this one.

I started off listening to this recap show.

Episode 248 is right here.

I think this is the kind of show that you're either going to really like or really not. DNDUI is all about getting drunk and playing D&D. It's very chaotic and there's tons of foul language. You'll be hearing the phrase "blowing your load" a lot.

The shows are just an hour long, which feels like the perfect length.

There's some special rules we should go over:

Drunk Rating: If you look at the listing of each show, you'll see a "drunk number" next to it. That number tells you how drunk the group got in that session. 1-3 is not very drunk. 9's and 10's are pretty sloppy, I guess. 

Random Shots: The drinking gets underway at the start of a session. Each player needs to roll a d20. Their roll determines how many shots they have to take right then:
  • 1-9 = 2 shots
  • 10-18 = 1 shot
  • 19-20 = none!
Special Numbers: In addition to critical hits, there are two other numbers on the d20 that have special effects. These numbers are determined at the start of the session. The effects:
  • Pitfall of possible peril
  • Gift from the gods of gaming
The group didn't roll these numbers in this session so I'm not sure exactly how it works.

The DM is Marco, who tries his best to corral the drunk and disorderly gaming group through the session. You can tell he has a passion for the game and puts a lot of work into the campaign.

The Party

(CJ) Milst the Organic - Dwarf Fighter
(Dan) Oz Alduin - Changeling Paladin
(Adriano) Dr. Sullivan Prince - Human Warlock
(Raff) Achoo - Gnome Wizard

From what I understand, earlier in the campaign the main group of heroes split off and formed their own sub-groups of adventurers. So each session jumps to a different group of characters led by a "main" character of the campaign. Oz is the main guy in this session.

Bios for the main characters are here.

These are the main characters of the overall campaign
Last Time: The group chased bandits out of their lair. This has lead to a situation where the heroes need to defeat seven deadly assassins right in a row. I think that's a really cool idea and I am going to steal it for my game! This takes place in some kind of tavern or club with a stage.

Drunk Levels 3-6

We start off with a quick audio intro and then the group does this bizarre live musical improv. It's really weird.

The DM recaps where they left off and tells the group that they will be facing the first assassin - Elantra. He immediately regrets naming the assassin "Elantra" as the group goes nuts coming up with a dozen jokes about the Hyundai Elantra, which has a hands-free smart trunk, automatic emergency breaking and is really giving the Toyota Corolla a run for it's money.

Elantra wears a creepy mask and has gold chains wrapped around her limbs. These chains come to life and are basically monsters unto themselves.

Milst charges the stage and does a pile of damage to the assassin. Elantra animates her golden chains. They coil around the room like live snakes.

We learn that Milst's greatest fear is fermentation. Elantra's magic mask taps into his fears. The mask becomes barley and hops - Elantra's face is fermenting before his eyes. Milst is frightened and runs.

Oz does 40 points of damage to Elantra, which injures her greatly. Dr. Sullivan Prince pulls out his hand axe and licks it. Then he sends purple voodoo skulls her way and curses her - she'll have to make a WIS save or do nothing on her turn. I believe this effect is forgotten on the next turn, but remembered on the one after.

Everybody is drunk, so throughout this show effects and conditions are forgotten. There's a point where one character is wrapped in chains, but on his next turn nobody remembers and he takes his turn as if he was free. Then the DM remembers but they don't want to rewind time, so they just roll with it.

I'm glad they didn't stop the game to fix it. I guess this is just something that is going to happen on this type of show.

Someone rolls a natural one and they roll on their custom critical miss chart. The result: The dwarf magically becomes smaller. The DM is able to flavor it by saying that one of Elantra's failed spell effects ricochets around the room and strikes him.

I was wondering how the magic critical miss effects work. I like that they find a way to explain it so it's not completely out of the blue.

Then we briefly can't remember the initiative order. Do they not write this down? The DM remembers after a moment and we resume.

Elantra somehow shuts the lights out in the room, which is a cool development in a battle that I think I need to do more of. The group points out that part of this place is on fire thanks to a fireball spell that went off earlier, so there's dim lighting, at least.

Oz squares off against Elantra, puts his fist through her stomach and kills her. Then he stands at the edge of the stage and spits.

That's the end of the episode. It's quite 4e to have an hour long combat. I do like the idea of having each session revolve around a 'set piece' encounter, as long as it is of consequence.


I don't think I can put in timestamp links so you'll have to manually scroll.

(11:35) The legendary chains of Elantra
(45:34) You have to take your next turn without moving your lips


Original Ideas: Most D&D shows are pretty similar to each other. This one is completely different. There is nothing else like it, as far as I know. The drinking rules add a lot.

Critical Miss Chart: I love this chart and I love that the group actually gets excited when somebody rolls a natural one. I think this is my favorite homebrewed thing anybody has made for 5e so far. You can get this chart for free here.

Shockingly Focused: You would think that the focus of the group is on comedy, but it really is about the game. Despite the copious amount of drinking, the group is still intent on playing the game and achieving their goals.

Looking Stuff Up: One thing I noticed is that there was a surprising amount of time spent looking up rules. I did not expect that. It happens on almost none of the other shows I have seen. I would say that this group should make themselves some cheat sheets that list their spells, DCs, bonuses to hit and special abilities so that way they can keep thing moving.

Trust Issues: I could be wrong, but judging from this session there seems to be a bit of tension in the group. I got the vibe that the players don't trust the DM completely to "play fair" and they questioned a number of his rulings. I always say that it is the player's job to know what their powers and spells do. When they don't, they shouldn't fault the DM for looking it up and making a quick, drunken ruling that may or may not be correct.

Challenging the Group in a Fair Way: On the flip side, I get the sense that in this session, the DM was determined to challenge his group and it came off a bit like he was cutting corners to do it. He might not have been doing that, but the group seemed wary of it.

I think the key to being able to challenge your players without making things too hard/easy is to know exactly what the party's capabilities are. If you know what spells they can cast, their bonuses to hit, their save DCs, how much damage they can do per round and their AC, you can craft villains in advance that are mathematically challenging and it won't feel arbitrary at the table.

Even then, you have to allow for the fact that the group might come up with a fun and clever plan that wipes out your bad guy quickly. In that case, just roll out the next assassin! That's D&D. You never know what's going to happen. The group certainly shouldn't steamroll every foe, but you should be willing to allow it to happen when things unfold that way.

"Pure D&D": What I am noticing when I watch/listen to these things is that there are two types of D&D shows:
  • "Performance D&D": This type of show is very aware that people are watching and everyone is trying to be entertaining. Many players come off as reserved, too, as they know they're being watched and don't want to look foolish. I don't blame them!
  • "Pure D&D": These shows don't worry too much about the audience. They play the game and work under the assumption that the game itself is entertaining enough. There's still some thought put in to pacing and keeping things lively for the audience, but in the end these shows are not "improv with wizards." They are D&D games, warts and all.
In my opinion, DNDUI is "Pure D&D." Yeah they know they have an audience and they talk about it openly, but these guys are still focused on the game and getting drunk.

I'm not saying that one type is better than the other. Honestly I haven't seen enough of either type of show to really form an opinion on that.

Admirable Dedication: There is a lot to admire here. These guys have been doing this for 3 years and they have a ton of shows under their belt. They have built a nice-looking site that gives you a lot of info. They even have a web comic!

I am happy to see people out there who are in it for the long haul. This group is driven by nothing more than a love of the game and possibly a passion for alcohol.

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