Tool proficiencies are a staple of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons but with the prevalence of skills, where do they fit into the game? That’s exactly what we’re here to discuss in this new series of articles. Please note tool proficiencies and how to use them are less defined in the official rules than skills. As such the options and explanations presented here might differ from how your own Dungeon Master treats tools and tool proficiency. On top of that, any DM can adjust rules to fit their own table at their discretion, so check with your DM if you have specific questions about how they deal with tools in their own games. And with all the necessary caveats out of the way, let’s dive into our topic!
5E D&D tool time — brewer’s supplies
Raise your glass for the people who make the best ales in the realms! Today’s all about booze, spirits, coffee! You name it; if it can be brewed, it’s a product of brewer’s supplies! Let’s see what Xanathar’s Guide to Everything says are contained within a set of brewer’s supplies.
“Brewer’s supplies include a large glass jug, a quantity of hops, a siphon, and several feet of tubing.”
Sounds pretty basic, right? As with all of these, before we get too far let’s discuss some options for incorporating brewer’s supplies proficiency with your character’s skills.
History. XGtE suggests certain brews might have historical significance and I think this makes perfect sense. It might also offer insight into events in history that had an especially prevalent element of certain alcohol.
Medicine. As mentioned already booze can be an effective disinfectant and an anesthetic. I went to a local pizza place recently to pick up dinner and the place literally had hand sanitizer made by the local distillery. It smelled like whiskey, because it was! It worked well enough and given recent events I feel like most of us probably understand the importance of hand hygiene. Translating that in game could be interesting, to say the least. Then, of course, you could treat alcohol poisoning as well.
Persuasion. The last thing suggested by XGtE regarding this proficiency is it can help with Persuasion rolls by giving someone just enough booze to loosen heir lips or affect their memory, without getting them blackout drunk.
Religion. One proficiency I would add to these is Religion. Many religions have myths involving alcohol as a central plot element and different religions even view the use and creation of alcohol differently. Some religious ceremonies incorporate it as a staple of the ritual. It seems most religions have something to say about alcohol and I would imagine this would be no different in fantasy.
Arcana. Yes, I know it’s out of alphabetical order but I felt like this one required the most explaining. So here it is. It would make sense to allow for certain beverages (including nonmagical ones) to be used as reagents for spells or rituals. Maybe a certain intoxicant affects a character’s magic or ability to access their magic at all? If it can affect senses why not expand into metaphysical ones? One top of this why wouldn’t it make sense for a beverage to be inherently magical? True, most of the time that’s reserved for alchemist’s supplies but if the ingredients for a beverage are inherently magical themselves I could absolutely see how you might want to allow for a brewer to be able to concoct a magical drink.
Beyond these XGtE specifically states brewer’s supplies are what you need to nonmagically purify water. You can also detect poisons or impurities in drinks, identify and appraise alcohols and other beverages and you might even be able to ignore the unwanted effects of alcohol or other beverages.
A spirited craft
For most people the first thing that probably comes to mind when mentioning brewer’s supplies is alcohol. I immediately get images of half drunken dwarves sitting in a stone built tavern carousing over a pint of the local specialty. As an avid gamer, Brewfest in WoW also comes to mind.
Alcohol has tons of uses in real life and offers a prime opportunity (much as all tool proficiencies) for players with a real life knowledge of the product to share it with the table. On top of the traditional application as a beverage, alcohol can be used medically either as a disinfectant or as an anesthetic, as previously mentioned.
A friend of mine is a beer reviewer and he even makes a lot of appearances at events. He does radio shows and all kinds of stuff. There are entire communities dedicated to the love of beer and that’s only one type of drink!
The variety of tastes, textures, colors and more astounds me every time I hear him talk about it. Before meeting him I had no idea there was so much variety in beer. What’s more, people trade beers like currency in these circles. Not all beers are equal and it’s not a mere one for one sort of thing. Some spirits are much more valuable than others.
Imagine having a character dedicated to alcohol and its craft. Your character might make connections with others that would be difficult or impossible for those without a shared interest in spirits. When it comes to the top shelf choice characters might use their ability to craft it as a means of getting into a noble’s exclusive party or to prepare an expensive gift to garner favor. Maybe your character’s understanding of expensive alcohols lends to a business venture, and they’re able to spot counterfeits (possibly for a price)? Alcohol can be just as much of a currency as gold or jewels.
Another application for booze might be as an ingredient in potion making. We may cover crafting systems in a future article but suffice it to say I have players at my table who love crafting in D&D. They get a thrill out of concocting the right series of ingredients to make an endgame object. What better way to incorporate spirits into this than by making them a mandatory ingredient for a potion, possibly something exceptionally rare?
As a DM, you might also simply allow certain alcohols to have special buffing effects, much like a video game, and who’s to say alcohol can’t be enchanted or magical on its own? In a world where magic is so prevalent as Eberron or the Forgotten Realms, having a magical booze doesn’t feel out of place in the slightest.
Booze, bubble and beyond!
The core of this tool proficiency is brewing alcohol, as evidenced by the presence of hops in the tool’s supply list makes that clear, but in our modern day you know what else many people love with as much passion as booze? Coffee, tea and pop (and yes, it’s pop because I’m from the northern U.S., not soda, don’t @ me). Coffees, teas, pops and more could all fall under brewer’s supplies and in a world where such luxuries (especially the higher end of these) is rare I’d imagine there’s just as much variety and profit to be had in crafting these as any spirit.
What do you think?
Does this article get your inspiration percolating? Are you ready to homebrew some rules for beverages and crafting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to return here daily for more fantastic content!