A George R.R. Martin Drinking Game:

Featuring Game of Thrones (HBO) and A Song of Ice and Fire (Books)

“Stephen King loves using ‘dime-sized’ as a descriptor,” Amy said. “’Dime-sized droplets of blood’ or ‘dime-sized holes in the wall’ or whatever. Everything is ‘dime-sized’ with him.”

“Does that annoy you?” I asked. I had only ever read Firestarter and Night Shift, so I had no strong feelings regarding Stephen King’s writing ability.

“No. I think it is kind of endearing.”

As a fan of King, Amy had read enough of his work to spot his quirks. Pointing this out to me earmarked her as a King expert and allowed her to affectionately tease him in his absence. Another thing she was able to do as a seasoned King fan –that I couldn’t do as someone who had contented himself with watching the good and bad film adaptations of his work – was cultivate a real sense of how all of his novels fit together into a larger, cohesive universe. I had some sense that King tended to write about psychics and hick towns getting wiped off the map by werewolves and vampires, but had no idea that there were recurring, overarching villains, or that any of his heroes showed up in more than one book.

My father was also able to assume the role of expert when it came to Hammer movies. “That actor is named Michael Ripper,” he told me when he first showed me Plague of the Zombies when I was ten. “He’s the drunk in The Mummy and he often plays an innkeeper or a police office in Hammer movies. This might be his best part. He usually represents the everyman responding with fear and confusion to supernatural evil and Peter Cushing is the expert monster hunter.”

“I didn’t recognize him from the other movies.”

“I don’t see why not. He had a distinctive face. Pay more attention. It is fun seeing him pop up again and again in these movies.”

Once I became a seasoned Hammer movie fan, I noticed how frequently the movie studio recycled sets (“That castle setting was used in both Rasputin AND Dracula: Prince of Darkness!”) and how many of the actors in their modest-sized troop appeared again and again. (Though ingénues often appeared in between one and three films before they were replaced, no matter how good their performance was or how beautiful they were.)

Over time, I felt like I could pose as an expert on certain fictional universes, though there’s almost always another geek who can claim to know more.

“It is a shame that Alan Davis leaving Excalibur left so many promising plot lines unresolved,” said I to myself, since I was the only one I knew who read Excalibur. Everyone else was reading Deadpool, Venom, Spawn, and other equally feminine comic books. So I talked to myself about Excalibur.

“Funny that Atlantis sank more than once in Doctor Who. And interesting that the FASA role-playing game suggests that the Master and the Meddling Monk are the same dude,” said I to myself, because I knew no other Doctor Who fans in 1986 on Staten Island.

“Some people say Star Wars is the best trilogy ever, but I’m kinda partial to The Three Colors trilogy,” said I to the first person I encountered who had actually seen both trilogies. I was relieved when that person agreed.

One of the many things that my brother does when he becomes a fan of a series is make up a drinking game that points out all the seams in the narrative. He really got into the Rocky movies and delighted in writing down things like, “Take a shot when Adrienne asks Rocky not to fight because she fears for his life. Take two shots if she encourages him TO fight! Take three shots every time Apollo Creed is interrupted by Rocky’s robot butler.” I thought this drinking game was pretty funny.

The first drinking game I designed I came up with after reading all of the existing George R.R. Martin Westeros novels. I wrote the game to amuse myself, because I talk to myself a lot. I also thought Brian’s Rocky game was funny and I wanted to see if my game would be worth a chuckle. But there were other reasons I did it.

First, to affectionately tease George R. R. Martin, the godlike figure, for what seem to be the limitations of his writing ability. Not everything is dime-sized, but quite a lot of things take “half a heartbeat.”

Secondly, to help me get a grasp of the key themes of the series. It is so sprawling and often so hard to figure out what Martin’s worldview is, these recurring tropes are all I had to go on right after wrapping A Dance with Dragons to contemplate how Martin thinks.

I also wondered if, buried in these repeated phrases and concepts were clues that would suggest where the story is going next and how it will end. This exercise seemed particularly important since the series appears to be in no danger of ending any time soon. Writing all these down gave me some ideas, but I am still in no danger of understanding why the Greyjoys play such a large role in the narrative. They seem to exist only as plot devices to exile the Stark daughters and as a potential means of escorting the dragon queen across the waters to Westros. I wonder if I hope there is more or less to their role than that, as I am not overly fond of those characters.

So, I humbly offer up my goofy Westeros Drinking game to you. I wrote it for myself and it occurred to me it might make a mildly diverting Sequart blog post. Do with it what you will.

A word to the wise: Most drinking games are not meant to kill you with alcohol. But, since this is a George R. R. Martin drinking game, most participants will be dead long before reaching the Hand’s Tourney.

Take a shot every time:

Ned gets himself into trouble by actually having moral standards.

Arya whispers her hit list to herself before bedtime.

Arya thinks about the central importance of Needle and Syrio Forel.

Sansa misjudges someone.

Littlefinger says something archly.

King Robert avoids actually doing any ruling.

Joffrey torments peasants/relatives/Sansa.

Jon Snow sulks about being a bastard or declares: “I am a man of the Night’s Watch.”

Daenerys Targaryen is naked.

Daenerys does something really honourable and you kinda want her to conquer the world.

Tyrion uses the word “whore,” has sex with a whore, or is gentlemanly to a whore.

Tyrion does something that seems brilliant, but later on you’ll find out it was a huge mistake.

Cersei makes an obviously terrible decision and later you find out that it was, indeed, a terrible decision.

Cersei tells someone to “Get out!”

Cersei thinks evil thoughts about the Tyrells.

You find yourself more inclined to like Varys than the person speaking to him does.

Catelyn is tired of being left behind or ordered to go somewhere she doesn’t want to.

Catelyn takes the law into her own hands.

A Dire Wolf kicks ass and takes names.

King Stannis complains that he should be more popular than he is.

Davos Seaworth tells Stannis when he’s being a jerk, and Stannis loves him for it.

A character that is terrified of Melisandre and wants to kill her also makes mental note of how sexy she is.

Someone calls Brienne of Tarth a wench and disparages her looks.

You’re freaked out by the kid who is waaaay too old to still be nursing.

The White Walkers cause some consternation.

Jamie did that? I didn’t think he’d to that!

Take two shots every time:

Someone takes dream wine or milk of the poppy for medicinal purposes.

Someone turns down dream wine or milk of the poppy to keep a clear head.

Travellers arrive at a town and it has been burned to the ground or abandoned.

Someone from King’s Landing belittles the men of the Night’s Watch for believing in Grumpkins and Snarks.

Someone says one of the following:

“Winter is coming”

“A Lannister always pays his debts”

“You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?”

“Seven hells!”

“Little bird.”

“Dark wings, dark words.”


“But Aegon the Conqueror had dragons!”

“What is dead may never die.”

“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

“For the night is dark and full of terrors.”

Someone references his/her nameday.

A major character is maimed or killed.

A minor character’s sigil is described in detail.

Someone has mulled wine or salt beef.

Something occurs “for half a heartbeat.”

A Hedge Knight shows up and you’re not even sure what a Hedge Knight is – maybe

kinda like a Ronin, or something…

“Half a hundred” something or others are referred to.

One of the common folk uses the phrase “might be.”

Rape is threatened, occurs, or has occurred in the past.

Castration is threatened, occurs, or has occurred in the past.

Someone prays at a Godswood.

A character takes a vow of chastity and then breaks it.

A well-intentioned character accidentally joins a crazy, creepy religious cult.

Reference is made to a man’s “seed,” a woman’s “moon blood,” a “quickening in the womb,” or a woman “getting a bastard in her belly.”

A sword is described as being Valyrian Steel or a tourney sword.

Someone sings/plays “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” or “The Rains of Castamere.”

Take three shots when:

We get information about Westeros through the narrator, a maester, a recitation of one of Old Nan’s stories, a special feature on home video, or a Bran segment.

A character shows up in the book that you just know won’t make it into the show.

The Children of the Forest are mentioned and you wonder if they’re elves, or what the deal is.

Speaking of which, take a drink every time the show avoids actually showing Riverrun or Hoster Tully.

Drink every time a battle featured in the book is omitted or glossed over in the show.

A character is mentioned for the fiftieth time and you still can’t remember who he is and if he is important.

A new segment begins and it is about your least favorite character and you think, “Shit.”

A new segment begins and it is about your mostest favorite character and you think, “Fuck, yeah.”

You’re watching the show and your mom/spouse/child walks in on the most violent or sexiest part and you blush and wish they’d timed entering the room better.

In the book-on-CD version, Roy Dotrice suddenly changes how he pronounces a character’s name or the voice his gives him/her, and it is really distracting.

The dragons aren’t fully grown yet?

Is winter really coming?

You have a theory about what will happen next and you totally call it.

Or – when Martin completely pulls the rug out from under you.

George R. R. Martin says publicly that he’s not sure he’ll ever finish the story and you can imagine his publishers and producers pulling their hair out and sending him angry text messages to shut the hell up and write instead of doing interviews.

George R. R, Martin refers to other long storyline TV shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica as being not as good as his work because those shows contain too much “bullshittery.”

Or when he sees a series like Breaking Bad, is suitably impressed by its story arc, and vows to bring his A game to the final book to top that show’s amazing ending.

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Marc DiPaolo is associate professor of English and film at Oklahoma City University. He wrote War, Politics and Superheroes (2011) and Emma Adapted (2007). He is editor of Godly Heretics and Unruly Catholics from Dante to Madonna, and coeditor (with Bryan Cardinale-Powell) of Devised and Directed by Mike Leigh (all 2013). His personal web site is here.

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