Thursday, September 25, 2014

How important are Taverns in Your Campaign?

Taverns. They are a staple of fantasy roleplaying.

"You are in the tavern when a mysterious man approaches you."

"Sitting down at a table in the local tavern, a man bursts through the door and crumbles in a lifeless heap. In his right hand he holds an envelope addressed to (some random PC)."

You know the spiel. You've payed it or run it or read it in a commercial adventure countless times.

So, do you detail the taverns that get used in your games? Do you name the tavern, it's workers, the patrons, detail the food and drink and pricing? Or is it just a backdrop to kick things off for the night?

Tell us your thoughts.


  1. Taverns became a sort of running joke in my games for a while.
    We were playing a home brew game for several years and it was kind of genre spanning, as in we used it for fantasy and steam punk and what ever else came up.
    In each setting we had a bar called "the hell hole" with a surly bartender named Lars. Over time the legend of the "Hell Hole" grew until it was part tavern part tardis and part city of Sigil. You could go any where from the hell hole, one exists in every reality, there are 42 beers on tap, and Lars is just always there.

    What I'm getting at is in one of our games over time the Tavern for all intents became a character.

    1. I had something similar, I called it the Leaping Leprechaun. Went ahead and detailed the thing as some kind of time-jumping locale. The place and time were uncontrolled by the owner, but a side-effect of living inside its walls became that he ceased to age like a normal human.

  2. I've had 3 taverns to date in my current Castles & Crusades campaign. One with no no-name to run the Ruins of Ramat (Brave Halfling Publishing), the other two for A1 - Assault on Blacktooth Ridge (Troll Lord Games) in the Town of Botkinburg. I've gotten in a lot of detail for those two taverns based off the descriptions in the module and then added to it. The Swilling Swan - a halfling establishment which is built for those of smaller stature with tables outside for larger folk, known for its seasonal berry wine. The second and more frequented is The Bent Hook, otherwise known as Ortloffs House of Sludge, known for it's thick hearty brew. A few NPC names are out there, but the party has had several return visits. They ask for food and drink and I give them general pricing, but may just post something of a menu for them to look at (we use Fantasy Grounds 2 to play). I do describe whose in there, usually just what the patrons look like unless it was someone they've met before. The town has about 20 named locations with a lot of NPCs (The Bent Hook being area 1). The players haven't done too much exploring around the town, so it offers me an opportunity for the townfolk (named NPCs in the module that may or may not lead to something of a story), to engage with the PCs by coming to the Tavern. In one particular instance, there was an old man who I've dropped hints about, the oldest guy in the town and he knows a lot about the world. I brought him into the picture at a town celebration at the Tavern and he introduced himself to players, rambling on about the area. But it did the job of getting them interested. They now know he's the old guy who knows a lot of stuff that lives in Building 13.

  3. I'd say they are important to most of my games. Although I did run a year+ long campaign and there were no shops/taverns/towns nada. Didn't miss them. But the one I've been tinkering with recently, the tavern/inn is sorta the heart of the small town. So it plays a vital role. I develop a few personalities and oddities of the place, and maybe a little of the menu, but generally I try to keep my energies focused on developing adventures/plots/backstory instead of menu items.

  4. Way back in the early 80s in high school, every new group of adventurers, no matter who was DM, always seemed to start in a tavern and we almost always got in a fight in the tavern.
    In the current campaign I run, there is one tavern, The Glaring Dragon, that is the place for adventurers to hang out. The proprietor, Olo', is a retired adventurer who decided he likes to serve other adventurers and make sure they have quality packs and gear sold from his side business.It also has a message board about signing up with a mercenary company to see the world, an advertised curse cure with a very odd pitch line (the players have yet to follow up on it), and Condor's Treasure Maps.
    The players meet other PCs and NPCs and get insights into the surrounding terrain. Warnings not to go to the ancient city, it's too dangerous, etc. They took to heart the warnings about the city and they are just now thinking they might be ready to check it out. I haven't done up menus, but my son always ask what's the special, so I have to make something up on the fly. (I really should have written them all down and I would have a good menu to work with.) I haven't fleshed out the other taverns in town like this one. They've only been to one other tavern in town, but briefly. They haven't gotten to another town or village and stayed long enough to find a tavern, so I haven't needed to place or describe others yet.

    In the game I play in online, there are several taverns in the huge city we are in and one of them has a townhouse out back that we rented. It is not such a colorful place as in other games I've been in, but it does server as a place to learn about the political and social goings on of the city.

    1. Donjon's random Inn generator can provide you a menu next time he asks...


  5. Taverns are a mainstay of my games and some of the incidental characters in staffing them get put into adventures or end up playing a larger part of a campaign. They are one of the more open ended features of my games since they just start as a gathering place and then as the players go on adventures and the world unfolds they become usually become a home of sorts.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition