CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

One More For the Road

Oftentimes adventures start off in a tavern in some town or city where the characters meet for the first time. It’s so common to gamers that we actually make jokes about it. But why do we use the tavern as a place of beginnings? Historically taverns were a gathering place for most small towns, and in bigger cities they were a place you could get lost among the faceless crowds that come and go through the tavern doors. In most games we usually gloss over the part where the PCs find their adventures, but sitting in dark corners waiting for adventure to hit you over the head with a club is not the auspicious beginning that every player wants for their quest.

So why start in a tavern?

Being a common meeting place, the tavern seems like a natural - and neutral - place to gather groups of disparate personalities. Prospective employers might choose to meet their possible agents away from their home turf. You always have the trope of the cloaked stranger to fall back on as well. As someone who spends a fair amount of time in a bar I can tell you there is nothing like a local establishment you frequent and feel at home in. The PC could even use their local bar, where they know every patron by name, as a place to screen their employers.

What else can PC get out of a tavern?

Since locals tend to gather in eating and drinking establishments, the tavern is a perfect location to gather information. Lips loosened by a bit of alcohol are more likely to spill information you may not have otherwise found on the street. Even those trying to keep a low profile stand out to the guy at the end of the bar who has been frequenting the tavern for 20 years. The barkeep himself is a great source of information as many a besotted patron will speak endlessly about their woes to the guy pouring their ale.

In many modern bars you’ll find a pool table or a dart board. They might also have a jukebox or a live band. So how do we translate this into ways to liven up a tavern scene? Background music can work wonders when you’re sitting down to play, and live music for a tavern is probably easier to find than the sounds of dripping water in a cave. Throwing knives or darts can become a fun diversions for a party before things get serious. The curmudgeon dwarf who swears he can drink you under the table or the guy half in the bag who challenges everyone to an arm wrestling contest can both provide a sense that the tavern is more than just a backdrop for shady adventurers.

Making sure you get the proper atmosphere for the kind of tavern you are using can give your players a better feeling of immersion. A seedy dive in a bad part of town has a different feel than an upscale establishment in a high class neighborhood. In smaller towns there may only be one tavern which doubles as an inn. The townsfolk very likely use the place for large meetings so the whole place has a homier feel to it. Making sure you properly describe the place where the players are meeting as well as the patrons within goes a long way toward setting ambiance.

Lastly let’s talk about one of the most fun aspects of the tavern, bar fights. Nothing says fun and chaos like a drunken barroom brawl. Maybe you have an organization of fist fighters like The Brotherhood of the Brawl as written by our friend Neal Lihterland from Improved Initiative. Or maybe things just get out of hand when a patron has downed one too many. Barroom brawls can be hard to keep organized for a GM but can add a little excitement to the old “you meet in a tavern” trope. Maybe the PCs even start the brawl as a means to slip out of the tavern unnoticed by a threat they aren’t ready to face head on.

We all have a great bar story. I’ve got more than a few, having worked both behind the bar and as a bouncer in addition to my patronage. So tell us your in or out-of-game story and share your ideas on how to keep the tavern more than just a running joke.

Been enjoying the CRB? Consider becoming a patron. You can help support my endeavors at my Patreon making it feasible for me to devote more time to providing you with quality content. The CRB is branching out to other forms of social media. Join me on Twitter @SimonSezCRB where I live tweet my Saturday and Sunday games. Take a look at the CRB on Tumblr where I expand upon my articles and share some of the other gaming ideas I enjoy.


  1. I had a player once start a bar brawl because she like a contact's hat, and he wouldn't give it to her. She shouted something like, "Hey stop reaching up me' skirt!" and slapped him. The other patrons, who had grown quite fond of her, rushed to her aid. As six dudes caries him out the bar she snatches the cap off his head. Burning a contact, but gaining a rather fine hat.

    The completely derailed this whole kingmaker esk story I was introducing. The contact was the third son of an archduke in the area, and he was supposed to start feeding the players bad information about the other brothers, and try to fool them into helping make him the heir. Instead he was so embarrassed he ran back home to daddy and raised an army. They eventually laid siege to the players (in the same bar no less).

  2. I adore the tavern space, and often slip many different taverns and drinking spots into my writing whenever I can, because, as you said, it's a place where multiple different personalities can gather. Also, in terms of writing, it can be useful to provide a space where characters will come to talk and have interesting conversations, often fuelled by ale and wine and rum.

    Good post. I very much enjoyed it.

  3. @Brian interesting story. I like the idea of the tavern being so well known as the hangout of these adventurers that its the place the enemy would siege. I also like to see a quick thinking GM work with what the players give them and have fun with it.

    @Patch I am also a huge fan of the tavern space. I like to work a few major taverns and bars into m homebrew settings when I'm gaming. This all came to mind as I've been working on a mini encounter which should be out soon. I'm also going to go into more detail on a few of the things I've touched on over the next few articles so stay tuned.

    And thanks for reading guys, and commenting. I always like to hear other opinions and ideas. The best way to spur creativity is to listen to as many ideas as you can get your ears on.

  4. I dm a game where the bard of the group accidentally started a pit fight with a big scary halforc, but managed to bullsh*t him into fighting the whole party (3 lv1 characters) on a dare - they won by a hair's width :D