Anyone who has ever played D&D will recognise the tavern as a regular launching point for a campaign. Even the one time I played a Sci-fi RPG it started in a tavern. Its become such an iconic plot devise it has almost taken on the aura of a cliche. But I think this is a great pity because I believe the Tavern or Inn as a location can be so much more than a place for meetings or a bar room brawl (fun as they are).
- Give the Tavern a special character all of its own. The furniture, smell and decor make each bar a character in and of itself. Take the time to describe the interior of the bar and inject some well needed personality into the location.
- As well as the inside give some thought to the outside of the building. The first impression of the players may give them some idea as to what type of establishment they will find within. A dark & dirty building hidden in a back street is not going to play host to the local rotary club. Similarly a bright clean busy tavern in the main street of a city isn't likely to be the base of operations for the local thieves guild.
- Speciality food and drink can be a great way to add colour to a local Inn. After all aside from meeting your next employer one of the key reasons players go to a tavern is for food and sustenance between adventures.
- Pretty much every bar I have been in (in the game world) had a great bear-like barman and a busty wench serving the drinks. Try to add a little variation by taking a stereotype and turning it on its head.
- Make a tavern something beyond a glorified job centre. Lost of interesting things happen in a bar, not just adventurer recruitment. Meetings or business partners or long lost friends. Secret trysts between lovers or the plots of great houses. Old men warming their bones by the fire and young men listening to stories of adventure.
- Gambling is a major pastime in any Tavern. Games of chance from many cultures will be played in dark corners or in back rooms and large sums of money may change hands.
- An Inn is just as likely to be a place of commerce as it is drinking. Deals are being stuck, trade goods bartered and caravans planned. In a city tavern many of the patrons are more likely to be merchants rather than adventurers.
- The Tavern is most likely the only public space in a small town or village that can be hired for meetings. Most reasonable sized Inns will have several 'function' rooms to rent. The players may want to hire a room to plan their next adventure or discuss their next move. All many of shifty deals and schemes may be hatched in the back room of a bar, away from the prying eyes of the Watch.
The Tavern has become a Cliche but this is because its such a versatile location. Hopefully this article has given you a few ideas for spicing up your local watering hole and reinventing the most used location of them all.