D&D Ideas — Inns & Taverns
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is inns & taverns, which we discussed in our weekly live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST on Nerdarchy Live to talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. Speaking of inns & taverns in Keeper’s Teavern at a strangely opportune moment a magical tea house appears with an archmage within. A bit of tea to gain new powers? Yes, please. A supernatural guardian of the universe who knows the exact time and place certain people need to be at certain times appears along with 54 other dynamic scenarios in Out of the Box. Find out more about it here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy plus snag a FREE GIFT by signing up here.
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Take a stab at mastering the intricacies of the dagger, use backstories as invaluable resources and delve into ruins both physical and metaphorical and so much more plus new live chats and live game play rounds out this week’s Nerdy News. Check it out here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
Starting in a tavern is one of the oldest Dungeons & Dragons tropes out there. And with good reason — it’s a good one. Adventurers always end up at a tavern once they’ve hit civilization again. Oftentimes it’s the first place they want to hit. Heck, Wizards of the Coast even did an official book of adventures based around and named after a famous tavern with Tales from the Yawning Portal. There are plenty of famous taverns from fantasy and D&D:
- Yawning Portal (Forgotten Realms)
- Inn of the Last Home (DragonLance)
- World Serpent Inn (Planescape)
- The Prancing Pony (Lord of the Rings)
- Broken Staff Tavern (Greyhawk)
- The Stag and Lion (Wheel of Time)
- Inn at the Crossroads (Game of Thrones)
These are just a few and there are plenty of others out there. This leads me to believe you shouldn’t abandon the trope of the D&D tavern quite yet. Instead think of different ways to use your taverns and inns. Many of the taverns above have interesting features to entice any adventurer worth their 10 foot pole to them.
Inns and taverns are cool places to insert props into your D&D game. It’s easy enough to create some PDF menus for your online games or print them out for your in person games once we get back to them.
Are the inns and taverns known for their meals, special dishes, wines, spirits or ales? Maybe the entertainment of the establishment is renowned in all the kingdom. It is fairly common for taverns to be run by former adventurers. This might be a trope to shy away from unless you can do it in an interesting way.
Connecting a dungeon or dungeons to inn and taverns is a great way to give characters a place to fall back to between runs in the dungeon.
From Ted’s Head
So often do we talk about inns and taverns. We have loads of videos at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel talking about the topic but how often do we really consider the importance of such a location? Regardless of where you live, in normal times people want to come home at the end of a long day and relax at the place they call home. We have forgotten this fact during this time of the pandemic but for our adventures inns and taverns are very often the closest thing they have to a home. It is generally a place of safety. It is a place to get food and rest.
Based on this Dungeon Masters can be well served by making the places adventures might want to call home be homey enough so the characters feel comfortable and the players keep wanting to go back too. When we design new inns and taverns it’s worthwhile to consider what kind of place the players and their characters are looking for as well as what the purpose for the place in the context of the campaign.
When I started my last campaign I put a lot of work into what I hoped would be a central location for the story. I wanted to do something new.
The Harp and Stag is a place run by a pair of retired adventures. This is a place designed to be a fake secret. Unlike most taverns with a visible sign to travelers it is supposed to be for those adventures who have uncovered the location. Only when you have one of the special coins and know where to use them can you access this place. These special coins are freely available once you are inside so you can always get more for your friends and while it is not widely known the coins have a habit of replicating and leaving a trail of coins behind.
The special thing about the Harp and Stag Inn is the portal inside with the potential to take you to a variety of places. Most are on the Material Plane but others take you to other planes of existence. This makes the inn a great place to encounter creatures from all over the multiverse.
This inn has its own set of vendors who offer alchemical concoctions and minor magic enchantments and a number of other things. My design of this location was to match the video game style where it could be its own game of finding new locations the inn can lead to via the portal or have new vendors added to it. As the Harp and Stag Inn is its own little demiplane it can be expanded as much as needed so feel free to use it in your games. If you do I would love to hear further information about your expansions.
From the Nerditor’s desk
For me inns and taverns in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons hit the same notes as shops from last week’s topic as places where the mundane and relatable meets the fantastic. In the games I run inns and taverns become direct touchstones to things the players recognize from our own world. Except there’s dragons and stuff too.
Over the last couple of years whenever I run a 5E D&D campaign it begins with the party aboard a ship traveling across the sea to a small coastal town and invariably the characters wind up at Kurant’s Call, the inn and tavern in town. It’s neither the closest thing to the docks where they disembark nor the most visually noteworthy feature around but nevertheless it’s the place adventurers head for straightaway.
Inns and taverns very quickly become places for adventurers to connect with both the setting and the people. They’re places to find food, rest and shelter. They’re also public spaces where players can interact with a variety of people from those who live nearby to fellow travelers passing through the area.
If players in your games are anything like mine, which I’m going to assume they are since literally every player in games I’ve run does, they’ll make connections with whatever and whoever they discover inside. In fact I’ve come to rely heavily on what characters do and say in scenarios in and around inns and taverns to inform whatever adventures come next.
There’s something relatable about the circumstances surrounding inns and taverns. Anyone who reads or listens to my thoughts on RPGs knows relatability is a huge aspect of games for me. Players and hence their characters seem to really enjoy meeting interesting folks and learning a bit about them and their surroundings over food and drink.
Because inns and taverns provide a generally safe environment they very often become places characters find their myriad skills and abilities useful. Show a bard to such an establishment and you’re bound to see an impromptu performance ensue. People like to unwind and relax at these places too and seeing someone engrossed in reading isn’t uncommon, which creates another entry point for more scholarly characters.
Of course there’s games of skill and chance to engage with at inns and taverns too. Throwing dice, playing cards and the like offer yet another path for characters to interact with patrons. One of our bestselling products provides a whole bunch of opportunities for inns and taverns. In Taking Chances we put together a variety of establishments each with their own quirks. There’s also a waystation of sorts centered around using tools with a number of minigames and quests for characters to partake in focused on their skills and tool proficiencies. You can check it out here.