The Dawdlers, your adventuring group, have made their way across nearly sixty miles of wet wheat. With the previous town now long behind them, and their tents too damaged to keep off the endless rain, the sight of the next town is the only thing that keeps their spirits from trailing heavily behind them.
The only lights still burning in the town are The Central Station, a tavern with rooms and maybe even a pillow.
“I guess we sleep for the night,” says Dwight, the gnomish barbarian.
“Sure,” you say. “The inn keeper says he has space. It’s two silvers per room.”
“I give that.”
“And you rest in the rooms, and then you’ve had a full rest. You get your spellslots back.”
Ugh. What a missed opportunity.
Taverns are often the centre of a community, with locals coming in for food and chat, and travellers coming in with the strangest reasons for their journey. Whenever you drop in a tavern, try to fill it with a few people who have interesting stories to tell – the players might grasp these and kick off a fun side-quest (or give you fuel for your main quest!).
- Nickel and dimer. Blankets? That’s three coppers extra.
- Information doesn’t come for free. I might know a thing or two about those caves.
- Mothering. Are you warm enough? I’ll fetch more logs, just in case.
- Sullen. I’ve never felt the same since the accident.
- Desperate. Half price, then! Please don’t go!
- Selective. I don’t care if you’re the Queen of the Andes. No one gets in without an invitation from a member.
- Loyal. When a customer pays his money, they get more than just a roof over their head. They get safety.
- Retired adventurer. Payment in coin or stories, if you like.
- Subservient. The Grey Lord requested I make your stay as comfortable as possible.
- Pure arcane. The stern fills itself as your coin vanishes in payment.
- Cathartic. Safe here, you feel the need to tell a story about your past. (A chance for Inspiration.)
- Brawl. It has been 0 days since our last bar fight.
A big part of our hobby is the one player side of DMing, when you get to sit and write for a while. In your head the world may be complicated and colourful but there’s surprisingly few places in a game where you can reveal this without feeling like it’s being shoehorned in. Taverns and inns are always brimming with culture and adventuring spirit though. Set the scenes of your world, outside the players normal view, in the stories they hear in taverns.
Just like with merchants, there is no need for them to be shallow places or people who just exchange fantasy money for a mechanical service.
Look at the master of the house in Les Mis. He has a mistreated girl who skulks around, doing most the work. Is there a story in there? What happens when the groups tries to check out the next day and is hit by an astronomical bill – these chaps look like successful adventurers, there’s bound to be coin there. Will they pay it, or kick up a fuss?
Al Murray’s Pub Landlord might be a good character to base your inn keeper on. Have her be a nationalist, foreigner begrudging fool. The dragonborn gets served a different type of meat, cheaper cuts. There’s no rooms left for you, gnome. Long stories about the better times, before the half-orcs came. (Why did they come?)
The hotel from Altered Carbon. Why wouldn’t an entrepreneurial wizard have set up a string of arcane, self running inns? At least, we think it’s a wizard. No one has seen them. And we’ve never seen inside that back room…