In RPGs, taverns are a vital location but too often they are just four walls, some tables, chairs, a bar. They all look so similar and serve little purpose beyond being a place to meet. As places where adventures start, investing more into making the tavern part of the world will build the important immersion you want in your RPG. It’s the players first glimpse and experience of your game world. Like the opening scene of a film or the first chapter of a book, what they experience here will affect the rest of the story. Bring them in deeper with these unusual and distinct drinking locations
The Ale Pits
Eslines built its wealth on large surface deposits of Kaolinite. Three quarters of the settlements in the country were built to support open cast mines and factories producing paper and ceramics. After the mines were exhausted, the economy diversified leaving large empty pits at the hearts of many towns. Not wanting to abandon the pits that had built their culture, the Eslinies converted them into public houses.
Set into the ground, the pits give shelter from the winds that blow across the plains. At their centre is a large fire for cooking and for pushing back the cold. The food is suspended from the cables and wires used to hoist up a tent to keep the rain away. Otherwise the pit is open to the stars. Amongst the galleries cut into the rock are small bars, each serving a different ale. Where there are several pits grouped together, tunnels have been cut between them for easier access. It is common for at least one side pit to have a permanent roof and a hostel built within.
Public Tasting Hall of Whiskey Nuns
The Order of Sant Velnum has only a single convent, deep in the Plymn Hills. Sant Velnum’s miracles were ones of prophesied disasters. Her warnings saved hundreds of lives and gained her followers wanting to learn her methods. Sant Velnum claimed that a very precise distillation and blend of whisky was the source of her visions. Hundreds of years later, her order still seeks to replicate the effects.
The convent sits atop the fresh water spring Sant Velnum claimed as her water source. Its deep cellars are filled with hundreds of barrels of ageing distillations. In their search for the perfect recipe, the nuns procure ingredients and cask materials from all over the known world. The nuns produce so much whisky that it would be dangerous for them to attempt to taste them all. Instead, they hold open tasting sessions. These are very serious affairs conducted as a ritual. The tasting room is an open stone chamber at the centre of the convent with tall windows looking out over the hills. Once everyone is suitably inebriated, the nuns record everything that said in the hopes it might be prophecy.
Shots and Chasers
And now, for your perusal and delight, a selection of smaller ideas for taverns. Credit for the idea is given where due.
- The Emotion Bar – Rather than serve alcohol, this bar serves potions that make you experience powerful emotions. The bar regularly hosts tasting sessions of new feelings.
- Bar Fight – The drinks are free but are only given out to winners. To prove yourself a winner, you’ve got to fight your way past the other patrons and the guards.
- The Silent Sip by Chris Tregenza – A public house for those discerning of quiet. There is no noise heard as the expertly trained staff are masters of silence.
- The Whispered Secret by Adam McConnaughey – Currency won’t get you anything but tap water. If you want a proper drink, you’ll need to hand over a secret. The more damning it is, the better quality the drink.
- The Bar’s Call by Adam McConnaughey – As justice is best served when inebriated, this tavern is both public house and courtroom. All chug for the judge!
- Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon by Tod Foley – You’d be forgiven for thinking the saloon was a tourist attraction, as it’s so full of characters from all across time. In fact, the bar exists in a time gap, meaning it can be accessed from anywhen you’d like.
- Truth be Told by Erica Peterson – Highly bored of the boasting and blatant lying of her patrons, the publican has started dosing the drinks with truth potions.
- The Collected Curios by Dan Quilty – The tavern walls are covered in tokens and momentos from past adventurers. All of them have some magical quality but if you want to use one, you’ll have to replace it with something of equal power first.
- The Bar of All Names by Gennifer Bone – If you know the right incantation, you can summon a portal to this bar. The cover charge is you name, which the bar will keep if you don’t pay your tab. If you’ve enough currency, you can purchase one of the lost names that has been fermented into a potion of change identity.
- The Tavern of True Neutral by Luke Green – Part of the plane of neutral, everything here is placid and calm. No harm can come to you here but you won’t experience any emotions either.
Image Credit – Armenian Tavern by Chris Yunker – CC-BY-SA-2.0