Making taverns in D&D can be simple to do, but hard to master. If you are going to make a tavern in D&D, there are some things that you really need to consider.
Making taverns in D&D requires you to think of why the tavern is there, what activities are done, the basics, and understand information gathering.
These are the 5 things that you need to know in order to make a great tavern. First, let’s start with the basics and explaining the 5 steps.
The 4 steps
Making Taverns in D&D require 5 things.
- To know the basics in order to make creation easier.
- Thinking of why the tavern is there in the first place.
- Know what activities are done in taverns.
- Understand everything about information gathering.
These are the 4 basic steps summed up, but they can be broken down much further. For example, the basics include knowing what a tavern is and all the typical fantasy ideas, but there is more.
For making a tavern you will need a name. I highly recommend looking at this site for choosing a name or just making one up with some rediculous theme. For example, ‘The bee’s honey’ might be a tavern that has fresh honey in addition to the other tavern tropes.
The basic tropes include that there are is alcohol, a floor plan, and is a place for adventurers to hang out.
These are the basics that everyone knows, but there are a few other basics that most DMs do not consider.
Taverns should be lively. This is a common component that is missing in some taverns. Think about when your party goes to a tavern. Are they greeted with cheerful song, games, or a great atmosphere?
Normally the DM just focuses on the party and what they are doing. The environment is not to be brought up unless the players ask about it. Taverns do not adhere to this rule. Your players should come in and see something different in every tavern. Drunks being happy, a game where everyone cheers when someone enters the bar, something should be told to the players before they even ask.
The nature of bars is to be a loud and rowdy place in real life, so you can apply real life to fantasy. It can be hard to hear each other, bar fights can happen, and almost everyone is either having a good time or about to. That is the point of a bar, so embrace this when creating an atmosphere.
These are the basics to make tavern creation easier, but we have barely just begun on how to improve your D&D tavern!
Jim Mcspickle did not just start a bar because he needed money. Jim had a dream! A dream to teach the occult to others while they drank, and get new friends!
Making taverns in D&D doesn’t have to hinge on odd reasons like this, but it can. Each tavern owner chose to make a bar for some reason and chose the location to further the owner’s dream.
Sometimes the owner’s dream is able to propel a tavern into existence all on it’s own, but there might be another push. Making money is always a problem, and people need jobs in order to live. The proprietor of the tavern might think that this is a good spot to set up shop, but why here?
Location is important. If the proprietor makes a bar dedicated to the morninglord in the wilderness where no one stops by, there is something wrong.
When a person sets up shop in a city filled with academic people, it makes sense that they would want to learn about the occult. hence, an occult bar makes sense in this area. If it is a small town or a very religious town, then it makes less sense. If you are wondering how to make a city, then check out our article on making a city in D&D here.
Once you have your city that is appropriate for your bar, we can break the why of making taverns in D&D down into 2 parts. The owner and the location/theme of the bar.
Not every bar has to have a memorable owner, but it helps to have one. Most likely, your party will look for the owner and ask their name, reason for the bar, information, or just about anything.
Bars are great for this, and that is why most owners have personalities. If your bar doesn’t have an owner with a personality, then they are not going to be the main attraction. Something else is making the party go to the bar and they have to be occupied enough to not care about who the owner is.
This is extremely hard to do, and is part of the reason why we make interesting owners as Dms. Making taverns in D&D almost requires you to make an interesting owner, so here are some things to consider.
- The owners name (duh).
- Why the owner runs this bar.
- Why the theme was chosen.
- Who the ideal customer for the owner is.
The name is obvious, but the why can lead to an interesting backstory that shapes the owner’s personality. If they are running the bar due to debt or inheritance, they might be flighty or depressed. If the owner was a past adventurer, they might be able to influence and help the party.
Why the owner runs the bar is already a great start to understanding their personality and a way to make things interesting, but most bars have themes. The theme could be something simple like honey, bear claws, etc. Why these themes? That is up to you!
It could be a mild fascination with these items, or it can be much more in-depth. Having a theme adds another level of depth to the bar and the owner. We will talk about this a bit more later.
The last way to add depth and fully flesh out what your owner will be like is by deciding who the ideal customer will be. Does the bartender want only rich folk in their bar? Only poor people? What about shady characters?
Understanding who your barkeep wants in their bar will not only influence their personality, but also the bar itself. If the owner’s ideal customers are rich people, then the players might feel out of place and the common trapings of a bar will not be present.
If your owner is alright with shady characters, they might have an in with the thieves guild and even get a cut of some illegal profits. That alone can lead to an infinite number of plot hooks, and any sort of ideal customer should be able to present some plot hooks to the party.
We have already discussed theme and location a little bit above, but there is much more to unravel. Making taverns in D&D require some logic. You need to make sure it makes sense why these bars are in this area, or your players’ sense of immersion will disipate.
You already know your owner’s ideal type of customer, so where would they be able to attract this type of customer? Looking for a good location shouldn’t be hard, but it should make sense. Do not put a high end bar in the middle of a village. No one will be able to afford it, and there will have to be something special about the bar. Why else would it be there?
Conversely, if you intentionally did this, you have made a nice little plot hook. I have a warning for you. If you do this intentionally, you have to consider the aftermath of the resolved plot hook. Even if the players do whatever the plot says in that area and helps the bar, what happens to it afterward? This can be a trap for DMs and unfulfilling for players. Be careful about doing this.
Themes are tied in with location because the theme will affect the location of the bar. Themes will also add character, life, and personality to your bar from the outer layers all the way to the patrons inside.
Choosing a theme can range from simple to absurd, and it is all based on what you want as a DM. This is probably the most fun part of making a bar, so make sure to carefully consider the theme and how it will impact everything that we have talked about and will talk about.
A tavern is a lively place where people come to have fun, relax, and partake in whatever theme the bar has. The crazy thing is, most DMs do not even consider what activities their bars have!
Making taverns in D&D doesn’t involve just having a name, location, theme, and an owner with an interesting character. It involves patrons, and patrons will want to do things other than drink!
If you have been to a bar in real life, you understand that not everyone is content with just drinking. In fact, most people will want to do something else like play games or catch up with friends. Imagine that you are in a town that forces you to interact with friends on a daily basis. When you hangout after work, you will want something to do that doesn’t involve discussing what happened today for the 5th time.
You want to do something fun, and that is where bar activities come into play. There are some traditional games that everyone plays. Dice, cards, etc, but you can create many activities for your players to delve into. Before that though, here are some simple dice and card games to play in D&D.
This is a game I made for my players on the spot when they asked for a dice game. It is simple, yet effective.
The rules are thus:
- Both players (or all players) make a bet.
- Each rolls a d6 and tries to get a 6.
- If a 1 is rolled, that player has to pay double their bet and loses if anyone rolled a 6.
- If a 6 is rolled, the player wins.
- If 2 or more players roll a 6, they keep rolling until only 1 gets a 6. If 2 or more players roll a 6 again, repeat the process.
- If no one rolls a 6, then everyone can place another bet or forfeit their current share of the pot.
That is it! A simple dice game if you need it.
For card games, you can just do poker, black jack, or even something like the Witcher 3’s Gwent if you are that dedicated.
There are still more games that you can do!
Darts is a great game to have in a tavern. It is hard to simulate in D&D, but here is an article that makes a simple conversion to D&D.
Drinking games are also extremely standard. The easiest way to have a drinking game is thus:
- Start with DC 10 constitution saving throw.
- If both parties make it, increase the DC by 1 for each drink. (3rd drink= DC 12)
- Drink until someone is unable to stomach it and passes out or throws up.
- If you want to add a different drink than just beer, increase the DC by an additional 1 or 2. (Resistant to poison gains advantage.)
Making taverns in D&D can require more games than just these 4! If you are making an occult bar, you can make your own game based on guessing monsters, or a trivia game from the owner about whatever the theme of the bar is. But that isn’t all!
Bars are lively places where you go to have fun, and festivities are extremely fun. This is why bars might have some extra games that are only seen at carnivals or celebrations.
These are all the standard type of games that we expect, but what about games that the patrons may play upon each other?
Taverns are places where people relax and have fun. This could be at the expense of others, or just a light jab at traditional tropes. For example:
The adventurers come into a bar and are looking for work. They find that a lone figure is hooded and in a corner. The bar falls silent as some patrons look at the newcomers and then toward the corner. After these brief glances the patrons go back to their drinking and ignore the party.
The party goes toward the lone figure and sits down. The part talks to the man in the hood but gets no response. Frustrated, they look at the man who’s face is tilted toward the table, or throw open his hood to reveal that it was just a dummy.
The patrons all laugh and make another mark on the wall.
This is was not invented by me. I found it somewhere on the internet a long time ago, but it is hilarious. Patrons will have fun messing with adventurers or each other, so pranks are fun games that can happen in a tavern.
Another game might be to see who cheers the loudest when a new person arrives, or who can get their hand shook first by a newcomer to the bar. Bars are lively places, and pranks do not need to be malicious. They can add to the mood and make the place more enjoyable for everyone.
This way if the pranks ever stop or the bar becomes silent, it is deafening and adds another layer to the seriousness of the situation.
These pranks can be just about anything, so have fun when thinking about what tropes your patrons would see and think of how to subvert them which leads us to our last step.
Using information gathering
Making a stand in for a lone figure in the corner is a good prank, but it stems from the idea that taverns are great places to get information.
Making taverns in D&D requires you to understand the basics of information gathering and then go beyond what is expected. The basics are:
- Get information from the tavern keeper.
- Get information from the general patrons.
- Look for a certain group and get information from them.
Those are basic. The tavern keeper is the owner. He/She should know what is happening in their bar and have probably overheard things. The patrons are the ones talking, and a specific group of friends or an organization is pretty easy to spot.
All of these sources have information because of gossip. Taverns are a place to unwind and talk happens, but that doesn’t mean that every person is speaking the truth.
Think of social media today. People talk after work or when bored and spout all sorts of information. That does not mean that this information is correct, so why would taverns be any different?
Yes, plot hooks can happen, but what about gathering information about the plot? When players try to ask patrons or get information about a specific place they might get conflicting information, false information, or the truth.
Rumors are a great way to add mystery to the plot and make the players realize that they only true information they can trust is what they learn themselves. Even then, is it correct? The players do not have every perspective in a situation, so they might make a wrong call. The same theory applies to rumors. No one knows the full story, but people will talk about what they heard or what they think is actually true despite if it is or isn’t.
These are the basics regarding information to consider when making taverns in D&D, but you can go so much deeper.
False rumors are not misunderstandings. They are just misinformation. Misunderstandings are when the players do something that leads to a completely unexpected result.
Remember how we talked about owners having their establishment be a front for illegal activities? These owners probably don’t want to know all the details and don’t care to, but they might know some. 1 of these details might a keyphrase that will take someone into the back for an illegal meeting.
Keyphrases are meant to be hidden and rarely spoken, but what if your players accidentally utter a keyphrase? They could be taken to the back and get themselves involved in a whole new plotline!
Making taverns in D&D can involve even more types of information that you didn’t even think of as a DM!
Information about the party
Your D&D party will do things. At least, I hope they do or you will have a boring game. When your party does things they will make enemies, or allies.
Your group got started in a simple quest where they were recruited to slay the basement rats or something. Since then, they have risen in the ranks and might be able to employ others.
This is where followers come in. Some groups are eager to maintain a fort, a house, or will attract fanboys/girls. The tavern is a great place for these people to meet or even seek out your party.
Other plotline related allies might come to see your party in the bar, but there are others who do not like your party. Namely, rivals.
Your party is not the only adventuring party out there. Other people exist in the world, and your party might have screwed over some of these other people wither the deserved it or not. Why not have them meet in the bar? Many people go there to relax, so you can reasonably have these rival adventurers or villains be in a bar.
This is a 1 time thing, but it can be fun to use information against the players from a bar or just flip the tables and make the players confront past enemies.
Making taverns in D&D involves 4 steps. These steps are not simple, and can be broken down to a surprising level of detail.
If you use these 4 steps when making taverns in D&D and actually go into detail with each of these steps, you will make an amazing tavern for your party that they will never forget.
I hope that this has helped you understand how to make a tavern in D&D, and that it has helped you make an amazing tavern that your group will never forget!
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!