There are few places more important to an adventuring party than a secure place to lay their heads, kick back and recuperate between adventures and, store their loot. For most this is the Inn.
Inns and taverns are a staple of fantasy gaming and fiction, but few GMs spend the time to develop them into anything more than a stop-over between games. This is a crying shame really because , if well written and run, an Inn can be the centre for so much more.
A good Inn provides:
- Food and drink
- A place for patrons to find and engage the adventurers
- A place for merchants to examine and buy the party’s loot
- An excellent source of rumours and information
- A place to meet and get to know the locals
- A secure storage facility
- Stabling and horse care
I have found that if you put a little time and effort into your Inn it can enhance the whole game.
Things I always do when setting up an inn;
- Decide why it is there. Is it a city inn in a good district or a more shady one; a dockside watering hole full of sailors and merchants; a wayside inn by a major trading route that has lots of travellers passing through; a simple village inn mostly serving the locals; or a fortified frontier inn with hardy trappers, prospectors and scouts using it as a base for their forays into the wilderness beyond?
- Decide what is the name, race and former profession of the Innkeeper. Many inns were bought by retiring adventurers or soldiers to provide employment and an income for themselves and their families. These can be very useful people to know.
- Consider if it’s small with a bar and a common dormitory? Is it a wealthy inn with stables, various rooms, private dining rooms and capacious cellars? Does it have a walled yard and strong doors and gates?
- Decide what are the regular clientele like. Are they good natured locals, suspicious villagers, merchants and nobles, sailors and soldiers etc.?
- Work out what is the food like. Simple local fare, high-priced meals for cultured palates, hearty meats and veggies, exotic foreign food like elven curries? It is expensive or dirt cheap? Think of what the clientele regularly want.
- Consider if the inn protected by just its staff, by hired bouncers, professional guards or loyal regulars?
- Decide what the adventurers can get there other than accommodation and food. Is it a good place to meet patrons? Are there sources of good information there? Do people trade goods and services through the inn? Are merchants who are willing to buy looted treasures there?
I think that you can see where I am going with this. Adventurers who find an inn that suits their needs and, who treat the innkeeper and the locals well, can soon find they have a secure base of operations.
The GM gets a channel through which they can put work, information, opportunities to trade and ways to advance their plots and themes.
To get you going here is an example of an Inn I regularly use in my city campaign.
The Blue Pentangle – Skala’s Inn
The bar of the Blue Pentangle has become very popular with adventurers from both within the adventuring companies and from further afield. It is considered neutral territory and its reputation as a haven is strongly protected by Skala, his guards and the Adventurer’s Guild.
The City Guard have to ask permission to enter as it is considered to be the property of a City Mage. As such Skala can turn it into a court or a sanctuary as he wishes, and he is only responsible to the Governor for what goes on there. The Governor is quietly pleased that so many adventurers are now housed in a ‘controlled environment’ instead of out causing trouble across the city.
The Inn has also attracted a select band of non-adventurers, who gather to service this special community. These include:
- Fnast & Fnickel. These gnomic artificers rent a first floor room every Market day and do a brisk business supplying adventurers’ martial needs. Here they can measure people up and take orders in a confidential setting.
- Scribes of Egglo & Sons regularly take a booth in the taproom and can write letters, contracts, and even transcribe maps and spellbooks for the less literate.
- Priestesses of Angel and Matra are common visitors, as are one or two priests of Aranh and Baranh. The priestesses, in particular, have been known to take over the back room for impromptu services and other needs.
- The gnomic bard Fnarh-Fnarh, who will happily compose a ballad to celebrate an adventurer’s deeds. He generally only charges if he doesn’t think he can turn some silver singing it across the city.
- R. Estherhazy (aka ‘The Fatman), in his trademark red fez, often takes a table close to the stage in the tap room. Here he deals in exotic items and Skala will direct adventurers whose loot is not of interest or beyond his purse to The Fatman. He is always accompanied by two or three very efficient-looking ‘gentlemen’.
- Old Meg the Truthsayer. This old treasure is always busy, listening to merchants making deals, people giving witnessed statements, even husbands declaring their fidelity to doubting wives. There are rumours that she is a retired Scholar-Soldier of Gabrial. It would explain the sheathed, two-handed sword she uses as a walking staff.
New visitors are often awed by the magical, multihued lighting of the Inn, its variable dimensions (the more people that come in, the larger the taproom seems to get), as well as the unseen servants that deliver their drinks and the famous frog-bowl on the bar. The Barmaids also attract a lot of attention. Most of them are former streetwalkers that Skala ‘rescued’ from a life of crime and depravity. They are young, sassy, only partially dressed and definitely dangerous. They only deliver drinks personally to the backroom and to very wealthy patrons.
Despite this distraction none can miss the guards, mostly retired adventurers, that expertly observe the patrons. Their red sashes and grizzled looks are enough to put off many a would-be troublemaker. Little Bill, the half-ogre former pit fighter, is especially intimidating (when he’s sober). All of Skala’s guards are also ‘Special Constables’ – support troops that the City Guard can call upon when the crap hits the fan. In the recent war it was this group that held the Eastern Breach against the 101st New Order Goblin Iron Assault Brigade (whose banner now adorns a wall of the back room).
As a result the Inn has a reputation for being fairly safe, despite the policy that says you can, and should, remain armed. People who enter unarmed may be offered a club or a dagger by one of the Guards. Skala believes the best deterrent to trouble is visible strength.
Connoisseurs of fine wines are generally disappointed, but B’stards Best Bitter is always on tap. Skala is a fan of the searingly hot Vimallan cuisine and has two elven chefs in his basement restaurant. It has a small but loyal clientele, and is favoured both by the Igors and the Half-Elven community.
Most nights there is some form of entertainment on the stage of the Taproom. Sometimes it is Fnarh-Fnarh or one of his bardic colleagues. Other nights it is adventurers relating their latest triumphs. These sessions are very popular and a good performance will see the adventurer showered in silver (a bad performance will get them showered with beer tankards – and this can be painful as they are solid pewter).
Skala has seven rules carved around the bar in about fifty languages. New patrons cannot order a drink until they’ve read them, or had the rules read to them:
- Everyone is allowed one mistake.
- Do not ask for credit.
- If you can stand up unaided we will serve you.
- The barmaids are armed – you have been warned (Rule 1 may not apply).
- Cast a spell, lose an eye (see Rule 1).
- Pick a pocket, lose a hand (see Rule1).
- Pick a fight, the Guards need the exercise.
Obvious spell-casters are directed to observe the ceiling. It seems to writhe to their arcane senses. They are informed that the ceiling has hundreds of Sepia Snake Sigils cast upon it. They are activated by the casting of a spell and will seek out and bring down the offender. Only Skala and Mr Hands are immune.