Sunday, November 1, 2020

Tavern generator

Taverns and inns are the heart of the community in the Northern Lands, a place for lodging and drink, where news is told, letters are received, and new ventures are begun. 

In fantasy roleplaying games taverns are a traditional gathering place and springboard for adventure.  This, I think, has less to do with anything medieval (where taverns were yet to develop) and has everything to do with one salient example from literature Tolkien's Prancing Pony.  While taverns may not have been especially medieval, they were certainly a feature of colonial America, and thus they're entirely appropriate for Signs in the Wilderness.

We'll start with the name. Roll 1d6 and 2d12.

Name (d6)

1-2: X and X 3-4: Color X 5-6: Adj. Inn

X (d12) Color (d12) Adj. (d12) Inn (d12)
1 Anchor Red Wayside Tavern
3 Fish Blue City
4 Key
5 Fiddle Old Publick Inn
6 Lobster Shoreside
7 Lion White Stone
8 Goat Admiral's
9 Eagle Green Shepherd's House
10 Hook Black Governor's
11 Gong Great Wayfarer's
12 Hen Golden Seafarer's Alehouse

I rolled up two example taverns: (2, 5, 3) gives us the Fiddle and Fish.  (6, 8, 3) is the Admiral's Tavern.

Roll 3d20 for what you find at this tavern.

Features (d20 thrice)
1-2 folks down on their luck, eager for work
3-4 a wretched hovel: cold draft and leaky roof
5-6 reading a newspaper aloud: news of trouble or a great opportunity
7-8 fearful of strangers due to recent trouble
9 militia drills outside, smell of gunfire
10 work for someone tough, brave, and discreet
11 influential people discussing a grave threat
12 a party to celebrate a safe return from afar
13 military recruitment drive
14 hiring for a job seemingly proper and official
15 a letter for you or someone where you are traveling to
16 crowded, smoky, no room to stay tonight
17 a peddler showing their wares
18 song and storytelling
19 an unwanted inspector or tax collector
20 people of an unexpected species

The Fiddle and Fish (3, 12, 15) is a wretched little place: cold in the winter and leaky when it rains, but it's the best this frontier town has to offer.  Tonight there's a bit of celebration going on, as one of the townsfolk has safely returned from a long journey.  There's a letter waiting for you at the tavern -- did someone back home know you'd be passing through here?

The Admiral's Tavern (9, 11, 6) has an atmosphere of grave concern.  Outside the militia has been performing drills all day, and the smell of gunpowder pervades.  Someone here is reading the latest newspaper aloud for their neighbors: an article about recent trouble.  Influential people from this town are gathered at one table, discussing a threat to the community.

Food and drink are obvious, but what's a tavern without gambling?  Roll a d6 to see what game of chance is typical at this establishment.

Gambling (d6)
1 A noisy game of dice and rhyming in the corner.
2 All have wagered money on the outcome of a game of cavál (akin to chess, but where one spends money to ransom captives).
3 A round table of a card game with pictures of tropical animals and farm implements.
4 Guessing the weight of a sheep outside or the number of coffee beans in a jar.
5 Selling tickets for a raffle for a cow, a bottle of drink, or an unexpected reward.
6 Gambling is decried as sinful and not practiced here; perhaps a lecture is offered instead.

At the Fiddle and Fish, there's a rowdy crowd gathered around a game of cavál.  They're all betting on who's going to win, so you can tell when someone makes a strong move just from the noise.

The Admiral's Tavern doesn't go for any of that low-class gaming nonsense.  Instead there's a sign up that they're raising funds to rebuild the church; buy a raffle ticket for a chance to win a fine bottle of whiskey on display behind the bar.

Frontier towns are short on community spaces, so the tavern tends to fill other purposes.  Roll a d8 for another complication about this place: once if it's in a big town, up to four times if it's in a remote frontier outpost.

Also (d8, 1-4 times)
1 Coin is in short supply in this settlement; folks run a tab and settle their debts monthly.
2 The tavern also serves as general store for the town.
3 They're closed during the work day.
4 Instead of smaller rooms, there's one big communal room upstairs where guests sleep.
5 If you want to buy the local products, they're auctioned off here monthly.
6 A local official conducts business at their usual table.
7 The inn serves as the town's courtroom when needed.
8 This is a polling place for elections. The local council meets here.

The Fiddle and Fish is in a small outlying settlement that's short on actual currency.  Folks run up a tab at the tavern and settle their debts monthly, usually in farm produce.  On that day there's also an auction for the sale of livestock, grain, tools, whatever surplus the town has to offer.

The Admiral's Tavern is a more respectable establishment that isn't open for public drinking during the workday.  When this town has occasion to convene a court, the court meets at the tavern. 

Roll up your own tavern:

Click here for a random Tavern.


  1. "You all meet in an inn" goes back to Chaucer.

    1. Go back to the lit that inspired Chaucer!

      ...the Party meet in a deserted villa in rural Tuscany after leaving plague-ridden Florence...