Add a little flavor to your tavern

“You meet at the local tavern . . . . . . . ”

How many times have you heard that at the gaming table? The tavern is one of those locations that every game seems to have and frequently used as a stop over, a way of meeting a contact, or just picking up a quick rumor, but why not add a bit of flavor to it?

Here are a couple of suggestions to do just that.

The Old 96er

It’s one of those movie scenes that just sticks with you. The sight of a 96 ounce steak hitting the table is just something you remember, and you can add something like this to your game. Create a “special dish” for your tavern and build a story around it, maybe it’s named after a famous explorer that always ate it before heading out, or maybe its a menu item that no one orders because everyone who does, dies mysteriously days later.

Just by adding one small item and adding a bit of color to it and playing it up makes the tavern more memorable without a ton of work.

Describe it well

A while back I wrote a post, it’s all about location, but instead of focusing on the location itself I concentrated on the description aspect. You have to remember when your group heads to that tavern (or anywhere to be honest) it’s up to you to provide the ‘color.’ The party can’t know what you have as a vision of the location unless you give it to them.

It’s important to go beyond just how it looks, try to pull as many of the five senses in as you can, what does it look like? Are there any noticeable smells? What does the party hear on approaching? Start to get the idea?

Give it a story

I took this route with one of the taverns in my Realms of Rylon setting, the Laughing Fisherman. When I introduced the location I added a one paragraph description for the players in my campaign newsletter:

This family establishment was originally opened as Gunthar’s Place. Gunthar Daly was originally a fisherman that worked the Nima River until he lost his left hand and forearm in a boating accident. Most of the other fisherman at the time while sympathetic to his plight thought it was laughable that he took everything and sunk it into a tavern. Gunthar retired a few years ago and his son, Rian, took over the establishment and renamed it. He thought is was appropriate as his father got the last laugh as those that had been laughing at him are still working the river while he’s retired now.

This quick paragraph tied the establishment to the setting, the area, gave the players a couple of potential NPCs to interact with, and, if I had wanted to, a reason for “unexplained events” to happen at the tavern (after all, who wouldn’t want to get back at the family for rubbing it in their faces?).

So I ask you, what do you do to add a bit of flavor to your establishments to make them memorable?

May your dice roll well.

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Rest well Mr. Spock

Today the world lost an icon.

Leonard Nimoy will always be remembered as Spock, I know that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the name. While that is far from the sum of everything he was, that legacy will carry on and it is my hope that my children and grand children will come to enjoy the character that taught us what it was to be human.

You have lived long and prospered, now rest well old friend, rest well.

May your dice roll well.

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Going beyond the twists and turns

The twists and turns of a mazeEvery group as their favorite characters, NPCs, and sessions they’ve played, of course almost every group as their least favorite thing about the game as well.

In my group’s case it was mazes.

Looking back on it I probably didn’t run the few I used as well as I could have and Mediaprophet over at Run a Game gives some pointers on just how to do that.

One of the big takeaways from the post is that everything should cost the party something, in particular time. When everything the party does costs them that precious commodity you can then avoid the tendency of a party to explore every nook and cranny of the maze rather than just solving it and moving on. This works especially well when there’s an unavoidable time based penalty – like a rising river.

I think that’s where most of us go wrong, both as players and GMs, we want to explore the WHOLE maze, not just figure a way out, or find what we need to and then get out. After all, we’ve got plenty of time! We just know that there’s more treasure to find, more monsters to defeat but then before we know it we’re in the midst of “the grind” of mapping the whole thing.

Mediaprophet goes on to give some other suggestions that should help including things such as teleportation, shifting walls and rooms, and let us not forget that dungeons can be three dimensional.

A final word, and these are ones I know I missed

  1. Don’t make the players solve the maze, and
  2. Remember not every dungeon needs to be a maze either

May your dice roll well.

A-Maze-Ing Dungeons: 10 Maze Dungeon Tips! via Run a Game.

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Favor role-play over roll-play

Roman SoldiersI come across a lot of interesting posts and pieces of information as I wander across the Internet and came across a post Simple is Good by Troll Lord of The Dens.

It’s a short post that talks about the the fun he recently had with a weekend full of gaming, something I think all of us wish we could do more often. He mentions that there were no arguments, no rule discussions – just a lot of fun playing.

The nugget to take away from his post was it’s important to keep things simple if you want the game to move along and for everyone to have fun. In the case of an RPG that means using role-playing instead of roll-playing to get the job done.

I mentioned something similar to this some time back in my post, Don’t touch those dice! In that post I brought up the simple fact that just because you can roll dice to determine the outcome doesn’t mean you should. In Troll Lord’s case, he found that ruling in favor of the story and not the mechanic, made everything enjoyable – the same basic principle.

So the next time you’re sitting behind the GM screen and need to make a decision, think about those things and then put the dice and rule book down and just make the best call you can in favor of the story – your players will thank you for it.

May your dice roll well.

Check out Simple is Good by Troll Lord.

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