I know, "you all start at a tavern" is a cliché. But that's a good thing.
You need to start your game in some physical location. The location will feel like a natural choice if it's a natural meeting place. A tavern is a good choice because that's exactly its purpose: a meeting place for many people.
More importantly, we're going to make the tavern part of the story.
The Tavern Itself
Okay, you'll need to figure out a few things about the tavern:
- Its name
- Who runs it
- Where it is (the name of the town it's in)
- How big it is
- What cool advantage it can give the player-characters.
You only need a few words for the first four of these. Search the web for lists of tavern names, fantasy character names, and town names, and just take whatever sounds cool to you.
I did a bit of digging and came up with the following: the Dancing Stag, owned by Olaf, is a simple 1-story tavern with a single common room and a small kitchen that stands on the main corner in the small village of Goldhaven.
Some DMs take this opportunity to flesh out the town or village that the tavern's in, describing all the nearby shops and NPCs. Resist this urge. You can make that up later. If you really want to, go ahead and find a village map online and figure out a few details, but only spend time on this if you need to. Plenty of other things need your time.
The "cool advantage" is some object or power that the PCs can take advantage of, if they're paying attention enough to realize it. You're not going to hide it, but you're not going to tell them up-front, "Do this to get a bonus of +2 on your attacks."
Some examples of cool advantages include:
- A keg of special beer
- A traveling cleric who will cast a buff spell
- A sword hung over the bar
- A shipment of healing herbs waiting for pickup
- The bartender is an ex-adventurer who will join a fight if it breaks out
Next, you need to decide on something that's attacking the tavern. this will be a simple threat, and here are a few easy options:
Why are they attacking the tavern? Because Kogo the Awful, leader of a group of goblins (or bandits, or cultists, or zombies) is raiding the village for both loot and prisoners.
He's not looking for a particular person or treasure. This is important! If he's just after a jewel, the PCs can destroy the jewel and he'll go away. This needs to be an existential threat to the town, where the PCs have to defeat Kogo to make him stop.
Also, Kogo and his minions has to be taking villagers away, because this will draw the PCs away from the village and towards a showdown.
Kogo is the first faction in your game!
If you've been reading my other posts in this series, you'll know that we've already established Kogo as the shaman leader of a tribe of goblins. You can use that or invent your own group and leader.
So! Your tavern now has a name, an owner, a town it sits in, a cool twist, and a threat. You're just about ready to run it.
You need to define just one more thing. The villain and his followers will drag villagers away. But where will they drag them to? That's the subject of the next post: defining the enemy's lair.