Make your D&D tavern start better so that you keep the classic game start but stop it from being the brutally dull beginning that so many folks dread.
The problem with most tavern starts is that it is hard for characters to interact with one another. And I don’t know about you, but this feels like the equivalent of small talk at a party where you have zero common interests with the folks there. It’s awful.
We have put our noggins together to come up with some ways in which you can spice up that initial meeting so that the party grouping together feels like a more natural fit.
1 Start in the middle of their story
Backstories should have a reason why adventurers are out doing the dangerous work of adventuring. But really, this tends to play into the larger story rather than meeting the party for the first time.
As a Dungeon Master (DM) you can spend some time with each player individually and figure out what happened before they got to the tavern. Help them create the story of the day or days before the actual meeting. Not only will this flesh out their characters for you as the DM but it will help the players get a sense of their characters too and it will make it a lot easier to play them.
Having them in the middle of their story also means that they can have a reason for being at this particular tavern. For example, if they are on a quest to find an ancient relic then perhaps they received a tip off the a person with a map is in this tavern.
And if the person with the map just so happens to be another one of the party members then great, there is a reason for the two of them to talk to one another.
2 Have pre-existing relationships
Create characters with shared backstories so that you have two or even three people who already know one another. Have a mini session with the group to decide how they met and what their combined backstory is going to be so that they have a shared history to play with.
Also figure out how the other characters are going to become part of the group so that they don’t feel like the third wheel in the arrangement. A good way to do this is to have the smaller group or single individual hold something important that the rest of the party needs. They could be meeting at the tavern specifically because of a second piece of information about a treasure and they soon figure out they all need to work together.
2 Have a common patron
Perhaps they are all at the tavern because they were called there by a wealthy patron who needs their particular skill set in order to get a specific job done. The patron offers them gold if they accomplish whatever the task is in the allotted time.
3 Start with a problem
Have a common problem that the adventurers need to band together to solve.
Here are some possible problems:
roll 1d6 for a random one or just pick the one you like
1 They have all been pickpocketed by a group of street kids.
2 A troupe of performers come in and bet 100gp that they can drink any group under the table. The condition is that it is a group the size of your adventuring party that partakes.
3 You are having dinner and there is a scream in the kitchen. The cook is found dead and the tavern owner begs you to help them solve the case before they are put in jail for the murder.
4 A crazy old man tells a tall tale of adventure and a mountain of loot just waiting for the right adventurers to get it. Everyone in the tavern laughs and jeers at his far fetched tale. Your adventuring party each begin to realise that he is telling the truth. You can figure out which characters have high perception and have them realise that he believes the story, folks with high intelligence can have read about the story but there are details he adds that peak their interest and players who are not smart believe him because of the volume of loot involved.
5 You happen to have all be at the tavern during their annual Tavern Games evening. Groups the size of your party enter to play a series of games – make sure there is something that plays into the strengths of each of the party members eg, general knowledge quiz for intelligence based characters, darts for dex based players, arm wrestling for strength based players and so on. Have the team compete together for a nice prize.
6 The fireplace sparks suddenly and the rug in front of the fireplace catches light. Before you know it the entire tavern is on fire. Make sure you introduce them to the NPC owner of the tavern who is a kindly soul, perhaps there is a dog or kid around too so they want to help save the tavern. At the end the owner can thank them and say they work pretty well together or a patron can see them work together and offer them a job.
Ultimately when you make your D&D tavern start better you end up with a memorable and exciting first session. So create an experience that pushes your party to work together to achieve a common goal and they are likely to bond faster and be more invested in one another’s character stories.