Roll For Insight: You Meet In A Tavern…

March 22, 2019 by brennon

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The classic meeting point for a role-playing group, especially in Dungeons & Dragons, is the tavern. Many an epic quest has started in a tavern where adventures discuss the riches that await them in some distant land...before then proceeding to clear our the tavern owners cellar of rats.

RollInsight-MeetTavern-Cover-Image

I’m looking to do something different with that first quest for a group of adventurers when it comes to an upcoming campaign and so I thought I’d explore that in more detail here.

The Guild Of The Shattered Sword

One of the things I talked about in Forging A D&D World, was the need for there to be a reason for the adventurers to stick together, a hook as it were. For me, that’s The Guild Of The Shattered Sword.

Castle by Brian Yuen

The Guild is run by Tharen Whistlestaff, the Elven Guildmaster and grandson of the first Shard (the name given to members of The Shattered Sword), Eloden Whistlestaff.

He is then joined by a cast of characters which the group will get to know over the course of their adventures.

  • Guild Master Tharen Whistlestaff - Half-Elf Guild Master of The Shattered Sword (Fighter)
  • Understudy Morwen Tallow - Gnomish second to Tharen (Wizard)
  • Quartermaster Brundar Flint - Dwarf who governs the blacksmithing and supplies of the Shattered Sword (Cleric)
  • Alemaster Phelonius Marston - Dragonborn Tavern Owner [Inhaher’s Rest] (Wizard)
  • Counter Aegar Jhalan - Half-Orc Head Trainer Of The Shattered Sword (Bard)

This might seem like a lot of characters to introduce to a group at once but it helps ground them in the world’s reality AND it also gives them a list of people they know they can trust and, to some degree, people they are working for.

I won’t go into too much more detail concerning The Shattered Sword but this would become part of an extended handout which would be given to players during character creation. This means that even if the players are new to Dungeons & Dragons and the world of Belanaramir (colloquially known as ‘Nara) they have an anchor point, somewhere to feel expert about!

Tavern by Alec Thomas

The same goes for the base of The Shattered Sword. Having a base of operations gives them something else to want to protect, working towards its success. So, as they get to learn more about the Guild’s base of operations, Sleetwind, they are more likely to want to keep returning here, perhaps even helping in its development.

Also of this is serves as a basis for both character creation and the first steps the players are about to take out of the door.

Your First Quest, Should You Choose To Accept It…

Many stories begin with a Dungeon Master or Storyteller basically dropping a plot bomb on the players. Whilst this can be good it can have some players switching off during your prose. I prefer to engage the players immediately in the action and the planning.

Dungeon by Kieran Flood

Since the players are going to be working for a Guild it makes sense that one of the characters mentioned above is with them at the start, with me immediately going into character and playing, for example, Morwen Tallow or Brundar Flint.

You describe the quest laid out before them that they have to complete but encourage them to ask questions immediately. Make one of the characters you’re playing query what they should do and maybe even ask the players how they would approach the situation. This means that immediately the heroes are taking an active role in the story and making it theirs.

You won’t be able to plan for every eventuality but if you’ve done your work behind the scenes on that first quest you’ll be able to temper their ambitions if required. If they suggest bringing all of the gunpowder from the stocks and blowing up the dungeon...you can think of a reason why that might be a bad idea!
On The Road & Down Into Dungeons

From here it’s as simple as following the plans you’ve laid out for them, taking into account some of the suggestions they put forward during their planning meeting with the NPCs.

You should have most likely sat with your players at some point and made a note of the kind of skills they have and what they want their character to be able to do. Make sure that is included somewhere in your first adventure, giving everyone time in the spotlight.

Treasure Tomb by Gal Or

There’s nothing worse than playing the Rogue who likes disarming traps and sneaking around only to find the Dungeon Master has presented you with a brightly lit castle to explore. Tailor things to fit the players and make them feel like the main characters rather than simply onlookers as your story develops.

One thing I would always consider doing is perhaps including a few lore morsels about the wider world and your own grand plans for the players in that first dungeon or at least one of the encounters along the way. Maybe make it something seemingly insignificant which can then be revealed later as something much more important than they thought.

The same goes for rewards. Obviously, you don’t want to offer up something for every player in that first dungeon but you can use the previously developed Guild they are all part of.

The Shattered Sword has picked up many different items over the years and hidden them away in the Sleetwind Vaults. So, as a reward for their effort instead of just offering gold throw in some interesting magical items too which don’t always have to be weapons. Xanathar’s Guide To Everything is a great resource for this containing lots of minor magical items which can help out in quirky ways.

Find The Exclamation Points...

With that first quest under their belt, they should feel like they are getting rewarded for their work as part of The Guild. Doing something similar with your group should offer you a good way to keep the group bound together and additionally provide them with an impetus to keep coming to sessions.

Skull Cave by Milos Radojkic

From there you need to look towards the next adventure. So, at the end of the first session, you should offer them a variety of different choices as to what to do next. Do they go and do a favour for one particular character, chase a few quests from a bounty board of sorts, or maybe even pursue something which is personal to one of the player’s heroes.

Again, this is all about offering them choice and a sense of ownership over the story. As things develop and the story unfolds to include your grand plans you might change how you do this but for the first few levels, this works nicely as a way to get players used to their characters and build a sense of agency.

Tell Me Your Thoughts!

As always I hope this has been a helpful guide for someone looking to start building on their developing world and introducing people to Dungeons & Dragons.

Nothing is ever the same for each group and you will find ways things which work for me which just don’t for you. The idea of a Guild and a home for the players, however, works for me as it allows me to world build and play as different characters whilst also offering the heroes a purpose.

Artwork by Brian Yuen, Alec Thomas, Gal Or, Milos Radojkic

If you have ideas that you’d like to share, make sure to drop them in the comments below!

"...the need for there to be a reason for the adventurers to stick together, a hook as it were!"

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"I prefer to engage the players immediately in the action and the planning..."

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