20 Things to See in a Seedy Tavern

Adventurers often seem to be found in seedy dives and other disreputable drinking establishments.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Whether they are hunting a thief or looking for their next job, an adventurer’s visit to such an establishment is almost certain to be eventful. Use the table below, to generate minor events of interest to flesh out such a visit.

  1. Two men sit at a table drinking. As the evening progresses their conversation gets more and more heated. Eventually, one of the men slams his empty flagon down on the table and storms out of the tavern.
  2. A drunk half-orc totters through the crowd in search of the privy. He suddenly stops and throws up on the floor. Cheers and laughter greet this event.
  3. A scantily clad woman leaps to her feet and throws a drink into the face of the man with which she was sitting. With a splutter and roar he staggers to his feet, but the woman is faster—and darts off through the common room.
  4. A half-dozen drinkers sit around a table playing a complicated dice-based gambling game. Many empty flagon stand upon the table; as the evening progresses the drinkers gets more and more raucous.
  5. A single near destitute man (if his garb is anything to go by) sits morosely at a table nursing his drink. At his feet lies a miserable-looking, scrawny dog of indeterminate breed.
  6. A small gang of rough and ready men and women enter the common room and all surge toward the bar at the same time. All of them are armed, and all seem slightly worse for wear.
  7. An old man dressed in rags moves from table to table offering to tell fortunes for only one silver coin. The man has a modicum of power and offers a surprisingly prescient—if garbled—description of an important event or encounter in the party’s near future.
  8. A drunk man sitting alone at a table roars for another flagon of wine. When one appears, he tries to fondle the serving wench bring it to him. She slaps him across the face before flouncing away.
  9. A wide and impressively muscled dwarf sits alone at a table by the wall. He seems to be drinking, but a perceptive watcher realises he is actually stone cold sober…and watching the other patrons intensely.
  10. A small group of patrons suddenly break into a rowdy (and obscene) drinking song. The song ends with roars and drunken cheering.
  11. A well-dressed man is in deep, intense conversation with two heavily armed women. They, however, seem bored and keen to leave. The man is oblivious and continues talking, becoming more and more animated as they get more and more bored.
  12. A small child wanders into the tavern and slowly looks around the common room before leaving.
  13. After a short conversation, an attractive, scantily clad woman leads a drunken merchant from the tavern. Neither returns. (In fact, the woman is a thief and is leading the besotted merchant outside to be mugged).
  14. Shouting from the bar draws everyone’s attention to a heavily scarred warrior—hand on sword hilt—demanding credit. The landlord stands behind the bar shaking his head from side to side.
  15. Two men arm wrestle at a table surrounded by a crowd of onlookers. Eventually, one man loses and much silver changes hands among the watching crowd.
  16. As the PCs sit drinking a man totters up to their table and asks—surprisingly politely—if they would lend him some money. His clothes proclaim him a manual worker of sorts, and he seems rather desperate for the money.
  17. Raised voices at the bar, herald an argument quickly spirally out of control. Before it can come to (proper) blows several regulars step in and bundle the two arguers outside.
  18. A man sits alone—his head on the table surrounded by several empty wine flagons. Perceptive watchers notice one of the serving wenches relieve the man of his coin pouch.
  19. A tall, muscular man enters the bar, and suddenly everyone stops talking. He surveys the crowd before picking an empty table and calling for wine. Gradually, the mood in the common room returns to normal.
  20. A hooded figure sits alone in a shadowy corner. If approached, he spins a clever tail of needing adventurers to carry a certain parcel to an associate who waits just outside town. This is—of course—a trap; the man only talks to the PCs once they’ve been drinking for several hours and his associates wait outside for the marks to stumble into their ambush.

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20Front_#1_220This article appears in  20 Things #1: Seedy Tavern. It also appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things I. Both are available now.

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4 thoughts on “20 Things to See in a Seedy Tavern

  1. Another fine list! Thanks! I have found playing is that there often seems to be one specific or narrow vision of a place. This list is great for helping GMs break out of that comfort zone and spice up their establishments. The great thing about this list is that it would be easy to tweak just a bit to fit any genre or game you are playing.