Adventurers are often on the road travelling to or fro in search of glory and gold. They often find themselves in travellers’ inns, resting after a hard’s day travel of adventuring. Travellers’ inns are rarely boring, bland places.
Use the tables below to add depth and verisimilitude to the travellers’ inns in your campaign.
Taprooms are not dull, bland places devoid of interesting features. Sometimes, the inn keep decorates the room with rare, esoteric or just downright odd items while other times prior events leave their mark on the area.
- A ragged banner hangs from a beam running all the way across the taproom. Heavily smoke-stained and dusty the banner has been in situ for many years. It depicts the battle flag of a nearby kingdom or barony. (Perhaps one of the staff—or the owner—once served in that kingdom’s army).
- The ceiling is unusually low—too low for hanging lanterns. Thus, at night, light comes from candles on the tables and the taproom’s fire. During the day and early evening, the room’s windows are thrown wide open to admit light.
- The tables and chairs are a hodgepodge of styles and finishes. Many show signs of repeated repairs. A polite customer would call the collection eclectic. A snob might call it dilapidated.
- Smoke stains the brickwork around the taproom’s chimney. Firewood fills a nearby nook in the wall, and a long, black wrought iron poker hangs over the fire.
Sights, Sounds & Events
Few nights in a travellers’ inn are boring and wholly without intriguing—or at least slightly interesting—events. Visiting bards may sing songs and customers might argue, gamble or even brawl. And—of course—where there are travellers there are thieves lurking ready to separate a tired, distracted or drunk patron from his purse.
- Laughter erupts at a nearby table as four men play a simple dice game of Dragon and the Thief. One of the men is enduring terrible luck, and his fellows are delighting in his discomfort.
- A server wends around the tables collecting used plates and tankards. As he passes one table, he stumbles and trips over a chair leg; his tray falls to the ground with a loud crash. After a moment of silence, many of the locals break into spontaneous, good-natured clapping and cheering.
- The door bangs open, and everyone turns to stare at the newcomers. Two travellers (see 1: Fellow Travellers) barge their way loudly into the taproom, dump their bags on the floor and shout for the inn-keep.
- Two drinkers are engaged in a loud discussion about the weather or some other mundane and tremendously dull subject. Neither is listening to the other one, and both are getting increasingly frustrated with the other. A dog—a stray or someone’s beloved pet—sneaks under their table and start licking up a pool of spilt ale.
Things Left by the Previous Guest
Sometimes guests leave suddenly and do not take all their belongs. Others are merely forgetful.
- A traveller’s pouch lies discarded under the bed. Left here months ago, it is dusty but still contains flint and steel, some char cloth and a length of twine wrapped around two small carved wooden pegs.
- An off-white shirt—carefully laid out to de-crease it—lies under the bed’s mattress. A perceptive PC notices the shirt’s cuff sticking out from under the mattress.
- A tiny, worn statuette depicting an octopus crossed with a dragon is hidden in one of the bed’s pillows. Obviously old, the statue is a disturbing, blasphemous thing best immediately destroyed. (The individual who left the figurine has realised his error and returns to the inn a few days after the PCs move on; ascertaining who stayed in the room he begins to track the party down).
- A short traveller’s cloak sized for a halfling, or a human child hangs from the back of the bedchamber’s door. The cloak is worn, but good quality. It has several inside pockets at the waist. Inside one is a scrap of paper with the message, “Help me. They are taking me to (insert name of a nearby town), Jarko.”
All manner of folk—both fair and foul—could be relaxing or seeking shelter within. Such fellow travellers provide the GM with opportunities for world building, foreshadowing and even plot hook dangling.
- Raereen Azariarn (CG female half-elf ranger 3) wears a wide-brimmed, feathered hat and a thick, mud-stained traveller’s cloak. By the state of her clothes and gear, she has been on the road for days (or even weeks). Raereen is a private person who does not seek out company. She is polite, but distant to strangers and is meeting a friend here at the inn in a few days. Several elven tattoos decorate her face; knowledgeable PCs know the symbols signify revenge and fire.
- Pekko Laso (NE middle-aged male human thief 4) is travelling with his nephew, Reko (CN male human thief 2), to a new home in a nearby town or city. The two fled their home several weeks ago after they robbed the wrong person—a person with connections to the underworld. Pekko is pot-bellied and prematurely greying while his nephew is essentially a younger, fitter—and slimmer—version of his uncle. Both wear good quality travelling clothes. A perceptive PC may notice they never let a stuffed backpack out of their sight. Both carry stout walking staves and have concealed several daggers about their persons.
- Samppa Ora (LE male human magic-user 5) is trying to remain unnoticed and unremarked upon. He has eschewed his usual dark robes for fine traveller’s clothes, but the faint smell of spell components—identifiable by other spellcasters—yet hangs in the air about his person. With short blond hair and pale blue eyes Sampppa appears exotic to the ordinary inn folk. He is pretending to be a merchant in search of new business opportunities and has hired a couple of servants (who are unaware of his true identity) to complete the charade. (Samppa’s purpose is to find the burial mound of an ancient king said to lie nearby; he has uncovered research suggesting certain powerful items lie within). PCs investigating Samppa’s gear might be surprised at how much arcane and exploring equipment the merchant needs.
- Unto Susi (CN middle-aged male human) is a wandering pedlar intent on reaching the next town or city. Uncomfortable travelling alone, he latches onto the PCs and asks to accompany them. Unto offers to help with making camp, cooking and so on as well as mending broken equipment and suchlike. He’s not above trying to sell the PCs some of his stock as well—most nights around the campfire turn into an “impromptu” sales pitch. With a greying droopy moustache and sad, doleful eyes, Unto is adept at making others feel sorry for him.
The material in this article appears in 20 Things #28: Travellers’ Inn, which is available here at the Raging Swan Press shop.
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