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Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
Dreamed of all the great things we would do?

(from) Those were the days my friend Mary Hopkin

Basic Information

A tavern is a business which revolves around the selling of alcoholic drinks - and quite often prepared food as well. It is distinguished from an inn by the lack of accommodation (although some taverns may allow patrons to sleep in the bar overnight). The terms pub and bar are pretty much modern cognates of tavern. An Ale House is a more primitive form of the same thing, primitive, indeed to the extent of not necessarily having indoor drinking space. The description could probably be stretched to places where a drug other than alcohol is the focus of the business - for example a shisha lounge, although applying it to an opium den is probably taking things too far.

The term covers the entire spectrum from what may be basically prototypic restaurants, specialising in food, to places where there is only drink, and than not of any great repute, and likewise from upmarket places with an exclusive clientele to the lowest dives in the land. Even the range of alcohol to be had will vary immensely.

As a place to consume the primary recreational drug of their host culture, taverns also tend to be popular social locations … the particular branch of society depending a lot on the venue and its location: some may have a wide range of people passing through, others may be more like the biker bar.

Since they are open to the public, taverns are good places to arrange meetings, ranging from a business meeting with clients, to a chapter of a social guild, to a muster of recruits1. Depending on venue, era and price bracket meeting space may vary from a table in the common room, to a booth to a private room hired for the purpose.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The "old man in the corner of the tavern" is probably overdone as a place to meet employers - but on the other hand, arranging to meet someone in a tavern should be entirely normal.
  • It would also be entirely acceptable to have a "tavern where adventurers go to find work" as an overt and recognised venue in a world where adventurers are common - thus making sure that everyone can find what they are looking for with a minimum of effort … not to mention moving the heavily armed psychopaths and the smelly muttering people with maps out of everyone else's way.
  • In cultures without much of a restaurant culture, these may be the only places to get a cooked meal outside someone's home.
  • As noted above, some cultures will have a non-alcohol based equivalent - in the post-Islamic Middle East, social culture is more likely to revolve around coffee or tea and shisha, but the venue can be functionally identical. A Japanese tea-house may serve both tea and alcohol and has much the same role in pre-modern Japan.
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