Four adventurers walk into a tavern…

tavernIs there any fantasy setting more iconic to the genre than a tavern?  Whether it’s the stereotypical Dungeons & Dragons adventure that always starts in a local watering hole or a fantasy novel where characters are forever stopping off for grub, ale, and shelter at descriptive inns, the tavern is downright ingrained into our expectations.  It makes sense, then, that MMOs are littered with taverns.

Some of my favorite places in MMOs are taverns.  I was always enthralled with them in the early days of World of Warcraft — the crackling fire, the kegs of brew in the cellar, the charming music (heck, there’s even an entire WoW tavern music album out there).  DDO wasn’t about to forsake its heritage by not including a score of taverns, and there were plenty of them to be found.  While LOTRO has quite a few taverns, such as the Prancing Pony, the Shire is notorious for a “tavern on every corner.”  Even in other settings, they exist under different names (“cantina” for instance).

Any time I see a tavern in an MMO I take a few minutes to explore it.  Usually it’s just set dressing with little to do, but I dig the feelings that it evokes in me.  Fantasy adventure to me is traversing the wilds by day but always coming to a warm, friendly tavern at night.  It’s more than just a place to get drunk; it’s life and civilization and comfort and a temporary home.

I’ve always thought it was a little sad and a wasted opportunity how so much obvious effort is poured into the creation of these little buildings in MMOs while so little is done to encourage players to do anything in them.  I mean, sure, they’re popular RP places, but what do the devs make for you to do there?  You don’t need to rent a room to stay the night, the food and drink sold is typically useless, and the NPCs stand around having the same non-conversations they’ve been having for years.

So what could be done?  More quests could take place in taverns, sure.  The use of minigames comes to mind — get players to congregate to play games-within-the-game.  Perhaps a particular type of crafting (brewery?) could only be done in these places.  And maybe it’s an idea to bring back place-specific buffs that you can accumulate while hanging out in a particular venue.  I also would love to see more NPC scripting, such as conversations or even performances.

I just would hate to see taverns fade away except for light set dressing.  Perhaps it’s already happened; we’re too on-the-go for any place to tempt us to stay still in a bar for a length of time.  Maybe the stereotype has evolved.  It’d be a shame if that was the case.

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8 thoughts on “Four adventurers walk into a tavern…

  1. I love taverns, it was always a good excuse to drink while playing D&D, and can provide some simple tension-breaking relief when starting with new players…A horse walked into a bar, the barkeep said “Why the long face?”

    Can you please give some info on the WoW tavern music album? I’ve never heard of it before!!

  2. I love taverns and you’re right – the minstrel in the tavern is about the most iconic event I can picture in a fantasy game (slaying the dragon aside!). :)
    In old RPGs taverns were often the only place to fully heal up and cure certain status ailments. I remember fondly having to sleep in tavern beds, the night time music and night/day cycle change that would normally follow.

    Completely agree taverns need more significance as places in MMORPGs. when you think about it, this shouldn’t be so hard? make it a place of healing and trade for example, of crafting and music! the main issue in most MMOs right now is that everything can be done everywhere, so it’s not only taverns but many locations in general that have lost importance.

  3. I begin see the merits of some people’s arguments that the “MMORPG” is dead in favor of the more basic “MMO Action Adventure.” Even my two current favorites, GW2 and TSW, are slim on practical reasons for visiting or hanging out in the inns and taverns. This, despite both games having rather lively hub cities. It also feels vaguely goofy to RP in a virtual tavern with my gaming partner and bride when we’re sitting in the same room.

  4. Wasn’t GW2 supposed to have a tavern brawl mini-game at one point in development? Something that didn’t make the final release and is probably still scrawled on a whiteboard at ArenaNet in the “would like to have” column or a requirements analyis.

    The problem with having taverns as a place you need to go and rest up (while still logged in) is that that would be enforced downtime, which isn’t a popular design feature. What we do need is a game with that old standby the mysterious hooded stranger in every inn, dispensing quests and treasure maps to adventurers looking for work.

  5. Actually, kiantremayne, ArenaNet are currently building that particular min-igame at this very moment. I don’t have that link handy but I offer as proof, that if you check out the activities pane under achievements, there are several achievements listed for bar brawl.

  6. You guys aren’t talking about the Keg Brawl are you? Because that’s been in the game since the beginning…

  7. Yeah, I’m pretty sure, based on discussions from this fall, that Keg Brawl is not the mini-game referred to. It’s huge loads of fun though. :D

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