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The Random GM: Tavern Games

The Random GM: Tavern Games

Egyptian dice (600-800 BC)From the genesis of the D&D game, random lists have been used to create, inspire, and complicate games everywhere. A GM is essentially keeping all the knowledge of a fabricated world inside his or her head, along with all the relevant laws of physics and mechanics, which are transformed into a living story around the table. With that in mind, sometimes it is difficult to come up with appropriate names, descriptions, NPCs, castles, or environmental features on the fly. Luckily, there are certain tools that simplify a GM’s life no matter what game he or she is running.

These random generation tables can be used for just about any topic. The trouble is that though they are great to have, they take time to generate yourself. The good news is I have taken the liberty and done the hard work up front, leaving you free to copy, paste, and print right into your notes.

Taverns are a focal point for gatherings that can invariably lead to boisterous revelry given the right conditions. The right mix of people may break out into a number of different activities from singing and dancing to drinking games or feats of strength. Below are ten tavern games or things to bet on that could occur at any time at any tavern. They are best used as a way to make a rather mundane watering hole into a living, breathing place where the patrons are engaged in fun activities independent of the players. Any one of these options can be roleplayed out for a memorable night in the tavern, especially the betting events. This would be an easy gateway for characters to see who among the patrons are the power players or are truly running the show. Of course, if they play their cards right, they could even win a little money and influence.

So next time the party enters a tavern, roll up a random game and let the night play out. If you happen to use one of these in your game, feel free to come back here and let me know how it went!

d10. Tavern Games or Things to Bet On

  1. Boss Toss—Two participants stand 6 ft. apart and take a step back after each toss of a double-headed axe. The player who drops the axe or bleeds first is the loser.
  2. The Long Embrace—Two participants cup their hands with one another with a live scorpion inside. The first to remove their hand is the loser. If the winner still holds the scorpion after the opponent pulls away, he doubles his winnings.
  3. Jousting—A path is cleared in the bar so that the participants can tilt. Two players on each side; one is the mount and the other is the rider. Blunted improvised objects are typically used as lances. The object of the game is to unseat the other rider by any means necessary.
  4. Bones—A fast-paced game where the participants throw rat bones like dice. The exact rules are unclear; however, it is known that there is no clear winner—just one terrible loser. Veteran players typically use this game to take money from inexperienced travelers and newcomers.
  5. Piss Poor Sales—Two participants act as traveling ale merchants. The first one to convince a patron to drink from a mug filled with their urine (by any means other than violence) is rewarded with free drinks for the remainder of the evening. If he or she convinces the imbiber to say how great the beverage is, the merchant can extend his or her winnings for an additional night.
  6. Ready for Winter—Players fill their mouths with as many walnuts as possible and must pronounce ‘Ready for Winter’ the best they can. Variations of this game have included the use of cherries, grapes, acorns, or even coins, in the place of walnuts.
  7. Statue Maker—A rarer event but one with a rich cult following. This game requires a mage to cast sleep upon a basilisk to start with. Then participants throw fist-sized onyx disk (1,000 gp buy in) toward the sleeping killer, trying to get as close as possible without touching or waking the beast. If the basilisk wakes, the first person to knock it unconscious splits the winnings with the closest onyx disk. If it is the same person, he or she wins double the money from all the participants.
  8. Booya—A dagger is stuck tip down into a table. Each player must then balance the flat of his or her dagger upon the other one, causing the daggers to stack up. If a player knocks them over, that player loses and must buy the next round of drinks.
  9. Dragon Egg—A small pebble or ‘Dragon Eggs’ are used to bounce or toss into a mug of ale in the center of a round table. Each player stands around the table in a circle. If you miss, the egg ‘hatches’ and you must appease the hatchling by putting gold into the ‘pot’ or running away. Last player left takes all the gold.
  10. Strong as an Ox—A betting event. A large animal such as a horse, ox, or other livestock is brought in for a Rope War with a humanoid challenger, with each trying to pull the other over a line. This is popular among half-orcs and barbarians looking to prove their great strength. The perk is if the player wins, he or she gets to keep the animal.

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