Dungeon Masters Guild: So, A Blank Walks into a Tavern…

In celebration of the release of So, a Cleric and a Vampire Walk into a Tavern compiled by Alan Tucker — the madman behind the best-selling Dungeon Masters Guild adventure Tentacles. Why Did It Have to Be Tentacles? — we are releasing an additional encounter here!

Alan worked with a host of the Dungeon Masters Guild’s best and most prolific writers — R P Davis, Alex Clippinger, Tony Petrecca, Jeff C. Stevens, and many others — to create this free compilation of 1 or 2 page encounters that all take place in a tavern. This puts an epic — and sometimes horrific, or mysterious — twist on the defining trope of “you’re a party of adventurers, and you meet in a tavern…”

So, a Cleric and a Vampire Walk into a Tavern features 12 encounters (one from yours truly but inspired by ideas from Glen Cooper) plus an appendix with dozens of sample tavern names. It’s free, so pick it up today, and add the encounter below to it!

Remorhaz by GreenAirplane - click to check it out at DeviantArt

Remorhaz by GreenAirplane – click to check it out at DeviantArt

So, a Remorhaz and a Cranium Rat Swarm Walk into a Tavern…

By Tim Bannock

Party Levels as Presented: 6

Can be adapted to Party Levels: 5-8

Abbreviations used throughout:

  • VGM = Volo’s Guide to Monsters
  • MM = Monster Manual

Read or paraphrase the following:

At the edge of the arctic wastes, you’ve huddled around the fireplace of a rickety tavern in the snow blanketed village of…well, you couldn’t read the name of the village because the sign was covered in snow, too. Any warmth is good enough, at this point…

Or so you thought, until the nearby wall let out a groan before splintering into wooden shards! Just beyond the shattered planks, shrouded in steamy mist as the snow around it evaporates with a hiss, is a horrifying visage of winglike fins splayed out around fanged mandibles! Emerging from the steam around the insect-dragon creature’s excessive number of legs are rats with partially visible, glowing brains!

A cranium rat swarm (VGM 133) has used dominate monster and command to spur on a young remorhaz (MM 258) to attack the tavern. This is an especially volatile situation, for the remorhaz’ fiery-hot flesh and wild thrashing might ignite flammable objects, of which there are plenty in a tavern that requires constant fuel for the wood stoves and fireplace:

  • DMs should turn 1d4 5×5 foot squares into areas of fire each round, spreading the fire randomly from areas like the fireplace or kitchens.
  • Any areas of fire deal 1d8 fire damage per 5×5 foot square to anyone who moves through them, or 3d8 fire damage to anyone who ends their turn in one.

The Patrons. 1d4 patrons will join the fray each round; the rest fight the erupting fires (see Fighting Fires, below). Roll 1d6 ahead of time to determine the roster of patrons in the tavern (all NPCs are from the Monster Manual):

  1. 1d6 commoners, 1d4 guards
  2. 1d6 commoners, 1 acolyte, 1d4 bandits, 1d4 guards
  3. 1d10 commoners, 1 noble, 1d4 guards, 1 veteran
  4. 1d8 commoners, 1 thug, 1d4 bandits, 1 scout
  5. 1d8 commoners, 1 priest, 1d4 acolytes
  6. 1d4 commoners, 1d4 guards, 1 berserker, 1 veteran

Fighting Fires. The other patrons of the tavern — those not in the fight on any given round of combat — will try to put out any fires using whatever means are handy: mostly barrels of drinking water that they have to roll toward an area of flames and smash open with hammers, crowbars, chair legs, or splintered boards. The NPCs snuff out 1 square’s worth of fire each round they work together in doing so. Note that the same theory of rolling and breaking barrels of water to fight the fire may work in reverse if barrels of alcohol or cords of firewood are busted open near areas of open flame…


The Jilted Mindwitness. The attack is not so random, but its motivation is just as petty: a mindwitness (VGM 176) separated from its illithid masters was spurned by a githzerai monk (MM 161) and seeks revenge like a jilted lover. As it turns out, the monk is sitting over in the corner, keeping a low profile using his hooded cloak…but that’s not enough to stop the cranium rat swarm from having scanned the thoughts of the patrons to locate him.

Illicit Illithid. During the chaos, the party spots a patron sneak out. This spy (MM 349) is an agent for illithid active in the area. If pursued, or if asked about after the battle ends, he had a room at the inn. Investigating there leads the party to discover he’s been meeting at a nearby homestead that’s long been abandoned, but the party finds that’s no longer the case. Inside, they face the spy, an umber hulk (MM 292), and the mindwitness (VGM 176) that serves as a sort of telepathic relay station between the spy and a hive of illithid active in the Underdark nearby. A trapdoor in the homestead leads to tunnels in which the illithid run a slaving operation.

Mad Sorcerer. An evil conjurer (VGM 212) is behind the attack, and uses the chaos to cover the theft of some minor magical item from another NPC (maybe a noble staying at the inn nearby, or in the role of a representative of the town’s leadership). If the party succeeds at a DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) group check during the fray, they’ll notice the conjurer and his allies — an apprentice wizard (VGM 209) and 1d4 thugs (MM 350) — slip in through the kitchens and head for one of the side rooms, where they attempt to abscond with the item.


Need tavern maps?

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