The End of All Things is a New Beginning

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on June 15, 2011

How do you end an epic adventuring career? At the end of your adventures, what do you retire too? After Orcus has been pushed back into the depths of hell, the undead hordes have been repelled and the various forces of evil have been destroyed, what does an adventurer do?

They take on the biggest challenge imaginable, they settle down and open a tavern.

It seems every tavern in fantasy gaming is run by a retired adventurer. An old axe or sword hangs above the mantle, reminding all of the tavern owners exploits. When the hour grows late the proprietor can be found sharing tales of past adventures to eager patrons. The twinkle in the owners eyes isn’t just from the joy his audience is getting from the story, it’s also from the extra gold that is flowing into the tavern.

Of course the real question is why would a retired adventurer, rich beyond all imagining, more powerful than most living beings want to be a tavern owner?

The answer is surprisingly simpler than you might think.

With their adventuring days behind them these heroes seek one final challenge. To create an environment where the heroes of tomorrow will have the opportunity to begin their careers. Everyone knows that all adventurers worth their salt begin their adventuring career in taverns. Whether it’s the old wizard telling tales by the fire, the stranger in the corner or the dwarf who talks too loudly while drunk. All are common ways for an adventure to begin. Looking back over a lifetime of adventure it is easy to see why running a tavern might be attractive to certain adventurers.

So what does a tavern run by a retired adventurer look like? What surprises are in store?

  • The weapon over the mantle. This weapon might be the reason many a would-be adventurer seeks out the tavern. Tales of the weapon are as much a part of legend as the retired hero. Some come to look at the blade, others come hoping to steal it. Still others hope that they might see the fabled blade in action. Of course the truth is that the weapon above the mantle, while a deadly weapon, is not the fabled blade of legend. No, that weapon rests safely behind the bar where it can be drawn quickly when trouble comes looking.
  • The portal in the cellar. The adventurer might run a tavern, but they certainly don’t live there. An arcane portal has been built in the cellar, allowing the adventurer to travel to any number of locations. Of course the room in the cellar that houses the portal is under lock, key and spell. Still, if the unwary were to stumble upon it who knows what mischief might result.
  • The attic is haunted. This might seem a surprise, shouldn’t the adventurer just call in his Cleric friend to turn the ghost and vanquish it? Unfortunately, this ghost is tied to the adventurers past. Over a 30 level career in adventuring everyone develops a few skeletons in the closet and everyone has at least one event that haunts them.
  • A kitchen full of oddities. Regular pub fair doesn’t cut it when you’ve traveled the multiverse. As a result the kitchen puts out some exotic dishes, some of which can have some unintended side effects. On more than one occasion the Gelatinous Cube’s have caused problems during preparation.
  • Just who is the Wizard? The Wizard that tells tales nightly by the fire, he tells a lot of stories but what is his? Is he a former party member of the tavern owner? An old man who has read one too many history books? Just where does he go after a night of story telling, once he crosses the threshold of the tavern no one can recall seeing where he goes.

The idea of a high level retired adventurer opening a tavern is a novel one. It’s also not likely to happen, however it does provide for some interesting role playing and adventure hooks. Have you ever given thought to what your character does after they lay down their weapons and seek a quieter life?

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1 Svafa June 15, 2011 at 10:03 am

A little bit of Truth in Television, my brother is currently hiking the Appalachian Trail (2100 miles from Georgia to Maine). Many of the shelters along the trail, as well as the hostels, rides into town to resupply, and general trail magic exist because of previous adventurers. It’s quite common for a through-hiker to sponsor a shelter or open a hostel along the trail after their own completion, or at least to make a trip out to the trail during hiking season with a truck/van loaded with supplies and food to hand out to passing hikers. I imagine retired adventurers opening taverns is quite similar. They’ve been there before and know how welcome a cozy bed and pint of ale is at the end of a long day of slogging through haunted swamps and dragon-infested wildernesses.

I end up DMing a lot of the time, so most of my characters die at the end of a campaign. However, that’s also true when I play; I generally try to kill a character at the end of their career, taking them out in a blaze of glory. That’s not always the case though, some have continued on to other things: settling down to a family, wandering off into the unknown never to be heard from again, opening a smithy for a twist, or becoming a scholar and biographer for some examples.

2 Eduardo Flores June 15, 2011 at 10:45 am

I loved this post, in my game, I’m doing a restaurant and a tavern, and I want to tell my story to my new character.

I think that the other common end is die, I was thinking in say to my DM to give us a big challange that kill all my party.

We have played 4 years with the same character, I’m the only 21 level, we play 3.5 Edition and we love our characters

3 The Id DM June 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Thank you for the post. It’s given me an interesting idea, although my party is just into Paragon . . . so it will take some time to implement. But I’d like to know what my PCs want to do after their adventuring days are over. What are their goals? Not so much in the adventuring world, but beyond.

I think it would be interesting to have another DM take a crack at my homebrew world in the future and have the surviving PCs in this campaign be available as NPCs in the future. Hmmm.

4 j0nny_5 June 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

This was an inspiring post, great job. Every flavorful detail is also a story seed, a hook for the players to nibble upon.

5 Wimwick June 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm

@ Svafa
A lot of characters die instead of retiring, that’s the danger of the job I suppose. Many of my characters haven’t official retired, some are stuck in the middle of a dungeon that we never went back to. However, there are others that are retired from active adventuring that show up as NPCs from time to time.

@ Eduardo Flores
A big challenge at the end of an adventuring career is required! Then you open a tavern and start serving pints!

@ The Id DM
I think it is important for players to determine where they want their characters to go, just as it is important to create a strong back story. Otherwise how does a player justify decisions like Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies?

I’m glad you found the post inspiring. It is the small details that make many adventures memorable.

6 Haacked June 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

That’s actually the premise of the book, The Name of the Wind.

The book starts in a tavern run by an ex-adventurer and most of the book is his recounting of his earlier days.

It’s a great read.

7 Victor Von Dave June 16, 2011 at 1:58 am

Ed Greenwood seemed fond of this idea in the Forgotten Realms, but this is the first time I’ve seen a (good) reason given for why a retired adventurer might set up a tavern. I like the idea of a bar owner being a combination mentor and source for adventuring rumours.

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