Meet at the tavern: online roleplaying

It’s a very familiar fantasy trope. There’s an isolated tavern in an isolated village and you’re there to adventure. I think the first time I stepped in the door of somewhere like this, it was December 1979, the tavern was in a keep on the borderlands, and the point was we are all off to clear the Caves Of Chaos of evil.

Last night was different.

On the edges of the Grand Duchy there is a small valley that leads to the crags of the Giant Lands. Between the Giants and the Duchy lie the Terrible Tower of Torment and its deadly inhabitant the dread wizard Murkoth. Between Murkoth’s Tower and the Duchy is the Olde Tavern, serving the ancient trade route that once connected the ancient kingdoms but now only serves as the furthest frontier of the civilised lands. As adventurers gather in the Olde Tavern to prepare to bring Murkoth to justice they discover that all is not as it seems

From the Facebook group intro

Last night, I didn’t have any numbers on my character sheet, and the rest of the players weren’t round a table, they were hooked up to the same Discord server as I was. The set-up was similar, but the point of last night’s event wasn’t the threat “over there”, it was the tavern itself. The adventure is tomorrow. This is the night before.

No spoilers here, so nothing of the story generated by 20 (I think?) neatly intersecting characters provided and cast by the team of Rebel Rehbinder, Kol Ford and Prudence Greenwood. This is a chunk of their mechanics and organisational stuff all in one place, off of Facebook and then a tiny bit of advice for later players, mostly not by me.

Meet at tavern, courtesy of Rebel Rehbinder


There were 20 characters, and a nice form for casting.

A choice of dislike/like/love for each character, and then 4 tiebreaks:

  • Tie Breaker: What alignment would you like to play?
  • Tie Breaker: what character class would you prefer?
  • Tie Breaker: What influences do you like? (Tabletop RPG’s such as Dungeons and Dragons, Solo Fantasy Video Games such as Elder Scrolls, Group based RPG’s such as Final Fantasy)
  • Tie Breaker: what power level do you prefer? (Low Level Peasants, Mid Level Heroes, High Level Legends, … and beyond)
I got a love!

FWIW, my response is over here.

The process they used from then is worth stashing here:


It is now our turn to face really tight deadlines so in the spirit of transparency we will now expose our process of casting.

Stage One is a blind algorithmic process that compares the popularity of the character to the flexibility of the player and assigns roles in order of sign ups until there are no duplicates. We could leave it here and be happy that everyone has been given a character they love so this is considered the default state.

Stage two is comparing your tie break answers with the characters the algorithm assigns to you. This is a judgment call based on how different the tie break answers are to the character you chose. This stage should not result in anyone having to play a character they do not love. The goal is to have a 100% match between tie break questions and the loved character.

Stage three is the tea and biscuits stage. This is where player requests are considered and we attempt to move things around in such a way that people are paired up with people they want to be paired up with without effecting the Tie Break average or leaving anyone playing a character they don’t Love.

Which is where we are now. It will go the rest of the team who will usually sign off on it quickly and it will be announced at midday. Character sheets will be sent to you all tomorrow by 5pm.

Kol Ford from the Facebook group


This is pretty good stuff: notably, its achievable during lockdown.

This simple costume guide will let you know our ethos when it comes to costume for this larp. In short colour scheme is autumn (browns, creams, greens, red and black)

The slightly longer version can be found here!

Enjoy your costuming! if you have any questions you can leave them here.

By the team, from the Facebook group

Pru had a Pinterest board too – the actual guide was just 5 bullet points.

  1. It is not intended that participants will have to create new or expensive outfits, or invest time in sourcing props.
  2. We are asking that participants avoid t-shirts or other very modern wear, and that items are not branded.
  3. A simple shirt worn with a scarf as a cowl would be acceptable as a minimum costume
  4. Derogatory comments about physical appearance of any participant will not be tolerated.
  5. [we] expect that everyone will engage in the spirit in order to lift each other’s game.

That minimum worked really well.

I was luckily cast as a character whose costume was already in the cupboard under my stairs. (Give or take the cargo shorts I had on and the fact that my massively shoulder doesn’t button over my belly since lockdown. I couldn’t have worn it for a live game…)

Strongback the farmer: local businessman looking to expand his influence

About Meet at the Tavern

What is going to happen?
This is a larp about people. Regular people with dreams, responsibilities, feelings and friendships. Its a sandbox larp that focuses on the relationships between the characters. Please don’t expect plot in the traditional sense, its not what we are exploring here. I want to see old friends greeting each other, new friends being made, old enemies being glared at while new enemies are scorned. Make plans then break them, then recruit everyone to join you in your ambitions. Have a drink.
So what do we do?
Enjoy immersing yourself in the experience of being the character on their last night before the Tavern closes. explore each of your character relationships, then go with them to talk to their relationships. Talk to the other characters and make plans with them. Make new friends. Disrupt the plans of people you don’t like. Make more new friends. Form new groups. Come up with a completely off the wall plan then tell us how you think it went down afterwards. Enjoy yourself.

From the Facebook group

Wider world

There’s a very simple world to learn. It does help to skim it, but there’s a lot of room to just Make It Up.

Advice for future runs

Someone asked on Facebook, and here’s a bit of a distillation.

It’s a 2 hour one-off run. You’ll never meet this group of folk again IC, and you are unlikely to play with this specific group of players again either. The usual stuff you do in response to that applies. Be generous in your play. Read the background, but don’t worry too much about remembering it all. (Particularly for an online game: you can simply tab to your notes.) Essentially: there’s no need to leave anything ‘in the tank’ for next time, and be good to each other.

Check your tech.

I checked a couple of places in my house for connectivity before picking where to sit. 15 minutes well spent. I’d never seen some of the Discord features they used before, and would have been all at sea for a few minutes if I’d not checked them out beforehand. Someone else found their connection got very shaky above 4 folk in a conversation, and without taking that into account, would have probably had a less satisfying time.

You’re part of a group.

I defaulted to my character’s “group” if I’d nothing immediate to do

– In the pre-game workshop, it really helped figuring out what our group dynamic was, how we felt towards the ***spoilers deleted*** and what ***spoilers deleted*** This helped us to bounce off one another during the game. We had a little bit of splitting up then reconvening and reporting back which helped with the wider plot but eventually we ended up going round together and everyone just ***spoilers deleted***

Hazel Anneke Dixon on Facebook

Use your relations

Your character sheet has details of a number of people you know – these are great as they provide you with ins to butt into conversations. You see the town guard chatting together, and have details on your sheet of past dealings with Villerix? Use it! Go over and say “Villerix old buddy, who are your friends?” Etc. After a few tables of that, you’ll have a way into almost any group!

Bunni on Facebook

I checked in on all my character’s “relations” when I had a reason to do so: the stuff I knew about them was the meat of my advance plan, such as it was. It didn’t last past time-in.

Slip your secrets

The game is a game of secrets to be uncovered, not everything is as it seems on the world briefing… Dig deep! Question people about what they know! And, if you have secrets, let them slip occasionally?

Bunni on Facebook

I checked the secrets from my sheet as I noticed I’d slipped them, to be sure I’d let them all out. There’s a neat extension to this quoted below; I guess it’s polite to check you group are good with this style to calibrate how far you go in doing this

– AND ON THAT NOTE We agreed to spread our secrets around wildly. How could we best get people to accidentally overhear our conversations? Wouldn’t it be cool if someone walked in to hear us having the last few moments of a big fight?

Hazel Anneke Dixon on Facebook

Use lag.

When you arrive in a new location, there’ll be a second or so when the folk there literally can’t stop you overhearing. Quite by chance, I arrived somewhere to hear the words “so, we have a deal.” That was gorgeous.

Go where no-one is.

Don’t be worried about deliberately going somewhere where no-one is. Someone will be waiting to grab you for a quiet word. I only did it once, and watching the entirety of “Team Evil”‘s icons click into place around mine was unexpectedly similar in feel to it happening in real life.

Use the side-display.

It’s not remotely meta-gaming to be aware that X and Y are at the dice table, to infer from those patterns and to keep an eagle eye out for opportunities to have a specific conversation with a specific group of people. Or simply to think “Oh, that looks a bit random” and butt in.

This is all very well, but was it larp?

Well. I guess not, strictly speaking. Yes, you were in a costume, you might have had some makeup to represent you were a different kind of creature. However, you didn’t embody your character’s actions, not 100%. You were embodying sitting at a table by sitting at a table a lot of the time, but you didn’t have to move to move. Don’t get me wrong – sitting at a table talking all night is a *perfectly reasonable* activity for a larp; hell, I’m running something I *do* think is a larp late this year where we’ll all be sitting about talking and listening to music. The difference is we’re using “sitting on a video conference call” to represent “sitting on a video conference call” – I am sure that *is* a larp.

But damnit, you’d need to be some sort of Awful Pedant to really care.

And if anyone tries to say “It wasn’t a larp because there was no Action”, and specifically equats Action to Combat, I shall go purple and steam will come out of my ears. Given that two of the larps I’ve run in the last years have had combat *at all.*

Someone else’s review

It’s a bit too long to be a “quote”, so here’s Doug Fazzani’s review – he was on Run 2, so wasn’t “my” Skull and there’s no spoilers here.

“Meet at the Tavern” was really good fun. Basically 20 people playing assigned characters on Discord. Very simple character sheets with a bit of history and a few connections and secrets plus a one page word guide let you really flesh things out in your own way.

I was playing “Skull the Bartender” and spent a lot of the evening being gruff and grumpy when people held secret meetings in my kitchen, the bar staff gave out free drinks or people seemed like they were about to start a fight at the bar.

There was no real “plot” for the event and only 2 hours to play, but by the last 15 minutes people were frantically whizzing back and forth to different rooms to try and get deals done before we ran out of time and the debrief afterwards showed that people had spent a lot of time scheming, backstabbing and generally being excellent.

Really well run and an excellent use of Discord, I definitely plan on doing more of these sorts of things (whether online or in real life when that returns)”

Last word

If you’ve ever played a table-top rpg, it’s a lovely, familiar, thing. I’ve not been so tempted into an “Order Of The Stick” style of play for some while, and I mean that as a compliment.

It’s a nicely designed bit of larp clockwork, some of your goals may feel too easy. That may well simply be because you found precisely the right person at the right time. Revel in it and go for a stretch goal.

If/when it runs again, give it a go.

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