Subscribe to the Roleplaying Tips Weekly Newsletter - game master tips

Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #315

Tired Tavern: 25 Alternatives To Taking The Table In The Corner


Edited by: Isaac Calon

This Week's Tips Summarized 

Tired Tavern: 25 Alternatives To Taking The Table In The Corner

Readers' Tips Summarized 

  1. Ten-Minute Miniature Trees
    From: Rydia
  2. Spicing Up Random Weapons
    From: Scott G.
  3. The Evil GM
    From: Leslie Holm
  4. Comments On Campaign Preparation
    From: Jonas Dorn

Return to Contents

Barrok's Tower - Free Role Playing Community

Offering free role playing game resources to all, Barrok's Tower is not just your average RPG site. It's a role playing community focused on originality & creativity in a supportive & friendly environment. We offer plot hooks, gaming resources, games advice, a monthly competition for a random game supplement, and much more.

Visit us today: Barrok's Tower

Return to Contents

A Brief Word From Isaac  

I run a campaign and play in one more, and I can still barely manage to game once a month. The reason? Real life. People have interests and responsibilities that don't start and stop at the behest of world-breaking monsters or random treasure tables. I understand this, but sometimes I wish other players made it as much of a priority as I do. I like to play, so I make time for it as long as my real-world relationships don't suffer for it.

I want to hear what you readers think. How do you maintain interest in your campaign? What do you do about inconsistent players? How do you fit roleplaying into your schedule? If you have any comments or ideas, fire them in.

GMs, don't forget to include at least one random weapon in your campaign from Scott G's excellent tables in our Readers' Tips section this week.

Thanks. Get some gaming in this month, if you can. ;)

Isaac Calon

Return to Contents

Dungeons & Dragons: Shackled City Campaign

Evil schemes are afoot in Cauldron, a metropolis of merchants built into the caldera of a long-dormant volcano. Driven by the dreams of an insane demon prince, bizarre cultists known as the Cagewrights scheme from ancient tunnels beneath the volcano, stoking it once more to terrible life. To prevent their agenda, your band of adventurers must brave haunted jungle ruins, slay mighty dragons, and bind themselves to a layer of the infinite Abyss! Originally published as 11 linked adventures in Dungeon Magazine, the Shackled City Adventure Path is one of the most ambitious d20 Dungeon & Dragon campaigns ever created!

Shackled City Campaign at RPG Shop

Return to Contents

Tired Tavern: 25 Alternatives To Taking The Table In The Corner  

A guest article by David Rowe

"I sit at the table in the corner."

How many times have you heard a player say this? Why does every player want to take a table in the corner at the back of the tavern? The most obvious answer is security. It positions them where they can see threats coming and control the situation.

A good GM should mix things up from time to time. The following is a list of 25 suggested tavern configurations or situations that might challenge a player's obsession with corner tables.

  1. The Round Room: This tavern is round so there are no corner tables. There are only tables on the outside wall.
  2. Old Guard Tower Tavern: This tavern is built at the top of an old guard tower so tables are set next to the parapet. The tavern has a great view but also a possible fall of 30'. It is also open to the elements and overlooked by the newer guard towers.
  3. Longest Bar: The tavern is famous for a long bar that goes around the full interior of the tavern leaving no seating near the walls.
  4. Post Brawl Bar: The tavern has recently hosted a brawl, and all the furniture is currently smashed. There may be a corner, but no table or chairs.
  5. No Tables or Chairs Bar: Not all cultures believe in chairs and tables and might instead require players to sit on the floor, carpets, or cushions.
  6. Paper Bar: The bar has walls but they are paper screens or cloth curtains offering little privacy or security. This place is popular with rogues as they can move about more freely.
  7. The Mirage Bar: The walls are illusionary so it is not uncommon for people to walk through them. Also a rogue favourite.
  8. The Lawn Bar: This bar has all the furniture set up on a lawn or in a small grove. There are no walls.
  9. The Garden Bar: Like the Lawn Bar, but some plants and shrubbery have been set up to make dividers. There are no hard walls, making it easy to eavesdrop and pass items from table to table. Blowguns are a popular weapon in this bar.
  10. The Drunk: The corner table has a drunk lying on or near it in a pile of his own filth. Players willing to use the space anyway should take charisma penalties for soiled clothing. They might also get sick.
  11. The Dead Man: Players will find a person apparently passed out with his head face down on the table. Moving the body will reveal the throat has been slashed and marks the person that moved the body with fresh blood.
  12. The Gang's Claim: A local gang has this table marked with graffiti or engraved names. Locals don't sit at this table, but players who choose to find the gang unhappy that their table is occupied.
  13. The King's Guard: The corner table is marked by the shield of the King's Guard. The locals know this but players are left to explain why they are sitting at the Guard's favourite table.
  14. The Rogue's Table: The table hides a trap door. Players should be surprised to see someone suddenly appear in the seat beside them, or to see a patron sit down, shake hands, and then disappear.
  15. The Sewer Table: The fragrant back wall of this tavern houses a sewer grate for moisture and refuse. The bar is a favourite for those needing to dispose of a body, walking their "drunken friend" to the grate and dropping him into the sewer. It is also a good, last-ditch escape route.
  16. The Haunted Table: The ghost of an old tavern regular haunts this table, appearing to those deep in their cups.
  17. The Widow's Table: A widow's husband died at this table. She cries to, or curses, anyone who should touch the table or chairs.
  18. The Well-Lighted Table: The lights in the tavern are set in the corners, making those tables very bright and public indeed.
  19. The Disgusting Table: The previous patron had bowel troubles and left a disgusting mess. Flies gather around the table and any characters that sit here.
  20. The Cone of Silence: This table has been enchanted so that no sound made at the table can be heard elsewhere. Table occupants can't hear anything being said more than one foot away from the table (thank you Get Smart).
  21. The Insect Table: This table or benches could be infected with carpenter ants, or perhaps a hornet's nest is being built in the rafters above the table.
  22. The Prejudice: The locals enforce strict rules on what races or sexes can sit at which tables. The usual diverse group of characters will need to be segregated into different groups and sit each with their own kind (thank you Star Wars).
  23. The Hero's Table: This table was once the favourite of the local town hero(s). Regular people like the PCs are not supposed to sit there.
  24. The Revolving Table: The whole corner table is set on a secret revolving plate that spins into the thieves' guild, hideout, or palace.
  25. The Loose Leg: A table or chair leg is broken and only propped underneath. The locals know to avoid the table and the mess it implies.

Return to Contents

A Frickin' Pound Of Dice! $19.80 + 5% cash back

Each bag contains over a pound of assorted and random dice, some non-standard, in several styles and colors.

This is a great and inexpensive way to get a "house dice" collection started, or just get a bunch of dice at a fantastic price.

Pound Of Dice! at RPG Shop

Readers' Tips Of The Week: 

1. Ten-Minute Miniature Trees 

From: Rydia

You'll need two egg cartons, scissors, a glue gun, glue sticks, green or brown paint, a newspaper, and something remotely tree-shaped a couple of inches long (try toothpicks, plastic leaves, or pipe cleaners).

  1. Plug in the glue gun.
  2. Cut out the egg cups of carton 1--as many as you want trees. Keep them about an inch wide.
  3. Cut the bottom out of the egg cups of the middle of carton 2.
  4. Suspend carton 2 between two "towers" made up of old dragon magazines or defunct source books.
  5. Punch a hole in the bottom of the cups from carton 1, jam your pseudo tree shapes through them, and fill the cups with melty glue.
  6. Drop each glue-filled cup into the middle of carton 2 to let the glue dry. The "trees" will be upside down.
  7. Paint the trees and let them sit upright on newspaper to dry.

This yields some cheap and durable trees that spice up any miniature battle. The glue provides enough ballast to keep them upright, and you can add rocks or moss to them with dabs of the same glue, pebbles, and crushed green crafting foam.

Return to Contents

2. Spicing Up Random Weapons 

From: Scott G.

Greetings Johnn,

This is a series of tables I created from scratch to add descriptive text to found weapons.

Instructions: These tools were originally created to work with the Inherited Weapon Table in the HackMaster Gamemaster's Guide. I've adapted it to work with a more generic fantasy system. Whenever you find a weapon you would like to be unusual but not too powerful, use these tables.

First roll for ornamentation, then an adjective, and lastly for a material.

Use the Metallic Weapons Tables for most weapons and any weapon that is typically made of hard metals. One of my players inherited a florescent-flaked, partly melted, glass dagger.

Use the Wooden Weapons Tables for bows, wooden staffs, and any other weapon usually constructed of wood.

Use the Leather Weapons Table for whips, slings, and the like.

For a less extravagant result, roll percentile dice in the right column instead of the die type listed for the left column of each table.

Metallic Weapons (d20)

d20 Description
1 Undecorated. 1-30%
2 Painted: The player may choose the color of the paint. 31-60%
3 Glass Bead Encrusted: The glass adds nothing to base value but may look very swanky at a distance. 61-70%
4 Wooden Handle: If the rest of the weapon isn't extravagant, the GM may opt to have the player also roll on the Wooden Weapons: Materials table to determine the type of wooden handle. 71-75%
5 Mother-of-Pearl Handle: This custom handle from a coastal weaponsmith adds +10% of base value. In areas far removed from oceans and no access to trade routes, the handle is ivory or bone instead. 76-77%
6 Animal-Shaped: The player chooses animal type. 78-79%
7 Monster-Shaped: The GM chooses monster type. 80-82%
8 Silver-Highlighted: The silver adds +25% of base weapon value. 83-84%
9 Silver-Plated: A thin layer of silver gives the weapon a bright, mirror-like sheen. This adds 50% to the base weapon value. Silver is not considered a hard metal, so this weapon is not recommended for frequent use without frequently being repaired by a skilled silversmith. 85%
10 Gold-Highlighted: The gold adds +50% of base weapon value. 86%
11 Gold-Plated: A thin layer of gold gives the weapon a lustrous yellow sheen and adds +200% of base weapon value. Gold is a soft metal, so combat would ruin the plating. 87%
12 Platinum-Highlighted: This white gold adds 60% to base weapon value. 88%
13 Platinum-Plated: A thin layer of white gold gives the weapon a moonlight sheen, and adds +225% of base weapon value; platinum is prone to suffering damage in combat. 89%
14 Pearl-Encrusted: The white, shiny pearls add +100 gold pieces to base weapon value. 90%
15 Jewel-Encrusted: Small, semi-precious or precious jewels give the weapon an expensive, glittering look. They also add 1d100 x 10 gold pieces to base weapon value. 91%
16 Florescent-Highlighted: Small, ceramic tiles cover parts of the weapon. Some cultures like the Romans make these tiles from uranium flakes, which give them a luminescent, seafoam green glow. The level of radiation given off is detectable by science, but not dangerous.  
17 Florescent-Flaked: Minute uranium flakes were added to the material when forged, increasing weight by 150%.  
18 Imprinted with a Mysterious Symbol: This symbol may be a link to a secret society or a mark of family lineage. 92%
19 Semi-Transparent: For unknown reasons the weapon is as transparent as light fog.  
20 Fancy: Roll twice on this table. If this result is rolled a second time, ignore it. 93-100%


d10 Adjective
1 Plain. 1-50%
2 Rusty: The weapon is in bad condition and shows signs of oxidation. Repairs are not possible because the weapon has been neglected for too long. Decrease the weapon's value by 75% of its base value. If a non-rusting material is rolled on the next table, the weapon is not rusted but chipped, and all of the other details are the same. 51-60%
3 Partly-Melted: Someone got into a fight with a dragon, or at least got drunk and dropped it into a campfire. Decrease the weapon's value by 50% of the base value. If a non- melting material is rolled on the next table, the weapon is not rusted but scorched and cracked, and all of the other details are the same. 61-70%
4 Warped: This weapon has definitely seen some action. It is slightly bent due to a tremendous amount of strength being pressed against it. The damage is not bad and the weapon is still fully useful, but the damage looks much worse. Decrease the weapon value by 25% of its base value. 71-80%
5 Curved Handle: Some warriors prefer the elegant curve for a different grip. Increase the weapon value by 10% of the base value for this unusual design. 81-85%
6 Spiked: Wicked spikes jut from odd angles on this weapon. It is clear the weapon was meant to never be mistaken for anything other than a weapon. Add 10% of the base value to the final weapon value. 86-90%
7 Polished: Shiny! 91-95%
8 Rune-Covered: These decorative runes have no magical value but they may carry a hidden meaning to those who can read them. The runes might spell out the name of the weapon or its owner. 96-97%
9 Ornate: This weapon is covered in intricate details. Its smith spent a lot of time crafting this masterpiece. Add +100% of the base weapon value. 98-99%
10 Superior: The amazing quality of this weapon adds +1 to attack rolls. Increase value by +500% of the base weapon value. 100%


d30 Material
1 Bone: Decrease weight by 50%. 1-10%
2 Lead: Triple the weight, decrease value by 50%, and remember this is a soft metal. 11-15%
3 Tin: Decrease value by 50%. 16-20%
4 Copper: Decrease value by 50%. 21-25%
5 Pewter: Triple the weight and remember this is a soft metal. 26-30%
6 Nickel: Decrease value by 25% 31-35%
7 Ceramic: The player chooses color; decrease weight of the weapon by 30%. Earthenware weapons are prone to shattering instead of denting, but they are ideal for sneaking through a metal detector. 36-40%
8 Glass: Decrease weight by 25%. 41-45%
9 Ironwood: This enhanced wood is as strong as most metals and used extensively in mineral poor regions. Value may be increased or decreased based upon the unusualness of the material in a given region. Price change never exceeds 90% of the base weapon value.  
10 Bronze: This strong, yellow, tinted metal is the common metal of choice for armor, tools, and weapons in many cultures. 46-60%
11 Brass: A prettier alloy similar to bronze, this shiny yellow metal is sometimes mistaken for gold. It's too soft, however, for serious combat. Increase value by +50% of base weapon value. 61-65%
12 Swack Iron: A gray, bastardized metal made of various iron ores swirled together. It's very strong but also very ugly. Decrease value by 10% of base weapon value. 66-70%
13 Iron. 71-80%
14 Blackened Iron: This iron has been treated in boiling oil by a blacksmith. The black coating seeps into the porous metal and thus weatherproofs it. The process will need to be repeated every year or so. 81-85%
15 Ivory: Increase value by +200% of base weapon value and decrease weight by 50%. 86%
16 Silver: Increase value by +200% of base weapon value and remember that silver is a fairly soft metal which will lose its shape with use. 87%
17 Sterling Silver: Increase value by +220% of base weapon value. 88%
18 Electrum: Increase value by +300% of base weapon value. 89%
19 Palladium: Increase value by +400% of base weapon value 90%
20 Fourteen Karat Gold: Increase value by +500% of base weapon value. 91%
21 Twenty Karat Gold: Increase value by +700% of base weapon value. 92%
22 Twenty-four Karat Gold: Increase value by +1000% of base weapon value; 24 karat gold is extremely soft, so using the weapon even once would destroy it. 93%
23 Jade: This soft but valuable stone is prized in many cultures. Colours range from white to dark green but most often are a cloudy mixture. Increase value by +800% of base weapon value, and decrease weight by 20%. 94%
24 Dragon Bone: Stronger than most bone, this material takes time to carve into a useful shape. It is ideal for enhancing with enchantments. If dragons don't exist in this setting, use the largest monster available in its place. Increase value by +1000%. 95%
25 Steel: This artificial metal looks much like iron but is stronger. If steel is already a common metal in this campaign setting, then the weapon is titanium instead. Increase value by +1000%. 96%
26-28 Intertwined: Roll twice again on this table and ignore rolls of 26 or higher. 97-98%
29 Woven: Roll twice again on this table and ignore rolls of 26 or higher. 99%
30 Swirled: Roll twice again on this table and ignore rolls of 26 or higher. 100%

Wooden Weapons (d10)

d10 Description
1 Worm-eaten. (1-10%)  
2 Scorched. (11-20%)  
3 Barbed. (21-30%)  
4 Spiked. (31-40%)  
5 Twisted and bumpy. (41-50%)  
6 Polished. (51-60%)  
7 Carved into an Animal or Monster Shape: Player's choice of which animal or monster. (61-70%)  
8 Carved with an Intricate Design: Adds 50% to value. (71-80%)  
9 Signed by a Famous Weaponsmith: Triples value, although there is a 90% chance of it being a fake. (81-95%)  
10 Superior: Adds +1 to strike. (96-100%)  
  Ornamented: If an Intricate or Superior result was rolled on the last table, then this weapon may be ornamented. Roll on the Ornamentation Table in the Metallic Weapons section.  


d20 Material
1 - 2 Pine: Decrease weapon value by 50%; this soft wood is plentiful in most areas. 1-10%
3 - 4 Maple. 11-20%
5 - 6 Apple. 21-30%
7 Pecan. 31-40%
8 Walnut. 41-50%
9 - 10 Cypress. 51-55%
11 Mahogany: Increase value by 20%; this dark, red wood is highly valued for its appearance. 56-60%
12 Oak: Increase value by 40%; this strong wood is favored by bowyers and revered by druids. 61-80%
13 Ash: This excellent, strong wood has been used in the creation of some of the most powerful long bows ever created; increase value by 60%. 81-90%
14 Teak: This unusual wood is crafted in a unique fashion. First it is carved. Then it is boiled in oil until it achieves a black, glossy appearance and texture. The resulting wood is impossible to glue, so expert carpenters will usually carve the pieces so they fit together before boiling them. Increase value by 80%. 91-100%
15 Wormwood: This wood is primarily desired for its wicked sounding name; increase value by 100%.  
16 Ironwood: This enhanced wood is as strong as most metals and is used extensively in mineral poor regions. Value may be increased or decreased based upon the unusualness of the material in a given region. Price change never exceeds 90% of the base weapon value.  
17 Giant Holly: This sweet-smelling wood comes from a giant, mutated version of the holly tree. Increase value by 100%.  
18 Giant Rose: This rich-smelling wood comes from a giant, mutated version of a rosebush. Increase value by 300%.  
19 Artificial Wood: An alchemist crafted this weapon out of a material of her own design. The weapon can be any color (even clear) and is fire resistant.  
20 Customized: The weapon's handle and length are carved specifically for the character by a master bower, fletcher, or weapons maker; add +1 to initiative while using this weapon and roll again on this chart, re-rolling if you get this result again.  


Leather Weapons or Leather Armor (d10)

d10 Description
1 Average. 1-20%
2 Frayed and Cracking: Decrease value by 75%. 21-30%
3 Furry. 31-40%
4 Dyed: The player chooses color. 41-50%
5 Tanned and Glossy. 51-60%
6 With the Face Still Attached. 61-70%
7 Studded: This leather has been modified with metal, stone, or coral. GM's choice. It is both functional and decorative; increase value by +100%. 71-80%
8 Jewel-Studded: Increase value by +d10 x 100% of base value. 81-90%
9 Master Crafted: Add +1 to attack rolls. 91%
10 Fancy: Roll twice again on this table and ignore this result. 92-100%



1 Skunk Pelt: This leather always stinks at least a little, no matter how long it has been off the skunk, and is usually made from roadkill. Decrease value by 90% of the base value. 1-5%
2 Cattle Hide: domestic cow. 6-20%
3 Cattle Hide: Bison, buffalo, or wild cow. 21-40%
4 Pig Skin. 41-50%
5 Deer Hide. 51-60%
6 Cat Pelt. 61-70%
7 Bear Hide: This thick hide offers excellent insulation. Add +20% to value and +50% to weight. 71-80%
8 - 9 Alligator Hide: Add +20% to value. 81-85%
10 - 11 Snake Hide: Add +30% to value and decrease weight by 20%. 86-90%
12 - 13 Sharkskin: This waterproof material is somewhat soft but very light. Add +100% to value, and decrease weight by 50%. 91-95%
14 Monster Cattle Hide: This leather was cut from the body of a large and monstrous herd animal, such as a Tree Bison or Triceratops; increase weight and value by +150%.  
15 Monster Predator Hide: This leather was cut from the body of a large carnivore like an owlbear or t-rex; Increase value by +200%.  
16 Monster Behemoth Hide: This leather was cut from the body of a giant monster like a giant badger, whale, or roc. The material from this huge creature is plentiful if one manages to bring the beast down. Increase value by +300%.  
17 Nagahide: How many nagas gave their lives for this leather? Increase value by +400%.  
18 Pleather: This strange material was reportedly imported by a traveler from another world; increase value by +500%; decrease weight by 25%.  
19 Suede Dragon Hide: This incredibly strong, scaly leather feels and looks like plate armor. Were it not for the secret sueding process which softens the material, this leather might be useless for anything other than roofing shingles. Increase weight by 100% and increase value by 1000%.  
20 Woven Blend: Roll again twice and ignore this result. 95-100%

Return to Contents

3. The Evil GM 

From: Leslie Holm

My idea of a great GM is the one whose name makes you cringe when you see it in your e-mail. The good kind of cringe, mind you, where you shiver in delighted anticipation. Is my character still alive? What horrors will she face today? Nothing excites me more in a new game than hearing we have an Evil GM.

There are Evil GMs and there are bad GMs. A bad GM is one who spends little time preparing, writes badly, or kills your character just out of spite. An evil GM creates thrilling adventures that surprise you at every turn and keeps you on your toes. Complacency is not an option with the Evil GM.

So, how do you get to be an Evil GM? Hard work, of course! Here are a few things I've observed my favorite GMs doing:

  1. Kill someone! This isn't the movies. Good guys don't always win. When you have a group of people wandering around looking for trouble, sometime, somewhere, they are going to come up against something bigger, stronger, and meaner. If the dice dictate, let the character die!
  2. Shake it up! At the inn, the PCs either meet someone with a quest or get woken up by adversaries. On a deserted road, they are attacked. In the dungeon, they kill monsters and find treasure. Boring! Seduce a PC in the inn, sprinkle annoying talking flowers along the road, flood the dungeon with butterflies.
  3. Meet new people! Don't let your NPCs become predictable. The man decked out in black chainmail carrying a wicked looking sword could be a garrulous paladin, while the young girl in pigtails with a winning smile could be cursed or possessed. An interesting way to do this is to create totally stereotypical NPCs and then switch their characteristics.

If you can't think of anything new and interesting to do to your PCs, check out Urban Benign Encounters.

Jot down ideas that come to you on an index card, and when things get stale in your campaign, pull one out. Before you know it, you too will have a reputation as an Evil GM.

Return to Contents

4. Comments On Campaign Preparation 

From: Jonas Dorn

I have two campaigns running at the moment: one online and one in-person. Preparation for each is quite different, even though both run the same home-brewed D&D adventure.

Since playing online slows down gaming about 2-3 times, I have much more time to come up with stuff on the fly (therefore I don't need to write out descriptions or important dialogue between NPCs to make sure that I don't forget to drop the clues).

In addition, everything said during previous sessions is at my fingertips (so I can easily go and check what happened and how I called this or that person in the heat of the moment). However, I can't just sketch a plan on the battle mat as I explain (therefore, I need to spend time drawing maps for the more serious fights).

My campaign has an underlying railroad track. First, the characters need to travel from A to B because that's what the characters wanted to do anyway. Plus they get a quest along the way. Then they need to find out more about themselves in B and get assigned quests that will, surprisingly, lead all of them to C.

Therefore, I roughly know the general direction the next session will take. What I prepare between sessions are the encounters that could reasonably lead to a battle (including the first reaction of the enemies), the clues that I should not forget to give out, and the motivations and initial reactions of the important NPCs.

For the online game, I also type a summary of the last session, which I use to emphasize the key points the characters should remember. In the in-person game I have the players write character diaries (one writes home letters in the style of the secret diaries of Aragorn - lots of fun to read). However, I use the time I'd spend on the summaries to roughly outline descriptions. Of course, there are legends, city descriptions, motivations of different factions, and future quests and complications for the characters that I am constantly working on.

All the rest develops during the session, where I try to pick up as many of the player's ideas as possible on the way. What keeps it all from falling apart is that the story has a direction, the story has to be consistent, and that actions have consequences.

Return to Contents

Conan: Tito's Trading Post

Welcome to Tito's Trading Post. Here you will find all that is both mundane and wondrous to satisfy your equipment needs, collected from around the globe--although I warn you, I will have no truck with sorcery; go to the Stygians or Zamorians if that be what you are after, but I may be able to find some Lotus around here somewhere? As I look for that, I may as well tell you what my trading post has available for you....

Tito's Trading Post at RPG Shop