Alcohol is a colorless volatile liquid formed by the fermentation of sugars which has an intoxicating effect on certain carbon-based life forms, among them being humans who consume it for recreational purposes. For thousands of years humans have been making alcohol for their consumption and many historians and anthropologists believe that the one of the big reasons why nomadic peoples began to settle down and grow crops 10,000 years ago was the fact that it gave them a ready supply of things rich in sugar to ferment and by settling down, they could ferment more of it at a time. Once agriculture was well under way, people began to specialize their skills. Some people farmed while others wove textiles, made ceramics or got involved in making alcoholic beverages full time and traded these for food and other goods. Eventually as villages grew, some clever brewer decided to set up some benches around their home for people to sit at as they enjoyed a mug of beer or wine, which made said home a go-to place to meet with other people. Thus was created the first Tavern, a pattern which was repeated around the world once population centers reached a certain threshold.
As time goes on and populations grow further, the competition grows and tavern owners begin to do more than just serving beer. They also begin serving food as well and a few of them set up some rooms that can be rented out for the night to travelers, thus upgrading them to inns.
Taverns in Fantasy
Taverns and inns are often the place where people meet other people in fantasy, as well as a good place to pick up rumors, gossip and wenches. In RPGs (one in particular), the tavern is the cliché location in which all campaigns start, almost invariably with that oft-uttered line, "You all meet in a tavern." This meeting usually involves speaking with a mysterious stranger sitting in the darkest, edgiest corner of the building. Said stranger is inevitably the plot hook for the campaign, which the PCs will inevitably kill or ignore (said assault or indifference will lead to them getting embroiled in a conflict or allow events to unfold which will come back to haunt the PCs).
Some common types of Taverns you will encounter on your escapades across fiction.
- A Barbarian lodge with a roaring fire where hairy fur clad burly beardy men with broadswords and axes boast of their great deeds and laughing with a horn of beer in one hand and a mutton leg in the other. Be forewarned that though these places have a roudy, energetic atmosphere and throwing axes and knives is among the most popular activities of the patrons.
- The picturesque village inn, where local peasants spend a few coppers on local beer in a friendly easy to go setting. Generally more safe and quiet on the whole than most places on this list. Usually has at least one shady corner for mysterious strangers to lurk in undisturbed while waiting for contacts.
- The Sengoku era Tavern where old men play go, Noh actors put on a show and the samurai enjoy a bowl of noodles and a warm sake.
- The Dwarven tavern where the ceiling is about a meter too low, axes adorn the wall, fights happen at the drop of a helmet and the patrons will sing "Gold Gold Gold!" for hours on end.
- The Seaman's Bar where stevedores, pirates, merchantmen and navy sailors on shore leave go to spend their wages on dice, whores and rum. People (especially non sailors) should be careful not to get too drunk and to make sure to check your beer for a shilling before drinking it, lest they find themselves spending the next two years on one of the ships of Her Majesty's Navy loading cannons and eating limes to avoid the scurvy.
- The Wild West Saloon: A prefabricated box of a building with a piano and some guys playing cards that is a home away from home from many a cowhand, bandit, crazy old prospector, town sheriff and similar types. Just be careful never to say the word "cheat" unless you want two dozen people with itchy trigger fingers to draw their colts.
- The Gentleman's Establishment: Mahogany tables, crystal chandeliers, lion trophies, faded green leather arm chairs and a mixtures of captains of industry and old officers with huge mustaches drink scotch and brandy and smoke fine cigars, and of course some big guys in bowler hats to keep out anyone who is not in the top 2% of income out and ruing everyone's day.
- The Shady Den: A variant on any of the others listed above save the Gentleman's Establishment. If it's in the countryside its going to be in a darker thornier forest and will look like (and most likely have started out as) an old run down barn. If its in a city, it's usually tucked in a basement in a back alley in the town's slums or in a decayed industrial district. It is poorly lit at the best of times and it will be thick with foul smelling smoke. The regulars include a variety of unpleasant lumps of muscle and fat with a droopy disgust and willowy figures who smile in the wrong way that tend to be all too fond of knives. The barman is of a similar breed, the closest he comes to cleaning the glasses is to spit in them and the drinks available include stale beer and a variety of bottles which contain stuff which if you are lucky will make you blind. This is where hitmen, bandits, conspirators and similar gather.