Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales is a 44 page pdf product, and the first in Bards and Sages' new line of Adventure Havens supplements. The series aims to provide DMs with a number of useful game tools such as locations, NPCs and story hooks, so that the DM is never unprepared during gameplay when the players do something unexpected or different. The first in the series, Tavern Tales, provides a number of fantasy taverns for DMs to use, including complete descriptions, NPCs, layout, mini-quests and more.
The product comes as a single pdf file (a sizable 26 MB download) that contains a table of contents with handy hyperlinks to the tavern descriptions and details in the text (though not necessarily directly to the right location for the start of the tavern description on the page). There are no bookmarks. Presentation is not the best, looking quite amateurish in places, and the pdf could certainly have done with some improved presentation. The taverns, for example, have no headings to indicate where they start - one moment a mini-quest on a tavern ends, and the next the new tavern starts after a small amount of white space. Artwork is good and plentiful, mostly pencil sketches but also a small number of full-color pieces. Writing and editing is generally good and easy to read, although there are one or two minor errors. Stat blocks are plentiful given the large number of NPCs detailed, and almost all of them contain errors, which is disappointing to see.
Tavern Tales details twelve fantasy taverns. The pdf starts by providing a very lacklustre overview of how to use the product and what one can expect under each entry. Each entry contains details such as name of tavern, owner, layout, food and drink available, prices, number of prices, sleeping accommodations, history and background, patrons, ideas for integrating a tavern into your game, and mini-quests that can be found in each tavern. Each tavern is also accompanied by an insignia or sign associated with it.
The tavern descriptions themselves are interesting and useful, containing a wide variety of useful ideas and plot-hooks for quests and mini-quests themselves. They made for an enjoyable read with some interesting NPCs that should make for fun roleplaying encounters. Gertrude, for example, is a high level wizard who bakes cookies that are capable of healing people. Each tavern description is overflowing with detail, and DMs should be able to find more than they want under each description. The taverns are also suitable to a wide variety of locations, be it a town, village or even city, and the nature of the establishments is varied enough so that no two of the taverns are really alike (e.g. dock-tavern or gambling hall). The pdf succeeds well at creating unique taverns with their own characteristics to make them stand out.
Examples of the dozen taverns include are Crying Wolf, where revenge haunts the staff of the tavern, the Saty'rs Love where a disturbance from below and a strange collar lead to sinister secrets, and The Wailing Banshee where ghost stories are not always what they seem. The mini-quests are interesting and varied, and cater for a wide variety of different encounter levels. With this is mind, each tavern and its associated mini-quests cater for a certain party level, meaning that while the taverns can be used for any level party, the mini-quests can't. This limits the usability of the quests somewhat, unless DMs wish to modify the associated stat blocks and just use the ideas.
The pdf concludes by including hyperlinked lists of items (Gertrude's cookies and training collar, for example), lists of monsters and NPCs, and NPCs by CR. These are useful and allow DMs to cater a particularly mini-quest to a particular level of party. Overall, this pdf provides a DM with some useful tools that require little work to integrate into a campaign.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales presents a dozen fully detailed taverns complete with history, NPCs and mini-quests. There is a good variety of interesting and useful material, and plenty of opportunity for roleplaying with NPCs that have a little more life than one would normally find in a tavern. Most DMs should find this easy to integrate into an existing campaign or story arc.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Presentation was disappointing and certainly could've used more attention. Stat blocks were also full of errors. While the mini-quests are a good idea, the implementation means that if you wish to use a quest you're forced to use a tavern that is suitable to the party level, limiting the usefulness of the material. Perhaps scaled mini-quests would've been a better implementation. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>