100 Subjects for tavern chatter

d100-explanation(Author’s note: this started as a much smaller list, and quickly grew to a far longer list than intended. For this reason, the list has been reproduced as an Adobe pdf file, which can be downloaded here or on the downloads page.)

Tavern gossip can be a great source of Dungeons & Dragons adventure leads, and more than one published adventure has begun with the heroes overhearing something over a tankard or two. Many experienced players have been conditioned to listen for adventure leads in this manner, and some might ask, “What do I overhear?” in an effort to glean a bit more information about the adventure.

Often, the only information the dungeon master has on hand for the heroes to overhear is pertinent to the adventure, so he may provide more information than he should, or provide the boring, flat answer of, “you hear nothing interesting,” which even the newest player will see as the DM taking the easy way out of the situation.

It is for this reason that the list below was generated. The next time a player asks what tavern patrons are discussing, a quick percentile roll or five will fill the place with lively chatter, some of which may even lead to adventure.

  1. Complaints about the weather: it’s too hot to be comfortable, too wet for the crops, too cold for good hunting, etc.
  2. One patron seeks advice about thatching a roof from another.
  3. One patron comments on an article of new clothing (waistcoat, shoes, gloves, hat) worn by another.
  4. One patron can’t say enough good about his wife’s recipe for braised cabbage.
  5. Two women argue about who has better furniture.
  6. An old man found a strange article of men’s clothing under his young wife’s bed.
  7. A young man has a toothache, and a toothless old woman is giving him advice about what to do.
  8. A man and woman are talking about a book they both read.
  9. A woman is trying to teach a song to another woman, who is obviously tone deaf.
  10. Two overweight gentlemen are engaging in a belching contest.
  11. A very thin woman and very heavy man are playing chess.
  12. Two somber-looking fellows remember a recently deceased friend.
  13. A man with very poor hygiene asks an attractive woman if one of his sores looks like it’s getting worse. The woman is repulsed, and doesn’t know how to answer.
  14. Two women are laughing about how one of their children called the local tax baron “goblin face” that morning.
  15. Two craftsmen are resolving an argument they had at work today.
  16. A merchant is saddened that he lost a silver button from his favorite waistcoat.
  17. Three patrons argue about which is the best type of wine.
  18. A peddler regales a small audience about audacious fashions worn across the sea.
  19. Two very old men exchange obviously embellished war stories.
  20. A miller mourns the death of his pet cat, which was the best mouser he’d ever seen.
  21. A very thin man is talking about how his wife can’t cook.
  22. An ugly woman is giving romantic advice to the scullery boy; she suggests that he use licorice root to sweeten his breath.
  23. Two older patrons reminisce about their lives as adventurers decades ago.
  24. One patron is deliberating with another about possibly running for political office.
  25. Taxes, taxes, taxes.
  26. An old man is worried about his daughter. She just doesn’t listen anymore.
  27. Two merchants talk about the sermon they heard in the temple that week.
  28. A patron talks about what she had for lunch that day.
  29. Two patrons complain about the condition of local roads.
  30. A farmer explains that he found an old dagger while working in his fields.
  31. A merchant frets about the rising costs of doing business.
  32. A patron is very tired; his infant child kept him awake all night.
  33. A woman is convinced that her son is the next great sculptor.
  34. A dairymaid is frustrated from dealing with sick cows.
  35. Two men, obvious bachelors, ponder where navels come from.
  36. Three patrons, obviously active military personnel, discuss siege warfare.
  37. Two young men talk about peat-cutters; one thinks that, since they live in marshy areas, peat-cutters have spotted bellies and webbed feet.
  38. Two farmers agree to have an ox race to determine who has better livestock.
  39. One patron is getting legal advice from another.
  40. A harlot is flirting with a young man.
  41. Two court fops are wondering what games will be offered at the next market fair.
  42. An inconsolable man weeps over someone finding and taking his life savings from its hiding place.
  43. Two patrons are discussing why you should never trust a locksmith.
  44. A table is debating whether or not the town needs more watchmen.
  45. A very old man is telling a young man how to grow walnuts without shells.
  46. A man complains that the flowers his wife uses to decorate their house makes him sneeze, but she won’t change them.
  47. Two old men are talking about how elves reproduce. The prevailing theory seems to be exposing dead elves to moonlight; baby elves then crawl out of the corpse and start climbing trees.
  48. A woman is worried that her son’s pet snake escaped.
  49. A very hairy man insists that the town needs more barbers.
  50. A merchant is afraid that a war may break out between the heroes’ home nation and an adjacent kingdom.
  51. Two men, already drunk, are composing a poem about mead.
  52. Two women, apparently scribes, argue about the shape of the world. The stronger argument suggests that the world is shaped like a peanut.
  53. Three townsfolk discuss how to grow the best radishes.
  54. An old man begins telling a ghost story that he’s obviously told a hundred times before, and everyone is ignoring him.
  55. A young man is asking everyone who will listen how to win a woman’s heart.
  56. Two old-timers complain about how lazy youngsters are these days.
  57. Two patrons talk about a “secret invention,” but stop when they see a hero looking their way.
  58. Two merchants are discussing conversion rates between regional currencies.
  59. Three young people are talking about whether or not dwarves float.
  60. Two intoxicated patrons begin aruging about who can drink more. Bets are already favoring the smaller of the two.
  61. A plain-looking man tries to flirt with the barmaid, but she obivously isn’t interested.
  62. Four patrons discuss which season of the year is best, and each has a different opinion.
  63. A commoner talks about the one time he was admitted to the king’s palace, and describes how grand it was.
  64. A guardsman worries aloud about an escaped prisoner.
  65. Two women share recipes for squirrel stew.
  66. An old man swears that his oak tree talks to him at night.
  67. A young woman talks about her recent visit with her husband’s family. It wasn’t very comfortable for anyone involved.
  68. Two patrons play chess. They don’t say a word, but they clearly don’t like each other.
  69. A commoner boasts about his son beating up the guard captain’s son – then looks about furtively.
  70. A woman with poor hygiene explains to all who will listen about the evils of bathing.
  71. A group of women complain about men.
  72. A group of men complain about women.
  73. In a booming, bass voice, a hunter tries to explain how to move quietly in the woods.
  74. Two patrons quietly share a rumor that this tavern’s stew made a dwarf sick to his stomach.
  75. A young woman is discussing wedding plans. The first item on the list is finding a husband.
  76. Three patrons argue about why dragons hoard gold. The prevailing theory is that they burn everything else with fire, and gold is a relatively soft metal for sleeping.
  77. A patron talks about his bottle collection with a friend.
  78. Two patrons share a rumor about a local beauty eating earthworms.
  79. Two women are betting about where a housefly will land next.
  80. A group of patrons are dicing at a nearby table. One of them is accused of cheating.
  81. Two women talk about a third woman, who is having an extra-marital affair.
  82. A man is arranging for his son to be apprenticed to a local blacksmith.
  83. Another man complains that his wife snores.
  84. A woman complains about the floors in her home; the wooden floors are too squeaky, and the tile ones are too cold.
  85. A woman wonders aloud why the town doesn’t use magic to remove sewage, instead of letting it flow down the middle of the streets.
  86. Two fishermen talk about “the one that got away.”
  87. A woman is describing a new dance to a young man, who isn’t really listening.
  88. Two music enthusiasts argue about who the best minstrel in the kingdom is.
  89. A craftsman is crestfallen, since his dog bit his best customer today.
  90. Four patrons try to establish which mushrooms are safe to eat.
  91. A young man explains that wishing on stars doesn’t work; she married the other fellow.
  92. A wife is complaining about her husband’s hunting trophies. She can’t walk from the kitchen to the privvy without being stuck in the ribs by an antler.
  93. One patron plans to build a fence around his cottage, because his neighbors stare into his yard all day.
  94. An old woman swears that a blackbird winked at her this morning. The bird must be a familiar of some sort.
  95. A very ugly young man with an abacus has discovered the law of averages, and has come to the realization that if there were thirty times more women in town, it would be mathematically impossible for him to remain unmarried.
  96. A woman complains that a skunk has taken up residence under her home. She blames her neighbor for luring it there.
  97. A man wonders why his son has to have a pet turtle – why can’t he just get a dog like everyone else?
  98. Another man is dejected because his wife threw all of his belongings into the sewer.
  99. A woman is angry that her neighbor’s child threw rocks at her geese this afternoon.
  100. A watchman is annoyed that a notorious pickpocket escaped from custody today.
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10 comments on “100 Subjects for tavern chatter

  1. StupidRanger says:

    Awesome list! I love it!

  2. Michelle says:

    I’ve been following your site for a couple weeks now, and I’ve gained so much insight. I’ve only been playing a couple years, and for the last year and a half I’ve been DM for the Dungeon Divas. I’ve always felt a bit challenged to give a real feel for the game since I’ve not had enough experience in the game to draw from.

    We just had a HUGE encounter in a tavern. I prepared some gossip for the Divas to overhear. [I ride the bus a lot so I overhear all kinds of things, and I've been writing down some notes. Unfortunately most of it is modern and tough to translate to a medieval world.] What I love about this list is how completely mundane it is, and completely consistent with the D&D environment.

    Thanks!

    • Alric says:

      Welcome, Michelle, and thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found the list to be useful. If there’s anything you’d like to see here, please let me know.

  3. SuperSooga says:

    Brilliant. I’m definitely keeping hold of a copy of this.

    • Alric says:

      Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to read my blog. If you think of anything similar you’d like to see here, please let me know.

  4. Ameron says:

    I’ve bookmarked this list for easy reference the next time I need topics for tavern discussion. I can already think of how many of these will work as great adventuring hooks. Thanks.

    • Alric says:

      Hi Ameron,

      Thank you for the positive feedback.

      If you’d like, you can download the pdf from the “downloads” page instead of bookmarking the list.

  5. jeremysouthard says:

    Awesome list, thank you very much! My favorite is #47, ha ha ha! I can’t wait to use it in our new gaming sessions starting this week.

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