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So two Tropers walk into a bar...
The stereotypical opening to an adventure in tabletop RPGs: the protagonists are all gathered by prior intent or a "coincidence" of authorial fiat by the Game Master in an inn, bar room, or other common public meeting spot. Once there, some mysterious stranger or NPC of varying dubiousness will approach them with some job offer or plea for assistance. These strangers tend to seat themselves in the darkest corner of the tavern for some reason (probably to make themselves seem even more mysterious). Thus do our heroes receive their ticket to board the plot.
Careful, though, for the mysterious stranger has an odds-to-even chance of being the Big Bad or a similar miscreant. Expect a Bar Brawl or two in the tavern as well, particularly if the PCs start to get rowdy. Fortunately, though, the barkeep is usually a retired former adventurer willing and able to kick the asses of anyone who gets too uppity.
This trope is Older Than Print -- no less an author than Chaucer had his adventuring party meet in an inn -- but it later began to be considered a Discredited Trope through overuse. Actually starting an adventure with the words "So, you all meet in an inn..." may be seen as roleplaying's equivalent to "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night..." Thus, a lot of sources advise against using it, and give pointers on how to avoid it. The 3rd Edition Dungeonmaster's Guide for Dungeons and Dragons, in a list of ways to bring a party together, dubs this "The Cliche". David Morgan-Mar, of Irregular Webcomic and Darths and Droids fame, provides a list of less overused ways to start an adventure, as do the folks at the dice of doom blog.
On the other hand, cliched as it may be, it really is a logical opener. Taverns are the center of social life in many cultures, making for a good place to meet new people, and food and drink are good for bonding with new acquaintances. Some people even use the trope deliberately as an invocation of gaming tradition. It's also quite easy to play for laughs, emphasizing the comedy potential of enjoying a few pints down at the pub and deciding to go out and slay a dragon with your new-found acquaintances.
Real Life group meetings at an Inn are usually a convention of some description. The "adventuring" usually takes place entirely within the building, and does not normally involve bloodshed, swordplay or dragons. Normally.
- Samurai Champloo: Two of the three protagonist all meet at a tea house, where they immediate start a massively violent bar brawl. The third one wanders in by coincidence and joins in the fight. This very quickly leads to You All Meet in a Cell.
- Warlord, a self-referential D&D-inspired card game, has a card called "Meet At The Inn". Its flavor text:
"Come on, guys! I have an overwhelming urge to go to the nearest inn and meet a pair of strangers who will help us in our quest!"
"What, so soon after our two friends died?"
- Legends From Darkwood involves several scenes with characters posting jobs or looking for jobs in "adventuring" posting to a bulletin board in an inn.
- In The Order of the Stick book On the Origin of PCs, Roy attempts to recruit party members on the street unsuccessfully. He is greeted by Elan, who says that to have a reasonable chance of finding willing party members, he must not only be in a tavern, but also sit in the corner, stare sullenly into his mug of ale, and wear an eyepatch.
- The back cover blurb reads "Like all good stories ever, this one starts in an inn!" and in a fit of undoubtedly intentional irony, the book actually doesn't, and the inn scene quoted above happens near the end of the book.
- Additionally, in Start of Darkness, Right-Eye meets Eugene in an inn to attempt to convince him to resume carrying out his Blood Oath against Xykon. When Eugene mentions he doesn't have a party to take Xykon on anymore, Right-Eye shouts "Hey! Who in this tavern is an adventurer?", and everybody else in the room raises their hand, even the waitress.
- The Sandman volume World's End takes place entirely in an Inn Between the Worlds. The coincidence that contrives to bring together so many dimensional adventurers and agents also keeps them there, telling stories that in some way involve The Dreaming and The Dream King.
- This is how the Demon Knights meet. Paul Cornell says the trope hadn't occured to him when he wrote the scene, but he's glad it plays into something like that.
Films -- Live-Action
- The entire plot of From Dusk till Dawn is driven by the "Anti-Hero" meeting an ally in a bar.
- Luke Skywalker and company met Han Solo and Chewbacca at the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars, which is basically a sort of space tavern. Star Wars is pretty much a fantasy story in space, so it runs into a lot of other fantasy tropes also.
- Subverted in a bad Hercules-ripoff movie, in which the heroes all meet in the waiting room of a brothel.
- Reservoir Dogs - They all meet in a diner.
- In Inglorious Basterds they all meet at bar to discuss the assassination of Hitler. It was the biggest mistake they could possibly make.
- Older Than Print: As noted in the trope description, all the characters meet at an inn before starting their pilgrimage in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.
- In the 14th century Chinese Wuxia novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liu Bei and his sworn brothers first meet in a small town tavern.
- In Joel Rosenberg's The Sleeping Dragon, the heroes (a group of Role-playing gamers) are transported to a fantasy world, and the first thing they decide to do is...Go to an inn, where One of their number is killed when he tries to pick the pocket of a nobleman
- Although it is the origin of a huge number of fantasy tropes, The Lord of the Rings avoids this one. By the time Frodo and his companions meet Strider "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony", the four hobbits have been travelling together for some time. Plus they were expecting to meet Gandalf but he couldn't be there for a very good reason. Aragorn was sent there by Gandalf to find Frodo. The Fellowship of the Ring, the closest thing to an adventuring party in the novel, is not formed until The Council of Elrond, when Gimli, Legolas and Boromir are introduced for the first time.
- Still, the two principal characters of the Fellowship, Frodo the one trusted with the ring and Aragorn the future king, do meet at "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony". Arguably the trope started here, and it was taken up to eleven in other media.
- Gandalf meets Thorin in a bar in events before The Hobbit. And later states outright that the entire future of Middle-Earth and the outcome of the War of the Ring was affected by their meeting. If this were not the Trope Codifier, it could almost be a lampshade.
Gandalf: Yet things might have gone far otherwise and far worse. When you think of the great Battle of Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valour of Durin's Folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from victory here only to ruin and ash. But that has been averted--because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring in Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.
- The first Dragonlance novel (based on Dungeons & Dragons to begin with) opens with the heroes meeting at an inn. This is justified; not only are the protagonists old friends who promised to meet here many years prior, but one of them has backed out on her promise, foreshadowing far worse things to come.
- There's even a mysterious hooded guy in a corner. But I think he turns out to be a good guy... if I remember correctly... Didn't he rearrange the furniture for dramatic effect?
- The heroes meet the people who start off their major quest in the inn, as well.
- The action of Robert Jordan's enormous Wheel of Time series begins with Rand al'Thor meeting up with both established friends (Mat & Egwene) and newcomers (Moiraine, Lan & Thom) at the Winespring Inn in the local village. Which, to be fair, is pretty much the only location of note, in the widest sense of the term, in the entire region.
- Whilst it happens halfway through the book, the chance meeting at an inn between Catelyn Stark and Tyrion Lannister in George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones kick-starts the civil war that dominates the first three books. Several new characters, most notably Bronn, join the action at this point as well.
- Ed Greenwood subverts this classic trope deliberately in his first Forgotten Realms novel (Greenwood is the creator of the Realms setting) Spellfire, by having a party of adventurers meet at an inn, spontaneously decide to investigate the nearby ruined city of Myth Drannor, and then be annihilated (the main character aside) by the denizens of the ruins, whom they lacked the ability or experience to face.
- Azure Bonds starts this way. One character was found on the tavern's porch unconscious, another was a client who happened to be a wizard curious about her tattoo and third followed her to the tavern.
- Sharon Shinn's Mystic and Rider begins with the main characters saving a Naive Newcomer from a tavern brawl, evidently so they'll have someone to exposit at.
- Parodied (like everything else) in the Myth Adventures series, in which Skeeve recruits troops to save Possiltum in a fast-food restaurant.
- Khaavren and the others in Phoenix Guards. It is played so straight it is probably a parody of the trope.
- The short story "The Most Precious of Treasures" by Desmond Warzel. It's only two people meeting there, and it occurs because one has left a note for the other, but it's still an example.
- Each episode of Estate of Panic begins this way in the foyer of the estate.
- Cheers, the show that's entirely about a bar, its employees, and its patrons.
- Feng Shui, which makes no effort to hide the fact that everything in the game that's not a fight scene is a mechanism to get to the next fight scene as quickly as possible, demands this. GMs are instructed to decide where all the players will be when the story begins, and then simply inform the players of this unassailable fact. Players must then give a reason for why their character is at this place, with rewards given for reasons that tie well into their character's backstory in some way. An example:
GM: You're all in a restaurant. Tell me why.
Player 1: I heard a rumor that some operatives for the shadowy cabal that kidnapped my sister like to eat here and I'm staking the place out.
Player 2: Since my character's very poor, he's been taking odd jobs lately to help pay the bills. I'm cleaning tables here.
Player 3: This place has really good noodles.
- Shadowrun has its own version: "You all get a call from a man calling himself 'Mr. Johnson'..." This was intended to be a Shadowrun trope from the beginning, as it's established in the rulebook that all sorts of "Mr. Johnsons" all over the country are looking to hire shadowrunners to do their dirty work.
- Lampshaded in one of the Shadowrun novels, in which an employer admits that her name really is Johnson after screwing her hirelings over.
- It's worth noting that "You All Meet in an Inn" is also played straight in Shadowrun. Since Johnsons often treasure their anonymity, places like bars, taverns, restaurants and nightclubs are often where runner teams will meet up. White noise generators help ensure privacy from anyone trying to listen in. Some establishments who deal more regularly with the shadowrunning business often have booths with built-in white noise generators to allow for private meetings between Mr. Johnson and shadowrunners.
- There's also the "Stuffer Shack" convenience stores. One module has the PC's patronizing such an establishment when it gets robbed.
- In the Sega Genesis and SNES Shadowrun RPGs, nightclubs are specifically used as a place to purchase fellow shadowrunners' services.
- This trope should also include the phenomenon of "You All Meet at a Nightclub", which is prevalent in RPGs with modern settings. Overwhelmingly, in some cases. Given the typical diet of the denizens of, say, Vampire: The Masquerade, you could easily see the nightclub as just another inn, providing food, drink and entertainment. Often simultaneously.
- In Eberron, the city of Sharn has two adventurers' district. Those districts both have taverns that are specifically designed to serve this trope: they not only offer the usual services expected of a tavern but also offer services allowing adventurers to find people to team up with, as well as employment. Incidentally those taverns tend to be owned or be operated by retired adventurers.
- The WFRP rulebook actually justifies this trope: taverns are common meeting places; and, given the likely diversity of the party members, may well be the only reasonable way for the PCs to meet.
- Dungeons & Dragons having enough of Troperiffic stuff and that being a cliché, it was bound to be used in handful of modules. But sometimes it turns another way.
...and went to Baldur's Gate to celebrate their victory. Thick-headed with too much ale, they agreed to take on a job from a mysterious merchant (now believed, after several divinations, to be an agent of the Red Wizards) who sent them into the Troll Hills, which is the last anyone ever heard of them.
- Special mention has to go to the 2nd Edition module Reverse Dungeon, where the players are a group of goblins trying to save their tribe from an (apparently endless) stream of adventurers. The way the module suggests they achieve this is to destroy the tavern, so that the heroes can't recruit replacements for their fallen comrades.
- Before the Spellplague, the Forgotten Realms had a partly justified example - one of the bars in Waterdeep, one of Faerûn's great metropolis, was not only run by a retired adventurer, but also happened to have an entry-point to Undermountain (a very, very large dungeon) in it. That, of course, made it a convenient place for adventures looking to strike rich in Undermountain to gather.
- In Eclipse Phase, "you all wake up in a resleeving facility" is a standard start to an adventure, including the example in the manual.
- Exalted has this built in to certain locations for ease -- like in Nexus, where no-one is allowed to eat alone after dark, so it's easy to just say, "You're all in Nexus, it's nighttime, so you all had to sit at a table together."
- And then there's Tales from the Floating Vagabond, which deliberately shortcuts this by making the primary setting an Inn Between the Worlds.
- Classic Traveller.
- There was an early lampshading of this in Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma. The characters are space travelling ex-Navy, Scouts and whatnot, and where do they all meet? In an inn on some backwards world with 18th/19th century technology. All of them had the great idea to go there and now don't have enough credits to get off this hole. Of course the adventure then takes exactly the course you would expect from this beginning it's a dungeon crawl, just in a high-tech psionics research station.
- Adventure 0 The Imperial Fringe plays it straight. The Referee is encouraged to tell the players "You're all sitting in the Starhaven tavern". The PCs quickly get into a Bar Brawl and meet their patron, who gives them a mission that will take them the length and breadth of the Spinward Marches.
- The boardgame Tomb by AEG has a board that consists of two sections. One is the titular Tomb, full of monsters, traps, and treasures galore. The other section is the Inn, where you build your party to invade the Tomb.
- Red Dragon Inn is an inversion. The entire game takes place back at the Inn after the grand adventure, where the adventurers gamble and attempt to drink each other under the table.
- The Paranoia adventure "Orcbusters" starts here, and the D&D tropes keep on going...
- The Barbarossa campaign of Age of Empires II is narrated by a drunk tavern guy who is really Henry the Lion.
- At the start of Baldur's Gate, you are placed at the entrance to an inn. Then, for the first part of your adventure, your stepfather tells you to meet some friends in a nearby inn. The second game includes an inn (The Copper Coronet) where a total of three potential party members make their first appearances. Also, most party members, should you drop them, will wait for you here.
- The minor (as much as an Ancient Red Dragon can be "minor") villain Firkraag exploits this very trope. He waits at the Copper Coronet for adventurers he can trick and toy with. After all, a Red Dragon is just a few steps away from a cat.
- In Bladestorm: The Hundred Years War the tavern is where you get new contracts, upgrade your weapons, meet fellow mercenaries and recruit new squads.
- In Darklands, inns and taverns are where you start the game, and where you can hire and fire members of your party.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, after the basic party is assembled and and the main quest starts, the characters stop at the village of Lothering and meet the first potential new follower at the local inn.
- Dragon Quest III has Ruida's Tavern, where The Chosen One meets all their allies. Dragon Quest IX has
RuidaPatty reprising this role as a Continuity Nod, along with a few helpers to handle the WiFi aspects.
- Bars are where you go for sidequests in Final Fantasy Tactics, but your party begins as soldiers of the same troop. In a homage to its spiritual predecessor, Vaan looks up his very first Hunt in Final Fantasy XII at the local tavern, the Sandsea. He will graduate up to Clan Hunts afterward, but he can always find a minor Hunt or two on the tavern's billboard.
- The two Final Fantasy Tactics Advance games similiarly use the bar as a quest hub (both main and sidequests), and many cutscenes play out in one of them as well, including the main character's introduction to the clan. By contrast, it's not used as a place to hire new members.
- Replace "Inn" with "Absurdly Spacious Sewer" and we have the assembly of the Final Fantasy XIII party; only Fang misses out on the fun.
- Icewind Dale opens with the party in an inn, though they have not just met each other. Unless you rewrite their histories so that they really did just meet up at the inn...
- In Knights of the Old Republic, you meet no fewer than three party members in bars. It is also possible to meet Calo Nord, a minor villain, for the first time in the first bar.
- Also one of said characters tells you how to acquire a fourth character when you meet him at the bar.
- Actually meeting Mission and Zaalbar in the bar is optional (depending on whether you go down into the slum before you enter the bar), and you meet Canderous several times before you recruit him in a bar.
- In the third expansion of Neverwinter Nights, the PC starts out and meets several future party mates in an Inn. Only one of them will stay with you until the end of the story, the other four in the Inn all go back to the surface at the end of the first chapter. The three potential party members that are not in the Inn at the beginning are met under much more unusual circumstances.
- Several fan-made expansions also contain examples. In "A Dance With Rogues", your first encounter with Pia is in a private dining room at an inn, your first encounters with Bran, Norah, and Gemli in the second chapter are also in an inn. You technically meet Diane in an inn in the first Bastard of Kosigan module, but you actually recruit her in a forest if you so choose. Several possible henchmen in A Hunt Through The Dark, in the final chapter, show up in the inn for the first time.
- Neverwinter Nights 2 has the new expansion pack, Storm of Zehir, with all the original party members meeting (technically) on a ship. Additional party members can be in a variety of places, but you'll find a good third of them in inns. In just vanilla Neverwinter Nights 2, you meet the fighter Dwarf at the inn you're just passing by. Starting a bar brawl. And then, when you meet him, another bar brawl happens. You also meet the Deadpan Snarker wizard and Heroic Sociopath ranger inside a later inn that's the party's base of operations in Neverwinter, and the pyromaniac sorceress outside its front door.
- Phantasy Star II has "You All Meet at Rolf's House"... one by one. Every time you reach a new town, another party member knocks on the door at Rolf's house.
- The eight protagonists of Resident Evil Outbreak have never met before, but all happen to be sitting in the same bar right before it all hits the fan with the zombies.
(This is not quite true, one of the characters works in the bar, while at least one other is a regular patron)
- Wild Arms 3 starts with You All Meet While Robbing the Same Train. Cue Mexican Standoff and How We Got Here.
- In fantasy strategy game Heroes of Might and Magic, buying the Inn building in your castle allows you to recruit other Heroes (army leaders).
- Shouted out to in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, with the Tavern neutral building, from which players can enlist a variety of mercenary heroes.
- Averted in World of Warcraft, since party and guild recruitment can be done anywhere. However, players can set inns as their save points, and are popular venues on designated role-play servers.
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life As a King features the Inn building, which allows you to form your adventurers into parties. (Before building one, your adventurers all travel and fight individually.)
- Dungeon Siege, interestingly enough, averts this, at least the first one. The Krugg attack your homestead and are sent to the king for help. You actually meet most of the party members as you adventure.
- Paradoxically, in the Vampire: The Masquerade game Vampire: Redemption, taverns and pubs play no role in the Dark Ages portion of the game. In the modern era, however, you meet most of your party members (and undertake half the plots) in bars and nightclubs.
- Eye of the Beholder II plays it extremely straight it's downright ludicrous.
- Saga Frontier and its sequel both exhibit this. The first game has a bar in Scrap; a visit here at the start of a game could completely fill your first fighting party. The second game starts as a team joining to search for treasure and ends 3 generations later fighting a Cosmic Horror.
- While most recruitable characters are found in random houses, the fact that Adventurer's Inns in Might and Magic VIII serve as the mechanism for storing surplus recruited characters and exchanging characters is very likely a reference to this trope (possibly by way of Heroes of Might and Magic).
- On the Mordor side of The Battle Of Middle Earth II, you can build a tavern there corsairs of Umbar can be recruited from.
- Goblin Hollow includes an arc where the characters are playing D&D. The GM opens the tale with the traditional phrase, is interrupted by snarks from the players about his lack of originality, and continues by smugly adding, "...and wake up the next morning in the county jail."
- Also abused in The Order of the Stick proper: #357.
- Xkcd provides an example of this trope eating itself.
- In Heroes Of Lesser Earth this trope is so common that taverns normally have bulletin boards for adventurer recruitment.
- Weregeek features a tavern specifically designed with a very large number of dark-shadowy corners to accommodate this trope.
- The Shadowrun campaign has the nightclub variant.
- This is double-defied in Irregular Webcomic, where the characters meet this way, even though they didn't.
- DM of the Rings lampshades the Prancing Pony scene in The Lord of the Rings in this strip.
- Lampshaded in this Schlock Mercenary strip. At first they avoid it, but soon enough, they go to one and immediately find exactly what they're looking for (which isn't as much of a coincidence as usual for this trope).
- In Yamara, local bars double as employment centers, even officially. The title character goes out drinking with her friend Stress, and warns against trying to fight off the hordes of adventurers, sages in dark cloaks and barmaids with the low-down on local dragon hoards, since a bar fight will likely lead to a memorable encounter and forming a lifelong fellowship with some dweeb, and who wants that?
- Then she announces they'll join the party of whichever group buys them the most drinks, and the two of them get plastered for free.
- Our Little Adventure begins at The Wayside, the tavern/inn where Julie tells her boss she has to quit. Angelika and Rocky meet with them right outside.
- Rusty and Co.'s tavern of choice is named the Proverbial Hook.
- Spoofed in Exiern in an entire arc where Tiffany (and several background characters) are just trying to have a quiet drink without being bothered by the stereotypical adventure seekers, fortune tellers, and quest-givers (they fail).
- In Narbonic, story-arcs have a tendency of ending in bars.
- Crawllers A flashback reveals that the original Crawlers met in an inn. Earlier in the series the trope is made fun of as a device to let readers know the generic soldiers are actually new players.
- This Fauxtivational Poster. Déjà vu, anyone?..
- New York Magician: Most of Michel's escapades start in bars.
- The eponymous Drogans of Dungeons and Drogans meet several new members in a number of inns.
- Public houses, coffee houses, cafes, beer gardens, saloons, etc. have historically served as meeting places for various groups who would, in turn, discuss politics, religion, economics, revolution, science, etc. Hence, not only adventures, but great societal movements, began with someone meeting in an inn.
- TVs and stereos in pubs/bars may smother to death this state of affairs.
- TVs you can usually ignore, but that chest-thumping music definitely kills any chance of conversation; you can't hear yourself yell in some of these places!
- So you just go to a coffee house or such place instead. Really, it's an extremely logical choice. If you meet with somebody who is a stranger, it helps to meet in a place easy to find, that is warm or air conditioned, and where food and drink can be had as needed (talks can get long). There's the option of making a good impression by paying or making a good food suggestion. Also in the case of people you never met before, meeting in a very public place adds some safety. Those reasons existed way back, and remained mostly the same in modern times.
- The Raleigh Tavern was the spot of several noteworthy (minor but crucial) events in the lead-up to the American revolution and was a spot where many leading Virginians, including George Washington, were known to dine. The United States started at an inn. Okay, that's stretching it a bit ”okay, a lot” but it's a historical location you wouldn't want to overlook as concerns this trope....
- Wasn't there some German incident known as the Munich Beer Hall Putsch? Hmm...
- Although the Nazi Party had existed for a while before then, and it would take them around 10 more years to actually achieve power.
- The French cafes were notorious as meeting places of various Enlightenment thinkers, some of whom became the later revolutionaries who overthrew the monarchy.
- In their early days, both the London Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange were a bunch of broker-traders who hung out at a set of coffee shops in the same neighborhood, like Change Alley in London circa 1700, or the Merchant's Coffee House and Tontine Coffee House in NYC circa 1790.
- Lloyd's of London started in Llyod's Coffee House circa 1688.
- In some cases, coffee houses got such a reputation for being dens of anti-establishment dissent that the government actually tried to suppress them. Naturally, this only added fuel to the fire in a lot of cases.
- TVs and stereos in pubs/bars may smother to death this state of affairs.
- The three guys who would go on to form Austrian black metal band Summoning met up at a pub. Oddly appropriate, seeing as how the main theme of the band is Tolkien high fantasy.
- Then there's the Pixar Lunch, where after finishing Toy Story, several key members of the Pixar team got together to discuss future films, which would later become A Bugs Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and WALL-E. You have to wonder just WHAT was in the food there.
- Guy Fawkes worked with twelve other people, one of whom was drafted for being the only person sitting at the next table in the pub. (Unfortunately for them, this was the man who wrecked their plan by writing a letter to his friend in parliament telling him not to go because of the plot.
- Ferret Steinmetz's anecdote, "The Worst Game I Ever Played In", about an incompetent Planescape Game Master, describes the opening of the game thus:
The DM sighed, and in a voice that sounded like a very bored computer, he read the opening portion: "All right you guys are in a bar and a woman comes up to you and says 'Hey do you guys want a job?'"
- There is a diner called Buck's in Woodside, a small town in Silicon Valley, where several IT / Internet firms were founded. (See here).
- The United States Marine Corps is traditionally regarded as having been founded at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tun_Tavern