Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tavern Maker, a wonderful DM utility program

I don't know about you, but for me, one of the most frustrating things that can happen in a gaming session is the players suddenly deciding their characters are hungry and tired and in need of a little social interaction--so they say, "I inquire as to the nearest inn or tavern."

Having had no idea when they might get tired or hungry, you invent a tavern location on the fly. Why is it that PCs only want to investigate the things you have not planned for them to investigate? Is it that players can smell fear in a DM?

Sure enough, as soon as they walk inside the "I Just Made It Up" inn, they want to know who is sitting at every table, what they are all talking about, who looks like the best target for pick pocketing, where every door leads, what the locals know about the price of tea in Calimshan, how hot the fire is...etc.

They also want every inn they visit to have unique menu items and my players will actually go to the trouble of COMPARISON SHOPPING from inn to inn in order to get the best deal on a bed and a meal. They want to know what the locally brewed beer tastes like and where the wines are imported from....I can only testify that the role playing habits of 30 and 40 year olds are much different from those of 13 and 20 year olds.

My players...gotta love them...because without them, I'm just an old guy sitting in the basement with a very expensive toy collection.

Well, friends and fellow Dungeon Masters, if you have these troubles, as I have had these troubles, fear not! Your troubles are over!

Yesterday, while I was scrying with my Orb of Omniscience (aka "Google Ball"), I discovered discovered through a link on D&D Adventures: Dungeon Master Resources one of the most useful utility programs I've ever encountered: Project Tavern Maker v5.0. (By the way, the rotating d20 is by the same person who created Project Tavern Maker, Bernhard Schaffer.)

How Tavern Maker v5.0 Works

This is a Team Ware utility (mixture of Freeware and ShareWare) which, when downloaded and installed, allows you to pop in some parameters (normal clientel, size of tavern, etc.) and then with a click of a button it gives you a map, player descriptions of all the patrons and DM information such as what is in their pockets and what they might be up to in this establishment.

There is no money required to download the Tavern Maker, you only have to register to use it. Registration requires that you submit 5 seperate patron descriptions and DM information sets which will then be reviewed and integrated into the program. Thus, all the content in the program is user generated!

I downloaded it last night and have been playing around with it a little. Most of the descriptions are pretty short and bare bones...I think because, like me, most people aren't prepared to come up with 5 sets of detailed descriptions when they register and are downloading this thing precisely because they are frustrated by having to come up with detailed tavern descriptions on the fly. But, if you decide to take your time, or if you come up with your five descriptions before you register, you should avoid any real frustration. As they say on their site repeatedly, the more detailed and interesting the user entries, the more detailed and interesting the program becomes.

I'm going to put a few screenshots here, to give you an idea of what the program looks like and can do, as well as give you some examples of what the descriptions might look like so that you can come up with something to top them. You may also notice that in addition to taverns, the Tavern Maker tool can create forests and villages on the fly with the same magical ease!

I want to thank the makers of this program, all the users who have helped make it such a great tool and also you, if you decide to add to the content.

The folks at Tavern Maker have a few interesting hooks to increase user activity, like they don't let you have a user avatar in the chat forum unless you are a regular poster or have contributed significantly to the content of the program. Hats off to them!

As a disclaimer, and because this is an executable program you have to download and install, I do have to say that I am a new user of Tavern Maker and can not guarantee that it contains no malicious badware or that your registration information won't be abused. But I can tell you that I am a registered user, have so far suffered no ill effects, ran a full system scan with Norton after downloading and found no threats, and my impression from reading the website is that they are good natured folks who honestly want to contribute something positive to the global gaming community.

From what I have seen so far...they have. Of course, let me know if Shandar has made a mistake or if you have any troubles with the program. Post them in the comments section and people can read your review before they decide to download it themselves. Also, you should go to the Tavern Maker website and read it all thoroughly before making your own decisions, at your own risk.



Blogger Bejoscha said...

Hi Shandar!
Thanks for this nice review of our Project. I do not have much to add besides three little things:

1.) We are gamers ourselves, and we do not have any indentation of adding any kind of spy- or malware. Nevertheless, please inform us, if you ever come across somethings suspicious concerning the TavernMaker Project. We had several hackers in our former Feedback-Forum and files on our server are only as save as our account at this provider.

2.) Even if you do not register as user at once, you can download and use TavernMaker without restrictions! So, if you are new, download and test. When you have the feeling for the descriptions, then sign up the Project. The only limitation of not being registrated is, that there is an (increasing) waiting period at the beginning of the program. We rather wait for our descriptions somewhat longer than becoming just silly one-liners. (I have to read them all, so you can guess how bored I become. And how much I like "xyqwerts"-entries!)

3.) If you have to say something about the program, it is nice to comment it here. But please make sure that you also send us your comments! Either in our feedback-forum or as email...

4:22 AM  

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