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Inspired partly by this question I have noticed that the natural progression of my campaign has led to a path that could potentially land my players with the oppurtunity to take ownership of a tavern.

Now, aside from the obvious inner-city random encounters table from the DMG. I'd be interested to know what experience others have with this game concept and keeping things fresh and entertaining, namely:

  • How difficult did you find it to manage the balance between business and adventures?
  • Did it happen by chance for your group, or was it all part of the plan (either in your mind or the group)
  • Has anyone drawn up any tables for running costs, ware & tear etc.?

My googling didn't return any sound results so I thought I might post it here! With the above points, should no one have any experience with this scenario, I may very well try and make it happen and get a blog or a "template" sheet up.

Having run real world bars and inns, I think it might be quite interesting to work out this that and the other and I'm sure I can factor in common problems and factor them into D&D!

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You might consider checking out an adventure path called "Second Darkness". It's not on 3.5 but pathfinder, however it's still pretty close. On that adventure PCs begin as workers and might end up having a tavern and it provides an explanation on how to handle it. Basically, the innkeeper makes a Profession check with PCs skills(Diplomacy,Intimidate) aid or hamper that check depending on their roll. The innkeeper's check determines how much you earn that week etc. –  Can Canbek Sep 3 '13 at 10:18

3 Answers 3

I had a character in a campaign with ranks in Profession: Innkeeper (character history reasons, that's what he trained to do before life took him another way). For the daily work of running an operation like an inn, we abstracted it with the profession roll. As that campaign was focused on an epic quest and not running an inn, I was okay with that (but it's not terribly interesting!).

If you want to focus on this more, I've got some fairly applicable tips from the item shop the PCs in my game are running.

  1. Managing the "business" can be as easy or as difficult as you want. I created several NPCs that were interested in jobs. The PCs hired most of them. So they have sales people, a delivery boy, a guard, and an accountant (who tallies the sales, pays commissions, and gets the coin to the bank safely). The PCs had the option of doing all that themselves, but they prefer to pay someone to do the day to day things and they focus on the bigger picture instead. (For example, they came up with what type of marketing campaign to do, and they negotiated a deal with an embassy in the city to feature goods from that nation in their store for a commission.) This is the big thing when it comes to having a balance between business and adventure. Making decisions and dealing with problems that come up at the store is interesting IMO for the PCs, but making cooking roles 20 times a day to serve meals is not.
  2. In my campaign, it's by design. In the game I was playing it just sort of happened: we happened to get stuck in a military town and they had an inn where soldiers were sleeping but that didn't have an owner (it was just confiscated I think). We ended up having to stay there, and so I put my skills to work. It GREATLY improved our popularity with the rank & file soldiers that they had pub food & drink instead of barracks food.
  3. I've never seen a table with these kind of costs factored into it. A standard restaurant cost multiplier to figure out prices is 3x (that is, the price you pay is triple their food cost). If you look in the Players Handbook at the average cost of meals & drinks (shifting up or down for the quality of the establishment the PCs are running), you could extrapolate from that what the food costs would be. Labour costs tend to be per week, you could use low level NPCs with the Profession skill and come up with an average roll for them to determine their weekly wage (treat it as if they were using the skill and take 10). Wear & Tear along with rent is probably something you'll just have to make up, based on how profitable you want it to be if the PCs do well and attract a solid client base. (For the item shop they have standard wages + commissions on sales. I track the items sold and then use a spreadsheet on Google Docs to calculate the commissions & profit.)

A tavern is a great setting because so many people come through the doors, and so much happens there. It's one of the hubs of a community. PCs that go in and talk up their clients will probably get all sorts of tips about potential adventures, rumors about ancient treasure, and fun like that. Plus you never know when a Rogue and his friends might turn up and try to cheat at gambling.

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In Dungeon Masters Guide 2 starting on page 180 there are rules about players running businesses, everything you could need.

As a DM I prefer to steer my players away from running businesses like taverns, inns, and shops. It just doesn't mesh with my style of DMing, I like epic settings with fantastic adventures, not the adventures of the innkeepers and bar maids.

However it has never stopped my players from finding a way to do so, since my campaigns are sandbox mostly I let them get away with a little bit of business as long as it doesn't interfere with the adventure, my players often consider themselves a literal Adventuring Company, but let me tell you a little story.

In a campaign a few years ago I decided I was going to introduce the players to guns. They actually discovered the formula for gunpowder and a prototype flintlock pistol in the lair of an evil wizard. I planned on this just being an asset to the players to help them on their adventures, but they decided that this was a hint that they should become arms dealers and mass produce the guns and gunpowder. At that point I wanted to just tell them no, but that goes against my sandbox campaign style. So I had to throw an immediate adventure hook at them that was urgent, a little bit railroady but that is as much railroading as I'll ever do. In the end they never got around to becoming arms dealers, but I could smell it throwing a wrench in my campaign from a mile away. If I had let it happen then the campaign would go from fighting the BBEG and his minions to a quest to find the elements needed for the gunpowder.

Now this is not to say this will be your experience. If your campaign is majorly urban in setting, and this is they type of campaign you want to run, go for it, but make it more of a side thing unless you and your players really want to make it the focal point of the campaign.

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there could have been a reason the plans for the pistol were only a prototype..either the gun or the powder could have been unfinished & dangerous. A costly discovery had you let them attempt the profession. Granted, railroading was probably nicer than having their dreams crushed hard but just like some spells dont pan out, neither does all technology. –  Ben-Jamin Jan 27 at 22:26

I have run campaigns where the PCs ended up owning shops, bars, or other businesses. Here are some tips regarding your specific questions.

How difficult did you find it to manage the balance between business and adventures?

This really depends on the size of your group, but in general you don't want to get bogged down in the nitty gritty details of running a business.

If you have 3 or fewer players, it should be easy to make their business part of the adventure. There could be competitors trying to assassinate the PC, a thieves' guild trying to run a protection racket on the shop, or the PC could go adventuring for rare ingredients to make a better product. These things are much more interesting to play out than running the mundane tasks of a business.

For larger groups, its a bit harder because the rest of the players may be sitting around while you play out these scenarios. Therefore, you should do them less frequently, and have the business run in the background.

Did it happen by chance for your group, or was it all part of the plan (either in your mind or the group)

For my groups it usually happens by chance. I usually play a more improv type game though. I have a general concept of the campaign story, but the PCs can do whatever they want. I still usually try to plan before each session though, so once I know a PC wants a bar, I'll plan some encounters that will let him acheive that goal.

Has anyone drawn up any tables for running costs, ware & tear etc.?

I don't think there are any tables for this, but I'd advise you not to spend too much time thinking about it. You can simply use the PC's profession skill and give him modifiers based on the circumstances. If it's a new business, start with a -8 modifier. If he bought an existing business, adjust the modifier based on how popular it is. If the thieve's guild is running a protection racket on the shop, apply an additional -2 modifier. If he acquired secret ingredients to improve the product, apply a + 2 modifier. More adventures lead to more bonuses.

Additionally, once per month he can spend 50 gp to promote in a new part of town. A successful diplomacy check means the promotion worked, and he now gets a +1 modifier to his profession checks. You can tweak that, but it should get you started. Remember to keep it simple.

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