The Definitive Guide To The RPG Inn

plenty of room at the inn

Pillars of Eternity is out. You might have noticed. I’m not terribly far into it myself yet, but in between a spot of bear-bashing and wolf-wounding, I was struck by how very RPG Inn the first inn I visited was. Truly, the Black Hound Inn in the town of Gilded Vale is the archetypal RPG inn. I knew, the second I stepped foot in it, what it was, what I could do in it, what every part of it signified. There would be no surprises and no menace, but it would be as comfortable as cotton wool slippers. It felt like every RPG inn ever, because it is every RPG inn ever. Let me show you around the place.

Please click on the image for a full-size version:

1. Look at that. Neat, perfect floors, as spotless as a baby messiah’s bottom at bathtime. That’s the thing with RPG inns – they might be populated by poorly-washed medieval types who slosh thick, brown beer all over the floor and occasionally punch each other to death over a misunderstanding about someone’s prophecy, but somehow it still seems like you could safely eat dinner right off the floor. The RPG Inn doesn’t want you to feel dirty or uncomfortable. It wants you to feel welcome and safe. N.B. everything must be brown. Paint is forbidden in The RPG Inn.

2. Ah, the barman or barmaid. Glued to the spot, never troubled by another other customers, there only to serve you. Because The RPG Inn is all about you. In the RPG Inn, you never have to queue, never have to wave a note around in the universal signal of “I’m not just standing in this incredibly busy spot to rest my elbows, I really do want to buy a drink”, never have that thing where the bar staff pretend to be looking at something three feet behind your shoulder in order that they don’t have to make eye contact and thereby initiate a transaction. The RPG Inn is yours, and yours alone.

3. Riff-raff, clearly. That dude’s even brought a big sword into a public space. Up to no good, surely. But no. In The RPG Inn, even clear ne’er do wells hang around harmlessly. They would never dream of disrupting your RPG Inn Experience – unless of course you specifically choose it to be so. Notice also how the riff-raff all stand in small groups, pretending like they don’t know anyone else in here even though this whole town clearly only has a population of 17.

4. Please observe how every bench and stool is unoccupied. No-one ever sits down in The RPG Inn. If they were to sit down, they’d have to stand up when you went over to talk to them, thereby introducing unacceptable delays into your RPG Inn Experience. The people in this RPG Inn, like in every other RPG Inn, will stand on their calloused and lightly bleeding feet for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, ignoring the terrible damage to their bodies in the name of ensuring you can receive an instant soundbyte in the event you ever wanted to talk to them again. You will never talk to any of them more than once, unless of course one has a name other that ‘Villager’ or ‘Drunk’, which means you’ll come back to see them for a quest reward half an hour later.

5. Stairs! Another level! Whatever could be up there? The only thing that’s ever upstairs in The RPG Inn: bedrooms. These exist purely to be stolen from. No-one has ever slept in an upstairs room at The RPG Inn. They just leave some of their possessions there then politely hang around waiting for you to steal them. They put their life savings into that lousy entry-level shield they stuffed into that wardrobe, you know. They did that for you.

6. Token interactive object yielding token mention of this place being dirty and squalid, in clear disregard for point 1. However, being told that The RPG Inn is dirty and squalid is a vital part of The RPG Inn Experience; experiencing said dirt and squalor is very much against the nature of The RPG Inn Experience, however.

7. Look, here’s a box with some money and a vegetable in it. You can take it if you like. Nobody minds. They’re all for it, in fact. They left it there for you. N.B. attempting to take the money and vegetable from the box in the kitchen will result in the chef getting very cross. Please refer to Document 412.1b: Rules and Regulations Regarding Courtesy Box Of Money And Vegetable In The RPG Inn for further information about this arrangement.

8. A massive, mostly empty kitchen containing exactly one chef. A family of 8 could live in that floor space, but all he does with it is keep a box containing some money and a vegetable on a shelf at the back. None of The RPG Inn’s customers ever leave their spots, so he never has to cook. He’s paid to just hang around in this massive, empty kitchen all day long, which is why he keeps all his wordly possessions – a box containing some money and a vegetable – in there with him. This chef’s whole life is this room. Years ago, it seemed pointlessly massive to him too. Now it’s a cell, the walls closing in on him more each day. And the oven fire burns continually, of course. The RPG Inn Kitchen wouldn’t be The RPG Inn Kitchen without an eternal flame. This means the room has become a skin-blistering furnace. The chef is extremely worried that this has caused his vegetable to wilt.

(VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Pillars of Eternity is really good).

This article was first published as part of, and thanks to, The RPS Supporter Program.

69 Comments

  1. melnificent says:

    That poor chef.

    But can we get a proof read please?
    “unless of course one has a name other ‘Villager’ or ‘Drunk”
    “They did for that you.”

  2. amateurviking says:

    8B: the chef’s sole purpose is to tell people to get out of the kitchen.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    (Pillars of Eternity is really good).

    You needed that footnote, because otherwise, ouch.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    It suddenly strikes me that a lot of The Witcher doesn’t do this. Benches are often occupied, the serving staff actively walks around, there’s hardly any stairs, and the floor is quite clean but there’s a bit where the riff raff actually punches eachother in the face.

    • Canadave says:

      Skyrim did a decent job as well. You can actually rent rooms, talk to people sitting down, and the inn’s employees tend to actually do stuff. I think the basic NPC schedule system they have helps too, since you’ll see people close up their shop, and then go to the inn in the evening for a drink.

      • baozi says:

        As far as I remember, in the Gothic series, people do stand up and sleep upstairs (at some inns). But there were NPC routines generally

      • alms says:

        In Skyrim I used to sit and watch and listen. The magic doesn’t last long and you begin noticing the hamster on the wheel, but while it lasts, it’s truly kind of amazing. And you can have a more intimate version in your homes.

        The inns in The Witcher (I’ve only played the first so far) are far more utilitarian in nature, then again the whole world has a different tone from Skyrim’s, so that’s OK.

        Damn Grizz, for a moment there I didn’t realize I was replying to you. Well I’m not going to edit this now, you’ll have to make do with a post written like I was replying to a non descript bear internet stranger.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      All fun aside, even Baldur’s Gate didn’t adhere to this checklist for *every* in, as every person hoping for number 3. found out rather quickly at the Nashkel Inn.

      • Abndn says:

        And that one inn in Baldur’s Gate. And two Beregost inns. Not to mention that other Beregost inn with the thief

  5. Premium User Badge

    Arnvidr says:

    What a fun little article! I don’t know why you decided to hide it away. We might (we do) need a better way to find the supporter articles, as searching for the supporter tag is a bit awkward, and as we now see, doesn’t catch all the articles.

    • Premium User Badge

      cairbre says:

      +1

    • Azagthoth says:

      Just release everything to everyone. We will keep on supporting, don’t worry.

    • Alec Meer says:

      We’re working on ways to make subs-only stuff more visible; our CMS is a wobbly old thing and it’s a very specific problem to have. Most pieces go public around a week later anyway, though.

      • Premium User Badge

        Arnvidr says:

        Less than a day after I made my comment, it was mentioned that the supporter RSS is finally getting closer to reality. That would solve all my problems at least! :)

        • JayG says:

          One of the reasons I didn’t resubscribe. Besides the fact that most of the time I don’t seem to be logged in in spite of the fact I wanted to be logged in, always seemed to miss the supporter posts until they became free. Glad to see Alec’s thoughts on POE.

  6. April March says:

    One day, we’ll have technology for characters to respond while sitting. One day.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Almost like adventure games, then (this article made me think of Monkey Island).

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        Swordfishtrombone says:

        It’s not a proper bar without someone spinning on the light fixtures.

    • drewski says:

      They responded while sitting in Baldur’s Gate 2! Mostly to tell you to sod off or drunkenly slur nonsense, admittedly.

  7. RSpace says:

    Made me chuckle several times and once again consider if Pillars of Eternity should be the first game I buy at full price in a very long time.

    • Anthile says:

      Do it.

    • RedWurm says:

      It was the first in a long time for me, don’t regret it at all. Although I do still have modded Baldur’s Gate installed somewhere, so I’m not necessarily representative of the general audience.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Do it. But wait for the 1.03 patch, which I think is due this week. Or maybe wait for one more patch, depending on what 1.03 does. There are some bugs that aren’t immediately noticeable, but will affect the gameplay in a major way. Like ever-increasing stats that shouldn’t do that, and make combat too easy. Also a few quest-breaking bugs.

      Otherwise, it’s a fun game, and looks very polished. For once, the UI doesn’t drive me nuts. Wait for a patch or two and then get it!

  8. Wulfram says:

    The Copper Coronet had seated patrons, and I believe an ambulatory barmaid. BG2 superiority confirmed?

    • Zekiel says:

      And I seem to recall you could get into a punch-up with one lot of patrons! (Not to mention actually doing a quest to change the ownership of the whole establishment!)

    • MacTheGeek says:

      The Copper Coronet has apparently run out of strrong dwaarrrrrrrvvven ale, though. That’s got to knock some points off of its travelogue score.

    • Dominare says:

      My ‘otel’s as clean as an elven arse!

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      Every inn in Baldur’s Gate 1 had seated patrons, too. The bartender never moved and never served anyone else but your lot, but there were usually a few maids wandering around and stopping at tables and at least pretending like they were serving other customers. (Point 43.9d: only NPCs get table service?)

      • PancakeWizard says:

        They all seemed to be wearing heavy clogs as well, if you remember. It sounded like a herd of elephants in Baldur’s Gate inns when you had a few wenches wandering about.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      About the Upstairs Bedroom part: sometimes, instead of empty rooms you can steal gold pantaloons from (if you have the patience to make 50 attempts at picking the lock) it contains a pack of wicked adventurers who lash out at you at the slightest provocation and then completely wipe the floor with your starting level team.

    • Horg says:

      Following on with the tradition of Inns in isometric RPGs, there is not one bog in the entire building. This is either fascinating or terrifying depending on your perspective.

  9. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    It’s not an RPG inn unless the cellar is crawling with berobed cultists, 1 standard issue blood-soaked altar, acid pit traps and a manticore, obviously.

  10. deiseach says:

    It’s as clean as an elven arse.

    • NetharSpinos says:

      Dammit, you beat me to it.

      • Dominare says:

        Beat me too, so I just posted it in a different subthread. I shall not have my thunder stolen!

  11. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    I feel they got the perspective wrong in the Black Hound Inn – like the artist originally drew it for much bigger character models or something. It’s hard to put my finger on it but it doesn’t quite feel right.

    • grimdanfango says:

      I’ve found there’s a lot of that throughout the game so far… the wilderness feels slightly artificially confined, like they took the same map sizes from the BG games, but the relative scale is twice as large, so it actually fits a quarter the amount in.
      And then the opposite is true in many other locations. Especially the urban hub maps, large empty tracts of paving between a select few sizable buildings. The interiors either seem too cramped for the grand exterior, or have a tardis-like sprawl considering the sensible exterior dimensions.

      It’s still a fantastic game in spite of all that, but I’m hoping this leads to their Baldur’s Gate 2 magnum opus, where they have the time and resources to make it truly expansive but really fill out every nook-and-cranny with detail and interest.

      • WaytoomanyUIDs says:

        RPG interiors are always slightly overscale, but I think you are onto something here, these feel waay to overscale

    • jeeger says:

      Yeah, the inn looks just slightly too large for the occupants. It isn’t cozy at all when you have 6 meters to the next table! How can you have a proper pub atmosphere if it’s not crowded?

      • arccos says:

        The story kind of explains that a bit for this pub, but I’m not further in to see if it’s the same elsewhere. This is in a dying town where there aren’t that many people left.

  12. salasq says:

    “I knew, the second I stepped foot in it, what it was, what I could do in it, what every part of it signified. There would be no surprises and no menace, but it would be as comfortable as cotton wool slippers.”

    Wait, did Obsidian just drag the emotional response befitting an actual inn out of you?

  13. Text_Fish says:

    Call me OCD, but I rather think for a floor to qualify as perfect/neat (or even remotely clear) it needs to be free of broken bottles, discarded food and ingrained dirt right up to the edges.

    • wwarnick says:

      Yeah, I thought it looked pretty filthy, too.

      • archivis says:

        People in town are quite happy to tell you the place is such a terrible rotheap that the innkeeper who owned it ran away from his duites and apparently it’s gone downhill since with the random people running it now. The top floor is worse, really :)

  14. lerouxb says:

    I was really really excited about this game and I really want to like it, but so far it is just so underwhelming and I don’t know if I’ll bother much longer. Now that I think about it, I guess I just struggle with party based RPGs in general.

    None of my decisions so far felt like they mattered, I just can’t be bothered to really figure out the boring and complex combat system, the writing (though good or at least perfectly fine) covers little new ground. The story is just like every other RPG. (you’re an outsider, you’re the one..)

    Do people actually like this kind of combat? I feel like just trying to avoid all the fights, but then what’s left about the game? Exploration is just zigzagging across the landscape, periodically checking the minimap to make sure I covered everything and stripped the land bare.

    The world feels really empty, doesn’t feel like I’m ever discovering any worthwhile loot and I just always have way too much money.

    There’s little roleplaying to be done because _someone_ in your party can probably kick down that wall or open that lock or make that witty remark or sneak past that thingy, you can just use any weapon and there seems to be little difference between them, you typically have way more skills and can only use one or two between rests.. I just haven’t encountered much gameplay-based actual roleplaying. A few dialogue choices here and there.

    Maybe I’m getting too old, but having to learn about yet another high fantasy world’s backstory and geography and what not..

    Maybe the game gets better? Anyway. 9/10, I guess.

  15. Simbosan says:

    Wot no minstrel playing an endless short crappy lute sample and spouting what is supposed to be ‘Olde Englishe’?

  16. Moorkh says:

    This might be interesting to Alec:

    link to kickstarter.com

    • Moorkh says:

      (it’s an RPG tavern sim with clean floors, riff-raff and everything)

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I got excited because I thought was an actual fantasy tavern management sim, but with the combat and outside stuff it seems like it veers from that quite a bit. I’d love a tavern sim, though.

  17. Monggerel says:

    Skyrim, shitass as it may have been, did have an underground dungeon pub as the Steal Guild’s headquarters. All very moody, especially with the rabid cultists just meters from the main entrance.

    But Skyrim isn’t an RPG. Skyrim is a game where you can choose to say meaningless things to people before you murder them. And you will murder them. If you stand around for more than 15 seconds, the game takes control away and your character automatically cannibalizes the entire population of the nearest town. Very interesting aesthetic choice, that one.

    • v1tr1ol says:

      ^ this
      skyrim’s a dull generic piece of shit. Oh, I remember the “great battle” for Solitude, 6 vs 6. My gods it sucked balls so hard.

  18. afarrell says:

    You know, if you’re actually waving a note around, I think I might know why the barstaff are staring three feet past your shoulder…

  19. kafkaeskimo says:

    How about the modern setting counterpart? The edgy nightclub.

    1. Three to four people milling/dancing on a light-up dance floor.

    2. DJ playing for about ten people in the room.

    3. No cover charge, even for male characters.

    4. Coat check girl staffed at the front, even though business is extremely slow.

    5. Ability to run through the rooms without having to push through any patrons.

    6. Bathrooms with zero lines, usually include a vent to a basement where some crime organization keeps secrets in safe.

    7. Everyone offers a lucid conversation except for one exceedingly drunk patron who usually helps you if you buy him more booze.

  20. Tellus says:

    pillars of eternity; more like piles of short stories!

  21. Wagrid says:

    “as spotless as a baby messiah’s bottom at bathtime. That’s the thing with RPG inns”

    The fact you went with this rather than making a reference to an elven arse makes me question your expertise on the whole topic.

  22. Premium User Badge

    john_silence says:

    OK, this was hilarious.
    I love how the Videogame RPG Inn is such an accurate translation of the make-up and mechanics of the perennial pen-and-paper RPG Inn.

  23. quarpec says:

    poe world actually has 26 hours per day. please fix this blatant error

  24. Kong says:

    Fascinating how RPGs, with very few recent exceptions, keep the atmosphere of Hollywood’s medieval flicks alive. From the haircut of paladins to the fact that the lowliest of peasants sleep in beds, this happens in that same neat atomic age fantasy world, where even the remotest of inns offers french beds.

    Stay with what you know. Consumer expectations have to be met. Horned helmets will never go out of style.
    My grandmother fancied and kept the same fashion style, head to toe, from about 1950 to her final days in the early 21st. She allowed her apartment’s wallpaper to change a little, variations in shade were ok, but patterns stayed.

  25. Epsilon82 says:

    It’s really weird. Lately my game tastes have diverged to the point where I would pretty much never even give a game like Pillars of Eternity a second thought, but the coverage on RPS and this article in particular really reminds me of the appeal of this genre. Having heard that there’s a lot of difficulty customization makes me think I might be able to dumb it down to the point where I could still enjoy the game without having to get too bogged down in battle micromanagement.

    It’s a little pricey at this point to take such a wild gamble, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on it in upcoming Steam sales and maybe take the plunge if it gets a decent enough discount. I really miss the sense of adventure and exploration in these sorts of games despite having tired of some of the trappings of the bulk of the gameplay itself.

  26. Czrly says:

    I’ve played PoE and I recognise the Inn in question. It is, in fact, a perfect example of the problem with PoE: the developers filled it with fan-fiction and considered their job done. There is not a single character of interest in the inn and, indeed, there is very little of true interest in the game as a whole.

    Just to clarify: this inn contains one standard inn-keeper with nothing much to say. She’s a vending machine serving you “rooms” and generic stuff that you can pick up or buy from any other shop-keep. There are no patrons that offer conversation, the only two other characters are “fan-fiction vending machines” that, on a click, will dish out one standard helping of irrelevant fan-fiction submitted by a backer.

    • WaytoomanyUIDs says:

      Yeah, this inn feels like it should have had en extended quest line, more than just rescuing the chef, which you would have done anyway if you explore half as much as I tend to do.