Why Taverns?

Why taverns? I posed this question in the foreword of the original version of Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear. Taverns are where we got our start, five years ago. We were so proud of our work at the time, though reviewing it shows how inexperienced we were and how much we’ve grown since then.

The past five years have seen an improvement in every aspect of what we do. The writing is sharper and more concise. The art is more skillfully executed, and more of it is produced in-house. The maps look great. The layouts improve every release.

We couldn’t have believed five years ago that our humble little release would be the stepping stone for working with other publishers.

If you’ve noticed a slowdown of Dire Rugrat releases, it’s due to just that fact. If you like what we do, you may be interested to know that Kelly has done work for Kobold Press, Playground Adventures, Flaming Crab Games, and other third-party publishers of D&D 5e materials. I’ve worked with Rogue Genius Games and others.

But… back to the question. Why taverns?

The local watering hole is a representation of the community as a whole, whether that community is a neighbourhood in a larger city or a tiny hamlet. Adventurers can go to the tavern, figure out what the locals are like and what problems they have, solve those problems (or make new ones), and return to the taphouse to collect payment before moving on… or not. I’m certain entire RPG campaigns could be set in a tavern, just dealing with the drama created by all those visiting adventurers!

If you downloaded the latest Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear because you received a notification of an updated version, thank you for your patronage these last five years. 

To those who are new to what Dire Rugrat does, welcome!

I’m excited to see what the next five years hold for us and our little company, and hope many of you reading this will come along for the ride. Regardless, put your feet up, pour yourself your favourite drink, and enjoy this little slice of our gaming reality.

We’re pleased to announce the anniversary edition of Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear. These new files include more original artwork, a revised colour map, and additional stat blocks for 5e and Pathfinder.

Ken Pawlik, September 2020


Pick up Your Copy Today

Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (5e)








Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (Pathfinder Compatible)








Tangible Taverns: The Bull & The Bear (System Neutral)  


Adventure Adviser: Delectable Dragonfly

The Delectable Dragonfly


7 reviews     |        $$, Tea Service, Spa Services

Ratings and Reviews




Tea Service, Light Lunch


Seating, Table Service, Spa Treatment

Vast Collection of Teas

I am always impressed with the selection of available teas. Every pot is perfectly brewed.
Tangible Taverns: The Delectable Dragonfly

stupid place for stupid women

This is nothing but some fancy tea parlour for uppity noblewomen with nothing better to do.

Excellent service

The staff go above and beyond without being obtrusive. If you’d like to enjoy an afternoon with acquaintances and don’t wish to host them in your own home, I highly recommend the Delectable Dragonfly.
Rosalind Alderidge
Tangible Taverns: The Delectable Dragonfly


I enjoyed a few afternoon teas here while staying in town on business. The quality of service is superb. It was an excellent way to meet some important and influential people.
Deloris Franz
5e NPCs: Bullies & Brutes

delectable additions are the icing on the cake

The delectable additions are the reason I visit. If you haven’t explored this menu you are missing out.

Class Act

The Dragonfly is a class act from start to finish. Everything is meticulously decorated and cared for. The presentation of the food is impeccable, and the quality is excellent. The perfect place to spend the afternoon - with friends, or on your own.
Maeve W.
Tangible Taverns: The Delectable Dragonfly

They do try

This little tea house can be quite lovely. Prim does her best, but sometimes they are short staffed, the food is substandard, or they have an error with their books and do not have the correct person on hand. I recommond visiting, but suggest you keep your expections moderate.
Eva Lurancree
Tangible Taverns: The Delectable Dragonfly

Adventure Adviser: Gumption



6 reviews     |        $, Home-Style Food, Lodging

Ratings and Reviews




Breakfast, Dinner


Seating, Table Service, Large Property to Walk, Working Farm, Small Rooms for Rent

A Waterfowl Enthusiast’s Dream 

I'd heard rumours of the mysterious property filled with an incredible assortment of waterfowl, but I didn't believe it to be true until I saw it with my own eyes. Harbrum has an incredible selection of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. I was particularly impressed when I spotted a Drovan's Redbeak. True bird watchers will understand the magnitude of this bird's presence in such a location.
Larnit Hemshire
Nature enthusiast

don’t like the squirrel

Bring a bedroll, and don't expect to sleep in the main house. The place is good enough, but there's this weird squirrel statue that made me feel like I was being watched.
5e NPCs Bullies & Brutes


Something weird is going on here.. my friend went missing and they won't say what happened to him
like i'd tell you!!


bed was good. food was good. was a nice place to stay.
Trune K

Home away from home

The kids here are just the sweetest, and Harbrum is a delight. I stumbled on the place by accident and stayed a few days enjoying the amazing property. Magenta even sent me on my way with lunch when I left.
Celeste T.

knack with animals

This is the perfect place for stop for a break, and not just because there is nothing else around for miles. The rooming cabins are sufficient (and far better than being out in the open), the food is filling, and the proprietors are welcoming. Even more than that, they have a real knack with animals. Our horses had a rough go of things before our arrival and the Kettlebees let us stable them for a few days. Never seen those creatures happier.
Cleo Arnsdorfsen
Hauler of Folks

Adventure Adviser: The Hut

The Hut


4 reviews     |        $, Home-Style Food, Hostel

Ratings and Reviews




Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Seating, Table Service, Liquor, Hostel Beds

A Good Place to Go

I like it here. Mama's food is really good, and she always gives my pup a treat.
cloudy forest by Lum3n

Lucky find

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon this place some time ago. It had been a rough few days and Mama took me in. The food she made was delicious. The beds were very comfortable.

a hut in the middle of nowhere

Inconvenient location. Too much wildlife. No private rooms. Food was spicy. Do not recommend.

Nice place to rest

Durgal and I enjoyed the food here. It was nice to get inside. Mama was friendly. 
Evie Longheart

Have a character who visited The Hut and wants to share their experience? Submit it and it could be featured here!

Don’t forget to include your character’s name. 

Inbar’s Guide to the Northlands

Kobold Press has a series of blog posts, written by Kelly, about Inbar. This young woman left her home and family in Siwal to explore the Northlands. She records her adventures in letters she sends home to her family.

In addition to Ibar’s insights these blog posts contain more information about the Northlands, a region of Kobold Press’ Midgard campaign setting.

Illusions with Kids

Everyone seems to be offering free or discounted classes right now. I don’t have extra time because three kids at home full time, but hey, that’s okay. I still found this go at your own pace video based class. It’s called ‘The Science of Well Being’ and is touted as a Yale class being offered through Coursera. It’s been one night, so I’m not going to get into that, but there was this great bit about the GI Joe Fallacy.

Knowing is Half the Battle

She explains that, in the 80’s GI Joe cartoon there were public service announcements at the end of each episode. At the end of them, the kid would thank the GI Joe who delivered the PSA, and he or she would say “Knowing is half the battle.”

Professor Laurie Santos disagrees, saying that just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.

Then she showed some optical illusions. The first one was the Muller-Lyer illusion. It looks like this:

Muller-Lyer illusion

So the question is: which line appears longer?  The top one.

Seeing is Believing

Look closely. They are the same length.

Muller-Lyer illusion

Even when we know this, the top one still appears longer.

Professor Laurie Santos goes on to explain our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think.

Seeing isn’t always believing.

And knowing isn’t always half the battle.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.

I saw this as a great opportunity to teach the Rugrats how to question what they see, even if they see it with their own eyes.

For today’s class at the College of Very Interesting Disciplines, we talked about illusions!

I likened this to their first class of illusion magic. The second class is coming soon and we’re all excited about it (shadow puppets!).

We looked at the Muller-Lyer illusion above first. Rugrat#1 had seen it before, so I learned they do cover this in school, at at least one of his teachers did.

Duck or Bunny?

Then we took a look at this one:

duck or bunny illusion

Do you see a duck? Or a bunny?

All of the Rugrats said a duck, even though I held it as a bunny at first.

Rugrat#1 had seen this before, so he found both of them, but he still defaulted to the duck first.

Two Faces or a Pedestal?

pedestal or people illusion

So, Rugrat#1 called this a gauntlet. He meant goblet, but either way, I love he knows those words. This led to a great talk about both of those items.

Everyone saw the pedestal first in my house.


This illusion lets us see how our mind can fill in a blank space.

triangle illusion

There is not actually a white triangle there.

Now, oddly, my Rugrats started counting out a ton of triangles, seeing each point as its own triangle because of the other triangle intercepting it.

Two Faced

The last illusion we looked at was this one.

two faced illusion

There is a young women and an old crone in this image, depending on how you look at it.

Ken taught us all this one is the trickiest of them all. He has never been able to see either face in the image.

The Rugrats worked together to try to find the faces, and they all claim to be able to see them.

How’d You Do?

I hope you had some fun exploring illusions. If you did, share them with someone else stuck at home. Then use these skills!

And as a bonus:

“Imagine Everyone is a Vampire”

A friend of mine said this recently and I think it’s important. Don’t scare the kids with this one, but practice this “illusion” for yourself.

Stay inside.

Don’t let anyone into your home.

Don’t get too close to anyone.

The sooner we can all properly practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, the sooner we can flatten the curve!

an underground cavern

Halflings, Ghouls and Horses: oh my!

Okay, so we really got lost in a world of Kobolds.

On top of all of the settings, mini adventures and other products listed in that post, I’ve been hard at work with a few more great products for this really great producer of 5e content. There are a couple of them still in the works, and Kobold Press will have more about them soon.

Empire of the Ghouls

This really successfully Kickstarter vs. the undead wrapped up a little while ago, and if you were one of the 2,000+ backers who jumped aboard, shipments should be going out in April. It was a great pleasure to have a hand in this project and I cannot wait to see the whole thing come together.

The lead designer is Richard Green, and contributing designers include Chris Lockey, Dan Dillon, Jeff Lee, Jon Sawatsky, Mike Welham, and Wolfgang Baur. Plus me – Kelly Pawlik! The project editor is Meagan Maricle and she is incredible. If you didn’t take part in this Kickstarter, watch their website and pick up a copy once it is available. 

Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, 2nd Edition

Because sometimes you want a break from settings and adventures, you can find my essay in this great resource.

Between these covers, you’ll find practical, thought-provoking essays on worldbuilding, creating magic systems, conflict, and compelling stories, what to expect when you work as a design professional, and much more. Conceptual chapters examine what game design is and how good design can create the best games. Concrete examples provide models to help you create well-rounded designs and exciting adventures.

More about these essays can be found on the Kobold Press website. 

Warlock 17: Halflings

If you prefer supplements you can use at your gaming table, check out Warlock 17: Halflings.

This handy little Warlock magazine details three branches of the halfling family tree. Scott Gable asked me to work on this one, and it also features work by Victoria Jaczko. 

Tangible Taverns: Gumption

With everything going on in the world right now, we’re sticking closer to home and trying to tie up some loose ends. If you’re like us, you might think the current state of things makes it the perfect time to settle in, stay home, and play some RPGs.

If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered with a new Tangible Tavern.

Located in the middle of no-where (which some say is the perfect place to be right now!), this tavern is a refuge for weary travellers. No, it isn’t the one in the middle of the woods under a tree, or a hut located on the river, this little farmstead is something new. And there’s a horse with a secret!

Stay tuned – it’s coming soon!


30 Drama System Themes

We recently took a break from more combat focused game systems in favor of trying a DramaSystem rules engine. For our first go-around with it, we used it in combination with a 5e campaign we ran, but for the second, we went full on Drama System, and we are loving it! If you haven’t checked it out yet, or even heard of it, here’s the basic synopsis:

With the Hillfolk roleplaying game, you and your group weave an epic, ongoing saga of high-stakes interpersonal conflict that grows richer with every session. Its DramaSystem rules engine, from acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws, takes the basic structure of interpersonal conflict underlying fiction, movies and television and brings it to the world of roleplaying. This simple framework brings your creativity to the fore and keep a surprising, emotionally compelling narrative constantly on the move.

Because it is set up similar to a television show, each session is an “episode” and each episode has a theme. The ideal drama system campaign is said to be 10-12 episodes per “season.”

There is a good sized collection of episode themes in the Hillfolk book by Pelegrane Press, but if you have played a lot of sessions, you may find yourself in need of additional themes.

The list below is a collection of some of the themes we have used in our recent campaign.

  • A New World
  • Beginnings
  • Bittersweet
  • Conflict
  • Demons
  • Desire
  • Family Ties
  • Friendship
  • Knots
  • Legacies
  • Many Happy Returns
  • Moving Forward
  • Moving Pieces
  • Out of the Frying Pan
  • Picking up the Pieces
  • Positioning
  • Puzzle Pieces
  • Second Chances
  • Shadows
  • Show Time
  • Something New
  • Surprise
  • Taking Charge
  • Transitions
  • Triumph
  • Truths
  • Unravelling
  • Waking Up
  • Winter
  • Workin’ It

Have you tried the Drama System?
What themes have you used?

Open Origins: Royston and Petunia Hamperstand

Sometimes an NPC’s story begins long before they are born. The fate of these characters can be traced back to the decisions of their parents, characters who, while interesting, are unlikely to ever meet the PCs, and as such, their tale goes unnoticed and untold along with hundreds of others about the places the PCs explore.

Our Open Origins series focuses on these bit characters and gives some history and context to some of our NPCs.

Royston and Petunia were a match made by the gods. Dedicated to the intense study of magic, the pair of halflings were undefeatable by just about any foe that crossed their path. Petunia had begun her studies early in life and excelled quickly. When she met Royston the two maintained a friendly feud for a time, but eventually admitted their feelings for each other. Their love was intense and pure, as strong as their combined forces against those that would move against them.

Petunia was kind-hearted and generous, no matter how powerful she became. At her insistence, the pair helped those in need, and always came to the aid of the rulers of the kingdom in which they resided. They quickly developed a reputation for charity and Petunia especially was beloved by the smallfolk. After some years together Petunia became with child, and their son was born some time later. Little Billet Hamperstand with his brown ringlets and chubby face was celebrated by everyone in the kingdom, and Petunia and Royston had never been happier.

When Billet was a toddler the city was attacked by a band of orcs that had been growing restless in the nearby mountains. Officials, as well as Petunia and Royston, had been keeping an eye on them, but they had seemed disorganized and scattered. The sudden organized attack had been impossible to predict. 

The pair rushed to assist the city, hiding Billet in a nearby home with some trusted acolytes before proceeding to the hilltop where they would have the best vantage to fend off the opposition. They had almost reached their destination when Petunia heard a squeal from Billet. She pivoted on her heel, realizing her young child had followed her into danger. Unbeknownst to the residents, the orcs were a distraction meant to allow an assassin inside the walls of the city.

Petunia’s eyes met her sons only for a second before the assassin upon her. The unsuspecting halfling was no match for the silent stalker, and right there in front of Billet, she perished. It was quick, too quick even for Petunia to see the horror that crossed her toddler’s face, too quick to see her son faint or her husband attack her killer. A single wound to the throat.

Royston, also hearing his son, had turned and seen the whole thing. He and the nearby guards quickly dispatched the assassin. Alas, despite Royston’s best efforts, and those of the local healer, his beloved Petunia could not be revived. 

Royston was devastated, but he gathered Billet, and prepared himself for a life without his beloved wife.

Consumed with Petunia’s death, Royston poured much of his energy into furthering his own magical ability and determining who sent the assassin after his wife. What remained was focused on his son Billet in whom he instilled the idea that the boy was destined for greatness, and that he was to follow in the footsteps of his parents. 

Royston became increasingly powerful, eventually surpassing the skill of his late wife. Despite Petunia’s passion for assisting others, Royston turned his back on helpless citizens of nearby towns and others in need, determined no one else in his family would sacrifice their life in service to the weak and incapable. Instead, he and his son remained locked in their town, forever studying and researching.

Much to Royston’s frustration, Billet struggled with his studies and when the boy reached puberty, Royston sent his son to an arcane academy, where it was hoped he would finally excel in his magical studies. Billet despised the school and wrote to his father constantly begging he be allowed to return home, but Royston, for his part, had become even more obsessed with finding the identity of the individual who had his beloved wife killed, and so he refused his son’s requests.

After much magical investigation, Royston was confident his wife could be attributed to a seer assisting a powerful noble in gaining control of the land, and Royston set off to enact his revenge. While much of the intel the widower had gleaned was correct, he was not prepared for the seer to be Primula Flemarand, Petunia’s own sister and a fellow student from many years prior who had been most interested in Royston during their studies. Royston had spurned her advances due to his interest in Petunia (who was unaware of Primula’s interest).

Where Petunia was patient and caring, Primula was impulsive and selfish. Where Petunia was gentle and encouraging, Primula was forceful and demanding. The sisters were as different as night and day. Primula, ever second to her smarter, prettier and more charming older sister had been furious at the time and her anger for Royston and Petunia had festered and boiled to pure hatred in the years since.

Primula’s power had finally blossomed, and with her gift of foresight she knew breaking the bond between her sister and Royston would change the tides for her new employer; the fact that it allowed her to finally seek her revenge against the man who spurned her was mere icing on the cake.

And so, when Royston confronted the oracle who was responsible for setting the wheels of his wife’s death in motion, he was caught off guard by the familiar face. In that brief moment of hesitation, Primula gained the upper hand. Royston, quickly found himself underprepared for the battle and so he retreated to his tower, hoping to collect himself and attempt once more to avenge his wife.  

Primula, knowing such a thing was likely to happen, had already advised her employer, who sent agents to dispatch the wounded halfling, and so, inside his own home, the great and powerful Royston Hamperstand was slain.

From her crystal ball, Primula now watches over her nephew, ever curious to see what the young man will become.

Learn more about their son Billet Hamperstand, the humourless halfling in 5e NPCs: Flawed Foes.

Lost in a World of Kobolds

5e NPCs: Flawed Foes coverA big hello to our fans out there. We told you there were more products coming this year, and while that hasn’t been completely untrue (you can pick up our newest 5e NPC codex here), there haven’t been as many Dire Rugrat publications as we’d planned.

Why? Well, Kelly has been busy writing for Kobold Press!

If you haven’t checked out their Warlock magazines, what are you waiting for? Each issue of this bimonthly ‘zine contains three or four different articles, each matching the theme of the issue. You can check out a preview of Warlock 10: Magocracies here.

And if the Shadow Realm and creepy fey creatures are more your jam, why not pick up the Guide to the Shadow Realm? You can read Lou Ander’s write up of it here.

And finally, a mini adventure called Fowl Play has also been published.

There should be more coming from us soon, but in the meantime, you can find Kelly’s work over with Kobold Press.