Tavern Brawl Builder is a supplement by Jean Lorber.
The purpose of the supplement is to provide a simple but effective way to create tavern brawls.
The mechanics chapter is really short. I believe that reinforces the simplicity this supplement tries to achieve. A brawl is perceived as one creature, which may be surprising but actually seems to work pretty nicely. They come in two different CR variations, one standard and one difficult. Another interesting thing is the way the brawl attacks the characters. Using contested skill checks is a nice idea because it keeps the players occupied and focused in the game even when it’s not their turn.
Tavern brawls should be non lethal and that’s achieved by them not dealing hit point damage. The characters have two chances to protect themselves each turn and if they fail they fall unconscious. As for the players, there is a suggestion on how to keep them from straight murdering people left and right, but it’s pretty open on how each Dungeon Master should handle it.
Build Your Brawl
This is the largest part of the supplement, because it provides pretty much anything you need to create a tavern brawl. First of all, there are 10 unusual taverns presented. Each one has its own theme and a list of items, based on that theme, that can be used as improvised weapons.
Next, there are 10 ready brawl encounters. There’s a backstory, possible sides the characters can pick, and the possible resolutions. There are also consequences in case the characters lose the fight, but if they win they can decide what happens.
Finally, every encounter has its own specific features the players can use if they like. For example, in a brawl that involves an ape, some of the tavern patrons are afraid of it. So making ape sounds can affect the brawl.
Last but not least, there are 10 mid-brawl complications you can throw in, if you want to spice up the encounter. They are varied and range from the barkeep unleashing a gnome with brass knuckles loose in the brawl, to the roof catching fire.
A couple of notes
This supplement targets a very specific part of the game, tavern brawls. This means it may not be useful for every game table.
Moreover, it feels to me that tavern brawls shouldn’t be extremely common otherwise they may turn into a boring part of the game. The idea looks really entertaining but I doubt it’ll stay that way if there’s a brawl in every tavern the characters visit.
Overall, the Tavern Brawl Builder offers an interesting take on tavern brawls. It reduces the combat time by a lot and turns the focus on creativity other than dealing damage in order to finish just another encounter. If you like using fully fleshed out taverns I’m pretty sure this may interest you, since it’s going to be a nice addition to your tool box. But even if not, it can be another fun way to entertain your players and set a plot hook in motion.