07 February 2024
The Arcanist’s Tavern might have not yet opened, but we’re looking forward to seeing what Shoreditch’s first immersive Tabletop Cafe might look like. We spoke with Luna, Co-founder and Director, about everything Arcanist Tavern.
What is Arcanist’s Tavern?
Nestled in the heart of Shoreditch, the Arcanist's Tavern is an immersive tabletop gaming cafe – a new concept in board game cafes, that offers the perfect setting for your games, with thematic surroundings, gaming support, and the technology to match.
“We’ve always dreamt of being able to get together and roll dice in a real candlelit tavern”, co-founder Luna tells us of it, “so we decided to make it happen. We want to take the best elements of the gaming cafes we have fallen in love with, and combine them with a persistent immersive setting: shaped by our players.”
“We’ll have custom-built gaming tables for both TTRPGs and Wargaming, as well as a board game library and bar- all set against the backdrop of a mysterious multiversal tavern.”
Made by RPG lovers for RPG lovers, even the name of the setting was a fun reference. Luna’s own setting, the world of Aeternum, created the perfect tavern for travellers.
“It’s an ancient place of power, with a will of its own. The Tavern can appear behind any door, offering travellers a moment of precious respite, but at its heart lies a dark secret- whispered from beyond the void.”, they explain.
Ultimately though, “It sounded cool, and nobody stopped me!”
What is Arcanists Tavern’s Immersive Experience?
“We want guests to feel like they have stepped into a real, living world of adventure and intrigue.” Luna explains. “From a design perspective, the amazing teams at Tandem & A-Frame have helped us realise our vision for bringing a rustic fantasy tavern, brimming with arcane secrets to life. The venue features immersive set-dressing with dynamic sound and lighting along with staff in fetching costumes”.
“Within our Apothecary is the Quest Board, where we will be regularly posting 5E quests set in our own evolving world, which players will be able to influence during special events! Four, admittedly quite dubious, Guilds are each vying for control of the Tavern. Players will be able to accept quests from and ally themselves with any one of them.
"How far does this all go? Well, our sandwich menu has lore. You will have to uncover the rest."
Engaging with this side of the Tavern is entirely optional. Players are also very welcome to come bask in the ambience and run their own home games! We simply want to make sure everyone has a fantastic stay.”
What’s Arcanist’s Tavern Like?
“When you first step through our doors, you’ll arrive in the Apothecary. It’s here that you’ll find our board game library and retail space. Along with some questionable potions and experiments that have been left behind. We have a themed cocktail and food menu, which will, of course, include the essential stats for a cheese toastie.
This is also where you can find the aforementioned Quest Board, which is perfect for DMs who haven’t had the chance to prepare a session (it happens to the best of us) or are simply looking for a bit of inspiration.”
“If you head downstairs, you’ll arrive in the Guild Hall. Banners and relics of champions past line the walls, as you prepare to do battle. This is our space dedicated to wargaming, with custom-built 6x4 tables and a variety of terrain options to suit your game of choice. We’ll have everything from industrial warzones, to decrepit temples to match the setting of whatever game you’re playing. We’ll also have convenient storage for your travel cases, since transporting an entire army can be quite an undertaking…
Beyond the Guild Hall, you will find the Archives! A hidden trove of forbidden knowledge and artefacts, policed by the enigmatic Enclave. Nestled between the bookcases are our custom-made TTRPG booths & tables created by the fantastic Redbeard Woodworks. These booths will be well soundproofed to ensure that you can get fully immersed in whatever game you are playing- and will feature privacy curtains.
"The 3D printer we use to create all our own terrain and props will be available for our guests to hire!"
Our tables have everything you could possibly need, with built-in dice rollers, drink holders and plenty of charging points. They will also feature full Digital Tabletop integration for DMs who prefer to use online tools or maps! As an accursed forever DM myself, the tables are probably the feature I’m most excited for, and I can’t wait to see them in action.
Board Gaming Pop Ups
We began by running Kill Team pop-ups in Hammersmith back in 2022 to celebrate the new release! We were young then, and full of vitality. I remember painting and assembling three sets of terrain the night before, and then lugging our board game library down to Outsider Tart (our beloved local cafe, who were enormously kind and supportive). When you are fueled by sleep deprivation and an unreasonable amount of hubris, anything is possible.
We then began running Fractured Realms that same year, a series of drop-in D&D one shots set in what would eventually become our Aeternum setting. It was incredible to meet so many people in the community, and their support is really what gave us the drive to make this strange little vision of ours a reality. A common complaint echoed by just about everyone who played with us, is that they didn’t feel like anywhere in London was truly catering to the TTRPG scene. We want to create a space that is built from the ground up to accommodate more narrative driven games, and this will always be a core focus for us.
What do you think makes your store unique?
Since day one we have always prioritised immersion and the player experience. We’ve spent years designing the venue, to ensure that our visitors have an unforgettable stay. With sound dampening, adjustable lighting, and custom-built gaming tables, we want to give our guests the tools they need to tell incredible stories. We don’t feel like TTRPG players have a place to call home in London, and we want to change that.
I feel that the immersive experience side of the Tavern is totally unique, and I’m so excited to see players uncover our secrets and shape this world with us! We will be running on a seasonal model, with each season bringing new quests and monsters. All of this content is designed to be totally modular and easy to work into any 5E campaign.
Each season will also feature special events, where players can uncover powerful artefacts- which will be real 3D printed props with stats, that they can then use in their own games. These events will give players the opportunity to influence the ongoing narrative and become a real part of this living world.
Arcanist's Tavern on Kickstarter
"Our journey to get here has been a pretty tumultuous one." Luna admits. "We originally intended to open back in December 2023 and brought staff on-board to hit this opening date. The contractors we were working with promised that everything would proceed smoothly, but weeks before construction was due to begin they stopped answering our calls. They eventually ghosted us completely, having wasted months of our time.
This put us in a very precarious situation, as we didn’t want to let anyone go during the festive period. We were burning through our opening budget quickly, so we brought the amazing people at Tandem on board, and construction is now going ahead. We’re tackling the downstairs ourselves to get the venue open as soon as possible- which is where we are seeking the extra support.
The Kickstarter is intended to help us complete the Guild Hall and Archives- our dedicated Wargaming and TTRPG spaces, and to give the entire venue the polish it deserves. The money we raise will go directly towards furnishing these spaces, with any extra being used to buy more games for our library and to add additional immersive finishes throughout the space! We had to cut wooden ceiling beams to get the fit-out back on budget, and if we can add them back in, I will be completed on a spiritual level.
We are genuinely so grateful for all the love and support that the tabletop gaming community has shown us, and I cannot wait to open our doors later this year. "