|Then again, taverns have some allure --|
such as information on where the best
eyeshadow may be purchased in town.
(Thanks to Xhuul for the pic)
A trite-and-true (ahem) method of getting the party together, particularly if you don't really want to waste any time and just get on with the adventure. However, if you want to change things just a bit, here are some alternatives to the campaign beginning.
In Medias Res
Many organic campaigns started this way, because we didn't know what a campaign -- complete with backstory and metaplot -- were. We started at the entrance of the dungeon, with everyone knowing why they were there, what they were after, and what stuff they'd brought with them to get the job done.
Nothing wrong with going back to this. It gets the players focused on the adventure, rather than planning or preparation or discussions on how to get to the damn dungeon.
If you really want to get fancy, you can insert some judicious flashbacks to a tavern mission briefing to tackle things like rumors, foreshadowing, and reminders about things that may have been missed by the players in all the excitement.
I actually used this in a 3rd Edition campaign for the Forgotten Realms setting, though it was based on the annual Gnome Caravan of Karameikos from the mountains down to Specularum.
In essence, it's regular trade caravan -- many traders big and small travel together for protection and consolidated costs. PCs can be hired muscle, or perhaps relatives of the merchants, or even paying 'merchants' themselves hoping to take advantage of the relatively safe journey through the wilds.
Adventures will tend toward wilderness encounters, the occasional ambush, and perhaps an interesting location that intrigues the PCs enough to peel away from the caravan to investigate.
Adventures can also accommodate some city adventures, as the caravan cast will shift as they pass through different cities.
And then there's the expedition. Some faction of considerable power and wealth has decided that an evil must be vanquished, a great treasure must be found, a lost artifact must be recovered. The expedition is formed, filled with numerous PCs and NPCs who must undertake various labors to achieve the overarching quest.
There may be rivals and traitors mixed in with the pool of colorful characters and back-up PCs waiting in the wings -- but all will be revealed once the adventures play out.