This small convention of gamers everywhere leads us to a lot of deep questions.
First some examples. Pretend you're reading a module...
The team recieves a message on their telecom asking them to meet a Mr. Johnson in Lou's Bar at 4th and South Shiawase Street. When they get there, they are searched by a pair of orc bodyguards that resonate with military proficiency...
In the local tavern, a messenger approaches the member of the party that most obviously stands out as an adventurer, "Sirs, my master bids a team of adventurers make haste to his manor immediately..."
The investigators are all - seperately or together - in a local pub when the ground starts to shake. The locals do not react, but the investigator player characters, just visiting this small town, are shocked by the tremor and the locals' behavior and are quickly united by their curiosity...
The adventurers pass through the market, looking for whatever they fancy when they see two ancient elves appraoch each other from opposite streets, intent on each other. The first, a white-hared elf of at least a thousand years hurls a powerful spell at the second, a black haired but tired-looking multi-centennial wizard. The market clears as the duel rages, leaving the player characters to wonder what is going on...
These are some obvious examples. In my years of gaming, I've run probably hundreds of variations on this theme, some more creative than others. I've also found ways to hook the story without resorting to Plot Elements Meeting By Hapenstance Or Design In A Public Place Of Recreation. Many players (including me, when I play) like the Bar Scene for it's familiarity (it's better to just get through the exposition/catalyst and get on with the plot) but dislike it because it's overused (big creativity addicts, gamers).
I just wanted to open a thread where we can discuss the Bar Scene (and other contrivances GMs and Players use, such as the "adventuring party" norm). What fun variations have you used/played in? Do you refuse to run a Bar Scene? Do you find yourself always using it? Do you know a GM that never/always uses it? Or uses it well? Or very poorly? What system does the best job avoiding it? What system does the best job building on/using it?
For deeper discussion, there's deeper questions. The philosophy behind the Bar Scene is quite complex and begs the oldest question in entertainemnt history - are we doing this for the sake of having fun or producing art? Do we game for art or for entertainment? Are RPGs about the RP or the G? OK, so those are rhetorical questions; the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Disclaimer: I'm bored at work, so I might just think that this is an interesting topic : )