Friday, February 12, 2021

Ye Olde Comeback Inn

The first time I ever came across the Comeback Inn was in the pages of TSR's Adventures in Blackmoor. In that module, it's portrayed as an "inn between the worlds" that allows characters to travel through time between the present and the past. 
The Comeback Inn as illustrated by Jim Holloway
Years later, I'd come across The First Fantasy Campaign, which talked about the Comeback Inn in greater detail. The description reads as follows:
Half price booze and lodgings, however, when you leave you find yourself coming back into the inn (walking out backwards does not help!). To get out (attempts to burn the place down, etc., will have you beaten by the patrons). a player who has not come into the Inn grasps your arm (leg, whatever) just as you reach the door (window, etc.), from his position outside the Inn, and pulls you out. Jumping off the roof finds you landing in the taproom from the ceiling. Evil/Chaotic types cannot enter. Good p1ace to pick up information.

 Sounds like a very frustrating place!

The Inn as depicted in FFC
As many of you no doubt know, the Comeback Inn is based on a real place in the Melrose Park neighborhood of Chicago named the Come Back Inn. The real Inn closed its doors for good in 2004, but reader Thaddeus Moore kindly shared some photos of the place, such as this one, which shows its signage.
The north side of the building looked like this:
It's easy to see how Dave Arneson would have remembered and been inspired by this place. Growing up, I remember a number of odd little restaurants that had vaguely medieval themes to them, with suits of armor and weapons displayed, for example. I also recall a steakhouse called Dante's Inferno that had lots of "hellish" imagery inside – creepy paintings, gargoyles in the rafters, etc. I am sure restaurants of similar sorts still exist today in various places, though I doubt many have been immortalized to the same extent as the Come Back Inn.


  1. I love the fact that Gary and Rob's first game with Dave started in the Comeback Inn...the "opening scene" of Gary's experience with D&D.

    I know what you mean about the odd restaurants with medieval themes...

    If you're ever in Montreal, you must check out the Auberge du Dragon Rouge, which has the best website name, ever:

    1. Thanks for the link. I'll try to remember it if we're ever allowed to eat in restaurants again ...

  2. There's an old Poul Anderson novel, A Midsummer Tempest, which includes an inn called the Old Phoenix which is a gateway between numerous parallel worlds. I suspect that was another inspiration, especially since Holger Carlson from Three Hearts & Three Lions and Valeria from Operation Chaos make cameo appearances.

    1. A Midsummer Tempest was published in 1974, several years after Arneson introduced the Comeback Inn in Blackmoor.