For the blog's first useful post I have a write-up of a tavern that I designed, along with some of the regular inhabitants, rules for a pirate-era card game that might be played there and a short encounter set in it.
The Sign of the Boar’s Head: Tavern, Inn and Brothel
The Sign of the Boar’s Head has become something of a fixture in Port Royal, Jamaica. Combining the services of an inn, tavern and brothel, all under one roof, it is just the sort of place where PC’s might go to find word of employment, to meet an important contact, or to celebrate recent successes.
The owner, George Hughes, has been running the place for the past twenty-odd years; he took over the job from his own father, and hopes one day to pass the business on to his own son. Some say the whole Hughes family came originally from England some four decades ago, where they’d been a noble family but had fallen into disgrace for one reason or another, but nobody has been able to confirm or deny that rumor.
Whatever the reason for the family’s move to Port Royal, their business quickly became a major center of activity in the town. The Sign of the Board’s Head developed a reputation as a place where people could conduct their business without interference, provided it didn’t harm the establishment or those who worked there.
Just as one would suspect, the sigh out front bears the image of a large, fierce-looking board’s head with jutting tusks and bristling whiskers. There are actually two of these signs, one above each of the building’s main entrances.
Should it become important to know, the outside walls of the place, made of stone, have hardness 8 and 90 hit points. When closed and barred, the doors have hardness 5 and 20 hit points, and require a DC 25 Strength check to force open.
Under normal circumstances the doors are left wide open, except in times of crisis; otherwise, the place sees business twenty-four hours a day. Two bouncers are normally posted at either entrance, however, to keep out those who are looking to bring trouble into the establishment.
2. Bar and Dining Hall
This area is wide open to the ceiling twenty feet above, although four large chandeliers—elaborate sets of concentric wrought-iron hoops filled with candles—hang only fifteen feet above the floor. Each of these is connected to a heavy rope and pulley system that is anchored at the railing in the center of the balcony opposite the bar. These ropes are particularly strong, having hardness 3 and 8 hit points.
While rather roughly hewn, the tables in this area are also especially stout. They can hold up to three hundred pounds without ill effect; beyond this they must make a Fortitude save with a DC equal to the excess pounds divided by ten. For example, if Captain Small, a sailor who weighs in at three hundred fifty pounds, should jump up on one of them, it must make a saving throw with a DC of 5 ([350-300]/10=5). The tables are not attached to the floor, so they can be turned on a side by some in need of cover.
The bar is stocked with beer, wine and rum; for food, the house specialty is, not surprisingly, roasted pork with the trimmings.
Unlike the rest of the building, which has wooden floors, the floor here is made of cut stone. A large oven stands against the outside wall, while a preparation table occupies the center of the room. The cabinets are loaded with crockery, cutlery and other such supplies.
All of the dry goods, bottles, barrels and tins are stored in here, along with extra candles for the chandeliers and linens for the rooms.
Each of these rooms boasts a bed, table and chairs, wardrobe and storage trunk. Although there are thirty-eight of them in total, roughly a dozen are occupied on a continual basis by Miss Maggie and the other ladies who entertain guests there. Rooms can be let by the night, week or month, depending on a guest’s needs.
The tables on this level all have a full view of the bar and dining hall below. The railing has hardness 5 and 10 hit points. In case someone feel the need to do so, the ropes attached to the chandeliers have sufficient length to allow a person to swing anywhere on the bottom floor of the establishment. Doing so, by the way, requires a DC 12 Tumble check, once the rope has been cut loose. Should one of the chandeliers be allowed to crash to the floor, everyone in the four squares underneath it must make a DC 15 Reflex save or suffer 4d6 hit points damage. Swinging from the chandeliers themselves requires a DC 15 Tumble check, although they have the same chance of breaking as do the tables in the dining hall (see above).
7. Master Bedroom
These are George Hughes’ private quarters, a fact that can be noted from the high-quality lock on the door (DC 30 check to open).Inside there are a large, four-poster bed complete with curtains, along with a table and chairs and a broad wardrobe. All of these are carved from matching dark mahogany, and are very valuable because of it (1000 poe for the set). An ornate Persian carpet covers the floor (200 poe), while the clothing in the wardrobe is clearly imported from the Old World.
Underneath the aforementioned rug there is a loose board in the floor; it is protected by a very small crossbow trap that fires poison bolts (DC 25 to find; DC 25 to disable; +6 attack; damage 1d4 plus poison; DC 18 Fortitude save to resist 1d6 Strength damage). Concealed herein are a pouch containing 10,000 pieces of eight, along with a bundle of letters tied with a black silk ribbon.
The sign of the Boar’s Head, despite the fact that it caters to the highly transient population of Port Royal, does have a fair number of regulars who can be found here on most nights.
George Hughes, Innkeeper
Aristocrat 6; CR 5; Medium-sized; HD 6d8; hp 28; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +4 (1d3, unarmed) or +5 (2d6, pistol); AL NG; SV: Fort +2, Ref +3, Will +7; Str 10, Dex 12, Con 10, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 17.
Skills: Appraise +10, Bluff +14, Diplomacy +14, Gather Information +14, Knowledge: local +10, Profession: innkeeper +6, Sense Motive +13.
Feats: Investigator, Leadership, Negotiator, Persuasive.
Equipment: Pouch containing 50 pieces of eight, ring of keys, pair of pistols.
George Hughes, as mentioned above, is the owner with the mysterious past. Although his black hair is starting to show traces of gray at the temples, he still retains the chiseled features and commanding stare of his younger days. He always dresses in the current Continental fashions, though he usually goes without a jacket.
As mentioned above, the reason why his family came to the Caribbean is a closely guarded secret. The truth of the matter is that his father, George Herbert, was a minor member of the gentry during the events leading up to the English Civil War. Herbert was a Royalist, a supporter of the King in his conflict with the Parliament; in fact, his job was to collect a particular tax known as the Ship Money. The collection of this tax by the King, without the authorization of Parliament, was fraught with controversy, and provided one of the issues that led up to the war. When war erupted and it became apparent that the Royalists would lose, Herbert took a large amount of money and fled by ship to the Caribbean. There he took up a new identity—that of George Hughes—purchased the Sign of the Boar’s Head, and settled down to the quiet life of an innkeeper. He managed to live out the rest of his life in relative peace; only time will tell if his son will be so fortunate.
Maggie McGraw, Madame
Expert 6; CR 5; Medium-sized; HD 6d6+6; hp 27; Init +6 (+2 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +4 (1d3, unarmed) or +6 (ranged); AL NG; SV: Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +6; Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 17.
Skills: Bluff +14, Diplomacy +14, Gather Information +14, Intimidate +14, Knowledge: local +9, Perform: singing +14, Profession: madame +5, Sense Motive +12.
Feats: Improved Initiative, Investigator, Negotiator, Persuasive.
Equipment: 100 poe hidden in a pouch in her room.
Maggie McGraw is easily the second-in-command at the Boar’s Head. She and Hughes have a comfortable working relationship, although some have speculated that their partnership is far more intimate than that. Given her small yet buxom figure, charming smile, deep blue eyes and fiery red hair, nobody would fault him for it. Here again, however, the truth is a little more complicated. She was sent as a spy by the reigning monarch in England, who wants to find the long-lost Ship Money with which George Herbert absconded, and has managed to follow the trail to George Hughes. The problem is, she has found him to be a charming and sincerely good person, and now struggles with the question of what to do about him and the illicit legacy that he inherited from his father.
Neville Wright, Merchant
Rogue 4; CR 4; Medium-sized; HD 4d6; hp 14; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +4 (1d4+1, dirk) or +5 (2d4, pistol); SQ details; AL CN; SV: Fort +1, Ref +6, Will +0; Str 12, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 17.
Skills: Appraise +11, Bluff +10, Diplomacy +12, Escape Artist +9, Forgery +9, Gather Information +10, Knowledge: local +9, Knowledge: sea lore +9, Open Lock +9, Search +9, Sense Motive +8.
Feats: Diligent, Negotiator, Port Savvy.
Equipment: Dirk, pistol, fancy pocket watch, pouch containing 100 pieces of eight.
Mr. Neville Wright is a merchant with a relatively small business operating out of Port Royal, but one that turns a surprisingly handsome profit. Ostensibly he deals in foodstuffs, mundane items such as flour, sugar, dried goods and, occasionally, spices. In truth, though, he runs a sizable smuggling operation and acts as a fence for pirates bringing illicit items into port. Wright frequently uses the Boar’s Head for meeting with clients, but transfers and stores merchandise in a number of warehouses closer to the docks.
The merchant can easily be recognized by the elaborate gold pocket watch he carries at all times, along with his penchant for wearing a powdered wig in the English style. He is a man of slight stature, slightly heavy from his years of living in comfort.
Daniel Shaw, Drunkard
Fighter 3; CR 3; Medium-sized; HD 3d10+6; hp 27; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +6 (1d6+3, cudgel) or +5 (ranged); AL TN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +1; Str 16, Dex 14, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 8.
Skills: Climb +9, Jump +9, Profession: sailor +4, Swim +9.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Power Attack.
Fortunes: Vice (alcohol).
Equipment: Buff coat, pistol, supplies for twelve shots, pouch containing 10 poe.
Daniel Shaw is a drunkard, and a fairly violent one at that. He was once a low-ranking officer in the British Navy, but became involved in some business that resulted in his dishonorable discharge. This has left him deeply embittered, and he looks for solace in his cup. Where he once enjoyed a reputation as a fearless and formidable soldier, he is now an ornery soul who provokes fights simply for his own entertainment. Hughes would have him barred from the Boar’s Head if it weren’t for the fact that many of the inn’s guests seem to enjoy such diversions.
Shaw might be considered a handsome fellow, except that he is usually quite unkempt; his sandy blonde hair hangs in tangles and his blue eyes are often bloodshot from to much drink.
Angus Doyle, Old Salt
Class Sea Dog 4; CR 4; Medium-sized; HD 4d10+8; hp 33; Init -2 (-2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 8 (-2 Dex); Atk +3 (1d6-1, cudgel) or +2 (ranged); SQ details; AL CG; SV: Fort +8, Ref +2, Will +4; Str 9, Dex 7, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 17, Cha 13.
Skills: Climb +3, Knowledge: local +9, Knowledge: navigation +9, Knowledge: sea lore +9, Listen +12, Profession: sailor +10, Spot +12.
Feats: Alertness, Dodge, Great Fortitude, Mobility, Skill Focus (Profession: sailor).
Fortunes: Been Round, Loose Tongue.
Equipment: Cudgel, pouch containing 10 pieces of eight.
Angus Doyle, in his youth, sailed to the far reaches of the world; now his mind seems to be a bit addled because of it. Though nobody knows just how old he is, a number of pirates—and not young ones—can attest to the fact that he sailed with their fathers.
Doyle enjoys little in this world more than a chance to tell a newcomer or two tales from his younger days. These stories are frequently outrageously wild affairs: voyages to the ice-bound island of Ultima Thule, from which he was the only crew member to return; a battle at sea in which he fought off a giant squid with nothing but a gaff hook; an encounter in a tropical islet where he met and promised his undying love to a mermaid princess. While few would believe such stories outright, one can’t help but wonder if there might be some bit of truth to them.
Angus is easily distinguished from the other patrons by his stark white hair and leathery skin, along with the tri-cornered hat that has faded to a dull gray.
Mr. Geoffrey, Pickpocket
Rogue 2; CR 2; Medium-sized; HD 2d6+4; hp 13; Init +4 (+4 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+4 Dex); Atk +1 (1d4, dirk) or +5 (ranged); SQ details; AL NE; SV: Fort +2, Ref +7, Will -1; Str 10, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 8.
Skills: Balance +9, Climb +4, Disable Device +6, Escape Artist +11, Hide +9, Moves Silently +9, Open Lock +11, Search +6, Sleight of Hand +11, Tumble +9.
Feats: Deft Hands, Dodge, Improved Initiative.
Equipment: Four daggers, pouch containing 20 pieces of eight, lock picks.
Mr. Geoffrey is another fellow whom Hughes would rather not see in his establishment, but for the fact that no one has ever actually caught him in the act of pilfering something. Since the boy usually only takes enough to provide for his own food and drink, he has so far been able to avoid close scrutiny.
The lad’s name is something of a running joke amongst the regulars; though he insists that everyone call him “Mister,” he’s the only one who abides by the rule. Although he would never admit to it, he insists on the title because he doesn’t know his last name. Having grown up an orphan on the streets of Port Royal, he has no family name by which to be addressed.
Geoffrey is a swarthy young man with dark hair and dark eyes, the kind who could blend in amongst the denizens of just about any port city throughout the world.
Warrior 1; CR 1/2; Medium-sized; HD 1d8+2; hp 10; Init +5 (+1 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative); Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 buff coat); Atk +4 (1d6+2, cudgel) or +2 (ranged); AL LN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12.
Skills: Climb +4, Intimidate +5, Jump +4, Knowledge: local +1, Profession: bouncer +2.
Feats: Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (club).
Equipment: Cudgel, buff coat.
Expert 1; CR 1/2; Medium-sized; HD 1d6+1; hp 7; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (+1 Dex); Atk +0 (1d3, unarmed) or +1 (ranged); AL TN; SV: Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +4; Str 10, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 15.
Skills: Bluff +9, Diplomacy +8, Gather Information +6, Knowledge: local +3, Knowledge: sea lore +3, Profession: server +6, Sense Motive +8.
Feats: Negotiator, Skill Focus (Bluff).
Equipment: Cudgel and short musket hidden behind the bar.
Expert 1; CR 1/2; Medium-sized; HD 1d6+1; hp 7; Init +2 (+2 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 Dex); Atk +1 (1d4+1, dirk) or +2 (ranged); AL CG; SV: Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +1; Str 12, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 15.
Skills: Bluff +6, Diplomacy +6, Gather Information +6, Knowledge: local +4, Knowledge: sea lore +4, Profession: shore +3.
Feats: Endurance, Skill Focus (Bluff).
In addition to the usual function of a tavern, inn and brothel, the Sign of the Boar’s Head could serve as the starting point for any number of the party’s adventures.
Somebody with an unhealthy interest in Mr. Hughes’ past offers to hire the PC’s to recover the letters that he keeps hidden in his room; they might take the job, or perhaps set a trap for this meddling individual. There is also the question of how Maggie will react to these developments, given her conflict regarding the matter.
The PC’s discover a treasure map that, oddly enough, bears markings that resemble some of the elements in the wild tales that old Angus has been telling. The trouble is that if they want to go in search of it, they’ll have to determine which parts of his tales are true, and which are just fancy.
Neville Wright, in order to move a particularly valuable cargo from his warehouse to a ship in harbor, hires the PC’s to do the job. In addition to thieves who might be interested in nabbing the goods, the items’ true owner comes looking for them.
Rules for Bone-Ace
Bone-Ace is a variant of the game known as thirty-one. It was first played in Europe at least by the start of the 1600s.
Number of Players: From two to eight, with four or more being preferable.
Objective: Collect a set of cards with a value as close to thirty-one as possible, without going over that amount.
Order of Play: Draw cards to determine the first deal, with the lowest card drawn dealing first. To begin, deal each player three cards; the first two are dealt face down, while the third is dealt face up. Place the remainder of the deck face down in the center of the table to form the stock, then turn the top card face up and lay it next to the stock. Each player should also have three betting tokens, such as chips or gold doubloons.
If any of the face-up cards is the ace of diamonds (the “Bone-Ace”), that player wins automatically and the player with the lowest-valued hand loses. If not, play proceeds normally.
Cards are counted at face value, except that aces count as eleven and face cards count as ten. (Therefore, a hand containing an ace, a queen and a three would have a value of twenty-four.) Starting from the dealer’s left, each player in turn may take a card from the top of either pile, then must discard one. Players may choose to discard cards that have just been drawn.
Once a player has a hand that he considers good enough not to lose, he may knock by rapping on the table with his fist. From this point every player may make one last exchange, then all must show their hands. The player with the lowest-valued hand loses, and must add one token or coin to the pot. Any player who is out of coins may continue to play “on his honor” until losing again, at which point he is eliminated from the game.
Play continues in this manner until all of the players but one are eliminated; that player wins the pot.
“The Cut-Throat’s Contract” Encounter
This encounter can be used to start just about any adventure, and can be particularly useful for bringing together a new group of Player Characters. Use the map of the Boar’s Head when the action starts.
Captain Horne is living proof that good things can happen to bad pirates. At one time he was the captain of a much-feared pirate vessel, a scourge of the Caribbean Sea. An unfortunate encounter with a surprisingly well-armed Spanish galleon, however, has left him temporarily without a capable crew. Like a smart scallywag, however, he knew better than to put all of his doubloons in one chest. The scurvy dog always kept one map to a hidden cache of gold in a room of a local brothel, under the protection of a trustworthy lass, and now he intends to collect that booty and continue preying upon vulnerable treasure ships. To do that he needs to hire a new crew, but he is a highly discerning fellow; he has a plan, however, to find the roughest, toughest group of sailors that he can to aid him in this endeavor.
This encounter can occur at any time when the PC’s are relaxing at the Sign of the Boar’s Head. Should this be one of their regular hangouts in port, they might just be resting after a previous adventure; alternately, they might have heard word on the street that a renowned captain is looking to hire a crew and that those who are interested should go to the Boar’s Head. However it is that they find themselves there, allow them a little time to enjoy the establishment’s entertainments before the good captain makes his appearance.
“Greetings, brethren!” The captain’s voice booms over the rumble of the assembled crowd. He stands on the balcony on one side of the main room, his arms raised in a grand gesture of salutation. “As you should already know, I am Captain Horne, formerly of the good ship Dauntless. I recently suffered a little setback, one that has left me in need of a new crew. That, my friends, is why I have invited you here tonight. You see, I’m looking for only the best for my crew, and I’ve no doubt that one group among you is the very best. The trouble is, I need to find out just which of you that is.” With a wicked grin, the old pirate produces a leather scrollcase from inside his coat. “These here are the articles for me crew; whoever returns them to me, wins the right to sign ‘em.” With that, he tosses the scrollcase over the railing.
As the parcel falls, the assembled crowd erupts in a massive brawl. Use the stats for pirates provided below, but feel free to add other NPC’s with whom the PC’s may have had previous business (or with whom they might have to deal in the future). Daniel Shaw, detailed above, could also jump into the fracas. Note that the assembled scallywags do not use their buccaneer knives unless they are provoked into doing so; it is something of a point of honor for them.
While it’s never possible to anticipate every strategy that the PC’s might employ, there are a few possibilities that the GM might encounter. One is to have one or more of the PC’s leap to the railing of the upper level, something that requires a DC 12 Jump check from a running start, or a DC 24 check from a standing start, followed by a DC 15 Climb check. Another option is to leap first onto one of the tables (DC 12 or 24, as above), and from there to the railing (DC 12 or 24 Jump check, followed by a DC 5 Climb check). Should any of the PC’s want to throw the scrollcase from one person to another, treat it as a grenade attack with range penalties as appropriate.
Sea Dog 2; CR 2; HD 2d10+4; hp 19; Medium-sized; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+1 Dex, +1 dueling jacket); Atk +4 (1d6+2, club) or +3 (ranged); SQ Favored Ship (English ships); AL CN; SV: Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Balance +6, Climb +7, Jump +7, Profession (sailor) +6, Survival +6, Use Rope +6.
Feats: Cleave, Dodge, Power Attack.
Equipment: Dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, various improvised weapons.
Sea Dog 1; CR 1; Medium-sized; HD 1d10+2; hp 12; Init +1 (+1 Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+1 Dex, +1 dueling jacket); Atk +3 (1d6+2, club) or +2 (ranged); AL CN; SV: Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +1; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Balance +5, Climb +6, Jump +6, Profession (sailor) +5, Survival +5, Use Rope +5.
Feats: Cleave, Dodge, Power Attack.
Equipment: Dueling jacket, buccaneer knife, various improvised weapons.
Sea Dog 4/Sea Officer 3; CR 7; Medium-sized; HD 7d10; hp 43; Init +0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 12 (+2 buff coat); Atk +6/+1 (2d6, pistol) or +6/+1 (1d6, buccaneer knife); SQ Close Quarters +1, Command (morale bonus), Preferred Ship (English ships), Skill Expert +2; AL TN; SV: Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +8; Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 16.
Background: Sea Devil.
Skills: Appraise +12, Knowledge: local +12, Knowledge: navigation +12, Knowledge: sea lore +12, Listen +15, Profession: sailor +13, Spot +15, Survival +8.
Feats: Alertness, Dodge, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Mobility.
Equipment: Two pistols, buccaneer knife, buff coat, scroll with ship’s articles.
Captain Horne is every bit the sea dog. He has lost his right hand, replacing it with a hook, and has the weathered features of one long exposed to the wind and waves. His clothing is fancy but functional, and he wears his dark brown hair and beard long. The recent loss of his ship has left him in a particularly foul mood, but he hopes to amend the situation once he has found a capable new crew.