Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Return to Broken River


Broken River:
Halflings
by Mike (Rhishisikk) Kochis


Background
This series of articles was begun almost a year ago when I was making half as much (and had almost three times the spare time). With the persistence of Pinkie Pie, Erin has asked when the next release is coming out. I know I promised a look at religious matters, but the truth is those haven't gelled enough. So -

Foreign Diplomats in Broken River: Halflings
As noted earlier, halflings own substantial agricultural lands to the west of Broken River. Their main exports are foodstuffs and textiles (especially children's clothes); their main imports are salt (and other spices), metal goods, and artwork.

The  “Diplomat Bakery and Brewery” (Managed by the Stubb family) is an eatery that serves luxury food. It also creates upper-end confections (cakes, eclairs, and other complex dishes) as well as a selection of fine ales ales. For simple things, like pretzels, bulk cookies, and beer, they just order from nearby human businesses. When the halflings want to discuss something with their human neighbors, the mayor gets a “free meal” coupon.

The Diplomat is located in the west (rich) side of town, just two blocks inside the west road gate. It is almost obnoxiously close to the guardhouse serving the gate, and offers special rates for guards just before and just after their shifts. The Stubb daughters (with guards in tow, later) sometimes take “surplus” food to the guards on duty at the gate or to the guardhouse proper. Although the Diplomat doesn't make deliveries to the “noble” households, servants of said households will often be seen making journeys to the Diplomat, and returning with food. (The Diplomat sells finished foods; those households that make their own foodstuffs get the ingredients from the normal farmer's market.)

There is no official “diplomat” in the sense that humans think about it. Either of the Stubbs parents or their eldest three children (depending upon which of them the issue was brought to) will just happen to mention an issue to their guest, and if they may be so bold, suggest how to resolve the little problem.

Incidentally:  Don't attempt to force yourself on the Stubb daughters. When the town watch started looking for the last offender, it took two weeks to finish finding bits of him. None of the pieces had any evidence indicating the Diplomat or the Stubbs. (But, as we already know, the better divination magics are just not available in Broken River.)


The Peddlers
There is a courtyard in front of the Diplomat. Usually, it's noodle vendors or a single merchant trying to sell elven silk or some other luxury. But every so often (and usually for only a few days a month), something special comes though: one of the town's few magic items, for example, or a map showing the location of a lost treasure.

Everybody wins: The town gets a few silver pieces a day, and gets to keep the “ritzy and snobbish” out of the farmer's market; the merchants get to go to an area where townsfolk will expect their upscale wares; and The Diplomat gets to remain the town's most exotic locale.

If you want a masterwork or exotic weapon, this is the place to look. A rare book, potions or scrolls? Sure, you could get those things at the Sow's Ear. But if you want to be certain that it's legal, you want to get it from here.

(Note: Conversely, this is absolutely not the place to barter poisons and the like.)

The Stubb Family
Oliver Stubb (Commoner 2): The patriarch of the Stubb family, and legally the owner of the Diplomat, Oliver keeps himself busy tending tables and telling tall tales. He would certainly never compete with his daughter behind the bar, although he's not above refilling a mug or glass. He's just happy making sure others are happy, and doesn't bother actually taking charge of the place. Every business needs a social front man, and for the Diplomat, it's Oliver.

Myranthakal (Mira) Stubb (Witch [Wisdom] 2): The actual decision maker of the Diplomat, although she caters to her husband's needs. The business keeps her busy enough that she rarely tends to her cat, Squirrel Shadow (who is quite happy curling up on anyone's lap and demanding snuggles). She doesn't advertise being an arcane caster, but is almost always willing to buy or sell scrolls.

Laura Stubb (Commoner 1): Many mistake Laura for a beginning bard, because of her flair behind the bar (Perform [bartender] skill) and willingness to discuss anything at length. She always claims to be romantically attracted only to “her man”, who is unavailable to her, but is more than willing to conspire with others in matters of the heart.

Arthur Stubb (Com 1): Many think that because Mira is never seen that she slaves away in the kitchen all day. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The kitchen “slave” is Arthur, the family chef. Arthur puts in twelve to sixteen hours a day baking and cooking, and he loves it.

Cora Stubb (Adept 1): The family “bard”, specializing in illusions, and apple of her mother's eye, Cora proudly shows off her magical talents. She refrains from participating in the contests at the Diplomat (see below) so that she can serve as a judge. She has been actively trying to get a theater started in the town since she was twelve, and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

The Staff
As one would expect, the staff of the Diplomat work around the clock. They are made up mostly of commoners. This doesn't mean that they shouldn't be as detailed and “real” as the Stubb family, merely that they do so without the benefit of special classes.

Mr. Jasper (Com 2): Whenever one of the family isn't awake, Mr. Jasper is.  Mr. Jasper is part bartender, part manager, part chef, and all Diplomat. He may not have been born inside the Diplomat, but he fully intends to work here until the day he dies.

The Brothers Guthrie (Com 1): Clad in leather armor and carrying sword and shield, these “warriors” serve as bouncers at the Diplomat, and both will be escorting any Stubb daughter outside the Diplomat's walls. Either of them will brag about how they earn more than the town guard, and get better meals as well.


Plot Threads to Draw PCs to the Diplomat

  • Alchemist: Need that one rare plant? The salt works isn't likely to have it – at least not at a reasonable price. Maybe someone at the Diplomat has one? And maybe they need that slightly sticky mess you made when you failed to make that Tanglefoot bag? One can hope, of course...
  • Bard: The Diplomat hosts monthly storytelling contests and seasonal music contests. The Diplomat also has a reputation for being where you can find those oddities, like a +1 dagger of rabbit slaying, or a self-heating mug. Travelers from all walks of life bring their stories here.
  • Barbarian: Other bars are better for rowdy or uncouth behavior, but if you want to get free drinks in exchange for your latest battle story (without the risk of having to prove it with a duel with the orcs), this is the place to bring your bragging.
  • Cavalier: If you want to enjoy the finer things in life without spending too much time with one local noble family or another, this is the place to remain out of town politics. If you are involved with local family politics, this is one of the places to show the family banner.
  • Cleric: Want to engage in a debate on ethics (or anything else)? Ask if anyone else has seen that weird holy symbol you found in those ruins? Or just celebrate with that Imperial dish that nobody else can make properly out here on the fringes of society? Besides, where else are you going to experience so much of life?
  • Druid: It's no surprise that the agricultural halflings have a working druid circle. Haven't earned your way into the hearts of the outriders (halfling border guard) yet? This is the place to make contact with other druids, some of whom may be seeking training in the halfling farmlands.
  • Fighter: Other bars may be more militant, but this one is friendly. And safe. And it feels like home. Want a break from the razor's edge of danger the Sow's Ear presents? Rooms here aren't cheap, but they are safe, clean, and cozy. 
  • Inquisitor: The bars of Broken River are full of information. If you want rumors from outside the township, this is the place for it. Besides, there is no place where life is celebrated like at the Diplomat. After a long day or night staring into the abyss of darkness, a short break here can restore your faith in the Light.
  • Monk: Just because YOU live a life of ascetic simplicity doesn't mean you want those around you to be miserable with the simple comforts you enjoy. The Diplomat offers an enjoyable experience for you and your friends. Besides, where else can you find people willing to talk about the differences between different types of tea or the fine details of gardening?
  • Oracle: Want to hang out in a crowd where people don't seem to care that you're different? The atmosphere of the Diplomat may be just what you need. Besides, exposure to all of the exotic travelers may spark an “interesting” vision that you need to have.
  • Paladin: Need a break from people begging you to lay hands on them? Just ten minutes without being asked to climb a tree and rescue a cat? Somewhere that crinkle-faced old lady won't ask why you do something about those beggars? When you need to take in some solace instead of handing it out, the Diplomat is the place to gather it.
  • Ranger: Want to brush up on what beasties are where? Travelers along all roads (as well as some river traffic) end up here. Also, if you want to meet up with a caravan and hire on as a guard, this is the best place in town.
  • Rogue: Want to trade trap bits? Quietly buy a set of dental tools that just happen to include picks that just happen to be good for lockwork? Show off your skills of legerdemain as a magic show? This is the place for you. However, the staff frowns on con games (including “unfair” gambling) and has no tolerance for outright thievery. None. (Ask your GM whether that means you're turned right over to the watch or whether you get to join the other handless beggars down by the docks.)
  • Sorcerer: Is it just the WRONG season for you? The Diplomat has underground rooms, safe from exposure to those elements that might drain your magical reserves. And, if you just don't want to hang out with The Four (the town's sorcerers; more on them in another article), this is the place to hang out, whether to avoid people asking why your hair is always on fire or to avoid people asking why your hair ISN'T always on fire.
  • Summoner: Does your eidolon have a taste for apple butter? Need to get the straps on your exotic saddle fixed? Where will you find a smith willing to make those metal claw-covers they need? Well, the Diplomat is a good place to start.
  • Witch: The Diplomat is pet friendly (as long as your pet isn't a squirrel with an aversion to black cats), and probably has all kinds of exotic things available. The Diplomat is welcome to all, and Mira is always willing to discuss arcane matters.
  • Wizard: Tired of those old men hiding enigmatically in the corners? Hah! The corners are all well lit here. Besides, where else are you going to be able to discuss ALL of your knowledge skills in one night?


Plot Threads For the Diplomat Staff

  • Many other inns would love to have Arthur's recipe book. Or to dig up dirt on his life that would give them the ability to blackmail him into working for them. For his part, Arthur isn't above hiring adventurers into getting rare spices, meats, plants, etc. that just aren't available from “home” or the farmer's market.
  • Who is Laura's “man”? Is it one of the halfling merchants? Some farmer bumpkin who ignores her subtle hints? Is she secretly of the Dark, because they offer her the option of celibacy? Laura is a starting point for several romantic adventures and misadventures that can occur in Broken River.
  • Mira Stubb just doesn't have time to locate all the potential covens, search all the ruins, or any of the other things she feels compelled to do by her magics. Fortunately, she has access to a small cash flow, at least enough to hire some adventurers...


Relations With Others

  • As noted, the Diplomat has good relations with all the 'local' nobles, and with the local guardhouse. They are also liked by the Church of Light; if only they would allow sex in the common room instead of discrete back alcoves... 
  • The Cult of the Dark also likes the Diplomat – where else can you exchange parcels and words across social classes without risk of raising an eyebrow? In particular, Scott Trask (not known to be a member) likes meeting with his brothers Antoine and Harker in places with multiple witnesses.
  • The wood elves like the bustling chaos of the Diplomat, which means the sea elves refuse to dine there. Copperbeard Jaegra (of the Dwarven Trade Consulate) doesn't really enjoy the festive mood, although her staff (the gnomes) are sometimes found here.
  • Orcs don't particularly like the atmosphere, but they appreciate the artistry of which the chef is capable. It isn't uncommon for a challenge to be delivered in a form similar to Iron Chef (“We desire a four-course meal made for a family of six. All dishes must include – SHRIMP!”). For his part, Arthur looks forward to these challenges.
  • If either of the dragons has interests other than keeping their non-kobold agents welcome here, nobody knows it. For the same reasons the PCs might want to hang out here, it is almost guaranteed each dragon is at least keeping tabs on happenings at the Diplomat.
  • The alchemists pinch their pennies – the Diplomat is more expensive than they like.
  • Although the Diplomat caters to the rich, it has a love/hate relationship with the poor. Poor folks like complaining about the excesses of the Diplomat, which won't keep the family from dressing up for holidays and having a “fine meal”. The poor in need tend to go bother Harker Trask or other eating establishments rather than wait here for surplus food.


Afterward
This was supposed to be an article on all of the diplomats of Broken River. Gladly, the
Diplomat emerged as an article in its own right. I look forward to the other embassies also having their own articles. [Me too! -- Erin.]

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