Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: The Rise and Fold
I’m looking at pulling a ton of my personal campaign notes, from up to 22 years ago, into actual for-sale polished products (maybe on Paizo Infinite, maybe just as rules-light, map-, art-, and flavor-heavy pdfs on OpenGamingStore and DriveThru –anyone have opinions on which you’d rather see?).
That includes a TON of material I wrote on locations for 3.x/Pf1/4e/Wizards & Warlocks games–some as part of old professional projects that ended up not happening, some for home campaigns, some for my previous online efforts before this blog. While a great deal of that material really needs the conext of a world or city to link it to, some stand on their own pretty well as drop-anywhere fantasy locations.
Especially the taverns.
Throughout this week I’ll be putting out short descriptions of four Fantasy Taverns. they are designed to be unusual and interesting, the kinds of places PCs gravitate towards, investigate, buy, or turn into regular hangouts. (Wednesday will be an Owen Explains It All article tying-in to the show recording Feb 14th.)
None of these are as complete as I’d produce as for-sale products (which would include exterior shots, interior shots, and maps for each one), but if you like these snippets, let me know and maybe I’ll add some polish to the bigger entries of my old material and turn them into a professional product. The longest entry is the first one, and the rest are currently more written sketches. But, if they are popular enough, I can easily do another week worth of entries from Feb 21-25.
The Raise and Fold
Officially, The Raise, a Public Parlor and The Fold Alehouse are two different businesses, and indeed they have two different owners. It’s not even known if the owners like each other–they are never seen together or speak of one another–but they obviously have some kind of arrangement to benefit both establishments.
But since the two businesses are the top floor and bottom floor (respectively) of the same building, and a tab run up at one must be paid off before purchases can be made at the other, and they both feature gambling and drinking, people just call them The Raise and Fold, unless greater specificity is needed.
The Raise, A Public Parlor
“The Raise” is run by Gyster Feirn, a half-elf poet and scion of a winery-owning family who seems to have been stuck with the tavern to wait from him to “season” over a few decades before being allowed to benefit from any other familiar businesses. Feirn is genteel and runs a small, expensive, selective establishment where from dusk to dawn there is always a table of high-stakes As-Nas being run by the house and buying 20 gp/glass drinks is part of the cost of participating. In addition to socializing and playing cards, numerous deals are made within the parlor of “The Raise,” often including the buying and selling of “opportunities,” which range from the rights for caravan goods stolen by bandits (which you can buy for coppers and the gold… but then need to go recover yourself), to ancient maps, logbooks from sunken cargo ships, and debts due to be collected from grumpy dragons or infamous wizards.
Feirn acts as host and card dealer more than proprietor. Business issues are generally handled by the quiet, taciturn dwarf Drun Ironnail, who rumor suggests is related to the owner of “The Fold,” though no one who would know is ever willing to talk about that. Drun is a very minor spellcaster, using cantrips to clean and brighten the room and fetch drinks, spending about as much time in the tiny “back room” (where money goes and drinks come from) as in the parlor which takes up most of the upper floor. No one else seems to work for “The Rise,” though if anyone starts trouble, “cudgelers” from “The Fold” quickly stomp up the stairs to deal with it.
“The Raise” is kept bright, clean, and fresh-smelling, with comfortable and high-end (though mismatched) furnishings, warm carved wood tables and posts, and is set up more like the sitting room of a minor noble than a pub or gambling house. Pillows, books, flowers, and teapots are common, with many patrons appreciating a hot tea chaser and a few sweetcakes to go with their fine wines and expensive card games. Small trays of foods keep easily, including sweets, cheeses, nuts, and dried fruits, can be purchased along with a vast and ever-changing wine, mead, and spirits list.
No one gets into “The Raise” unless they are a member, the guest of a member, or are recommend by Maridern of “The Fold.” Anyone who makes trouble or can’t pay their debts are banned from “The Raise,” and directed to “The Fold.”
The Fold Alehouse
The Fold is much lower in asperations than it’s upstairs neighbor, but is also shockingly much, much larger. Though from the outside it looks to take up only a single lower story, in fact “The Fold” has 5 lower levels, which have rooms for for private meetings and parties, storage, cooking, living quarters for its owner and her “cudgelers,” a small infirmary, and a vault (in the middle of lower-level 3, with no exterior wall that doesn’t have a room on the far side). Lower levels are always guarded, and are heated by brick stoves connected to the main kitchen fires.
However, most patrons never go below the main level, which is the open “Aleroom,” a dark space light by candles (which seem to glow more than their flames should suggest), with sturdy wooden furnishings designed more to survive a brawl than provide comfort. The walls and floor are stone, the room more thick wood (though any loud commotion from “The Raise” can clearly be heard), with a few fire pits, a serving station and a secure counter and door where cudgelers watch for troublemakers, and keep anything the Tavern’s owner, Maridern decides not to let patrons hold on to while drinking.
Maridern is a older dwarven woman whose face has been compared to an dried potato… a comparison she doesn’t mind. She’s an ex-adventurer, though no one is sure how long ago or what her area of specialty was, and she retired to “the Fold” when her bones creaked more than the doors she’d burst through. She runs her Alehouse like the stern grandmother of a rowdy family, shamelessly admitting she has favorites who get better deals and care than typical patrons, and if someone doesn’t like it they can drink and play tiles elsewhere. In addition to a diverse crew of staff (which Maridern treats as her grandchildren–for good and ill), there are a half-dozen “cudgelers,” enforcers of good behavior that are trained to use their cudgels to make a point without killing anyone. At least, not anyone who behaves after getting cudgeled once.
“The Fold” offers cheap but not watered-down drinks, simple food (leaning towards stews, meats, grains, root vegetables, and fungus), and a a rule that stealing or stabbing a fellow patron will be dealt with harshly. The second rule in the Fold is that if anything said would mean you have or were going to break the law or insult or threaten someone, you are assumed to be lying for entertainment of others. This rule is the source of many tall tales, but also allows lawmen and rogues and members of opposing factions to drink at the same table, though overlooking such statements doesn’t always last beyond the alehouse’s walls.
If someone drinks until they pass out, or is knocked out, they get moved to the corner near the cudgelers, and looked after until they come to. The major pastime is betting on games of “tiles,” a dwarven dominos-like game played with square tiles with numbers on all 4 sides, and one of the 4 corners. Maridern loves teaching tiles to new players, and allows trusted players to set up coin-per-round tables, but never, ever plays or bets on the game herself.
Newcomers pay for all services in coin-in-advance, but someone clearly down on their luck, and trusted regulars, are allowed to run up a tab. Tabs in theory come due every month, but Maridern often allows token payments for those who are genuinely trying to make good. She also appears to buy debts from “The Raise,” and people not allowed into that establishment for any reason that doesn’t put them in jail are generally allowed to work off their debts (or reputation as a troublemaker) by working at “The Fold.”
Another way to wipe out a debt is to “leave your sword.” In this case something Maridern accepts as an important weapon or tool owned by the debtor is left behind, stacked up on a counter behind the cudgeler post in the Aleroom. Anyone can buy it for whatever the debtor owes (including the debtor if they come into money later), or when the ex-debtor shows up again, Maridern retains the right to give it back to them, in return for it being used to perform a service for her. Maridern has a reputation for being harsh, but not evil, and while she has given people back their swords and told them to go kill someone, in general that’s always been someone the community agreed needed killing.
The Fold is often a popular bar for mercenaries, guards, thieves, and adventurers. Maridern often directs people toward, or away, from such careers as she judges best for them, though she never insists. She also lets people coming up in the world, with money and class and manners, know that if they want, she can get them an invite into “The Raise.” Some adventuring groups have formed from tables of regular tiles players having one of their number begin visiting the Raise, then coming back with an opportunity for adventure for which they need assistance.
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