Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Behind Gently Smiling Jaws: Grog Shops in Port Keizerin Elisabeth

No drinking establishment in Port Keizerin Elisabeth is so grand as to deserve the label of “inn”, “tavern” or even “pub”. They are uniformly poor, miserable and spartan: often simply a large tent or lean-to with benches and a big pot full of home-made rum mixed with water and nutmeg. They throng with a familiar crowd of dypsomaniacs, socialites and old soaks, labourers and sailors - all spending their meagre earnings in search of the balm of oblivion to salve the pain of desperation.

Whenever the PCs decide to visit a grog shop, there will be d3 familiar faces amidst the general crowd of drinkers – one of the regulars who floats about this twilight world of rum and regret. There is also a 1 in 3 chance of a special event taking place.

Use the first table when creating a grog shop. Use the table underneath to generate familiar faces and special events when the PCs visit. 

Grog Shop

Robert Adams, an Ulsterman with an unhappy, dry wit
The grog shop has a small pet penguin that sailors once brought from a distant land; it can carry a tankard on its head
Blue Billy, a Paradijs native whose face is permanently dyed blue
The grog shop has a cook who used to work for a French admiral; the food is stunningly and incongruously delicious
Alfonso Alves, a Portingale with a predilection for female feet
The rum is poorly distilled and there is a 1 in 100 chance of going blind from drinking it
William van Bommel, the smelliest man in Port Keizerin Elisabeth
Two domesticated cassowaries are on guard at all times; they obey the landlord’s orders to attack, but will also attack dogs on sight
Pierre Delumeau, a Huguenot who only serves those who renounce Papistry
The grogshop has a piano that somebody stole from a merchant ship; in the dead of night it is sometimes heard playing
Margaret Schmidt, a Duitser princess fleeing an unhappy marriage in Batavia; Schmidt is an assumed name
In a corner of the grog shop is a statute brought by an explorer from a distant native village; the witch doctor who carved it is said to still be able to see out from its eyes, but nobody is brave enough to get rid of it
Madam Shu, a tall Chinese woman who carries two snakes at all times, one wrapped around each wrist
The landlord has two pet bowerbirds who both mimic each other mimicking snatches of overheard conversation; they have an uncanny knack of choosing the most embarrassing utterances
The Dunnock, a diminutive and furtive Welshman who speaks in whispers
The grog shop has a plaintive ‘pet’ tree kangaroo who lives an unhappy existence chained in a corner
Arjen van der Graaf, thin and severe, who prefers his patrons to drink in stony silence
The grog shop has a dancer and musicians from Turkije, Hindoostan or Bali
Olaf the Oaf, a bearded Dane with an unfair nickname
The grog shop is built on a raft moored at a jetty; sometimes disgruntled drunks cut the rope and it floats away, with the landlord having to row it back in the morning

Familiar Faces and Events

Familiar Faces (d3 on any given occasion)
Special Events/Encounters
Jap Strood, an old Nederlander with a nose like a squashed strawberry, a belly like a drum, and a face of cracked red veins, who was once an explorer
A wandering Bird of Paradise Man is at the grog house. He offers to fight a duel with any challenger, for an agreed stake: there are no rules, except that either combatant may surrender and forfeit the fight at any time.
Gunnar Gunnarsson, a smooth-tongued Swede who spies for the Swedish East India Company, smuggling secrets out through certain sympathetic traders
There is a beetle race taking place. Anyone may bet; the winner is randomly determined by the DM by rolling a d6 for each of the 2d6 beetles taking part and keeping a cumulative tally until one of the beetles reaches 20.

Dirk Maarwijk, dashing and handsome, with long blonde locks of hair and nothing between his ears, who made love to most of the wives of most of the noblemen in Batavia
Press gangers. A group of sailors from a naval vessel raid the grog shop for forced labour. There are 3d6 of them, with AC 14, HD 1+1, AB +2, armed with clubs and knives. They set about carrying off the most inebriated drinkers; each of the players rolls a d6, with the press gangers targeting the PC with the lowest score.
Diwata the Divine, a Tagalog woman so beautiful as to be heavenly, who is an expert on black powder and its uses
Travelling Paradijs native dancers. A troupe of Paradijs natives, some men and some women, who will perform war dances for money. They are from a village on the Sunset River (roll a dice to determine which) and know the entire area.
Michael McFarlane, a Scotchman with fiery red hair, who can interpret dreams and visions
Returning prospectors. A group of men returned from searching for gold or other resources upriver. They are tough, taciturn, and troubled by what they have seen. But they may tell of it for a price.
Quick and Quicker, Ceylonish twins with unpronounceable names, who can identify any spice or poison
Sailors spoiling for a fight. A gang of 2d6 men onshore from a visiting ship. They have 1+1 HD and +2 AB and are in search of fisticuffs. They may become fast friends of those they fight with, afterwards.
Ruud the Yellow, a jaundiced nobleman in all senses of the word, who came to Paradijs fleeing creditors
“Romance”. One of the PCs becomes the subject of the affections of a young (or not so young) woman or man. Roll a d6: the lower the score, the worse the PC’s luck.
James Swales, an Englishman with a fat, jowelled face and blubbery skin, who belongs to a mysterious sect and came fleeing persecution
Scholar. A very brave or very foolish scholar who is on his way elsewhere and briefly disembarked. He is from the university of 1 – Bologna, 2 – Oxford, 3 – Cambridge, 4 – Salamanca, 5 – Santo Tomas, 6 – Charles, and will pay for unusual samples, maps, etc.
Quiet Celeste, a soft-spoken old Frenchwoman who they say was brought up by witches
Waif. A young boy or girl wastrel starts following the PCs everywhere and expresses the desire to join them.
Maria De La Torre, a Spaniard with a generous spirit and generous hips, who knows all of the tribes on the Sunset River
Arm wrestling tournament. A knock-out tournament with a 100 thaler purse and 16 initial participants. Bouts are won by participants rolling under their STR on a d20 while still outscoring their opponents.


  1. Wonderfully atmospheric stuff, this.

  2. Fantastic table. Is the setting 17th century?

    1. Kind of. It is in a sort of alternate reality that is a bit like the early colonial era. It is not at all historically accurate, or meant to be. It's set in a sort of mirror universe New Guinea, basically, as it is beginning to be explored by the Dutch, Portuguese, etc.