You meet a strange man in a bar and he gives you a job.
I spend a lot of time in bars and I've never once been propositioned in this way.
Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!
Having never been a Traveller player, I hadn't seen 76 Patrons until it was the subject of a Grognardia retrospective. That post and discussion prompted me to share some of the patrons built into my version of the D&D Known World.
In D&D, patrons are especially important at low levels, as the early actions of the party/character shape their place in the world. And, sure enough, plenty of these patrons do hang about in bars. But the D&D Known World is a world where 'Adventurer' is an occupation, if not necessarily a respectable one. You don't find a patron in the local Weatherspoons', but you might at the Threshold version of the Mos Eisley Cantina.
The Giant’s Head
The Giant’s Head is the foremost adventurers’ tavern in Threshold. Not popular with the locals – nor the town guard – the Giant’s Head is the temporary home to a range of human, demi-human, and in very rare cases humanoid and monster ‘fortune seekers’. Members of the Iron Ring (their affiliation secret even through their disreputable character is not), wide-eyed farm boys run-away with the family sword, Halflings on yallara, and bands of monster hunters eat, drink and sleep under the same roof. Not surprisingly, arguments and fights are common, but it also the place to come for the best stories, rumours and, thanks to the easy gold of adventurers, high-quality, if expensive food and drink from across the Known World. The Giant’s Head is run by Harold Bigtoes, a renowned (and mostly retired) Halfling explorer, and Bailey, a Clurachaun who looks after the well-stocked wine and beer cellar and the vast collection of whiskies.
Harold ‘Giant-Killer’ Bigtoes
(H 8 Str 12 Int 14 Wis 16 Dex 16 Con 10 Chr 15 Al N AC XZ HP 34, Attack Rank D)
Magic Items: Leather Armour +2 (not usually worn), Short Sword (‘Quick Jack’) +2 (+4 vs. Giants), Ring of Cold Resistance, Ring of Survival (20 charges remaining),
Special Abilities: Half-damage from spell or spell-like effects. Fighter combat options. Two attacks per round. Denial (see GAZ8: 3): deny a single spell or magical item effect each day. Hide in woodlands (90%), in shadows or in cover (33%).
Harold is a retired adventurer, a renowned giant-killer in his day (his sword Quick Jack and his Halfling AC bonus when fighting large creatures helped save his life in several battles against the creatures of the Black Peak Mountains). Originally from the Five Shires, he spent most of the past fifty years – he is in his seventies now – exploring the northern and eastern parts of Karameikos. Of course, when he began adventuring there was no such place; the land was a Thyatan-occupied Traladara. He benefitted greatly from the arrival of Duke Stefan, first making a small fortune mapping the wilderness in the service of the new state – and finding a fair few treasure hauls along the way – and more recently profiting from the increased business that the opening up of the northern frontier has brought through the Giant’s Head (est. 989). He knows most of the adventurers that pass through Threshold, even the most notorious, by name. This includes the agents of Baron von Hendriks, such as Pharrus, a secret member of the Iron Ring. With no taste for their business, and aware of the threat the Black Eagle Barony poses to the Shires, Harold keeps men like Pharrus drinking in his inn so as to better keep an eye on them. Plus, they have to spend their ill-gotten gold somewhere.
Harold looks older than the average seventy year old Halfling. With curly grey hair, a black mustache, and a browned, lined and weather-worn face, he looks like a grizzled mountain man. And, indeed, that is what he is, having spent years, including several perilously difficult winters, high in the Black Peak Mountains, mapping and exploring Duke Stefan’s new country. However, as different as he is from the stereotypical Halfling in appearance, the environment has not worn away his good humour and hospitality. Despite maintaining the affectations of the explorer – he is often seen in the leathers and hides, the same that he would have worn in the wilderness except that these are new and unsoiled – the past fifty years were just an exceptionally long period of yallara (see GAZ 8). He toys with the idea of returning to the Shires and learning the ways of the Masters, but until now has not been able to quit frontier life.
Harold is often in a position to give PCs mapping missions, which might necessitate entering sinister woodlands, delving into un-charted cave systems, or accurately recording the locations of ancient barrows.
(LP 1 Str 7 Int 12 Wis 10 Dex 15 Con 12 Chr 14 Al L Save E1 AC 5 HP 4)
Spell(s) usually carried: Sleep or Charm Person.
Special Abilities: Invisible to Mortals – can turn invisible if a person turns away, even for a moment.
Bailey is a Clurachaun, a sub-race of Leprechaun that has turned their affinity for craft skills away from shoes and towards alcohol. He is the cellar-master of the Giant’s Head. He takes care to maintain the stocks of beers, wines and spirits – drawn from across the Known World, and beyond – that fill the cellars of the inn. This involves much tasting, and while Bailey is often drunk – he is just under a foot tall, after all – he also has an exceptionally cultured palate.
He usually dresses in exceptionally vulgar and garish version of the outfit of a gentleman of Darokin; pantaloons, short jacket and ruffed shirt. His dark hair is rarely combed or untangled, though when it is it appears so ill-suited that he looks less presentable for the effort. While of Fair Folk stock, like many Leprechauns, and most Clurachauns, his features and physique are far less fine, being of stocky, pot-belled build, with facial features just that little bit too large for his face.
His tasting skills, and hardened stomach – he is never incapacitated or left with a hangover – have left him with the ability to usually (80% of the time) identify potions and poisons from a single sip, with no ill effect. On rare occasions (on a roll of 95% or over), he has been known to misidentify potions and poisons (roll on the table on page 229 of the RC). He does not identify potions for free – a Leprechaun, Bailey loves gold, and anyway potions and poisons, not brewed for their taste, offend his tongue – charging 25gp per potion. He will tell the PCs amusing stories of past mistakes as he identifies their latest haul of bottles and flasks.
As a 1st level Leprechaun NPC, Bailey can memorize one spell per day. Choosing Sleep or Charm Person makes Bailey quite an effective bouncer. On the rare occasions that he finds himself using his spell, the Guard turn a blind eye. They figure that disorder contained within the Giant’s Head at the cost of a broken law is better than having to break up brawling adventurers themselves.