Designer Journal: Location, Location, Location
The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport includes a lot of information, from history and personalities to plots and GM advice. The heart of the book though is the nine chapters that describe the city’s districts and key locations. Astute readers may have noticed that I mentioned nine chapters, when the city previously only had eight districts. This is because Freeport has a new district, Bloodsalt, which sprang up after a nearly cataclysmic event called the Great Green Fire. The expansion of the city is just one of the ways that we tried to reflect the passage of five years in the world of Freeport.
Within each district chapter you’ll find a general overview of the place, with notes on its history, characteristics, and flavor. This is followed by a string of detailed locations, and it is these descriptions that the city really comes alive. Rob Schwalb created a basic template that every location follows. This organizes the information in a standard way, so GMs can quickly reference what they need to know. A sample location follows. This is a new business that I added to the Eastern District, Strebeck’s Beer Hall. Every location in the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport follows this same format.
Strebeck’s Beer Hall
“Why is it called Battleaxe Brew? Because my head felt like I’d been hit with one when I overindulged on the first batch, that’s why.”
Strebeck’s Beer Hall is an Eastern District institution. Hundreds of Freeporters drink and eat there every day, just as they’ve done for the past century. While the place has always been popular, the introduction of a new beer, Battleaxe Brew, fifteen years ago ensured its tables would be crowded every night.
Audley Strebeck, an entrepreneur from the Continent, founded his beer hall over one hundred years ago. He bought up several buildings near the East Gate of the Old City, demolished them, and then began construction. Local tavern owners predicted Strebeck would go out of business in less than a year. Audley proved them wrong, and by the time he died, he had a thriving business to pass on to his family.
Two more generations of Strebecks took their turns running the beer hall. Some forty years ago, Hayley Strebeck, granddaughter of Audley, had an affair with an elven privateer. The product of this union was a half-elf bastard named Nathan. Like his siblings, he was brought up working in the family business. Unlike them, he wanted to see what was beyond Freeport.
When Nathan was twenty, he joined a company of adventurers and traveled to the Continent. He apprenticed with a sorcerer and learned how to harness magic. A few years later, he accompanied his master to the lost dwarf hold of Urmanrog. The expedition was successful, and his master brought back many priceless treasures. Nathan got a small cut of the profits but none of the magic items discovered. He was not bitter, however, because he had secreted out something more valuable than gold to the son of brewing family: a sample of Urmanrog’s beer yeast.
Nathan returned to Freeport and reunited with his family. Urmanrog had been famous for its beer, and he hoped the yeast he brought home was that of the dwarf brewers. It didn’t take long for Nathan to have his answer. The first test batch of beer made the family’s traditional recipe taste like dishwater. Nathan dubbed it Battleaxe Brew, and it was introduced at Strebeck’s Beer Hall fifteen years ago. It was an instant hit, and since its debut, the brew and the beer hall have become legendary.
Strebeck’s Beer Hall is a large, brick building next to the East Gate of the Old City. It has two main sections: a three-story brewery and the beer hall proper. The beer-making process starts on the top floor of the brewery and proceeds in stages down through the building until the finished barrels are deposited in the deep, cool beer cellar. The beer hall is attached to the brewery. It’s two stories tall—though really only one story with a high, vaulted ceiling. The beer hall has three public rooms: a main taproom and two smaller rooms that are sometimes rented for private functions. All of them are crammed with pine tables and chairs; a kitchen and several storerooms are in the back of the building. All told, the beer hall can seat four hundred customers.
The following characters can be found at Strebeck’s Beer Hall.
Ethlyn (female human journeyman) is Nathan’s older sister and the current proprietor of the Strebeck Beer Hall. Her job keeps her on her feet for twelve hours a day, and this active life has kept her fit despite her age. She jokes that her graying hair gives her an air of authority. In truth, she’s had that air for decades. Ethlyn runs a tight crew that can service hundreds of customers, day in and day out. She pays a fair wage and expects hard work in return. Long-time patrons call her Ethie, her childhood nickname, but others do so at their peril.
Nathan (male half-elf master) is Strebeck’s brew master. He doesn’t practice magic as actively as he used to, but it comes in handy when fights get out of hand. Nathan has never revealed the source of the yeast he brought back from his travels, not even to Ethlyn. If dwarven brewers knew what he had, they would stop at nothing to get it. While he will sometimes tell stories of his adventuring days in the beer hall, he never talks about the expedition to Urmanrog.
An unspoken truce reigns at the Strebeck Beer Hall. There’s an occasional brawl, but the various gangs keep their clashes to the streets, by and large. But when two of these groups start having regular confrontations in the beer hall, Ethlyn needs help to sort it out. She doesn’t want to get in the middle of a gang war, nor does she want to lose business because her taproom turns into an arena. She needs the help of people who know how to deal with unruly gangers without arousing the wrath of the crime lords.
Nathan’s elven father returns to Freeport looking for his son. At first, Nathan is glad to see him. Soon he comes to realize his father has an agenda. He wants to use Strebeck’s as part of a scheme, hiding men and equipment in the beer cellar. Nathan does not want to endanger the family business, but he doesn’t know how to get his father to leave town. An elf privateer of vast experience, the father will not go gently.