Saturday, 27 February 2010

inns & taverns - the smoking bottle

The Smoking Bottle is a halfling tavern tucked into the side of a hill, signposted by a large clay lamp in the shape of a bottle supported by a brass frame.  The fire in the top of the bottle always burns, ensuring the lost and intoxicated can find respite.  Near the sign is a fenced off garden with three halfling sized arches festooned with rosemary, raspberries and white roses, at the end of which is a tall porch with some stone steps leading up to a pea green wooden door.  At the porch is a spry halfling gent of advanced years smoking a thin pipe and petting a dog larger than he is.  He usually has a mug of ale nearby.  He will ask if you are here for food, drink or smoke.  Depending on your answer and how you comport yourself, he will open the door for you.  This is a former sheriff and his loyal riding dog who know how to fight as a team if need be.

The Smoking Bottle is a family inn, staffed by fourteen halflings related to the grandfather on the door over many years. The familial resemblance is obvious and they work hard to make their guests welcome.  Inside are six circular chambers with arched ceilings that intersect to form a hexagonal shape, capacious and yet cosy.  A thick pale yellow moss covers the floor, springy underfoot it subsists on scraps of food, airborne moisture and mud tracked in by guests. It's stucco walls are scrupulously clean, decorated with painted tiles of landmarks and cameos of famous heroes in orange and white clay.  Mirrors carefully set into the ceiling reflect light and hide air holes.  The smell of cooking food and pipeweed fills the air and given the Bottle's popularity this will usually mean there's anything up to twenty-five halflings in here at any time, eating drinking and smoking - a bucolic vision of hospitality.

The centrepiece of the Smoking Bottle is an iron hearth with a large bottle-shaped oven.  A masterpiece of dwarven engineering, the hearth efficiently cooks using fragrant wood and charcoal and is tended with a firm but fair hand by three halfling matrons.  The southern wall of the Smoking Bottle is a crescent shaped bar with bottles stacked meticulously and no less than three barrels of brown ale set in place. Staff and customers move between the tables, hearth and bar according to need.  A number of shelves holding three jars are placed within easy halfling reach behind each long table.  Each jar contain pipeweed blends of varied strength for customer enjoyment and a wooden box for coin collection.  The pipeweed is complimentary if you'll eat the food - hickory-flavoured pork, roasted apples and vegetables, sweet pancakes and a pot pie of ham, rabbit, potatoes and herbs in a thick ale gravy.

The drink here is good, the brown ale nutty and refreshing without being too strong.  Yet the bottles show a keen appreciation of drink; amber barleywine, cordials of rosehip and lovage, raspberry cyser, a tart yet flavourful rosehip and raspberry aperitif wine and an unassuming brown jug that holds a herbal vodka served only to dwarves, gnomes and halflings as they have the constitution to deal with it - it's potent vodka and has a distinct floral scent.  Anyone else will become immediately drunk and risks temporarily losing their sight until they sober up.  A second measure makes speech erratic (20% chance of failure to communicate or gods forfend, cast a spell).  The third plunges them into unconsciousness for 1d6+4 hours.  The hangover is almost as bad and lasts twice as long.  Prices are about 15% higher than your typical establishment but the quality here forgives even this offence.

Behind the southern wall is a stair leading down to an expansive cellar that is very well stocked with beer and numerous bottles and barrels of the drinks found here.  Of particular note is something resembling an accident in an alchemist's lab - this is in fact a still for the herbal vodka which is only used when the year ends to make three jugs; this will usually last the entire year but supplies are available to make twice that if need be.


  1. These are always such a joy to read. Plus they give enough detail and character descriptions to aid a DM in leaving out plot hooks and potential adventure ideas. Thanks tons for posting.

  2. Thanks a lot! This one was fun, imagining how seriously some halflings take food and drink and then giving the place some pastoral touches - it was fun to write as I kept thinking of Tolkien's descriptions when I was writing it.

  3. I'm a bit late getting to this one, but as always, it made my night. Thanks!


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