Most parties, upon entering a new town, have a simple shopping list: blacksmith for weapons, alchemist for potions, anyone dealing in magic items, and onwards to food and booze. And if any of that intro sounds familiar to you, you may have already read a previous Dungeon Situational in which I presented a list of unusual traders and merchants. A fun trader or NPC can lend life to a town, but what if the very shop and all its contents are a fascination in themselves? Enough useful items can bring the players back again and again, and an entire story may unravel therein.
I will expand on the notion of a herbalist and perfumer I mentioned in the Unusual Traders article. As usual, the information below is designed for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but is readily modified for other editions and systems.
On days of light breezes or dry heat, the streets of the Leas district in the coastal city Valdun are filled with the enticing smells that waft from Blessèd Airs, a mixture of spices, herbs, flowers, and fruits. The storefront is a clash of colours, blossoms dripping from buckets, troughs and suspended baskets beneath the plain canvas awning, all filled with vibrance and life in all seasons, and inside a patron will find more of the same amidst racks of bottles, shelves stacked with soaps and boxes of dried mixtures, and several workstations at which shoppers and staff alike work at chemical and alchemical mixtures.
Faetazan – Owner
A half elf of advanced years, Faetazan is warm and welcoming to new and old customers alike. She keeps a copper kettle warm behind the counter, and offers a herbal tea¹ to any and all who cross the threshold. She actively encourages people to use the alchemical facilities in the room, and is willing to offer advice and training – for a price – in the creation of potions, remedies, salves, perfumes, and any of the many other products she creates. She proudly proclaims that she has a few secret recipes that she would never share, most famous of which being the tea she offers freely.
Faetezan’s skin was clearly once of a darker shade, but has paled over the years, same of her greyed hair, and her over-large, sky blue eyes. Her use of a cane might suggest dwindling eyesight as she taps a little ahead of herself, but she otherwise shows few signs of blindness.
Simple stats: Faetazan has +3 bonuses to intelligence, wisdom and charisma, an additional +2 to persuasion, arcana, and insight, and +4 to deception and checks related to alchemical creation.
Staff and Patrons
Volcel is a human woman who specialises in rolling and casting incense, and anyone consulting on incenses for religion and arcane ceremonies will find her profoundly knowledgeable and skilled. Her hands are permanently stained a blueish hue, and her hair is a blackened frazzle. She is abrasive, or at least compared to Faetazan, sentences are short and terse, but she is quite patient.
Thrabis is a much younger human, apprenticed to the shop by his father who is a clergyman of Lor Adanos. He has a nervous energy to his work, and occasionally stops to take a deep inhale, or unconsciously rub his hands through some herb he finds soporific.
Patholee spends hours in the shop, sipping tea, sampling perfumes, and conspicuously spending inordinate amounts of money. She is a wood elf, and will trap people in extensive conversation about how the bundles of herbs and bouquets of flowers remind her of home.
Contents and Prices
Potion of Healing – Faetazan habitually keeps regular and greater healing potions on hand, and is capable of producing potions of superior healing at a high cost. They cost 75, 200, and 1,200 gold respectively. She usually has 6-10 regular healing potions, and 2-4 greater healing potions. They take only a few hours each to brew, but a request for a superior healing potion requires a day or two for each potion, the high cost reflecting the need to gather special components. The speciality blend has a deeper colouration and a floral flavour, and also allow the drinker to repeat a saving throw immediately to end an ongoing effect.
Other potions – Being an establishment specialised in ceremonial, calmative, and remedial mixtures, combat oriented potions are unlikely, but a Potion of Heroism might be mixed from a medicine made to calm and fortify the nerves for 1500 GP and a day of brewing. A sleeping admixture might be made more potent to create a poison to render a creature unconscious for a similar price². Each potion created will be of exceptionally good flavour, and often carry some other random beneficial property.
Incense – Readily available from Volcel’s table are a wide variety of incense rods, cones, and jars. She can make practically any scent, and mass produces the specialist blends for arcane and religious rituals. The plain incenses costs between 1 and 20 GP for enough to burn for an hour in whatever form you choose.
Perfumes – Perfumes vary wildly in terms of cost: at the lower end very simple fragrances can cost 15 to 30 GP; more potent fragrances might cover up pungent and unpleasant odours, and can cost 50 to 100 GP; the highest calibre might be essential for moving in higher social circles, or might grant advantage to charisma checks with specific audiences, or impose disadvantage in others. These specialist perfumes can set a purse back by 200 to 800 GP, and can go from simply attracting particular races or genders, all the way up to encoded scents to appeal to particular families and factions.
Training – A person can be trained to craft certain potions and perfumes, but the cost is high. An hour of training costs 500 GP, and requires a DC 20 intelligence or wisdom check reduced by 1 for each hour after the first to commit a recipe to memory. This cost might increase for very rare potions or very specific blends.
1) The tea noted above has a similar effect to the Friends cantrip, in that Faetazan has advantage on any checks made to persuade those who drink it, except that the effect lasts for an hour, and is not noticed once it has worn off. A player may learn this fact if they look too closely at Patholee or if they manage to analyse the tea with a high DC arcana check.
2) Faetazan is very skilled at creating poisons. She has to trust someone implicitly to create a poison, and she charges incredibly high prices for the privilege. More terrifying is her ability to turn most poisons into a vapour or smoke with next to no effort. A player may learn this fact if they spot her plague-doctor style mask tucked behind the counter, and inquire deeply about it.
Familiar Smells Throughout your campaign, the players may catch familiar traces of smell in rooms where senior officials, leaders, and influential people spend time. It is a sure sign that these people are subject to outside influence, either from customers of Blessèd Airs, or by Faetazan herself.
As usual, the course of this series is determined by you. Dungeon Situationals are for you to use directly or indirectly in your fantasy role play, and while I will go off-genre soon enough and delve into sci-fi and horror, let’s have another week or two of fantasy. Next week:
A selection of magical artifacts made by enigmatic sphinxes, designed to help them ward sacred spaces, or to make their innate mystic abilities more potent.
The words your paladin might hold dear, the law by which they abide, and the philosophy that drives them to heights of divine power.
And finally, other twisted creatures forged of elemental energy, made by twisting lesser elementals into shape.