The Alabaster Bottle contains an encounter of level 6-10 and is suitable for use with any D&D campaign.
A brightly painted storefront with a sign that resembles a big perfume bottle looks like any other small business. Still, not everyone who goes in and out seems like the type to buy perfume. Perhaps the sweet scent of perfume masks something insidious.
Background for the DM
Hillal Sweetflower, a halfling, founded the Alabaster Bottle about ten years ago. Hillal is sixty-two years old, and he spent more than thirty years as a modestly successful adventurer. When no promising heroic escapade was at hand, Hillal became a pickpocket and occasionally a cat burglar. He never became rich or famous, but he also never got killed or caught. As the years rolled by, Hillal felt his reflexes getting slower and he also noticed various aches and pains accumulating. He realized he couldn't keep living by his wits and decided to retire in comfort.
Hillal started looking for any clues that might lead him to a fortune, and his efforts eventually paid off. He and a few companions found and looted a hidden vault stuffed with rare jewels, statues, incense, and perfumes. Hillal was thrilled with his newfound wealth and inspired by the sheer value of the incense and perfume. He took his share and used part of it to become an apprentice perfume maker. While learning to concoct scents, he discovered that he also had a talent for alchemy.
After working for a time as a merchant trading in exotic oils, resins, and fragrant woods used in perfume and incense, Hillal opened the Alabaster Bottle. After a few years in the business, Hillal brought in two young relatives to help him in the shop. Hillal serves as a mentor to the youngsters as they pursue their own careers as explorers and rascals. He hopes having access to his advice and also some income from legitimate jobs will keep them from putting themselves in danger (by turning to crime) as he once did.
Today, Hillal sells a few alchemical items useful to adventurers in addition to incense and perfumes. He makes many of his wares, but purchases and resells most of what he offers.
The Alabaster Bottle fits best into a big city where the residents can afford luxury goods. The shop also might be located in a smaller community where trade routes cross or at one end of a key mountain pass. Hillal likes security, so if he's located in a smaller community, there's likely to be a fortress or other military installation in the area. Alternatively, Hillal might be located someplace where wandering halflings congregate from time to time. The PCs might encounter Hillal while shopping for alchemical items, or something else might steer them Hillal's way:
Hillal sold his share of the loot a long time ago; however, he might remember who bought it.
Hillal still gets around (see Visiting the Alabaster Bottle), but he's not connected with any criminal activities. He is, however, well connected with the local halfling community and might have useful information for the PCs.
Hillal might decide to come out of retirement for this venture, but he's more likely to insist that his young relatives come along to gain experience. These characters probably will need considerable protection during the venture.
Hillal might own a share in a caravan that needs guards, or he might need couriers to carry a letter or package. In either case, the cargo is valuable enough to draw attention from thieves. It might also be rare enough to serve as a rare component that an evil spellcaster would like to steal or something that a dragon or other ferocious monster would like to eat.
Visiting the Alabaster Bottle (EL 6-10)
Hillal opens for business midmorning for six days a week and he closes up sometime after dusk. He doesn't keep precise hours. If he and his assistants feel like sleeping in, opening might be delayed an hour or two, and if Hillal has a particularly challenging project to tend -- or finds himself involved in an enjoyable conversation with a customer -- the Alabaster Bottle might remain open far into the night. Early customers who don't want to wait for Hillal to rise can summon the staff with a hand bell kept near the door, though Hillal has been known to lock up the bell when he doesn't care to get up early.
Hillal hasn't quite lost his halfling wanderlust, and occasionally he literally packs up half the shop and takes it on the road to attend some distant fair or market.
First-time visitors are sure to notice the shop's sign (see below). A step through the door reveals a business that reflects its owner's quirks:
A long look through a window or a step through the door reveals more:
Hillal uses the wagon for his trips to distant locales. It is fitted with panels and an awning on one side to allow Hillal to use it as a sales stall with living quarters behind.
The building contains the following areas:
Main Wing: The main wing stands opposite the wagon's parking spot. It consists of the open air sales area described above and a rear storage area and workshop.
The bottles on the shelves in the sales area contain mostly perfumes. Each is fitted with a glass stopper with a long glass rod attached. A customer can withdraw the stopper to take a sample of the merchandise. The bottles are intended for sampling only. When someone wishes to purchase a scent, a staff member must take it from a locked compartment under the shelves. Hillal also stores scented oils and various kinds of incense on the shelves. These can be purchased right off the shelf.
Hillal sells all of the alchemical items listed in the Player's Handbook, plus other alchemical items that might be available in your campaign (such as those from the Arms and Equipment Guide). Most of these items are dangerous, and Hillal keeps them locked in the back. The staff sells these items to patrons who ask for them.
The workshop has a bench crammed with alchemical gear and storage bins for raw materials. Finished alchemical items are kept in a locked cabinet. Hillal or whatever staff member is currently in charge has the keys to the back room and the compartments under the shelves.
Rear Wing: The wing behind the courtyard contains living quarters for Hillal and his assistants. The three halflings live on the upper floor. The lower floor is a stable and kennel. This wing has exits that open onto an alley behind the shop, and a connecting door leads to the workshop behind the sales area.
Creatures: Hillal, his nephew Brammon, his niece Elysia, or all three are on duty during business hours. When the shop is closed, Hillal usually is home alone while the youngsters pursue their own interests. Hillal also keeps three riding dogs for security. When the shop is open, the dogs usually lie out of sight under the sales area. When the shop is closed, the dogs are either in the kennel or upstairs with the halflings. Hillal also has three war ponies.
Riding Dogs (3): hp 13 each; MM 272.
The dogs are trained for guarding (see the Handle Animal skill description).
War Ponies (3): hp 13 each; MM 277.
The ponies are trained for combat riding (see the Handle Animal skill description). When Hillal needs animals to pull his wagon, he buys or trades for additional animals.
About the Authors
Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies and was the Sage of Dragon Magazine for 18 years. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (rabbits and deer are not Skip's friends) or works on repairing and improving the century-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Penny, and a growing menagerie of pets.
Penny Williams joined the roleplaying game industry as Game Questions Expert for TSR, Inc. in the 1980s. Since then, she has served as RPGA Network Coordinator, PolyhedronNewszine editor, and Senior Editor and Coordinating Editor for the RPG R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Now a busy freelancer, Penny edits for several game companies and runs the online playtesting program for Wizards products. When not enhancing the cruelty of the deaths PCs will suffer at the hands of designers, Penny puts up jam, works jigsaw puzzles, and tutors students in math and science.
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