Freeport: City of Adventure
“The Docks may be the crossroads of the world, but it’s closer to the jakes.” —Lord Elgen Reinhart, Silverus Expatriate
The Warehouse District and Scurvytown offer places of port, but most ships dock here. Along the crowded wharves, one can find ships hailing from all over the world, bringing unusual peoples, customs, goods, and animals to this city of adventure. It is here that orc pirates rub shoulders with elven corsairs. Human sailors brawl with those of rival nations, while exotic peoples from as far away as Hamunaptra stare in wonder at travelers from legendary Narajan.
A number of shops, pubs, and brothels that cater to travelers face the wharves. From the moment a visitor disembarks from the ship, locals assail him with ways to spend his money. Many people are flat broke within minutes of arriving. Behind these initial establishments are more taverns, brothels, apothecaries, and other businesses that cater to sailors. Flophouses are common, offering low-rent accommodations for those who aren’t too choosy about where they sleep.
Although most buildings in the Docks are for entertainment or retail, there are some residences. Homes cluster together and form small communities bound by ethnicity. Most folks, though, reside in apartments above their shops, retreating there at the end of a trying business day.
Structures in the Docks are wooden atop stone foundations. Some incorporate stone—mostly near the shore, but even these are few and far between since the material is expensive and rare on the islands. Nearly all the buildings in the Docks have some form of damage or another, incurred by the frequent storms that lash the island.
The buildings fronting the wharves form a row all across the district. There are a few wide avenues heading off to adjacent districts, including one crowded road that travels through the Seaside Market. Most streets, though, are narrow alleys that wind into the darkest depths of the district or to nowhere at all. These labyrinthine paths may lead to ambushes, dangerous pubs, or bizarre shops that sell suspect or illicit goods.
As one would expect, the Docks are active. The district is empty in the morning after crews depart for their next destination, only to fill again with another round of vessels in the afternoon. While few ships come to port after the sun has set, the night is filled with raucous laughter, screams, and carousing.
“You compare yourself to Sea Lord Drac. I knew Drac. Believe me, you’re no Drac.” —Kad Serlin, Harbormaster
Freeport Harbor is the greatest source of taxes in the entire city. The Sea Lord’s tax collectors do their best to collect fees from the various property owners in the city, but in a town as corrupt as Freeport, it’s often difficult to do in a fair and timely manner.
The people who would pay the most property taxes are, of course, the most powerful souls in town, so collecting anything from them is difficult. The ships sailing in and out of town are another matter entirely.
The city doesn’t collect taxes directly from the captains of the ships in the harbor. Instead, they get their cut from the fees the owners of the various piers charge the ships that make use of their services. If the taxes aren’t paid, the piers are closed down and the owners don’t make a dime.
This is clearly extortion, but it’s also a long-established tradition, so the pier owners of Freeport generally hand over their taxes with more-often-than-not forced cheer. It’s not so bad for them, after all. They just pass the costs on to their customers—and then use the taxes as an excuse to jack up the prices further. The person in charge of collecting all of this money is Kaddaceous “Kad” Serlin (male elf master), an elf who has had the job since the founding of the city.
Serlin is a well-known fop about town, rumored to have been cheating on his wife Darlanian (female elf journeyman) for over a hundred years. Even though his office overlooks Port Square, he makes his home in a fine house in the Merchant District. It’s commonly believed Serlin is skimming a hefty bit off the top of the taxes he brings in, but he’s so good at getting the city the money it needs that no Sea Lord has ever formally complained.
Serlin can be seen striding along the wharves at just about any time of day, usually accompanied by his personal unit of the Watch. He has the power to collect city taxes from the pier-owners. Since it’s in his best interest to make sure the docking fees are properly collected, he and his guardsmen can be “unofficially” called upon when stubborn ship captains won’t pay the proper fees.
Common Shops of the Docks
All of these locations are great, but they may not be appropriate for all situations—such as when the player characters just want to buy a sword, find a place to bed down for the night, or simply spend some coins to re-supply in between adventures. The following shops are your standard fare for this district and can be used for just this purpose.
Taverns and Inns
In addition to the taverns and inns described in this chapter, one can find any of the following in the Docks.
12. The Lost Lass: This small tavern caters to sailors and pirates.
13. Cracked Pot: This bustling water hole serves only cheap wine.
14. Kergen’s Kradle: This inn is a more of a flophouse that rents rooms at hourly, daily, or monthly rates. For a few pennies, you can even borrow a room for a few minutes.
15. The Doxies Lap: An inn and restaurant, this establishment offers decent accommodations at a fair price.
16. Bilge Rat: This seedy tavern is noted for its excellent ale.
Most weaponry and armor that moves through the district does so at the Seaside Market, though there are a handful of specialty shops in this district. The best place to find general gear is at the Seaside Market.
17. Urian’s Forge: This smith works exclusively in metals and offers a wide assortment of weapons and armor.
18. The Hidden Hide: Huddled on the edge of the Docks, this tanner is noted for the urine filled pits he uses to cure hides. He molds the material into decent leather armor.
For the randy and impatient, the Docks offers plenty of places for travelers to gain companionship.
19. Rose Alley: This filthy side street is a common place to pick up “companions” of the illicit variety.
20. Bliss: A small but successful brothel, Bliss specializes in exotic companionship.
21. Eddies: Another brothel, many suspect this place as the source of a recent bout of syphilis that’s wreaking havoc in the Docks.
22. The Honey Pot: This drug den offers a cornucopia of narcotics.
Entering the Docks
Travelers disembark by gangplanks to the crowded wharf below. Upon stepping off the ship, the visitor is assailed by sights and sounds, by hawkers peddling junk, by thieves looking for a mark, and by anyone else who would profit from those unfamiliar with Freeport’s pitfalls. Maneuvering up the wharf is tricky; stevedores unload cargo, while unskilled laborers scrape barnacles and slime from the hulls of ships. Coils of rope, falling crates, and large angry orcs are just a few things one can encounter here.
Once free from the wharves, the Docks district awaits. Businesses ranging from brothels, restaurants, pubs, and specialty shops front the wharves. Urchins sell copies of the Shipping News and call out the major events of the day. Peddlers and merchants hawk their wares to passers-by, while bawds offer their services to guide newcomers to the safer parts of town. Sailors haul their catch to the fishwives, who with deft hands strip the fish of scales, bones, and guts, sending them splashing onto the streets or the swirling waters below.
Inside the Docks
Life on the sea is dangerous, and those who make their living on the waves are often hard-bitten people with large appetites. Sailors who get their pay at the end of a trip often blow the entire amount during their shore leave. After all, there’s nothing to spend it on while aboard the ship, and they never know whether their next trip out might be their last. Better to spend it now than to let it weigh you down if you’re tossed into the sea.
Since the streets of the Docks are busy day and night, many here happily relieve sailors and travelers of their coin. Grifters, con men, thugs, thieves, streetwalkers, and peddlers prowl the narrow streets, searching for their next target. By day, the Docks are bad enough, but at night, it’s suicidal to go about alone.
All sorts of mayhem happens here after sundown, and it’s not uncommon for the Watch to find a body or two—or more—floating in the harbor. Unless the victim is somebody of note, though, it’s unlikely that authorities will administer any repercussions. It’s usually up to the poor soul’s friends to avenge him, assuming he had any.
There’s little refuge indoors either. The taverns are not choosy about clientele, and all sorts of unsavory types haunt the crowded pubs. Few establishments have bouncers, and those that do are there to protect the staff. Guests are on their own.
Crossroads of the World
The people of the Docks have seen it all. Since this district is the doorway through which travelers come to Freeport, people see visitors of just about every nationality, race, and culture. There’s a certain air of tolerance here, an acceptance of others regardless of how unsettling they are. People judge others on their merits, not stereotypes. This attitude is what makes Freeport so endearing to seafarers. The pirate city has always served as a haven, a hideaway for people of all backgrounds, and as Freeport becomes more cosmopolitan, the locals are more and more willing to accept anyone who comes to visit.
This good-natured charity lasts only as long as the visitors behave. Should someone from off-island do something nasty, it’s just a matter of time before the locals band together and smack the upstart down. Even the toughest creatures think twice before taking on an entire mob of disapproving Freeporters.
Locations of Interest
All of the following locations can be found in the Docks.
1. The Longshoremen’s Union
“Freeport, as we all know, is a wild town. Serpent men, buried temples, gates to Hell—you can’t walk into somebody’s basement without uncovering a Truth That Nobody Is Meant to Know. But, for all that eldritch excitement, our city is still a port— which means somebody’s got to do the loading and unloading and make sure the city’s main industry keeps chugging along. These days nothing happens on the wharves without the Longshoremen.” —Sweet Gregor, Brute
The Longshoremen’s Union is a fixture on the wharves. Operating out of an unassuming storefront facing the wharves, a visitor wouldn’t know this group employs every sweating stevedore unloading the ships on the wharves. The truth is, anyone who wants work on the wharves must join the union. Those who don’t and think they can get away with not paying their dues face a cordial but firm welcoming committee who clarifies the need for joining the brotherhood. Woe to those who refuse. A person has one chance to join. If they don’t, they’re beaten— and if they still refuse, they disappear. Those fools who try to break the union with scabs, or try to cut union wages, are in for a full-scale strike—one that effectively shuts down the city. Thus, no one crosses the Longshoremen’s Union.
Usually, these bruisers are locals with a reason to stay on dry land—strong family ties, a surreptitious weak stomach, or just a desire to live a normal life. They’re big and burly, but while they blow off some steam now and again, they don’t raise the same kind of ruckus visiting sailors do. Freeport is their home, after all, not just a way station.
Among the movers and shakers of Freeport, there’s a lot of scorn directed at the Longshoremen. The Captains’ Council and no few local merchants decry the union, claiming it is little more than a gang of thieves and extortionists, worse than the cutpurses haunting the rest of the Docks. Despite the mutterings of the elite, the Longshoremen are in fact one of the few honest organizations in town.
This wasn’t always the case. For years, the Longshoremen’s Union was a joke. The bosses lined their pockets with sweetheart deals that left the workers out in the cold. While these corrupt officials got rich, and ship captains paid starving wages to the workers to off-load their ships, the people of the Docks suffered. So long as the Captains’ Council got their cut, they ignored the plight of the stevedores and longshoremen, allowing the exploitation and terrible conditions to persist.
Everything changed about a decade ago. Poppy Bragg, a member of the union, emerged as a force of nature. Dissatisfied with his pay and disgusted by the corruption riddling the upper levels of the organization, he championed the cause of the worker and fought his way to the top. He built a union to be feared and respected. He met with merchants and ship owners and laid down the law, tearing up the old contracts and hammering out tough new ones. At the same time, he insisted his members pull their weight—he’d make sure everyone could eat, he was fond of saying, but he’d be damned if he’d let anybody get fat.
The Longshoremen’s Union has a small office that fronts the wharves. Plain and serviceable, the offices are merely functional. Bragg refuses to let union funds go toward beautifying the place, and so long as the organization sustains itself, he’s content.
The building is two stories, with a meeting hall on the main floor, along with an office and a records room where the union keeps its contracts and funds in a thick iron vault. A staircase leads upstairs to more storage rooms and offices. The only thing that separates this building from those around it is a white flag hanging out front bearing a red silhouette of a muscular man pulling on a rope.
The Longshoremen’s Union keeps a small staff on hand to manage the day-to-day affairs of the organization. Two accountants, a couple of clerks, and some burly toughs can be found here at any time. Poppy Bragg also has an office, but he’s rarely here and prefers, instead, to work alongside the other workers on the wharves.
Poppy Bragg: Poppy Bragg runs the Longshoremen’s Union. He is a large, heavyset man who can beat up just about anyone.
Mother Passos: Mother Passos is the wife of Poppy Bragg. She’s a strong-willed woman and believes in standing up for what is right. She looks out for the Union as if they are her own children, hence her nickname.
2. The Seaside Market
“If the Docks are the door, the Seaside Market is the hall.” —Aulvant Brine, Peddler
The Docks are home to countless small shops and pubs, all catering to the varied tastes and interests of those who brave the seas to reach Freeport. Although, only the Seaside Market comes close to reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the Docks. This thriving corridor is the true crucible of the Docks, for here is where most merchants sell their wares and most travelers make purchases. Goods from all over the world change hands beneath the tents and out of the backs of carts. Exotic fruits, grains, livestock, and other perishables can be found here, but this place also holds great treasures for those with the coin to spend. One vendor may deal in priceless relics brought forth from the ancient tombs of Hamunaptra, while another may peddle silks brought from far-flung Narajan. Weapons, armor, curiosities, and treasures are all for sale. Of course, there’s no shortage of cutpurses and thieves who’ll get their coin through less honest means, but this is a busy and important part of Freeport, forming the very spine of the city’s economy.
Freeporters never planned for the Seaside Market; it just appeared. It’s been in the city for as long as anyone can remember and for good reason. The Seaside Market stands on the main thoroughfare from the Docks to the Old City. It didn’t take Freeport’s merchants and peddlers long to figure out that they would move more of their goods if they went to their customers rather than the other way around. Thus, what started as a few ambitious vendors quickly exploded into the incredible, dynamic market that stands here today. But the Seaside Market is not just for native merchants. Visiting dealers grew wise to the strategic value of the place, so people man stalls and carts, selling goods newly brought in from all over the world.
Beginning just north of the two northernmost piers in the Docks, the Seaside Market runs across the district, all the way up to the walls of the Old City. It is a large, vibrant, open air bazaar where shoppers can find almost anything they might want—for a price. The entire area is crammed full of tents, tables, and stalls, all filled to overflowing with all sorts of merchandise ranging from fresh fish and imported vegetables to live cattle to books to weaponry of all kinds. Goods of a magical nature can be found here as well, and spellcasters come from all over the city to acquire weird ingredients for their sorcerous pursuits.
Wherever there’s such a large amount of unbridled commerce, there are also thieves and con men of all stripes. The Seaside Market is not the safest place in the city, even in broad daylight, and the Watch is notorious for ignoring anything short of an outright brawl in the narrow aisles between the merchants.
Even with the risk of theft, people come here in droves. The prices are generally much cheaper than elsewhere in the city, so many people make regular pilgrimages down to the Seaside Market for necessities.
The Seaside Market is packed with people from sunrise to sunset. No matter their station, occupation, or purpose, folks from all walks can be found strolling through the maze of tents and stalls.
Jeminy Swift: The teenager, Jeminy Swift, is a naughty boy. He is in control of a gang of about two dozen young boys and girls who live in the Docks.
Pious Pete: Pious Pete is one of the best guides in Freeport, and his name is well known throughout the city. He claims to have a been a priest at one time.
3. The Black Gull
“…and here is the Black Gull. If you don’t like your teeth and would rather not spend your coin on kohl to darken your eyes, feel free to enter.” —Pious Pete, Guide
The Docks are full of taverns and pubs, but given their rough clientele, most honest folk look a bit further into the city for a drink and a meal. The Docks are no place for the mild, and nowhere is this truer than the Black Gull. Squeezed between two warehouses in the eastern part of the Docks near the border to Scurvytown, The Black Gull is a dangerous place that caters to the nastier sorts that visit the city.
The Black Gull is a fixture in Freeport. It takes its name from a huge raven that flew in the door when the bar first opened and refused to leave. The owner, Dill Mackey, started feeding the bird. One night, a sailor who was three sheets to the wind looked up and said, “That’s the blackest gull I’ve ever seen.”
Within days, Mackey renamed the bar and replaced the sign out front with a painting of his favorite pet. Of course, that was years ago, and the sign now shows some wear, but the bird is still there. When it’s not perched on Mackey’s broad shoulder, the raven rests in a wrought iron cage up behind the bar, relatively safe from the raucous crowd.
The Black Gull is a narrow building with only two walls of its own. The sides are formed by the brick warehouses that rise to either side. Mackey built the back and the front when he claimed the place. The interior is dirty and the floor covered in suspicious stains. A bar runs along one side with wooden stools in front for patrons, and some benches and tables line the opposite side. A few other tables fill up the empty spaces, placed just far enough apart to squeeze between them. The décor is decidedly spartan—a mariner’s wheel hangs from the ceiling along with a few nets and other junk.
Fights happen like clockwork in the Black Gull. Mackey tolerates them mostly, but whenever anyone comes over the bar or threatens him or any of his staff (which includes three waitresses and a busboy) he lets loose his bouncer, Buster, on them.
The Black Gull has prices that range from reasonable to downright cheap—about half normal. The quality of the booze is rather low but priced right for the thirsty. Mackey doesn’t serve any food in the place—_”Gets in the way of the ale,”_ he complains—but people are welcome to bring it in from elsewhere. They’d better have enough to share, though. A lack of such manners has sparked more than one fight in the place.
As mentioned, the Black Gull is not for the meek, being better suited for tough pirates. There are a few regulars, but they’re mostly retired pirates who come to the tavern to drink away their sorrows and swap lies about their exploits.
DIll Mackey: Dill Mackey is a tense man, who often knows what the word on the street is. The characteristic Black Gull for which the tavern is named after is always near him.
M.F.: MF is a nasty sort of fellow who no one really knows about. Not even Buster tries to make him leave.
4. The Rusty Hook
“Ah, the Rusty Hook. Stay away from the maids… er… yeah, the maids… or else your hook won’t be the only thing that’s rusty.” —Quirious Crey, Elven Visitor
The Rusty Hook is a freestanding warehouse converted into a tavern and inn by well-known ex-pirate named Karl Wine. Situated near the Merchant District, many well-to-do Freeporters would gladly tear down this eyesore.
The Rusty Hook was once a warehouse, and it shows. Karl Wine, a one-handed ex-pirate, won the crumbling building in a game of cards from some fool years ago. Wine took one look at the place and realized he had no idea what to do with it. Since the only things he knew were drinking, fighting, and wenching, and since the place wasn’t a boat, he decided to set up a tavern instead, naming the dive after his much neglected prosthesis.
Running a tavern out of a warehouse wasn’t altogether clever; the place was far too big, being one huge room. Wine spent a couple of months thinking and drinking, slowly working out how he could make it work. One morning, after a particularly lewd evening of debauchery, he woke up on his back. He shoved the prostitute off his belly and realized the ceiling was easily forty feet overhead. He had an idea. He’d split the place horizontally with a new, lower ceiling for the main room, with plenty of space above for the bunkrooms.
Construction began, and a year later, the Rusty Hook opened for business.
Although Wine had a good idea, he was never one to consider his plans—the main floor is still quite large. A shoddy wall runs across the middle, separating the common room from the kitchens in the back. Surprisingly, the food isn’t bad. The seafood is always fresh, if not a bit overcooked. Wine actually has a flair for cooking, but any attempts to bring the quality above its meager standard would be wasted on his rough-and-tumble clientele.
A ladder leads up to the second floor, which is cordoned off into a dozen or so rooms with leaning walls held up by hastily erected supports. Wine claims one of the rooms as his own, and it has a door that leads to another room occupied by his barmaids—all of whom were women of ill repute before getting honest work at the Hook. He rents the other dozen rooms by the month, week, day, or even hour. These are deplorable places, equipped with a foul cot and little else. Wine keeps one large room upstairs for the unconscious drunks, the bouncers depositing them to sleep off their benders—once their purses have been lightened to cover the cost of floor space.
Most of the people who patronize the Rusty Hook are sailors, people used to living on the substandard gruel commonly prepared by the underpaid cooks that live on the ships.
Karl Wine: Karl Wine is a disgusting, but lucky man. He knows just about everything there is to know about the streets and has many connections within the city.
5. Society of Lobstermen
“No, they’re not man-lobsters fool, they’re lobstermen! Don’t you know anything?” —Wendel Rolmes, Local Bastard
Seafood, obviously, is a staple in Freeport’s diet, and lobster is the priciest delicacy on the market. Very few average folks in town can afford it, but the dinner tables and restaurants of the Merchant District have it in good rotation (along with oddities such as imported beef and chicken). The dish comes dear for a simple reason: there aren’t many lobsters in Freeport’s waters, and those present are tough to catch. Like the people of Freeport, the lobsters have become adept at surviving by any means necessary, clinging to rocks, hiding in caves, and even snipping open traps. It takes a special kind of fisherman to bring them to the surface—it’s more of an art than a job.
So why do the Lobstermen have a fleet of three well-appointed ships? Why do they have a fancy “guild headquarters” on the border of the Merchant District? Why do they never seem to want for money or goods? Why do they get all those fancy, peculiar visitors from out of town? And why do they go so damned far off the coast to do their fishing? The truth is: The Lobstermen do catch the creatures, and they’re regular pros at the job. But that’s not all they go scrounging for down in the depths.
Balboa Cockle, a tinker of no small intelligence, founded the Lobstermen’s society decades ago. He hit upon the idea that if so many ships had been sunk in the waters around Freeport, then the sea floor must be overflowing with gold. He knew if he got wizards involved, they’d either steal his idea or take the lion’s share of the profits in exchange for magic. Locking himself in his laboratory for weeks, he devised a suit of brass and glass and canvas designed to let the wearer explore the floor of the ocean. The only problem was that Cockle’s contraption required somebody on the surface of the water to work an air pump, and he was at a loss for friends. So he formed an alliance with the only group of people in Freeport who were bigger loners than he was—the handful of misanthropic fishermen who hunted lobsters.
They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They found wreck after wreck beneath the waves, each loaded with more booty than the last. Cockle and his allies were smart; rather than make a great show of their wealth, they invested in prudent improvements to their boats and equipment. Over the decades, they grew into a full-fledged society—codes of secrecy were established, initiation rites created, and a headquarters acquired. They undertook moves to expand, streamline, and protect their business. The society’s emissaries have traveled the shipping lanes, letting it be known that anyone wanting something retrieved from the depths can have it for the right price— hence the visitors at all hours, most of whom seek some heirloom or other priceless gewgaw that’s now gathering coral. The Lobstermen will fetch anything, no questions asked. They are a tight-lipped, adamantly neutral crew.
They vigorously monitor the shipping lanes and patrol their undersea haunts in Cockle Shells (as they call their diving suits). Anyone who ventures below the waves and snoops around for lost treasure may likely contend with one or more mysterious figures wielding tridents and weighted nets. Rumor has it that the Lobstermen have also acquired some arcane means to render water-breathing magic useless, which is devastatingly effective underwater. The sea has closed over more than one party of reckless adventurers who thought that magic was all they needed for protection down below.
The Society of Lobstermen operates out of an enormous four-story building that faces the Warehouse District. An impressive building by any standards in the city, it looms over the rest of the Docks, rising above the squalor as if to remind Freeporters of its influence and power. The north side of the structure consists of two square towers capped with pyramidal roofs bearing lightning rods that carry the current somewhere inside the building—for what purpose, none can say. These towers have several windows at each level, and gaudy statues and bas-reliefs reveal the extent of the society’s wealth. The rest of the place is taken up with a heavily guarded warehouse that holds the items they dredge up from the seas until they can be appraised and sold in the city.
In addition to the building, the society owns a dozen ships of various sizes. The ships are equipped with cranes, diving bells, and a slew of other diving equipment. When in port, the ships are under heavy guard to protect the organization’s secrets.
Given its power and prestige, the Society of Lobstermen has a large membership. Most members are sailors and expert divers, though they employ several mages to aid them in their more dangerous operations. In addition, the society has a small force of veteran marines to protects the ships from pirates and the occasional sea devil attack.
Poul Reiner: Poul is Balboa’s successor, and a capable one at that.
6. The Shipping News
“Read all about it! Two coppers’ll get you the whole story! Lizard Man Spotted in Sewers! Sea Lord in League With Gibbering Cosmic Horror! Gate to Hell in Center of Town! All this plus arrivals and departures, sunrise and sunset, high tide and low, and the continuing adventures of Commander Cody in serial form! Plus our award-winning political column—’One Freeporter’s Opinion’—the column that brought down Sea Lord Drac! For the ladies we have ‘Freeport After Dark’—all the society gossip you can swallow! All of it for the same two pennies! Thank you, sir! Bless you, ma’am!” —Quick Willie, Paper Boy and Scamp
The Shipping News is Freeport’s newspaper. Each morning before dawn, scores of young boys and girls take to the streets, laden with bundles of papers. They drop their loads on a street corner and go about the business of selling their rag, calling out headlines to passers-by, cajoling and heckling, and generally being obnoxious until people buy up all the issues.
The Shipping News got its start almost fifty years ago, when a young man named T.K. Calame set out to make his way in the world. Lacking any kind of appreciable skills, he searched for something he could do to keep food in his belly and a maiden in his bed. One advantage he had over his peers was his education. He could read and write, and quite well. He began with a series of pamphlets calling out corruption in the government, uncovering society scandals, and reporting on a variety of current events. At first, he pasted his writings on the sides of buildings and on fingerposts, and it wasn’t long before people would collect in front of his weekly news. It seemed Freeporters liked to be in the know and preferred Calame’s reliable tales over the fabricated tales spun by the rumormongers and criers.
Calame realized he could turn his experiment into a fortune. He convinced a few merchants and ship captains to invest in his growing business, and before he new it, he had a full-fledged printing operation in the Docks. He sold just a few copies at first, but as word spread, Freeporters clamored for the latest issue, forcing Calame to step up production, hire reporters, editors, and invest in more expensive printing equipment. By the time he was old and gray, the Shipping News had become Freeport’s sole source of information, and the era of rumormongers had gone the way of the Vallossans.
The Shipping News evolved from a single sheet of paper with muddy print into a full-fledged newspaper broken up into sections including classified, society, current events, weather, and much more. C.Q. Calame, T.K.’s grandson, pushed the paper forward, tripling the readership. The Shipping News’ reporters hit the streets all over the city, dredging sensational stories, reporting on rumors, and including inflammatory editorials about key figures in the city. The Shipping News is still concerned with getting its facts straight, but if they can shade the truth to sell more issues, all the better. And if they get a few details wrong, they can always print a retraction in the next issue.
The Shipping News operates out of a large building on the northeastern edge of the Docks, just south of the Eastern District and west of Scurvytown. T.K. Calame chose this site as it afforded easy access to the more interesting parts of the city. The front of the building contains the Shipping News offices, where reporters write their sensational stories, and editors fix the errors and add a few extra details. c-q-calame works here as well, writing his regular column, “This Week in Freeport.”
Behind the offices are the printing presses. The Shipping News employs a large staff to run the machines. The Shipping News credits itself with inventing movable type; although in truth, Calame’s father discovered the technology on one of his visits to a city on the Continent.
A few years ago, the Shipping News suffered a terrible fire when an angry mob descended on the place during the upheaval that surrounded the ascension of the current Sea Lord. The damage was terrible, and several staff members asphyxiated in the smoke. When the presses stopped, an outpouring of coin came from all over the city to help Calame rebuild his paper. Now, the offices and presses are better than ever, and in thanks for the local support, Calame runs a special column called the “Tales of the Phoenix,” where one of his reporters writes about an ordinary person and their life. This column has become wildly popular in the Merchant District, since noblewomen devour the heartrending stories of hardship and suffering of the lower classes.
With nearly fifty employees, the Shipping News is one of Freeport’s larger industries. Between editors, writers, copy fitters, and printers, they have a diverse assortment of staff, possessing motives and talents that run the gamut.
C.Q. Calame: CQ owns the Shipping news, and is a true journalist at heart.
Angelo Stampfel: Angelo is an important reporter with the Shipping News.
7. The One Ring
“You just can’t beat a good beating.” —Dahn Rey, Promoter
The One Ring is a stone-lined fighting ring situated just off the southeast end of Port Square. Every Friday night, just as the merchants in the Seaside Market are securing their goods and packing up their tents for the night, the One Ring plays host to some of the most brutal conflicts ever seen outside of a dungeon or battlefield. The crowds come from all over the city to watch the fights and place bets on the contestants.
There are fighting pits all over the city, in darkened alleys in Drac’s End to abandoned basements in Scurvytown, as well as the bloody fighting arenas in Bloodsalt, but none hold a candle to the success and appalling violence found in the One Ring. Sure, other venues have their share of death and maiming, but the One Ring makes a spectacle out of these contests, drawing people of every class and station.
Dahn Rey opened for business during the days of the last Sea Lord, Marquetta. A veteran gladiator, he brought a sense of style to pit fighting, recruiting some of the best warriors the city had to offer and promoting the fights. Rey has enjoyed incredible success in this venture, and the blood of countless champions over the decades stains the stones that form the ring.
Up until a few years ago, the fights in the One Ring were often fixed, with each side negotiating which fighter would take the fall. There were plenty of tricks that could make a fighter take a dive, including poison, disease, blackmail, or simple threats. Unfortunately, this trend attracted the attention of some of Freeport’s gangs, and it wasn’t long before the One Ring became a battlefield for rival groups. After one night of violence killed a dozen spectators, Rey reined in the corruption and now tries to run an honest business, though he’s been known to fix the outcomes from time to time—the promise of gold is often too much for Rey to resist.
The ring is a circular platform made of stones stacked and mortared about three feet high. It has been repaired several times over the years, but it is essentially unchanged for over a century. Spectators stand packed tightly around the ring, looking up at the battlers. Those sitting too close are spattered with blood, and there are plenty of tales of people being crushed by contestants flung from the ring. Rey had a set of boxed seats affixed to the walls of nearby buildings to give those with enough pull or gold an opportunity to see the fights from an unobstructed and generally safe vantage point.
Most fights are bare-knuckled boxing matches, though the Ring does offer at least one sword or knife fight each week. Nothing brings in the crowds like the sight of blood, and it flows freely in the ring during such matches. It’s not uncommon to see a loser or two at death’s door in the course of an evening.
While there are few rules for the fights, the ones that are in place are strictly enforced. These are honest fights, so there’s to be no magic of any kind. The One Ring has been permanently enchanted with a spell that causes any magic items brought into the ring to glow brightly, as will any contestants who are under the effect of a spell or cast a spell during the fight. If anyone or anything in the ring glows at any time, the fight is suspended and the perpetrator grabbed and summarily tossed into the harbor.
Rey makes his money by charging for the good seats and by booking bets before every fight. Besides the regular Friday night fights, he also hosts special events on many holidays, including Swagfest, Raidfest, and even Captain’s Day. The Sea Lords have generally been fans of the fights, attending often. Even those who have not cared much for the fights have acknowledged their usefulness in keeping Freeport’s populace from attacking one another in the alleys instead.
During a contest, people pack in around the One Ring for a glimpse of the violence, but between fights, it’s empty. Dahn Rey employs a handful of recruiters to find viable fighters to entertain audiences. The One Ring has a staff of regular fighters who earn their living by fighting whomever Rey can scrounge up. These warriors are something of celebrities, and many Freeporters have a favorite fighter.
Ragnar: Ragnar, a berserker from faraway in search of his love Alfhild, is the current champion of the One Ring.
8. The Broken Mug
“Mind the floor in there, hey?” —Wendel Iratch, Watchman
The Broken Mug Inn is an eyesore—a festering wound sagging at the end of a rickety pier at the outer edge of Scurvytown. Taking its name from the most common sort of weapon found in the place—a broken mug—it has a nasty reputation as a dive and watering hole for the poor and destitute. Few people brave the approach to the run-down inn, and fewer stay there for long, preferring the finer establishments further inside the Docks.
Dakarta Gringsson, a dwarf expatriate from the Continent, came to Freeport with a few coppers in her pocket, an axe over her shoulder, and a sour attitude. She tried her hand as a mercenary but found she no longer had the stomach for it. Searching for a way out of the business, she spent most of her evenings swilling thin ale at the Broken Mug inn. The owner, a lecherous fellow with a taste for dwarf maidens, offered to make Dakarta his partner in exchange for warming his sheets. Sensing an opportunity, Dakarta agreed, and on the first night of their “romance,” she strangled the man and dumped his body in the harbor through a trap door in the main room. The Broken Mug has been hers ever since.
The Broken Mug Inn looks like it was vomited out of Scurvytown into the sea only to catch on the end of a rotting pier to which no captain in his right mind would tie his ship. It leans treacherously over the edge of the water, and in certain places, swirling dark waters can be seen through holes in the floor. The interior is particularly noisome. Three-legged tables, unstable stools, and an old bar across the back are all the seating available, and most nights, patrons just stand around, leaning against the walls while they mutter and grumble about their misfortunes.
There are rooms to let on the second floor of the Broken Mug. These rooms are cheap and simple, but most have a wonderful view of the harbor. However, once the workday begins in the predawn hours, the noise can be awful. Food is served here as well. It’s actually good, and it’s not unusual to see the upper crust occasionally dining here, during the day of course.
Dakarta is tough enough to bounce unruly patrons herself. If anyone really annoys Gringsson, whether by hurting her or any of her staff, she has a rather unique punishment for them: dunking. The offender is bound hand and foot with the help of all those present and then placed upon a hinged platform to the south side of the main room. A rope secures the offender to a large ring set in the floor, and when the stays are kicked out, the trapdoor drops open, and the offender plunges into the murky depths. Most folks are hauled out spluttering within seconds.
During lunch, the Broken Mug attracts an eclectic mix of successful captains, politicians from the Old City, and merchants from all over the Docks and elsewhere. The rest of the time, the clientele consists of poor and broken sailors, sad wrecks of men who have little left in life. Dakarta employs three barmaids, a skilled cook, and a human brute named Roy who lost his hand fighting in the One Ring.
Dakarta Gringsson: Dakarta is actually a nice dwarven lady, and is proud of her establishment, even if others aren’t.
Captain Morgan Baumann: A mean pirate lady, Captain Baumann is a rule-breaking pirate. When at land, she stays at the Broken Mug.
The Diving Fin
“Oh, the Docks ain’t all just hookers and booze and dives. There’re some real gems here too.” —Pious Pete, Guide
The Diving Fin is something of a curiosity for the Docks. There are plenty of places in this district to get a meal, but few of them offer anything that could come close to fine. However, there is one exception: the Diving Fin. This restaurant owes its success to the culinary expertise of Dreiden Simmerswell, a former adventurer who abandoned his trade in favor of experimenting with wondrous dishes in the kitchens of his burgeoning restaurant.
Years ago, Dreiden Simmerswell settled in Freeport to seek a life of adventure. While not exceptionally talented in this pursuit, Freeport’s promise of easy riches drew him like a moth to a flame. He was quickly disappointed when he arrived. The open chests brimming with gold were nowhere to be found, the locals were smelly and crude, and there wasn’t a decent place to get a meal anywhere within walking distance of the Docks.
While looking for work, he noticed an abandoned warehouse lying in an area that should have been prime real estate. He set aside his ambitions for adventure and used the last of his dwindling fortune to open the best restaurant in Freeport. Unfortunately, he had no idea what he was doing. He had no practical cooking skills and knew next to nothing about running a restaurant. But he focused his creativity and halfling pluck and persevered. He spent most of his energy on perfecting seafood, and through practice and experimentation, his talents increased, allowing the Diving Fin to gain an excellent reputation.
When it first opened, it did poor business, but as Dreiden’s mastery of cooking emerged, so too did the Fin’s reputation. Most folks preferred to keep the place a secret, rather than filling it with those who couldn’t appreciate the delicate fare and complex flavorings Dreiden uses. Word of mouth inevitably spread, and now the Diving Fin is one of Freeport’s most popular restaurants. In fact, they are so busy on most nights you must have a reservation.
The Diving Fin stands on the corner of the Docks, adjacent to both the Warehouse and Merchant districts. The layout of the Diving Fin is rather sparse, as the focus is more on the food than the atmosphere. A single door opens into the main room, which seats about a hundred. The bar is in the rear of the room, directly adjacent to the kitchen entrance. Most times, Gringa, the bartender and bouncer, can be found here, ponderously mixing drinks in glasses that are almost completely engulfed by her hands. Patrons who aren’t half orcs find her concoctions a bit strong.
Lighting is provided by candelabras dangling from the ceiling and torches hung at varying intervals along the walls. There are a few stabs at a nautical theme, namely some paintings and the occasional stuffed sea creature, but for the most part, the place simply settles for clean and neat.
Aside from the general excellence of the food, the sheer variety of available dishes makes the place that much more intriguing. A typical evening will have such delights as soft-shelled crab kebabs, shark sandwiches, kraken steaks, and the occasional appearance of the fabled “Sea God’s Delight,” which is the rather large tail of some sea creature smothered in a tangy whisky sauce. Specials change nightly.
One item that is never on the menu, however, is fighting. Gringa strictly enforces this policy. Patrons are requested to deposit their weapons at the door, and at the first hint of unrest, Gringa calmly makes her way to the boisterous party and slowly raises them up to the ceiling. This is usually all that is required to keep the peace, but Gringa is not above retrieving her axe from above the bar.
Since Dreiden still has a lot of room in the cavernous building, he dabbles with running an inn. Upstairs, there are a dozen modest rooms for rent, though each is rather plain and bare. Dreiden and Gringa, as well as a few members of the staff, have rooms here, but their abodes are equally drab.
Many Freeporters sing the Diving Fin’s praises and visit the restaurant at least once a week. The restaurant has become successful enough to employ a full staff of cooks, dishwashers, waiters, busboys, hosts, and a few toughs to keep the peace and encourage the crime lords to look elsewhere for protection fees.
10. The Star of the Sea
“Sorry son, this is just the way it has to be. Yer pap drowned and yer mam died from the scratches. There’s no place fer yeh. The Star o’ the Sea is yer home now.” —Corporal Clegg, Watchman
One of the unfortunate truths of seaport life is that sailors go off and sometimes don’t return. Often, they leave a family behind: a wife working in one of Freeport’s shops or inns and a handful of children dozing through school until they can follow their father onto the water. Fortunately, the Star of the Sea is there to help.
Like many widows in Freeport, when Meredian Clozet’s husband vanished at sea, she faced the grim reality of trying to raise her three children while working to put food on the table. She had few skills and little luck, so she turned to the [[Government
| Captains’ Council]] for help. She pestered them with regular petitions and candlelight vigils until the council finally assented. She then secured contributions from noted merchants, ship owners, and even the occasional softhearted pirate. With the funds gained, she opened her home to widows and orphans, rescuing the destitute from Scurvytown and offering them a new life as part of her new organization. Within a few years, the Star of the Sea had outgrown her home, forcing Clozet to move its headquarters to an impressive building in the Docks.
This great building stands facing the sea and is one of the first sights greeting travelers as they disembark from their ships. A massive mansion, Meredian had the place constructed when it was clear her own home would no longer serve. Sporting twenty bedrooms, two kitchens, a great dining hall, and innumerable passages and smaller rooms, it is a sprawling place Clozet has expanded to accommodate the swelling membership. As a result, the building has a haphazard appearance, as if built by a madman.
The members of the Star of the Sea are fanatics. They eagerly adopt the mourning uniform of all black. Whenever Clozet makes a speech about social welfare and self-sufficiency, her followers listen in rapt attention. They are practically an army, and an endorsement by the Star of the Sea amounts to a universally acknowledged seal of approval in Freeport, from the highest noble down to the blackest rogue.
The group has grown into a powerful activist organization in Freeport. Its members can be found at every council meeting where important policy is debated, dressed in traditional black dresses and veils; the women serve on the boards of many charities and volunteer in many of the city’s shelters and hospitals. Some of them even volunteer for rounds in the Hulks.
Clozet’s organization has two tiers of members. The majority of the women and children are the mourners, and they are ardent supporters of Clozet, lending whatever assistance they can for the betterment of the group. Above them is Clozet’s inner circle—a cabal of fanatical women who have sworn their lives to serving their mistress. Clozet shares duties with her deputies, but she’s responsible for coordinating most of the big decisions. Not to mention keeping the group’s biggest secret: she’s on a mission from god.
Meredian Clozet: Meridian is a sad, sad woman, absolutely devoted to her cause.
11. The Dented Helm
“I’m not normally one for dwarven stouts, but all it took was one swig of Garek’s girl and I was hooked.” —Oddick the Thirsty
The one thing the Docks aren’t short of is watering holes. To a casual drinker, one might pass by the Dented Helm without thinking twice, but for those with a taste for good brew, there’s no finer pub in the whole city. It’s not for the ambience—there’s none of that mind you—but rather for the beer.
The Dented Helm doesn’t have a fantastic tale or strange legend about it. Instead, it just opened for business one day. Garek, a fighter and master brewer, came to Freeport for no reason he’ll speak of, walked around a bit in the Docks, and picked an old warehouse to set up shop. Some even say he closed his eyes, spun in a circle, and chose the building he saw when he opened his eyes again. In any event, he strolled up to the building, kicked open the door, and started setting the place aright for his new pub. Naturally, the owner was not impressed and threatened to call the Guard. With a grunt, Garek tossed him a fat nugget of gold and told him to sod off.
Since the building is a warehouse, the Dented Helm isn’t much to look at. The only way a person could tell it’s a tavern and brewery is by the yeasty smell coming from inside and by the dented helm nailed to the front door. The interior is just as bland as the exterior, featuring a few tables, a bar, and rows of hardwood casks.
When Garek first opened up for business, he ran the place alone. In the years since, he’s hired a few dwarves to help out with the brewing, give him time to barter for hardwood to make new casks, and attend to running the place.
Garek: Garek looks like a stereotypical dwarf. He wears a dented helmet at all times, wears out his beard long, and has a massive belly. He’s kind and brewing ale, beer, and lager is everything to him.