The Crowing Cockatrice and Bryntyn's Brews:
Two Businesses in the City of Skullport
By Erskine Fincher
This is an expansion on the map of Skullport shown in the Undermountain Box Set. The Crowing Cockatrice was first mentioned in an article by Ed Greenwood and Steven Schend in Dragon #172, but no details were given. I created a floor plan of that building, plus the two buildings on either side of it. The one to the south I named Bryntyn's Brews. It's an alchemist shop where poisons, potions, and alchemical items can be bought and sold. The other building is a one-story kitchen attached to the Cockatrice. A portion of the streets and nearby buildings are also shown complete with the catwalks for which Skullport is famous.
I first wrote this before the publication of the Forgotten Realms sourcebook, Skullport. That book provided details on the Crowing Cockatrice which conflict with my description. In the canonical version, the inn only has two floors, and it is owned by "Slop" Gallowshawk. The DM may wish to remove the third floor, if canonical consistency matters to him. I prefer to leave it as is. If the floor is removed, then take into account that the roof of the Cockatrice will not match up with the roof of Bryntyn's Brews. Bryntyn's laboratory could be moved into a basement area, or the roofs could just be offset. DM's choice.
To account for the different owner, I have rewritten the description to have my NPC acquire the inn from its previous owner, "Slop" Gallowshawk. I kept the watchghost Setana.
The Crowing Cockatrice is an inn in the Lower Trade section of Skullport. Its former owner, "Slop" Gallowshawk, was an incompetent and slovenly man. He literally washed up in Skullport with a chest full of treasure, which he then proceeded to squander through a series of bad business decisions. After purchasing the Crowing Cockatrice 15 yrs ago, he allowed it to degenerate into a squalid flophouse used only by the poorest and most desperate denizens of the city.
Six months ago, Slop got into a game of cards with a retired mercenary named Marco Sevren. He made his final bad business decision when he bet the deed to the Cockatrice on the strength of three aces, only to see Sevren turn up a full house. The inn changed hands, and Slop has returned to his former occupation as a scullery cook, now employed at the Black Tankard Tavern.
Along with the inn, Marco Sevren acquired its unusual serving wench: A female watchghost named Setana. Mugs of ale, and trays of food seem to flit about on their own, carried in and out of the common room by this ghostly employee. Unknown to either Slop or Sevren, Setana is bound to a golden hair comb that was in the treasure chest that contained Slop's misspent fortune. The comb had fallen down behind a dressing table in Slop's room, where it was forgotten. When he packed his gear to move out, he left it behind. Sevren found Setana's comb while scouring Slop's old room, and dropped it into the top drawer of the table. He suspects nothing of its nature, but so long as he holds onto it, Setana will remain at the inn.
In life, Setana was a Harper agent. For more details about her story and her second edition stats, see the Skullport sourcebook. For third edition statistics on watchghosts, consult Monsters of Faerun. She is glad of the change in ownership of the inn, and is working doubly hard to ensure its success. She is developing an attraction for Sevren, although--or perhaps because--there are aspects of his personality she would like to reform.
Business at the inn has begun to pick up since Sevren took it over. He gave the place a thorough cleaning, and replaced all the vermin-infested bedding. The food is very simple, but wholesome. He does the cooking himself, but he's looking for a cook--preferably someone clean, sober and with no alliances to any of the power groups in Skullport. He is also thinking of hiring a live serving wench/house keeper, but he is not sure how that would go over with Setana.
Sevren charges 5sp per night for a stay at the inn. The price covers dinner as well as a small, sparsely furnished room containing a clean mattress, a chest with a lock, a small table with a jug of reasonably clean water, a wooden chair, and a chamber pot.
On the west side of the building, the front entrance opens into a small common room with a bar and several tables with chairs. On the left, a rickety stair case goes up to a second floor balcony that follows the north wall and continues along the east side of the building to a row of four small rooms. A spiral staircase at the end of the balcony leads up to a hallway on the third floor where there are six rooms. Two of these are in use by Sevren and the bartender, Krishtano. In the event of overcrowding, Krishtano will move his things into Sevren's rooms, temporarily, and sleep on the sofa.
There is a one-story shed attached to the east side of the inn that houses the kitchen. A set of double doors opens from the kitchen into the alleyway to allow bulk deliveries of food and drink. Smoked meat, tubers and fungi, hang from the rafters, along with some dilapidated but carefully scoured copper pots.
Marco is a half-elf about fifty years of age. He would be handsome but for the scar across his right cheek, and the black patch that covers the empty socket where his left eye used to be. The remaining eye is of an emerald green that bespeaks his elven heritage. He bears a variety of other scars upon his body from the many battles he has seen. On the inside of his right forearm is a tatoo in black and red of a slavering wolf, a mark of his former mercenary service.
His black hair is lightly flecked with gray, and he wears it pulled back in a knot. He keeps his facial hair shaved, and his skin is pale from so many years in the Underdark. He dresses in clothes that, though well worn, are always clean and of good quality. He prefers black or shades of dark gray that will blend well in the dark. His chain shirt is kept blackened for that same reason, and he goes about armed at all times against the dangers of the city. Though he has made it a point to mind his own business, so as not cultivate enemies, there is no place in Skullport where one should feel safe. Having worked so long as a mercenary in the Underdark, such vigilance is second nature to Sevren. It is likely that he would miss that sense of danger had he chosen to live in a quieter place.
Sevren has the tightly controlled self-discipline of a master swordsman. Whatever task he undertakes is done with efficiency of movement and decisiveness. He never gives way to emotion. Though it is true that he enjoys the excitement of battle, he only fights when it is necessary. He is always master of himself.
With strangers, Sevren is cool and aloof. He is at the same time both well-mannered and completely indifferent towards them. In the world above, his lack of friendliness might be a handicap in an innkeeper, but in Skullport it is an asset. He expresses no curiosity about his lodgers, and that's how they prefer it.
In an emergency, his habit is to take charge of the people around him, and issue orders with the air of a man used to being obeyed. His judgment of a tactical situation is always reliable.
In the world above, Sevren would be considered a model of virtue, being scrupulously honest, moderate in his habits, and of a live-and-let-live philosophy. He is unmoved, however, by the evil he sees around him in Skullport. It is in the nature of sentient beings to be weak, self-destructive, and to prey upon one another. That he does not do such things is simply a mark of his superior intelligence and self-discipline. Few people have those traits, however, and that is why the world is the way it is. One could not make the world better without remaking the people in it, a task beyond the power of any mortal. His sole duty is to carry out the job at hand, a job that was in the past assigned to him by the leader of his mercenary band, but now is running an inn for himself.
Marco Sevren was born in a brothel in Waterdeep. His mother was a courtesan of great beauty who caught the eye of a gold elf in the Waterdhavian guards. After the birth of their child the elf became ashamed of his involvement with her and left the city. She believes that he may have gone over the sea to Evermeet, but doesn't know for certain.
Marco served time in the Waterdhavian guard himself before joining a caravan bound for the Underdark. He spent about twenty years working as a mercenary for various merchant companies in the Night Below., eventually reaching the rank of captain with the Red Wolves. A year ago, a bolt from a drow hand crossbow took out his left eye, and ended his career. It nearly ended his life, but he managed to escape with the aid of Krishtano, his current bartender.
Upon returning to Skullport, he decided to retire from caravan duty. He had established a reputation as a faithful and efficient employee, and received several offers to serve as a guard for the different power groups in the city. Though he enjoys combat, however, he does not like the politics and intrigue that would go with such a job. He politely turned them down. After a short time spent recovering from his wound, he began looking for something else to do with his life. That something came to him unexpectedly in a card game when he won ownership of the Cockatrice.
Marco always exhibited a high degree of professionalism in his military service, and he brings the same methodical competence to running the Cockatrice. The inn was a squalid shambles when he took it over, and he put all his energy into making it a more habitable place. It is far from being as luxurious as the Deep Fires, but it is now at least clean and comfortable. How long running an inn will hold Sevren's interest is an open question though. He continues to train with his swords on a daily basis, just in case.
Marco Sevren: Male Half-elf (Gold) Ftr9; Medium Humanoid; CR 9;
HD 9d10+18; hp 88;
Init +3; Spd 30 ft/x4;
AC 19 (+5 armor, +3 dex, +1 deflection), touch 14, flat-footed 16;
Base Atk/Grapple +9/+11;
Full Atk +15/+10 One-handed (1d6+5;18-20/x2, +1 Rapier), or +15/+10 One-handed (1d6+4;18-20/x2, Masterwork rapier), or +11/+6 Two-Weapon (primary) (1d6+5;18-20/x2, +1 Rapier), and +11/+6 Two-Weapon (secondary) (1d6+3;18-20/x2, Masterwork rapier);
AL LN; SV Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +4;
Str 15(+2), Dex 17(+3), Con 14(+2), Int 13(+1), Wis 12(+1), Cha 11(+0).
Skills: Climb +6, Craft ((cook)) +2, Handle Animal +4, Intimidate +5, Jump +6, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +4, Knowledge (local) +3, Profession (Innkeeper) +2, Swim +4.
, Leadership, Two-Weapon Fighting, Two-Weapon Defense
, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Finesse
, Weapon Focus(Rapier)
, Weapon Specialization(Rapier)
, Greater Weapon Focus(Rapier).
Equipment: Chain shirt +1, Rapier +1, Rapier (MW), Ring of Protection +1, Potion of Cat's Grace, Potion of Cure Serious Wounds (x2).
Krish is the bartender at the Cockatrice. He has long, sandy-blonde hair that hangs down in his face when not tied back. His eyes are dark brown, and expressive. He might be handsome were it not for the jutting lower jaw and sloping forehead, which betray the taint of orcish blood in his ancestry. He has a compact, muscualar build that is surprisingly agile. His hands are rough and calloused from hard labor, and his back bears the scars of an overseers lash. He wears trousers made of black sailcloth, and black studded leather armor over a grayish tunic.
Though his twenty-five years have seen a lot of hardship, Krish has learned to meet both good fortune and bad with an inward shrug. It is his stoicism that recommended him to Sevren, a shared quality that forms the basis of their friendship. Both accept the evil of the world as a metaphysical fact that cannot be changed by any man, but there is this difference: Krishtano has more sympathy with those who suffer at the hands of evil, having suffered himself. His life was made better the day Sevren purchased his freedom, so he does see that there are small things a man might do to help. He just doesn't believe that it amounts to much in the long run.
Krishtano grew up in Waterdeep where his mother was a cleaning maid, and his father was a dock worker. His mother was a half-orc, the product of an orcish raid on a small northern village. After the raid, the villagers refused to allow the "orc-spawn" to be brought up among them. Krish's grandmother had to decide between abandoning her child or leaving the village. She walked alone across the northern wilderness to Waterdeep rather than give up the child. His mother inherited that same grim determination along with a stolid stoicism in the face of hardship. She suffered a lot of persecution due to her orcish looks, and was never able to rise above the level of a common laborer. Krish's father met her during a month-long drunken revel and didn't realize what he had hooked up with until he sobered up. The two were never married, and only lived together off and on. Usually this was during times when the old man needed a place to put up until he 'got back on his feet.' He had a tendency to drink his wages, and he knew he could always find a bed and a meal at the "orc-wench's lair."
Krish's childhood was one of poverty punctuated by paternal abuse. As soon as he had a chance to leave home he took it. He put to sea on a caravel plying the waters between Waterdeep and Calimport. While celebrating his shore leave in Calimport he was shanghai'd and chained to the oars of a galley headed to Athkatla. The ship was attacked by pirates and easily taken. The merchants joined their galley slaves at the oars, and the ship and its goods were redirected to Skullport. In Skullport the ship was sold to a local merchant for journeys up and down the Sargauth. Most of the galley slaves were sold as part of the deal, but some, Krish among them, were offered for sell at the slave auction.
That is where Marco and Krish met. Marco had gone to the auction looking for replacements for the Red Wolves mercenaries. He often liked to purchase the contracts of slaves, set them free and then offer them jobs as soldiers. It usually inspired loyalty in them, and Krish proved to be no exception. He served with Marco for a couple of years before the battle with the drow raiders that ended Marco's career. When Marco opened the Cockatrice, Krish gave up soldiering and came to tend bar for him.
Krish is content with life at the Cockatrice. He has seen enough of fighting and adventure. Skullport has a reputation for danger, but the man who knows how to mind his own business can live under the protection of the skulls without encountering much conflict.
Krishtano: Male Human (Illuskan) Ftr4/Rog2; Medium Humanoid; CR 6; HD 2d6+4d10+12; hp 52;
Init +3; Spd 30 ft/x4; AC 17 (+4 armor, +3 dex), touch 13, flat-footed 14;
Base Atk/Grapple +5/+7;
Full Atk +10 One-handed (1d6+2;18-20/x2, Masterwork rapier), +9 One-handed (1d4+2;19-20/x2, Masterwork dagger), +8 Two-Weapon (primary) (1d6+2;18-20/x2, Masterwork rapier), +7 Two-Weapon (secondary) (1d4+1;19-20/x2, Masterwork dagger);
AL N; SV Fort +6, Ref +7, Will +2;
Str 15(+2), Dex 16(+3), Con 14(+2), Int 10(+0), Wis 12(+1), Cha 8(-1).
Skills: Balance +10, Bluff +2, Climb +9, Intimidate +6, Jump +13, Profession (Sailor) +5, Sense Motive +4, Spot +4, Swim +7, Tumble +13, Use Rope +8.
Feats: Acrobatic, Dodge, Mobility, Two-Weapon Fighting
, Two-Weapon Defense
, Weapon Finesse
, Weapon Focus(Rapier).
Bryntyn's Brews is a business occupying the ground floor of the building south of the Crowing Cockatrice. It sells potions, poisons, and other alchemical items.
The building is a three-stories tall, and shares a common wall with the Cockatrice. The ground floor is taken up by a one-room shop with a counter. Behind the counter are a desk and the two cabinets where Bryntyn stores his wares. Customers are not allowed to browse the merchandise, or step foot behind the counter. They ask for what they want, and Bryntyn shows them what he has. The counter is barred to prevent anyone from simply stepping through, and both it and the cabinets are protected by fire trap and symbol of sleep.
Above the shop is a two-room apartment, also belonging to Bryntyn. A spiral staircase behind the counter leads up into the apartment. It can also be accessed by visitors via a private stairway that opens onto the street south of the shop. Before retiring for bed, Bryntyn locks and bars the entrance to the stairway.
The top floor of the building houses the laboratory where Bryntyn brews his concoctions. It is an open room with two large tables holding the apparati currently in use. A cabinet stores his reagents, while a long shelf holds extra flasks, jars, vials, and a few of the more common components. A small bookshelf holds several reference works on alchemy.
Due to the nature of his business, Bryntyn is very security conscious. All his doors are stout, iron bound wooden doors with excellent locks. Each one is trapped with a poisoned needle.
The DM is encouraged to use his own judgment concerning Bryntyn's inventory, as the easy availability of poisons, potions, and other alchemical items could have an adverse effect on game balance. For the DM's convenience, I have made some suggestions that I think are reasonable, but please ignore them as you see fit.
Bryntyn has a small number (1d6 doses) of all the DMG poisons that cost less than a thousand gold pieces. He can brew the others, but will only do so by special request and he requires half the list price as a down payment.
The one exception is drow sleep poison, whose method of manufacture is a closely guarded secret of the drow. Bryntyn cannot yet concoct it, but he has some that he keeps for his personal use, purchased from adventurers who have encountered drow in combat, and survived the experience. He may also have some extra available (20% chance), but it would not be on open display. He would only sell it to people with whom he has an established business relationship, never strangers.
Bryntyn can brew any of the PHB potions for which he has the requisite spell (mage armor, bull's strength, cat's grace, etc). He keeps a small supply (1d4) of each of them in stock. (If you wish these to be created at 9th caster level, then be sure to adjust the price accordingly, as the DMG price assumes the minimum CL.)
If a customer is seeking to buy (or sell) a potion that Bryntyn cannot brew himself, there is a 20% chance that he has 1d2 in stock, having purchased them from another source.
Other items in stock include the standard alchemical items from the PHB.
With his other work, it takes Bryntyn about 1d4 days to produce a new potion or item, so if the PCs go on a spending spree, it could be a while before he is able to restock his shelves.
Bryntyn will purchase potions, poisons and other alchemical items at a percentage of the list price. The usual offering price starts at 50%, but is adjusted according to how many of the items he already has in stock (-5% for each one), and how well the PCs haggle (roleplay, and/or give them a Bluff or Diplomacy check and add 1% for every point by which they exceed DC 10). Regardless of how well they haggle, he should never pay more than 75% of the list price. A man has to make a living.
Bryntyn is also a potential source of information for the PCs. He is reasonably familiar with the city of Skullport, having lived there for twenty years. Minor bits of common knowledge are given out free to paying customers. Less well-known information comes at a modest price, or could be free to very generous customers. In Skullport, however, knowledge that is secret is usually secret for a reason. Under no circumstances will Bryntyn risk crossing any of the power groups in Skullport by revealing sensitive knowledge about their activities. Of course, what would be considered sensitive is relative to the politics of Skullport. That the Iron Ring is a group of slavers is too well-known to be considered sensitive, but advertising details about the defenses of Skull Island could get one killed.
Bryntyn can identify potions for the small sum of 10% of the potion's list price. He can also identify magic items, but he requires the PCs to supply the requisite one hundred gold piece pearl in addition to the cost of the spell.
Bryntyn is an experienced wizard of 49 winters. He is a small man, barely 5'-5" and weighing just over 130 lbs. His hair is a dingy white, and covers his head with a mass of wild curls that sweep back from his face. His skin is pale and dirty, but his cheeks are bright red from an inherited skin condition. His thin nose sticks out over a receding chin, and his bulging eyes are a bleary, washed-out blue.
He has a thin, reedy voice, and tends to fidget when he talks, massaging the palms of his hands or pushing on the tips of his grubby fingers as if his fingernails were too tight. His lips are cracked and stained from sampling his brews, and he licks them compulsively from time to time. He has a quick nervous chuckle to cover when he's embarrassed or confused, but there is no genuine laughter in him and he never seems to get the point of a joke.
He always looks like he's in need of a thorough scrubbing in hot water with some disinfectant, and his clothes are perpetually stained and wrinkled. He has an unwholesome smell that is a mixture of body odor and acrid chemicals.
Bryntyn seems to have very little interest in the world beyond his shop. He knows things about it that are useful to know, but he doesn't care about it. It could disappear tomorrow, and so long as he were able to pursue his craft within his laboratory, he would not miss it. For that reason, he could care less what his poisons are used for, so long as the consequences do not come back to him.
He does not relate very well with people, and only tolerates customers as a source of income. At the same time, he dislikes confrontations, and does his best to avoid being rude. Such efforts place a visible strain on him, however, increasing his tendency towards nervousness and amplifying his odd mannerisms. He has no friends, but no real enemies either, having made it a point to avoid both.
It is possible that he could be provoked enough to resort to violence, but his first preference is always to avoid conflict. In the normal course of things, he has no desire to kill anyone. Not because he values human life, but because it would complicate his life too much. In the event that he felt like he needed to rid himself of a persistent nemesis, his preferred method would be a silent and stealthy murder--perhaps with one of his poisons. He would always try to give himself an alibi, but in Skullport alibis are only necessary when the victim has powerful friends.
Bryntyn came to Skullport after running afoul of the law in Neverwinter. He sold an illegal poison to a woman who used it to murder her husband, and barely escaped being hung with her. According to Bryntyn there are many uses for poison, and not all of them are wrong. When he sells people his concoctions it is up to them whether they use them for good or ill; he is not culpable for their actions. In Skullport, at least, the law is on his side.
Nontheless, Bryntyn has been cautious since the escape from Neverwinter. He has provided himself with secret exits from his house and shop. The shop has a trap door in the floor behind the counter that leads into the sewer drain from the jakes in the Cockatrice. Through this small narrow drain he could crawl down to where it empties into the Sargauth. The other exit is cleaner and easier to access. It is simply a secret door that leads out into the stairwell that serves his building. From the stairwell he can step out onto the catwalks and try to lose his pursuers in the streets of Skullport. Both exits are protected with Fire Trap, Arcane Lock, and Symbol of Sleep (set to trigger when anyone else passes through the door).
Bryntyn carries on trade with thieves from the Xanathar Thieves Guild of Waterdeep, various mercenary companies from above and below, and adventurers looking for poisons, drugs or potions. One of his best customers is Vhondryl, the primary dealer of poisons and drugs in the city. For her, he is both a supplier and a customer. He provides her with some of the poisons she sells and acts as a distributor for poisons that she brings in from other sources. Bryntyn does not reveal his connection with Vhondryl, and he does most of his business with her through her agents.
Bryntyn is 70% alchemist and about 30% businessman. The business is there to support his pastime. One of his favorite hobbies is analyzing drow poisons. He will pay good money for samples of drow poisons, and can easily identify some of the more common types, such as the sleep poison used on their crossbow darts. He has not yet learned to brew it himself, but is trying to reverse engineer it so that he can. Success might be dangerous, though, if the drow do not wish the secret of its manufacture to be widely known.
Bryntyn: Male Human(Chondathan) Wiz11; Medium Humanoid; CR 11;
HD 11d4+22; hp 51;
Init +1; Spd 30 ft/x4;
AC 17 (+2 armor, +1 dex, +2 natural, +2 deflection), touch 13, flat-footed 16;
Base Atk/Grapple +5/+4;
Full Atk +5 Dagger of Venom (1d4;19-20/x2, Poison DC 14, 1d10/1d10 Con), or +7 Masterwork hand crossbow (1d4+1;19-20/x2, Drow sleep poison);
AL CN; SV Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +9;
Str 9(-1), Dex 13(+1), Con 14(+2), Int 17(+3), Wis 13(+1), Cha 9 (-1).
Skills: Concentration +13, Craft ((Alchemy)) +17, Knowledge (arcana) +17, Knowledge (local) +14, Profession ((Apothecary)) +15, Spellcraft +19.
Feats: Eschew Materials, Exotic Weapon Proficiency(Hand Crossbow), Spell Focus(Enchantment), Spell Penetration, Brew Potion, Craft Wand, Still Spell.
Bryntyn generally carries the following items: Wand of Magic Missiles, Ring of Protection +2, Bracers of Armor +2, Amulet of Natural Armor +2, Cloak of Resistance +1, Dagger of Venom, Hand Crossbow (MW) with 10 bolts dipped in drow sleep poison, Potion of Invisibility, Potion of Expeditious Retreat, Potion of Cure Serious Wounds (x2). When in his shop the hand crossbow is kept under the counter, loaded.
Spellbook: 0th-Level--All PHB cantrips; 1st-Level--Alarm, Charm Person, Disguise Self*, Expeditious Retreat*, Hold Portal*, Hypnotism, Identify*, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Obscuring Mist*, Shield, Sleep; 2nd-Level--Arcane Lock*, Bull's Strength, Cat's Grace, Darkvision*, Daze Monster*, Invisibility, Mirror Image*, Protection from Arrows, Resist Energy, Summon Monster II*, Tasha's Hideous Laughter; 3rd-Level--Deep Slumber, Dispel Magic*, Fly, Gaseous Form*, Haste, Heroism, Hold Person*, Protection from Energy, Sepia Snake Sigil, Suggestion*; 4th-Level--Charm Monster, Confusion*, Dimension Door*, Fire Trap, Lesser Geas, Lesser Globe of Invulnerability, Stoneskin*; 5th-Level--Bigby's Interposing Hand*, Dominate Person, Feeblemind, Hold Monster*, Symbol of Sleep, Teleport*; 6th-Level--Globe of Invulnerability.
Bryntyn is anything but brave. Faced with combat, his first thought is to escape. This is conditioned not only by his lack of courage, but by his knowledge that the Skulls frown upon spell battles within the city. Better to run away than to face them. His spells were chosen to increase his chances of escape, rather than for combat. Teleport is of limited usefulness in Undermountain, since it cannot take him beyond level three of the Underhalls. He can use it to teleport himself to a hiding place within Skullport, however, and will do that if necessary.
Only if escape is absolutely impossible will he stand and fight, and then with all the cunning and ferocity of a cornered rat. He will summon monsters or charm others to fight for him, use potions to enhance his effectiveness, and employ his poisoned weapons. In the end, if faced with certain defeat, he is not above surrendering and begging for his life. He would promise pretty much anything to someone who had him in their power, and he would fully intend to keep the promise in the moment that he made it. Whether he kept his word or not would depend on what consequences he could expect from breaking it.