This article originally appeared in Pyramid #20
An Adventure in the Gutter
by Malcolm Dale and Klaude Thomas
Editor's Note: As we were preparing GURPS Goblins for production, we found that the authors had provided far too much material for the size of book we had planned. But the stuff we were forced to cut was also far too good to just throw away. Here's a small sample . . .
The Low Lodging House
"When a man's lost caste in society, he may as well go the whole hog, bristles and all, and a low lodging house is the entire pig."
What part it plays in the life of the characters.
For characters starting out in the Gutter, the low lodging house at No. 20 Ashestree Court (or some place similar) is the only place which the characters call "home," and the only place in which at least one character has ever lived, so far as he or she can remember. Here they have been educated in every facet of low life, from birth to death and beyond. The greasy, scrofulous inhabitants come and go, but fellow inhabitants of the house make an effort to help another out of difficulties (for a fee or favour, of course), where they would have kicked a stranger while he or she was down.
The house at No. 20 is four stories in height, including the ground floor and the garret, ten feet wide across the front, and 20 feet long from the front door to the back wall.
The front of the house is ornamented by a door, four windows (one on each floor) and a drainpipe. The pipe distinguishes it from the other houses in the row, which don't have one. It is perfectly strong enough to climb, with convenient brackets at regular intervals, put there by Rough Bob for just that purpose. There are no windows in the back wall, which abuts directly against the house behind. The ground floor has an impressively high ceiling — 12 feet high. The stories above become progressively lower, so that the garret (directly under the peaked roof) is less than six feet high even in the middle.
There is one large chimney (18 by 9 inches), with a fireplace joining it at every story.
- the Player Characters
- the ladies of the house:
- Ms Chaste Lovelace
- Grace Valenteen
- Mr Moses Cruise
- Lust Bloodgusher
- Provocation Lum
- Rough Bob
- Doctor Rudd
Doctor Rudd's Elixir of Vitality
Doctor Rudd (Burglar, Status -2)
ST 6, DX 11, IQ 7, HT 14, Co 6
Basic Speed 6.25, Move 6
Dodge 6, Parry 8 (Brawling).
Advantages: Handsome, Strong Will +2.
Disadvantages: Fat, Scotophobia.
Quirks: Throws things when even slightly irritated; very forgetful.
Skills: Alchemy-9, Animal Handling-9, Lockpicking/TL5-15, Brawling-12, Climbing-15, Starglazing-14, Stealth-14, Traps-9.
No weapons, Basic Damage: Thrust 1d-4, Swing 1d-4.
A burglar, who chose the name Doctor because he thought it might make him seem more respectable. He was quite correct, and to this day most of the inhabitants of the house believe that Doctor Rudd has some kind of medical experience. He is short but enormously fat, which only adds to his reputation, and is rather handsome, which does not hurt. He would have obtained some kind of medical qualification as a youth, but indulged too early in crude chemical experiments, which permanently impaired both his short term and his long term memory, and had him thrown out of school. From there he took up a career in burglary, at which he has been modestly successful, having been transported only once. On his return, he has resumed his alchemic experimentation, and created a number of substances with which he is very pleased.
Using the elixir also causes a chance of turning into a werewolf. The GM makes an obvious but secret roll for this. On a 17 or 18 the person becomes a werewolf for one hour (see Werewolf in GURPS Magic, p. 110). The GM briefly plays the afflicted creature, rushing it out into the street and off into the distance, say two or three blocks. Any obstacles to this course of action are treated as hostile. At this point, the player regains control of his character for about 5 minutes of game time. He then blanks out again, and the GM again plays the character briefly, doing whatever seems most exciting. In total, the character will remain in wolf form for an hour, during which time he will also be under all of the other effects of the elixir. Doctor Rudd is unaware of this effect, even though he has undergone it several times.
Rose Gutter (Gypsy Queen, Status -2)
ST 13, DX 11, IQ 13, HT 8, Co 13
Basic Speed 4.75, Move 4
Dodge 4, Parry 10 (Brawling).
Advantages: Magery 2, Musical Ability +5.
Disadvantages: Brachial Traumatophobia, Overconfidence.
Skills: Alchemy-15. Brawling-16, Carousing-11, Gambling-20, Surgery-16. Spells: one spell at 17.
No weapons, Basic Damage: Thrust 1d, Swing 2d-1.
A big, bold lady skilled in many and various arts, who works during the day as an apothecarist.Background
— By accident, Doctor Rudd has discovered a formula for making an Elixir of Heracles (see GURPS Magic). The impurity of the elixir is such that any user becomes prone to the Berserk disadvantage for the duration of its effect, i.e. one hour.
— Doctor Rudd has his elixir made up for him by an apothecarist, Rose Gutter, at a cost of 4 pounds, around the corner on Primrose Hill. The last ingredient he adds himself, to preserve the formula's secret. Unfortunately, the secret ingredient is mineral turpentine, which can easily be detected on his breath.Hooks
— Provocation Lum (see GURPS Goblins, p. 126) is violently ill and gives Doctor Rudd 6s to procure some medicine. Doctor Rudd instantly sees this as an opportunity to instead purchase some elixir for his own consumption. In a flash of inspiration, he decides to send the characters, with 4s as a deposit and 2s for themselves when they return, to Rose Gutter to procure the elixir. He will then fill a bottle with some other fluid and give it to Provocation as medicine, and accuse the characters of doing it if Provocation notices.
— If the characters order the elixir, it will become obvious that its manufacture is magical in nature. Rose mixes a powder, takes the 4s and gives the players the jar, with a folded note addressed to Rudd asking for the balance of the 4 pounds no later than a week hence.
— If the characters return with the powder, Rudd takes it and gives the players a small bottle of yellowish fluid labeled Dr Plant's Grand Elixir, in ink not quite dry, to give to Provocation. Some time later, Rudd rushes downstairs and out into the street, his cheeks glowing with vitality and a strong scent of turpentine wafting behind him.Challenges
— To resist the temptation to spend Rudd's 4s on something else. Failure here incurs the wrath of Rudd, and Provocation.
— To find out the method for producing the elixir, either for sale to an apothecarist (Rose doesn't know the secret ingredient, so can be included in this group), or for personal use and production.
Rewards and Consequences
—The PCs may be able to sell the elixir, or the formula, if they can convince anyone that it is genuine. It is far more likely that they will turn down the PCs and then try to steal it later.
— Alternatively, the PCs could buy the powder from Rose (possibly with a deposit and a charge on Rudd's account), and then mix the elixir themselves.
— Letting the elixir loose in London could have an extremely dramatic outcome, with werewolves (see Goblin Luck, above) and berserkers rushing around in the streets.
— Other than that, Rudd may become suspicious if his deal with Rose suddenly changes, or if his account suddenly increases. This might lead to him hiring the characters to steal back the rest of the formula.
— If the players suddenly start showing the effects of using the elixir, then Rudd is likely to want to know why.
— If a character turns into a werewolf, the GM will need to improvise. One day, Rudd is going to turn up as a werewolf, too.
Character Points: 1 for making off with Rudd's 4s and getting away with it; 2 for getting the formula to make Rudd's elixir; plus any bonus points the GM deems appropriate.Further Player Motivators
— Getting into the business of alchemy in general, and in using or selling the elixir.
The garret is a tiny room with a steeply-pitched ceiling and a single dormer window at the front. At the back a small section is walled off, forming a little wedge of space which has a triangular door at each side. These doors each communicate with a similar space in the house on either side, which in turn communicate with the next houses, and so on along the length of Ashestree Court. This passage is too awkward to be commonly used, but has proven valuable in emergencies. Doctor Rudd has filled the garret with books, which lie in irregular drifts and piles, arranged to form his table, chair, candlestick and, with a blanket stretched on top, his bed. As he reads his way through them the piles shift and change, and Doctor Rudd's furniture shifts and changes with them, growing nearer to the window in summer, and nearer to the fire in winter. A particular stack has been carefully arranged into shelves, and on these are displayed a wide variety of bottles and jars, many of them empty, but a lot containing various powders, liquids and preserved specimens. He has no wardrobe, possessing only the clothes he stands up in.
Mr Rudd wears a long white frock-coat, which he has personalised in time-honoured medical fashion, by wiping his hands on the sides after every operation. Of course, Mr Rudd has never actually performed any operations at all, but managed to produce a very convincing simulation by working at a slaughterhouse during his seven-year visit to Australia. He wears tight grey trousers, and unremarkable shoes. His shirt is rather nice, with a high, starched collar and very long cuffs, from which only the tips of his fingers extend.
Rose Gutter's Apothecary
Ms Gutter's Apothecary is found in Primrose Hill, almost opposite the back of the Magpie Tavern. It comprises a modest room with a window opening onto the street. The window has a strong wooden shutter, which can be lowered and laid across the sill, to form a counter. Customers stand outside in the street, doing business through the window and nimbly dodging the passing traffic, or the occasional stream of effluent and low humour from the coarse folk in the rooms above.
Ms Gutter wears a cheap cotton shawl over a cheap cotton dress, bulked out with cheap cotton petticoats underneath, with a pair of rather fine black leather boots. She also has an earring. Her attire has a slightly foreign look, as does Rose herself, and for this reason her friends don't quite trust her. She doesn't much care for them either. She has 8 pence, knotted in an end of her shawl, and several shillings in a tin box at the back of the room.
In its raw form, the elixir comprises a pale yellow, coarse-grained powder, which glitters in the light. Once the secret final ingredient has been added, it transforms into a vivid green liquid with a pale sediment at the bottom.
The process of manufacture is:
1. Rose carefully unlocks a small but heavily ornamented wooden cabinet, with a key she wears on a string around her neck.
2. She then draws forth a small black leather book and turns its onionskin pages. Reading from it, she grinds together a powder of several ingredients taken from tiny glass bottles, one of which is nearly empty.
3. Finally, Rose says a few words in Italian over the powder, and seals it in a little jar.
Rudd's own contribution is to pour in the final ingredient — mineral turpentine — and swig the lot.
The elixir is worth 4 pounds a dose, if anyone can be convinced that it works. An apothecarist would buy the formula for about ten times that if he could afford it, and if he can be convinced that it is the real thing.
Article publication date: July 1, 1996
Copyright © 1996 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.