The Dog Pit Public House
'Bristlebane ale. Tall.'
Mathus looked up. He didn't recognize the man ordering, but he seemed the type: muscles beneath a layer of fat, a snarling expression with most of his teeth missing, fists like summer hams. 'You want it in a bottle?'
'From the tap.'
Mathus nodded. 'This way,' he said, stepping from behind the bar and into the back room, the 'customer' following.
A fresh-faced young man sitting at the bar looked around, confused. 'Bristlebane? Sounds adventurous.'
'You couldn't handle it, son,' an older man said from across the plank bar with a hint of derision. 'It'd right kick your ass.'
The Dog Pit is in the seediest part of the city, and well looks the part. The building is a squat wooden hovel, jammed between two larger ones; it looks like there should be an alley, with the pub growing up like an obnoxious weed to block progress. The wall boards are worn and rough cut, showing a variety of ages and woods from the presumably many times it has been patched. There is a single swinging hinge door that looks like it was salvaged from an even poorer building, not quite fitting the frame. Two small windows are on either side, little more than holes in the wall. On the door is painted the head of a growling mastiff - surprisingly well done given the rest of the bar's workmanship.
At first glance, the inside appears to be what the outside would suggest. The single main room is a wide quadrangle, the corners not quite at right angles which gives the room a lopsided appearance. A crude hearth made from salvaged earthen bricks is built into the left wall, the fire casting a glow across the usually dim establishment. Tables and chairs are crowded about, simple and unadorned. Along the back wall is the long plank bar, covering three quarters of the rear, beside a small wooden door with a latch. An array of barrels, kegs, and bottles are stacked against the wall, mugs hanging from hooks and nails above. At night, the room is lit dimly by a few lanterns hanging from iron chains and a huge wax candle standing on the bar. There are usually at least a few patrons, though some nights the pub is unusually packed, every chair and table full with some standing room besides.
While the place seems crude, a trained eye will notice usually good appointments juxtaposed to the overall environment. Most of the mugs are pewter rather than cheap tin or wood. The tables and chairs, while simply designed, are made of finer wood than most, and are not the rickety things common to similar bars. Ask for your favorite booze and it's likely in stock, even rare and expensive liquors and beers. And the small door beside the bar - a store room? - has a stately locking iron knob with several bolts besides.
Behind the bar is Diamond Mathus, a man of perhaps fifty. His moniker comes from the large diamond stud he wears prominently wears in his right ear. With a muscular build, shaved head, and practical dark wool clothes, he looks more like a bodyguard than a barkeep. Everyone knows Mathus owns the place and that he's been on the wrong side of the law before, but no one seems to know much else about the man, even his proper name. He is a good host, quickly dishing our orders and mixing the occasional drink, but it's hard to get more than a few words out of him, and certainly never a laugh.
While Mathus may look like a bouncer, that role is actually filled by Urs, a stout dwarf who is nearly as wide as he is tall. Urs wears a thick red tunic and woolen breeches, the dwarven version of a handaxe hanging at his side by a leather baldric (a non-dwarf would easily mistake it for a tool used to fell great trees). His leathery face is entirely free free from hair, save a dark brown queue sprouting from the top of his head, a stump of a goatee braided and tied to form a solid shaft of hair, and a hardy unibrow. He is ever posted next to the back door, standing arms crossed next to a seldom used stool. The dwarf eyes the room menacingly, and anyone who dares to test him will find themselves quickly flying out of the rickety front door.
When the room is busy, it's surprising to see the whole host of guest tended by only two barmaids, the sisters Nelle and Zote. They're little more than girls, buxom lasses scant older than twenty, Nelle with her cascade of yellow hair tied into a braid and the slightly younger Zote with dirty blond locks done up into a bun. While friendly and flirty as any barmaids, dressed in low-cut chemises and short skirts, they also sport something most maidens do not carry: an elegant knife in a leather sheathe tied to the hip. They have no problem getting friendly or even intimate with the customers they favor, but unwanted advances get only one warning; more than a few newcomers have left with less blood, fingers, or other valuable organs than they entered with.
While all this makes the Dog Pit only slightly more notable than others pubs in the neighborhood, those in the know are familiar with its greater attraction. Behind the locked store room door, through the pantry beneath a hidden plank floorboards is a ladder to a large cellar, bigger even than the tavern proper. This is the eponymous pit, an fighting ring that takes any and all comers. The room is a large circle, the ceiling and walls supported by rough planks with an enormous tin lantern hanging overhead. In the center is a deeper dugout, a ring twenty some feet in diameter.
After giving Mathus the proper passwords - which changes month to month - gamblers and pugilists are taken down to this room for dangerous fighting bouts. The fights are loosely refereed by a few select men, and a greasy looking man named Ingram handles the gambling. Matches are staged on a weekly basis, Mathus personally seeing applicants throughout the week and setting up bouts to achieve maximum entertainment. Like a gladiatorial patron, he tries to pit the biggest names against one another, staging the more unusual fights like those between women or gnomes as opening acts. Rules for the fights are loose and ill-defined, agreed to by the competitors before hand. The most common fights end in knockouts or submissions, with no limitations on kicks, bites, gouges, etc. The bloodsport aspect of the bouts is one of the main attractions to the Dog Pit's patrons, who cheer wildly at the sight of blood sprays. Mathus himself rarely watches the event fights, busy tending bar and keeping an eye out for authorities (if the fighting itself isn't illegal in the city, the gambling is, especially when he keeps all the winnings under the table). He's likely to pop in to make sure things are running smoothly, leaving Urs to watch the door. A few strongmen are posted in the cellar to make sure things stay civil, and a second doorway opens to a tunnel leading into a back alley where too rowdy guests can be 'escorted'.
Being illegal, the fights are not publicly advertised, but neither are they the city's best kept secret. Mathus sends the bookie Ingram to scout for pugilists in other taverns nightly, giving them that month's password and instructions to see Mathus to enter. Nelle and Zote have a good eye for fighting themselves and bring competitors in during off hours. While a few of the city authorities grumble at the rumored fighting house, more than a few nobles are patrons, and Mathus greases enough constabulary palms to keep things running smoothly. His contacts in the crime world let him know about investigators who try to infiltrate the Pit to bust it; he makes sure they are fed a false password so when they ask for a 'shot of mudwater, dry' or some other nonexistent booze, he can feed them a loaded drink and let Urs toss them out when the sedation-inducing drug takes effect.
The Boxer - After knocking out some thugs in the city streets, the party is approached by a lithe greaseball of a man. He tells one or more of the players that they have just the place for someone like them, if they're interested. With a password and instructions, they come to the Dog Pit and interview with Mathus, who has them spar and shadowbox a bit. They're offered a cut if they fight a bout tomorrow evening. The kicker: when the PCs arrive to fight in the main event, they're pitted against one another.
Fight Club - The PCs are hired by the local constabulary to catch a libertine aristocrat who has been giving a bad name to the crown. Said nobleman also is believed to have a valuable piece of information, important artifact, or some other prize for the party. Rumor has it that he frequents a covert boxing arena of some sort. The party will need to investigate, discover the Dog Pit, and figure out a way to get the proper password. On the night of the big fight, they're surprised to see that the aristocrat is indeed in attendance - under a pseudonym as the headlining bout. The bouncers, led by Urs, will certainly not let the PCs drag their big act off in chains, even worse if they use the authority of the constabulary. How can they get the aristocrat out without too much attention to themselves - and with him alive, given the size of his brutal-looking opponent?
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? Responses (11)-11
Update: Hey, I figured out how to add pictures.
I wonder if Mathis allows armed bouts of violence.
Not really. The worst injuries the Pit deals with are broken limbs, concussions, etc. And 'deal with' here means 'dump unconscious fighters in the back alley.' Discarded limbs and piles of entrails would lead to too many questions.
Hmm. There's a fair chance such a place might get placed somewhere in Machias- probably in the Slants.
An honor! I look forward to reading about it in a future Kingmakers installment.
Nothing unusual, but good amount of detail and a 'homey' feel to the place. I hope i didn't miss a reference to it, but I think this needs a few lines about the gambling aspects...
...which reminds me of this exchange:
horse-lover: Gambling is whats wrong with horse-racing
realist: Without gambling there wouldn't be horse-racing.
(I'd pay to see woman v gnome)
The gambling is only referenced off-hand. I'll think on and put something substantial up there.
A bar that would fit into most game worlds.
I'm itching to rate this a 5/5 but for that it would need to be a really bizarre place.
I like your take on the good old arena/pub.
This is a very solid, very 'real' take on the classic pit-under-the-pub. You put in enough detail to make this place solidly imaginable, and I loved the plot hook where you have the different party members fight each other. What a great way to spark a rivalry (or fulfil an existing one)!
An excellent and usable location! Great stuff here!