In recent years, Ptolus has become something of a magnet, drawing in adventurers from across the Empire to venture down into the infamous Dungeon and emerge with a fortune—or at least a few good stories. The lifestyle of the delver is possible nowhere else in the Empire as it is in Ptolus.
This chapter details what life is like for the common adventurer living in Ptolus and illustrates some ways in which a delver’s life in this city differs from the experience elsewhere. To see life, and the city, through his or her eyes, the chapter has been written in the second person.
Ptolus vs. the Rest of the Empire
How You Live
What You Wear
Getting Along in the City
What the Others Think
After the Delving’s Done
PTOLUS VS. THE REST OF THE EMPIRE
“Delver” is a term unique to the city of Ptolus. Nowhere else in the world do they refer to adventurers as such. In fact, outside of Ptolus, even the word “adventurer” is used only rarely, most often to denote a mercenary or other freelance explorer or rogue. It’s not a complimentary word, and people think poorly of folk such as yourself. To them, you are lawless, uncontrolled, and a danger to society. There are laws to restrict carrying weapons and wearing armor without Imperial permits.
In Ptolus, things are different. Sure, some of the people here don’t trust you, and some steer clear of you when you walk down the street—but in the eyes of others, you’re a brave hero. They wish they could do the exciting things you do and see the wondrous sights you’ve seen. Most folks treat you well enough. At the very least, no worse than any other resident, and in many cases much better, assuming you’ve got more coin than the commoners. And you probably do.
You don’t always help your cause by walking through the city covered in sewage, blood, and grime, but no one’s installed bathhouses next to all the Dungeon entrances, so what are you going to do?
Plus, there are just more adventurers here than anywhere else. And why not? This is where you come if you want to strike it rich. Surely there are fortunes enough for you and all your friends below Ptolus. And you’re brave and bold enough to go down there and take them.
Of course, many people in the city don’t fully understand what it is you do. They don’t even really know what lies beneath their own city. They know about the ratmen, and maybe the goblins. They know there are other monsters down there too, as well as undead—particularly in the Necropolis. But they don’t really understand what they live above day after day. Not like you do.
And it’s likely that, if they did truly understand, most of them would probably want to leave town as fast as possible. So, perhaps it’s best if nobody tells them.
For important delver information and tips on such issues as buying adventuring gear, selling loot, getting healed, and so on, see the two “Filling Campaign Needs” handouts in the envelope at the back of this book.
The Conciliators, a fervent group within the Church of Lothian (see page 68), oppose any exploration of the areas beneath the city, as they fear that delvers will find more chaositech and stir up more ancient evils.
In its effort to impose a “salvage” tax on treasure that delvers find on their adventures, the Imperial government keeps a tax assayer’s table in the Undercity Market, where delvers are instructed to register all of their finds and pay a 10 percent tax. See “Taxes” in Chapter 28: Crime and the Law (page 558).
The Delver’s Guild can be an adventurer’s best friend. Membership starts at 10 gp per year, and benefits include access to the guild’s substantial catalog of Dungeon information and a 10 percent discount on essential gear at Ebbert’s Outfitters. For more on the Guild, see Chapter 6: Organizations (page 108).
Unless you have a very secure home, rent a vault to store your valuables (see “Hammersong Vaults” in Oldtown, page 322). Don’t carry around 500 pp and 3,000 gp with you. No matter how good you are at securing your coins, some pickpocket is better.
It is estimated that for every ten delvers that go down into the Dungeon each week, one does not come back. About a hundred new adventurers come to Ptolus every week, and about twentyfive are raised from the dead. Since the Delver’s Guild began keeping records three years ago, about eight thousand adventures died permanently while exploring the Dungeon. Another two hundred thirty have retired, either in the city or elsewhere.
Adventurers can find some unique and interesting equipment at Ebbert’s Outfitters in Delver’s Square (page 202). Some of it is designed by Ebbert himself.
HOW YOU LIVE
You probably don’t have a family, so you live in a cheap, one-room flat in a two- or three-story building with six or eight such flats. You might share an apartment or small house with friends, as well. You most likely live in Midtown, so you can be close to Delver’s Square.
You likely eat most of your meals in pubs and taverns—a light breakfast in the morning and a hefty dinner at night. Obviously, delvers keep their own schedule. Most go on a mission beneath the city (or elsewhere) for a day or two and then relax for a week, living high on the spoils they’ve brought back with them.
Unless you are a divine spellcaster, you are less likely than the typical citizen to be religious, or at least devout. If you’re a Lothianite, you likely attend services at St. Gustav’s Chapel off of Delver’s Square. The main temple, St. Valien’s Cathedral, has made it clear that your kind isn’t welcome there
WHAT YOU WEAR
While you’re exploring beneath the city, you’re likely to wear your full suit of magical plate armor and carry around a large selection of weapons for all different situations.
When you’re not down in the Dungeon garbed in your delving gear and armor, around town you might wear some tough leather breeches, a cotton shirt, and a vest or jacket. This apparel is standard for both men and women.
On the other hand, you might wear around town exactly what you wear in the Dungeon, not caring what you look like (or even smell like!). Such adventurers, however, are exactly the people who give their kind a bad name and turn those who dislike delvers even more against them.
GETTING ALONG IN THE CITY
There are no laws restricting weapon ownership or bearing arms within Ptolus, unlike in other large cities, such as Dohrinthas or Tarsis. (The exception, of course, is that you need a permit to carry a firearm.) That said, if you go into a restaurant for a meal or to a guildhall to talk with the guildmaster, and you’re carrying two different swords, a crossbow, two quivers of bolts, a spear, and two daggers, as well as a full pack of gear, six torches, a ten-foot pole, and a hefty sack of miscellaneous equipment, you’ll get some strange looks. In fact, you’ll look quite the fool, and other adventurers will mock you. The classy adventurer casually going about town carries a weapon or two, but just his best. Either that, or you get very good at concealing your weapons and gear.
If you wear armor, you might very well wear it around the city. There’s no prohibition against it, and plenty of people do. However, if you can afford it, you might opt for a chain shirt or a leather coat rather than wearing your heavy armor as you hang about the tavern drinking with your friends or conduct research in the library. It’s more comfortable, and you can get around a lot faster.
Most people who own horses, even knights and paladins, stable them for their entire stay in the city. Only the main roads can easily accommodate people on horseback, and in many places a mount will slow you down rather than improve your speed. Most delvers don’t own horses or other mounts, as they never need them in the city, and have no plans to leave anytime soon.
Enough adventurers have animal companions that people in Ptolus have grown accustomed to them. The sight of a bear or wolf at the side of some capable-looking individual draws attention, but not alarm.
THE CULT OF HEROISM
Some adventurers rise above their lowly station to gain reputations as heroes (and the fact that such heroes often have gained great wealth in the process doesn’t hurt). Heroes in Ptolus are celebrated. No better evidence is needed than the statue of Abesh Runihan in Delver’s Square (which is technically called Runihan Square), erected as a tribute to the hero who died defeating the ghost-lich Kagrisos. If word gets around that a group of delvers performed some heroic deed, even unintentionally, people around town may think well of them. Depending on the specific deed, the likability of the characters, and the mood of the city, this “fame” could mean anything from a few pats on the back to a few drinks on the house at a tavern, to a parade around Delver’s Square.
Why has Ptolus always respected its heroes? Maybe it’s because the history of the region shows that it has always needed them. Although there were armies, generals, and perhaps even gods involved, it was a stalwart band of heroes that brought down the Dread One. Likewise, the Great Seven finished off Ghul, the Skull-King. Common folk may not know much about history, but most of them are aware that they owe a great deal to heroes such as these. And who are they to say that the adventurer they pass on the street isn’t about to become a hero just like them?
WHAT THE OTHERS THINK
While there are more adventurers in Ptolus than anywhere else, the non-adventurers outnumber you by at least two hundred to one.
Adventurers are not unknown to the people of Ptolus. However, most commoners look upon them as dangerous individuals. Folk who carry more weapons than a soldier, wield all manner of strange powers, and earn their keep by fighting monsters are best avoided, they must think. Oh, the shopkeepers and tavern owners are usually happy to take your gold, but how many of them are willing to strike up a genial conversation with you? Not many. Of course, you probably prefer it that way: You don’t bother them, and they don’t bother you. Plus, you know that a lot of delvers aren’t trustworthy and would slit their own grandmothers’ throats for a couple silver moons.
It’s best not to spook the locals—although you’re constantly surprised at how hard they are to spook. You expect them to blanche at the sight of a wizard casting spells or a druid talking to her lion in the streets, but they usually don’t. They keep their distance and often watch with interest but in Ptolus, it seems, they’ve probably seen stranger things.
It may go without saying, but it’s best to keep the authorities happy. City Watch guards look at you (and your weapons) suspiciously when they pass by on the street, but you just keep on walking. Relying on the Watch is a sure way to be disappointed— not because they’re not capable, and not because they’re not trustworthy, but because you frequently get yourself into scrapes that only you or others like you can get out of. The City Watch is there to protect the common folk, not to deal with delverrelated problems. They’re not eager to help you, and they certainly won’t go under the city to take care of a problem you tell them about.
That said, the City Watch and the Commissar’s Men are not your enemies, either. Even if you could take on a whole Watch patrol in a fair fight and win, what good could that possibly accomplish? You have learned to use the system, not work against it. Just like you’ve learned that often you’ve got to fight your own battles and solve your own problems.
You know the laws of the city and avoid breaking them, at least obviously so, as often as you can. You know enough not to use enchantment magic on people in the city, particularly not officials, shopkeepers, or figures of importance. You know that when you get into a fight in the city, you need to be able to claim self-defense when someone gets a blade between his ribs.
There are some things that are technically illegal that you know you can get away with as long as the Watch doesn’t catch you in the act: breaking and entering, dumping a body into the river, and even murder, if the victim is a known criminal or otherwise obviously dangerous individual. In other words, you know that if you take that sword you wear and use it to deal your own justice now and again, you’re not likely to run afoul of the law. And if you do legitimately beat a foe in combat, particularly if the foe attacked you first, the authorities will not look twice if you rifle through his purse or take his belongings.
Ten Things Smart Delvers Know (or Have Learned)
1. Remember that underground you have to think in all three dimensions—the best path might not be the most direct one.
2. The most valuable hauls come from those areas not yet explored by anyone else.
3. Any chamber or passage you stand within may have had multiple inhabitants and uses over the centuries.
4. Sleeping or resting below the city is dangerous, but often necessary. Spike the doors and post a guard.
5. Doors that look like huge gears lead into Dwarvenhearth. A chamber beyond a door of bluish steel likely holds great treasure. An intact glass and bronze door may open up whole new regions to explore.
6. Others have likely gone where you are about to go, and others will go there after you. Research records and maps before you explore. Keep your own records and maps, and sell them when you’re done.
7. A membership in the Delver’s Guild pays for itself relatively quickly.
8. Monsters and Dungeon natives have an ecology all their own. Understand how it works, and you’ll be better off.
9. The Dungeon is vast—any location in the city might hold an entrance.
10. There is safety in numbers.
THE ARISTOCRACY AND THE WEALTHY
You have a strange relationship with the wealthy. On one hand, you’re a bit worse than the lowest commoner in their eyes. You’re not only of low birth, but you willingly delve under the ground and into the sewer, living by the might of sword and spell rather than the rule of law. You’re often dirty, scarred, and even bloody. Who knows what kind of diseases and afflictions you’re bringing up with you from down in the Dungeon? On the other hand, you’re highly skilled, competent, smart—even dangerous. You might also have a good deal of money. People like you have their uses, the nobles probably think.
Thus, you interact with the nobility and the wealthy far more than the average citizen does. Maybe they want to purchase something you’ve found on your adventures, or maybe they want to hire you to take care of some problem. Maybe they seek to invest in your missions, staking your expenses for a share of the loot you recover. In either case, the wealthy of the Nobles’ District might send a trusted servant to scour Delver’s Square looking for the adventurers that his master needs. They even employ agents to hang around places that adventurers frequent with standing orders to purchase some of the interesting treasures that adventurers uncover. Some delvers even learn what various aristocrats want and venture up to the Nobles’ Quarter with their valuables to sell.
AFTER THE DELVING’S DONE
The sad truth is that most delvers die in pursuit of their adventuring goals, and you know it. But you also know that some entirely unsuccessful delvers just quit—they make a little money by selling off their gear, and then they find regular jobs around town.
A few enjoy moderately successful adventuring careers but decide to give it up for one reason or another. They use what money they earned in their missions to start a stake in a business, open up a tavern, and so forth. Such entrepreneurs tend to stay in familiar areas, operating their businesses in the Undercity Market or out of Delver’s Square, where they can interact with other adventurers. You appreciate this; most delvers prefer to do business with those who truly understand them. The dwarf Ebbert Boltcrafter of Ebbert’s Outfitters is one example— when his brother took one too many blows to the head, he gave up his adventuring career and opened his shop.
Of course, some do get rich and retire, and that’s what every delver dreams about: living long enough to retire usually very wealthy. Sheva Callister is one such notable example that you and every other delver in Ptolus knows about. Somewhere in the Dungeon she found an artifact called the Crown of Ki-Lias and now, although she’s still fairly young, she lives off the proceeds she made from selling it. She never has to adventure or work again. Some retirees use their wealth to live among the rich in the Nobles’ Quarter. But you know that most find it difficult to remove themselves so much from their roots. Instead they find themselves nice houses in Oldtown or Midtown. Few can handle the quiet lifestyle of Rivergate or the hustle and bustle of the markets and the Guildsman District. Some delvers never actually retire but simply find other ways to use their adventuring skills. Fighters become bodyguards, the castellans of noble estates, or even captains of the City Watch. A wizard might not “retire,” but find that she spends less time going on adventures and more time studying and making magic items, until she is no longer really an adventurer at all.