This week, two more ‘box-texts.’ These are not as random as they might seem at first, they are part of what I’m calling “The Rough Part of Town,” and go with Dragg’s Drug Den
Giant metal wheels rust in heaps around the racetrack grounds. Only a few spectators cheer from the stands. Most don’t seem to truly understand the sport, screaming loudly whenever the drivers crash and splashing beer on each other in their excitement. Except for an elderly gentlemen sitting in the first row leaning heavily forward on his cane to view the race. The giant wheels spin around the track, the drivers, seated where the spoke would normally go, wipe the mud from their goggles with each turn.
Noise, flashing lights, and smoke clog the gambling hall. People in fancy, but cheap, evening wear crowd the tables. Most people play games of chance, their eyes fixated on balls whirling around tables and spinning discs. But the most popular tables are the races where tiny creatures race around tiny tracks. Drunken gamblers shout at the creatures to move. Anytime hands get too close to the race track, bouncers step in to pull the offenders back. Behind the games of chance and a curtain, gamblers engage in more serious games. The players pick up and put down cards, only speaking when needed to instruct the dealer. The dealers’ voices call out the losses and wins in a pleasant monotone. The ruining or making of fortunes means nothing to them.
This week I’m trying something slightly different. Like I’ve done before, below is a box-text description of a drug den. But, below that are three ‘hooks’ to choose from, various activities that you can use to get an adventure started. I’ve kept the setting non-specific enough that it could be used in both fantasy and sci-fi.
Giant hookahs hang from the ceiling of The Den. Glittery pieces of tile arranged on their surface give each the appearance of an octopus swimming through the thick smoke that clouds the place. Patrons lounge on dirty couches, sucking on the hoses dangling from the hookahs, eyes half-closed. Others gyrate on the dance floor, their eyes blood-shot from the Dizzy they’ve consumed.
Hook One – The Mysterious Group
In one corner, a group of people dressed in clean white garments talks in low voices despite the loud music. Only water glasses sit on their table, the hookah pipes unused. Anytime someone tries to sit with them, people in crisp red uniforms firmly pushes them away.
Hook Two – Behind Closed Doors
A man walks up to the counter and whispers something to the den keep. He’s led into a back room where a boy pulls back a heavy curtain. Behind it, Dragg, the Den’s owner, soaks in enormous tub filled with some kind of thick, foul-smelling substance. An old woman kneels before the tub, a golden swan held out in her hands. Dragg gives a short nod. A guard takes the swan from the woman and in return gives her sacks of rice and guns.
Hook Three – The Unseen Children
One of the hookahs has a “Pardon Our Cleaning” sign. Small children scramble over the hookah with rags, trying to shine its chipped tiles. Other children with coarse brushes climb through the hoses and into the hookah itself, scrubbing off the thick build-up of creosote. A locked brace encircles each child’s leg and prevents them from running away.
Coffeehouse – Small – Urban
Stacks of tobacco and coffee crates line the perimeter of a small corner store. A few patrons stand around outside, chomping on their pipes and staring at the passing pedestrians. Inside, the smell of coffee permeates everything. Rows of long tables and benches sit under white-washed walls.
Luxury Inn or Tavern – Large – Urban
Elaborate scenes from local lore fill the walls and ceilings of this grand tavern. Balconies line the open atrium, which is topped with a colorful stained glass skylight. Most impressive is the gigantic keg dominating the center of the tavern. From its spout, beer pours into a huge pool. An immense rack houses mugs for any patrons who wish to partake.
Road Stop Inn or Tavern – Small – Rural
From afar, the place looks abandoned with its rotting fence and crumbling walls. A closer inspection reveals the inn is open. A former room with two of its walls missing is now an outdoor patio. Food smells waft from inside and a small, but freshly painted, sign reads “Open.”
Seedy Inn or Tavern – Small – Urban
One could easily miss this small tavern tucked away in a side alley. Boards cover half the windows and graffiti coats every surface. Luckily, someone had the foresight to put the tavern’s name on a carved wooden board, so it could be read even through multiple layers of graffiti.