Well-defined NPCs are always useful in a D&D campaign. With that in mind, I thought I'd start a new feature here at the Flagon: NPC Sunday. I want to maintain a focus primarily on the sort of zero- and low-level folk with whom PCs might interact. That's not to say higher-level characters will never be featured, but it's the ordinary sort that seem to be in shortest supply. So, without further ado, my first entry in the series:
Garvellyn the Spattered, apothecary
Garvellyn, known as "the Spattered" for the usual condition of his brown woolen robes, is an apothecary who plies his trade from a dusty, cramped, back-alley shop under a faded but ornately lettered sign: Elixirs, Tonics, and Herbal Preparations
Though Garvellyn is a skilled and knowledgeable practitioner of the arts of herbalism and medicine, he will just as happily deal in folk remedies of dubious efficacy, or even in complete hokum, if his clients are particularly gullible. Reagents for real elixirs are expensive, after all, and preparing them takes time that's too valuable to waste on rubes who can't tell the difference anyway. He isn't really a malicious sort; he just believes that a fool is going to part himself from his coin one way or another, and he might as well be on the receiving end of the equation. Toward that purpose, he cultivates a tone of earnestness in his dealings. If pressed on the potency of a concoction, he will point out that some of the effects can be "subtle" and that individuals respond differently to them. He'll then offer an alternative remedy, but never a refund. To claim unconditional effectiveness is the mark of a charlatan, after all. Despite his cynicism, Garvellyn has a soft spot for children and cats,
and will sell a good tonic at a loss rather than push a sham remedy for a
profit when the health of either is at stake. He has no living family, at least none of whom he will speak.
Garvellyn lacks the skills of a true alchemist, so he cannot brew real magic potions, but he does make several genuinely useful preparations. These include a revitalizing tonic (heals 1d4 hp, but second and subsequent doses taken by the same character in one day are ineffective,) insect and vermin repellents, an antitoxin serum (allows a second saving throw vs. poison, but causes paralysis for 1d4 turns,) and various brews to alleviate symptoms of disease and sometimes prevent death from otherwise lethal ailments (unique formula for each disease.) He is also able to produce potent toxins, but sells only to those for whom he has developed a strong trust - he has no desire to be brought before an inquiry or to the gallows should a poison be used for nefarious purposes and traced back to him. Though he can't produce magic potions of his own, he's become adept at identifying them, requiring 1d4 days and 100 gp per potion for the service. Among his less useful products are love potions, beauty creams, herbal blends for the enhancement of various physical attributes, and hair restorers.
Appearance: Garvellyn is a thin fellow of average height in his late 30s or early 40s. His lean, tapering face sports bushy brows over piercing eyes and a drooping mustache that hangs well below the point of his clean-shaven chin. His drab robes smell strongly of herbs and smoke, and are mottled with stains of varying ages from all manner of chemicals, oils, and extracts.
Stats: St 8 In 15 Wi 12 Dx 11 Co 8 Ch 13, AC 9, hp 3, AT dagger, Dam 1d4, AL N
Knows and reads the Common tongue plus one ancient language appropriate to the campaign setting, which he learned in order to decipher tomes of old herb-lore. Carries a potion of gaseous form, received in payment of a client's debt, for emergencies.
Campaign role: PCs are likely to encounter Garvellyn when they are in search of healing potions early in their careers. If they demonstrate intelligence and good sense in their dealings with him, they'll earn his respect and he'll treat with them in good faith. Should they behave like fools or boors, he'll hide his contempt behind a practiced mask of sincerity while selling them snake oil and misinformation. Garvellyn may seek out adventurers should he require particularly rare or difficult-to-obtain ingredients. He also pays good coin for interesting flasks, bottles, and other containers for his preparations.