Saturday, November 26, 2011


I recently had the distinct pleasure of editing The Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz, now available at Digital Orc.  The crux of the adventure is a beer shortage, and the PCs are sent to handle the situation.  As I noted in my comments, there is a dearth of beer-themed modules for medieval fantasy settings, which is odd because beer is highly important historically.  Beer is one of the first instances of biotechnology, and many of the premises used in brewing formed the basis of modern biotechnology.  Really, if you want to make, say, human growth hormone, you no longer harvest it from humans, you culture it in a yeast or E. coli vector, grow it in a bioreactor, and harvest.  Those are the basic steps of beer production — throw some stuff in a bioreactor (maybe like a sealed barrel), let the yeast go to work, and obtain alcohol.

As has been noted elsewhere, beer was safer than water for most of human history, and the ancient Egyptians even used beer as a bargaining tool during a labor strike.  If this is your first time on planet Earth, we're humans and we like our beer.

Though the beer isn't emphasized, taverns are ubiquitous in fantasy fiction and roleplaying games, best exemplified by the fantasy trope of meeting in a tavern.  As noted in the link, this makes sense — the tavern hall is really the social heart of the town.  Community leaders who wish to be available might make themselves known there, though they will likely choose, say, Cheers over Chalmun's Cantina (however, note that both bars use the "meeting in a tavern" trope).

As such, it would make a lot of sense that beer would be an important aspect of life.  Merchant caravans and trading houses probably deal in the stuff, monasteries and dwarven brewmasters are probably major suppliers (though plenty of taverns probably brew a house beer), and any interruption in supply would be a major problem, requiring the intervention of government officials and adventuring parties.  Fantasy settings allow for odd varieties of beer (like the mushroom-based brews from the monastery of Pilz in Blasphemous Brewery, or even stranger blends with possible enchantments and other effects), and the ever-present guilds would probably get involved.  The idea of a trading guild based solely around beer is likely — Blasphemous Brewery's dilemma is a crisis for the Tavern Masters Union — and with all these supply lines and monopolies, trouble is probably inevitable.  The rise in crime and other aftereffects of the United States' Noble Experiment are well-documented, and that's before you get into the dangers of a medieval life where beer is likely a major form of recreation and cultural identity.  Riots and uprisings are likely — they certainly happened in Bavaria and Chicago.

For that matter, keeping with the revolutionary theme that has been mentioned on this blog, maybe a party of adventurers will break the Tavern Masters Union's hegemony...

When next you contemplate adventure seeds, maybe you should take a second look at beer.


  1. Thanks both for editing and doing a reflective write-up here. I've linked to this post. Thanks!

  2. And thank you for linking back. Reciprocity!


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