Coppers The Alchemist (Author's Note: some of this material has already appeared in SJ Games' Pyramid Magazine in the Supporting Cast feature, early 1996)
On a street of mostly deserted buildings is a ramshackle little house with boarded-over windows, weed-infested yard, and a small sign reading "Open" posted next to a sliding view-panel in the door. This is the shop of the alchemist known as Coppers. His real name is Benjamin Cyrus, and generations ago his family included some of the greatest wizards in the land. Coppers is the last of his line. The residents of town tend to avoid him, which is easy, because he avoids them. Coppers is known for two things. First, his nickname. He refuses to take any coins of silver, gold, or platinum, wanting only copper. He will take gems and items in trade (so long as they do not contain precious metals), though prefers copper. To buy an expensive alchemical item in copper, usually the lowest- denomination of money, requires a tremendous amount of coins. The other thing for which Coppers is known is his raving paranoia. He believes that "They" are out there. "They" look just like normal people, except for their "steely little eyes" and the "green glowing wires" under their scalps. Coppers believes that "They" hate magic and seek to destroy it in all forms, including people with magical talent. "They" know that users of magic tend to be among the wealthier classes and therefore have large amounts of silver and gold. "They smell it on ya," Coppers always says. Because of his paranoia (he's also agoraphobic), Coppers hardly ever leaves the house. He occasionally goes out at night to gather plants or haul wood and water. He has food and supplies delivered regularly, but will put any visitor through extensive questioning and examining to make sure it isn't one of "Them," even if it is someone Coppers has known for years. This investigation is conducted entirely through the sliding panel in the door. Customers must also go through this same process, and will also be asked if they're carrying any silver or gold. If they are, Coppers will not even open the door. Coppers himself is a bent, stooped man somewhere between the ages of fifty and ninety. He has a balding pate with a fringe of wild yellow-white hair, sharp features, bright blue eyes sunk deep in nests of wrinkles, and about twelve teeth. His hands are notable in that they are large, callused, scarred, yellowed as if by nicotine, and marked with chemical burns. He wears a solid copper neckchain with a flat copper disc pendant about the size of a tea saucer, covered with protective runes, and his neck has gone green from the constant contact. His usual garb consists of plain woolen trousers, a shirt that might have once been white, old leather sandals, and a large leather apron with many deep pockets. Inside, the shop is small, crowded, and smoky. There is a counter running along the back wall, usually covered with odds and ends (empty vials, crumpled parchment, bits of string, dishes with forgotten food, etc.). On the end of the counter is a stuffed jackalope (large hare with deerlike antlers) mounted on a stand with a decorative piece of driftwood. This is Jake, and Coppers talks to and about him as if he is alive. The rest of the front area is given over to shelves full of vials and a large armoire with the doors torn off, where Coppers displays the few magical items he has in stock. He is not much of an enchanter himself, but has been known to trade items for potions. He is a wizards of some ability, but uses his magic mostly in his alchemy or for home defense. The vials are a hodgepodge of glass, metal, ceramic, old preserves jars, inkwells, and the like. None are labeled, and they do not appear to be categorized in any sensible manner. Coppers prides himself on knowing exactly what is where (unless "They" have been fiddling with his stuff). Behind the counter is a doorway with a tattered curtain hanging in it, and a trapdoor in the ceiling. There is also a bin behind the counter, filled to the brim with copper coins. Most are local, but samples of currencies from many different countries are mixed in. Next to the bin is a small, sturdy, locked chest containing various gems and trinkets (the key is hidden in Jake's stand). There is a tall stool with one leg shorter than the others, so it is propped on a stack of bricks. Coppers falls off his stool at least four times a week. The curtained doorway leads to the back room, which is where Coppers does his work. It is crammed with alchemical equipment, tools, supplies, and ingredients. Again, there is neither rhyme nor reason to the mess and only Coppers can find anything back there. In addition to the equipment, this rom also serves as his kitchen, with a small fireplace and cabinets. There is a small oaken tub here that Coppers uses for his own infrequent baths as well as mixing potions. The trapdoor has a slide-down ladder that leads to the loft. This low-ceilinged space is where Coppers sleeps. There is a straw- filled mattress, a fine wood chest with brass fittings that has seen better days, a washbasin, and a chamber pot. Ben Cyrus, aka Coppers. Age 65, 5'8" (when not slouching, 5'5" otherwise), 120 lbs; balding with frizz of yellowish-white hair, bright blue eyes, wrinkles ST 10 IQ 15 Speed: 5.25 DX 11 HT 10 Move: 5 Dodge: 5 PD 1, DR 1; front torso only from leather apron Advantages: Eidetic Memory Level 1, Magery 2, Literacy. Disadvantages: Absent-Mindedness, Skinny, Paranoia, Delusion (gold and silver attract "Them"), Agorophobia. Quirks: Believes Jake is alive; Will only accept copper coins; Always tries to get customers to buy love potions; Never drinks alcohol; Loves raisin bread. Skills: Alchemy -- 16; Botany -- 13; Cooking -- 14; First-Aid -- 14; Geology -- 13; History -- 13; Literature -- 13; Merchant -- 14; Metallurgy -- 12; Naturalist -- 13; Occultism -- 14; Poisons -- 14; Pottery -- 14; Scrounging -- 13; Stealth -- 10; Spell Throwing (Fireball) -- 12; Teaching -- 13; Weather Sense -- 14. Spells (all at 15): Sense Life, Sense Foes, Sense Emotion, Truthsayer, Compel Truth, Hide Thoughts, Seek Earth, Purify Air, Create Air, Ignite Fire, Create Fire, Shape Fire, Extinguish Fire, Fireproof, Heat, Cold, Fireball, Seek Water, Purify Water, Create Water, Destroy Water, Dehydrate, Test Food, Seek Food, Decay, Purify Food, Poison Food, Cook, Create Food, Ferment, Distill, Recover Strength, Detect Magic, Aura, Identify Spell, Analyze Magic, Light, Continual Light, Scryguard, Scrywall, Counterspell, Dispel Magic, Apportation, Seek Plant, Identify Plant, Sense Danger, Watchdog, Nightingale, Missile Shield. Description: The first sight anyone ever has of Coppers is of a pair of bright blue eyes peering suspiciously through a sliding panel in his door. The eyes are nested deep in a face as brown and wrinkled as a walnut, topped by a balding age-spotted pate fringed with yellowish- white hair. His infrequent smiles reveal teeth as rickety as the fence around a haunted house. His neck is tinged green from the solid copper neckchain he always wears. Coppers' next most noticeable feature is his scrawniness. A shirt of uncertain color billows around his thin frame, his bony wrists and gnarled hands protruding from frayed cuffs. His woolen trousers are cinched with a length of old rope. His feet, in leather sandals, are as bony and scant of meat as the rest of him. Over all, he wears a scorched and stained leather apron. Though disheveled, Coppers is anything but lazy. His movements are rapid, jerky, almost manic. He is always whipping around to look behind him, or scuttling across the room to check the doors and windows. Possessions: House/shop, yard overgrown with weeds, windows boarded over. Door has sliding panel next to small wooden sign reading "Open." Back room holds complete alchemy lab, shelves of ingredients. Personal quarters in loft. Front room of shop lined with shelves of vials. Huge antique armoire, etched-glass dorr panels, used for display of collectibles and magic items. Stuffed jackalope on piece of driftwood, small brass plaque on base reading "Jake." Behind counter is huge bin filled with copper coins. Background: Coppers is the last descendant of the Cyrus Clan. Generations ago, his ancestors were magical advisors to kings and emperors. In his youth, Coppers attended the finest magical schools. But as he aged and grew increasingly peculiar, he abandoned high society and established his ramshakle shop. He was married once, but his wife left him and is now married to a wealthy merchant in the city. Coppers has no children. Personality: During his studies, Coppers realized that wizards had enemies. These enemies, the mysterious "Them," wanted to control or destroy everyone who knew about the use of magical forces. Coppers believed that "They" were not human, although "They" could pass for human to the untrained eye. "They" have small steely eyes, and greenish blood that can be best seen flowing through the veins on their scalps. "They" have sensitive noses and can smell out gold and silver, which wizards tend to amass. Coppers' delusion has firmly entrenched itself. He will not accept gold or silver as payment, only copper and gems. Before letting anyone into his shop, he will quiz them to make sure they are really what they appear to be, and that they are not carrying precious metals. His fear of "Them" has made Coppers a recluse. He hardly ever leaves the house, having his groceries delivered if he trusts the delivery person. His only friend is Jake, the stuffed jackalope on the end of his counter. Coppers believes that Jake is alive and watches over the shop. Quote: "I dasn't take gold, nor silver. They smell it on ya, see! Got any ... coppers? Ten thooooouuusaand copper pieces will get you this fine looooove potion!" Adventure Ideas: Coppers can be used in any campaign when elixirs are required or items need identifying. Characters will need to go through an interrogation on each visit, even if they return more than once in the same day. They will also need to get ahold of large amounts of copper. If Coppers becomes a regular feature, the characters might begin to notice even stranger things about the shop. Maybe it's the way Jake seems to be in a different position. Or maybe it's the steely- eyed man lurking in the doorway across the street ... Suppose that "They" are real, and "They" have realized that Coppers knows the truth. "They" might try to kill him, but more likely would want to capture him, because "They" want to control all magic in the world. What are "They?" Where do "They" come from? And what will "They" do when "They" realize that Coppers has shared his suspicions with others? For another idea, suppose a wealthy merchant's wife is on her deathbed and reveals that her eldest child isn't really the merchant's offspring. The person in question could hire the party to track down the real father, or for a real kick, the person in question could be one of the characters! Shopping at Coppers': Coppers' shop is likely (1-4 on 1d6) to have 2d6 of any of the following elixirs -- Beast-Speech, Invulnerability, Endurance, Warrior, Speed, Strength, Huntsman, Fear, Weakness, Lecherousness, Death, Fire Resistance, Transformation, Flight, Water-Breathing, Fertility, Healing, Antidote, Sleep, Love. At any one time, Coppers is likely to have a dozen or so items in the armoire. These are all for sale at book price. Here are a dozen examples to start with -- 1. Wooden whistle (Beast Summoning, any type) 2. Dark blue woolen cloak (Itch, Slow Fall, and Mage Stealth) 3. Black leather bracer with silver and garnet (Resist Pain) 4. Bronze helmet with large rams' horns (Control Person) 5. Plain grey wand with gold tip (Stone Missile) 6. Necklace with cloud, snowflake, raindrop designs (Clouds, Rain, Snow) 7. Gem-encrusted bastard sword, named Sunsfire (Flaming Weapon, Quick-Draw, Accuracy +1) 8. Quiver of six arrows (each arrow has Accuracy +2 and Puissance +2) 9. Polished oaken staff with pewter dragon's claw gripping crystal eye at end; the Staff of Pormyndwyn the Sage (Staff, Know Illusion, Mage Sight, Mage Sense, See Invisible, See Secrets) 10. Dagger with black hilt (Accuracy +1, Magic Resistance, Puissance +2) 11. Jade-handled eating utensil (Purify Food) 12. Harp with strings made from a princess' hair (Mass Suggestion)
Click here to return to the previous page.