Vices in Ptolus

Tobacco, Alcohol, and Legal Drugs

Smoking is a common practice in Ptolus. Tobacco grows in fields south of the city, and local merchants import it. It is rolled into cigarettes and cigars and smoked in pipes. Tobacco prices range from 1 cp to 50 gp per smoke. At the low end, the leaves are dry, old, and often mixed with bits of common grass or trash paper. At the high end, it is not only fresh and pure but mixed with expensive herbs, oils, and even magical substances to produce
enhanced flavors, scents, and sometimes colors. Smoking is considered very sophisticated and those who do not like the smell of smoke are thought uncultured.
Note: A rare type of tobacco called ghostweed, imported from lands far to the west, allows ghosts to continue to interact with living friends.

Alcohol flows more freely than water in Ptolus. Ale, beer, wine, rum, whisky, and brandy are all common. There are no special laws against drunkenness, but the Watch knows that drunk people are likely to get rowdy, so the guards patrol the area around taverns late at night with regularity.

Most tobaccos and alcohols are legal in the Empire. However, because they are heavily taxed, they both are smuggled into the city frequently, alcohol more often than tobacco.
Smuggled goods are considered illegal substances and confiscated or destroyed if found. The city’s physickers and herbalists use a wide variety of medicinal herbs and drugs to alleviate pain, treat symptoms, and even cure conditions such as baldness or warts. The effects of these treatments, usually brewed or applied as poultices, vary wildly. Only some are addictive and, if used as prescribed, pose little problem.

Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs usually get that way because of their highly addictive nature coupled with a dangerous effect. The Empire, in conjunction with the Church of Lothian, has outlawed substances known to be deadly, either through their use or the lack thereof. The following substances are the more well-known illegal drugs.


Also known as smokeweed, ayorith is an intoxicating weed that one smokes like tobacco in cigarettes or pipes. It is a powerful relaxant, but every time one smokes it after the first 1d12 times, the user must make a Fortitude save (DC 10) or become so relaxed that she dies of heart failure. Ayorith has an addiction DC of 12 (Constitution damage, 2 points). The required dosage is once daily. Long-term use (one year or more) results in an annual
Constitution drain of 1d4 points.


Gravebloom is an extremely rare plant that grows only on the graves of those consecrated in the name of Blurrah, Goddess of Comfort in Sadness, an obscure deity with a very small following. Gravebloom flowers, however, contain a potent narcotic worth 50 gp per dose. The drug creates a feeling of utter euphoria in those who use it, producing a near catatonic state for 1d4+2 hours. It has an addiction DC of 16 (Intelligence drain, 1 point). The required dosage is once daily. Because of gravebloom, followers of Blurrah keep their burials a secret, so that would-be drug merchants do not desecrate the graves of their fallen.


When beer is brewed not with hops but with the pollen of a flower called yillow that grows in the Dragonsbirth Mountains, it becomes murlch. This potent alcohol becomes a stimulant, adding an enhancement bonus to Strength and Constitution, and a penalty to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. A few taverns sell murlch on the sly, while there are secret
murlch bars that serve nothing but the stimulant. Most of these secret bars are only open for a few hours at a time each day and their location moves to stay ahead of the City Watch.


The magical/alchemical substance known as nightsong derives from an extremely rare plant found only in Cherubar. This substance changes ordinary people into powerful figures at night, able to ignore pain and perform amazing physical feats. While not addictive, the drug inflicts terrible damage on a user’s body.


Called the “pleasant poison” or “black sea-powder,” shivvel is developed from a black seaweed that grows near the shoreline of certain islands in the Whitewind Sea. The weed is harvested, dried, and eventually rendered into flakes or powder. When mixed with other substances, it becomes a powerful narcotic. A dose costs around 20 gp, although the price can vary greatly depending on the time of year and the seller.

Rumor has it that the secret of creating shivvel was passed on to humans by a demon. The Balacazars control virtually all of the shivvel traffic in Ptolus. It is the most commonly used illegal drug.


Gambling per se is not illegal. However, the heavy taxes placed on gambling earnings, whether won by individuals or “the house,” have made it far more profitable to gamble in secret locations away from the tax collector’s eyes. The Church would like gambling itself to be illegal: It promotes destructive behavior and encourages a fascination with chaos and
randomness, as opposed to Lothian’s ordered will.


Prostitution is illegal in the Empire without a license, requiring heavy taxation and regulation. The fees, taxes, and rules involved mean that many prostitutes—most of them, in fact—operate illegally. Generally, criminal organizations control these illegal prostitutes, which means that the life of an illegal prostitute is not a terribly pleasant one. Often they are slaves forced into the profession by their criminal owners. Some specialized illegal brothels cater to deviant or strange tastes, but most streetwalkers deal in fairly straightforward sex. Legal, licensed prostitution is not only condoned, but certain temples in the Temple District require it. In such temples, sexual practices are used as a part of worship or atonement—but only with official temple prostitutes, who serve as special priests and priestesses.
Some of the few legal brothels include the White House in Oldtown, Esser’s in the Docks, and the House of Delights in the Nobles’ Quarter.

Vices in Ptolus

Ptolus, City by the Spire Sazboom Sazboom