Hif Bidratsk “The Captain”
I’ve had a blast running a Rime of the Frostmaiden game for the past few months. But one problem I’ve run into is Ten Towns feels mostly empty to me. There just aren’t enough everyday NPC’s or locations to make the place feel lived in. I think the expectation is DMs will make their own townsfolk which are more suited to the tone of their game. That’s probably a good thing overall, but also it can be a lot of work. So, I just wanted to share one of my NPC’s and a building in Targos associated with him.
I’ve tried to include enough information that it should be easy to drop this guy into the background of a bar scene, or anywhere else where you feel like there should be more people hanging around. He has his motivations—goals that he wants to achieve beyond what the party may need from him. And also, tactics—the strategies he uses to obtain his goals. I’ve also included some potential hooks and useful abilities, so the party has a reason to want to talk to him.
Hif Bidratsk is a pillar of the Targos community. Anyone in town can instantly recognize his long wool overcoat (dyed bright yellow) and tangled mess of white hair peeking out from under a matching yellow cap. In his younger days, before the everlasting rime, he captained a small crew on his fishing boat The Williwaw. Old bones and failing eyesight have long since forced him ashore, but he still thinks of himself as a fishing boat captain. Whether out of humor or respect, everyone in Targos still calls him The Captain.
After a successful carrier as a fisherman, Hif retired into fish preserving. He bought a rundown house next to Three Flags Sailing and built a large stone smokehouse in the front yard. The old ship The Williwaw sets on wooden blocks beside the smokehouse, lending its name to the property. Originally the whole endeavor was just an excuse to argue with the dock workers and visit taverns in different towns “on business”. However, things have changed since the everlasting rime. Hif and his smokehouse are a glowing, smoking bastion ok kindness. Pushing back against the cold darkness of the everlasting night. Everyone in Targos knows that you can go to The Williwaw for a soft bed and a hot bowl of fish soup, no questions asked.
Hif is a lawful/good Commoner who cares deeply about the well-being of Targos. He knows just about everybody in town by name and often inserts himself into their business. He naturally assumes the leadership role, even in tasks that don’t involve him.
When trying to figure out what Hif wants out of a roleplay interaction, consider the following possible motivations. A player might be able to determine Hif’s motivation with a DC 10 Intelligence(insight) check. If a player provides a reasonable argument, they might change Hif’s motivation for the scene with a DC 15 Charisma(persuasion) check.
Feed the hungry
Most of the fishing done in ten-towns has been Substance since the everlasting rime. Harder conditions and fewer fishermen mean there is barely enough food for everyone to eat. To Hif, every fish is a treasure, and everything not eaten right away needs to be carefully preserved and safely stored to make sure the meager rations never go to waste. No hungry ten-towner will ever be turned away from The Williwaw, but there is a pecking order. Children eat first, then the needy. If there is anything left after that, everyone else can pay full price.
Running a business is difficult in the best of times, and these are not the best of times. Supplies are short in the everlasting rime and the smokehouse is in constant need of repair. It is expensive work trying to keep the people of Targos warm and well fed. Hif has long since used up all of his savings in the effort. Nowadays, it’s a constant struggle to keep the whole operation functioning. Hif always needs the following things, preferably for cheap.
· Fuel (wood or sawdust)
· Salt from the Sea of Moving Ice
· Raw Fish
· Construction materials or replacement components
· Labor (clear out ash from smokehouse)
· Labor (Transport goods)
· Labor (repairs)
The town’s business is my business
Hif takes a personal interest in the well-being of the citizens of Targos. If there are new people in town Hif might take it upon himself to investigate and offer his services. If there is a group task, he will elect himself overseer. Hif’s nosiness has made him a natural at digging up conspiracies and he has made a fair number enemies in the more unsavory corners of Targos. Specifically, on the docks and in the town hall. If Hif has noticed that some powerful people are growing resentful of his presence, he doesn’t seem to care about it.
Hif is used to being in command. When he takes action, he starts with the assumption that he fully understands what’s going on (despite any evidence to the contrary) then proceeds to behave as if he knows what’s best for all other parties. This behavior tends to be tolerated because his obviously bad advice is easily ignored, and he is genuinely friendly and well-meaning towards everyone.
When trying to determine how Hif will achieve his motivation, consider the following tactics. A player who understands Hif’s motivation for the scene might be able to change his tactics with a DC 10 Charisma(persuasion) check
Who’s in command here?
It’s been 30 years since Hif last captained a ship but he still understands the chain of command. His first instinct is to approach the person who appears to have the most authority and make a direct request. He respects people who appear clean-cut and orderly. And tends to hold individuals with higher status responsible for the failings of their underlings.
If you want something done right…
A good captain never asks anybody to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. If it’s in Hif’s power to achieve a goal, he might just do it. Probably without permission, possibly while shoving the other guy out of the way.
The best medicine
Hif tries to maintain the image of a stern captain. So, he doesn’t regularly come off as intentionally funny. That being said, humor is good for moral. In the darkest moments, he tells self-deprecating jokes and sings bawdy sea shanties to lift spirits.
I know everybody
Hif spends a lot of time traveling from town to town delivering fish and gathering supplies. At one point or another, he’s had to deal with just about every important NPC in Ten Towns. If he hasn’t met them personally, then he at least knows the local gossip. This makes him a good resource for players looking to arrange meetings with local NPCs. To discover what Hif Knows about as a specific person roll a d6 and look at the results on this table:
|Good friends-Hif can put in a good word for you and increase that NPC’s attitude toward you by 1
|Knows personally-can set up an introduction/meeting between party and NPC
|Heard Rumors-can provide any common rumors/information about that person
|Knows who to talk to-Hif doesn’t know much, but might be able to point you in the direction of someone who does
Get that rat bastard!
Hif doesn’t know that the new town speaker, Naerth Maxildanarr, is working for the Zhentarim. He does know that something about the guy seems off. Naerth rose to power too quickly, and he gets squirrely when you try to ask him what he used to do in Luskan. Not to mention Captain Skath! The man Naerth appointed as captain of the Targos Militia is cruel, disorderly, and doesn’t have the respect of his men. Targos would do good to be rid of them both. Of course, he needs some evidence to convince the town of their bad intentions.
Depending on how much of a role the Zhentarim are playing in your campaign, this may or may not be an interesting plot hook. If the party has completed the Cauldron Capper Hif might have some information connecting Naerth to the thieves. Otherwise, he might ask the party to gather evidence against Naerth. If PCs break into Naerth’s room at the Luskan Arms they might find the 3 flying snake messengers and some damning correspondence with the Zhentarim. If they give Hif the messages from Naerth’s room he would need help turning Targos against Naerth and running him and his captain out of town. Afterword the town would naturally look to the party for new leadership.
Hif is good friends with Keegan and his husband Garret. He knows that Garret is off on some dangerous expedition and if he meets the party outside of Targos he might ask them to go check in on Keegan to make sure he is doing all right.
The White Moose
Hif collects sawdust from the lumber mills in Lonelywood and often stays the night in town speaker Nimsy’s attic. She has told him about a white moose attacking loggers in the forest, though nobody seems to be able to track it down.