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Basic Information

Booze is serious business. People take beer, wine, and spirits seriously. As long as there has been laws, there have been laws about alcohol. Who can make it. What ingredients they can use. How strong it can be. How fresh it must be. Etc.

An ale-conner is an English civil servant from the middle ages whose duty it was to test and ensure the quality of local ales and beers. Pubs and brewers (including beer-sellers and alewives) would notify the ale-conner when they got in a new batch (some communities had special signs posted when new batches needed testing, so the ale-conner could find them whilst pub-crawling), and he would come to check it out. A sizable part of the duty was, of course, a taste-tester. But another portion may have involved the conner pouring some on a bench and sitting in it for half an hour in leather pants. How sticky it was when he tried to stand up helped indicate the sugar content and other impurities. Truly a strange job.

Since alcohol was so important, especially in times and places where drinking the water isn't always a good idea, the ale-conner had the ability to inflict various punishments upon places that sold bad ale, watered it down, over-charged, lied about the size of their mugs, etc.

In some jurisdictions, the ale-conner was also in charge of testing and enforcing standards on bakeries and bread.


2. Non-Fiction: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again

Game and Story Use

  • The PC's favorite inn (the one where they all meet up every week so the guy with the pointy hat can send them on a mission) is closed, and the innkeeper or bartender put in the stocks or bilboes for his offenses. It can't reopen unless the PCs bribe, intimidate, or win over the ale-conner.
  • The keg is dry, and the bartender can't legally sell any more beer until the ale-conner shows up to give the new batch his seal of approval. If the PCs will go find him right quick, there'll be free round for them when they get back. And thus starts the fedex quest where the PCs run all over town, trying to find the ale-conner and get entangled in all sorts of subplots along the way.
  • A con artist or member of the thieve's guild poses as the city's new ale-conner, for the purpose of extracting bribes (or just free drinks) from the local bars.
  • Terrorism in form of mass poisoning is detected and averted when the ale-conner drops dead 20 minutes after the new keg is tapped. Now the PCs have to figure out who tried to poison all the patrons, so they can be brought to justice. As a side note, the owner of the bar would like them to keep the death under wraps.
    • The PCs find a crushed beozar or a piece of unicorn horn in the ale-conner's mug. Now who would expect someone to try poisoning him? And how can they get him to believe them?
  • As a reward for saving the city from the latest disaster, the mayor gives one of the PCs a cushy government sinecure: they are now the ale-conner. The pay isn't much, but you get free beer nearly every day of the week.
  • If potion-making is a major industry in your setting, there might be a potion-conner.
  • Sitting in spilt beer has been much democratised in the modern era - you no longer need government office to do it. Or leather trousers for that matter.
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