Perception Check: Back Alley

Cora tore down the street, her bare feet slamming against the cobblestones and through puddles of muck. She could hear the group of men closing behind her, somehow managing to sound bigger and meaner than they did when she first decided to swipe their purses. She chanced a look behind her and felt her heart sink. They may not have grown in size, but they were definitely more athletic than she had originally estimated. Not even the fat one was winded yet. Cora took a breath, said a prayer to whatever gods watch over wayward pickpockets, and dove into the alley to her left. 

What she saw next was unexpected.

The following is a table of twelve sights, sounds, and smells that anyone traveling down a back alley might encounter. Feel free to roll randomly, or select one that you think applies to the character’s current situation. They can easily serve as plot seeds or as simple flavor for your game. 

  1. An imp is digging through a pile of garbage. He’s carefully studying various scraps before tossing them away in disgust. He’s either unaware of or isn’t bothered by your presence. 
  2. As you’re passing a sewer grate, a glint catches your eye. You bend down and scrape away some of the surrounding muck and find a small, corked glass bottle containing a rolled up piece of parchment. 
  3. A thick, foul-smelling slime is covering the wall on your left. It burbles gently as you walk by, seemingly in time with your footsteps. Closer examination of the slime reveals small bones suspended within it. 
  4. A lanky young man, wearing garish clothing and an elaborate top hat, is sitting on the ground with his back to the wall. As you walk by, he holds a box out to you that reads Garmond’s Magical Biscuits and says, “One gold for the whole box. Last one left, Dearie.”
  5. As you enter the alley, you can see that the walls are covered in crudely scrawled graffiti – all at waist height. If you can read Goblinoid, you can pick out the phrases “Nirka knows best”, “Sewer Dogs rule”, and “Hermans keep out!”.
  6. While walking through the alley, you can feel your foot rustle something against the cobblestones. Among the filth and dirt is a small, horned cornhusk doll. There’s a lavender ribbon tied around its neck that says “Elizielle”.
  7. An old woman, covered in soiled rags, steps out of the shadows in front of you. She’s flanked by a pair of abnormally muscular twins brandishing dirks. She flashes you a yellow-toothed grin and says, “You’ll have to pay the toll if you want to cross, Grub.”
  8. A few yards into the ally, a small pouch lands on the ground at your feet. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around you, and after opening the pouch you can see that it’s filled with small brass coins featuring a grinning djinn. 
  9. Halfway through the alley, you notice several very fat rats waddling out of a hole in the wall. They startle as they notice you, but instead of running away they squeak and run directly at you. 
  10. As you’re walking through the alley, you notice a small altar on the ground cloaked in shadow. In a tarnished bowl beneath a statue of a frowning griffin, a variety of rings, gems, and coins are scattered. 
  11. In the middle of the alley is a bundle of rough fabric. Upon closer examination, you realize the bundle is a tunic that is wrapped around an ornate kukri. The kukri gives off a faint purple glow as you examine it in the light. 
  12. You hear soft whimpers coming from right behind you. As you turn around to see what you’ve missed, you see a box containing three puppies; a tough-looking black one, a wild-looking spotted one, and a droopy-faced golden one. 

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