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Wednesday 1 April 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Pipes of the Old World (WFRP)

Pipe-smoking is a far-reaching pastime in the Old World, and pipes come in a wide variety of forms and levels of quality. At the level of the common man, pipes are made of clay, with long stems. They cost only a few pennies each, and even so are often shared by the poor around a tavern fire. At the end of each smoke the tip of the pipe is snapped off (especially if shared!), hence the need for the long stem. These pipes take little or no maintenance, cleaning out as simply as holding them over an open flame. They also tend to break very easily, and don't really bring out the qualities of good tobacco, so it's no surprise that they're mostly smoked by the lower classes, who don't smoke good tobacco anyways. "Peasant tobacco" is basically a mix of rough burley tobacco with local weeds, pressed into thick "sausages" that the smoker must then slice into smoke-able clumps that fit in the pipe.

Higher-end pipes, like higher-grade tobacco, has different forms depending on the region. In Bretonnia and The Empire alike, the middle-classes smoke porcelain pipes, though in Bretonnia they tend to be small and dainty with porcelain stems, while in the Empire the pipes are large and with long wood stems, making them a little less fragile. The price of these pipes varies on how elaborate the decoration of the porcelain is, but the cost starts at six shillings and can be as high as several gold crowns for absolute works of art.

There are also wooden pipes of various sorts, but these are mostly of poor quality in Bretonnia and the Empire, smoked by well-off peasants or gentry. They cost in the 6-10 shilling range. However, in the halfling lands, and in Tilea and Estalia, pipes are made with the root of the Briar tree, the one and only kind of wood that makes a truly quality pipe. Halfling, Tilean and Estalian craftsmen working in family workshops that date back centuries and each keeping secret methods of carving and curing said pipes create masterpieces that are said to transform even rough tobacco into an orgy of flavour in the smokers palate. Depending on the quality of the briar used, and the fame and skill of the craftsman, the price of these briar pipes vary widely. A pipe made by an apprentice and of very poor briar can be as cheap as 10 shillings, and a pipe made by mastercraftsmen from the Castelli family of Tilea, the Estalian workshop of the Duque Paco, or the halflings of Dunn Hill can cost hundreds of gold crowns!

Bretonnia also has Briar trees, but sadly the quality of the soil in Bretonnia, so good for wine, is bad for briar, and despite their best efforts the Bretonnians cannot make good briar pipes.

(pictured: a grail knight taking a break from fighting Chaos to enjoy some pipeweed)

Tobacco of quality is also varied. Cheap peasant tobacco costs 2 pennies per "sausage" (generally enough for about 10 pipe bowls) and smokes like mud; but the finer burley tobacco of estalia and the southern parts of the empire or bretonnia has a strong woodsy flavour and costs from 10 pennies to 3 shillings for an ounce. There are also flavoured varieties of the same. The Halflings flavour theirs with liquors, creating tasty sweet concoctions that sell for as much as a shilling an ounce. The flavoured tobaccos of Marienburg cost the same, but these are made with floral perfumes; each Marienburg tobacconist has a different house recipe, each using a mix of dozens of different flavouring agents.

But without a doubt, the finest tobaccos are actually those produced in the lands of the Border Princes. The border tobaccos are a mix of a softer creamier tobacco strain that only grows in that region, called Basma, and a flavoured tobacco called Latakia that is produced by taking basma leaf and smoking it over a kind of clay oven for days. The resulting tobacco is spicy and a rich feast of flavour, but heavy and not sweet in smell like the halfling "cavendishes". As a result, those non-smokers who dislike the pungent smells of border blends often (falsely) claim that the latakia leaf is smoked over cow dung. Outside of the Border Princes region, border leaf is quite expensive due to importation, and costs as much as 12 shillings an ounce.

Even in distant Araby, tobacco is enjoyed. Though the Arabyans are said not to drink liquor or eat pork, there is nothing in their taboos that forbids smoking, and they smoke in strange glass waterpipes. Their tobacco is said to be very wet cakes flavoured with fruit juices. Of course, an Arabyan waterpipe (or "Narguila") would be a strange and therefore highly costly item in the Empire.

So there you go, a fairly complete guide to the tobacco world of Warhammer.


(Originally posted August 18th 2005)

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