Saturday, January 9, 2010

Urban Housing: Boarding Houses, Tenements and Apartments

Urban Housing: Boarding Houses, Tenements and Apartments



I often find in my own campaigns that the group will move into a new town or city, and stay for awhile. During such times, of course, it's pretty common to have them simply rent some rooms at the local tavern/inn. However, I have found that occasionally mixing this up can be fun. In history, the ubiquitous hotel/motel thing that we have in our own modern era was something rather rare. In medieval times, many traveling strangers were put up by the local church, allowed to stay at someone's local barn, or they were allowed to rent space at a large, public inn which simply featured a huge, barn-like common room.

Interestingly, in ancient Roman times, there were roadside "Inns" as we more typically see in D&D--however, they were far less luxurious than is often seen of game taverns, and could be quite dangerous as well, attracting all manner of gamblers, outlaws, mercenaries, and thugs--often spying the place out for rich travelers to have their gang target later on down the road once they left the relative safety of the roadside Inn. However, the Romans also developed something else we see commonly in the modern era--the Apartment Complex.

Yes, the Romans had many such apartment buildings throughout the empire in large cities as well as towns. In Rome, these apartment complexes could easily reach three stories high, and provide housing for hundreds of people--quite like we have today. Furthermore, the Roman apartment complexes also had a special laundry area set aside for common use of the tenants, as well as public restrooms. In addition, many of these apartment buildings also featured small restaurants, and "snack bars"--small, single room open stalls just outside the apartment building proper, equipped with a large countertop, and several grills and fire-pits inside. The countertop was open to the street, and tenants could walk right up on their way home after work and order a simple meal for dinner, or stop by during the midday for lunch. Very modern of the Romans, heh?

Of course, the laundry room, restroom, and restaurants were also favourite hang-out spots for various prostitutes to entice potential customers. Also, it can be surmised--many of the prostitutes offering themselves at these convenient spots were also tenants and lived in the same apartment complex itself.

Then, of course, from the early-to-mid 20th century in America we have the ubiquitous "Boarding House". These places were also especially popular before the 20th century as well. There are some instances and pieces of evidence that suggest that such living arrangements have always been a feature of semi-urban life, from medieval times, as well as in ancient times.

Thus, there are more interesting options for player characters and NPC's, too!--to have a place to live while they are working and living--whether they ever gain the wealth to buy a house or castle. These additional options create some new opportunities and variety, aside from the typical and routine "Tavern" or "Inn" that is so prevalent within the typical game milieu.

Semper Fidelis,


Boarding Houses/Apartments/Tenements

Housing Project Size
01-70% One Story
71-90% Two Stories
91-00% Three or more stories

Housing Unit Size
01-35% Single Room
36-55% Two Room
56-75% Three Room
76-90% Four Room
91-00% Five Room or more.

Housing Room Size
01-30% Small 10'-ft x 10'-ft.
31-70% Standard 12'-ft. x 12'-ft.
71-80% Large 14'-ft. x 14'-ft.
81-90% Huge 16'-ft. x 16'-ft.
91-00% Palatial 20'-ft. x 20'-ft or more

Number of Individual Housing Units
01-25% Small 7-12 Individual Units (Roll 1d6+6)
26-65% Standard 15-20 Individual Units (Roll 1d6+14)
66-80% Large 22-40 Individual Units (Roll 2d10+20)
81-90% Huge 64-100 Individual Units (Roll 4d10+60)
91-00% Palatial 146-200 or more Individual Units (Roll 6d10+140)

1 comment:

  1. I have my guys for the medieval bard rock band campaign (see my blog for details) staying at a boarding house wherein live a nice halfling family, who gets into collateral trouble sometimes the more trouble the band gets into. It makes it interesting that their actions have other consequences.