Yes, you’ve seen this before. But this is a slightly extended version, written for the Coriolis Effect podcast. It extends the description of Samar, introduces another character, Alnadhl, and has a short paragraph about how the location might be used in play.
Life on broad ship is dirty and restricted. Water is a carefully rationed resource on board. After weeks in space, and considerable time in stasis during portal jumps, what crews most want is a bath. So most spaceports have a Hamam or bathhouse – either within the spaceport itself, or very nearby. Samar’s Hamam is typical of many medium sized facilities which may be found on pretty much any world. Samar’s is privately owned and run by Samar herself, a kindly but uncompromising Miran of more years than it is polite to ask. She will often be there to greet you in the building’s welcoming Atrium, with its glass domed roof, lush greenery and cooling ornamental pool.
Samar knows people, she has an excellent memory for names and faces, and will greet you like an old friend even if this is only your second visit. She is careful to ask after the health of your relatives, and she’ll remember the names of your children, even you’ve been on the other side of the Horizon for years. If you need to find someone, or hire someone, or meet someone, Samar can put you in touch. She is often made matchmaker in marriages too.
With nine mind points and six hit points, she rolls nine dice of manipulation, before any difference in reputation is taken into account. Her reputation is six by the way, despite rumors of lowly beginnings. She rolls ten for observation, and eight for culture. It is said, though she insists that it isn’t true, that she has a little skill in Medicurgy too.
With payment (priced well within your general cost of living budget) discreetly made, you are ushered into the bathhouse’ central temple, dedicated (like that of many Hamams serving spacers) to the Deckhand. Most crew choose to offer the Icon a prayer and toss a few Birr into the pool that surrounds the statue, before progressing into the segregated changing rooms.
It’s in the temple that you’ll often find Alnadhl, the boy of indeterminate years who works for Samar as cleaner, messenger and general dogsbody. It is said he knows every shortcut in the spaceport, any shortcut in the city even. It is also said that he was found abandoned in the hamam as a baby. If that’s true, and if its also true that Samar brought him up, its notable that she never displays anything like motherly love for the child. People will tell you that they trust Alnadhl with secret messages, which he will run for you in exchange for a few Birr, that he will never share them. It’s true he is quiet, hardly speaking at all in fact, but if anyone has ever tested his loyalty with MORE Birr … well they are saying nothing.
Alnadhl has just five hit points, and seven mind points. He runs like a devil though, and rolls eight for Dexterity. The scrappy kid rolls seven for survival and five for melee combat, but no-one seems that bothered in hurting him. It’s whispered that when Samar sees her last sunset, Alnadhl will run the hamam.
Many smaller bathhouses don’t segregate between male and female facilities, and some even offer mixed facilities with discreet spaces for more intimate couples. Here though, all the facilities are mirrored on each side of the building, offering each sex the same sequence of rooms. There are private disrobing rooms, where you leave your clothes before stepping into the Lavatorium to shower. Once clean, you can lounge as long as you like in the steam-room. Since time immemorial, such spaces are often used for private meetings and Samar’s staff will, for a few Birr, ensure that you are not disturbed. When you are ready for your massage, you can step through into the next room where a strong fingered masseuse is waiting to rub the tension out of your back, limbs and scalp. Then you can jump into the cold plunge pool, and put on a warm towelling robe before relaxing in the Tepidarium, where you will find your clothes laundered, aired and pressed, no matter how short a time you spent in the baths. There is always a cast iron pot of rose tea waiting for you too. But staff will also bring snacks and drinks from nearby bars if you so desire. Thus the Tepidarium is a place to socialise if you want to make a point of being seen with whoever you are meeting.
In play, I see Samar’s hamam as an alternative meeting place to Wahib’s Cantina. After all, starting an adventure, or seeking work, information or passage to the Aldebaran system, in a bar has been done once or twice before. The idea of a hamam is also more evocative of that middle-eastern feel, and redolent of the strictures of space travel too.
I’d like to make it a place where the player characters feel safe. A place they return to every time they hit the docks, where they can catch up on the local gossip, relax and recuperate after a tough adventure. It’s a place they should feel able to invite contacts to, or “accidentally” meet high ranking factionaries who would otherwise never be seen with the PCs.
But they shouldn’t feel TOO safe. One of my favourite movie fights ever is in the underrated Eastern Promises, when a naked Viggo Mortensen is attacked in a Turkish Bath…