Vena Meridianus Baths (Bathhouse)

Michael O. Varhola

"The Vena Meridianus Baths” is a rules-free description of a place that might be found in many different sorts of communities and cultures and was written as a specific example of a bathhouse, one of the more than 70 places described in the Skirmisher Publishing LLC book  City Builder: A Guide to Designing Communities . This entry is intended to stand by itself or serve as bonus content to that book and includes an adventure hook to suggest one way that it might be incorporated into a game setting. Other material of this sort includes the  Züringer Bank of Kos , an example of a bank, and Jadzia's, an example of an apothecary shop. 

Popular with people throughout all but the lowest and highest levels of society — including many adventurers — the Vena Meridianus Baths are some of the largest and oldest in Kos and are built over a natural hot spring on the high ground at the landward side of the city. While they are a bit austere, they are exceptionally clean and well-maintained. 

Proprietor of the baths is the middle-aged Human eunuch Nico of Byzantium, a former slave and household steward who made some wise investments and raised enough money to buy his freedom. He moved to Kos about a decade earlier and purchased the historic baths on credit from the family that had owned them. 

Nico is most comfortable “around his own kind,” and the majority of his staff are also eunuchs or slaves whose freedom he has purchased in exchange for indenturement for a period of time. Security, to the extent that it is necessary, is provided by these mostly-beefy masseurs, barbers, pool attendants, and handymen, many of whom are also wrestlers or boxers. 

The central features of Nico’s sprawling, Roman-style public bath are separate cold, hot, and room-temperature bathing pools for men and women, each in its own large room; separate large steam rooms and dry saunas for each gender; and separate changing areas. There are also a number of smaller versions of the large public areas that private parties can rent and, if they care to, use for groups of mixed gender. 

Other amenities at the Vena Meridianus Baths include a large gym, which is used by many people who would not go to a serious training hall like the Alexandrion; a canteen where patrons can buy simple, low-priced meals; a small library and reading room; a laundry where people can have their clothes washed; a store that offers such items as towels, robes, sandals, and hygiene supplies like soap, olive oil, and strigils; a small walled garden; and a shrine to Hygeia, goddess of cleanliness. Nico’s staff also offers any number of spa-oriented services, including massages and haircutting. 

Adventure Hook
There has recently been a problem with sea crabs turning up in the various pools in the bath, and no one is sure where they are coming from (cracks in some of the pipes feeding them is one possibility). Even more disturbingly, a small shark recently appeared in one of the hot water