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A lecherous doctor taking the pulse of an attractive young w Wellcome M0018504

This is the fifth part of an excerpt from the upcoming “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates“. Naturally, the presentation is skewed towards a game of Gothic Romance and Romantic Horror, but should prove useful to anyone playing in a late-18th or early-19th century setting.

See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in the series.

Maid-of-all-Work (Servante) [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

A Maid-of-all-Work (usually called simply a Servante in France) is a general female servant who does all manner of household labor. She cooks, cleans, dresses ladies, launders clothes and linens, and cares for children – although she will seldom do those things as well as a specialized servant would. A middle class household may only employ a single Maid-of-all-Work. Often, every female servant in a household outside Britain and France will essentially be one. In game terms, a Maid-of-all-Work should receive a Bonus against fatigue, nausea, disease, caustic chemicals, and poisoning. She will probably be handy with a knife, stealthy, and even skilled at defending herself with a broom handle (or club).

Despite her many tasks, a Maid-of-all-Work can only expect the standard wages of a female House Servant – i.e., 50p per week, 650p quarterly, or 2,600p a year.

Manservant [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

The male equivalent to a Maid-of-all-Work, a general Manservant performs whatever work is too difficult for female servants to perform, or is outside their traditional purview. He may wait at table, shave his master, repair furniture, drive a carriage, care for horses, perform basic gardening, trap vermin, carry guests’ baggage, or perform any other job of a male servant. He may know how to effectively use a spear, halberd or axes, as well as be able to shoot. As with a Maid-of-all-Work, the position of Manservant may be held because the house is not wealthy enough to employ many male servants, or because the local culture of household management doesn’t assign specialized jobs to the male staff.

A Manservant who resides in the house, and takes his meals there, will receive the standard pay of a male House Servant – 100p per week, 1,300 quarterly, or 5,200p a year. If he lives outside the house he will receive an additional 150p a week Board Wage.

Maître d’Hôtel [House Servant] See Butler

Mistress [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Charisma or Constitution

In an age when the Maîtresse-en-titre is a recognized position at the French court, it is not unknown for a man to bring his Mistress into the family home. Such a formal Mistress will be pampered, put in her own bedchamber, and given a stipend, for as long as her patron doesn’t tire of her. She may be also be assigned her own Page (or even Lady’s Maid). When not actually moved in, it is common for the Mistresses of aristocratic men to be lodged in houses on or near their patrons’ own properties. As for the actual wives of those patrons, aristocratic women are generally too concerned with their own lovers to actually care about the sexual activities of the men they married at the age of fourteen (and they would have no legal recourse even if they did). Nonetheless, insulting and causing problems for the pretty (but often socially-inferior) Mistresses of each others’ husbands is a favorite pastime of upper-class ladies.

Mistresses can range in background, from exceptionally beautiful women born into poverty, to aristocratic ladies whose publicly scandalous behavior has estranged them from their husbands. Those who take become the Mistresses of aristocrats are not always courtesans by Profession – in fact, most are Actresses, Dancers, or Artist’s Models. In such a case, “Mistress” would be the woman’s Avocation rather than Profession. In any event, the Mistress of an aristocrat will naturally be above-average in appearance, have an eye for fashion, probably be a good dancer, and may be a skilled conversationalist as well. Since she is not employed to perform such acts as a man could ask his respectable wife to commit, a Mistress may have a higher-than average ability to resist being nauseated.

Naturally, a Mistress will often be Leveled as Libertine. A typical stipend for an aristocrat’s mistress might be 1,000p a week spending cash (plus housing, and the services of a Page or Maid), but she can also expect to be lavished with additional gifts of clothing and jewelry (and perhaps even her own carriage and Coachman). Her patron may, or may not, expect the gifts to be returned when the affair ends.

Music Master [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Dexterity

If a family feels the Governess’s musical ability is lacking, a Music Master may be brought in to teach the young women of the house how to read (and properly appreciate) music, as well as how to play the piano or harpsichord. Since Italian is the language of the music world, the most sought-after Music Master is an Italian man, particularly a Venetian or Neapolitan.

In addition to the ability to play several musical instruments (and probably sing), the Music Master will have an exceptional memory.

A Music Master would be paid at the typical rate for a male Retainer.

Nurse [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

The Nurse, or Head Nurse, is responsible for the care of the family’s infants and young children. She is distinct from the Sick Nurse who attends the Sickroom, since she is only responsible for the welfare of the young. She will sleep in the Nursery, alongside the children in her care.

A good Nurse will be a keen observer, able to spot hiding children. She will have a good practical knowledge of chemistry and herbalism, since she is responsible for administering medicines, ointments, and leeches to her charges. She will also become skilled at chasing – particularly necessary when leeches are to be applied! Nurses develop strong stomachs, and are difficult to nauseate. Likewise, they tend to be resistant to illness.

While most Nurses are simple Everywomen, one might be a White Witch who uses supernatural means to combat the dark Fairies, Vampyres, and Werewolves who find children especially delicious. Note that the Nurse bears no responsibility whatsoever towards the various children (Pages, young Scullery Maids, Hall Boys, or Hall Maids) in service to the house.

A Nurse is paid double the usual wages for a female House Servant – 100p a week, 1,300p quarterly, or 5,200p a year.

Nursery Maid [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

The Nursery Maid assists the Nurse in whatever way is needed. She is especially responsible for cleaning the Nursery, and cleaning up after the children. Like the Nurse herself, a Nursery maid will be hard to nauseate, and resistant to disease – but also inured to toxins and caustic chemicals (on account of her cleaning duties).

A Nursery Maid is paid the standard rate for female House Servants.

Occultist [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma

The aristocrats of the Ghastly Age often have a paradoxical enthusiasm for both rational science, and the occult. Astrologers, Alchemists, Dowsers, Fortune Tellers, and Seers might all be found as part of a noble household. As well as being consulted by members of the family, such retainers are popular features at Salons. Most are Charlatans, of course – just Everymen (and Everywomen) whose primary skill is manipulation and deception. Some few may be actual Magicians or Mad Scientists. Many will be Libertines out to take full financial and sexual advantage of the gullible rich. Even actual Magicians in aristocratic service are apt to primarily deal in nonsense, since their patrons seldom wish to be confronted with potentially uncomfortable truths.

An Occultist on staff will be able to demand at least the standard rate for a Retainer of their gender. Occultists are infamous, however, for their ability to extract large sums form their employers with promises of the most dubious nature.

Page [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

Pages are boys between 8 and 14 years old who perform much the same services as a Footman, and are especially used to convey messages. They usually wear the livery of Footmen. However, some wealthy women treat their Pages like fashion accessories (much like a toy dog), and dress them up in fancifully exotic outfits. Pages who grow up tall and handsome often become actual Footmen.

Besides food, clothing, and shelter, Pages are often not paid any any wage at all (but are entitled to receive “vails” from guests in the house).

Physician [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Intelligence

The “modern” Physician of the Ghastly Age has at his disposal an impressive array of questionable, dangerous, and mostly useless treatments – including leeches and lancets for bleeding, many delightful emetics, wonderfully toxic mercury compounds, and the ever-popular enema syringe (to be used at the slightest hint of gastrointestinal irregularity). A proper Physician will have a wide-range of knowledge on various subjects, including chemistry, mathematics, and Classics; will be fluent in Greek and Latin; and will be difficult to nauseate. He may be a connoisseur of wine and liquor, since it is common to prescribe the drinking of specific wines or distilled spirits as medicine. Naturally, the Physician must also be skilled at convincing others to believe statements of dubious merit. Note that respectable Physicians of the Ghastly Age do not perform actual surgery, which is considered an entirely separate (and far less-prestigious) discipline.

Doctor John Polidori, who wrote the first modern story of a suave and sophisticated vampire, was Lord Byron’s personal Physician.

Naturally, a Physician might actually be a Mad Scientist, perhaps one keenly interested into the creation of a new race through the reanimation of dead tissue. Alternately, he might have become a Demon Hunter after realizing that certain apparent diseases of the blood actually result from attacks by Vampyres. Of course, a Vampyre who becomes a Physician would enjoy a steady supply of blood from patients who expect to be bled. Any Physician of the Ghastly Age who is able to actually cure his patients is possibly a Magician of some kind.

In addition to his lodgings, salary, and meals, a Physician residing permanently in a Grand House will expect to be provided with the services of his own Page. A resident Physician’s exact salary will vary according to his reputation and credentials, ranging anywhere from 1,000p to 3,000p a week.