Palaces

Rome has its share of wealthy residents, who live in palaces within the city. While none of the palaces of private citizens can match that of the Emperor, the private palaces have the advantage that their owners actually live in them; the Imperial palace hardly ever hosts the Emperor in these days of Imperial decline.

Urban palaces look inward, rather than out. The walls on the street side are blank, serving to keep disturbances on the streets where they belong. All palaces have at least two entrances, but few have more than three: one for the family and guests, one for servants and one for supplying the private bathhouse. All entrances are supposed to be guarded, but the competence of the guard can range from an old slave who is up to chasing away urchins but little more to half a dozen hardened gladiators who would pose a threat to most lone Kindred.

If you enter through the main door, the first room is a small vestibule, typically decorated with mosaics. The next room is the atrium, the entrance to the house proper. This is typically laid out around a pool, which collects rain water through a hole in the roof; this hole also provides lighting. In most cases, the edges of the skylight are supported on pillars that surround the pool. Rooms off the atrium serve as storage and accommodation for slaves; these rooms have no natural light.

Beyond the atrium is an enclosed garden, which, during the day, provides natural light to the surrounding rooms. These include the dining room, where the owner can entertain guests. Romans recline, rather than sit, to eat, and a traditional dining room has nine couches, grouped in threes around three sides of a square table. Variations are starting to appear, but the more traditional Romans adhere to the old forms. Bedchambers are very small and plain, with no windows; they are purely for sleeping. All members of the family normally have their own rooms, and even married couples do not normally sleep together.

Larger palaces may include further gardens, private bathhouses, studies, libraries and rooms devoted to the display of works of art. The only limits are the owner’s wealth and imagination. One limit, however, is that palaces very rarely have more than one story; high-rise accommodation is for the poor.

Palaces vary in their size, the quality of the decorations, the theme of the decorations and the quality of maintenance. A palace does not necessarily reflect its owner’s taste; the palace may have been furnished by his grandfather, or even great-grandfather. This is particularly likely in the homes of old senatorial families, where the judgment of esteemed ancestors is not to be questioned. In some cases, the esteemed ancestors pay occasional visits to make sure that things have not been disturbed, and to pass on instructions to their descendants.

The palaces of old Roman families tend to be decorated with themes from Roman mythology, while the palaces of young upstarts are more likely to draw on the mystery religions of the east, such as the cults of Isis, Mithras and Christ. The old families are not immune to the allure of such cults, however, and may have subterranean rooms devoted to these cults. These rooms are sometimes genuine temples, but equally often they are merely there to give the owners the thrill of playing with the almostforbidden. A handful of families, old and new, serve genuinely dark powers; when those powers are Kindred, the subterranean chamber connects to Necropolis.

Palaces

Blood of Rome Darkfool