Chapter 9: Prostitution
Most of this section is based on historic information applied to a fantasy world. While the common modern conception is that prostitutes are predominantly women, this is based solely on gender unequality carried throughout the ages. However, unless dictated by the setting, the genders are considered equal in most fantasy worlds. Hence, anything in this chapter can be applied to both women and men. In an equal society, both male and female prostitutes will be available for pleasure.
Strumpets, Harlots, Courtesans and Concubines
Prostitutes come in all flavors, ranging from dirty, disease-ridden streetwalkers willing to sell their bodies for a discarded piece of bread to highly sophistacated courtesans, who are well versed in the arts and have more money and power than some merchants and nobles.
The lowest class of prostitute is the Strumpet. They usually turn to prostitution due to extreme poverty and think it is an easy way out. However, they barely make enough money to survive. Given their desperate situation, they will do almost anything with anyone for little money. Due to that, disease is commonplace and only misers or very poor people will seek pleasure with them. Strumpets are usually members of the Commoner NPC class and use Prowess untrained or might have 1-3 ranks at best.
One step up is the Harlot. Harlots have the looks or skill to make enough money to support themselves. They are more selective about who they service, and what services they provide. They can afford several outfits, decent meals and a place to live. A Harlot is generally a member of the Expert NPC class with an above-average Charisma score and 3+ ranks in Prowess.
Courtesans are the elite among prostitutes. Unlike Strumpets and Harlots, they are well dressed, live in respectable neighbourhoods, are educated and trained in the arts, and usually have fewer lovers. The clientele of a courtesan is distinctly different as well, usually consisting of weathy patrons and even nobility. Furthermore, these upper class prostitutes receive lovers in the comfort of their own home or make house calls. They are not to seen at bathhouses or brothels. Courtesans can be recognized by their expensive and elaborate clothing and accessories. Courtesans are often nearly indistinguishable from the women of the aristocracy as they flaunt their wealth and success through opulent clothing. Courtesans are members of the Expert or Aristocrat NPC classes, have a high Charisma score (15+) and high ranks in Perform and Prowess. Very skilled courtesans might have levels of Bard or Rogue as well. Note that the Aristocrat NPC class does not denote nobility, but rather a position of influence and wealth.
Concubines are not technically prostitutes, but rather women who have a "live-in" relationship with a man without being regarded as his wife. Usually, a concubine is a permanent mistress, but it is sometimes an alternative to marriage for the poor. No money is exchanged for any pleasure the concubine provides, but her patron supports for her needs. Cultures with arranged marriages usually feature a high number of concubines, as the wife's only purpose is to bear offspring, while the concubine tenders to the husband's sexual pleasure. Reversed gender roles are possible, with a matriarch having one husband, and several male concubines for pleasure.
Where to find a prostitute?
Freelance prostitutes solicit in taverns, market squares or alleyways. Other freelancers visit villages during fairs, markets, pilgrimages, or harvest seasons, when the number of customers is sufficient to provide enough income. Generally speaking, small villages do not have the population to support a large number of prostitutes. If one does settle down in such a place, prostitution is usually only a part-time occupation and supplemented by another occupation.
Public bathhouses are places where citizens of the town can gather to bath and meet socially. They often have a few prostitues on staff to provide massages and other indulgences. Upper-class bathhouses usually have private luxury bathrooms with big tubs and very skilled attendants.
Brothels are generally run by a madam who employs several harlots. The prostitutes entertain clients in the house or on rare occassions make housecalls. In societies that allow slavery, most harlots in the brothel are slaves trained from an early age.
Festhalls are a cross between a nightclub and an inn. Prostitutes are either working for themselves or are on staff. In the latter case, they usually also double as dancers or entertainers. Rooms can be rented for varying periods of time.
Note that Courtesans generally do not have the need to advertise publicly. Usually, an existing customer will refer a friend or business partner and the courtesan decides whether to accept.
The chart below provides average prices for the different types of prostitutes. These prices have some historical basis, taken from cultures were prostitution was accepted. Should your world have laws against prostitution, increase the prices to reflect the risk the prostitute is taking.
These are only rough guidelines. History shows that a Strumpet can be hired for the price of a mug of ale (~4cp). Harlots charge based on where they work. A harlot with a clientele consisting of middle-class merchants will probably charge around 1gp, while one working in a dockside brothel will cost around 1sp. Very skilled or beautiful harlots can adjust their prices upwards. As a general rule, harlots charge the daily wages of whoever they service. Consult the Prices for Hireling Services on pg. 149 of the DMG. Courtesans are the elite, but they expect to be treated as such. An evening with a courtesan will most likely include a high-quality meal and good wine, further increasing the cost. Expect to spend upwards of 100gp for an evening with a courtesan. However, the most skilled and well-known courtesans can easily charge a king's ransom for their services.
Specialized services will cost the client more money. For common requests, add 50-100% to the basic price. For more outlandish activities, or ones the prostitute has a fret for, 150-200% price increases are suggested, provided the prostitute even accepts the request. If the prostitute specializes in a particular kink (e.g. bondage or domination), 50-100% are a good starting point when calculating cost. The same goes for prostitutes who are members of more exotic races. Many a human laborer dreams of having sex with an elven maiden, but this is hardly the limit inter-species transactions. See racial and cultural notes below.
Since the time of the world's first written records, prostitute-priestesses have dedicated themselves to religious service in temples of worship.
So it really is the oldest profession. Ishtar, the goddess of Sumer, then of Babylonia, was a prostitute. Her many other names over the centuries included Great Whore of Babylon, Heavenly Prostitute, and Mother of Harlots as well as Har and Hora, from which the words harlot and whore derive. She was said to call herself a "compassionate prostitute". Babylonian sculptures honoring Ishtar depict her as a sacred prostitute in a window, awaiting customers. For thousands of years, high priestesses dutifully performed ritual sexual couplings with kings to grant them the goddess' power.
It can be assumed that most sexually oriented gods will have the same sort of dogma, maybe even on a larger scale: sacred prostitutes inhabit the temples, offering themselves to any worshipper who pays the required contribution. In fact, in cultures where these gods are primarily worshipped, everybody might be expected to go to a temple and perform the rite with a stranger at least once in their life. There is no shame in such temple prostitution; on the contrary, it is a sacred means of attaining divine union between worshipper and deity.
For game purposes, any spellcasting performed by a cleric of an applicable deity would be in the form of ritual intercourse. Most of the clerics at the temple will have the Coital Casting and Coital Concentration feats. For fees, refer to pg. 149 of the DMG for NPC Spellcasting rules.
Cultural & Racial Notes
Prostitution varies widely from race to race, and may even vary between different cultures within the same race. Prositutition is very widespread in cultures that feature large population centers or condone slavery. Urban areas are almost essential for prostitution to thrive, as smaller settlements can not support full-time prostitutes. In slave-keeping societies, it would be fairly common for the wealthy to own one or more pleasure slaves. Brothels are often staffed with slaves as well.
Certain cultures might outlaw prostitution, but even then it has a habit of still existing. In such societies, without disease control, STD's are invariable more common, as are crimes against the prostitutes, as there are no laws to protect them. Going to the law would only get them arrested for prostitution (or worse), while the offender might actually go unpunished. Other cultures are more open and accept the fact that prostitution is not going to go away, or might even have an active hand in the proceedings with regular health checkups. In societies where prostitution is legal, it is often taxed by the local government. In such cases, brothels and other sex-related businesses are often set up in a red-light district to make it easier for the government to keep an eye on things.
Members of all races capable of intercourse can become prostitutes (and in special cases even some that can't or don't normally have intercourse). However, prostitution is predominantly found in human societies and civilized evil races. Tribal cultures usually don't have the necessary social infrastructure to have organized prostitution. Other uncivilized evil races resort to rape more often than not, while many chaotic races are naturally promiscuous, both of which make prostitution unprofitable. Predominantly good cultures and races often have wellfare systems in place which cut down on the number of streetwalkers, but brothels still exist, almost always staffed with healthy volunteers who make good wages.
Half-Orc Commoner 1,
Human Expert 4,
Elf Aristocrat 8,