"What in the world, Wimsey, are you doing in this Morgue?" demanded Captain Fentiman, flinging aside the "Evening Banner" with the air of a man released from an irksome duty.
"Oh, I wouldn't call it that," retorted Wimsey, amiably. "Funeral Parlor at the very least. Look at the marble. Look at the furnishings. Look at the palms and the chaste bronze nude in the corner."
— The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers.
A Gentlemen's Club is a type of members-only private club originally set up for members of the British upper class in the 18th Century. They were originally quite exclusive, but as they became popular in the 19th Century, more clubs came into existence for middle-class members as well. Clubs generally had a theme, limiting their membership to men of a certain profession or area of interest.
The clubs were in effect "second homes" for their members; places where members could sit and relax, socialize, eat dinner, perhaps play cards or read a newspaper, even spend the night. Indeed it was quite normal for a single man from the right circles of society to live exclusively at his club for years between moving out of his father's house and establishing a household of his own. They did not feature music or live performances. They were not that sort of club.
Some of the more prominent clubs established satellite clubs for Ladies, or Junior clubs for young men.
In modern day usage, the term "gentlemen's club" is often a euphemism for a strip club, which is a completely different thing. Many of the the original clubs are still fully operational - although less prominent than they once were … horror of horrors, some of them even admit women - as members!
Noted Gentlemen's Clubs
- Army and Navy Club
- The Athenaeum — Arts, Literature and the Church
- Caledonian Club — membership limited solely to Scotsmen
- Eccentric Club
- Hellfire Club — The name of a number of clubs, both real and fictional, for rakes and libertines
- Marleybone Cricket Club
- Marlborough Club
- Reform Club — an actual club, founded in the 1830s by political reformers, but better-known as the place where Phileas Fogg made his famous wager
Fictional Gentlemen's Clubs
- Black's — Club of which Jack Aubrey, Stephen Maturin and Joseph Blaine (amongst others) are members.
- Blades Club — James Bond and his superior M are members
- Diogenes Club — home of Mycroft Holmes
- Drones Club — Bertie Wooster's club
- Egoists Club — Lord Peter Wimsey's favorite club
- Horatio Club — A campaign setting from GURPS Time Travel
- Junior Ganymede Club — a club for butlers, valets and other servants; Jeeves is a member
- Senior Conservatives Club — exactly what it sounds like
Game and Story Use
- A visit to a Gentlemen's club is a must in any campaign set in Victorian or early-20th Century London.
- In a Victorian Era campaign, it can fulfill the function of the Tavern in a Heroic Fantasy campaign: a place for characters to meet and encounter NPC's who will lure them to adventures.
- Indeed it may be the place to meet your patron or a key contact - assuming you are the right kind of person yourself. In fact, all kinds of business can be contracted at clubs - stock deals and intelligence work alike.
- The club can be a scene of adventure in and of itself as in the high-stakes card game played by James Bond at the Blades in the novel Moonraker.
- Don't overlook membership of an important club as a reward for PCs.