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Basic Information

Hamlet (from the Middle English for "small home") is one of a number of terms for any settlement too small to support any activity beyond primary industries (agriculture, fishing or mining depending on context). People may (and in most eras probably will) practice a variety of crafts such as home-brewing, "DIY" work, spinning and weaving and will almost certainly cultivate gardens and keep domestic livestock for additional food in the pre-modern period, but there are no full-time craftspeople supported by the community. For most of its needs the community must trade with a larger settlement or with travelling merchants, depending on context. The only smaller settlement would be a farmstead of some kind.

In the modern era, transport and communications advances make the definition of a hamlet almost redundant - it's entirely possible (normal, indeed, in some places) to have a cluster of houses in the middle of nowhere with no defined purpose and amenities whose population commute to a variety of jobs and have all their amenities elsewhere.

There is also the outside possibility of a hamlet which is "services only", perhaps located by a major road junction, bridge or ferry crossing and doing most of its business with passing trade after the fashion of a modern motorway service station. These were uncommon historically, but could occasionally be found in large civilisations with significant volumes of trade. Ironically, this sort of hamlet might actually have more advanced trades - farriers and wheelwrights would seem a good start, but still not have enough population to be called a village by any sane measure.

For the Melancholy Dane, see Hamlet Prince of Denmark


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Likely to be found as a satellite of a larger village, and unless planned as an adventure location are likely to offer only food and shelter (and that of a pretty amateur kind). Any goods for sale are likely to be second hand or something home-made by an amateur.
  • A probable stage in growing a farmstead into a village but may also occur as a satellite of a town or city.
  • The "service station" hamlet is also likely to be much encountered by travellers in the right sort of setting - something consisting of a few houses, an inn and a smithy seems entirely reasonable to find alongside a major road.
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