Beaumaris 3dThe May issue of the Cartographer’s Annual is now ready for download and installation. The map pack “Beaumaris Castle” is a complete re-imagining of a classic fortification from Source Maps: Castles! Sue Daniel rebuild the Welsh castle with modern bitmap symbols and textures, and we’ve included all those resources in the issue for your use in other maps and drawings.

Explore the beautifully mapped four floorplan levels, the stunning 3d view of the whole castle and a surroundings maps. Over 100 floorplan symbols, 30 isometric buildings and walls sections, and 33 new bitmap textures can be leveraged for other projects.

If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe to the Annual 2019 here. If you are already subscribed, the May issue is available for download on your registration page now.

In a series of articles by various authors we look at creating engaging settings for your games.

A Rough Guide to Castle Design

Part 1 – Who? and Why?

by Jon Roberts

In this article I’ll lead you through the design process I use to bring sense to my castle designs. It’s a process that puts reason into design, so that players’ questions have sensible answers. When a world makes sense to players they can imagine it, engage with it and use their heads to navigate its challenges.

There is of course a balance to be struck. If I spend too much time on the little details (how many pounds of meat a garrison of 20 need to store for the winter) then I’m not adding any value – that time is better spent on the evil villain’s master plan or creating truly fiendish traps to deter invaders.

To create a castle that makes sense, first we need to answer Why? and Who?

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A Rough Guide to Castle Design

Part 2 – The Room List

by Jon Roberts

The basic Why? and Who? can now be developed first into a list of who lives in the castle and then the living and work space they will require.

My castle is home to the lord, 10 elite cavalry and 25 soldiers. It will also house 10 non-combatants, including a castellan, chief herald, captain of the guard, and 3 or 4 senior servants. I also want a mage and a priest.

Now that I have the population I can quickly get an idea of the rooms we’re going to need. I think in terms of shelter, food and defence.

For shelter, it’s a question of thinking about how the population lives and allocating suitable space. My lord lives at the top of the castle, in a suite of rooms. On a lower floor I’ll have the second tier of nobles and important servants – the castellan I mentioned. I also want the cavalry to have a room on this level. The men at arms will sleep in the great hall – similar to vikings sleeping in the mead hall. It adds an obvious historic divide to the building from our own experiences. The non-combatant staff will be in a series of rooms one floor up. The mage and the priest will have their own rooms as they’re important but the mage should probably be in a separate area as his activities are dangerous and likely to give off foul odours. I also want a couple of spare chambers for visiting nobility and a small cell for a couple of prisoners. I don’t need a large prison because local justice is brutal and brief.

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A Rough Guide to Castle Design

Part 3 – The Floorplan

by Jon Roberts

To collect and transform the room list into a sensible layout I make a flowchart, finding this to be a simple way to list the areas and work out how they are connected or, indeed, isolated. You’re unlikely to get it right first time (the chart below is my third attempt) but that just goes to show that it’s time well spent. It’s much easier to fix a flowchart than a floorplan and lines added to a floorplan become an increasing deterrent to fixing mistakes.

Notice that there are already clear hubs. The great hall, the kitchen and a group connecting the Lord’s quarters, cavalry quarters and the chapel are all clear groups.

At this point we have the rough layout of our castle. Before we go any further, sit back and have a look at it. Think about anything else you’d like to add. In my case I want this to have a bit a twist. What if the castle is in a region that is beset by wyverns? To combat this, the castle needs covered walkways on the roof and battlements, and some means of combating the flying menace. I’ll add ballistas with alchemists fire from our wizard. I’m going to give our lord a gryphon too. This adds in an eyrie and solves the issue of how our lord might escape.

With these final twists laid in, I’ll do one final flowchart of the layout (below), now adding floors. This allows us to locate the stairs. If you’re feeling really keen you can always decide to place the fireplaces and chimneys here too. However, unless your players like turning into gaseous form and coming down the chimneys (mine do) you probably don’t need to worry too much about that level of detail.

Note that many of these groupings can be re-used in any castle. You can take the kitchen and stores and place them in a grand citadel, a hill giant’s lair or a mind flayer hive. I can re-use this castle structure for many situations with little chance of anyone noticing. Save yourself the hard work and re-use this work when you need to. If it makes sense in this castle, it’ll make sense in others too. Continue reading »