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Posts Tagged ‘Monday Maps’

Monday Maps #10: Bridge and Toll Houses

March 23, 2020 2 comments

 

The Enemy in Shadows Companion for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay includes a chapter on the Road Wardens who protect the Empire’s highways and collect tolls. Road travel can be an entertaining and challenging part of adventuring in almost any fantasy world, and toll houses are an interesting class of location.

 

They are hybrid buildings, partly accommodation for the toll keeper and their family and partly a stronghold built to withstand attacks by bandits and others who want to get their hands on the cash inside. In heavily-frequented areas, they can be the size of small castles, able to house a garrison or to act as a waystation and supply base for local forces, perhaps including a cell or two for arrested miscreants on their way to the local town for trial and execution.

 

Toll houses are most often placed in strategic locations such as road junctions or river bridges. Here is one from 19th century Germany, on one end of a bridge. Click the image for a larger version.

 

 

From the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin, via Europeana.eu

 

Some toll houses may incorporate arches over the road like city gates, which I covered in an earlier post. Here is a more rustic-looking building:

 

By Park Hwanhee, via Artstation.

 

Some may form part of a city’s walls and gates, like the Monnow Bridge that protects one of the entrances into the Welsh town of Monmouth. This arrangement makes a perfect customs barrier, although it may lead to serious delays at busy times, such as a market day when nearby farmers bring their crops and livestock to market.

 

monnowbridge

 

An encounter at a toll house can take many forms: here are a few ideas, but I’m sure you can think of many more.

  • Heroic outlaws might try to liberate taxes wrung from the oppressed local peasants, or lawful adventurers might help the beleaguered officials fight off an attack by bandits or monsters.
  • Perhaps bandits have already taken the place over, added some improvised upgrades to its fortification, and started imposing their own “unofficial” taxes on all who pass by.
  • Someone might need to be rescued from the cells.
  • If the toll keepers are corrupt, a second set of books would provide proof and help Our Heroes restore justice – if they can be found and brought to a sympathetic magistrate or local lord.
  • Perhaps the toll keepers are prejudiced, overtaxing those of a particular race, nation, or other class, and the PCs have been sent to investigate after complains were made to the local lord.
  • Cultists might have intercepted a vital treasure on the road and turned the toll house into a makeshift temple for an unspeakable ritual.

 

I’ll be back next Monday with another map – or something else. Have a good week!

Monday Maps #9: A Town Hall

March 16, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Across most of medieval Europe, the towns and their guilds won a long fight for independence from the feudal nobility. As trade began to drive economies and the merchant class grew richer, some towns were able to buy royal charters from the king, exempting them from the feudal pyramid and placing them directly under royal jurisdiction. Instead of a feudal lord, these towns were ruled by a council made up of senior guild members, and instead of a ducal palace, the grandest building in town was usually the council house, also known as the town hall.

Just like a ducal palace, a town hall was designed to show off the wealth and power of its owners – in this case, the town council and the trade guilds that underpin it. Tall towers and lavish architectural decoration are the order of the day.

 

town_hall_complete_plan_by_built4ever_d5mtci2-fullview

A medieval town hall by Francois Beauregard, from Built4Ever on DeviantArt.com. Click to link to the Deviant Art page.

 

Within a typical town hall one might find to expect two council chambers, one large and open to the public and one smaller and private. There would be offices for the council members, each with a couple of smaller adjoining offices for their clerks and other staff. The town’s archives would occupy a good-sized room, part library and part document store. A lobby and reception area would be staffed by one or more doorkeepers who act as a first line of defense, telling visitors that they need to make an appointment and directing those with appointments to the appropriate office. The town’s bureaucratic apparatus can be expanded as necessary, with more offices in proportion.

In most small to medium-sized towns, the town hall also accommodated the town’s courts and judiciary, with one or two courtrooms, judges’ chambers, offices for the clerks of court, an archive for the court records, and perhaps even a couple of cells. “A Day at The Trials,” the second chapter in the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplement Rough Nights and Hard Daysincludes a map of a town courthouse.

rathaus

 

Town halls and town councils can be important in urban adventures,presenting Our Heroes with a web of politics to negotiate as they seek the necessary authorization or information to pursue whatever adventure has brought them to town. Small-town politics can be every bit as vicious, corrupt, and self-serving as those of a nation, which is why I have always found it grimly satisfying that the German word for council house is “Rathaus.” True, “Rat” does mean “council” rather than “rodent” (deriving from the same ancient root as the Old English word “rede,” meaning advice or discussion) – but even so….

Tune in next week for another #MondayMap – or perhaps a Monday Something Else Entirely – and follow my blog so you are automatically notified when a new post goes up.

 

Have a good week!

 

 

Monday Maps #8: A Noble Mansion

March 9, 2020 1 comment

Many games present players with a mix of challenges, and a noble’s mansion can be as rewarding – and as dangerous, in its own way – as a dungeon or wilderness.

A mansion usually falls into three parts.

The public rooms consist of a foyer, a ballroom, a formal dining room, and one or more lesser reception rooms. These are almost always on the ground floor.

The family’s apartments are upstairs, and the suites belonging to senior family members usually include a dressing room and closet as well as a bedroom and an anteroom or study in which visitors can be received privately.

The third part of the house belongs to the servants. Servants’ quarters are usually on the very top floor, whose roofline is often constructed so that there is no sign of a floor there. A separate set of stairs communicates with the basement level, where the kitchens and storerooms are located. Hidden doors, or very discreet ones, give access to the other floors.

 

Mansion1

 

This 19th-century drawing, from the Architecture Museum of Berlin Technical University, is labeled Jagdhaus, or hunting lodge, but it would do very well for the country seat of a minor noble family or the town house of a major one. Only the ground floor is shown in plan view, but this is sufficient to show the load-bearing walls. Other floors will use the same basic plan, with additional dividing walls to create smaller rooms: cosy and private on the family’s floor, and cramped in the servant’s quarters. The small spiral staircase in the north-west corner will do very well for a servants’ stair.

 

Many more drawings from the Architecture Museum’s collection, covering a wide range of buildings, may be found on the Europeana Collections web site. Some are more useful in a fantasy game than others, but browsing through is interesting and can inspire all kinds of ideas.

 

Mansion2

 

This 19th-century lithograph, and a small selection of others, can be found at the Normany Then and Now web site, and give some other examples of how a house like this can be laid out. Search terms like “historic mansion plan” and “fantasy mansion plan” will find you plenty of others. Good hunting!