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Monday Maps #6: Peasant Cottage

February 24, 2020 2 comments

Adventurers spend a lot of time traveling through remote places, so a peasant farmer’s cottage will be a familiar sight. It may be threatened by bandits or monsters, presenting an opportunity for a Seven Samurai defence action. It may be occupied by a family whose remoteness from the world hides secret mutants or other quirks, like the cannibalism of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Or it may simply be a place to get out of the weather, and perhaps bargain for a bowl of stew.

Irish Cottage 2

This design goes back into prehistory, and is still in use today in some areas. In a medieval setting, the windows would be smaller, with curtains of skin in place of glass. Copyright Marion McGarry: used without permission.

 

In some places, a cottage is little more than a barn, divided into two parts. The animals occupy one part, and the family the other. Sometimes the sleeping quarters are in a loft above the livestock stalls, benefiting from the animals’ warmth. More prosperous farmers added hearths and chimneys to their cottages, and moved the animals into a barn across the farmyard. Other features might be added, such as a granary and vegetable store, a well, and even a smithy.

Farm 1

A medieval farm, by Dante78. Borrowed from Renderosity: click image for more information.

 

Often, there would be a surrounding wall, both for defence and to stop animals wandering off.

Farm 2

Hudson & Allen Studio’s 25mm Fortified Medieval Farmhouse. Image from Wargame Scenics. Click image for more information.

 

 

German cottage

A two-storey cottage from Germany. This is large enough to accommodate an extended family, and would probably belong to a fairly prosperous farm family.

 

Links

This page from British History Online has some useful plans of various cottage layouts, as well as a lot of information on various building types and how they were used. Scroll down to find all the plans, but if you have the patience to read the text you will find some of it useful.

 

 

Monday Maps #4: Town and City Gates

February 10, 2020 Leave a comment

In medieval Europe, and in most fantasy worlds, towns and cities are surrounded by wall to protect them from attack. The gates are the weakest part of a town wall, so they tend to be the most heavily fortified.

In a small town or walled village, the gate fortifications may be very modest. In a great and wealthy city, each gate can be a small castle in its own right.

Plan and Elevation of Monk Bar, York

From The Pictorial History of England (W & R Chambers, 1858)

This 19th-century image of Monk Bar in medieval York shows the basic components of a fortified city gate. It has a barbican with a double gate and a portcullis between: when the outer gate is breached, attackers enter a killing zone and must endure fire from all sides as they assault the portcullis. Having broken down the portcullis they must pass under an archway to reach the inner gate, and the ceiling of the archway is pierced with “murder holes” through which defenders above can fire missiles or drop boiling water or oil.

 

 

A guardhouse stands beside the gate, and outside it stairs lead up to the wall top and the room above the murder holes. The winch for raising and lowering the portcullis would often be at this level as well.

Finally, there is a sally port beside the gate, through which defenders could break out and get behind an attacking force.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smaller towns will have more modest arrangements, like this:

 

VK-com

Borrowed from VK.com

 

 

This model would suit a medium-sized town in Warhammer’s Old World or a similar setting:

 

 

Turbosquid

Borrowed from Turbosquid.com

 

 

…and here’s a floorplan from Jason Engle, whose web site is worth a look. Find it here.

JAEstudio

 

See you next Monday for more maps!

 

 

Monday Maps #3: Water Mill

February 3, 2020 5 comments

Nearly every village of any size will have a mill for grinding grain. Windmills are popular in the Wasteland and other flat, windy areas, but everywhere else, a water mill uses the power of a nearby river. The mill is a vital part of the village economy, and the miller is a respected member of the community, turning raw grain into saleable flour for a percentage of the yield.

A water mill is essentially a large machine set inside a building, and it can be a dangerous place for the unwary – especially in a fight. Even if the wheels are not turning, they present hard an unforgiving obstacles in unlooked-for places; if the mill is in operation, their gears can snag clothes and crush their wearers.

And of course, there is that big wheel outside, for those who want to recreate the iconic sequence from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - The Big Wheel Fight

This diagram is from 19th-century America, but the principles of siting a watermill and directing the flow of water are unchanged from the Middle Ages:

mill-diagram

These two images give an idea of the interior layout:

 

WFRP Maps Water Mill

Borrowed from the web site of David Darling (https://www.daviddarling.info/index.html). No challenge to copyright intended.

Watermill machinery

A side view. Notice how the central shaft drives not only the millstones but also the top floor winch, used for hauling sacks up grain up for milling. Drawing by Pippa Miller, borrowed from Norfolk Mills (http://www.norfolkmills.co.uk/watermill-machinery.html). No challenge to copyright intended.

…and this more complex map includes floorplans that can easily be adapted for use in a game. It is borrowed from the Mills Archive, which has plans and drawings of many other English water mills.

WFRP Water mill

The mill at Barford St. Michael, Oxfordshire. Borrowed from the Mills Archive (https://catalogue.millsarchive.org/watermill-at-barford-st-michael). No challenge to copyright intended.

Detlef Sierck Presents: The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson

January 29, 2020 Leave a comment

subtle

 

I first got into roleplaying games through amateur theatre. I was a member of a couple of different local groups in the 70s and 80s, and while I was working at Games Workshop I joined Nottingham’s Lace Market Theatre and got a part in this play. I don’t think it inspired “A Rough Night at the Three Feathers” directly, but it is certainly similar in that it features a single location – in this case, a London town house – in which multiple plots collide over a short period of time.

The house’s owner, Mr. Lovewit, has gone to the country to escape an outbreak of plague, leaving his servant Jeremy to look after the place in his absence. Jeremy has plans of his own, though, and joins forces with two confederates to cook up a number of schemes. One is a con man named Subtle, and the other is a prostitute named Doll Common. Jeremy himself adopts the persona of Captain Face, with the social acceptability that brings, and lures prospective marks to the house.

Dapper is a lawyer’s clerk who wants better luck at the gaming tables. Subtle convinces him to seek the favor of the Queen of the Fairies (played by Doll) and the two subject him to various “fairy” tricks and humiliations while relieving him of all his valuables.

Abel Drugger is a tobacconist who wants his newly-opened shop to succeed. Under the guise of advising him on the luckiest stock and furnishings, the trio robs him of a lot of valuable tobacco.

Drugger introduces them to two acquaintances recently arrived from the country. Kastril is a quarrelsome young gentleman who wants to learn how to argue in the sophisticated manner of the town. His sister, Dame Pliant, is wealthy and recently widowed. The three smell profit in both of them.

Sir Epicure Mammon is rich, and would like to be richer – and younger, and more sexually vital. He is quickly convinced that Subtle is close to perfecting the Philosopher’s Stone that can turn all things into gold and is a key ingredient in the Elixir of Youth. Mammon hands over a fortune in household goods to pay for Subtle’s experiments. He also falls in love (or more likely, in lust) with Doll after catching an unintended glimpse of her. He is accompanied by Sir Pertinax Surly, a skeptical friend who tries without success to expose the con, dressing up as a Spanish nobleman at one point and allowing himself to be led towards a marriage with Dame Pliant.

Tribulation Wholesome and his sidekick Ananias are Anabaptists, members of a strict Protestant church with puritanical leanings. Despite this, though, they are intent on perpetrating a con of their own: using Subtle’s gold-making prowess to counterfeit Dutch money in order to advance their sect’s position there – increasing their own wealth and influence in the process.

Needless to say, the various plots collide horribly over the course of the play. The three con artists quarrel endlessly, refusing to trust each other because they are all liars and cheats. Subtle’s lab explodes at a critical moment. People from one plot arrive unexpectedly to interrupt the progress of another. In other words, farce ensues.

At the height of the chaos, the householder Lovewit returns unexpectedly. Despite his servant’s best efforts, the various plots are exposed one by one as things come undone. Subtle and Doll flee empty-handed rather than face the wrath of the law. Face – now Jeremy again – placates his master by offering him marriage to the wealthy Dame Pliant. The remaining plots are quickly wrapped up and the play ends with Lovewit triumphant and Jeremy chastened.


 

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson by Abraham van Blyenberch, circa 1617

Ben Jonson was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and this play was first performed in 1610. His language is similar to Shakespeare’s, but includes more contemporary London slang. Don’t be put off by that, though. Any edition worth its salt will come with explanations and footnotes. If you can find a stage production, you will find that the frantic pace pulls everything together beautifully. I would recommend a film or TV adaptation, but there don’t seem to be any, which is a pity.

Alchemist cover

 

So there you have it. A town setting, multiple plots, colorful characters, greed, lust, chicanery – it’s all very WFRP, even though it’s not fantasy.

Watch out for more #DetlefSierckPresents posts, and I’ll share more of the things I was watching and reading when I worked on WFRP. Perhaps they will inspire you, too.

Monday Maps #2

January 27, 2020 9 comments

It’s Monday, and here’s another map. This time, it’s from Francois Beauregard, a.k.a. Built4ever on Deviant Art. I know nothing about this artist, but the Deviant Art page is a huge trove of maps and building plans. It is well worth a visit.

Here, we have a nice little row of buildings that might be found in one of the classier areas of a fantasy city. They could be little boutique shops, perhaps with modest accommodation upstairs: shopkeepers are seldom the same class as their customers, even if they live alongside them. I particularly like the little alley entrance in the middle of the block, which could lead to all manner of intriguing locations, from the hidden oasis of a courtyard cafe to a simple yard for receiving and organizing stock. I’m sure you can come up with many other ideas.

storefronts_for_the_clove__a_town_center_by_built4ever_d5mmlw6-fullview (1)

 

Monday Maps #1

January 20, 2020 8 comments

It’s been my experience that a GM can never have too many maps, so I plan to post #MondayMaps every week from now on until I run out of images to share.

They will come from various sources, both old and comparatively modern. Some of the newer ones – old-looking designs for 20th-century houses – will include rooms that are not in period for a medieval fantasy game, but the basic layouts can still be useful. A few caption changes, and you’re off.

If you are like me and can’t draw anything beyond a bath, a curtain, and a conclusion, I hope you will find these useful. And if you have any great sources of RPG-friendly mappage that you’re willing to share with the rest of us, please post in the Comments section below.

This is the first one that caught my eye, probably because the style of the elevation drawing looks so much like one from the WFRP 1st edition rulebook. It could work for the home of a merchant or other well-to-do burgher in a small town or village, where there is enough space for its sprawling layout. It might also become an inn, with the great hall serving as a tap-room, a snug bar off the entryway, and the upstairs bedrooms rented out to guests.

I would probably add a dividing wall between the kitchen and the great hall, because medieval-level cooking was a smoky and smelly business. The bathrooms could become additional bedrooms – especially in an inn – and/or storage rooms.

Anyway – enjoy,and let me know whether you would like to see more maps like this.

Original image is 1280 x 1743. To enlarge, right-click and open in a new tab.