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Castle Defence - a classic gatehouse
Today, a lunchtime tip that's entirely software (and edition!) agnostic - a simple design for a castle gatehouse.

Castles are built for more than one reason - people live there, guards are stationed there and often they are political power centers for the region. But first and foremost they are built to keep people out. The weak point in any castle is it's front door, and a number of techniques were perfecte over the years to make sure that someone trying to attack a castle would have a hard time of it. Now attackers might not be as obvious as a massed army at the gates - unsavoury people sneak in too. This gatehouse design was used in many places - including Linlithgow Palace, the palace I grew up beside and spent a lot of time in.

1. Visitors approach from the south (in this diagram). The outer gate is large and heavy, and often opens onto a moat that's crossed on a drawbridge.
2. Once inside, the doors are closed behind (often from a mechanism operated from the guard room).
3. Progress forwards is barred by a portcullis, and a set of heavy doors. This allows the inner doors to be opened safely so someone can talk to the visitors, without allowing them access to the castle
4. Guards on either side can target visitors through arrow slits.
5. More guards are perched above and can target visitors with ranged weapons, or that classic defence of boiling oil.

This provides a robust defence mechanism against invaders, but it's far from full-proof. Linlithgow Palace was taken by a small group of determined soldiers using a simple ruse with a hay cart. The farmer drove his cart with fresh grain up to the palace. The guards opened the portcullis to let him in. He stopped the cart under the portcullis, and armed soldiers burst out from under the hay. The portcullis was dropped, but the cart jammed it open, and provided an open front door for the extra troops waiting in hiding outside. Soldiers poured in and the Palace was taken with relative ease.

For a game with fantasy elements, you'll want to station some form of caster at the front gate, with some easy divination magic. The murder holes make the perfect vantage point for a sorcerer, and the confined space is just built for flaming spheres.
#lunchtime #map #tip #rpg

You can find compilations of previous lunchtime tips here: http://fantasticmaps.wordpress.com/category/tips-and-tricks/
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22 comments
 
From personal experience: make it more than 5' in diameter.
 
Make which 5' in diameter? There's no scale on this, but if you're assuming 5' squares the entrance is 10' wide, which is small for a castle gate, but certainly not unusual.
 
I once made a guard room that was 5' by 5'. Yeah, I was spatially blind.
 
:) That's a cramped guard. Not quite enough room to swing a polearm in there.
 
You should have a rope ladder where someone (poor sap) can come down from to inspect cargo. The rope ladder can easily be cut or disconnected.
 
I would use something like a barrel cart to get in with removable slits for crossbows. This way you can at least shoot out of an enclosed container. Be sure to make it so the barrel can dispense mead still for testing.
 
I think the castle guards might see the barrel (tank?) coming up the road and suspect that something might be up....

But then the mead dispensing might just win them round.

My issue with castles in fantasy is that things like gaseous form/windwalk/fly are wonderfully effective at circumventing traditional defences. How do you design castles to present effective challenges to your players?
 
Magic support of your own to cast wind walls and similar magics take care of gaseous form as well as flights of arrows. Instead of a water-filled moat, why not have one with rust monsters?
 
Forbiddance wards are good defences against most mid-level magical incursions - and not actually that expensive on the scale of building fortifications. Similarly, arcane locks on gates and doors stop an easy Trojan horse style incursion. It's hard to open a gate from the inside if you still need the password.
 
For that matter, the open nature of a castle is kinda silly when there are dragons and other large, smart flying creatures around. :-)
 
Well, the castle still has a keep. You just need to make sure that access to the walls is hard for creatures that start off inside the castle too. That's not that rare. Plus, a set of hallow spells keyed with a Dispel Magic attached to fire on creatures coming in from the sky isn't a bad plan in general.
 
In the real world, I don't know how much the gate really was the weak link for a large battle. I think wall scaling/destroying was the main way (second to starving out people). Putting your whole army through a single choke point doesn't seem like a good idea.

I think magic becomes like gunpowder or air power. It makes a fortified castle a waste of resources. If you have the magical abilities to defend the castle from magic, you most likely don't need a castle anyway.
 
+Rob Kohr What you say there in that second paragraph actually pushes the idea of the dungeon to the forefront. If aerial threats are more common, or gunpowder (or other explosive) exists, having your defenses underground makes more sense, provided there aren't a lot of burrowing monsters. And the Chinese early warning system that was on Mythbusters becomes a pretty important method of protecting your defenses against burrowers.
 
Or you could go with something like Predjama Castle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predjama_Castle

Just because there are a couple of powerful casters doesn't mean that a castle isn't a useful fortification for the majority of your troops. It's only once that sort of firepower is common amongst your forces that it becomes sensible to have a different style of fortification.
 
This is cool, thanks for posting it!
 
+Craig Brown what was the early warning system?

Note: one of the most common ways to break into the town walls in ancient times was to walk around the walls shouting in bribes and leniency on whoever helped let you in. The second and major sack of Rome happened when the slaves opened up the gates to the invaders. This was a full 800 years after the first sack of Rome.

As any IT security person will tell you, people are the the biggest vulnerability to your security system.
 
+Rob Kohr Basically, the digging vibrations of the tunnelers would shake the drums and cause the heads to vibrate, which could be heard from above. Kari heard the drum beating while Tory and Jamie hammered on a wall of an abandoned mine, simulating the digging.
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