View Full Version : Building design

10-19-2011, 09:16 AM
I keep trying to map buildings, ie castles, taverns, temples, etc. but seem to run into roadblocks as I have no idea how most of these are actually designed architecturally, especially back in the middle ages. What do you guys use for your inspiration? Or do most people just wing it?

10-19-2011, 10:57 AM
I read books on architecture, art history, anthropology, history, archeology, etc.; visit old castles, ruins, medieval cities, museums, etc.; look at what other people draw, paint, design and sketch; study drawing and design techniques; then I wing it. :)

Big Rob
10-20-2011, 07:16 PM
Google images usually gets me started.

10-21-2011, 12:45 AM
I found a nice book in a used bookshop, The archaeology of medieval England and Wales (http://www.amazon.com/archaeology-medieval-England-Wales-studies/dp/0709923856)

It takes the themes of government, religion and the countryside and the impact on architectural design.

It contains a nice number of images including grounds plans for various palaces, churches and even a couple inns (though by no means a picture book, there is far more writing than images).

A nice example of how it deals with things is the plans for the palace of westminster where the different structures are coded so one can see how the site developed over time from the 12th through 16th centuries.

-Rob A>

10-21-2011, 03:53 AM
Good point RobA, I could've listed a few books as well, but frankly ... your library should see you good for a few hours. Another way to approach building design (and town design, for that matter, as well as dungeon design, etc.) is to start with the *needs* or demands of the original builder and follow through with the *capabilities* or means -- technological, magical, material, whatnot -- of those builders. Then, if the building was repurposed, take the needs of the new occupants and follow through with their capabilities, modifying the original structure. You can repeat this process ad nauseam - as regularly happened with medieval castles, palaces, churches and so forth.

That's pretty much how I do it as well, though admixed with the "Rule of Cool": if it's going to look cool in the adventure, DO IT.


The First Builders - a race of mysterious gelatinous ameboids that visited the world before the Vile Ones settled wanted a small trading colony.

Needs - slopes and ramps instead of stairs (no legs); mulching vats where raw materials and refuse are broken down into yummy GooTM; breeding vats, where little gelatinoids are made; growth cubes where the little ones can learn to be cubes for a while; feeding warrens where the noble gelatinoids can chase down living prey for sport; the feeding arena, where communal meals are served; bedding tunnels; landing areas for the gelatinoid star-ships; the hall of lore, where gelatinoids can feel their way through the lore of their species; a few bobs and ends; a main entrance, shaped for easy gelatinoid use.

Capabilities - the gelatinoids were mystical ancient acid based creatures that could eat through rock. Obviously most of the structure is carved right out of suitable rock formations, a nice metamorphic baserock would be nice. Let's say the whole structure was carved inside a great marble rock, with the arena and landing area on top.

then the ameboids died out, left, whatever and the next generation of occupants moved in

The Vile Ones - a race of long-lived, slender, pointy-eared humanoids not at all related to humans who were the first demihumans in the world, before they brough humans over from the Dungeon Dimensions.

One of their mad wizards built herself a palatial fortified tower on top of the first builder ruins.

Needs - dungeons for prisoners and magical experiments; magical laboratories; stores; libraries; dining halls; kitchens; servant quarters; barracks for a few guards; stables for a few dragons; fancy rooms for the wizard; a gazing area for looking at the stars to make sure the first builders don't return.

Capabilities - some magical earth elementals to help building, a few slaves, architects, not so much acid.

now take what we had before and modify it, and add a few bits

Dungeons - those growth cubes and bedding tunnels, add barred doors and you're good; laboratories can go in the breeding vats; refuse pit in the mulching vats (careful, mutated animals from magical waste!); stores can fit in the labyrinthine warrens, that'll be fun if adventurers come here; the dragon stables can go in the feeding arena; hmmm the rest of the humanoid areas are going to need a tower and that's going to need foundations and ... oh! we have a reinforced landing area! Excellent, the tower and fancy walls go up there, on top of the rock.

... and now we have a fairy castle built on top of a huge marble rock with strange, ancient warrens below, some of which are used as stores and some of which are just blocked off and filled with crazed ameboid gelatinous cubes, who never learned of the deep and complex culture of their forebears and make a living like mindless monsters in the darkness.

Obviously, I don't usually write this whole process down, but do all this on the fly while sketching areas. Sketch first area, sketch second area on top ... if you want to go crazy on it, add a third area, then a fourth, etc. etc. For example, the purple worm I drew went like this: 1. purple worm gets paralyzed, 2. wizard excavates insides to get to magic heart and petrify worm, 3. second wizard excavates wizard tower inside all that.

10-21-2011, 07:55 AM
I will have to keep an eye out for that book RobA. It looks like a great reference.

Well Lukc if I had a library bigger than my bedroom, I might visit it more but since I live in a small town I don't. Your ideas on the build of a dungeon got me thinking though. That is something I could definitely work with. thanks

10-22-2011, 10:14 AM
I sometime use this little book I bought on sales for a couple of bucks: http://www.amazon.com/Buildings-without-Architects-Everyday-Architecture/dp/0847833615. Has a nice overview of all kind of houses/dwellings for all kind of cultures. cheers, DJ

10-23-2011, 07:16 AM
That book looks pretty nice. I suppose it's a mostly visual work?

10-23-2011, 09:58 AM
it's about 150 pages with a set-up where every 2-pages describes some architecture. Left-side description and right-side 2-3 images of buildings (cut-outs, village-ayout, ...) cheers, DJ

Big Rob
10-24-2011, 12:49 PM
Wikipedia has an decent article called "Sacred Architecture". Gives some "why" on religeous buildings.