View Full Version : A question of design...

01-20-2013, 11:42 PM
Ok, so I'm working on the design of a small keep for a character. Here's the problem - how many rooms does the keep need? How many buildings?

I could easily just slap some buildings within the walls of a keep's enclosure and say 'they all fit in there somewhere' but has anyone ever put the time and mental power behind trying to figure out how many of 'x' would you need for a small keep?

The scenario:

A Wizard is retiring from adventuring and has some gold to burn to make himself a small place away from the chaos of the big city. Deciding to settle near a small town he contracts with local builders to construct a small keep for himself and a small staff to make his remaining years comfortable. Essentially he's retiring and aside from the occasional student or guest he's not planning on going anywhere for the rest of his life.


He knows that he'll need an enclosed keep because the forests near the small town aren't clear of hazards. Goblin raids are still common and should anything come for him he'd like a physical barrier that will keep goblins or torch-wielding peasants at bay for a while.

So however many buildings he ends up with he'll need to wrap them all together with a perimeter wall.

Since he's a wizard - he'll need some sort of tower as the central keep. The tower can just be a really tall, narrow building for him to use as a look-out or observatory but it's iconic and he's a sucker for traditional architectural themes.

Other than Tower and a perimeter wall the question is now - how many other buildings within the keep will he need?

I decided that I would start a list to see if I could figure out how many rooms (and therefore how many buildings) I would need.

Feel free to jump in and suggest rooms or where the rooms might go.

1. Stables
2. Pantry
3. Kitchen
4. Dining Hall
5. Study
6. Library
7. Laboratory
8. Master Bedroom
9. Guest Bedroom (x2)
10. Servant's rooms (x?)
11. Laundry / Servant's Baths
12. Guard Barracks
13. Servant's Hall (for dining)
14. Well

Can anyone think of any other room you'd need for the Keep?

As far as servants (for the number of bedrooms):

Steward (day to day running of the place and in charge of footmen) Bedroom
Head Maid (In charge of cook and maids) Bedroom
Cook (Shares bedroom with another)
Morning Maid X3 (cleaning) (Two to a bedroom)
Footmen x3 (serving) (two to a bedroom)
Groom (stables) (own bedroom in stables)
Twig brats (kids for all of the running and fetching) (sleeps...somewhere)

So that would be 6 bedrooms for staff.

Am I missing anything before I start pairing rooms to buildings?

Building 1: The Keep (tower)
- Library
- Master Bedroom
- Study
- Guest Bedroom X2
- Steward's Bedroom
- Head Maid's Bedroom
- Laboratory

Building 2: Hall
- Kitchen
- Pantry
- Dining Hall
- Cook's quarters (plus maid?)

Building 3: Barracks
- Guard's Room (one big one?)
- Footmen's Quarters
- Laundry / Servant's Bath

Building 4: Stables
- Stables
- Groom's Quarters

Am I missing anything?


So the rough idea of the 'small keep' looks something like what I have above (though I might cut the long building on the left into two smaller buildings.

Any thoughts?

01-21-2013, 03:51 AM
That's a pretty big list. If he's looking to retire, he might want to keep a small staff instead of a large one. You have quite the suite there. My inclination whenever I need a castle is to steal a floorplan from a real castle and see if anyone notices. I think the result of what your describing could fit a number of basic designs, including the one above. But when building a setting like this, the most important question (IMO) is - is it going to matter? If the place is going to become a ruined adventure site, then yes it's important to know where the walls & buildings are. If, on the other hand, it is the home of a questgiver or mentor, a simple description - "a small rectangular castle with a single tower three stories tall" for example - ought to suffice.

My instinct, based on your original description, would be to use this:Restormel Castle (http://www.timeref.com/medieval_castle_shell_keeps.htm). Convert the chapel into a wizard's tower, remember that the other buildings are 2-stories, and you're done. Bonus - you have images to show your players!

01-21-2013, 05:04 AM
Your list is really big as it is being captured the thing is that you should first research on how you can fit your list in this area.

01-21-2013, 09:50 AM
My instinct, based on your original description, would be to use this:Restormel Castle (http://www.timeref.com/medieval_castle_shell_keeps.htm). Convert the chapel into a wizard's tower, remember that the other buildings are 2-stories, and you're done. Bonus - you have images to show your players!

Restormel is an awesome design. Thanks. I think I'll use that for another project!


01-21-2013, 10:24 PM
I think I'd favor keeping the steward and head maid's chambers in the hall, but set aside a small chamber adjacent to the lord's chamber, and perhaps one for each guestroom, for a valet. Also, perhaps there might be a joint office for steward and housekeeper, so the business of the keep does not interfere with the wizard's experiments and/or leisure. If it weren't a wizard, I'd suggest that sort of thing could be taken care of in the library.

There are likely to be semi-permanent structures built along the inside of the perimeter wall for miscellaneous castle work: a farrier/blacksmith, candlemaker, cooper/carpenter, etc. How many such people might work in the castle is dependent on the distance to that town and how much of its services the castle can make use of. The crafters who work these jobs may have quarters in their shops, or they may be housed outside the walls.

Don't forget a cistern or well, garderobes, and cesspool (and possibly a gong farmer to care for it).

01-21-2013, 10:37 PM
I like the idea of a joint office for the Steward and the Head Maid. It's probably located on the ground floor of some building within the grounds so that people coming to the Keep to sell their wares (fresh eggs, milk, candles, etc.) can meet with either one or the other.

I also like the idea of the rooms near the guest rooms and master bedroom for the valets. I figure that the keep is possibly an hour's walk (or less - perhaps a half-hours ride?) from the town and surrounded by cleared fields. Close enough that the two are associated with each other but far enough to have separate realities.

As far as garderobes and cesspools - I know that there would have to be an 'out house' of sorts on the ground level for staff and such as well as a garderobe in the keep near the bedrooms.

Gong farming is one of those things that always made me wonder. So we pay people to shovel out the cesspool...and do what with it? We can't really use it for fertilizer (because human poo isn't great for such things). Do you burn it? Bury it?

Some of the oddest thoughts crawl through my head because of map design.



01-21-2013, 10:54 PM
Using the D&D book "Stronghold Builder's Guide" I found some interesting designs for some of the component rooms.

The basic barracks for the guards and footmen is a simple room with lots of single beds. I could use this for stashing any number of the 'help' so long as they're easily replaceable.

The kitchen design allows the combination of a kitchen and pantry all within the same space. All I would need to do is to connect it to the great hall somehow.

With this as the great hall I could add in a door below the riser so that meals / feasts could be delivered from the kitchen more easily.

I love pre-made rooms. It makes laying spaces out so much easier.

Still putting things together.


01-21-2013, 11:32 PM
This is the mock-up of the servant's quarters that I would use in the building south of the main keep. I know that this building is two stories so I'll need to add a set of stairs somewhere in there. I might add a flight between the two rooms rather than overlap the walls.


01-21-2013, 11:43 PM

Something like this.

01-22-2013, 01:00 AM
Gong farming is one of those things that always made me wonder. So we pay people to shovel out the cesspool...and do what with it? We can't really use it for fertilizer (because human poo isn't great for such things). Do you burn it? Bury it?

I would imagine that as long as it was removed far enough away from human habitation, it didn't much matter what was done with it. Human feces will eventually decay into fertile soil, although the potential for disease in the interim is significant. Some societies have used it to grow crops, but most Western cultures find the entire notion disgusting, if not taboo. You mentioned that the surrounding area is still somewhat wild, so probably the gong farmer will cart the waste out into the wilderness and dump it. Hopefully not near a water source.

01-22-2013, 01:02 AM

This is a mockup of the great hall and kitchen/pantry concept. The other buildings are all 2 stories so this would be as well. The second story of the kitchen could easily be converted into living quarters for the Cook and a few scullery maids whereas the great hall has a large, cathedral ceiling to allow for hanging chandeliers, banners, etc.

Still plugging along.


01-22-2013, 09:28 AM
One could argue that the issue of trash or refuse removal would be of concern for any settlement. I know that in the pre-industrial era it wasn't uncommon to have a Midden; a central trash pile where things were tossed and then routinely burned.

I wonder if you would/could do the same thing with the gong farmer? Haul it out to some big pit somewhere and, with other material, burn it?

Yup - love the discussion questions on here. :)

01-22-2013, 11:41 AM
An update on the 'small keep' design with some of the building's first floors roughed out.


I gave the courtyard a stone tile texture and changed the floors in the great hall and barracks to wood as well as added a stairway that would lead up to the second floor of the kitchen.

I cut the long building up on the left-hand side to make stables (in the bottom) and some kind of workshops along the left wall.

What's still kicking my butt is the 'walk paths' on the stone courtyard.



01-22-2013, 02:00 PM
From a comparison of a fair number of real castles, I came up with an average of about 150 square feet of floor area per person. Tight quarters for disciplined troops (like Roman Legion Barracks) could be half of that and the Renaissance castle for a noble family could be about double that.

As an aside, from 25% to 33% of the space is storage of supplies to withstand a siege.

Good luck.

01-22-2013, 08:17 PM
Might wanna have a well in the courtyard or even a cistern system of some kind in the basement if the castle intends to withstand a siege. Thirsty people surrender pretty quick! =P

Also if you're going for the whole great hall thing, your current one is in a odd spot. Your greathall is going to be in the main/central building - other structures will be added later. Great hall's are actually a germanic legacy - they descend from the big viking/saxon style great halls someone described above (you don't see roman buildings with a great hall - different culture). If you look at the development of residential buildings, you start with the great hall and then other wings are added on. Eventually separate accommodation blocks are added, etc etc.

It's something to consider when world building - your culture might not have the tradition of the great hall.

01-23-2013, 01:30 AM
Yup - I know that I'm adding in a well within the courtyard but wasn't sure where to put it.

I see what you mean about the location of the great hall in that it's in an odd location. I had thought that the great hall should be the first thing that you see when you get into the keep itself (the tower structure in the corner) rather than a side building along the perimeter. I could technically put any functional room in those side buildings if I wish.

Like someone was saying earlier - cramped quarters for military personnel but those not in the military would want a bit more room. So I could turn the two floors of one of those side buildings into staff housing and then move the great hall (or the big hall for large feasts and things) into the ground floor of the corner tower. I could then turn a side-building into the kitchen / pantry / servant's quarters.

That would then make the corner building not so much of a great hall but more just the big room where large meals are served.

Any 'common' person would probably be dealing with the kitchen building off to the side or the like - probably not entering the big corner building.


I'll have to play with the map again. I like the overall layout of the keep with the corner building and two attached buildings - I just have to figure out what to stick in them. :)

Thanks again folks.

Keep the suggestions coming!


01-31-2013, 10:24 PM
Ok, so I took the suggestion of moving the great hall into the keep and will have to rebuild the side building but here's what I came up with for the ground floor of the central 'square' building of the original concept.

This incorporates the great hall into the main floor of the building. I have stairs heading up and heading down from the large chamber and several side-rooms for whatever I can come up with. The Kitchen/Pantry could easily fit into a section of the basement so that meals are brought up from below where most of the food and wine would be stored anyway.