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Thread: Indoor "Outhouses"

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      RPMiller is offline
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    Question Indoor "Outhouses"

    Since this particular forum doesn't get much love I thought I would bring up a topic that seems to be very prevalent on fantasy maps and yet has very little historical backing, as far as I'm aware. (Please correct me if my assumptions are wrong with some links to the contrary).

    I have noticed recently as I keep happening upon fantasy maps when looking for Old West stuff, that many people insist on putting the privy inside the building. Based on my research of the Old West this would have been one of the worst things that could have been done for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to - bugs, odor, explosive methane, and cleaning.

    There is a reason the outhouse was outside and a fair distance from the building.

    Based on my limited knowledge of the Middle Ages, I thought most people used chamber pots and dumped them outside where the waste would be washed away or absorbed into the ground. The exception to this, as best I could tell was a castle. A castle would often have a privy inside and located on a higher floor. The waste would then fall down a type of chute and end up in a dung heap either outside the castle or within, but where it could be dealt with.

    Does anyone have any clarifications that they can offer on this rather "unclean" topic?
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      ravells is offline
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    The holes which were privvies in castles were called 'Guarderobes' from which we get the word 'wardrobe'. In medieval times, in cities, there would be a '**** collector' who would collect the waste of more fortunate people - it would either be dumped at the local midden or cess pit. The less fortunate just went in the street.

    The Romans had communal loos, with running water.

    And that's about the extent of my knowledge on this scatalogical subject!

    Ravs

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    So why do so many people insist on putting them inside their buildings?
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    Guild Member deanatglobe's Avatar
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    I think it has to do with familiarity. That is how modern people think of floorplans. Really a similar thing can be said about hallways. In most buildings there were no hallways, just adjoining rooms. Where there were hallways they were primarily a way for servants to get from place to place without being seen.

    Back to privies, with indoor plumbing it is easier to forget about that aspect "real life". Chamber pots just bring up all sorts of "realities" that my players usually did not want to have to deal with.

    That being said, I usually leave them out of anything but castles or cultures that have indoor plumbing.

    I often get a little extravagant with my windows too, medeival structures usually had very few, very small windows, for heating, defense and cost reasons.


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    In some recent investigations into medieval cities, I can corroborate the idea that the streets were the "going place"--or, if a chamber pot was used, the "throwing place." Accounts from the Middle Ages describe streets as often disgusting places--and let's just say that canals, motes, etc. were not "clean" either. In fact, I read one account of a French King ordering a stream dredged due to build-up of just such fecal matters!

    PS: Good comment about the hallways, deanatglobe--I had not thought of that, but you are surely right!
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    I don't know much about the topic, either, except that the '**** collector' referred to earlier was called gong farmer in England.

    And the reason that garderobe became wardrobe is because people would store clothing in the garderobe because the odor repelled moths.

    I didn't take the time to read it yet, but Google turned up an article might be of interest:
    http://www.sewerhistory.org/articles...1/article1.pdf

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    I definitely think I would rather not see any loos in anymore buildings from that time period and up through the invention of indoor plumbing. It isn't that we even bother roleplaying the needs for that particular function, but when such a room is in a map it calls attention to it and it tends to somehow creep into the plot.
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      jaerdaph is offline
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    LOL - I was just thinking of how many fantasy inn maps I've seen with indoor privies, and how many space ship deck plans I've seen without.

    The chamber pot was the closest thing to indoor bathrooms they had, be it a medieval city or frontier town. Some nights it was just to cold to make the hike out to the outhouse. And pity the late night reveler who just happened to be passing under the window of someone in the process of emptying the chamber pot!

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    You will notice that in almost every one of my more recent city/town maps, I have almost all city blocks designed with 'central' courtyards. The function of the courtyard was to locate privies/loos that would serve the surrounding buildings.

    Also, I have seen a great many fantasy floor plans with indoor latrines, and some of these maps were even in published materials. Always....bizzarre, and I can only imagin the smell.
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      ravells is offline
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    Although, all this said, we are talking about Fantasy RPGs rather than real life medieval. Fantasy settings are basically a sanitised and idealised take on medieval / renaissance life. Disease, lack of sanitation, the sheer smelliness, the presence of fleas on virtually everyone and general lack of personal hygiene, the utterly back-breaking, hard life that rural peasants led, the almost universal lack of literacy and numeracy, the fact that it was not uncommon to step over the dead bodies of children in city streets in 18th Century London....the list goes on and on.

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