Thursday, 14 July 2016

All feudal cons

The other day I talked about manors and making them quirky and unique and escaping the dread trap of the quadratic Roman-style military castle, and I promised further on this matter. Here it is: for the methodology see the former post. The Remains table here tends to create proper hooks for dungeons and locations, and the Amenities offer locations where you can get what you need for your party, and which suggest necessary NPCs (implied by many of these results - add them in and flesh them out). 

You'll be wanting both then, but you only get as many as you rolled up in the original post. Either way, these are the things that make a manor memorable, and make its owners and inhabitants different: not just as a way for you to keep the  separate in your head but as as way to make them actually work differently and respond to the arrival of adventueres differently - the manor with the eerie barrow is not the same as the one with the obsequious butler.

I cannot make the formatting for some of the amenities work. Fuck it.


Remains - (d20, as many times as the manor is old)

1 – Standing stone – Somewhere within the circle of the walls – perhaps in its exact centre, perhaps where its shadow touches the hall's doorway on midsummer – is a standing stone, obviously artificially placed but rough and unworked, higher than a grown man, an ugly sentinel from another age.
2 – Crypt – Under the body of the manor – most likely under the hall – is a low, dank space where previous lords of the manor have been buried, perhaps for centuries. Perhaps the tradition is still in place, perhaps not. Perhaps people go down here regularly to pay their respects, maybe on a certain day ever year: perhaps it's near-forgotten, a low door hidden behind some barrels in the wine cellar.
3 – Ruined religious structure – In the grounds is a ruin – a rough circle of stone, now only ankle-high, or a platform with concentric lines carved in it, or a yew tree whose roots have long since swallowed the marking around it. It is unused, and its rituals are not recalled.
4 – Barrow – Against the walls, or even built into them, is a long, low mound, like a boat washed over with a wave of turf: a barrow, the grave of a long-gone lord. It has never been opened. Perhaps morning mists cling to it for a little too long: perhaps the grass grows a deeper green on it.
5 – Mound/bailey – A part of the grounds, most likely the part with the main house on it, is raised up on an artificial mound. It doesn't feel especially artificial, since it's turf and has been scuffed and trampled for hundreds of years: but it is.
6 – Old wall line – The walls around this place ran differently once. Now there's a waist-high stub running at a funny angle past the kitchen, or an irritating ditch limiting the size of the stableyard: or, far outside the shrunken compound, the long loop of a ruined wall from happier days.
7 – Deep disused cellar – Somewhere below and behind and beyond the least-used of the regular cellars – at the back end of that useless half-height space beyond the buttery, or in the base of the leaning tower, or unnervingly close to the moat, the walls slick with damp always – is a deep, unmortared cellar. Nothing is kept in it but things people wanted to forget. It echoes.
8 – Connects to natural cavern – Some part of the manor – some underground part, one presumes – connects to a natural cavern, which in times past might have had all manner of uses. Under the ridge that the wall runs along, perhaps, there's a cleft in the rock that runs surprisingly deep: or one of the oldest, half-underground parts of the house wasn't dug out entirely by mortal hands but by time itself.
9 – Carved stones – Dotted into the wall of the great hall, mostly near the base, are large, rounded stones, carved with spirals, loops, eddies – perhaps with figures, too, though the stones are worn, so smoke-blackened. They are not like the stone the rest of the hall was made from. They are not like stones from around here at all.
10 – Ancient hearth – The hearth in the great hall is far older than the rest of it, as revealed by the stonework, thick with generations of soot and ash. The stone flags beneath it are smooth and glassy. The fire may never have gone out – for centuries.
11 – Graveyard – There is a graveyard of some kind within the walls, but not in the current fashion. A strange little forest of worn, crumbling pillar monuments, some of them embossed with stars, suns, moons. The children play in them, but grown folk walk wide of them.
12 – Rock outcrop – A great, spiny outcrop of rock is incorporated into the manor building itself – not the wall but the hose, perhaps the crag on which the hall sits, perhaps breaking like a wave through the wall of the private apartments. Certainly in earlier times men huddled naked in its lee.
13 – Towerhouse – One of the towers here was the whole dwelling, once, long ago. It's a least a storey higher than the others and massive, fat, thick-walled, lurking sulkily behind the main, newer house. It's stones are thick with moss. Guard duty in it is misliked.
14 – Sealed well – As well as the manor's current well, there is an older one in the grounds here. It's sealed, capped, but everyone knows where it is. Parents worry about their children playing near it. Perhaps it dried up. Perhaps something else happened.
15 – Massive quern - Sitting brooding in the yard is a vast quern, a grindstone the size of a large dinner table. Impossible to imagine how it was ever moved. It was just for making bread, of course. But it has strange stains, perhaps. The current miller leaves a coin on it on holy days, perhaps.
16 – Hot spring – There's a hot spring somewhere around the manor. Very likely this is a large part of why it was built here to begin with. Now it's used as a kind of bath-house, probably, and by washerwomen.
17 – Byre – The manor has an old-fashioned, now probably rather embarrassing lean-to cattle shed, a half-enclosure right up against the great hall where the cattle steam and grunt and nudge against each other. No doubt the area was once thick with raiders, that it was kept so long.
18 – Purity house - Now disused, there's a little stone cottage hard up against the walls, away from the main house – in times past, the impure and the taboo would be sent here until the moon had changed. The tradition is no longer practised, but nor is it forgotten.
19 – Beacon – Little-used anywhere now, but this manor retains a base for a beacon, a solid stack of stone and turf somewhere within the walls on top of which warning beacons used to be lit. Perhaps the fire had other uses too.
20 – Cyclopean foundations – The foundations of the manor are massive, with vast, smoothly cut blocks of stone and no mortar to be seen. Modern masons confess themselves baffled by the technique.



Amenities - (d20, as many times as the manor is rich)


1 – Mill - Rather than having a mill in the village (or as well as), the mill here is within the bounds of the manor. Perhaps the waterwheel extends into the moat, or maybe - if it’s on high ground - there is one of those new-fangled wind-driven mills.
2 – Library - The manor has a collection of books, so many they have their own room - probably part of the lord’s private apartments. There might be as many as a few dozen books here. The room will probably be under lock and key at all times.
3 – Chapel -  Whatever the relevant religious system is, this manor takes it more seriously: it has its own temple, or a larger one than usual, or a dedicated space for religious observance, or whatever else marks out piety in this society (ostentatious or otherwise).
4 – Mews- Someone here keeps falcons. Usually this is a shed against the perimeter wall, darkened and full of the stinking guts of rabbits and the quiet shuffling of feathers. The falconer almost certainly sleeps here too.
5 – Kennels - Most manors have a dog or two but whoever is sovereign here is particularly into hunting with hounds and keeps a couple of dozen, with their own large kennel somewhere in the courtyard. The dogs will be all over the place half the time, getting underfoot.

6 – Tilting ground - The lord of the manor likes jousting, and has a space set up for it, with the requisite barrier and probably some kind of spectators’ stand, though that may just be a couple of benches and an awning.

7 – Smithy - There’s a forge and the necessary equipment within the walls, and likely a smith too, making useful things - largely horseshoes. Useful person to know. Horrible fire hazard too.
8 – Archery butts – Whether as a pastime or to keep the populace drilled, this manor has staked out a space within its walls for archery practice, with straw targets at one end. Presumably there's a busy fletcher somewhere around here.
9 – Fishpond – Maybe a still, wide part of the moat if there is one, maybe it's own thing, but there's a fishpond within the walls, where tench and trout get far and comfortable. There is a huge, half-legendary pike lurking by the bank. There is always a huge, half-legendary pike.

10 – Herb garden – Within the grounds is a walled-off garden where herbs and spices are grown: it's somewhere sheltered from the wind, where fragile and exotic plants have a chance. The smells from it drift at odd times into other rooms. The things grown there have all manner of uses.
11 – Walled formal garden – Against the hall is a garden in the new style, with hedges and gravel paths, carefully and pointlessly tended, with topiary and paths for circulating elegantly and bowers, overgrown with creeper, where secrets can be exchanged.
12 – Fountain – Inside the hall, maybe, or in the courtyard, is an artificial fountain, water rerouted out of the mouth of some great scaly fish or round a perfect, trickling series of pools. It's cool here, always.
13 – Decent guest quarters – Unlike in so many places, the guests here need not sleep in the great hall, or in the stables if they're unlucky. There's a whole additional solar here, well-furnished and comfortable, perhaps even with its own hearth. The lord of the manor must be solicitous, or desirous of company.
14 – Scriptorium – Some houses have books, but this manor has a place for making more
of them, and someone who knows how it's done. There are frames for the vellum, ingredients for ink, a well-lit room, a desk, and other works to copy. There's the assurance of working in this little room without disturbance.
15 – Observatory – Up one one of the manor's towers, or some flattened corner of the roof, is a spot where the stars can be seen clearly: somewhere nearby (but somewhere covered and protected, not open to the elements, of course) is a spyglass and a set of charts, much amended and annotated. Someone in this place waits eagerly for equinoxes and the like, and knows their timings.
16 – Music room – Minstrels and the like are common enough, and many dining halls have a spot for them, but here some of the family members themselves are learning instruments, as well as holding more intimate recitals. This room – part of the private apartments – has carefully made and covered walls for fine acoustics, and a collection of valuable instruments.
17 – Decent outhouse – Generally speaking the rich people might get chamberpots and most other people get a hut over a pit, but here someone has some modern ideas about hygeine: there's a proper privy here with a water source, decently separated from the main house.
18 – Sizeable wine cellar – Whoever is lord here is a connoisseur, and keeps an extensive cellar of wines, stocked in a cool, dark chamber, near the kitchens and the hall. Very possibly there's a butler too, tasked solely with their selection and serving. The rest of the servants probably (rightfully) hate him.
19 – Heating system – Some clever soul here has rigged up a heating system: underfloor, Roman-style, maybe, or a system of ceramic stoves running through the building, all fed from a central furnace. Winters are far less miserable than for most folk.
20 – Smokehouse – Somewhere in the grounds is a high-roofed wooden shack, well sealed with pitch, with a wet, smoky fire constantly tended, making smoke to blacken and preserve the joints of fish and meat hanging from the rafters. Working in there is horrible, but the product is delicious.