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[Let's Read] DMGR2 The Castle Guide

MacBalance

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#1
This is a 1990-vintage TSR publication that I am going to read for the first time in far too many years and comment on for the enjoyment of whomever enjoys this kind of thing. :)

The big 'feature' of this book is the set of rules for building castles. I am planning on breaking up the normal let's Read material with posts on building a couple castles in this system. however, we won't get to that for a bit, as nearly the first third of this book is 'background.' I intend to do mini-surveys and questions to run the build process as much as possible, with RPG.net readers providing the details.

I feel this book needs to be considered in context as to when it was released. I generally feel D&D is a a 'semi-universal' setting, with the level of 'implied setting' varying by edition. For example, 3rd edition core name-checked various Forgotten Realms dieties (although this was easy to ignore), while 4th had some very specific and interesting powers related to various deities (new for that edition, i think.) that could be re-skinned with minor work. Still, every edition of D&D tends to build of a set of core assumptions:

  1. There are words, and they have adventurers.
  2. Dungeons are quite common. Dragons, too, althoguh less so.
  3. In general, weapons will trend to a strange mix of historical pointy objects, blunt objects, and simialr. Melee is primary, with limited manpower-based missile weapons available.

Some settings certainly play with these ideas, but the base tends to be a mix of fantasy cliches with a faux-medieval base. Some vary from this: Dark Sun is quite a bit different from the Forgotten Realms, for example, but the default tends to be swords & sorcery with influences involving Moorcock, Tolkien, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and similar.

For 2nd edition, we got the PHB, DMG, and Monstrous Compendium in 1989. This book was released in 1990 along with it's sister volume, DMGR1 Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide. There were a lot of releases in 1989-1990, including the 'Big Four' books in the Complete series (Fighter, Thief, Priest, and Wizard), Legends & Lore, and Monstrous Compendium appendices for the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk. This was the start before the massive onslaught of 2nd edition settings and material that would be released in the 90s.

This book, The Castle Guide is relatively modest in scope and production, but I feel it attempts to set the ground rules for the 'faux-medieval' implied setting of AD&D 2nd edition.

Facts
  • 127 pages (I'm wondering if my PDF is missing an ad page... Will have to check the printed version if I find it this weekend.)
  • Leatherette cover, in blue. The 'blue' books generally were targeted at DMs, and this is marked as a Dungeon Master's Guide Rules Supplement.
  • Credits list a range of names, perhaps relevant to that era's TSR design style: Designed by Grant Boucher, Troy Christensen, Arthur Collins, and
    Nigel Findley; Additional Design by Timothy B. Brown and William W. Connors
  • Two color printing with the exception of three color plates.
  • No 'filler' like character sheets you can't photocopy without destroying the book!

Something to keep in mind is that this has a very different tone and intended use from the 3rd edition Stronghold Builder's Guide which I feel was much more clearly aimed at a tool for players to use and ways to make running a construction project interesting. The Castle Guide covers the design and construction, but that's less about a quarter of the book. The opening chapters cover topics including:

  • The Feudal Setting
  • In the Days of Knights
  • Tournaments for knights and others

Then we have the 'meat' of the construction system, followed by a brief discussion of some castles that don't fit the kinda-sorta Feudal European setting. Also two chapters on warfare using either Battlesystem or a Quick Resolution system, and three generic castles ranging from a simple fortified tower through to a complex, realistic-looking castle that's been added on to and modified over centuries.

Introduction

Prepare yourself for a voyage back in time.
As you read this book, you will be drawn back through the years to an age when castles dominated the landscape of Europe. Here, amid these mighty stone halls, you will find knights in shining armor and great battles fought by men and women with steel swords and iron nerves.
Welcome to the Age of Chivalry.
I lie this as setting the tone for what will follow. This single-page chapter is a brief introduction to the book and has mostly been covered above. The last section is Using The Castle Guide and specifically notes that DMs can decide how much material to use form this book. it's specifically recommended to those using the (then-new) Complete Fighter's Handbook for the Cavalier and Swashbuckler kits. Tolkien gets a mention (something I feel TSR did sparingly, likely due to legal concerns) with a suggestion that the quick-resolution rules will be useful for those running campaigns with great wars as a focus, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Or, of course, the DM can pull out Battlesystem.
 
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Leonaru

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#2
Something to keep in mind is that this has a very different tone and intended use from the 3rd edition Stronghold Builder's Guide which I feel was much more clearly aimed at a tool for players to sue and ways to make running a construction project interesting. The Castle Guide covers the design and construction, but that's less about a quarter of the book. The opening chapters cover topics including:
Damn, rules lawyering is serious business.


:D
 

MacBalance

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#3
Build 1: Doune Castle:

For the first caslte I'm going to try stating out with these rules, I'm looking at Doune Castle, star of many movies and television shows including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones, Ivanhoe, and others. From what I can see from the linked Wikipedia article, it's a 3-ish story structure (2 shown on the layout picture) with a very sturdy section to the north side of the layout.

To get started, I need to determine some geographic details about the setting we're building our replica Doune castle in. These will contribute to the build process.

Climate Type:
Are we building in the Arctic? Sub-Arctic? Temperate?
Moderate is the '0' point here (actually a modifier of 1, which is average) with too cold and too hot both being bad.
For the warmer side, we have Sub-Tropical and Tropical as options. Maybe if there's interest we can build Doune-in-the-Jungle. Perhaps a coconut plantation.

Geography:
This setting is essentially what type of ground we're building on: The earth itself, not the vegetation.
Options include Mountains (High, Moderate, or Low), Foothills, Rolling Hills (the 'Default'), or plains (a flat field... Planet bowling-ball as some 40k players used to term it).

Ground Cover:
Above the dirt, what is growing, if anything.
Scrub represents the default. Grasslands are a bit better, and includes savannas, veldt, and heavily cultivated areas. Various bad options include Forests (light or dense), Jungle, Barren, Desert, and Swamp. Note that there's no sanity checks with the previous two options, so an arctic high-mountain swamp is a viable, if perhaps crazy, location.

Resource Availability:
Our last option to discuss today is a simplification of the ease of obtaining materials and transporting them to the site. This setting has two sub-options:
  • Are the resources distant or nearby?
  • Are the resources good quality or poor quality?


That's it for today Please reply with your thoughts on the Climate Type, Geography, Ground Cover, and Resource Availability for our simulacrum of Doune Castle. Whatever is most liked/most amusing will become canon for this build. :)

Note: I know I tend to update these threads often, but I am trying to put a ruled of no less than 48 hours between Build updates to give time for discussion. More if I fail a save vs. Civ 5, which I've just reinstalled.
 

guachi

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#6
I'm a 2e kinda guy but didn't buy this when it came out. Looking to maybe get it as a pdf or off of ebay so I'm curious as to what your opinion is.
 

neutrondecay

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#7
I vote for building Doune Castle in a semi-realistic location of sub-arctic foothills with scrub.

And try to find a map of the third floor - I seem to recall there's a bottle dungeon (a large oubliette), although it's years since I visited, so maybe that was somewhere else in central Scotland.

nd
 

MacBalance

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#8
Index has a decent pic, if you want a visual:
That's a very greenish-looking scan. I'd say the color is much more of a blue, at least on my copy. With a blue in the interiors that was a TSR design standard for early 2nd edition works (which replaced 1st edition's cruder layout and typography with a two-color design and headers as the default).

I'm a 2e kinda guy but didn't buy this when it came out. Looking to maybe get it as a pdf or off of ebay so I'm curious as to what your opinion is.
It's a hard book to recommend, to be honest. I like it, but I admit much of that is nostalgia. The castle design rules are a bit vague in some ways, so while they're better than the DM just making things up, they're somewhat rough. For example, they're really only focused on 'structural' or defensive-grade walls, with interior walls often being free or hand-waved. Then again, after a certain point charging for a 10' section of interior wall seems petty if you're already looking at 100 feet of 30 foot tall stone walls that can keep an army out.

I think I and my friends got this based on "Build castles, cool!" but I ended up thinking the tournament and setting stuff covered in chapter 3 was interesting.

I vote for building Doune Castle in a semi-realistic location of sub-arctic foothills with scrub.

And try to find a map of the third floor - I seem to recall there's a bottle dungeon (a large oubliette), although it's years since I visited, so maybe that was somewhere else in central Scotland.
I'll have to dig for maps a bit more. I think this castle is a good fit due to being a relatively sane size and nothing too weird. My first step si to convert the plans I have to a D&D style 10' grid.

Chapter 1: The Feudal Setting

As has been discussed, the first few chapters are more about describing a setting more than anything else. I feel this book takes the stance that castles look like castles, even if we're in a world with flying dragons and such that might make traditional castle designs less useful. That may be one reason for so much material in this book that is only indirectly castle related. I also wouldn't be surprised if some of this material was at least considered for the 2nd edition DMG.

Merging Fact and Fantasy essentially asks Dungeon masters to consider if a campaign is to be historically accurate or not. Historically accurate is referenced by invoking "the great Roman and Biblical epics we've all watched on TV?" which seems a little underwhelming of a reference source. Fantastic campaigns are noted as drawing more from Excalibur and Conan the Barbarian.

Considering in place, I wonder if there was an intentional decision to reference TV and movies over books based on the expected audience. Did older 1st edition veterans care about books like this, or was this passage aimed at younger readers new to the game?

The text does note that 'fantastic' has degrees of magic-ness. Spectrum is the word we tend to use today for this. The 'average' AD&D campaign is described as being in the middle between a strict historical setting and a world where magic is omnipresent in everyone's lives.

I do like any discussion of 'sliders' in a system like D&D that doesn't have a definitive setting. The section ends with a reminder that having fun is the goal, and there are no wrong answers as to game design.

Following this we have a section titled Notes on Campaign Politics in which the idea of a political campaign is briefly discussed. This section does state, albeit vaguely, the common idea that D&D campaigns evolve as levels increase. Here it's more about the idea that low-level characters are generally uninvolved with politics, but may get drawn in as they rise in levels. At higher levels government attention is almost inevitable. We are also reminded to keep in mind that PCs might not necessarily be on good terms with the nobility.

Nobility rule seems implied, which leads to the next section, Feudal Society in which a very broad overview of this system of rule is covered. I'm summarizing what's here, and keeping my own opinions out of the discussion at this point.

Essentially, it's described as a hierarchy of lords and vassals. The lord grants land to vassals, who work the land. The Lord is paid with taxes and promises of military service. The vassals then have peasants and serfs of their own who do all the real work. :) Serfs expect to cover their needs and be protected by their local noble.

The feudal system works well so long as everyone in it recognizes their own responsibilities and the rights of others.
Ana analogy to a pyramid is made, with the idea that a pyramid is a strong structure with a single 'cap' (the king) and layers of nobles, down to the broad base with many peasants. The layers support and reinforce each other. The value of land is noted as well, with much of the power of kings coming from owning vast tracts of land.

Next is a brief overview of Social Classes:

  • Serfs are noted as being free workers, explicitly not slaves. There's some legal status and protections, althoguh these may be ignored in less enlightened areas.
  • Yeoman are landowners, albeit small ones. Usually just a small farm for the Yeoman and his family,, with the requirment that loyalty and tribute be paid to the local lord each year.
  • Tradesmen are noted as the 'middle class' and include "common laborers, lesser craftsmen, and small businessmen" that are reasonably well-off, but don't own any serious amount of land.
  • Guildsmen are groups of artisans and specialists banded together to allow their small amount of political power be combined and focused. An amusing D&D-ism is the note that guilds may function similar to "the thieves' guild which is so much a part of many AD&D game campaigns."
  • Chivalrics: Lowest ranking nobility, knights and barons who administer land for a higher-ranking noble.
  • Nobility includes titles such as Count, Ducek, Earl, or Marquis and admnister large regions. They're the direct vassals of the King, but don't have direct blood ties to the throne.
  • The Royal Family do have blood ties to the current ruler and are in line for the throne. The succesion law as described is simply that the throne goes to the first-born male, with no notes abotu some of the more interesting succession laws that have popped up historically.
  • The Imperial Family might be over the Royal Family. Empires are notes as rare and usually formed by conquest, although a unifying holy war is mentioned as an alternative.

By the way, I wasn't actively checking, but noticed at least two typos in this section. Surprising, as TSR was generally quite good about this kind of thing.

This is a pretty simplistic overview. I got into Crusader Kings II a while back (a computer game that makes Civilization look very simplistic at times.) which models succession with a variety of options based of various historical precedent. Some dynasties might have Gavelkind, where adult males split up the kingdom. Ultimogeniture is a weird one, with the youngest inheriting everything. And then there's various schemes involving voting or declaring... And that's before we consider the gender options, with rare options to make female rulers a bit more valid of an option.

Back to D&D, this is a workable, if very simplistic, overview. I feel like it's restating a kind of 'fairy tale legality' point of view, if that makes sense. It's a workable base, I guess, but leaves a lot of the interesting stuff for those willing to dig deeper. I assume the alter Birthright setting delved into some of this deeper.

Next up is Members of the Court which presumes the stated 'default' D&D level of magic and fantasy by adding a Lord High Wizard to the court's officers.

Something to consider is that this has been a total background chapter so far. The next few sections have some rules content (mainly level requirements for certain positions), but this is mostly background material, something I feel TSR later decided didn't sell well. In general, there's no "heavy" rules content until Chapter 3, which covers tournaments.
 
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MacBalance

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#9
So... Members of the Court

Again, I feel like this is taking a very general stance, providing a template for a royal court that is probably not historically accurate to anything, but has a basic feel that works within the expected media and pop culture frame of references.

There's a list of the roles within the court, which is defined as a noble's trusted advisors. I like the use of the term 'modular' for the way patterns rate repeated throughout the noble hierarchy. Esentially, any 'level' of the nobility may have any or all of the court positions filled.

  • Lord High Chamberlain: Controls access to the lord.
  • Lord High Chancellor: 'Absolute head of the civil service' that runs most of the government.
  • Lord High Justice: Runs the legal system, including both judges and town militia.
  • Lord High Marshal: Head of the military. Suggested as an early contact for player characters.
  • Lord High Inquisitor: Seems a bit setting-specific, but this is the spymaster. I'd prefer the title 'spymaster' as a general term: in fact, I'm not sure if the 'Lord High' prefixes are really needed or if the text could've used more generic terms. Spies and counterspies are noted as necessary and common.
  • Lord High Wizard: Presumably a fanatstic addition to the court, the Lord High Wizard is identified as a spellcaster in service to a lord as well as a sign of wealth, because it is a D&D trope that wizards are expensive. I like the note that smaller domains might only be able to afford a low-level wizard, but since the implied setting has magic as a rarity this could still be impressive. (A fun idea is that the PCs travel to a new area and the local Lord HIgh Wizard is built up as a fearsome wizard... Who then turns out to be an illusionist of lower level than the PCs, desperately trying to keep up the impression of being powerful while also keeping some sort of wards in place (cue the PCs being dragooned into support).
  • Lord High Chaplain: Religious leader. This is definitely setting-specific and seems to imply a system where there's a state-recognized faith or at least pantheon. I could see this role varying widely by setting.

Next we have A Note About Magic which reviews the place of magic int he setting. It's mentioned that some kingdoms might consider magic rare and exotic, and treat it with superstition, but even kingdoms with more common magic might treat practitioners with awe. The message seems to be that magic shouldn't be common or everyday in most settings.

After a brief discussion of magic, we have The Role of the Church for the divine side of the spell casting club. This section recommends the Complete Priest Handbook and researching holy orders from the middle ages. The last aspect is a little weird. I feel like CPH at least acknowledges that religion in D&D is a weird topic and real-world material can only inform a fantasy setting in limited ways.

A big concept is that the organization of holy orders will often mirror political systems. This feels like an oversimplification to me: I thought (but could certainly be wrong) that many Christian churches may have taken some loose hierarchy ideas from feudal systems, but the more common origin for both is the Roman Empire.

We get a list of social status, but for the church:

  • Lay Brethren: Not official members of the church hierarchy, but the pious volunteers that can be expected to assist the church as needed. Unpaid, or paid only a token. Might provide services for the church or similar.
  • Acolytes: Students of the faith. Do boring work. Assumed to be a 1st level priest, but with less fighting abilities. An interesting note here is thatthe assumption is that PC clerics are members of a holy fighting order, a subset of the alrger church.
  • Postulant: An experienced acolyte (or acolytelyte. Another typo.) Considered to be a 3rd level priest and similar to yeoman as far as society in greater society. Often assigned 1-6 acolytes.
  • Priest: A 5th or 6th level cleric and equal to a townsmen. Generally assumed to areas where they can provide guidance and service to the community.
  • Curate: A 'manager' of 1-6 churches. (I'm noting a lot of 1-6 (or 1d6) ranges in this section.) Considered equivilent to a guildsmen and has a lot of power over the populace. It's noted that a lord that can't afford a Lord High Wizard or Lord HIgh Chaplain might lean ona curate for support in a crisis. No level mentioned.
  • Dean: Equivilent to a knight or other chivalric class memeber. Considered equivilent to a cleric of level 9 or 10. This is noted as a powerful rank within the church.
  • Primate: the second highest rank in the church and an 11th or 12th level cleric. They're ranked similarly to nobles and are very powerful in political power.
  • High Priest: The top of the church hierarchy, and absolute ruler of a faith. No less than 13th level, and generally given the same respect as a member of the royal family.
  • Patriarch: The Patriarch is the 'empire' layer equivilent. Essentially, a high priest selected to rule the other high priests. At least a 15th level spellcaster and a big deal.

In general, I feel like this hierarchy is a vaguely Catholicism-inspired guideline that doesn't apply to a lot of settings. It seems to assume a monotheistic faith (which doesn't fit most if any of the published D&D settings) with a hierarchy that may be limited to a single nation or a collection of nations. I don't know if this is the right place for it, but I'd have liked to see suggestions to handle the common D&D situation where multiple churches of purely the 'good' gods might be in power in a kingdom.
 

Leonaru

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#10
In general, I feel like this hierarchy is a vaguely Catholicism-inspired guideline that doesn't apply to a lot of settings. It seems to assume a monotheistic faith (which doesn't fit most if any of the published D&D settings) with a hierarchy that may be limited to a single nation or a collection of nations. I don't know if this is the right place for it, but I'd have liked to see suggestions to handle the common D&D situation where multiple churches of purely the 'good' gods might be in power in a kingdom.
At least they keep the titles strictly Christian this time (and almost Catholic, even if the Patriarch is more an Orthodox title) and don't mix in Buddhist titles. ;)
 
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