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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses $1.99 $1.33
Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 04:31:24
The first volume in the Castle Builder series provided the basic rules for designing and constructing buildings, as well as an overview of the role of fortifications. This second volume focuses on two specific types of building: inns and secure (but not truly fortified) wealthy households.

After the introduction (reprinted from volume 1), the book gives a general discussion of the roles of these buildings and considerations of their design and how they can be described in game. This is generally helpful if you're thinking about designing and placing such things, if a little repetitive in places.

This is followed by floorplans and details for an inn and a mansion house. The plans are drawn with the basic version of CC2, which is perfectly fine for their intended use, although they aren't top-of-the-range battle maps.

The descriptions that go with them are suited to their purpose, and include some useful ideas for what you might want to put in your own designs. Each room is accompanied with a summation of the design cost, calculated using the rules in volume 1, all of which is summarised and totalled for each building at the end - very useful, considering this is essentially a design book.

There are a couple of problems, however. Firstly, the Castle Builder series was clearly originally intended as a single book with seven chapters, rather than as a ten volume series, and somebody has forgotten to change some of the text accordingly. Thus, the introduction to this book states it has seven chapters (it doesn't), and there are references in the text referring to "chapter one" that are apparently meant to refer to Volume one.

Secondly, the actual design of the buildings, as shown in the floorplans isn't quite up to the level of thought that has gone into the accompanying text. The floor plans don't show windows (why they probably should) but, even so, it's obvious that a number of rooms can't have any, because they have no external walls - something that often seems at odds with their intended purpose.

On a similar note, the inn does seem implausibly large. For example, the innkeeper's bedroom alone has three times the floorspace of my entire house in the real world. I know I'm not rich, but that seems rather excessive, and the rest of the inn is on a similar scale. The mansion is, after all, a mansion, so no such issue there, although I'd also have liked to see something the size of a real-world "manor house" as well (say, 6,000 square feet), which, being smaller than what we do get wouldn't have taken up much of the book.

Having said that, for $2, and 22 pages (excluding the cover) this is a good guide to the general concept of imposing houses/inns in fantasy, and I'll be buying future volumes in the series.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Roberto d. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/12/2012 21:52:26
As good a read for gaming reasons as for historical and informative reasons. Like the first Castle Builder volume: Strongholds, this goes into good detail about the real reasons for these buildings and how to transfer that into a game setting. I'm not a huge history buff, but I like a good realistic read and this gave good details without getting boring or too techie. As a player since 1st edition I always liked making my character's stronghold once they were high enough level, but never had any good source to help design them realistically, defensible and serviceable. This book is perfect for the new lord or lady or otherdy that wants to setup some good diggs for themselves an their followers, without it having to be an all brick and mortar castle. If you are looking for a superb castle I would suggest checking out volume 1. One thing to note is that because this is mainly used for gaming purposes where a 5'-square is the standard unit of measure, some of the scale of the buildings may seem a bit large by real standards, but a 20' x 20' room is only 16 tiles and rather cozy. Over all a good suppliment and good read, looking forward to the next ones!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Garreth K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2012 12:29:55
I am new to running a campaign; however, the information in this volume has been useful in expanding my potential for an immersive setting. These buildings can be large, but as an example they do house all possible facets of a medieval era building that I can imagine. Other than that, I expect this to help me in creating a good fantasy setting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Douglas S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2012 11:40:35
Short review: Not worth the money.

Detailed review: The page count breaks down as follows: 2 pages for front and back cover, 2 title pages, table of contents page, 2 1/2 pages of art (some half page pieces), a 2 page introduction to the Castle Builder series, 10 pages covering the two sample manors (one is a noble's residence, the other an inn). Four pages are used to describe manor houses.

Manor houses, by this supplement, don't just describe a noble's estate. Any stone building can fall into the category of "manor house." I suppose I can understand this, as a building like an inn located in the wilds would be built with some defenses against local predators (intelligent and unintelligent alike). The GM is instructed to develop the personality, purpose, and perception of the building. This means that an inn is going to have different furnishings than a noble's house, along with different rooms. It did not take an entire page to say this. There are some small bits of useful information here, like describing how an unscrupulous mayor may furnish guests with shoddy bedding while is own is sumptuous; this should give an insight to the type of person the mayor is. Or how windows indicate a relative peaceful building.

From here, we move into some crunchy areas. Infrastructure and Upkeep starts listing costs associated with manor houses. However, this section begins with the amount of time it takes to clean up the construction debris of a newly build manor. But there's no associated mechanic for this. Apparently, it might take 500 weeks to clean up the debris associated with one of the supplied sample buildings (or about 10 years), although the sample building indicates there's a typo, and clean-up takes 1 week per 10,000gp of construction cost, not 1 week per 1000gp. And this provides . . . what? Do PCs get to figure out how much the building cost by looking at how much debris is left to clean up? Or how recently the manor was built? No information is provided.

Upkeep expenses are explained by instructing the reader to see Chapter 1. Except there is no Chapter 1; this publication isn't divided into numbered chapters. And the upkeep expenses don't exist anywhere in this file. I assume what is meant is "Volume 1", which means this part of the book is useless on its own. Some generic information regarding staffing costs and security are provided, as well as some advice regarding manors and military operations. Namely, manors are not strongholds, and shouldn't be treated as such. They offer limited defensive options, and won't stand up well to siege engines. Of course the noble's manor described later houses approximately 70 soldiers. I'm pretty sure there are castles that were held during the Middle Ages with fewer than 70 soldiers.

Finally, we come to the sample manors. The first is an "upscale inn" that is sized 120' by 250'. That's 30,000 square feet on each of its two floors. The "narrow 10' x20' chambers" are the size of a one-car garage. That's not narrow, except when compared to the rest of the building. Ten-foot wide hallways. The largest suite is 40' by 50'. That's 2000 square feet. My three bedroom house isn't that big. I imagine that several forests have to be cut down yearly just to supply the firewood to heat this structure. The construction prices are listed, down to the cost of a wooden door. A summary of costs and construction time is at the end. Apparently, the entire complex needs only 6 people to run it (three to serve patrons, and three for maintenance). During peak times, more workers will be hired. For 60,000 square feet (not including stables or grounds), I'm pretty certain a few more than half a dozen people are required. (Imagine a subdivision of 30 houses, each about 2000 square feet. Do you think that six people can manage it?)

The second building is just as grotesquely overblown. Lavatories are 10' by 20' rooms. I understand that it's supposed to be a noble's house, but that's just over the top.

This document has guaranteed I won't be purchasing the remainder of Skirmsher's City Builder or Castle Builder series.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Diana L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2012 23:07:20
First of all, I have to say that this book was incredibly useful and intelligent. And, for me (because I tend to struggle with most technicalities and figures) it was surprisingly delightful to read considering its specificity in measurements and calculations. Let me explain.

I had read Volume One of this series and found it to be extremely thorough, well-written, and versatile in its adaptability to one’s campaign. I expected “Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses” to be the same. And, in a lot of ways, it is. There is the same painstaking attention to detail—down to the last gold piece for costs—as well as carefully documented maps and myriad suggestions to inspire you on everything from how to design the structure of the building (keeping its occupants and their possibly questionable character morals in mind), plan for its management, and even what to consider when planning its “curb appeal” in view of the building’s main purpose. As “Volume 1: Strongholds” of the series did, the book made me think of the edifices in whole new ways, and this volume is also easily applied.

What I didn’t expect from this volume is to have some real and hearty LOL moments. The author clearly enjoys his work, and through him, you enjoy the read even more so. What could be dry material when it comes to some of the minute details is peppered with tidbits of history, facts, and (my favorite) humor. The owner of one of the buildings in the book is a bit suspect, and apparently given to a bit of spying as his study can “also serve as a point for eavesdropping on an erstwhile private discussion in a ‘private’ space.” This gentleman (I use the term loosely, mind you.) is only happy to accommodate his patrons’ need for storage—“at a price.” I don’t want to spoil this for you, but as you continue to read, you meet other characters who are even more questionable. So, I found this book to be interesting and valuable from a game standpoint AND a real pleasure to read. Because of its versatility, its thoroughness in its explanations, and its engaging style, I recommend it for seasoned gamers and newbies alike. Everyone will gain something from the book because it is very original and meticulous without being too complicated, and because of its charm, it will entertain its experienced readers yet still be less daunting for newcomers. I certainly am looking forward to the release of the next volume in this outstanding series. I highly recommend both volumes and will be keeping an eye out for this author’s work.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Eric S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/27/2012 21:59:12
Vol. 2 Manor Houses is a continuation of and concentration in the information found in Vol. 1 Strongholds. So it is worth noting here that for this information to be fully realized you will need Vol. 1.

This volume details what type of Strongholds fall into the Manor House designation, and then seeks to give a wide number of examples on Personality, Purpose, and Perception of Manor Houses for purposes of the full development of purpose.

Then in the detailed fashion Mr. Balsley has become known for is information concerning such things as Daily Life, Security, War-Time Stance, Offensive & Defensive Capabilities, and Advantages & Disadvantages.

Topping this all off are two examples complete with a synopsis statically detailing the use of the information presented in this series and floor planes.

I personally like the attention to detail and expansive knowledge on the subject matter that Mr. Balsley brings to this book. I would have to have 5+ books from my or the local library to cover this subject matter in this detail. This series of PDFs puts it all at my fingertips in what amounts to one unified work.

I do recommend this and the whole series to anyone who wants to take their hobby to a more disciplined and realistic level.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Mark S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/19/2012 19:15:46
What I liked: This is a good work on the sort of small fortresses likely to be encountered by (or built by) player characters. There are excellent details about the cost of building and the like. There were maps of a manor house and an inn. The description of the manorhouse is likely to be extremely useful for anyone who wants to grab and run a local fortress. It could be dropped into a campaign and used in minutes.

What I didn't like: The maps are computer graphics with standard icons for furniture. A hand drawn map would have been much more compelling and useable. I am not in love with computers as a substitute for artwork.

Overall: This $1.99 price tag for this publiction is exactly right. I gave it a five star rating because it provides a product a DM could actually use. This product delivers exactly what is promised in the sales description.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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