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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses Pay What You Want
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.

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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
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