One of our backers sent me the following in private email.
- Keep Size
When I saw the size of the ACKS keep (80’x60’x60’ = 288,000 cubic feet), I was startled by the sheer immensity of it. The volume seemed a bit large to me. One thing I’ve noticed about keeps in my own research is how small most keeps are. I found full information on some and on others got enough information from one or two dimensions to speculate on the remainder based on pictures or floor plans:
Pembroke (Round Keep): 51’ diameter, 75’ height = 154,804 cubic feet
Dinefwr (Round Keep): 46’ diameter, 29’ height = 47,560 cubic feet (was taller but upper floors were removed at some point)
Haverfordwest (Square Keep): 46’x33’, 40’ height = 59,150 cubic feet (height is speculated)
Narbeth (Round Keep): 42’ diameter, 60’ height = 84,119 cubic feet (height is speculated)
Launceston (Round Keep): 45’ diameter, 60’ height = 95,426 (height is estimate)
Chepstow (Square Keep): 40’x80’, 75’ height = 240,000 (all dimensions are estimates)
Raglan (Hexagonal Keep): 50’x50’, 75’ height = 187,500 (all dimensions are estimates)
Tower of London’s White Tower (Square Keep): 118’x107’, 113’ height = 1,136,340 cubic feet
Rochester (Square Keep): 70’x70’, 113’ height = 553,700 (tallest surviving Norman keep in Britain)
York (Squarish Keep): 79’x79’, 50’ height = 312,050 (height is estimate
So the conclusion based on this is that I’m a little wrong in my assumptions. Some of the keeps are as massive, or more massive than the ones in ACKS. That being said, these keeps are in some of the grandest castles in Britain while many of the smaller castles have smaller keeps ranging from about 50-150,000 cubic feet.
Of course all of this may be largely irrelevant. You have a fantasy game setting and fantasy does have the tendency to exaggerate real life.
- Keeps as the Last Line of Defense
When most people (myself included) think about medieval castles, it is natural to think of the classic square keep as the last line of defense. However, square keeps (and keeps period, for that matter) only represent one of the earlier stages of castle development.
Early castles, before 950 or so, were generally only made of wood. They were usually either motte-and-baileys (which I’ll assume you’ve heard of) or ringworks (a central courtyard enclosed with a strong bank and outer ditch. These may or may not have had wooden keeps. It is also my understanding that most later castles also began as wooden fortifications which were gradually converted to stone. For example, during the Norman conquest, pretty much all of his castles (50+) were built of wood. Many later ones (Tower of London and Warwick Castle for example) eventually were converted to stone while others were abandoned.
Square stone keeps generally began to appear in the mid-11th century. Around 1100 shell keeps began to be introduced. These were often a rebuilding of wooden ringworks to stone. The builder simply built a circular curtain wall with all of the keep buildings around the inside of the shell. It was a much cheaper technique but, as it wasn’t enclosed, may have been more vulnerable. I don’t think I’ve seen shell keeps in any of the larger castles.
By about 1150, round and polygonal keeps became more popular. This is because square keeps had more limited fields of fire and their corners were far more vulnerable to undermining.
In the 13th century, keeps were disappearing altogether. Over time, castle gatehouses grew larger and more sophisticated (probably because they were the most vulnerable part of the fortress). All of this effort gradually made gatehouses the most impenetrable part of a castle. They generally involved two huge D-shaped towers flanking a central gate. At this point, lords stopped building keeps and began to live in their gatehouses instead. The philosophy here was that, should the invader break through the gate itself and reach the inner ward, they are now surrounded by the defenders who are in the gatehouse itself and on the ramparts. The inner ward became a killing field. Of the castles Edward I built during his invasion of Wales (1276-1295), for example, only the first two (Builth and Flint) had keeps.
- Missing Pieces
The ACKS building options felt limited to me. Some of the choices felt limited while other common castle features simply don’t exist on the list.
- Keeps of different size. See topic 1.
- Round Keeps and Shell Keeps. See topic 2.
- D-Towers. These weren’t just used in gatehouse as discussed in 2, but were very common High Middle Ages features. Beaumaris, for example, had several.
- Square Towers. ACKS only has round stone towers, but square towers sort of coincide with square keeps while round towers are more comperable to round keeps (or no keeps).
- Wall Thickness. Frankly, your 10’ thick walls are probably a good general thickness number. However, some walls were much thinner. The outer walls at Beaumaris, for example were probably only 5-6’ thick. On the other hand, the massive inner walls of Beaumaris were more like 20’.
- Wooden Structures. Wooden ramparts exist on the ACKS list, but nothing for wooden towers or a wooden keep.
My question for our backers is whether anyone [Aldarron?] has pricing worked out for the above-mentioned features of castles. If so that would be very helpful and would avoid me having to go back for more research. Thanks!