The other week my wife and I visited the historic English town of Chester. It was an early morning jaunt along the ancient city walls that generated a few lovely images. I wanted to talk about how those images inspire ideas about my fantasy adventure gaming.
We came across two doors and this was the first one. I love the wooden, studded door set in the frame of the stone tower. It invites me to open it. I see the lock and I want to pick it – not that I have a clue about picking locks, but hey. This door stands on the wall as you pass a watch tower which has another door above this one, atop some stone steps. It was a moment of profound dungeoneering recognition for me… despite being outside in broad daylight.
Watchtower. This one stands over the canal that runs beneath – deep down in the canyon below – and once looked out over the town. The view is partially blocked by a huge tree now, presumably because we don’t need the line of sight to be clear anymore. But the Victorian additions are interesting – the railings and windows. The door I showed above can be seen on the left, at the bottom of the watchtower.
I love crenulations. These ones run along the wall above the river, high above the ground below. A little further along you can see how high the walls stand.
I was struck by how useful the walls are in the defence of the town. Heading along this wall in the direction we are facing you will arrive in the centre of the city within 5 minutes of brisk walking. It cuts through the heart of town, above the hustle of business below. Soldiers can be imagined patrolling and, in times of alarm, running to defend the city. I was in awe, a gentle admiration for the ingenuity of human engineering.
Approaching one of the gatehouses, the steps rise up over the arch of a street wide enough for two or three lanes of traffic. Imagine defending that archway from attackers who have – against the odds – ascended the walls. It’s a study in architecture designed for defence. How can I use this in my fantasy towns and cities?
One final door. At the top of a gatehouse, I think. It’s inviting, isn’t it? Double doors too. No wider than the regular door but perhaps implying a storage space, a place wherein you might need the full width of the doorways to access beyond. No lock and yet seemingly nobody dares to open it.
For me, these images are suggestive of the medieval landscape that inspires the adventure gaming we enjoy. I think of city walls and I rarely see them running through the heart of the town. I suppose that Chester expanded beyond the original walls as it grew. I am minded to think of these kinds of developments as I map my own fantasy realms.
I wonder what ideas spring into your mind. What can you take from our morning walk along the walls? Feel free to comment if you have ideas.