Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hämeen linna April 7, 2009

This one was built in the late 13th century, and was in continuous use for nearly 700 years as it served as a prison as late as 1953. These days it's a museum (and other parts of the larger complex now serve as a prison museum and artillery museum, neither of which I visited). This makes it a bit crappy as a 'cool medieval castle' because it's got signs, lights, and all that modern junk. They're actually renovating it to try to make it look like an old castle again, but it's so hopelessly not. But in some ways, Häme Castle was more inspiring as far as some game ideas than Raseborg Castle.

First, a shot of the water in Hämeenlinna (the town) outside the castle.

Here is a scale model of the castle, displayed within the museum:

The outside of the place:

Inside the courtyard:

Now to the inside... I couldn't resist taking a photo of this:

This is the shitter. It's basically a hole that empties out into the moat.

The big problem with taking pictures (and there are many I considered too boring to transfer from the camera) is deciding whether or not to use the flash. These rooms all had electric lights (as you can see on the right), but not using the flash made things dark. In this case, the effect was cool:

At other points it was just too dark. But using the flash often made things too bright. This next room was originally accessible only through this hatch in the ceiling (we'd entered through a later-installed door). The idea was that theft was more difficult if someone couldn't just walk in and out of the room.

All of the castle stairs (not counting the modern additions) were very steep and very narrow. Even with the flash you see how dark it is below.

The next two pictures show the effects of 700 years of remodeling. I got ideas to enrich the background of a few dungeons I have in mind, which will either confuse or help the players better understand some clues.

A trap door! Couldn't resist.

I bet you thought for all these years that the number keys on maps were for referee reference. No! The rooms really have numbered labels!

My lovely assistant Maria shows us how tiny the passages are. She's maybe 5'7" and her head is touching the ceiling. That passage isn't 3' wide. Maybe this 1 square = 10' standard is BS. :P

This passage had no light of its own, but there was a lamp next to me where I took the photo. This looked like one of the many dead ends in the castle. It wasn't until actually walking down to the end that you could see that it turns to the left. The flash on this one betrays that a bit, but I'm telling you, in person, you couldn't just look down the passage and see the turn. The fact that the passages were so narrow probably helped that effect, but I'm rethinking allowing my players to look down passages at intersections and see turns even if they are within the range of torchlight.

That's Maria helping out again. The 50 cent piece is roughly the size of a US quarter, and those 17th century coins are significantly larger. I'd guess earlier coins were larger. 10 per pound looks slightly less ludicrous.

There were many more rooms, but they were either too full of modern stuff, or uniformly just empty rocky rooms with no really cool angles (and the ones that did had too many modern railings and such that just killed the effect). Even the chapel and other come-and-sit-down rooms had modern chairs. They have some work to do to make this a real medieval castle museum.

We did pick up a book about castles around the Baltic Sea... so there might be more of these little photojournals to come in the months ahead. We'll be hitting Turku and the castle there in May, as soon as we come back from Rome (which may allow for some relevant photography of its own!).


  1. Those are some thought provoking pictures. Seeing just how cramped some of those spaces are makes me... claustrophobic.

  2. Nice. Those small tunnels would be a crappy place to have to fight goblins & ghouls. If I were an adventurer going through a castle like that I'd make sure to bring a spiked tower shield some long daggers and a collapsible spear. And lots of meat shields... I mean hirelings...

  3. Cool pics, thanks for sharing!

    A comment on the coins: in the mid 1400s, large silver strikes in Germany led to the development of the Thaler coins. Thalers ranged from 1 oz to a full pound. (Note in troy wt, 12 oz = 1 lb.) The 1 oz thaler quickly became the "standard trade coin" across Europe and eventually became the basis for the Spanish (and later US) Dollar. So the large coins are very historical.

  4. How am I supposed to get my awl pike in there?

  5. Maybe this 1 square = 10' standard is BS.

    This is why my standard is 1 square = 5'. Ten foot wide halls are roomy even by today's standards!

    Nice point on spotting turns and side-passages. I'll have to remember that.

    And as kaeosdad said, suddenly tower shields (and pole-arms!) make a lot more sense in dungeon environments!

  6. Those photos are very awesome, especially the dark one of what I presume was a dungeon or water gate.

    I will certainly be stealing these.