Strongholds of Fantasy

Castles, Dungeons, and other Fantasy Lore...

Components of a Stronghold


Gate House - the main gate entrance to the stronghold. It can be a large double door or a portculis. The main gate can be either part of a large tower or a gate house.



Walls – there are outer walls and inner walls of a stronghold, the giant stone fences that surround the perimeter of one’s castle and are the second line of defense; since the enemy must cross any obstacles in the scenery first. 

The outer walls connect guard towers together with the main gate and other structures.  Sentries are posted on top of them to fortify the defenses further.  Unless the landscape takes up part of the perimeter as a barrier to the enemy, the outer wall should surround the inner buildings that consist of the whole castle.  

The inner walls connect the keep, other towers, and functional buildings and serve as a third line of defense against a seizing enemy. 


 Gates - openings in walls to a stronghold and usually have one main gate.  They are covered by a heavy wooden door and sometimes reinforced with a portcullis.


Towers – pillars of stone with various rooms and levels that serve as independent structures, a keep, or connect wall segments together, guard tower, between the inner and outer perimeter of defense. 

Within the inner section of a stronghold their main function is to support the residents that live there, lodging, storage.  Their roofs may be pitched and covered with thatch or shingles. 

In the outer section their purpose is primarily defense, guard towers.  Usually these towers are flat and spacious to hold a small guard shack or support a large weapon, such as a catapult. 



Guard towers - structures for sentries to protect strategic positions on the outer wall or the main gate.  Another name for guard tower is barbican. 



Keep - the main tower of all strongholds and home to a royal or noble family.  It stands tall over all other buildings and areas surrounding it and is the largest and the most fortified structure in the courtyard. Positioned in the center or rear of any castle, it is designed to be the last line of defense if all others are breached. 





 Courtyard - the yard within the inner walls of the stronghold, which can be simply earth or covered in evenly placed stone.  Every building within the inner walls is adjacent to a wall and positioned somewhere inside courtyard.  Unless certain structures share a common connection, the courtyard provides the only access to them at their base.  The main gate allows entry to the courtyard from the outside of the stronghold.  The simplest courtyard is only one level; however it can have more than one as long as there are stairs or a pathway connecting it. 


Functional buildings - buildings that help support its inhabitants with the upkeep of the stronghold or provide a service.  For example, the stables is such a building in which it shelters horses. How many of these buildings a stronghold has depend on the needs of its inhabitants and the desired design dictated by the ruler.  The most basic buildings any castle has are the great hall, specialty towers, chapel, stables, smithy, barracks, armory. 


 The great hall is the largest building where inhabitants and visitors gather for important meetings, celebrate festive occasions or simply dine.  It has a pitched roof and many windows to allow light in.  The specialty towers can stand alone in a courtyard or be connected to walls, not necessarily at corning wall junctions.  Varying in size and shape, they usually serve to house various things.  For example some castles might have a wizard’s keep, a dragon keep, or a tower to hold servants.  The chapel is a modest sized building where people gather for worship services.  It has a pitched roof, steeple, and has stained glass windows. 



The stables are where the horses are kept and tended to by the servants.  It is a shorter building than a chapel with a pitched roof. 


 The smithy is where weapons are forged, horse shoes are made, and armor is shaped.  In fact any metalwork that needs tending is done here.  This building is usually open in the front. 




The barracks house the castle guards and can be in a tower or modest sized building. One is usually positioned near the main gate. 




The armory holds the weapons the guards will use and is sometimes connected to the barracks. If it is a separate building it is not far from where it is located. 


Fortifications - defenses setup to hinder an enemy from infiltrating the stronghold.  Other than positions on the castle walls for the guards to use, there are basic protective devices can be constructed to further secure it as follows: moat, portcullis, drawbridge. 


 A moat is a deep trench that encircles the perimeter beyond the castle walls.  It is usually filled water, but can be with another liquid, and works in conjunction with a drawbridge.  Simple in their design they prevent invaders from tunneling under the castle walls for the water will flood them and collapse any attempt in digging. 


A portcullis is a metal or wooden grate or a combination of both materials that drops down to secure the main gate.  In the event the drawbridge cannot be raised in time, it prevents intruders from passing through and advancing into the courtyard. 



 A drawbridge is a large set of wooden planks that can be lowered by rope or chain to allow crossing over a gap in the land between the castle and the mainland.  The gap is usually a moat and can be a space between to land masses as well.  When raised it serves as a door, until needed for entering or leaving the castle. 



Decorations - a fun series of elements added to a stronghold and can vary depending on what the builder wants.  In the courtyard such pieces can accent an otherwise dull flooring.  Decorations can consist of a well, fountain or pool, stone statues, a garden, and others.