Rural Realms Architecture (Part Three)

By Ed Greenwood

"Aha!" Azoun exclaimed, in sudden triumph. "We'll descend yon downspout!"

"Oh?" The Dragon Queen eyed the feature her husband was grandly pointing to with deep suspicion. "Just how quickly will we descend 'yon downspout'?"

Roofs exist to keep what's under them sheltered from rain, snow, and dew, from the worst of the wind and cold, and to keep out climbing (and, in jungles, slithering) vermin and birds. Most roofs in Faerûn leak, some of them copiously and in many places, so either shedding or gathering rainwater is a very real concern.

Water is collected in downspout barrels, "plungepours" (ponds dug where roofs drain off to), or even (in many urban settings where buildings can be made strong enough to support the great weight of stored water) in rooftop cisterns. Waterdeep is about the most northerly city where cisterns can be seen; the long frozen months, and the problems they bring of having huge, heavy blocks of ice up on roofs, prevent cisterns being popular farther north. Collected rainwater is used for washing, cooking, or even drinking.

The Moonsea and Sword Coast North log steadings and holds usually lack downspouts, though they may have either barrels or plungepours. At the lowest points of their roofs (the "downward" corners, plus sometimes in the middle of a roof, added when age has caused the roof to sag in the middle), they have "tongues." Tongues (usually called "corner tongues" because of their location) are projecting wooden logs with shallow channels carved down their upper surfaces, that serve to carry water away from buildings, in attempts to prevent flooding inside. Where leaking or overflowing rainbarrels would cause such dampness, crude troughs made of hollowed-out logs are often rigged up to drain away excess water from the barrels.

In cities, grander stone buildings usually have roofs of tile, tar-sealed slate, or even metal-plate-over-log (plates that overlap like scale mail, and are sealed with pitch), descending to metal gutters ("eavestroughs" to many real-world modern folk) that channel water to lower roof corners. There, ornate stone "gargoyles" (spouts) project water out from the building like the aforementioned tongues, or spit water directly into drainpipes. Such stout, elaborate stone structures are almost unknown outside cities, except in large, long-established temples and abbeys (or in buildings erected very near quarries).

Where hard freezes are rare or unknown, in the warm South of Faerûn, drainpipes tend to be sections of cylindrical tile made with a flaring flange at one end so the section "above" can slide into it. Each joint where these drain-tiles meet is sealed with a mud and lime mix (cement) to keep it from leaking; it's not uncommon to have to reseal such joints annually.

In castles all across Faerûn, drainpipes tend to be very large stone-lined shafts, made waterproof with pitch or cement. The large size of the shafts prevents ice from blocking them entirely or at least gives workers with scraping-rods room to chip at ice that does threaten to choke off a pipe.

Buildings in cities have drainpipes and gutters made of either cast iron, hollowed-out stone sections sealed with cement, or (on the most cheaply made buildings) hollowed-out logs or bound-together log sections (sealed with cement or pitch). Wooden pipes seldom last more than a single season without preservative spells, no matter how thickly they're tarred.

The grand dwellings of nobility and the wealthiest merchants have drainpipes either of sculpted stone, or more often, of ornately cast, fanciful metal pipes, shaped on their outsides to resemble giant scaled serpents, dragons, rows of dolphins swallowing each other's tails, and the like. The pipes, either of iron or most often of various colorfully hued alloys, are actually lengths that bolt together and are sealed with pitch or cement inside. They tend to rust quickly, and they get very brittle in winter cold, but they can be resealed for some years by means of long daubing-paddles reached up or down them from a removed section.

Tavern-tales and adventurers' lurid yarns to the contrary, very few external drainpipes are strong enough to take the weight of climbing thieves, lovers, eloping or fleeing folk, servants bearing secret messages, or eavesdropping kings.

Chimneys in the Realms are almost always of fieldstone, mortared to prevent high windows toppling or collapsing them. In some Southern lands (such as the Tashalar), chimneys are built first, before a building is erected around them, and made of stones that partially melt into a glassy, sealed surface on the inside when subjected to very high temperatures. So the chimney is raised, a fire is built in its hearth that's carefully tended to slowly rise to very high temperatures, and then just as slowly brought back down again (to avoid cracking). The result is a self-sealed chimney not very susceptible to the "chimney fires" (where accumulated soot takes light and burns very hot) that often consume wooden dwellings in the Northlands. Please note that many drafty buildings in the North that have dirt or cobblestone floors (such as most warehouses) lack proper chimneys entirely; if warmth or cooking-heat is needed, metal braziers are set up and charcoal and kindling are burned, with doors and hatches being opened if the smoke gets too bad.

Only the largest "grand hearths" in the kitchens of great castles and palaces have chimneys large enough inside for an adult human to climb or fall down.

"Ah, yes, a fence," King Azoun pointed out, gesturing to the hedge fence, which ran through an otherwise featureless field.

Queen Filfaeril merely stared at him for a moment.

"Let us see about leaving this place, shall we?" he added quickly.

Farm fences at their crudest are simply stumps and stones gathered and heaped in a line. Often such barriers go wild with neglect (into a hedge of scrub trees and tangled shrubs), or they are encouraged to grow into tall, nigh-impenetrable hedges by planting thornbushes, especially edible berry-bushes, along them. "Sword-sag" fences are also common (in modern real-world terms, these are often known as "split-rail" fences): timbers placed in zig-zag fashion, ends overlapping like interwoven fingers, so posts aren't necessary.

So water rushes down, smoke rises up, and thus made wiser, we move on in the next column to glance at what features are to be found in most villages. Which also tells us where Vangerdahast's new teleportation orb will be taking the King and Queen of Cormyr. Lucky folk.

© 2006 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.