Le Societe de l'Elephante Blanc

GURPS Architecture

by Matt Riggsby
(wombat3 at mindspring dot com)

This is an unofficial, fan-authored supplement for GURPS, the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, 3rd Edition. GURPS Compendium II is strongly recommended for use with these rules and GURPS Vehicles (second edition), or at least a strong familiarity with it, is required. Where they do not conflict with copyrights of Steve Jackson Games, these rules are copyright by Matt Riggsby, March 1997, but may be distributed free of charge. GURPS, GURPS Compendium II, GURPS Ultra-Tech, GURPS Vehicles, and the all-seeing pyramid are registered trademarks of Steve Jackson Games. Ask me no questions and I will volunteer a bare minimum of lies.

Introduction Building a Building Building HT Advice on Buildings Author's Notes
Appendix I: Furniture
Appendix II: List of Files


Desthius, at long last Lord Pasciani, rode past the old man and his young assistant and pulled his horse to a halt at the top to the hill as his companions slowly clattered to a stop behind him. The late-afternoon sun lit the valley and meandering stream below them with a glow like gold and honey. In the weeks since Desthius and his companions had defeated the dark wizard and his demon henchman, and thereafter gone to the capitol to receive their reward, the peasants had cleared away the crushed barns and burned houses. Already the trees felled by the demon's final blow were being put to good use, cut into beams and boards to replace the buildings it had destroyed. Desthius turned to his friends and said in a quiet but carrying voice, "Here."

After a brief silence, Lailana, his former companion-in-arms and new wife ventured, "We came up here for the view?" Aged Venexi, lost as always in his shapeless robes, seemed to shrug.

"No!" Desthius exclaimed. "The castle! This is where we'll build it." He gestured to the elderly man standing a little downhill, who was alternately consulting a sketch and examining the hilltop, and said, "I met Master Karolus at the capitol and engaged him for the project. He has been here but a week, and already he has the plan of the castle laid out." Drawing his sword, he pointed one way and another, following lines marked out on the ground by pegs and twine. "The curtain wall follows the edge of that drop, curving out a little on that side to follow along the point. The road to the main gate will go across the slope and curve back and forth at those large stones. We can place towers so and so in order to provide coverage for the entire hillside, and if we place the main keep here, we'll have a view of the entire valley as far north as Bleison Town. We can have several rooms to ourselves, dearest, and there will even be a tower for your experiments, Venexi."

They sat in silence for a long moment, picturing the massive stoneworks that would soon spring from the hilltop, the vast sweep of whitewashed wall and looming tower that would protects its inhabitants from all but the strongest and most determined attackers. It would be one of the great castles, one that would attract visitors just to view the walls and fill those who saw it with awe for generations to come. Venexi looked around the slope and said, "It's going to cost..."

So your characters have been knighted by the king of the realm and given a generous chunk of land to rule over. It's time for them to build a castle. Or maybe, after years of instigating rebellion against the star empire, it's time to build that hidden asteroid base. How much is it going to cost them? And how long will it take? GURPS Architecture is designed to allow players and GMs to construct buildings at any level of technology, from crude mud huts to force-shielded domes on distant planets. Be warned: building design can be a long and arduous process without much visible payoff, particularly for those with little patience for bookkeeping. But for those bent on empire-building or even a little bit of economic development, it is very important to know how much a castle, an inn, or a house will cost and how long it will take to build it. This will require a lot of number crunching. The problem is that buildings are composed of large numbers of a few very simple elements such as walls, windows, and staircases, which may become tedious to map out and will almost certainly become tedious to measure and perform calculations on. Unlike vehicles, which are limited by any number of factors (body size or strength, desired speed, desired accessories, etc.), buildings are limited only by available funds, available technology, building space, and the skill of the architect. On the other hand, if your campaign has reached the stage where characters are becoming concerned with building their own home, this system will allow accurate and detailed construction of almost any kind of building.

For those familiar with the first edition of these rules, GURPS Preindustrial Architecture, be aware that this edition is heavily revised. First, it covers the full range of technology, not just TLs 0 through 4. Modern skyscrapers and ultra-tech buildings are now possible. Second, a lot of the more complex details have been removed. While I pride myself on the completeness of detail in the first edition, I decided that most people really don't need to know, for example, how much ashlar a Medieval mason could produce in a day, nor should they have to incorporate that knowledge in their building designs. If you do want to know, you can consult the first edition, but I have collapsed a lot of that complexity into the current, simpler rules. Third, I have adopted the Vehicles (second edition) building order. Rather than having a completely unique set of rules, I felt it best to use existing rules structures as much as possible, making it more familiar and thereby easier to use. Since it is compatible, it is also far shorter than it might otherwise be. A great deal of equipment in Vehicles can be used in buildings built with this system, so I have not bothered to reproduce those items here. GURPS Vehicles is strongly recommended for use with these rules, particularly for modern and high-tech buildings.

Thanks for this project are due to: my fellow members of Z-Team (consisting at that point largely of Bill Ayers, Steve Drevik, Allen Hsu, Barbara Schmucker, and Tim Van Beke) for asking me how much a castle costs, thereby kicking off the project; various members of GURPSnet for prodding me into doing this revised edition; the gang at CERN for inventing the World Wide Web and thereby providing me with a decent source of information; Moe's Used Books and the libraries of the University of California at Berkeley, Boston University, Brandeis University, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; and sixty imaginary Amish farmers and their families for help in reality-checking.

Vehicles and Architecture

While these rules follow a process similar to that of Vehicles, there are significant differences in results and relevant characteristics. For example, while vehicular components are rated for weight, cost and volume, architectural elements have only cost and volume. The weight of a building is theoretically calculable, but irrelevant for most game purposes. Costs are also, on the surface, very different. Building structure costs are about a tenth of the cost of vehicle bodies of the same TL. This corresponds roughly to Very Cheap, Light materials, but the analogy is not exact. Because buildings are firmly planted in the ground, they don't have to be built to the more exacting standards of vehicles. However, the average building is much larger than the average vehicle, and many also need to be quite thick, increasing the costs considerably. Certain aspects of design are also handled somewhat differently. Where vehicular armor adds DR alone, building "armor" (called fortification) adds somewhat to DR, but increases HT far more.

Some types of buildings are better built with Vehicles than with these rules. Specifically, orbiting and free-floating space stations are more properly built with Vehicles rules than with these architectural rules. These rules are designed to represent stationary structures supported by solid ground. A space station is simply a large vehicle with no engines (or, more likely, very small ones for attitude control). Rules for spin-gravity can be found in Pyramid #21, while a less official discussion may be found in back issues of the GURPSnet digest.

Building a Building

The first step in any building process is to produce a plan. The designer (GM or player) should come up with a detailed plan which should include an outline of the building including distribution of rooms and special properties (if any), placement of doors, windows, stairs, fireplaces, elevators, and other interesting architectural features, locations of outbuildings, and notes about particularly elaborated areas such as clean rooms or drawbridges. The sections immediately below indicate the costs and volumes of a number of common building spaces and accessories. The building's level of technology places certain limits on a building's height and width, so see the sections on Roofs and Height and Width below. The GM and architect may consider large buildings as a series of smaller buildings combined into one large structure. For example, a castle might consist of a number of separate walls and towers, or an airport might consist of a terminal building, a building of gates, and a connecting building between them. In addition to physical parameters, the architect may be subject to social or legal limitations. In a civilized area, buildings may need the approval of local authorities before building can begin. They may be limited to a particular height (so as not to block sunlight to other buildings) or to certain materials (to reduce the risk of fire), and zoning laws may limit the purpose building may be put to in many areas. A builder should be absolutely certain that he has made proper arrangements with local authorities before building a fortification.

As with GURPS Vehicles, when the architect has finished selecting the building's components, he should calculate the building's total volume and surface area in order to calculate the cost of its structure, the building's "body." The structure and the material from which it is made will determine the damage it can take, ease of building and building time, ease and cost of repair, and other characteristics. To save time, one could use the Vehicles formula for surface area (cube root of total volume, squared, times six), but more often than not, this will be quite inaccurate. The Vehicles formula assumes the object in question is a cube. For the Vehicles rules, this was a necessary generalization, given the unimaginable variety of vehicle shapes and the utter lack of rules for "mapping" them out. However, in these rules, the map comes first. It should be possible to determine exactly what the surface area of a building is rather than relying on an approximation. Be sure that you're paying attention to the difference between the building's surface area (the area of the walls, roof, and floor), and its floor space (the building's "footprint").

Once the building's "components" (the individual rooms) and "body" (the structure and various modifications) are established, architect may begin work. The total number of man-days necessary to put the building up can be calculated, and the GM may determine the work force available to the builder and any other complicating factors in order to find out how long it will really take to put the building up.

Building Example
Desthius's castle (see map below), like most castles, is built with the curves of the land, resulting in the lopsided trapezoid below. The curtain wall is fortified by three circular towers (two at the west end, one at the east) and a fortified gateway at its southernmost point. It encloses two buildings, both of which abut sections of curtain wall. The large rectangular building against the north wall is the main keep, the main residence and last line of defense. The smaller building against the southeastern wall is a religious shrine for ceremonies held within the castle. See example.


This section outlines various kinds of plain and special-purpose building spaces. Players familiar with GURPS Vehicles may notice that the volumes given are far larger than corresponding spaces for vehicular components. This is because space inside a vehicle, even a large one like an aircraft carrier, is far more limited than in a building. Anyone believing that the numbers below are unrealistically large should take a tape measure to their own home and workplace.

The rooms below are mostly based on a standard ceiling height of ten feet. This is a tolerably accurate figure for modern homes and offices if one takes into account spaces between a ceiling and the next floor up, but it is by no means a universal height. Many large buildings, from castles to skyscrapers, have an average story height of ten to fourteen feet, with lower floors having even higher ceilings. Most people are used to such dimensions, so while an architect might be tempted to save some money and build lower ceilings, anyone working or living in the building will be extremely uncomfortable.

Plain Rooms
These are basic, unfurnished rooms, equipped with finished floors, windows as appropriate, doors, lighting fixtures (torch and candle holders to TL 4, gas lamps or candles at TL 5, electric lights of various kinds at TL 6+), electrical power outlets (starting late TL 5), and phone, cable, or other informational outlets as appropriate to the TL (a very late TL 5 house might have a single phone hookup, while a TL 8 home could have multi-purpose data line drops in every room). Given appropriate furniture, they may be used as bedrooms, offices, living rooms, libraries, dining rooms, or for any other use that does not require special fixtures. The rooms below are based on a cost of approximately $4 per square foot of floor space, and the GM may use that as a basic figure for calculating the cost of corridors or rooms of other sizes.
Type Cost Vol. Comments
Closet $25 60 Built-in closets are uncommon before TL 5
Small Room $200 490 About 7 feet square. Appropriate for a servant's bedroom, small office, or small storage room.
Medium Room $700 1700 About 13 feet square. Average bedroom, den or smalldining room, mid-size office.
Large Room $1400 4000 About 20 feet square. Large living room, bed room, or office, small private library or conference room.
Public Room $2800 8000 Just under 30 feet square. Two-car garage, reception area for a small office building, seating in a small restaurant.

See example.

Cabinets or storage jars/baskets, a hearth, fireplace, or stove, a sink (given sufficient size and attachment to a plumbing system), and permanent equipment such as cutting or grinding boards. At TL 5, most kitchens include an icebox. At TL 6, most kitchens include an electric refrigerator. At TL 7, given sufficient size, most kitchens add an automatic dishwasher and a microwave oven. Very high-tech societies (TL 10+) may have automatic food synthesis equipment. For kitchens of other sizes, the GM may wish to calculate a cost of $12 to $15 per square foot of floor space.
Type Cost Vol. Comments
Tiny $150 200 A small heat source and minimal food storage, roughly equivalent to the kitchen of a low-end studio apartment.
Small $1700 1300 Sufficient cooking and storage area for a family of four or five.
Medium $3800 2800 A gourmet or large family home kitchen or a kitchen for a very small fast food restaurant.
Large $7000 5000 Kitchen for a small restaurant or large household, such as a castle.

Sinks, toilets, tubs, and other hygienic fixtures. In relatively wealthy areas, these may be found inside buildings as early as TL 2, attached to early plumbing systems, although latrines and bathing fixtures tend to be placed in different rooms. High-tech bathrooms may include ultra-sonic vibratory showers, robotic makeup appliances, or automatic hair and nail grooming devices, and seem the logical location for privately owned autodocs. For bathrooms of other sizes, the GM may wish to calculate a cost of $12 to $15 per square foot of floor space.
Type Cost Vol. Comments
Tiny $150 100 A single fixture, such as a toilet or shower stall.
Small $300 360 A half-bath (toilet, sink, and shower stall).
Medium $1100 1000 A full bathroom, including a bathtub, toilet, and sink.
Large $2200 1600 A lavish bathroom, perhaps including two sinks and a bath large enough for two.

A room with cases for instruments and expendables (bandages, silk thread, etc.), washing-up facilities (actually in an adjoining room), copious power outlets (at TL 6+), easily cleaned surfaces, and bright, easily adjustable overhead lights. This is a full operating theater, far better equipped than the "operating rooms" of GURPS Vehicles, which are more akin to the densely packed emergency care facilities of ambulances. The GM may rule that the medical equipment in Vehicles is sufficient only for trauma care and minor surgery (appendectomies, tonsillectomies), and full surgeries are necessary for limb transplants and other major operations. A surgery has enough room for a full surgical team of six to eight people to work around the table. In a pinch, two patients can be placed side-by-side for transplant operations. An operating theater costs at least $100,000 and takes at least 5000 cf.

A small chemical, biological, or physical laboratory with work benches, appropriate equipment, and (at TL 7+) computer facilities. Such a laboratory is sufficient for performing small-scale research appropriate to the TL by a team of up to 8 people working comfortably or up to 16 in very cramped conditions, although some fields of study will require extensive extra equipment. For example, high-energy particle physics will need multi-million dollar, miles-long particle colliders. 5000 cf., $200,000.

A small workshop outfitted for a particular type of work (use with Mechanic skill, Electronics, etc.). This is essentially the same as a vehicular workshop (p. V66), except it can be used by a crew of up to five, and like the Surgery, the GM may declare than particularly complex work can only be performed with a stationary workshop. 3000 cf., $22,000.

Rows of seats facing a stage or projection screen. Audience seating takes up 6 to 8 square feet of floor space, or at least 80 cf. per seat (mostly because of high ceilings; a mid-size movie theater could easily take up 160 cf. per seat) and costs $40 per seat. A small stage (fifteen by thirty feet) will cost about $2500 and take up 9000 cf. A highly reflective fabric projection screen costs about $.25 per square foot, although a simple white-painted wall works nearly as well.

Drydock/Vehicle Repair Garage (TL 5)
Like a workshop, but designed for extensive repairs on a vehicle. Such a garage may be found in well-equipped auto repair establishments. Includes diagnostic equipment, a full range of tools, and, where appropriate, hydraulic, magnetic, or antigrav lifts. A drydock substitutes pumping and cradle equipment for a lift. Takes 2.5 times the volume of the largest vehicle to be fixed, costs $20/cf.

Clean Room (TL 6)
Any type of enclosed space at TL 6+ may be made into a "clean room," rooms with exceptionally clean air. Airlocks and a slight overpressure keep outside air from mixing with the air of the clean room, and special filters reduce the number of dust particles in the air. Clean rooms are invaluable in work on computer chips, nanotech devices, and some genetic engineering. Clean rooms cost an additional $7.5/cf. at TL 6, $5/cf. at TL 7, $2/cf. at TL8, $.5/cf. at TL9, and $.25/cf. at TL 10+.


Hydraulic Cement (TL 1)

While common mortars and paints are waterproof enough to withstand most weather conditions, they can't stand up to sustained immersion. However, special ingredients can be added to make a structure completely watertight. At low TLs, mortar is mixed with ingredients like pulverized brick. At higher TLs, rubber compounds and plastic coatings protect against water cheaply and effectively. This kind of mortar, called hydraulic cement, is used to coat surfaces of wells, cisterns, river bridge supports, swimming pools, and other structures meant to hold or resist water. Hydraulic cement costs $.05 per square foot.

Video Wall (TL 7)
The successor to projection screens, a video wall is a giant television-like screen, which can be used to show any video signal the user desires. At TL 7, video walls take the form of giant "Diamond-Vision" and similar TV-like screens, costing around $100 and taking up three cubic feet per square foot of viewing area. At TL8, video walls cost $80 per square foot of area and become a few centimeters thick, taking up effectively no volume. Cost drops by half for every TL above 8. As prices drop, whole rooms can have video wall coverings on walls, floors, and ceilings, creating a whole video environment (although holographic projectors can create an illusion of space more effectively), and buildings can be encased by video walls, allowing them to change their appearance.

Programmable Buildings (TL 11)
One of the primary domestic uses of bioplastic is in variable-geometry architecture. Any room can be made programmable at a cost of $7 per square foot of surface area ($2 if it is already in a polycarbon structure). A programmable room can spawn its own furniture and other fixtures, making regular furniture irrelevant. The occupant could "turn on" a bed at night (making it larger or smaller, depending on how much company he had), changing it into a desk and chair the next morning, calling up a tub if he wanted to take a bath or a sink to brush his teeth. A programmable room can take advantage of information, power, and water/sewage hookups to bring up faucets, phones, stovetops, and other fixtures anywhere in the room the user desires, shrinking them away once they are no longer in use. Combined with video walls, this can give the occupant complete control over both the look and feel of his room. An entire polycarbon structure may be made programmable for an extra $2/sf. Such a building can change to any shape the user wishes as long as it does not grow beyond double or shrink to less than 10% of its original volume or uproot itself from its foundation. In such a building, a floor of office space could shrink to nothing, while the lobby could turn into a bar or and auditorium, or a family garage could disappear when the occupying vehicle is gone, opening the living room up into a tennis court or meeting space for the neighborhood association.

Other Building Components

A stairway may be built as a structure with an area equal to its width times the sum of its height and length. Stairs may be made from wood, brick, ashlar, concrete, metal or polycarbon. Brick, stone, and concrete stairs must have at least two levels of reenforcement.
See example.

Heavy Doors
Doors made with heavy-duty materials and strong locks (see the section on Damage to Buildings for more detail on door DR and HT). A door's HT can be increased for $.75 per sf per point of HT. DR increases by 1 per 8 points of increased HT, maximum DR 10+(TL*2).
See example.

A door hinged at the bottom rather than at the side, the drawbridge is designed to open out over a ditch, forming a bridge when open. A drawbridge also includes a counterweight mechanism allowing easy raising and lowering. The average drawbridge can be raised or lowered in about 10 seconds. At TL 6+, a drawbridge may be driven by a motor at a 20% increase in cost, so it does not require someone to raise and lower it. The lifting mechanisms cost $10 and take up 1 cubic foot per square foot of door area if the lifting mechanism is placed indoors.

A heavy gate which may be dropped into a doorway from above as a last-ditch effort to prevent either escape or invasion. In low-tech buildings, the portcullis is mounted above a doorway (the wall surrounding the doorway must be at least twice as high as the doorway itself) along with winching mechanisms to drag the portcullis back up after it has been dropped. Once dropped, the sharpened points in the bottom dig into the ground, making the gate extremely hard to lift even for someone working the integral winch mechanism (a portcullis can be drawn back up at a rate of 1 foot per second). Anyone standing under the portcullis will surely be severely injured if he cannot dodge out of the way (treat as being fallen on by an object weighing 50 lb./square foot, damage is impaling). The additional mechanisms cost $2 per square foot of gate area and take up space immediately adjacent to the portcullis with a volume in cubic feet equal to half the gate's area in square feet. At TL 5+, the portcullis usually takes the form of a flexible shutter that can be unrolled over a storefront or door (takes effectively no volume) and locked for added security. At TL 6+, it may be motor-driven for a 20% increase in cost. This won't make it drop any faster, but shopkeepers in urban areas, who would otherwise have to lift and lower heavy metal shutters daily, find it a great convenience. A portcullis initially has DR 2, HT 10, but may be strengthened as a regular door.

Secret Doors
Doorways and their latching mechanisms may be hidden by skillful painting or decoration. The architect may designate how the latch is operated (false book in a bookshelf, signal from a remote control, etc.). The purpose for hiding a door may not be for duplicity so much as simply not wanting to break up the design of a room with an extraneous door (see the set of the Kenneth Brannaugh production of Hamlet for some good examples). A doorway may be hidden for $15 per square foot of door area (most doors are about 20 feet square). For silent hinges and latches (people in the room must make a Hearing roll at -2 to hear the door open), double cost.

Heating Systems
The earliest heating arrangements, as old as architecture itself, consisted of a stone or dirt hearth and a hole in the ceiling to let out smoke. Smoky and inefficient, the simple hearth remained remarkably common until well into TL 4, probably because of its relative cheapness. Stone, brick, concrete, and metal buildings may add fireplaces for $75 each (fireplaces are included in TL 5- kitchens). Such a fireplace can heat a room of up to about 1500 cubic feet, consuming four cubic feet of wood (about 100 lb.) a day. Buildings made of flammable materials must add a non-flammable chimney before they can have a fireplace rather than a hearth.

An expensive but more comfortable alternative is to build a hypocaust floor. A hypocaust consists of a tile false floor suspended a few inches over the real floor by small pillars. Air is heated in an external furnace and circulated in the empty space, heating the tiles and thereby the rest of the room. Sophisticated Roman designs vented the hot air through a series of hollow pillars, heating the walls as well. While largely known as a Roman technique, similar systems (running heated air through tubes under a stone or tile platform) are used extensively in peasant homes in China. A hypocaust takes up .5 cf. for every square foot of floor space to be heated plus a furnace taking up 2% of the total volume to be heated. Calculate the cost as though the volume were a brick structure (this is an appropriate place to use the cube root of volume squared times six method rather than calculating actual surface area).

TL 5 sees the invention of iron stoves and increased use of coal. TL 5 heating equipment is far more efficient, consuming half as much wood or tenth as much coal. A small iron stove costs $150 and includes an exhaust pipe, so attachment to an external chimney is not necessary.

TL 6+ buildings are heated by a variety of heating systems, ranging from wall heaters to heat pumps. The chart below shows how much a heater costs and how much room it takes up per cubic foot of space to be heated. Volume includes venting as well as the actual furnace and fans. Heating costs depend on a number of factors, including the building's insulation, basic energy costs, and external temperatures, but at TL 7, heating costs of $1 per month for every 200 to 250 cf. heated are not unreasonable for an average winter in a temperate zone.
TL Vol. Cost
6 0.015 $2
7 0.01 $1.5
8 0.0075 $1
9 0.005 $.75
10 0.0025 $.5
11+ 0.001 $.25

Cooling Systems (TL 3)
Early cooling systems used strategic placement of walls and courtyards to shade work areas as long as possible and create breezes during the hottest part of the day, controlling temperatures in a few confined outdoor areas. However, during the Middle Ages, a few societies began to experiment with methods of altering indoor temperatures. Breeze-catchers could redirect winds through building interiors, and rooms lined with moistened cloths used evaporation to keep ambient temperatures down. Rulers of the Medieval Muslim empire were able to store ice, carried down from the mountains during the winter, in well-insulated basements until the summer, using that to cool rooms as well. However, cooling techniques remained primitive until TL 6, when freon and other compressor-driven air conditioners were developed and distributed commercially.

The chart below shows how much a cooling unit costs and how much room it takes up per cubic foot of space to be cooled. Operating an electric air conditioner costs 25% to 50% more than heating in a temperate zone.
TL Vol. Cost
3-5 0.075 $10
6 0.05 $4
7 0.025 $2
8 0.015 $1.5
9 0.0075 $1
10 0.005 $.75
11+ 0.0025 $.25

Waterwheels (TL 2)
This includes all water-driven power sources from ancient water-powered grain mills to modern hydroelectric plants. Initially used to grind grain in China and the Roman empire, water power was used in every industry from cloth-making to arms manufacture by the end of the Middle Ages. In the years before the introduction of steam power, manufacturing mills would have strings of waterwheels that stretched across entire rivers. While steam power briefly eclipsed water power, water again became a vital source of energy with the introduction of hydroelectric dams.

Water wheels from TL 2 to well into TL 5 produce mechanical power which is used directly on site. The GM should feel free to set cost and volume requirements for the additional gear needed (grindstones, trip hammers, etc.), but most devices will cost and take the same volume as the water wheel itself. Most ancient and Medieval mills had a regular power output of 2 or 3 KW, more than enough to grind grain into flour for a small village. The strength of the materials involved limit individual mills at TL 4 or less to an output of 40KW. However, there's nothing to stop a builder from building a string of mills along a river. Rather than building single large wheels, builders usually constructed strings of wheels across or along a waterway. At TL 5, water wheels may produce electrical instead of mechanical power at double cost but no increase to volume. All waterwheels at TL 6+ produce electrical power. The earliest hydroelectric dam, built late in the nineteenth century, produced a mere 12.5 KW, but cheap, reliable hydro power caught on quickly. Less than sixty years later, Hoover dam was built, producing 2080 MW at its peak capacity.

The weights, volumes, and costs are per KW of output. A waterwheel should be rated for a maximum power output, although the GM may reduce its actual power output to reflect fluctuations in water supply. The volumes provided below assume an external waterwheel. The wheel itself is ten times the volume given if it is placed inside the structure at TL4-, or five times at TL 5. At TL 6+, the entire assembly has the volume given. Like other power systems, waterwheel machinery requires access space.

Weights are provided for use with GURPS Vehicles. Waterwheels must be stationary to gain power, but they can find occasional use mounted in a vehicle. For example, boat mills were an important resource during the Middle Ages. Mill boats anchored in mid-stream can rise and fall with the river itself, keeping the wheel at a fixed depth and avoiding the problems that fluctuating water levels cause landlocked mills. If the wheel is set between the hulls of a catamaran or the piers of a bridge, the constriction of flow even increases the mill's efficiency slightly.
TL Weight Vol. Cost
2-4 400 5 $1800
5 200 2.5 $900
6 100 1.25 $350
7+ 40 .5 $150

Elevator (TL 6)
The elevator is a late TL 5/early TL 6 invention. Most modern elevators consist of a car riding up and down on fixed tracks, pulled by a set of strong cables. The cable runs up to a powerful motor at the top of the elevator shaft, then back down to a heavy counterweight, counterbalancing the weight of the car and, to some extent, the passengers. While the relatively low-tech counterweight makes the elevator efficient, it wasn't until 1857 that the elevator was made safe as well. If the car slips too quickly, a set of brakes will lock it in place. Even in the earliest modern elevators, the brakes were sufficiently strong and quickly deployed to keep the elevator from slipping more than a foot even if all the cables were cut. Small elevators, serving buildings of 10 stories or less, move relatively slowly, taking from 5 to 10 seconds between floors (longer if they are in poor repair), while express elevators in tall buildings can take as little as 1 second per floor. An elevator costs $.75 per pound of lifting capacity plus $.1 per foot of shaft. Most passenger elevators have a weight limit of 1000 to 2000 pounds. To find an elevator's volume, multiply the elevator's floor area (thirty to fifty square feet in most commercial elevators) by the height of the shaft and add ten percent.

Extremely high-tech elevators may be able to go sideways as well as up and down. Such an elevator would be less efficient, since it could not depend on a cable and counterweight system. Rather, it would have to mount its own motor and move around the building under its own power without the aid of the counterweight. As a result, the architect should consult GURPS Vehicles. An appropriate vehicle would be a small tracked vehicle powered by electrical contact or beamed power.

Escalators/Slidewalks (TL 6)
Similar devices for moving people, the elevator and slidewalk (also called a people mover) take an endless belt and attach it to a motor to move people and goods along. A slidewalk simply attaches a series of interlocking plates to a chain. An escalator is slightly more complex, using a series of wedge-shaped steps which are propped up on rails or the moving chain on the "up" or "down" leg of their trip. Both are two to three feet wide. Most slidewalks move at a Speed of 3, while escalators move at a Speed of 1 or 2. Both cost $8 and take up four cubic feet per foot of length. For escalators, be sure to calculate their cost and volume from the length of the actual lifting surface (square root of length squared plus height squared).

Surveillance Cameras (TL 7)
Video cameras connected to remote monitors for active security or recorders for later review. The average camera covers an effective arc of about thirty degrees and an effective range of 50 feet (farther than that and the image won't have enough detail to be useful). At TL 7, cameras are black and white. At TL 8, they are widely available in color, and at TL 9 they become holographic. Each camera costs $100. Add $25 for a motor (the camera scans an arc or full circle if its mounting permits) or $100 for full remote control (a monitor can move the camera to any angle and zoom in and out).

Smarthouse (TL8)
In TL 8, computer systems become inexpensive enough to integrate them into house design. The basic smarthouse takes care of a wide variety of household tasks. It can act as an answering machine, forwarding calls and taking messages, regulate temperatures on a room by room basis, remotely lock and unlock doors, tell the time and give wake-up calls, start coffee-makers and other food-preparation appliances, run sprinklers when the lawn needs watering, and turn lights off and on at staggered intervals when the residents are away. In larger buildings, a smarthouse system can run elevators and turn lights on and off for entire floors as well. A smarthouse system is a Complexity 1 program for a small building (1000 square feet of floor space, enough for a small house), Complexity 2 for up to 10,000 square feet of floor space, Complexity 3 for up to 100,000 square feet, and so on. The program costs $1000 x Complexity. The smarthouse program does not provide more than rudimentary security. For more than the simplest burglar alarms, use the smarthouse program in conjunction with the Internal Security program (p. CY66).

Force Domes (TL 11)
An important peacetime use of force screen technology is the atmosphere-sealing dome. Load-bearing force fields have hideous power consumption levels and prohibitive costs, but a force dome can at least quickly seal off an area and allow the establishment of a breathable atmosphere, letting the architect build buildings within that space. For purposes of resistance to weapons, treat as a force lock (p. V69), only without the auxiliary door. Force domes are also a reasonably good insulator, so they can be used to establish habitable environments in a variety of settings, from deep space asteroids to the innermost planets of a solar system. While they are called "domes" here, they can be configured in any simple geometric shape the architect desires, even in small sizes as windows and doors. As episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation have pointed out, they can also be used for fire control, sealing off small areas and letting the fire consume all the available oxygen. Force domes cost $50, take up .003 cf., and consume .1 KW per square foot of surface area of the volume to be enclosed. Multiply cost, volume, and power requirements by the atmosphere differential (minimum 1). For example, a dome in deep space supports 1 atmosphere of pressure from inside. An underwater dome under 15 atmospheres of pressure would have to support fourteen atmospheres (fifteen minus one for the pressure from inside). Halve cost and volume for every TL after 11.

Floor Projectors (TL 13)
A space-saving device related to tractor beams, gravity webs, and artificial gravity. Sensors track the movement of people in a room, a computer interprets those movements, and a number of tiny gravity projectors act on the person, allowing him to treat any surface as a floor. Someone can hurl himself at a wall and find himself lying on it, then get up and walk to the ceiling. Proximity sensors will also "catch" furniture and other objects, turning on localized gravity for anything that comes within an inch or so of the surface. The room's occupant can have a desk on the floor, a bed on the wall, and toss old laundry into a corner of the ceiling. $1 and .0001 cf. per cf. of room volume, consuming .035 KW per cf. of coverage.

Luxury Fittings
Wall-to-wall carpeting, optically refined lines, stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and the like. This is the sort of thing that an architect can spend as much or as little on as he wants and has no quantifiable game effect. Luxury fittings will increase the cost of a moderately luxurious home by 25% to 50%, or an extremely elaborate building like a Gothic cathedral by two or three times.

Components From GURPS Vehicles

A great many components from GURPS Vehicles can be used in buildings without modification. For example, a land-based anti-aircraft battery may mount a number of guns constructed with the weaponry rules, DEW systems might be equipped with large radars, or a power generation station may have at its heart a very, very large power plant from p. V82-87. Cost and volume for these components are the same as in Vehicles. Weight is the same as well, but irrelevant.

Components which can be installed in buildings as they are written in GURPS Vehicles include: armaments and mountings (chapters 3 and 9), communications systems, searchlights, all sensors, targeting systems, radar/ladar detectors and radio jammers, computers, winches and cranes, autodocs and other computer-assisted medical equipment, teleport projectors, fuel electrolysis systems, screen generators, environmental systems, artificial gravity, all power systems, and force field generators. It is theoretically possible but practically useless to build some systems, such as stealth systems, into a building. The GM may allow special armor types (laser reflective, chameleon systems, etc.) to be layered over a building, but it is likely to be prohibitively expensive.


Many buildings have flat roofs, with a surface area equal to the footprint of the top story. However, for structural or stylistic reasons, an architect may choose a different shape. A roof does not need to be the same material as the rest of the building. In fact, it often is not. For example, stone and brick buildings often have wooden or, at lower TLs, thatched roofs. A building may even have multiple roofs. The Gothic cathedrals of Europe have a stone ceiling formed by the vaulted roof, covered by a second wooden, lead-surfaced peaked roof.

Flat Roofs
The simplest type of roof, but not necessarily the best. Below TL 5, flat roofs must be flexible materials, wood or thatch, but they may be fortified with up to six inches of any material. At those TLs, flat wooden or thatch ceilings wider than thirty feet in their narrowest dimension are rare, since such ceilings achieve that width by long beams which can span that far. If available beams can't span that width, such a ceiling cannot be supported. However, wider ceilings can be supported at intervals by frame "walls" on which the ends of beams may rest. Internal walls outlining individual rooms may also support such broad roofs. At higher TLs, flat roofs may be reinforced concrete, metal, or polycarbon. Wood ceilings still need support at intervals at higher TLs, but other ceilings can be arbitrarily wide.

Peaked Roofs
A peaked roof is shaped like an upside-down V. Such a roof must have a sufficient slope for the beams to lean against each other for some kind of support. The height of the peaked section must be at least a quarter of the distance from the peak to the edge of the roof (this is an angle of about 15 degrees). Many roofs are much steeper. Particularly snowy or rainy climates will have sharply peaked roofs to shed precipitation more efficiently. The area of a peaked roof is (h^2+w^2)l*2, where h is the height of the peaked section, w is the horizontal distance from the edge of the roof to the peak, and l is the length of the roofed section. Below TL 5, a peaked roof with a slope of 45 degrees or less must be made of wood, thatching, or a flexible material although they may be fortified with up to six inches of any other material. Peaked roofs may be made of metal at TL 5+, reinforced concrete at TL6+, and polycarbon at TL8+. Roofs with steeper slopes may be made of any material. Don't forget to add w*h square feet to the surface area of the ends of the building to represent the wall space filling in the V of the peak.

A conical roof may be made of any material, but it is subject to the same limitations as a peaked roof. The area of the roof is (pi*hr^2)/3, where r is the radius of the cone and h is the height of the cone.

Arched Roofs (TL 2)
An arched roof is shaped like half of a hollow cylinder, an arch projected through a third dimension. An arched roof may be made from any material. The area of an arched roof is pi*rl, where r is equal to the radius of the arch and l is the length of the vaulted space. Truly semicircular arched vaults are not universal, so the GM may arbitrarily adjust the area downward by as much as 25% or upward by 200%.

Domes (TL 3)
Like an arched roof, this roof may be made from any material. The surface area is pi*2*r*r, where r is equal to the radius of the dome. The GM may adjust the area of a dome as he would the area of an arched roof.


Once the building is mapped out and the surface area calculated, the architect may choose a structural material, which will comprise the bulk of the building. As already mentioned, it might be simpler to use the GURPS Vehicles formula to find the building's surface area, but it is more accurate to calculate the building's actual surface area. For the simplest buildings, the architect may simply calculate the building's perimeter and multiply by its height, then add the surface area of the roof and floor. Various factors may complicate this. A building may have upper stories smaller than the lower ones, or they may be made of composite materials (for example, stone buildings with wooden roofs or tile floors). It is also very difficult to build roofs out of certain materials (see the section on roofs below), so the top of the building may be of an unusual shape. Nevertheless, it should be possible to calculate the surface area of the building with a little simple geometry. Once the surface area is calculated and the material determined, multiply the structure's surface area by the cost of the appropriate material for the appropriate TL, modified as appropriate for alternate materials.
TL Wood Packed Earth Rubble Ashlar Brick Concrete Flexible Metal Polycarbon
0 $.5 $.15 $.75 $.9 - - $.1 - -
1 $.5 $.15 $.7 $.9 $.8 - $.075 - -
2 $.4 $.125 $.6 $.8 $.75 $.775 $.05 - -
3 $.375 $.1 $.5 $.7 $.6 $.65 $.04 - -
4 $.35 $.075 $.3 $.6 $.5 $.55 $.04 $10 -
5 $.3 $.05 $.3 $.5 $.4 $.45 $.025 $9 -
6 $.7 $.15 $.6 $1 $.9 $.95 $.06 $8 -
7 $3 $.75 $2.5 $5.5 $5 $5.25 $.25 $7.5 -
8 $3 $.75 $2.5 $5.25 $4.75 $5 $.2 $7 $6.5
9 $3 $.75 $2.5 $5 $4.5 $4.75 $.1 $6 $6
10 $3 $.75 $2.5 $5 $4 $4.75 $.1 $5 $5.5
11 $3 $.75 $2.5 $5 $4 $4.75 $.1 $4 $5
12 $3 $.75 $2.5 $5 $4 $4.75 $.1 $3 $4.5
13+ $3 $.75 $2.5 $5 $4 $4.75 $.1 $3 $4

Unusual environments can increase building costs. For building in water, as with river bridges or piers, triple building costs. For building underwater (possible only at TL 6+), add 300% to cost plus an additional 100% for every TL atmospheres of pressure or part thereof. For other exotic environments (zero-gravity, the surface of a partially-terraformed planet), increase costs by at least 200% if the builder's society has not yet perfected building techniques for that environment. For example, the first colonists on Mars or the moon would face such a penalty, but their descendants fifty years later would not.

These costs assume relatively easy access to the desired material. The GM should feel free to adjust costs upwards for materials in short supply. Desert areas and asteroid bases are unlikely to have stands of trees ready to hand, and wood would be an extremely expensive material in such areas. The architects of the Classical Greek temples were very particular about where their marble came from, and it has been estimated that half of the cost of such buildings could have been eaten up simply in getting the stone from its often remote source to the building site.
See example.

Material Descriptions


Wood is probably the most versatile of natural building materials, stronger and more durable than earth, lighter and easier to work than brick and stone. Buildings may be made entirely of wood, and even buildings made mostly of other materials still often incorporate wooden structural members, particularly as floors and framework for roofing. Nevertheless, wood has its own limitations. First, it is flammable (see the rules on fire on p. V184). Second, it is not always available. Arid regions and areas in environmental distress are often very short of wood. GMs may adjust the cost of wooden buildings up as much as desired to reflect poor wood supplies. At TL 7 and beyond, fiberglass and cheap textured plastics are available for the same price as wooden buildings.

Packed Earth
Rammed earth, sod, sun-baked brick, and other hardened-earth materials which have not been fired. Packed earth is the preferred material for many small buildings at low TLs, particularly in dry areas such as the American Southwest and around the Mediterranean. In fact, a great many homes in both regions were made from dried earth until the 20th century and some earthen building are still being built and occupied. Arguably, the material is not used beyond TL 5, and modern areas where it is in use (remote areas of the American Southwest and the Eastern Mediterranean among others) simply haven't caught up. The great advantage of earthen buildings is that materials for them are cheap and plentiful. They are also largely fireproof, although they may incorporate flammable roofing or structural members. However, earthen materials have two important structural drawbacks. First, they require frequent maintenance in wet environments. In very wet environments, such as swamps and anywhere with regular heavy rains, earthen materials are almost impossible to use. Earthen materials are sometimes painted to protect them from moisture and may need repair or even partial replacement after sustained rain. Second, earth is not a great weight-bearing material. It is difficult to build a multi-storied structure from earthen materials, although earthen materials can be used as facings over a wooden framework.

Fired brick, cinder blocks. Brick (distinct from mud brick) is made from a mud and straw mixture baked at a high temperature, turning it into a hard ceramic which is far more resistant to the elements. While the basic materials are usually cheap and plentiful, brick is significantly more expensive than earthen materials because its manufacture requires a significant amount of wood and skilled labor. Brick, in the form of flat ceramic roofing tiles or brick arches and vaults, may be used as a roofing material.

Stone (Ashlar and Rubble)
"Rubble" is unshaped stone, piled up with minimal regard for fitting individual stones together. "Ashlar" refers to carefully shaped, squared-off stones placed in even rows by skilled masons. Strong and durable, stone is the preferred material for early public buildings and fortifications. Unfortunately, the very qualities that make it desirable for architectural use also make it extremely expensive and difficult to work with. A cubic yard of good building stone weighs in the neighborhood of two and a half tons, and moving large quantities of it can get very expensive. To minimize costs, ashlar masonry is often used as a protective facing for less durable materials, such as rubble or packed earth. After TL 5, stone is largely replaced by concrete, although particularly elegant buildings may boast stone facades.

Concrete was initially a Roman invention, a mixture of rubble and a large quantity of mortar. It was ugly, but it allowed very rapid construction. Builders could construct wooden forms, pour in the concrete mixture, and let it set. The concrete could then be faced with another, less unsightly facade. While formulas have changed considerably (sand replaces rocks in modern concrete), the same basic techniques have been used for concrete construction ever since. In late TL 5 and TL 6, builders developed methods of reinforcing concrete with metal rods. Reinforced concrete now forms the core of most modern roadways and skyscrapers.

Historically, all-metal buildings have been vanishingly rare. However, all-metal buildings may appear in unusual environments such as undersea and space colonies. At TL4 and 5, this will be cast iron or bronze. At TL6+, steel, aluminum, and inexpensive alloys will be predominant.

Cloth, leather, plastic tarps, and other thin, flexible materials on light frameworks of more rigid materials. They are, essentially, tents, although high-tech versions can be used in instantly-erected emergency shelters. Flexible buildings may be as tall as the designer desires, but they may not have more than one story.. Buildings from flexible materials may easily be broken down and put back up elsewhere, so unlike other buildings their weight becomes relevant. A flexible building may be taken down and wrapped up into a package weighing (5/TL) pounds per cf. of volume when set up and taking up 1 cf. per 20+(2*TL) pounds when packed up. They take about 1 hour per 1000 cf. of final volume to set up or take down. While flexible structures may be moved around more or less at will, features of that building should be treated separately at the GM's discretion. For example, just putting a tent around a sink or bathtub won't make the plumbing fixtures any more mobile. Flexible materials are flammable through TL 8, but are effectively fireproof thereafter.

This is a catch-all category for light, rigid, advanced materials, many of which may actually be inorganic. While more expensive than conventional materials, polycarbon materials can be used to construct a building rapidly. At high TLs, polycarbon-based materials may be full of nano-robots who can change the building's shape. Polycarbons are flammable (albeit just barely) until TL 11.

Height and Width

With the development of modern materials, ceilings can span just about any width. However, low-tech materials may require special construction methods if they are to span broad areas. Wider ceilings must take advantage of various vaulting techniques which allow the architect to piece together smaller parts into a stable structure. See the section on Roofs below.

A building's height is limited by economics as much as by technology. Taller buildings need more labor to move materials and more material for a stronger structure, and as a result become more expensive. For buildings over 10 feet tall, increase the structure cost by 1% for every (TL squared)/10 feet of height, or part thereof, beyond 10 feet (minimum 1% per foot). That is, add 1% to the structure's cost for every foot of height beyond 10 feet for buildings at TLs 0 to 3, 1% for every 1.6 feet at TL 4, 1% for every 2.5 feet at TL 5, 1% for every 3.6 feet at TL 6, and so on. For the mathematically inclined, add (height-10)*.1/TL^2% to the structural cost. Some materials are very poor at bearing weight. Increase the cost modifier by half for concrete (but not reinforced concrete), double it for unmortared rubble, and triple it for packed earth. Reduce it by 20% for reenforced concrete and polycarbon. In other gravity environments, multiply the percentage cost increase by the local gravity.

However, beyond increased labor costs, technology imposes no limits on building height. Major cities of the Roman Empire (TL 2) were filled with apartment buildings as much as 100 feet tall, if not taller. Clearly, taller buildings were possible. The tallest monuments of antiquity and the Middle Ages (the Pyramids, the larger Gothic cathedrals) easily topped 100 yards. However, such buildings were exorbitantly expensive. The early skyscrapers of late TL 5/early TL 6 matched that height, while the tallest buildings of TL 7 reach around 400 yards. Doubtless, as materials improve, techniques become more sophisticated, and population pressures increase, buildings at TL 8 and beyond will grow taller still.

Variant Structural Materials


In dry areas, the low-tech building material of choice is mud brick. In wet areas, it is thatch. Thatching is made from reeds, grasses, or long leaves bound or woven together to form larger and more durable bundles or mats. Even if it is not the primary building material, it is used for roofing in all but the coldest climates. It is cheap and easy to find and produce in appropriate climates but it is a poor structural material because it will support no weight. Rather, it must be attached to a wooden framework. Thatch is flammable but, contrary to popular belief, will not go alight at the first touch of flame. Well-maintained thatching is tied tightly enough that oxygen has difficulty reaching the inner portions of the bundle. As a result, while frayed, poorly maintained thatching will burn quickly (like a bundle of paper), good thatching burns as though it were wood. Thatched structures cost 10% less than wooden structures and are somewhat less durable (see the section on damage to buildings below).

Unmortared Rubble
The costs for stone constructions assume that the stones are mortared together. However, for rapid construction, the mortar may be left out. Many old farms are bounded by unmortared rubble walls, constructed by farmers piling field stones out of the way. Unmortared rubble costs 10% less than regular rubble and, like thatching, is somewhat less durable than the related material. Unmortared ashlar constructions are possible (the temples of Classical Greece used no mortar), but cost the same.

Reinforced Concrete (TL 6)
Late in the nineteenth century, architects began to build iron and, later, steel frameworks filled in with concrete. These structures proved enormously strong and flexible, and so the skyscraper was born. Reinforced concrete, for these purposes, is any composite of metal and concrete, the most common material for large buildings for TL 6 and 7. It is rather more durable than plain concrete and is far better for building large buildings. Reinforced concrete costs 15% more than regular concrete at TL 6, 10% more at TL 7 and 8, and 5% more at TL 9+.

Inflatables (TL 8)
At TL 6, emergency equipment makers began to produce inflatable rafts with pressurized gas cylinders attached. All the user needs to do is pull a handle, and the raft inflates itself in seconds. At TL 8, this technology can be applied to "buildings." A compressed gas cylinder pumps gas into strategically placed compartmentalized "ribs", quickly erecting the building. A building made from flexible materials may be made inflatable for a (100/TL)% increase in cost and 20% increase in weight. They can inflate themselves to full volume in about thirty seconds. Triple inflation speed in a vacuum. At TL 10+, the gas cylinders are actually two-way gas pumps, so they can deflate and repackage the building in about two minutes.

Fortified Walls

Buildings are not armored as vehicles are. Since it is relatively easy to build thick walls, DRs could soon reach unrealistically high levels. While fortification adds some DR, its primary benefit is in adding to the building's HT. A layer of fortification costs the same as a building structure and corresponds to an inch-thick layer of material. Not all sides of a building need be fortified, nor must they be fortified equally. A freestanding fortification wall, like a castle's curtain wall, can consist of nothing but fortification. Simply multiply the nominal surface area of the wall (wall perimeter time height) by its thickness in inches. For example, a small fortified outpost, fifty by fifty feet square, twelve feet tall (total surface area (50*4)*12 = 2400 square feet), and four feet thick (48 inches), made from rubble at TL 3 costs $.5*2400*48 = $57,600. Fortifications are subject to cost increases as the result of their height.

A building may have composite fortifications, made out of layers of different materials, nor does the fortification have to be made of the same material as the building it protects. In fact, most fortifications were composed of a very hard, very expensive outer layer with a core of rubble or earth. It would also be possible to build a relatively cheap castle by putting up a wooden building and surrounding it with a stone shell.

Individual rooms, which might be used as safes, prison cells, or strongrooms, may be fortified separately. Simply determine the surface area of the room itself (or at least the area of walls to be fortified) and calculate the cost to fortify that area with the desired material. The fortification's HT is added to that of the already-existing walls.

For all-over heavy-duty walls, the builder can double the building's cost to double the thickness of interior walls, essentially adding a layer of fortification to every room, triple cost to triple wall thickness, and so on. This is called reinforcement. The architect may add layers of reinforcement for reasons other than protection against weapons. For example, thicker walls might reflect added insulation, soundproofing, or structural reinforcement to protect against thieves, earthquakes, or other hazards. Packed earth structures should have at least three or four levels just to protect them from everyday wear and tear. Buildings built in high-pressure environments should add one level of reinforcement for every two atmospheres of pressure difference between inside and outside. Underwater pressure on Earth is equal to about 1 atmosphere for every 33 feet of depth. An architect may add up to twelve layers of reinforcement without penalty to the building's overall size. However, after that point, the GM may require him to refigure the building's volume to reflect the fact that the walls are over a foot thick.

See example.

Fortification Variations

These are techniques used in some ancient and medieval fortifications. It is questionable whether or not the modifications were as effective as they are represented here, and they were never widespread, so the GM should feel free not to allow them in his campaign or allow them only in particular places.

Embossing (TL 2)
One construction technique designed to protect stone walls from siege engines is to install projecting stone bosses deeply anchored into the wall. When a boss is struck, it transmits the force deeper into the wall, reducing damage to the surface. On a 1 in 6, an attack by a siege engine or a low-velocity cannon (TL 3 and 4 cannon, but not higher-tech weapons) strikes a boss and damage is halved. A wall must be faced with at least a half-yard thickness of ashlar, although it need not be stone throughout. Embossing increases cost for the entire wall (not just the facing) by 20%. Embossed walls are also somewhat easier to climb (+2 to Climbing skill).

Cribwork (TL 2)
A scheme occasionally used to reduce collateral damage to stone or stone-faced fortification walls is to introduce thick wooden ties or brick masonry within the structure of the wall, usually in horizontal courses at intervals of around six feet. Walls thus divided are more resistant to collapse. Cribworking does not increase wall HT, but it does increase story HT by 5%. While cribworked walls may have wood in their construction, fire does no additional damage; most of the wood is surrounded by stone and mortar where it is difficult for oxygen to get at it, and most architects are careful to choose woods already charred or somewhat resistant to burning. To be cribworked, a wall must be faced with at least a foot of ashlar. Cribwork increases total cost for the wall by 30%.


The above types of construction assume more or less solid walls. If the architect wants an open but defined space (as with a bandstand, the ancient Greek tomb of Philip, etc.), he may build a frame around the space for one fifth of the cost of a full structure. A frame building may be made with wood, brick, ashlar, concrete, metal, or polycarbon. Frame buildings do not have walls, only widely spaced pillars, thereby providing little or no cover or protection, and they may not themselves hold room. However, complete roofs can be built over them, and if a frame building is sufficiently large a whole building can be built within it. For half of regular construction cost, the frame can be fully load-bearing. That is, an entire structure may be built within and on top of it. This can have many uses. For example, a reinforced concrete or metal structure built across a river or the space between two hills could have a paved "roof" serving as a bridge, or an office building could have an open plaza or marketplace under it. If a frame is directly attacked, it has one fifth the story HT of a regular structure for regular frames, or half regular HT for a load-bearing frame.
See example.


For cellars and underground installations, a builder will need to excavate. Unlike above-ground structures, the cost for excavations is calculated from the volume excavated, not the surface area of the space. The costs below are per cubic foot of excavation. The GM should also determine if the site is composed primarily of earth or of rock. Since dirt and rubble must be drawn up and carried away, excavation costs are increased according to their depth just as the costs of tall buildings are increased according to their height (+1% for every TL^2/10 feet after the first ten). Low-tech excavation relies on picks, shovels, and muscle power. In addition to those tools, low-tech miners would light fires and throw cold water on the heated rock. The rapid temperature changes would make rock faces crack, making them much easier to excavate. TL 5 sees the application of explosives to digging, and TL 6 sees the introduction of steam shovels and other power equipment. Higher TLs will probably see the advent of digging and blasting tools related to energy weapons.
Material TL 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7 8-9 10-11 12+
Dirt $.1 $.05 $.04 $.02 $.01 $.0075 $.0025
Stone $.6 $.175 $.12 $.075 $.03 $.025 $.015

Digging in dirt or loose stone requires "shoring up," building in structural reinforcement to keep the whole thing from crashing down. This is equivalent to building a structure into the excavated space. Any material except packed earth may be used for shoring up an excavation. Excavations in firm earth can be shored up with a frame structure (see above) and a solid roof. Loose earth or sand, however, require a full structure. Tunneling through solid rock requires no shoring up

Exotic Buildings

Tree Houses

Low-tech builders (and ten-year-old boys and their fathers) can use trees as the basis for a lightweight building, building in platforms for floors and roofs, and perhaps even walls, but relying on the structure of the tree to support the building as a whole. However, the size of such a building is limited to the size of the tree, and the placement of branches will limit where the builder can place rooms. Building into and around a tree can reduce the cost of a wooden or thatch building by 25%.

Fantasy and high-tech settings have more exotic "tree" houses, buildings that grow themselves. A fantasy tree house is "built" by constant magical tending, shaping the tree's growth from the time it is a seedling. The GM may make the appropriate spell either an Enchantment or Plant spell. It requires one hour of tending per day (energy cost 1) to tend the tree. By the time a tree is 10 years old, it is large enough to act as a building. Thereafter, the tree may be treated as a thatched building with a volume of 50 cubic feet per year of growth. The tender may indicate where rooms are and what shapes they have. The branches and leaves grow to form enclosed hollows, equivalent to thatched walls, and grows branches and hollows to form convenient steps and ladders. If the tree is naturally fruit- or nut-bearing, it will grow abundant clusters of its produce in easily-reached locations. For twice the base energy cost, the tree becomes semi-intelligent and semi-animate. It can twitch sheets of leaves out of the way to act as doors and windows, and rustle its leaves and creak branches to warn residents of intruders.

At TL 9, it becomes possible to genetically engineer plants to grow room-sized pods, even whole houses. The architect may design any wooden building, but may not include such electronic components as video walls or even power outlets, although conduits can easily be left in the walls for power and information lines. Cost to design and engineer a prototype "seed" is $5 per cubic foot of building volume. For a 10% increase in cost, the house can be equipped with one of each: filters to produce distilled water from moisture pulled through its roots, nutritious sap, and equally nutritious fruit and other produce. Once the seed is initially designed, copies can be made for 1% of the initial cost. Growing time is 1 day for 10 cubic feet of final volume. Finishing cost (for installing power cables, lighting fixtures, etc.) is $.1 per square foot of floor space.

Floating Buildings
Most properly, floating buildings (cloud cities, raft towns, etc.) should be designed with GURPS Vehicles. For example, levitating high-tech buildings, such as the floating cities in Larry Niven's Ringworld, should be built with contragravity or super-science levitation (p. V41). However, fantasy "castles in the sky" require a somewhat different enchantment than the one given for magical flying vehicles. Making a magically levitating building takes a spell similar to the one used to create a flying vehicle, but the energy cost is 40 per cubic foot of building. When the spell is cast, the building rises to an altitude determined by the caster at Speed 3, taking with it a chunk of dirt and rock with a diameter 10% greater than the building itself, and with a thickness equal to 10% of the building's height. Once it reaches its designated altitude, it will remain in that spot relative to the ground. The enchantment is broken only when the building is destroyed.

Windows and Vision

Buildings may have the same visibility classes as vehicles (see p. V25), although they have slightly different meanings. Good visibility is appropriate to a modern glass-sided skyscraper or glass-fronted shop. Every room with an outside wall will be completely exposed to the outside, barring interior obstacles (desks, cubicle partitions, etc.) and differing light levels. Most homes qualify as having Fair visibility. One can see in or out from most places in most rooms, but the corners of rooms with exterior walls and areas under windowsills are obscured from outside view. Warehouses and factories tend to have Poor or No visibility. Their windows are few, small, and often covered with frosted glass, letting in light but blocking vision.

Most low-tech buildings have far poorer visibility than modern buildings. Before TL 5, glass was prohibitively expensive, and windows were covered with a variety of shutters which let in some light and air while keeping out bad weather and, incidentally, blocking vision. Packed earth buildings may have no better than Poor visibility. Up to TL 2, stone, brick, and concrete buildings may have Poor visibility at best. At TL 3 and 4, they may have Fair visibility only at triple the regular structural cost. This represents "Gothic" vaulted construction and similar techniques that opened up building walls at an enormous cost in fine masonry. Wooden and thatched buildings may have Fair visibility up to TL 2, but they will be extremely open to the weather. At TL 3 and 4, they may install glass windows for an additional cost of $0.1 per sf of the building's surface area.

Buildings with opaque walls and Poor or worse visibility may have arrow slits, sometimes called loopholes. An arrow slit is an extremely narrow window which allows an archer (or gunner) to fire out of the building in relative safety. In buildings with thick walls, the slit must be narrow at one face of the wall (usually the outside), and wide at the inside. The archer can get very close to the slit and maneuver around it, gaining a broad arc of fire. An arrow slit may be any height (one to two yards was common), and may be as narrow as two inches. A character at the window has a sixty to ninety degree arc of fire, but may only be targeted from the outside by someone in the archer's line of fire that turn, and then only at an appropriate penalty for target size. The GM may declare an additional -2 penalty for difficulty seeing the target.

Building Time and Labor

In a pinch, it may become necessary to figure out how long it will take to build a building. For buildings at TL 5 or less, divide total building cost by 20. This indicates the number of man-days it will take. For TL 6 and above, divide the cost of the building by twice the TL squared (that is, 2*TL^2, not (2*TL)^2) to get the number of man-days necessary. Particular materials take less time to put up. Divide the time by two for concrete and polycarbon buildings.

To get the actual building time, divide the number of man-days by the number of people working. The GM is free to set labor availability as he will. Typically, a house will be built by a crew of less than twenty, while very large buildings (Gothic cathedrals, skyscrapers) may have construction crews of up to two hundred and massive civil engineering projects (the Pyramids, Hoover dam) over a thousand. It is very realistic for the GM to pro-rate construction, having the architect spend his funding in increments ("You spent $50,000 this month, and they finished the second floor...").

This presumes a crew with an average skill of 12. For thatch and wooden buildings, the appropriate skill is Carpentry. For stone and brick/mud brick buildings, the appropriate skill is Masonry, although up to ten percent of the crew may have Carpentry or Blacksmith instead. A number of carpenters are to build scaffolding and wooden forms for arches, while smiths are needed to tend tools and produce clamps and nails. At TL 6+, up to ninety percent of the building crew (one hundred percent for concrete and polycarbon buildings) should have Professional Skill: Construction Worker (P/A). At low TLs, a sizable portion of the workers on large building projects were unskilled (in GURPS terms, working from default), merely providing strong backs to haul and lift. For every point of average skill below 12, increase building time by 20% and reduce cost by 2% (unskilled workers come cheaper). The minimum average skill is 7. If the GM allows the builder to use a more skilled workforce, increase cost by 5% and reduce building time by 2% for every point of building skill above 12.

At TL 10, almost all building labor is automated. The robobuilder, a variant of the robofac, can be programmed with specifications and put up a building with minimal human oversight. A robobuilder can perform TL squared man-days of labor in 24 hours, and can operate for 5 days on an E cell. Dropped into an empty environment, it can dig tunnels, quarry stone, and otherwise make its own raw materials. Provided proper programming, a robobuilder can build buildings working completely from nothing, although it will work with one-quarter efficiency, and it cannot create completely new materials from nothing. For example, it cannot build wooden buildings on an airless asteroid. A robobuilder has 50% greater cost, volume, and weight than a minifac. By TL 13, buildings are built so quickly that they may appear to grow out of the ground in days or hours.

See example.

Composite Buildings

It is possible to make a building from several different materials. For example, a building may be built with a brick lower level and a wooden upper level. In general, any material may be used to build on top of another as long as it is not "stronger" than the material below it. The hierarchy of "strength," in decreasing order, is as follows:

Composite buildings may be fortified, or even have their different levels fortified separately, but upper level may not be fortified more than lower levels.

Floors and Pavements

Even flat, open spaces can come in a variety of types. A plot of relatively level ground can be cleared of sparse vegetation and evened out at a rate of $.0008 per square foot. Somewhat thicker vegetation or other ground clutter (tall grass, low shrubs, many cobbles) will double cost below TL 6, but bulldozers and other heavy earth-moving equipment will not be slowed down. Thick vegetation (forest, light jungle) will multiply cost by 10 at TL 5- or double it at TL 6+. A sizable boulder or large tree stump can be a full-day affair in itself without explosives or bulldozers. Cleared ground may be treated as Firm terrain for the purposes of vehicular movement, assuming that the underlying ground is not particularly swampy or sandy. Ground must be cleared before building can begin.

Once cleared, the ground can be paved with structural materials, turning them into Hard surfaces. Floorings can be treated as layers of fortification of the appropriate material, but they can be extremely thin since they do not need to bear their own weight. A one-inch layer of stone (piled stone or, in exceptional circumstances, ashlar), tile (treat as brick), metal, or concrete (treat asphalt and related paving materials as concrete) can withstand most foot traffic and occasional mounted or wagon traffic, but repeated heavy use will eventually crush the paving. Exact effects are up to the GM's discretion, but if he wishes to keep records, he may assess trampling damage against paved surfaces, but pavements, which are able to transmit a great deal of force through to the ground, gain a 25% increase to DR and a 50% increase to HT. Particularly heavy loads will do extra damage to floorings. If an animal or vehicle weighs over 1.5 tons will do +1 damage to any floor surface, +2 if over 2.5 tons. For roads that will see heavy traffic (Roman roads, modern highways), the roadbed must be extensively prepared. Multiply cost to clear the ground by 3, and the road surface itself must be at least three inches thick (that is, use three layers of fortification), but DR is increased by 50% and HT is doubled.


The cost of most bridges can be calculated by building a load-bearing frame structure of appropriate height, width, and length, and then building a flat "roof" on top of it. However, special types of bridge may be built differently. For example, the GM may allow bridges with reduced-height frames to anchor in solid rock or strong buildings on either side rather than on a foundation below. The exact height of the frame is at the GM's discretion, but it is suggested that it be less than the length of the bridge itself.

A short bridge, particularly one not meant to take much weight, may be built simply as a flat roof. This sort of bridge is good for cross-building skyways. However, longer bridges of this type don't take stress as well and can only support limited amounts of weight. The maximum weight such a bridge can safely carry is 2000 pounds (4000 for reinforced concrete and polycarbon) minus (length in feet/TL) pounds. For heavy loads, the GM should begin to assess quadruple trampling damage.

Very low-weight bridges of this type may be made from flexible materials "paved" with a layer of wood. A rope bridge can stretch across an arbitrarily wide space, but it has two major drawbacks. First, it tends to carry less weight than other materials. The maximum weight such a bridge can bear in one spot is 1000 pounds. Second, it is inherently unstable. Strong winds or determined people can easily make the bridge sway enough to force those on it to make DX rolls to keep their feet or even to avoid falling off.


No building project can proceed without some land to build it on. Land is an important marker of status and wealth in just about every low-tech society, so acquiring land is usually not a simple matter of finding a suitable plot of land and buying it from the owner. In high-tech societies, land remains a tremendously valuable commodity, particularly in densely populated cities. Most of the world's richest people built their fortunes on real estate. In almost any setting, ruler or government can often build where it wants. If the builder is sufficiently powerful, he may not even have to pay the former landowner for the right of way. Unfortunately, it won't be so easy for others. A potential landowner will often have to go through legal and political contortions in order to buy new land. Even where land is available for cash, prices are extremely variable depending on location of the land, improvements, the quality of the soil, and many other factors.

The simplest way to acquire land is to go to a remote area where no one is currently exercising a claim on the land and start building. As long as the builder does nothing to draw attention to himself, he is likely to be able to build and live undisturbed. His presence may be known if other people live nearby, but as long as he does nothing spectacular, most authorities will find no reason to put themselves to the trouble and expense of investigating him. This may be a practical solution in sparsely populate areas (just about anyone with the means to get there can build a homestead in the prairie or an asteroid base). However, if a settlement begins to form around him or if he embarks on a large-scale building project, the nearest authorities will take notice and demand rent payments at the very least. Authorities will take a particularly dim view of any attempt to build a castle or other fortification. In most settings, however, all available land will belong to someone already, and a builder will have to buy or rent it.

Where land is available for cash (which is not the case in many low-tech settings), a small plot in an out-of-the-way city neighborhood could easily cost $45 to $90 per square foot at TLs 1-4. Increase cost by at least 10% for every 500 square feet or part thereof beyond the first 50 (+10% for a plot of 500 to 1000 square feet, +20% for 1000 to 1500 square feet, and so on), and by at least 50% for each of the following: direct access to a sewage and water system at TL 5-, access to conveniences (riverside or major streets at low TLs, shopping at higher TLs), good police protection, good schools, or a good view. Not surprisingly, city houses were usually multi-storied structures on small, narrow plots of land. The GM should arbitrarily increase the cost for notably safe or fashionable neighborhoods. Modern property values are, after all, often calculated according to what other buildings in the area have sold for recently. Double costs at TL 5, and multiply by at least 5 at TL 6+.

Building HT

This is one of the few places that breaks established GURPS rules. Ignore the rules on cover value on p. CII54 for most cases. A building has a sort of split HT: wall HT and story HT. Wall HT is the damage necessary to break a two-foot-square hole through an interior wall. This is the HT to use if someone tries to break through a typical wall within a building. Consult the HT chart below to determine a building's wall HT. Exterior walls add the HT of any fortification multiplied by its thickness. Use the DR of the facing being attacked. For example, a wooden building with six inches of rubble fortification would have an interior wall HT of 10 (DR 2), and an exterior wall HT of 10 + 78 or 88 (DR 16 if attacked from outside, DR 2 if attacked from inside). The GM should pro-rate damage. After blowing through the first 78 hit points of the composite rubble/wood wall above, only the wooden interior wall (DR 2) would remain. Conversely, it would be relatively easy to bash out the wooden portion of the wall, but after the first 10 points of damage done, DR would jump to 16.

Story HT is the damage necessary to destroy or at least do catastrophic harm to a single level of the building. Multiply the wall HT by the building's surface area, divide by four (to convert from square feet to the four-foot square areas prescribed on p. B125) and divide by the number of stories tall the building is, rounding fractions up. The GM may decide to take a standard height such as 10 feet and apply that arbitrarily to all buildings, and for uniformly shaped buildings, the GM may simply multiply perimeter by story height. Multiply the surface area of the individual story in square feet by the wall HT including fortifications, and divide by 20. If the example wall surrounded a 40 by 40 foot building, the story HT would be 1600 * 88/20 = 7020. For lengths of freestanding fortification wall, like a castle's curtain wall, the GM should determine an appropriate length of wall from five to twenty feet to act as an independent unit. If a contiguous section of wall suffers sufficient damage, it has a chance to collapse.
Material Wall HT Initial DR Addt'l. DR/in. Max DR Special Properties
Wood 10 2 2 12 Flammable
Packed Earth 2 0 0 0
Rubble 13 6 2 20
Ashlar 15 7 2 25
Brick 12 4 1.5 18
Concrete 10 4 1 10+TL
Flexible 4 0 1 TL*2 Flammable at most TLs; fortification only adds 1 HT per level of fortification.
Polycarbon 11 4 1 TL*5 Flammable at most TLs
Metal 40+TL 5+(TL/2) 2 Greater of 8 or TL*3 Iron, steel, bronze, or aluminum. Halve HT and DR for softer metals such as lead or copper.
Thatch 6 1 0 0 Flammable
Unmortared rubble 9 1 .5 8
Reinforced concrete 14 5 1 23

A typical door has DR 1, HT 5. This is the damage necessary to break open a door held closed by a lock or simple latch. Double HT and DR is barred or wedged closed with furniture, heavy weights, etc.

Damage to Buildings

There are two things to keep track of when people start fighting in buildings: damage to walls and damage to the structure.

Walls take full damage from explosions and crushing melee weapons but are less effected by impaling and cutting weapons. Cutting weapons do half damage against all walls except wood, packed earth, and thatch. For impaling and bullet attacks, use the cover value rules on p. CII54. If the wall takes damage, most impaling weapons and non-explosive bullets do one-quarter damage against all walls. Armor-piercing bullets, gauss weapons, needlers, lasers, and related very-small-bore weapons do only one tenth damage to walls. Flexible structures take no damage from impaling and bullet attacks and provide only their own DR to potential targets. In non-combat situations, a pick or other heavy impaling weapon can do considerable damage to stone (ashlar and rubble) and brick walls, striking at the mortar and levering out blocks rather than blowing through them. If the user takes an extra turn to ready a swing a pick at such a wall, he does double damage and the wall's DR is quartered, maximum 4.

Story HT indicates the level at which structural damage becomes critical. A building can take a tremendous amount of damage, but if that damage is concentrated in a small area (here, a single story), it can cause a collapse. The GM should keep track of how much damage is done to each story of a building. When damage reaches the story HT, roll three dice. On a 14 or more, enough vital structural members have been damaged or destroyed for the story to collapse. For every additional 10% of story HT done, roll again at -1 per increment done. If the roll fails, the story and all the stories above it collapse. Everyone and everything occupying that story takes 1 die of damage plus three for every story above it. Double damage for brick, stone, concrete, and polycarbon structures. For very large structures (more than 100 feet on a side), the GM may decide to divide the building into smaller units for the purpose of collapse. This should be done particularly for free-standing fortification walls such as castle curtain walls, where relatively small sections can collapse leaving the rest of the wall untouched.

See example.


Wooden and thatch buildings, as well as polycarbon and flexible buildings at some TLs, are flammable and subject to the fire rules on p. V184. Wood, thatch, and flammable flexible materials all take damage as wooden vehicles (sidebar p. V185).

Even if they are made primarily from a non-flammable material, multi-story buildings of TL 5- all incorporate some wood in their structure, largely in floors and ceilings. Therefore, floors and ceilings can catch fire and burn. Even at higher TLs, non-flammable structures are filled with flammable materials (carpets, furniture, papers, etc.) which can likewise catch fire according to appropriate damage procedures.

Stone, concrete, metal, and packed earth structures are highly resistant to flame. While their contents may catch fire, they will not catch fire themselves, and they will only take one-tenth normal damage from fire and fire-based attacks (flamethrowers, rocket exhausts, etc.).

Weathering and Natural Disasters

If not properly looked after, buildings can decay and collapse under their own weight. While this decay will rarely effect buildings built by characters in an ongoing campaign (unless the campaign lasts for many years), a GM may quantify the toll that the ages take on a building. Every year, the GM may roll against a 15 for metal structures, an 8 for flexible and wooden structures and a 3 for buildings with thatched or earthen structures. Roll separately, for each component in composite strucutres: once for metal structures, once for wooden parts, and once for the earth and thatching. On a failed roll, reduce story HT by 2% for earthen and thatched structures, 1% for others, double in the event of a critical failure. Roofs take double damage. DR does not protect, and all damage is doubled on a critical failure. The roll is subject to the following modifiers:

+5 in a fairly dry climate
+10 for a desert climate
-5 for particularly damp climates
-3 if not regularly maintained (includes sweeping, pulling vines off the building, etc.)

These modifiers are cumulative, and the GM may add others as he sees fit. For example, extreme cold may cause additional damage to earthen buildings as the result of frost heave, or special kinds of wood such as cypress may be particularly resistant to water damage. At the GM's option, earthworks that survive through a growing season may be covered with grass weeds, whose root network will prevent their HT from dropping below .3 per inch of thickness as the result of weathering.

For concrete, brick, and polycarbon structures, roll against a 14 every two years. For stone buildings, roll against a 14 every five years (stone buildings, once put up, are very hard to knock down again). If the roll fails, the structure will lose 1% of story HT. Again, double for a critical failure. For sustained weathering, the GM may wish to pro-rate DR. If wooden components are cased within intact brick or stone fortifications at least a foot thick, they gain a +5 to their weathering rolls. Earthen walls completely encased in brick or stone walls also gain a +5 to their weathering rolls, and their HT cannot drop below .3 per inch of thickness.

Severe weather can cause more immediate damage, although the weather must be severe indeed in most cases. Earthen buildings take 1 point of damage per hour of light rain, 3 points of damage per hour of moderate rain, and 5 points of damage per hour of heavy rain. This damage is done to the first foot-thickness of the exterior. Water resistant facings provide a DR of 2 against rain damage for two hours. Sustained gales and hurricane winds can break windows and tear roofs off of any kind of building.

Earthquakes can be a threat as well, although their effects will be unpredictable. In general, roll against the architect's skill with a modifier appropriate to the severity of the quake. Wooden, thatch, and packed earth buildings are most easily damaged, and buildings on soft ground are more vulnerable than those with a foundation solidly on bedrock. If the roll fails, the GM should assess damage to the building appropriate to the magnitude of the failure (say, 1 die per point missed by) or, in the case of freestanding walls, arbitrarily declare that some sections of wall have collapsed.

Repair and Restoration

Damage from direct attack is in many ways the easiest to repair, since it is usually fairly limited in scope. Damaged walls need to be replaced at an appropriate cost in materials and labor. Since stone walls are often dismantled rather than actually destroyed, it is usually possible to repair them with the materials on hand, using only new mortar. Other walls, however, will need new material for repairs. Reduce cost to repair stone walls by 3d6%

It can be the most difficult restore buildings damaged by weathering, since damage is often slight but building-wide. Restoration of buildings to their fully undamaged condition requires labor and materials equal to (1d6)% for every 1% of story HT taken as the result of weathering. A heavily weathered building may be more efficiently repaired by having it demolished and rebuilt.

Advice on Buildings


People's homes are the most common item of architecture in any region. While their most exciting adventures will take place in castles, caves, or at the gates of Hell, PCs and the people they deal with will at some point return to a building meant simply to be lived in. The design of a home will reflect available resources, environmental demands, and the ideas of the culture that produced them. One important thing to remember about most homes built before the twentieth century is that they were not designed by an architect. The vast majority of homes simply were not elaborate enough to require the participation of a professional. Rather, a home would be built by the owner himself, usually with the help of family, friends, and neighbors, constructing the new home according to traditional ideas of how a home should be.

Invariably, the most common building materials are the cheapest and most readily available. For example, in the dry, wood-poor regions of the American Southwest and the Mediterranean basin, most homes and many larger structures were made from blocks of dried earth. Northern Europeans often used some earthen materials, but their wetter climate forced them to used less earth and more grasses and wood, which were far less vulnerable to the elements. One of the results of this combination was the common composite wattle-and-daub, a thatched mat covered with earth and straw. Wood and eventually stone also become rather more common than in the south. The heavier construction allowed them to hold heat better in the cooler climate. Through large sections of Africa, buildings were (and still are in some places) made from more complex components: wood and thatched structures, sometimes covered with smooth layers of clay or surrounded with "fences" of natural or transplanted thorn bushes. Longhouses in the Pacific Northwest could be constructed from huge logs and beams extracted from the lush surrounding forests, while homes in the Amazon and the South Pacific could be made from a light skeleton of wood covered with large, waterproof leaves or planks of wood from the rain forests. White settlers on the Great Plains would build homes from sheets of sod, relying on the thick root networks set down by the tall grasses to hold thick walls of insulating earth together. Brick, stone, or materials exotic to a region, such as wood in the Southwest, will be found in important structural members (even in regions where they are rarely used as the major structural material, wood is commonly used for roof beams and stone for foundations) or incorporated into the homes of the relatively wealthy or powerful, although their use will increase as a culture's technology increases and more people obtain the means to build with materials once reserved for the few.

Responses to climate are often obvious, but can be quite subtle and clever. In warm regions, there is rarely need for the expense and effort to construct large covered buildings, since most work can be done outside if a bit of shade is provided during the hot early afternoon. Homes in hot, dry environments such as the Mediterranean and Mideast often consist of a collection of rooms around a courtyard, and with good reason. A completely closed courtyard shaded by the building walls around it acts as a "reservoir" for cool air, and sets up a microclimate that produces a cooling breeze during the hottest part of the day. Setting up two connected courtyards provides the same reservoirs but also generates a breeze as one courtyard or the other gets more sunlight, creating a hotter air and therefore a pressure differential between the two. Homes in the hot but humid regions around the Pacific are often built raised off the ground on stilts. Reduced contact with the ground improves drainage and lets more air circulate around the building.

In harsher environments, homes were larger to permit more work to be done inside during the colder or wetter months. In many parts of Europe, there was often even a room at one end of the house for farm animals to live in, keeping them sheltered from extreme weather while harnessing their own body heat to help keep the house warm (a half-ton of cow maintaining a constant temperature in the 90 degree range produces a great deal of heat). This also allowed easier collection of manure for use as fuel.

A number of societies in both the Old and New World have taken advantage of the insulating properties of thick layers of earth in building underground or semi-subterranean homes. Various native Americans of the Southwest built "pit" houses, sinking pits three or four feet into the ground, then building a low wooden structure over it. The Levant coast (modern Israel and Lebanon) has a number of completely subterranean homes, with wide shafts providing access, as well as light and air. Such homes are generally found only in drier areas, where drainage isn't a problem.

Traditional building ideas can result in other clearly utilitarian gestures or subtle differences in structure which reflect the builder's way of life. The "homes" of nomads are usually small, temporary, and often portable structures. Eskimo igloos, Bedouin tents, and Mongolian yurts are often only large enough for a few people to sleep in them, perhaps with enough room in the center for a small fire in the center for light, heat, and cooking. Even in more settled societies, the house may consist of only one or two small huts for sleeping and storage if the climate permits. In many places across Africa, the American Southwest, and even in southern Europe, a home may not consist of a single building, but instead may be a few independent structures usually surrounded by a fence or low wall.

There is often some division of "public" spaces where strangers are met and guests entertained and "private" spaces where the residents of the house sleep and keep possessions, or homes may have preferred spots for elders or honored guests. Privacy is a concern that has seen intermittent attention. On one end of the scale are such residences as Viking longhouses and early Medieval keeps in Europe. They often had large common rooms in which the local lord's or landholder's men would sleep together, perhaps with the lord himself, although some of these halls had removable curtains or screens for some measure of privacy. A different set of priorities is represented by city homes in both the Medieval Muslim world and Medieval France. These homes often had fairly open internal arrangements, but presented blank walls to the outside, with only a few doors and high windows. This design had the practical effect of making access more difficult for thieves and the more esoteric effect of enforcing ideals of privacy. There may also be "male" and "female" or "old" and "young" sides of the house (wealthier Muslim homes had semi-public areas for greeting guests and a more private "harem" for family members only). Buildings, villages, or even sets of villages may be completely segregated by age, sex, or some other factor. Many homes have a small niche or altar for family religious services. Hallways may seem a natural thing to put into a building, but until the Renaissance, rooms in most European buildings were usually connected directly to one another without recourse to corridors.

Finally, although it can often make little difference in the overall structure of the house, decoration is a very important aspect of a home. Some houses are very publicly decorated. Large houses in the Pacific Northwest had elaborately carved posts, decorated with sacred images associated with the owner's family (these were the forerunners of modern totem poles). Houses of some Pacific cultures have intricately painted gabled roofs sweeping out over the front of the house like the prow of a ship. Some African houses and house compounds have a coating of smooth or intricately incised clay, giving the compound the appearance of having grown out of the ground. Other homes are more privately decorated. Arab homes often have very plain exteriors, but on the inside have intricate painting and tile inlay floors and walls.

Very different societies and other races will, of course, have very different ways of building. Hive-minded species or societies with strongly hierarchal families might build nest-like homes, with a well-defended central chamber for the head of the household and a number of lesser chambers around it for more junior members. Races living underwater or in space might have "rooms" in their homes attached to one another at odd angles with no clear difference between wall, floor, and ceiling.

In recent history, the effect of technology (both the direct effect of building technology and the indirect effect of mass media blurring regional distinctions) has often been to wear away the details of native and regional building styles. First, the increasing cheapness and ease of use of artificial lighting and climate control reduce the incentive to build against the environment. It may be more expensive to live in a poorly insulate house, but very much survivable. Environmental response is likely to be a matter of detail rather than overall structure. One suburban American home can look much like any other, although one in Michigan is likely to have double-paned windows and extra insulation in the attic, while one in southern Florida may not have central heating. Second, since buildings are more complex, they are built more often by an expensive professional class of architects. To reduce architectural costs, homes and apartments are more and more often built according to generic plans, so there is much less variety in overall design. Home buyers in modern subdivisions may find that they have a choice between three or four fairly similar floor plans (they may also be limited to a choice of five or six colors of paint by neighborhood association rules). Large apartment buildings may have hundreds of identical apartments, or only a few different designs. The greater range of available materials and building methods gives builders much greater freedom of design, but since the cost of designing a building has skyrocketed, that freedom is rarely used. Only more expensive homes show individual character.

Future homes may allow builders to reclaim some of that freedom. Flatscreen video walls, holographic projectors, and memory plastic, living plastic, or living metal structures may lead to neighborhoods that can change their look in an instant or rooms that can change shape, size, and furniture as the occupants desire. Cheap teleportation may lead to "distributed" homes, with a front door in a major city, a bedroom overlooking a spectacular mountain gorge, and a living room in deep jungle.

Churches and Sacred Buildings

When people began to build settlements larger than villages, one of the first types of new building to appear was the temple. Temples, churches, and other sacred buildings have remained one of the most important pieces of architecture in any settlement of any size up to the present day. Sacred buildings serve not only as a place for worship, but also as a meeting place for elite councils and public assemblies and as a showcase for the community's wealth, artistic accomplishments, and aspirations. The size and shape of the church will vary wildly with the local forms of religious practice, but in all but a few communities (relatively secularized American society is one of the exceptions) it will be the largest and richest building around.

When designing a sacred building, the architect must take into account the ceremonies to be conducted there. Almost every sacred building will have a large room or courtyard for public ceremonies, often with some physical focus for worship. The Greeks and Romans held their religious ceremonies outside the temple building (which was set aside for storing sacred images and other temple goods), but within the confines of a sacred courtyard, sometimes noted by a few stones. The courtyard held an altar for sacrifice, usually immediately in front of the temple. Aztec temples, built on pyramids, had sacrificial altars set on top of the temple, high up above the ground so that sacrifices would be in good view for the crowd below. Christian churches almost invariably hold services indoors (which made the Roman pagans suspect that they were holding unspeakably obscene private orgies) facing an altar which often points in the approximate direction of Jerusalem, while mosques, which hold services either indoors or in a courtyard, contain a prayer niche which faces Mecca. Both Christian and Muslim sacred buildings also have a pulpit a bit to the side of the focus of worship from which holy men may address the faithful, and many have a tower from which the faithful may be called to worship with bells or criers, or, in times of emergency, from which the community may be issued general warnings and alarms. They also often contain a fountain or other water source, albeit for different reasons. Many Christian churches have a water source near the altar for use in baptism (early churches could have a separate baptistery), while mosques usually have a running water source near the entrance for ritual ablutions. Japanese Zen temples contain some sort of symbol for visitors to contemplate, which may be as ordinary as a statue or as enigmatic as a mirror. Even the geographical placement of a church can be significant. Several religions prefer to place their temples facing a particular direction or on a particular type of terrain such as seashores or mountainsides. Some archaeologists have suggested that the Greeks intentionally placed their temples for a good view of the landscape.

In addition to the basic space for worship, a sacred building may have special areas for more private worship or other functions. Many temples have small side chapels or other rooms set aside for more private (or secret!) ceremonies. Particularly secret, elaborate, or restricted ceremonies might require all kinds of special architecture (consider the sets of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Some religions will require holy men to live in or near the church proper, so the main building may have small apartments attached (or, in the case of a monastery or convent, an entire community). Large churches which serve as seats of important church officials will also require a certain amount of office space from which to administrate larger church affairs. Tombs and tomb complexes might be placed near or under a sacred building, although many religions prohibit the dead from being buried in an inhabited area, much less near such a building. Greek and Roman temples often served as treasuries, and so had a special secure room set apart from the rest of the temple building, usually around the back of the temple itself or in a small separate building. The early temples of Mesopotamia were at the center of a system of taxation by the temples themselves, and so had sizable storage rooms to hold grain and other bulk food products. Churches and temples are often centers of literacy and may contain libraries. Pilgrimage sites, oracular shrines, and special sanctuaries will expect visitors and make provisions for them. Such sites will have living quarters and support facilities, usually quite Spartan, for a transient population, and might have special, often restricted, areas for special ceremonies, such as healing springs or the seat of an oracle. Churches also tend to be the primary source of charity and relief for the poor in most societies, and so may keep supplies to be handed out in time of emergency or may even be attached to hospitals and orphanages.

Finally, it is worth keeping in mind two principles about the growth and use of sacred buildings. First, a church or temple complex is something built and maintained by the community and will reflect the growth of its community. If a town becomes larger or wealthy, the local church will grow in response. If the original building is not abandoned or torn down and rebuilt entirely, this may result in additional buildings or additional rooms and courtyards being added to the original with little regard to the original plan (late Byzantine churches are particularly convoluted for this reason). Second, sacred buildings and their sites are often reused by conquerors, converts, or immigrants of different religions, no matter what the original religion was. Many sites of pagan temples in Europe and the Near East became the sites of Christian churches, and in Muslim-ruled areas those churches were converted to mosques. The results are both strange and wonderful.


There are many different ways to build a fortified position, and many architects and generals have written a great deal on how best to built and attack fortifications. The shape and composition of a fortification depends on many factors, including local terrain, materials, time, personnel, and funding available to the architect, the purpose of the structure, the level of technology (of both defenders and attackers), and the producing culture's ideas about warfare. However, the planning of most fortifications goes beyond just the placement of walls and gates. Rather, building a fortification involves constructing not just a building but a defensible environment. The intelligent architect will consider likely forms of attack, approaches to the castle, visibility, and other less obvious features in addition to towers and thickness of the curtain wall.

The three most important things to consider about real estate are said to be "location, location, location," and that principle holds true here. The first consideration when building a fortification is placement. The best place to build a fortification is usually on the highest point of land available (for an independent fortification) or the highest point nearest the area it is supposed to defend. For example, a tower meant to control access through a pass would most likely be placed on a hilltop immediately next to the pass where the occupants can fire arrows and stones down on attackers, not a higher mountain top farther away. The mountain top might be a more defensible position, but would not be able to control the pass as effectively. Fortification walls are also most efficiently placed complementing natural features. For example, walls may be placed along river banks, leaving attackers little or no room to land, or atop cliffs, which essentially add their own height to the height of the built wall (the Roman city of Dura-Europos in Syria was placed in such a position, with two walls following ravines and a third along a steep riverbank, leaving only one side vulnerable to attack).

When the architects were given sufficient funds, European castles were usually designed to resist attacks along broad fronts. Large castles tend to have multiple layers of built defenses, with as many as four rings of "curtain" walls and moats (usually just ditches, but occasionally filled with water) around a strong central keep, which may or may not be attached to the innermost curtain wall. The enclosed space gives ample room for barracks, stables, storehouses, and siege engines to return fire at the attackers. Curtain walls are usually about twenty five to thirty feet tall with crenellated parapets to shelter the defenders on the walls. Several authors on the subject advise strongly that towers along curtain walls be placed within bowshot of each other so that they can catch attackers in a crossfire, should the intervening section of wall be taken. They also suggest that passages through towers from one section of wall to another be made of wooden planks that can be quickly removed, isolating sections of wall. The space around a castle should also be cleared, so that attackers cannot find cover.

Number and shape of entrances and exits also vary with the purpose of the fortification. The gates of Roman fortifications along Hadrian's Wall and in and around population centers consisted of paired gates separated by pillars or a wall. These fortifications were designed with a regular traffic flow in mind, and the gates could be easily and naturally divided between lanes for "in" and "out" traffic. Fortifications built exclusively for defense, however, will have a single main gate, which is easier to defend. The passage through the walls may be flanked by arrow slits or have "murder holes" in the ceiling, though which defenders can drop things on such attackers as make it that far, and the entrance will often have multiple gates and portculli. The Byzantines built passages through their walls with a slight bend that would break the force of any charge. Despite the advantage, the bent-entrance plan makes attacks out the gate equally difficult. Secondary gates ("posterns" is the technical term) are usually much smaller but built according to similar design philosophies.

Control of access is a governing principle in Japanese castles. The fortifications of Medieval Japan are not built to stand up to as much direct punishment as European fortifications, partially a consequence of a low incidence of siege engines and artillery in Japanese warfare. Rather than placing massive walls between attackers and defenders, they are built on a principle of constricted approaches, taking advantage of Japan's extremely hilly terrain. Approaches to such castles are broad ramps or winding steps up very sharp slopes. Essentially, rather than attacking directly from several approaches, an attacker must attack uphill through a long, narrow passage which is open to intense fire from the defenders above. The structures of the castle itself can also be placed very close together, which forces attackers through a maze of narrow passages exposed to vicious crossfires. Japanese castles are usually much smaller than their European counterparts since they do not enclose such large courtyards.

If constructed properly, it is exceedingly difficult to enter a castle in the face of active resistance. Many castles had regular garrisons of as few as twenty or thirty men, including boys and old men who could be pressed into service. If they had food, water, a little luck, and the good sense to keep their heads down as much as possible, these small garrisons were capable of holding off attacking forces that outnumbered them by huge margins. Garrisons of forty or fifty men have been known to hold off armies of thousands. As long as enough men remain inside the walls to push over ladders, cut grapnel ropes, and occasionally dump rocks on miners and battering rams, there is little an attacker can do but wait until the defenders' supplies are exhausted, particularly if the attacker is without siege engines of his own. Such a small force will be incapable of breaking a siege on its own accord, but it can hold out for a very long time until relief arrives. Barbarian hordes can sweep through an area burning everything in sight, but fast-moving raiders have a poor history against fortified positions. For example, Viking raids in northern France declined sharply when the French began to build more castles.

Given the defensibility of a good fortification, it has been observed that a castle is only as well-protected as its water supply. Indeed, food and water supply have often been the determining factors for how long a city or castle can hold out against attack. Different parts of a castle were often provisioned with their own food supplies so that they would be able to fight independently even if some part of the whole castle's food supply was damaged or any one tower or building should be occupied. A good castle had its own well, and every castle had some kind of water reservoir, often supplied by the rain.

Castles are not the only kind of low-tech fortification. Another fortification worth speaking of is the "long wall." Many empires have built relatively low defensive walls (10 to 20 feet high) along miles of border, reinforced at intervals with watchtowers. The classic examples are Hadrian's Wall across northern Britain and, of course, the Great Wall of China. Contrary to popular belief, long walls were never meant to hold off hordes of ravening barbarians. Rather, they were built to control access. Walls make it difficult for individuals or small raiding parties to enter a territory without going through points of access designated by the builders. If a small group attempts to cross over the wall, the nearest garrison can usually spot them in time to stop them from coming over or, failing that, alert troops stationed in the interior in order to intercept them. Long walls were usually built by large empires in order to protect border regions from small barbarian raids, and in that capacity they were probably reasonably successful.

Fortified positions become less important and harder to build as technology increases. Growing use of firearms makes old stone and wooden walls less effective protection than they were against swords, and while fortifications are reasonably good against hand-held firearms, they are not nearly as good against artillery. Even the best castles can be torn apart quickly by explosive cannon shells. This problem has become even more pronounced in the wake of the development of nuclear weapons, which can flatten almost any building with a near miss (or even with a not-so-near miss), and will become even more so with orbital mass-drivers and other high-tech weapons that can deal unreasonably large amounts of damage.

The military response has been to dig in. Bullet-absorbing heaps of dirt were common defensive structures on the battlefields of TL 4 and 5. While they were poor offensive strategy as well as vulnerable to aircraft, chemical attacks, and artillery, the trenches of WWI were a remarkably effective defense against small arms fire and infantry attacks, and foxholes remain a universally important defensive position. The best-protected modern fortifications, such as ICBM silos and NORAD's well-known facility at Cheyenne Mountain, are largely or entirely underground, where even a direct hit with a nuclear warhead might not destroy them. Underground and semi-subterranean positions let the earth take most of the damage. The target profile is minimal, and a near miss must transmit damage through a thick layer of rock and dirt. However, most modern military installations are built according to the philosophy of ancient long walls. Their fences and patrolled zones are meant not to protect against direct assault, only to limit access to monitored gates and prevent minor intrusions.

Force fields and other ultra-tech defenses may forestall the eventual demise of fortifications, but at some point (assuming the technological progression of the GURPS TL system) weapons will be able to do enough damage that no amount of fortification can stop them. The alternative, then, is not to get hit. One strategy is to build "fortified" positions surrounded by point-defense installations to block missiles and broad minefields and other defensive devices to prevent mobile energy weapons from gaining line-of-sight. However, at this point, fortifications will be built from ordinance, not architecture.

Public Buildings

For the purposes of this discussion, I'll define three terms: a hostel or hotel is a place to stay the night, a bar or tavern is a place to drink (but not necessarily drink alcohol) in company, and a restaurant is a place to eat. However, the terms should not be used rigidly in anybody's campaign, for all three types of establishment (and, for that matter, brothels) have overlapped considerably through history and the differences between them are so small as to be academic. Some bars offer at least a little bit to eat, restaurants universally offer a chance to drink and socialize as well as eat, and many hotels have a restaurant in-house. The typical saloon in a Western offers food, drink and accomodations for the night, as well as dedicated gambling tables, prostitutes working for the house, and sometimes even theatrical entertainment. At any rate, all three types of establishemnt have changed considerably over time.

Until quite recently, restaurants have mostly served the local equivalent of fast food. The "fast food stand," where one could get a bowl of soup or some grilled sausages is almost universal. Even in larger establishments, the menu was usually limited to the one or two dishes the cook had the materials and inclination to make that day, although one curious aspect of some of the larger early restaurant/taverns is that one could bring their own raw food and have the cook there prepare it for them. Nevertheless, fine food was until the past two or three centuries the province of cooks working in the service of people in the upper classes. It has been suggested that the modern restaurant got its start after the French Revolution, when a whole class of chefs who had worked for French noblemen suddenly found themselves out of a job and decided to go into business for themselves. A small food stand, with a cook and some rapidly-prepared food on one side of a counter and perhaps a few benches for customers on the other, is recognizable anywhere from ancient Greek cities to modern hot-dog stands. Somewhat larger establishments may separate the kitchen from the dining room, or put the cook in full view of the patrons (as in some Asian restaurants) so they can see exactly what they are eating.

Bars simply need tables and benches or chairs for patrons and storage space for kegs, bottles, and glasses. Modern bars have a long counter that bartenders can stand behind, complete with sinks, cabinets for bottles, and built-in taps for kegs. However, this is a fairly recent innovation. Bars of more than a century or two ago were often built more like a restaurant. They had taps and glasses in a separate room and no bar counter. One would make an order to a server who would go into the taproom, fill the glasses, and come back with the drinks.

Most early hostels simply provided space to stay. A number would only provide floor space in a large common room shared with other travelers, and many didn't even provide furniture! However, charitable organizations, such as monasteries and lay religious organizations, occasionally sponsored "full service" hospitality to travelers, including food, comfortable beds, and even medical care (the word "hospital" originally referred to charitable hostels). Since the Middle Ages, travel has become more common and accommodations have become more comfortable. Modern travelers expect at least the equivalent of a full bedroom and bath, and may be able to find extremely luxurious suites of rooms. One fairly recent innovation in accommodations is the "coffin" hotel, a very low-cost alternative particularly for travelers. The hotel consists of a tiers of "coffins," spaces about a yard square and several feet long with a soft, bedlike floor, just big enough for a tired businessman to crawl into, change clothes, and fall asleep. The hotels provide bathrooms and showers down the hall, and coffins tend to have such luxuries as phones and TV screens in each one. Coffins are not a long-term living solution, but they can provide many times the sleeping capacity of an equivalent volume of a conventional hotel, a godsend in space-starved areas like downtown Tokyo and Hong Kong. A society with cheap teleportation is likely not to have hostels any more, since anyone can go home in moments.

Theaters are found in a number of sophisticated societies. Most indoor theaters consist simply of a large, empty room with a raised stage at one end. The stage may project into the seating area and it may be separated from the seats by a curtain. Benches might be provided for patrons, but they are by no means universal. One interesting variation in some Asian societies is to divide the seating area into a series of boxes with slightly raised aisles. To get the most use out of the space, many old theaters have tiers of balconies around the edges of the room. Balcony seats often have a special social meaning. In the Paris of Richelieu and the Three Musketeers, the private boxes of the balconies were where the upper classes separated themselves from the common rabble in the pit (by drawing curtains, they could even ignore the play and carry on their own business). In pre-civil rights America, the balconies could be the cheap seats to which "colored folk" would be relegated. More modern theaters have borrowed an idea from outdoor Greco-Roman theaters: sloped floors, which allow patrons a relatively unobstructed view of the stage or screen regardless of how far back one sits. Cutting-edge IMAX and other very-wide-format theaters provide radically sloped seating to enhance the surrounding effect of the wide-angle curved screen. High-tech holographic theaters might use similar techniques, or use circular seating arrangements with reclining chairs, like a planetarium, to accent the 3-D projection.

Any kind of long-distance transportation center, be it a train depot, airport, or commercial spacecraft launching pad, has a few necessary basic areas. First, there is a "customer" area where patrons can buy tickets, check baggage, and say their farewells to friends and relatives. Second, usually adjacent to the customer area, there is an administrative area where baggage is routed, records are kept, and the whole operation is generally kept running. Third, there is a waiting area where vehicles can pull in, refuel, take on and discharge passengers and cargo. In very small transit centers, such as Old West train stations where two or three trains constituted a busy day, this may be combined with the customer area, but in a center serving vehicles constantly, they are usually kept separate. Finally, there is access space for the vehicles themselves. The amount of space allotted to them depends on the needs of the vehicles themselves. Trains simply need a space of their own width (often 10 to 15 feet) between platforms. Train tunnels are often a little wider than the train itself to allow access around stopped trains and allow rapid exit in case of emergency. Airplanes and spacecraft which taxi before take off like airplanes need space between gates to maneuver (ten or twenty feet between wingtips is tolerably safe) as well as a runway. For adequate safety and taxiing space, the runway should be somewhat longer than the space necessary for the largest, slowest aircraft intended to take off or land there. Runways two miles long are not unusual in major TL 7 airports. Air/space ports serving VTOL vehicles or rockets need no runway space, but ports serving rockets will need to place outgoing vehicles a considerably distance away from passenger areas and each other, perhaps in concrete-lined pits, to prevent damage from rocket exhausts.

Author's Notes

When I started this edition of my architecture rules, the big question was not what to add, but what to leave out. My first edition contained a highly detailed process, starting with procuring raw materials, which allowed the architect to control just about ever detail of building down to the number of torch brackets on the walls. All well and good, but as I considered alterations I might make for the second edition, I decided it would be better to let the GM or player-architect decide such matters on their own rather than making them go down to the hardware store to buy every single fitting. While reflecting a relatively high level of realism, I think it was far more complex than it needed to be to answer the relatively simple questions like "How much will it cost to build a tavern?." I also know far less about modern than ancient architecture, and nobody knows anything about far-future architecture, so extending that level of detail to higher TLs would have been impossible anyway. Thus, I decided to work from the rules for building thing already provided in GURPS Vehicles as the basis for GURPS Architecture. Most of the detail in the previous edition (material vs. labor costs, man-hours, standard volumes of materials) has been abstracted into the single statistic of cost.

I have reluctantly left out some material I was asked by various people to include in this edition. For example, a few people asked for guidelines on building arcologies. I decided to avoid this for two reasons. First, from a rules point of view, there's no need to treat arcologies differently from other buildings. After all, dune buggies, helicopters, and aircraft carriers are all built according to the same rules in GURPS Vehicles. They're just different sizes with different sets of accessories. Second, from a narrative/description point of view, I didn't want to step on anybody else's territory. A few months before I started this edition, SJ Games contracted for GURPS Cities, a generic description of urban centers. Description of arcologies is one of the stated subjects of that volume, and I didn't want to work on something that would surely be rendered obsolete in a year or two. For the same reason, though it pains me not to deal with the armature of the Roman civis and the landmarks of the Greek polis, I have very reluctantly avoided discussion of towns, cities, and other extremely large "constructions."

I have also intentionally left vague certain particularly mundane items, such as electric bills, the effects of insulation and double-glazed windows, and so on. Not that these aren't important, I just think that there's no point in providing a rules-bound way of dealing with those issues. The variations in skill of installation, quality of materials, regional climate differences, microclimates, energy-saving practices and energy-wasting lifestyles, and variable costs across very narrow time periods (consider the increase in energy costs between 1960 and 1990, all in TL 7) make the whole thing far too complex for such minimal return on the effort. Of course, every number in these rules is so highly abstracted and theoretically tenuous enough as to be entirely fictional anyway...

Now that I'm done with this edition, I can start considering a third, although much of the work to be done requires someone with better credentials than I. How thick does a dam need to be? How much effort does it really take to build a bridge? What are the practical limits to the span of a modern ceiling? I'd love to know. There's significant room for growth in ultra-tech architecture as well. I've been able to find remarkably little in science-fiction literature about the impact of high technology on architecture. Force field walls, programmable buildings, fun with teleportation, and various more-or-less interchangable strong but lightweight materials are pretty much it. The only things I intentionally left out are "beanstalk" orbital elevators, which I'm leaving to Vehicles mavens, and the four-dimensional home in Heinlein's "And He Built A Crooked House," which seemed more trouble than it was worth. I'd love to hear some new ideas for the architecture of the future. The same goes for magical architecture. If I can get enough gameable ideas, I may produce a suppliment, or perhaps even an A2e. Hope you enjoy it so far.

Appendix: Furniture

Furnishings, like jewelry or clothing, are something that one can spend as much or as little on as desired. A crude split-log bench may cost several orders of magnitude less than the king's throne, but ultimately both perform the same function (that is, keeping one off the floor) equally well. The price modifiers for high-quality furnishings listed below are merely guidelines. If attacked or used in combat, the average cheap chair or table should have DR 2, HT 8. A larger or high-quality piece of furniture will have the same DR but a HT of up to 15 for a sturdy chair or 20 for a good table or bedframe. Furniture is TL 1.

Note that the cost of furniture does not vary with TL, making it effectively far more expensive at low TLs. This is entirely realistic. Furniture was sparse in every low-TL setting. Wealthy families might own multiple homes, but many would carry the same set of furniture with them if they moved from one to another.

A low wooden bench, such as one might find in a cheap tavern, costs about $20 and weighs about 10 lb. per person (about two feet of length). An unpadded footstool costs and weighs perhaps 20% less. A rickety arm chair costs $40 and weighs perhaps 7-12 lb. A better-quality chair (perhaps varnished or lightly padded, and certainly more durable) costs at least $90 and is likely to weigh up to 20 lb. A luxurious chair with silk and velvet padding and attractively carved armrests might weight a bit more and cost at least $200. A comfortable recliner (TL 6+) costs at least $250, or at least $350 for one with a vibrating massager built in. Both weigh at least 100 lb. and probably more. A regal throne built to impress the peasants costs at least $2000 and weighs upwards of 50 lb. A truly grand throne probably weighs over 200 lb.

A cheap table costs $22 and weighs 6 lb. per square yard, enough to seat two comfortably or four in a pinch. A better table (smoother surface, doesn't wobble, etc.) costs at least $35 per square yard. A well-decorated table, with hand-turned legs and inlaid designs on the surface, costs at least $100 per square yard. A thin marble top can increase weight by at least 30 lb. per square yard.

A small chest or cabinet (two cubic feet, about the size of a small dorm refrigerator) costs $30 and up, depending on the skill of the maker and the decoration of the cabinet. Such a chest weighs about 15 lb. empty. A strongbox starts at $50, protecting its contents with a DR of 5 or more. Weight is 30 lb. or more, depending on how strongly the box is built. Strongboxes may be equipped with locks (see above). Wardrobes (about 6 feet tall and a yard or so wide and deep) start at $300 and 400 lb. empty.

A couch for leisurely dinners or a small bed costs at least $200 and weighs about 150 lb. (mattresses were not light-weight). Double cost and weight for a full size bed. High-quality carving and fine joinery can add $200 or more to the cost, and a canopy is at least $100 extra.

Heavy cloth, designed to keep out drafts in cold, dreary stone buildings as well as to decorate. $10 and 5 lb. per square yard. Triple cost for a nicely embroidered design. Double cost and weight for rugs and carpets.

Appendix II: List of Files

If you're downloading this to your own machine for easier reference, you should know which files you'll need. You're currently reading archt.html. It incorporates the graphic files title.jpg and castlep.gif.

The examples page is keep.html. It incorporates the graphic files 1stfloor.gif, 2ndfloor.gif, and 3rdfloor.gif.