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Basic Information

A Crannog is an artificial island usually built in a lake, to serve as a dwelling place or in some cases a tiny community. They were built in Scotland and Ireland from around 1000 BC to 1600 AD, with some of the earliest crannog sites dating possibly back farther to the Neolithic period.

The crannog was build by dumping stones, timber and earth into a lake or river bed to build up an island on which huts could be built. Some crannogs were connected to the land by stone causeways, and many were surrounded by a timber palisade or fence. The river or lake surrounding the crannog formed a defense for the people living there. The building techniques varied over the centuries; some were built on sturdy timber piers. As sections of the area became deforested, it became more common to build the crannogs out of stone.

The artificial island foundation distinguishes crannogs from both stilt-houses and from the sort of raft-based construction used in Central America to settle lakes.

Abandoned crannogs became overgrown and sometimes difficult to differentiate from a natural island.


2. Ancient Ireland: Crannogs (includes lots of good photographs of a reconstructed crannog)
3. Fiction: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien — Lake-Town, the nearest human settlement to the Lonely Mountain, is a very large crannog with an entire community built upon it, placed in the middle of the lake to defend against the dragon. Unfortunately, dragons fly.

Game and Story Use

  • A party traveling in an medieval setting might well come across a crannog.
  • In a wild area, any farms the party comes across will probably be well defended, either by fences or something like a crannog.
  • An abandoned crannog might make a good place to camp for the night.
    • Or perhaps it is already being used as a campsite for brigands.
  • A crannog might also make a good home for a hermit
  • The former inhabitants of a crannog might have left interesting things behind.
    • Okay, let's not be cute. Treasure. That's what the players will be interested in.
    • Or the crannog might have a different sort of "interesting things" dumped in the foundations, or might be built on top of an "interesting place". Either something breaks out while people are in there (or after they left, if the purpose of the crannog was to contain it), or the PCs have to convince people to let them dig up a city.
  • As George R. R. Martin pointed out, living in crannogs is a good strategy for a civilisation of swamp dwellers.
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