A Little Bit More About Strongholds – Part II

Here we continue where we left off in our exploration of castle construction rules throughout old school D&D. In our last installment we left off in approximately 1981, with the otherwise wonderful B/X Cook Expert rules – which were a real disappointment on the castle front. Since we’re going more-or-less chronologically, the natural next step is in 1983’s Mentzer-helmed BECMI edition. Before we dive in, a refresher:

Our stronghold sample is Fort Possum, an uncomplicated little castle (not drawn remotely to scale!) which gives us a chance to test out each version of the construction rules and see how the varying systems help us.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive down into BECMI and beyond!

4. BECMI (Expert and Companion Rules)

Available on DriveThruRPG (Expert / Companion)

Because BECMI was split amongst a larger set of softcover books and supplemental documents, there was more space for the various tangential topics of D&D. It also meant that some things got much of their content pushed back out of the Basic and Expert books. In the Expert book for BECMI, Mentzer gives us about two-thirds of single page on page 23 to discuss construction of strongholds, which nonetheless is arguably more useful than the single page in the Cook Expert rulebook. Herein the construction costs of varying items include terse but useful definitions of the components of a castle, as as well as the time element of castle construction. Much of what is said is merely a rephrased version of Cook’s page, but with the benefit of hindsight and a more efficient layout. As this falls within a general DM Information appendix of the book, it is not terrifically organized amongst other topics, but it is followed shortly after some interruptions about created monster XP by rules for follower and mercenary troop types which can be lured to serve within a stronghold’s coterie. Much later, on page 27, we learn about the rules of strongholds:

  • clerics may begin one at 9th level and their church may help with costs up to 50%;
  • demi-humans will be aided by their family in selecting a location and an interest-free loan for up to 50% of the costs, and the same folks will happily come defend it in times of strife;
  • fighters may build their strongholds beginning at 9th level and it is assumed they will be granted a title in the process and the fighter will be able to call on the ruler of the area to whom they are sworn for aid if their stronghold is threatened;
  • magic-users may build their tower at 11th level or greater and may do so in any land regardless of the regent, who in turn will issue an edict of protection for the tower even if he or she has never met the magic-user before and offer forces to protect it if it should be attacked unless the attacker is another mage;
  • thieves may build hideouts beginning at level 9 so long as the Thieves Guild approves their plan to do so, and doing so in an uncontrolled location will see the hideout recognized as a formal branch of the guild and apprentices shall be sent by the guild to the hideout.

The Companion set begins after level 14 in BECMI and this is the set with significantly more detail on stronghold play. On page 8 of the first book we are made aware of some key details omitted in the Expert book: while a human may opt for a stronghold at 9th level and higher, a demi-human must be maximum level! Would’ve been nice to know earlier, Mr. Mentzer. This is helpfully followed up with extensive details on the various varieties and costs of specialists which could be convinced to take up residence in the castle beyond the simple mercenary sort of archers and crossbowmen and the like; things like chaplains, castellans, and heralds. This also includes the cost of an engineer, which is briefly touched on in the Expert book’s Specialists section (though you’re not specifically told this) and referenced repeatedly for the construction of a stronghold.

In the second book of the Companion set we are nearly immediately treated to the rules surrounding dominions, the BECMI word for domains. In detail this covers founding territories, granting territories, colonization, enfieffment, and conquest as methods of establishing dominions for player characters; it also covers extensive rules regarding determination of the territory’s details including environs, resources, and management – which is itself an expansive section covering taxation, income from exploitation of resources, and record keeping for expenses such as troops, upkeep, celebrations, and more. Then comes rules for events such as knightly tournaments, which have enough events to qualify as the Olympics it seems, and gaining knightly titles from ranking in tournaments. This is followed by rules governing confidence and satisfaction of the populace, which is a multi-page expanded version of what boils down to Gygax’s paragraph-long OD&D “Angry Villager Rules”. Still with me? Good, because we have so much more to do! After this stuff comes the rules for changing rules and turbulence of the populace, followed by dominion events featuring an array of natural disasters, and man-made interruptions such as banditry, border skirmishes, cults, spies, powerful wandering monsters, riots, and more!

Once you have all of this memorized, which almost amounts to playing Civilization IV with a pen and paper, you can move on to the mass combat rules of BECMI, known as The War Machine. The War Machine is a system all to itself, technically removed from the rest of the rules of D&D and independent for the most part. Each body of troops is given a Battle Rating, which is modified by the hazards they face (enemies, terrain, morale, etc). Players calculate the Battle Rating of their forces in the face of the given modifiers of the combat, roll a d%, add their modified Battle Rating to the roll, and then compares that total against the total of the opposing force – higher roll wins! If you thought it seems simple enough, you’d almost be right, except you probably didnt realize there were three full pages of text to assign the force’s base Battle Rating based on many qualities such as Leadership Factor, Experience Factor, Training Factor, Equipment Factor, Special Troop Factor… It goes on. Then there’s some pages on the modifiers. Then some pages on how to apply the roll results and determine the outcome and aftermath of the fight. Then some pages on optional rules for damaging PCs involved in the chaos, PC spells and abilities, magical items given to the battling forces, experience points for the forces to gain veterancy, and finally we get a half a page of “quick reference” order of events for running the entire thing.
NOTEWORTHY BITS: The first truly large section on army-on-army combat that isn’t assuming you’d try to do Chainmail en masse, and allows for abstracted custom systems to take up the task. First to give us specific level requirements and other limitations.
FORT POSSUM: The stalwart fortress is nearly identical in Mentzer Expert and Cook Expert. As is known, Mentzer was encouraged to liberally pull from prior D&D products when making his, and in this case the prices and indeed some of the phrasing are all identical. The construction time rules are the same as well, but the engineer rule has been fixed to require his help for 0 – 100,000 whereas before we squeaked in under the wire. Total cost here, including 6 months of an engineer’s time: 94,000gp.
MY TAKE: This is sort of the transitional point for domain play in D&D from the rulings, not rules mindset of earlier D&D into the tightly codified style of later D&D domain play. In this regard, it is indicative of D&D on the whole, since it is my opinion that, as BECMI carried on, it began to show the roots of AD&D 2E.

5. Rules Cyclopedia

Continuing the BECMI line (and, largely, completing it) was Aaron Allston’s revised version, the Rules Cyclopedia. My enduring adulation for this edition is an aside deserving its own article altogether, but it bears mentioning that the Rules Cyclopedia edition of the D&D rule set is amongst the most comprehensive, complete volumes ever produced by TSR or WotC. Though it isn’t perfect, it had a vast amount of information, well-organized for use by the DM or player, and was capable of running campaigns from first to thirty-sixth(!) level without trouble.

In Rules Cyclopedia, like most forms of D&D, dominion play begins at ninth level (eighth for halflings). The book dedicates about a dozen pages just to the subject of strongholds and territory, beginning on page 134 with an overview of the rules and specifics of establishing a demesne on a class-by-class basis. This section does a good job of essentially restating the Expert and Companion rules for the classes and demihumans, such as clerics’ churches paying for half the keep if they’ve been successful missionaries, or the various clans of demihumans supporting the player character. Of specific note here are the rules on druids; whereas prior editions of stronghold rules do not exclude a given class or race from building a castle, the Rules Cyclopedia states that druids do not build any form of holdings or hire mercenaries and specialists. Sorry, druids! Another deviation from the BECMI basis whence this came: in the Expert set, magic-users were restricted compared to other classes, building their stronghold at 11th level. In the Allston Rules Cyclopedia, magic-users are in line with other classes, building their stronghold at 9th level.

Following this, we get a good look at the circumstances of establishing a keep, followed by royal titles and forms of address (and the interactions of these various noble ranks as they might relate to a player character joining their number). This information is useful from a flavor standpoint for the DM running the game, who might not otherwise have been aware of the general niceties of royalty and nobility, but honestly could have been omitted if the page count had been a consideration and very little of value would have been lost. There is a table here of noble reactions to the player’s appearance as a new landed nobleman, and the rules for it consist of little more than a paragraph; with that we could have probably done away with all of the rest of this text. Nice to have, but not necessary. Maybe someday I’ll go through the Rules Cyclopedia and see what else could be edited down from it.

Next comes explanations of costs and time for construction, followed by detailed definitions for each element of castle construction available to players. This is where the Rules Cyclopedia does a great job. This is the element of stronghold building and management that deserves a page or so of explanation, unlike noble titles. The rules for construction are similar of course to the BECMI rules that preceded it, as are the various castle options listed on the table of fortifications, with the addition of AC ratings for rough combat approximation and BR+ ratings for use with the War Machine mass combat rules (which I’ll touch on in a bit). There are some differences – walls are half as thick at 5′, requiring more math to approximate matching other versions of castle construction rules, for example – but by and large these are broadly comparable systems to the other versions of D&D castle rules. Construction time is abstracted to a flat one day per 500gp spent, and the rules appropriately note that an engineer must be hired for every 100,000gp (or less) spent.

Following the castle construction rules, we receive a page or so on followers and retainers who will arrive through various means to staff the player character’s freshly-built stronghold. This includes the demihuman clan rules, thieves getting income from subordinate petty pickpocket apprentices, and so forth. There are listed the costs and types of specialists required to keep a castle in good running order, and thankfully engineer costs are listed in this section.

The Rules Cyclopedia includes rules for the dominion surrounding the stronghold, including ongoing management and interactions of the populace and territory. The first section is largely about establishing who and what, exactly, is in the dominion as a basis of how to manage it later. This is simple but covers all of the bases you’d likely ever use at the table in a standard D&D game. Rules for population growth, resource types and amounts found in the territory suitable for exploitation by various capitalist ventures, and the varying levels of civilization or wilderness on a given hex of territory. These are sufficient enough to provide a straightforward framework for fair and regular use of the rules, but give tons of leeway to the DM to do what makes sense or is most imaginative. For example, resource randomization has only three major types (animal, vegetable, and mineral – sound familiar?), but below the table proper is a key illuminating possible specifics of each type. If you randomly generate that a map hex has several animal resources, that might mean you have whale fat and oil, fish, and sea fowl meat (such as you might find on a seashore hex, for example) straight off the key, but there’s enough room to easily sub in your own weirder options – instead of the suggested ivory, maybe your hex sells the bones of brontosauruses for use in siege weapons to other kingdoms. Because the resources are exploited by your peasantry, who in turn pay taxes to you, it’s not really necessary to be ridiculously particular about these things as they compare to each other. This is a good system, to my eye, because it allows that flexibility to be creative alongside the nerdy specificity that appeals to my desire for depth and detail.

The second subsection of the dominion management rules is broad, containing things like visitors, holidays, changing rulers, confidence levels amongst the populace (which determines productivity, unrest, and so forth), and events both natural and unnatural. These follow in the footsteps of BECMI, predictably. This subsection discusses troops and the expectation to muster them for your superior (such as the king who has named your fighter a baron, for example). A block of text precedes the meat of this section, and comments on the importance of record keeping echoes the Gygaxian axiom about the keeping of time being critical to campaign value; this makes sense when you see the scale of detail expected of managing a demesne. Some of these systems are easily ignored or simplified to the abstract at the table if you preferred – though, contrary to this instinct shared, I am sure, by many, the rules go out of their way to explain that you could actually freely invent a far more complicated and granular system than the proffered confidence level system. It makes you wonder what level of dominion management the market of the time was seeking if the game provides a fairly deep system but suggests you might want to go even more strictly granular rather than less so – and I wonder what the splatbook model of AD&D 2E, largely concurrent with BECMI/RC, might have to say about the same idea. I mean, look at the 3rd Edition that followed! But I digress.

The Rules Cyclopedia also includes an entire chapter on the War Machine mass combat rules, which we’re familiar with from the Expert and Companion rules above, so we can gloss over that here. Of note, though, as I mentioned above, is that the Rules Cyclopedia section on castle elements includes AC and BR values in the construction table for easy reference.

Now to sum it all up!
NOTEWORTHY BITS: Comprehensive, like almost all subjects the Rules Cyclopedia touches; druids get screwed.
FORT POSSUM: Fort Possum costs us a about 89,500gp in material and construction costs, which means just a few days shy of 6 months to build it per the rules given to us. For simplicity I’m gonna pay the engineer her 750gp/month for all six months, meaning a fee of 4500gp. We unsurprisingly end up around 94,000 gold for our castle, since the numbers match Mentzer BECMI on the whole.
MY TAKE: Rules Cyclopedia is consistently the most complete version of D&D. It’s not perfect, but one day I’ll write all my loving thoughts about it down. This subject is no different; Allston’s book is suitable for a complete game including the big kid stronghold levels of play. Many of the castle management/territory management rules are probably going to get ignored at the table; I bet that most people eschewed the annual confidence level check even if only due to forgetfulness, and probably only used the event rules by DM fiat when there was nothing better to do at the moment – but I am glad they’re included.

6. AD&D 2nd Edition (The Castle Guide)

In the 90s we got a number of supplements on just about every subject under the sun. The industry was in the grip of a monetization model we now refer to as splatbook hell, and back then referred to as “Fuck you, come on, really?!” every time we went to the Friendly Local Game Store and discovered somehow another GURPS 3rd Edition or AD&D 2E book was waiting on the shelves. This carried on into the early 2000s and impacted 3E and 3.5E D&D as well. It was an era marked by subjects ranging from the critical to the downright obscure being split off from core books and expanded upon whether it needed it or not until it fit an expected book length, then being packaged and sold as a facet of the game you’re already playing. It was, consequently, a time of endless rule expansion, where everything had to have a rule set (to justify the book), and games became bogged down under the sheer weight of their accessory supplements. Many of these turned out to be hardly optional, like many of the character class guides for AD&D 2E. Many others were immediately ignored by all but the most hearty collectors. Like any impressionable young person, I fell somewhere in between, and ravenously gobbled up any book that interested me when I had money, whether I needed it or not. The AD&D 2E Castles Guide was actually given to me in a crate of hand-me-down RPGs, but it unfortunately sparked in me the hunger for splatbooks that wasn’t reined in until some time in college. In this book, fort construction rules and siege rules weren’t some appendix or scattered collection of paragraphs; every page revolved around the subject and treated it as if it would make or break your D&D game. To me, it was domain play.

This book nearly hits 130 pages of domain rules. It begins with 20 pages about the structure of feudal society, including taxation schedules, common faces around a castle, and a bribery skill. Whoops, sorry. Bribery non-weapon proficiency. This is real, folks; we’re deep in the latter years of AD&D 2E now. Following these baseline details, a further dozen pages or so describe knighthood, including knighthood for non-human races, and then the art of the chivalric knightly tournament. This all sets the stage for the presumption of royal charter and assistance with the construction, which is an element of the ongoing example “Castle on the Moors” which is referred to at the end of nearly every segment of the book to provide the reader with a sample calculation updated and informed by what has been learned in the previous pages.

Fully a third of the book passes in this preamble content before we get to the fifth chapter, which at last is about the titular castles. We get to spend more than twenty pages in the rules for castle construction, which is an incredible increase over previous incarnations of these rules; it begins with the various methods of acquiring land upon which to build one’s castle, such as conquest, exploration, or grant. This eventually gives way to determining the climate of the environs, each type of which carries with it a Production Modifier (PM) which determines the difficulty, cost, and time to construct your character’s castle. This sounds reasonable enough, so far as complexity goes, until you turn the page to learn that the geography type individually carries a PM of its own, so being in the arctic is bad enough but being in a mountainous arctic region is twice as bad. This is not the end of it; following this we get a series of descriptors for the density of woods, called ground cover, which of course come with PMs again. We now have three different elements giving us Production Modifiers, but we aren’t quite through yet – resource availability has its own grades of Production Modifiers, as does local social structure (since it is this society from which we will draw our laborers for construction, and some civilizations are more suited to producing orderly workers than others) and, of course, laborer morale carries a production modifier as well. If you have your territory in the mountainous arctic with dense forests and poor resources, near a nomadic society of depressed lizard men, well, my friend, you’re in for a world of hurt.

Following that lively introduction to construction we get to the costs and schedules for castle structures. This is where the plotting of the elements of your stronghold begin. Everything has a cost and a time, with lengthy and complete definitions of each element. Rules exist here for making ornamental facades and structures a part of your construction efforts at great cost, so your resultant castle is less Pendennis and more Neuschwanstein, in case your character was very inspired by Walt Disney World and has Disney money to spare.

Additionally, there are cost or time modifications in the form of the player characters (or specialist NPCs with class levels) lending a hand, magical items creating conditions for productivity, and monsters being used as specialized heavy laborers. Once all of this and the preceding section have been calculated, and it is quite a bit of stuff to work out, the DM must weigh in on the climate again and determine with the player how many seasons out of the year that work may take place. There are rules and a roll table thereafter for events which interrupt productivity, such as banditry or a civil war or a tornado. All is wrapped up with the complete and final example of the Castle on the Moors sample stronghold.

With the end of construction rules comes so much more. We thereafter venture to the chapter on “Unusual Castles”, which is to say anything other than the castle of a medieval European king or knight. Everything from Asian-inspired castles to thief hideouts to wizard towers and ranger lodges is discussed here, with suggestions of style, location, or design for each. Some sections, like that of the Wizard’s Keep, are brief. Others, such as the Priest’s Fortress, take up the majority of a page. Other descriptions include some types of dwarven and elven strongholds, gnomish castles, halfling forts, and more. This is the first instance in the examples I’ve written about where the book describes in detail the styles and expected qualities of demi-human strongholds; though the BECMI rules gave us the existence of player character demi-human strongholds, we did not receive guidance on their construction until here in the Castle Guide.

In the seventh chapter, beginning on page 76, we begin looking at warfare. Throughout this book (and, indeed, mentioned briefly in the BECMI examples as well), the D&D BATTLESYSTEM miniatures wargaming ruleset has been referenced repeatedly; this section finally makes good on that foreshadowing and levels a fairly in-depth consideration of the intersection between BATTLESYSTEM and AD&D 2E gaming. The BATTLESYSTEM rules are necessary for the AD&D 2E castle warfare to be truly detailed. Besides this, though, the section gives us rules for morale and function decreases due to attrition by starvation and dehydration during a siege. It suggests much more than describing historical methods of taking a castle, though; in conjunction with the BATTLESYSTEM it presumes the DM may need to simulate air support, paratroops, giant and ogre assaults to contribute to escalade or reduction attempts, and more fantastic situations specific to a D&D campaign. We are given specialized rules for siege attacks by things such as treants and golems as well as the use of certain spells such as Move Earth and Bigby’s Clenched Fist as siege engines. This is followed by several pages on the concept of undermining and the qualities of doing so with various races of humanoid; it also covers counterattacking these foes and collapsing their shafts. Siege impacting morale is covered in depth as well as a massive section on defensive tactics and constructions to avoid your castle being taken by an enemy general. A section dedicated to siege engine capabilities, stats, command and control, and tactics follows. Lastly, we finally come to a quick resolution system for sieges; this still requires the BATTLESYSTEM rules to stat out defending and attacking forces, but the majority of the quick resolution rules are present in this book. As you’d imagine by now, the quick resolution system still takes up many pages.

At last we come to the end, whereby we are given floorplans and details for numerous generic castles. This includes things like a simple citadel suitable for a wizard or a frontier waystation, a manor house, and a true great castle.
NOTEWORTHY BITS: This is some extremely granular stuff – likely the most granular old school D&D ever got!
FORT POSSUM: In the world of AD&D 2E, Fort Possum is a whole different animal, thanks to the vast number of subsystems governing each detail of the locale and circumstance of constructing a castle. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to assume our castle is being established in a perfectly temperate, flat, resource-rich area with helpful, average folks. Assuming this ideal scenario gives us an extremely positive bonus to the cost and time; with all things equal otherwise and following the formula we end up with a price of 23,752gp and a crew requirement of 23 men to complete it in one year. Because of favorable climate and ground cover, we are able to achieve more work in a year than average, shaving a further 17 weeks off the total, meaning we’re going to be done in 8.75 months at our current budget and manpower. We can’t account for the random events causing delays, so we’re going to presume it’s the most boring year on record.
MY TAKE: This book was tremendously interesting to me as a kid, and inspired endless fits of imagination. Looking back on it now, it’s easy to see where it was emblematic of the splatbook model – as is common with splatbooks, there is a lot of filler here, and many sections are very long when they need not be in order to pad the word count like a seventh grade book report. Numerically, castles in this can get staggering (millions of gold pieces) in a hurry depending on the situations – our example merely assumed many ideal conditions in order to be fairly compared to other systems that lack extensive modifiers.

7. AD&D 2nd Edition (Birthright Rulebook)

Birthright was an AD&D 2E campaign setting, much like Forgotten Realms or Dark Sun are campaign settings, which features several core elements that make it unique amongst D&D products: characters are inherently powerful beings by virtue of their bloodlines which date back to great figures of old, heroes (and villains) so empowered by their bloodlines may be killed in a specific fashion so as to add part of their power to the killer’s power and in so doing even more power may be accumulated, and domain play is baked in from the very get-go as each hero (and villain) is also considered to be some variety of noble by birth and is afforded territory and assets. This brings with it the need for rules and systems to play all of these elements out at the table, and Birthright offers its own take on much of that.

The element of Birthright most germane to our topic today is the domain play, which is actually a tremendous part of playing a Birthright campaign. Characters are given a domain as part of character creation, and the domain consists of provinces, holdings, and assets. Provinces are of course the territory and its people; holdings are things such as guilds, the rule of law, magical sites, and temples or other religious locations; and assets are of course things like armies, fortified locations, magical ley lines, roads, and so forth. The loyalty of your territories matters, and can be impacted by various holdings as well as events; too high taxation or a devastating war can have your province’s loyalty in the gutter. Players manage their domain via domain turns, which encompass three months of time; these are critical to Birthright behind the scenes as they set the stage for the adventures and conflicts of the campaign, but they are not the real focus of day to day play. Generally, every few sessions, the DM will cycle the domain turn and each player will dictate his or her domain turn, and then the game returns to one of exploration and fantastic battles and the things we’re accustomed to with D&D. These turns create plot points and events the characters must react to during regular play, and take some time to resolve (as each player and important NPC must enact one). Within a domain turn cycle, random events are rolled, domains receive initiative, and then the sequence is decided for the players (and NPCs) to move in order. During their turn, players will do some bookkeeping for their character and their domain, make some choices for the next phase of their domain, and then they can wage war, if desired, on other domains and regents following Birthright’s internal system. Each regent (player and NPC alike) in turn does the same, and these activities decide the landscape of the next several adventures or quests to be undertaken by the players. In this way, the domain turn is very important to a Birthright game, and therefore domain play is naturally extremely key to Birthright play, but it is not the constant spotlight of the game.

Characters have a Regency score which approximates their capacity to rule and indeed their latitude to rule as they see fit; Regency can be spent, accrued, lost, and is central to the domain play feature as many actions are governed by it.

Birthright differed from other D&D versions further still for its army warfare, which pitted force against force with a proprietary stat and resolution system summed up with a set of included War Cards, which represented various units. Rules are included for the creation of variant units to match player-created domains. Each unit of a military is assigned several stats and these are compared to each other to resolve combat. These combats are what comprises the domain combat event(s) within a domain turn.

NOTEWORTHY BITS: The first D&D supplement that I know of to take the concept of a living world impacted by player domains and codify it – finally a system to manage the people and land you acquired when you built your mighty stronghold!
FORT POSSUM: Not strictly compatible, to be honest – these rules are more about armies and territory management; domains are funded with and controlled by Regency Points.
MY TAKE: Most of Birthright was a really new idea as far as D&D was concerned, and it deserved more appreciation. Unfortunately many people do not play domain games, and so it went without as many accolades as it might have otherwise earned. The army/War Card system works as advertised, but isn’t awe-inspiring.

So, what have we learned? Probably a few things. Definitely we learned that the variance in cost and time is immense depending on which version you’re using. We learned complexity increases as time goes on in D&D, for the most part, and this is analogous to rules complexity increasing in other aspects of D&D – the rule creep is real! We learned that complexity can be fun, but in that case, it’s probably going to be sort of its own side game for those who want it.

We can say pretty surely that the old school has unquestionably ended by the time Birthright came to be. With the latter years of AD&D 2E, the sheer weight of the rules found in nearly infinite expansion supplements smothered the “rulings, not rules” presumption of earlier editions. Even the artistic sensibilities, which began as a more polished version of the older styles, had begun to transform into a new beast altogether alongside the rules. Soon, 3rd Edition (and, shortly thereafter, 3.5E) would arrive and bring us into the new era of D&D officially. I’m not sure I’ll delve into those later editions.

As far as our friend Matt Colville’s book? After this closer examination and general experimentation/refresher course, I can see where much of his inspiration came from. I can appreciate, as I said in that review, his need to approximate and abstract so much of construction, but I still think we’re missing out on at least some level of specificity for the construction – I don’t want to do endless math, but having an ongoing gold sink with clearly-described elements would have been fun. After playing with all the pieces I am half tempted to try to make something myself from the bits and bobs of both Matt’s work and the old school products, but I am pretty lazy so I’ll probably just keep actually doing rulings rather than rules in OSR-type games. In 5E with my family? I’ll probably reference Matt’s book. It’s functional for 5E and it works the way it is written, it can be modified if I need to do so without breaking anything, and it would be a fun system for the whole table given their general newness to D&D and especially dominion-level D&D. And I think that’s pretty high praise after all is said and done!

If you enjoyed this little series of revisiting castle rules in old school D&D inspired by my time reading Matt Colville’s Strongholds & Followers, let me know in the comments or over on Twitter @dungeonspossums. Let me know if I missed your favorite version of stronghold construction from OD&D-2E and anywhere in between; I’d love to know and I might even go track a copy down if it entices me enough!

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3 comments on “A Little Bit More About Strongholds – Part II

  1. Blue Tyson

    This is good, thanks. Used the War Machine a few times and did run a tournament once.

    2e explosion was why I gave up on D&D then.

  2. Jon

    I actually bought the BIRTHRIGHT boxed set from Noble Knight games after watching a Matt Colville review of it on youtube. It was entertaining, with Matt singing snatches of a Styx song “Witch Wolf” whenever he referenced the Wytch Woods in Birthright. But after mine came in the mail, Matt’s video disappeared from his yt channel. After I started looking through STRONGHOLDS & FOLLOWERS, I figured out why. He lifted lots of ideas from Birthright and reskinned them, including the War Cards. His book is neat, and his team have come up with lots of add-ons. But I just wish I could see his review video again!

    1. Jon

      Or was it Matt’s book Kingdoms & Warfare?… I forget…

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