On Strongholds

I haven’t written much about articles from Dungeon and Dragon non-magazines in the past for the for the simple reason that 95% of them fall somewhere between “meh” and “ok, but not for me” in terms of overall quality, and I’d rather talk about good stuff than incessantly bang on about things that aren’t quite so great.

To be fair, several of the Dungeon adventures provide exactly the kind of Delve-style one or two session romps I like – short, sharp jaunts that don’t need a whole lot of planning beforehand and can develop a life of their own when played through. I’ve just not had the opportunity to run any of them yet. I hope that is going to change soon!

It’s heartening when a truly terrific article turns up to redress the balance, and especially one about a topic I feel has been missing from the whole D&D experience for so long: Strongholds. This article could have gone downhill, devolving into yet another swampy morass of lazily constructed Feats and Powers that make little or no sense. Dragon has had far too many of those.

Instead, we received an article about Strongholds that truly sparkles with a lightness of touch that provides just enough rules information to cover their construction and trigger a GM or Player’s imagination. Already one of my players is itching to begin construction and planning the layout. All I have to do it find an excuse for him to be granted rights to build one……

Your basic Stronghold costs 25,000gp and takes up 300 squares (7,500 square feet) of space spread over as many floors as you see fit. The term Stronghold is generic – it could be a Castle, Wizards’ Tower, Citadel, Abbey, Dungeon, Thieves Guild or any other structure the player can come up with. A large part of Stronghold building comes from working out the layout and design, and what the article gives us is the simplest of frameworks to begin with. This ‘wulf approves.

At that cost it’s in line with a Level 15 Magic Item so would be a perfect reward to grant to your hero when he reaches the Paragon Tier (11th level) in recognition for services rendered to the Church or State.  If you can’t wait quite that long, I have extrapolated the costs and sizes downward so your hero can build a smaller structure earlier as his wealth and reknown permit:

Price Squares Square Feet Item Level Equivalent
2500 300 7500 15
1700 200 5000 13
9000 100 2500 11
4200 50 1250 9
1800 25 625 6
520 6 150 2

Using this table and as per the DMG, a party could be given a 150 square foot apartment flat as a reward for completing a mission at 1st level. Hey, it’s a start on the road to that Stronghold and every party deserves a safe haven and HQ, right? By the time the heroes have reached Level 7, that 2500 square foot (Level 11) construction could be the Wizards’ Tower that eventually takes up a corner of the full Stronghold when they are given the rights to build it.

The rest of the article provides information about special rooms or features that could be included as a part of the structure. These provide some form of benefit (either a skill bonus or defensive/offensive boon) when the room is used. For example, a Chapel takes up 9 squares and grants a +1 bonus to Religion checks made in the room. Using the table above, you could create a passable Church for 2,800gp (1,800 + 1,000gp for the Chapel) with 25 squares. The Chapel itself takes up 9 squares with the rest going to subsidiary rooms, cellars, etc.

That is the key strength of an article like this – it sparks the imagination like nothing else. It’s what every good article should do.

Robert Schwalb, well done sir!

2 Comments on “On Strongholds”

  1. I am the type of player/Dm that doesn’t really like Strongholds unless I started out planning on a specific local being the key point behind a campaign. I think that Might and Magic VII (For Blood and Honor) handled the Stronghold campaign very well for a computer game, and if I was to model a stronghold campaign, that would be the model that I use.

    That said, I am very for the Mobile Home Base setup. Airship, Frigate, Floating Tower, Spelljammer, whatever. I like home bases that act as stages to adventure, and am more then generous with the size and abilities of that platform as rarely will the adventure center around the platform itself, but where the platform ends up.

    Of course, I always preferred Sinbad to Alladin, so your millage will vary, naturally.

  2. Cool. This is definitely something that was missing from this version of D&D. I find it kind of humorous that the stronghold takes up a specific number of squares, as size certainly isn’t the only thing that determines how much a building costs. I don’t have an Insider account, so I can’t read the article: do they have rules for adding useful features to the stronghold, such as traps or an alchemy lab?

    I was reading the rules for Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed. the other day, and I really liked their “Headquarters” (a.k.a. stronghold) rules. Have you read it? I can post some details if you’re interested.

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