In last month’s column, I provided the starting design for a Tower-Faced Demon ruin that adventurers could explore and consider claiming as their own. This article covers not only designing/refurbishing a stronghold but also how to use the rules to make it happen.
Basic World Building uses the tools from 1981’s Basic Dungeons & Dragons and Expert D&D and reimagined in Old School Essentials to build a starting campaign setting. Even though it is based on Basic D&D, it could be used with other D&D rules or fantasy RPGs.
To recap, low-level adventurers explore the Tower-Faced Demon ruin and clear it of monsters. Here is the map:
Once the work of exploration and combat is done, the PCs should be weighted down with captured gold. They are perfectly capable of moving on to the next adventure. But what if they want to stick around? What if they want to turn the Tower-Faced Demon into their very own stronghold?
As GM, you have four things to consider. One, what the rules say about building strongholds and how closely you want to follow those rules. Two, the cost involved even if just restoring an existing ruin back to usability. Three, who will the PCs be beholden to (who will grant the location to them and give them authority) and how will their new subjects react to them. Finally, what do the PCs do with the finished stronghold, and what challenges will they face in holding onto it and protecting their new subjects?
The rules usually have a level requirement for stronghold building, but not for fighters and halflings. Since most groups will have a fighter, the rule requirements will be met. However, even for groups without a fighter, a GM could simply lift the level requirement.
The biggest block is cost. Low-level PCs can’t afford a stronghold on their own. Which ties into who are they beholden to?
The Tower-Faced Demon ruin is located on an island with two villages. The duke on the larger island across the water currently has no knights stationed in either village. That island is actually a bit dangerous. So if a group of adventurers clear out the ruin and want to run it, the duke can grant them authority to do so, thereby extending his authority without risking his own men. He will have to pay some gold to do so, however. Which means the duke will need to be impressed by the PCs to fund them.
The GM should create an adventure for the PCs, unarmed and unarmored, to meet with the duke in person and plead their case. If the plans they have sound reasonable, the duke will likely have a quest of his own for the PCs to complete to show him their worth. The adventure will likely tie the PCs closely to him, so may involve killing a rival “bandit leader” or raiding a nearby enemies’ camp.
After a well-presented request and a completed quest, the duke will agree to some basic renovations, give the PCs authority to control the island and keep its inhabitants safe as castellans, and even raise a small militia from the local villages if they wish. In return, the PCs agree to swear an oath of allegiance to the duke and pledge to protect the villagers under their protection and lawful travelers to their island. If the duke or his men visit, they must also serve as hosts.
The duke is willing to put in a new moat, drawbridge, and portcullis. If the PCs don’t think to ask he doesn’t plan on providing furniture or doors, although he is willing to do so if asked politely after a particularly well-argued case for making the PCs castellans.
Of course, as the PCs grow in influence and power, they can add to and expand to their stronghold as well. If they govern particularly well, they may even be able to annex additional lands and strongholds as their loyalty and value to the duke increases.
The nearby villages have around 400 peasants. Taxes coming in will be 10 gp a year per villager, for a total of 4000 gp. Of that, the PCs may want around 20 light foot for patrols which costs 2 gp each a month for a total of 480 gp a year. They will need a blacksmith as well, which costs 400 gp a year.
The PCs will likely want to attract more settlers with hopes of building another village for more taxes. On the map below, the PCs’ stronghold is the castle n the east side. Villages are north and south of the stronghold. Another village could be built in the west if the PCs can clear the monsters.
In addition, about once a month or so the GM can have a random event befall the new castellans.
|1||Bandits or pirates||3d10 bandits start working the island or coastal pirates start preying on shipping|
|2||Merchants or traders||1d20 merchants or 3d6 traders looking to trade|
|3||Natural disaster||Earthquake, fire, or tornado rips through a village or the stronghold|
|4||Orcs||1d6x10 orcs move in|
|5||Rats||3d10 giant rats infest the stronghold or a village|
|6||1d10 roll||1 giant or dragon, 2 faeries, 3-5 refugees, 6-7 nomads, 8 adventurers, 9 convocation of wizards, 10 duke or his knights|
If a 6 is rolled, something special happens.
|1||A hill giant or green dragon claims the island as their home.|
|2||Faeries appear in the wilds (1d6: 1 dryads, 2 nixie, 3 pegasus, 4 pixie, 5 sprite, or 6 unicorn).|
|3-5||1d20 normal human show up fleeing war or a natural disaster.|
|6-7||1d4x10 nomads willing to trade.|
|8||A band of hungry grasping adventurers arrives on the island.|
|9||1d12 mediums led by a 3rd master and protected by 2d4 veterans.|
|10||2d6 nobles (roll another d6, on a 6 the duke himself arrives with 9 nobles and 20 veterans.|
Usually, the villagers will be content to pay taxes and stay protected. But if any of these events go unchecked by the PCs, the villagers themselves may start to grumble about loss of life and why they are paying taxes. If the PCs neglect their duties as castellans, the villagers themselves may riot.
If the adventurers decide to claim the ruin as their stronghold, many adventuring opportunities open up. They have to convince the duke, clear their lands, raise a militia, deal with interesting visitors, keep their settlers content, and continue to find time to continue to adventure. The Tower-Faced Demon Keep is a great way to ground a campaign in one location and keep the PCs together adventuring for a long time.
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