Monday, March 13, 2017

Worldbuilding Option: Fortresses, Temples, & Strongholds [Fourth Draft]

Available on the DM's Guild (pay what you want) at this link!

Yup. I finally updated it, yet again!

Easily the most popular thing I've ever made (though the Common Man paladin gives it a run for its money), the stronghold rules here have sort of become the gold standard on the internet for building structures in D&D 5e. And, while I'm proud of that, it's also pretty easy to chalk it up to stronghold rules being a massive pain in the butt to make.

In this iteration, I added a ton of suggestions from you guys, updated it to my newest template, and of course swapped in public domain art to facilitate hosting it on the DM's Guild. Let's run down exactly what got updated in this pass, as we do:


  • Added rules for rebuilding damaged structures, which seems to be a pretty common occurrence for adventurers.
  • Added nine new rooms! So a if you've ever wanted a bank, baths, a boutique, catacombs, a clock tower, planar docks, a lighthouse, a mill, or sewers, you're in luck!
  • Updated Traders and Merchants rules to coincide with how that expansion has progressed.
  • Added Secret Passage and Teleportation Rune room modifications, by popular demand.
  • Adjusted pricing on room modifications, making them by and large more affordable.
  • Added hirelings from Volo's, which has notably more than quadrupled the spellcaster hirelings list.
  • Added rules for a flying stronghold falling out of the sky, as that appeared to be a big old question mark last draft.

  • I've got a ton more content that I had to cut off here, such as rules for building canals and roads, because I just couldn't make it work to my satisfaction. I'll probably add it in sooner or later, but knowing how these things go, it might end up being later.  
  • I actually like the public domain look for this option way, way more. Looks more relaxed, austere, and less overall eclectic. 


  1. Your strongholds homebrew (second draft) was what got me following this blog in the first place and I love this newest version. It's a great improvement on the last version.
    I only have a few niggling complaints:
    - You put gold rewards as "3d10 times 50 gp" or "30gp times 5d10" (examples) when in official books it would be written as "3d10x50gp". That's really a niggle.
    - The benefit for the clock tower seems pretty lackluster. It takes 250 days to pay itself back and doesn't scale with the size (or lack of) of the building. I'd personally make it a 10% saving but again, that's just me.
    - The alignment restriction on slaves seems really odd considering that 5E has almost no alignment restrictions and it goes against the whole ethos of 5E. I know slavery has many bad connotations in modern society but many historical societies didn't see it as such. In the Roman empire becoming a slave was often a path to semi-citizenship for provincials and the slaves were sometimes treated like family. I feel like it should be left up to DM arbitration rather than just restricted.

    I'm glad to see this is still getting love though!

    1. >3d10 x 50 gp

      Good point. I've caught that sort of thing more often in my recent work, but this is one of those legacy mistakes that comes back to bite me in the butt.

      >Clock Tower

      Originally I had something like a 10% saving for this in the draft, but I didn't like how that would overly benefit large structures like the palace and do comparably next to nothing for smaller structures.

      Ideally, I'd like rooms to pay for themselves in ~150 days if they provide no other benefit. By this logic, the Clock Tower should save you 16.6666 gp (rounded to 15) a day.

      Problem is, this'd mean you could slap a Clock Tower in an Abbey or College and the structure would become entirely free, as it only has a maintenance fee from hirelings of 15 gp total daily. This would make the Clock Tower all but obligatory for these structures.

      In the end I had to underpower it a bit, but I like where it ended up being balanced at. Reducing 15 gp in maintenance daily to only 5 gp is nothing at all to sneeze at, even if the up-front cost is a bit much.

      >Alignment on slaves

      This is one I waffled around quite a bit. I originally didn't really want to include slaves at all, as slaves have only really come up in my home games when it's time for players to bust some slaver skulls.

      I understand too that a lot of this is my modern mindset eking in. You're right in noting that slaves in Rome were often like a companion that you own, but I wanted to avoid encouraging players to own slaves for the perceived discount *because of course I want to discourage that.*

      I'll probably throw the word "usually" in there, as in "slaves are usually only owned by evil characters." Less absolute, and lets the DM set their own world's morality system into play.

    2. Maybe note that lawful characters have an obligation to offer slaves their freedom after a certain amount of time, reflected by the amount of money that having a slave has? It may even be that there's often a cultural tradition about when and how slaves are offered their freedom, which can be set by the DM with examples:

      "In the Kingdom of Soren, it is tradition to review your holdings and finances at the end of winter, as the new year approaches. This includes the rolls of slaves, and as part of the new year celebrations at the start of spring, any slave who has served for 5 years (or sooner, if their work is of higher value) is offered their freedom."

    3. I'd like to avoid making assumptions about settings and culture, if I can. One of the big draws of this work is that it's setting agnostic. That's why I'm entertaining the idea of non-evil slave ownership in the first place.

      Slavery is one of those things the Lawful alignment tends to get funky with, anyway. Like, if slavery is the law of the land, is it Lawful to uphold slavery? Especially if it's Roman-style and not chattel slavery, where would a Lawful character stand on that?

      I'd prefer to leave moral conundrums to DMs and evade the topic of slavery ethics and the alignment chart as well as I can.

    4. I'd argue slavery is a good/evil thing rather than a lawful/chaotic thing.
      Lawful evil characters certainly use slavery. In fact, I think slavery is more a LE than a CE thing.
      Also, indentured servitude is something societies use as a punishment for criminals (Yes, even America does technically), as a path to citizenship or simply as an alternative to starving on the street.

  2. My only gripe is with the Poisoner's Grotto and Garden, the fact that you're limited to one specific quality of potion/poison. I think a point system that only allows so many rare/uncommon/common, but would allow you to be able to make a mixture of common or uncommon potions and something similar with the poisons.

    1. A point system might be fun to tinker with. I used the current system because I wanted to avoid complication, but I feel like that doesn't push the complication envelope too much.

      It'll be something to look at later on, at any rate. Maybe for the next pass, right now I want to focus on different stuff. :p

  3. Where do you find your public domain art? I'm interested in converting my homebrew to be-able to publish on Dmsguild as well.

    1. I have a few sources, but this is my best one:

      It takes a bit of shopping around to make it work, admittedly. The public domain cutoff is 1923, so anything from that year or before should be kosher.

  4. Nice. I really hope me players survive long enough so i can use these rules for them to build their own little home.

  5. I love this. We have started using it in my campaign(though they don't have the resources yet). Once they do, I'll send you some feedback. Instead of giving a bonus for enchanting room, etc... I've made it so they actually need access to these in order to enchant at all and so far it seems to encourage them enough to want a private rooms as fast as possible.

    Thanks again!

    1. One question. Is there any way you could make the document closer to 8.5 x 11? It looks wonky on some of our tablets - etc...

    2. Thanks for the feedback!

      >enchanting room

      Heh, makes sense. If I were to run a lower-magic game, that's how I'd have it, too.

      Magic items are one of those things every game handles differently, and rather than make multiple different iterations of what a Magical Enchanter *could* be, I figured I'd make a good central idea and actively encourage DMs to restructure it as they see fit via sidebar. Good to know that was the right call.


      Which platforms does it work poorly on?

      I actually wasn't aware that it wasn't 8.5x11, but you're totally right. Resizing would be a massive pain on my end, though, and I'd pretty much have to redo most of my template from the ground up.

      Are there any available settings to keep it from contorting on your end?

    3. One thing that you could do to resolve the resizing issue is to open the PDF in Adobe Reader, then "print" it to another PDF file. Make sure you select the box that says "shrink oversized pages," or "fit" the page to an 8.5x11 sheet of paper. It's a lazy workaround, but it works for me!

  6. Walrock, your content is amazing.

    I've incorporated this system to be a major hook of the campaign I'm running. The PCs found a ruined castle located on intercepting ley lines, (very significant).

    I love how this system allows for so much creativity in combinations and personalisation, please, keep up the good work!

  7. I do think some of the combat npcs should be toned down a bit.
    It's cheaper to run a large castle than 3 champions

    1. Reasonable. Expect new NPC scaling in the next draft.

    2. Admittedly, think about how significant the services of high level NPCs are. A lot of PCs of equivalent level would already be expecting everything as payment, including up to donations from the lord's stock of magic items/artifacts, to work for them within the scope of a single quest.

      Gaining them on as a straight hireling rather than as a function of notoriety or roleplay should be prohibitively expensive at face value. Otherwise, your players could just hire people stronger than them to do their fighting for them at incredibly low levels.

    3. This is the trick, right here.

      How do I price an NPC affordably, but also expensive enough that people aren't going to hire a squad to loot a dungeon for them?

      Consider that a CR 2 NPC is intended to be a solid challenge for a group of 4 level 2 players, and you can definitely see why I made things so expensive.

  8. I think that the benefits for Docks:Air and Docks:Water need to be redone. Unless I'm reading it wrong, the water docks have objectively better returns; having one more merchant each week, and 10*2d10 more gp every 30 days. Maybe switch around the gold-per-month values for these two.

    1. Yup, that's the intention.

      I made the assumption that there would be a higher barrier to entry for air travel, and that it'd be harder for more merchants to travel by air. Similarly, airships have more utility than water ships, and their docks having a lower payoff is part of that balancing trade.

      In a world with, say, no seas and floating sky islands, I'd encourage DMs to change those values around. In most settings, however, I'd stand by the numbers as a bit of basic balancing math.

  9. I'm curious where you got the 5e template (textured background, watercolor accent background, fonts, sidebar banner, etc). Thank you.

  10. I think these rules are absolutely fantastic. I plan on using them in my campaign when my character get a little higher in level. I'm pretty sure one of them is going to leap at the chance to run a military keep in the borderlands my campaign is set.

    Three comments, that I offer in the hopes they might in some small way make your fantastic stronghold rules perhaps even slightly more awesome:

    1. There is a typo on p. 3 under the "Palace or large castle" section. "This structure comes with one free room of your choice, so long as the rom [should obviously be "room"] would typically cost only one room point." Good writing is never done, it just escapes because of publication. ;)

    2. I like the baths, but wondered if there might be a possibility for a "hospital" room. "Players taking a short or a long rest increase their hitpoints recovered/hit die rolled. Medicine checks in this room have triple advantage. Medicine checks in the building have advantage." Just a thought for a more robust healing room than the baths.

    3. One thing I do like about your rules is that a competent DM and a well-thought-out player could easily come up with their own rooms that meet your general idea, if not your specific rooms and rules. A paragraph in a future iteration of the rules stating such would, I think, give people permission to think how they might adapt your rules with more than what you've specifically outlined. Sometimes we D&D players are too bound by "well, the rules don't say X, so we can't do that" mentality.

    Like I said, these are fantastic! I can't express that enough. Carry on, and thank you!

    1. >1

      Hah, wonder how long that's been there. I've fixed the error on my end, it should be in the next draft.


      I originally wanted to make a hospital room, as well, but differentiating it from the baths was hard for me. Both of them had a lot of overlapping kit, and I eventually shrugged and had to fold it into baths. That's kind of why I put "May Also Be Built As" as an option in the first place - there's only so many different things you can make a room do.


      Make-your-own-room would be a great sidebar to add. I'll definitely flesh this out in the next draft.

  11. Wanted to let you know that I've been following these rules since version 0.2 and have loved them every step of the way! The players in my home game are level 14 and are close to coming to the point where the idea of building a stronghold is more realistic.

    My question is whether or not you've had any thoughts about how spells could interact with the time requirements of building the stronghold. My players have already discussed using spells such as "Move Earth", "Stoneshape", "Telekinesis", etc in order to aid in getting this built more quickly. Have you considered putting in any guidelines for this in later drafts?

    1. Good question! Hadn't considered it until now.

      The unplaytested idea that occurs to me is to take the spell level of the player's highest relevant spell, divide it by two and round up, and consider that many additional players to be working on the stronghold.

      For example, say Move Earth is your highest level spell with any relevance to building a stronghold. It's spell level 6, so you could consider it to count for 3 additional players for the purposes of building your stronghold.

    2. In said example, would that be the one character counting as 3, or as 1+3 for the spell usage? I think I know which sounds more logical, but just the thing to keep in mind for your wording of how spell assisted construction works when you write it.

    3. Good point. My intent was 1+3, because I wouldn't want a person contributing with a level 2 spell to be only as useful as a non-magical individual.

  12. Hi Walrock!

    First off, amazing work on these stronghold rules. I love the variety they allow for parties to build the home base of their dreams. I hope you don't mind, but I was actually thinking of showcasing not only your stronghold rules, but also you rules for the traders and merchants on my campaign podcast. However, I wanted ask express permission from you before I went forward. Would you be alright with me spotlighting you and your homebrew on my podcast?

    1. Of course! =D

      I'd love to hear your podcast afterwards, mind linking it to me when it's up?

    2. Absolutely. Thanks so much!UwU