'Strongholds & Followers' Turns 'Dungeons & Dragons' Players Into Rulers of Their Own Castles

Strongholds & Followers adds practical rules for when Dungeons & Dragons players build or take over their very own castle during the course of a campaign.

Most Dungeons & Dragons campaigns involve some sort of mission in which the heroes storm a keep and clear it of foes. Maybe it's a castle belonging to a corrupt lord or the fortress of some demi-lich who is planning some devastating arcane ritual, but usually players will eventually come to a large building that has been vacated of its previous owners and now sits empty. And when that happens, most D&D players will ask their DM whether they can claim that empty castle for themselves and turn it into their own personal headquarters.

Matthew Colville, the creator of the popular "Running the Game" series of videos, has released a new publication that details a whole new set of rules for players and DMs that want to turn a keep into a major part of their Dungeons & Dragons' game. Strongholds & Followers was released yesterday following a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year that broke multiple RPG-related records on the crowdfunding site.

Written in a similar style to Colville's "Running the Game" videos, Stronghold & Followers explains both the practicality of owning a keep (how much it costs to build, the costs to maintain it, what sort of impact it would have on local politics) and gives a variety of benefits for those players who choose to build or take over one.

Colville lays out four different types of strongholds that provide different benefits. The Keep allows players to build a small army, while a Tower gives players the opportunity to customize their spells and give them various effects. A Temple adds the ability to petition a god for favors (or even an extraplanar ally) and an Establishment collects revenue and gives players a chance to gather valuable intel on future quests. Each of these keeps can be leveled up, which opens up additional benefits.

Each D&D class also gains specific benefits, regardless of what type of stronghold they build. Not only does a stronghold attract followers (NPCs that can either assist in the upkeep of the keep, make certain downtime activities easier, or even accompany players on their quests), they also improve a class's signature feature. For instance, a Barbarian with a stronghold gains the ability to make a second attack or take a free movement when they reduce an enemy to 0 points. Meanwhile, a Druid gains a breath weapon while in Wild Shape form. Each of these abilities is dependent on a keep's level, giving more incentive for a player to invest time and energy into a campaign.

Stronghold & Followers also comes with an adventure by James Haeck (one of the writers of the official D&D adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the lead writer of DnDBeyond.com) that incorporates the new mechanics into a simple campaign. Think of it as an introductory course to help players determine whether or not they want to use the rules in future campaigns. There's also the usual appendices full of new monsters and items, including a set of gemstone dragons that have interesting psionic mechanics to them.

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Having binged the full 265 page document last night, I think this is a fantastic resource for DMs. Whether it's intended or not, the follower rules reminded me of some of Gary Gygax's classic Greyhawk campaigns, where famous PCs like Mordenkainen and Bigby ran around with NPC henchmen. Plus, the rules can be incorporated into just about any campaign, whether the players just want a permanent home or want to grow their keep into a regional power and wage full-blown war on their enemies. Strongholds & Followers is on par with one of Wizards of the Coast's official D&D rulebooks, albeit with more of an emphasis on mechanics than worldbuilding.

The full PDF can be purchased for $20 or downloaded for free if you supported the Kickstarter!