• Justin Handlin

STRONGHOLDS & FOLLOWERS for your Dungeons and Dragons Stories and Campaigns

In Dungeons and Dragons the game transitions from local problems to national problems to global problems. Eventually, your characters build renown and recognition with those around the world.

Strongholds and Followers seeks to recreate an old-school style of play, giving the players reasons to build strongholds such as castles and interact with those who follow your characters.

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Strongholds & Followers

In this book you will find rules for four types of strongholds: keeps help you raise armies and improve your fighting ability, temples help you summon extraplanar allies to aid you in battle, towers let you research new spells, and establishments let you collect secrets and generate cash.

Every stronghold also improves your signature class feature, powering up your Bardic Inspiration or your monk’s Ki. Strongholds grant improved class features because they draw power from the land itself.

Types of Strongholds

There are four types of basic stronghold, one complex stronghold, and many varieties. Each has rules for expanding their own resources in great detail with the aid of random generator tables.

A keep is a martial stronghold for characters interested in raising armies and defending the local townsfolk. Barbarian camps and pirate ships are variations on this.

Sample Benefits:

  • Raise and Army: Infantry, Archers and Cavalry

  • Finesse Training: When an adjacent enemy damages you with a melee weapon, you may, as a reaction, make a melee attack against them with your wielded finesse weapon.

  • Shield Training: If you succeed in a weapon attack while wielding a shield, you can push your target 5 feet away from you. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.

A tower is an arcane stronghold for doing spell research and learning battle magic.

Sample Benefits:

  • Spell Research: inventing new spells by altering existing mechanics, such as fireball doing lightning damage. Or adding the option of spells from 3rd party material as created character spells.

  • Additional Features: Tables included allow you to add alterations to existing spells. The Omniscient feature lets the target grow a third eye to reveal hidden, disguised and invisible creatures. So researching FLY for example, could lead to Kail’s Omniscient Flight.

A temple is a divine stronghold for summoning extraplanar allies and learning battle magic. A druid’s grove is a popular variation.

Sample Benefits:

  • Petitioning your Deity for Aid: Roll on a chart for potential bonuses and or penalties. The devout and higher-level the more likely you are to receive a boon. Though, there's a chance for curses, being ignored, receiving a blessing or even a summoned servitor to aid you for a short duration.

An establishment is an espionage stronghold for sabotaging your enemies and generating revenue. A castle combines two or more of the above into a larger complex owned and run by multiple characters,

each of whom can gain the mechanical benefits thereof.

Sample Benefits:

  • Rumors: During an adventure or in the lead-up to one, you can spend some money and collect some rumors about the quest you’re about to go on.

  • Gather Intel: Intel lets you know what your enemies are up to, along with your allies and those organizations—guilds, orders, countries, and such—who claim to be neutral. What you learn is up to the GM. It will be useful but highly generalized

Building a Stronghold, Cost and Time

Once built, your stronghold can be upgraded by taking more time and spending more money. A stronghold belongs to whoever pays for it, and they are its master. If Cail the Wizard builds a tower, he

gets to decide who gains its benefits.

At What Level Should Characters Get a Stronghold?

There’s no correct answer to this, it is entirely up to the GM.

Political Complications

Generally, you’ll want to assume that the PCs’ actions have unintended consequences. When you build or buy or clear out a tower and make it yours, you make allies and enemies.

Villain’s Strongholds

Several sample strongholds are present as well as the benefits that they grant their minions, such as movement increases or increased critical hit range.


Attracting followers means lots of new characters in your game, and that can be a lot of work for the GM, inventing backstories for everyone. This book has done wonders to shoulder some of that work, making it a lot easier to integrate them into your game.


Since your character is an adventurer, it’s not at all surprising that other, less famous adventurers hear the tales of your character’s deeds and show up pledging service. These are called retainers and have their own rules.

Each retainer must be of lower level than your PC. If your PC built or acquired a stronghold at an unusually low level (say, below 7th), just adjust the result of the roll downward.

What’s cool about this, is it essentially allows the player to run two characters if you so choose to play it that well. This aligns really well with companion characters that have been introduced in some of the newer WoTC content. Or better yet, you can include some of your other PC’s.

While we can’t cover everything in this book in such as small time. There is so much content that will only add to your roleplaying experience and make your job as a GM much more enjoyable and immersive. From the detailed towns, strongholds and fleshed-out characters you can utilize as part of the stronghold or as interesting NPCs to be tossed into your current campaign.

Something that is slightly talked about in the book but is always the first concern of DMs is balancing. It can be very very tricky to balance these sorts of things if you have never included them in a game. I have had to retcon many times due to followers or strongholds, so I want to give you some insight on what I found worked best.

  • Do NOT give everyone a stronghold. Give either Stronghold, follower, or custom magic item.

  • Treat the Stronghold or follower at a rare magic item, then a Very rare magic item for balancing purposes

  • Put the player in charge of the follower, you know what is happening next plus it is the players to deal with

  • Stretch out the strongholds growth to the appropriate level AT LEAST, I found it better to wait longer.

And a general word, MAKE THE STRONGHOLD USEFUL. There may not have been a siege in the plot before, but nothing sucks more than not getting to use your cool toy.

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Character Concept:

Amusement: Aelx BomB

Hello my name is Amusement and I am a 30-something year old Teifling who loves two things, I good drink and a good laugh. Amusement is a contact point for your player, someone that if they gain favor they gain insight. Luckily he loves to talk and loves to laugh so it’s pretty easy to win him over. If the players are shy, amusement will ask them to do something funny, for example ask the biggest player to jungle the gnome and goblin PCs. Another note is that he doesn't serve beer at his tavern, only Wine, rum, and dwarven whisky.

Monster Variant:


Origin: Green Hag

Lost Features: Amphibious, Illusory disguise, claws, mimicry

New Features:

Slowing Aura. Any creature that starts its turn within 10 feet of the chronoblade must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, the creature can’t use reactions, its speed is halved, and it can’t make more than one attack on its turn. In addition, the creature can use either an action or a bonus action on its turn, but not both. These effects last for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns if it is not within the aura, ending the effect on itself with a successful save.

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: + (1d6 +3) slashing damage.

Bend Time (Recharge 5-6). As an action the chronoblade can bend time around itself, allowing it to move at incredible speeds. Until the end of its next turn, the chronoblade gains a +2 bonus to its AC, has advantage on Dexterity saving throws, has a walking speed of 60 and can make two shortsword attacks as a bonus action.


Swamp of Sorrows

A main trade way skirts around, in some spots, passes through, a black, stale, noxious swamp. A character who succeeds on a DC 15 Intelligence (nature) check spots signs of the corrosive critters. When the characters are traveling through they are attacked by two black pudding. A failure on the check means the characters are surprised. The black puddings often lay flat and still on a pathway or wrapped around a dead log. This allows it to blend in with its swampy surroundings. Appearing as nothing more than a swamp puddle or decaying tree trunk. This allows them to ensure the first warning a traveler receives of the ooze’s presence is the searing pain of its acidic touch.

A character with alchemist’s tools can attempt a DC 17 tool check. On a success they are able to extract enough of the pudding’s living core essence. Mixing it with some of their supplies to create a potion of diminution. If the character succeeds by more than 5 on the check, they are able to extract enough for two uses. On a failure, the character suffers the random effect of the enlarge/reduce spell for 1d4 days or until removed with dispel magic or similar magic.

Magic Item:

Armor of St. Gaed the Confessor (Strongholds & Followers)

Armor (plate), rare, requires attunement

This set of magic plate mail covered in silver filigree grants +1 Armor Class to the wearer. Also, once per month, the owner can summon the spirits of the Blue Dragon Phalanx to aid them in battle. The Phalanx serves for 1 hour or two battles, whichever happens first.

The spirits of the Blue Dragonflight will fight your enemies, but if ordered to do anything other than fight in a battle against an enemy army, they stand around looking confused, wondering what’s happened to their bodies and the world they once knew.

Dungeon Master Tip:

Racial Variants - Aelx BomB

One of the MOST fun things is when you get to fully customize your PC, all the way from class to race. And this is why, for the first time, I am showing off my boyfriend’s and I’s homebrew variant: Lighting Genasi. These are my love letters to the Nomadic lifestyle with not a care in the world. Lighting Genasi roam the land in small caravans of 20ish people, they are known for their stylistic, hypnotic, dancing music which traditionally includes a steel drum which they send currents through to make a unique sound. They are often sarcastic and witty, but deeply care about family, happiness, and the material plane.

Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma and Wisdom scores increase by 1.

Alignment. Most lightning genasi are chaotic neutral. Having lived their lives traveling outside modern societies for the most part, they spent much of their time learning to trust only kin. Having kept to themselves, they are generally seen as mysteriously intuitive folks and are trusted as such, usually just reinforcing the social hurdles that make them stick to traveling.

Traveler’s Intuition. You have proficiency in the Survival and Persuasion skills.

Lightning Resistance. You have resistance to lightning damage.

Inner Polarity. You are able to hone the polarization around you for a moment due to your heritage. Either ability may be used through this feature, once this feature has been used, you must complete a long rest before using it again:

Discharge. As an action, you can discharge, choosing either a 10-foot radius around yourself or a 30 foot line that’s 5 feet wide. Each creature in either area must make a Dexterity saving throw, with the DC for the saving throw being 8 + your Constitution modifier + your proficiency bonus. Each creature that fails takes 2d6 lightning damage, and half as much damage on a success. As you gain levels, the damage increases; at 6th level the damage increases to 3d8, at 11th level the damage increases to 4d10, and at 16th level the damage increases to 4d12.


Lightning Quick Reflexes. After having failed a Dexterity saving throw, before the outcome is determined, you can choose to succeed the DC by 1, regardless of the number rolled.

Player Tip: Don’t be a Dick

Barbarian Trophies

Many barbarians wear trophies over their armor and weapons. They do this to demonstrate their combat prowess to those who would challenge them. Additionally, this serves as a reminder to the barbarian of the challenges they have overcome and their glorious victories in battle.

While taking the claws, teeth, weapons, cloth and other parts or personal items to be added to their collection is common practice. Many barbarians prefer to keep their proudest trophies on display. Not in the form of enemies and challenges that were easily overcome, but those that pushed them to the edge of defeat. Challenges they nearly lost, even while giving it everything they had. For a prideful barbarian, the best trophies symbolize an opponent’s strength and their ability to overcome it.

If you decide to have your character collect trophies of your character;s fallen enemies or difficult challenges, make a list of each item you collect. As a player and a PC these are more than just marks of victory. They are symbols of your character's history.

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