If you haven’t already read Part I, where I go over the Introduction and the four main types of Strongholds, you can read it here. Today we’re looking at strongholds by class.
Strongholds By Class
As we saw in the first part of S&F, only one character can benefit from a stronghold at a time. Well, that’s not entirely true. Only one character gains the mechanical benefits of the stronghold at one time. It’s essentially owned by that person. If the bard owns a theatre, its their coin purse that’s going to be seeing that seasonal revenue. Even though the party might enjoy protection and services from the followers attracted to the keep, the fighter who owns it is the only party member who will benefit from its training ability.
Regardless of what type of stronghold you own – be it a Keep, Temple, Tower, or Establishment – you gain a few perks that are specific to your class.
- Demesne (deh-MAIN) effects represent changes that your stronghold brings to the surrounding territory. If you’re a DM, they are a lot like regional effects for the lairs of legendary monsters. For example, the area within 1 mile of a red dragon’s lair could feature supernaturally warm bodies of water that are tainted with sulfur.
- Stronghold actions are like lair actions but for your players. Just like a monster’s lair, stronghold actions take place on initiative count 20, though you can only use each of the effects once per short or long rest. Each class has three stronghold actions to choose from. I like how you can use these if you’re on the same hex or province as your stronghold. They’re the equivalent of Clint Eastwood saying, “Get off my lawn” in Gran Torino.
When you read the introduction, Matt talks about how part of the fun of strongholds comes from how they unbalance the game. Reading the four stronghold types, I never really felt like the abilities were that outrageous, especially considering they take thousands of gold pieces and months to build.
But holy shit. When you start reading the class-specific information, you see why Matt included that tidbit in the beginning. The bard can summon a band that essentially grants double disadvantage to your enemies! Contagion finally becomes useful for the cleric. Your party gets a round of automatic hits beside the fighter. The monk can get diamond skin for a turn, making them immune to all but psychic damage. I won’t spoil them all (I’m pretty sure that’s illegal, honestly), but there are some fantastic options here that make me excited for my players.
As a bonus, stronghold actions share the spotlight. Many of the classes (except maybe the monk and the sorcerer) include something that directly benefits your allies.
- Class feature improvements grant a powerful ability to the stronghold’s owner. They can be used a number of times equal to your stronghold’s level before an extended rest is required. These are about equal in power to the stronghold actions.
- Lastly, there is the followers chart which, like everything in this section, is unique to a given class. As I mentioned in Part I, some classes are better at gaining units than others and therefore have existing synergies with certain stronghold types. But if you want the barbarian’s camp to also be a tower… you do you, man.
Followers are based on a D100 roll and can include units (like cavalry or infantry), warlords, artisans such as masons and blacksmiths, and special allies that we’ll talk about next time.
I think this section is where the book really starts to shine. Each stronghold – with the exception of the Paladin’s Chapel, which is featured in the introduction – is accompanied by a stunning full-page rendition. Each of these conveys the theme wonderfully, whether it’s the liveliness of the bard’s theatre, the majesty of the druid’s grove, or the serenity of the monk’s monastery.
On top of that, the class features are perfectly themed and never feel out of line. They present appropriately-overpowered options that will have your players hanging “Come And Take It” flags over the walls of their newly-dedicated fortress.
Next, we look at followers!