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This developer blog is brought to you by Randy Mosiondz, Senior Content Design and Loremaster:
Dungeons & Dragons has always been about the exploration of dangerous locations, fighting horrible monsters, and the discovery of magical treasures. But beyond this, even the greatest of adventurers seeks something more permanent to call their own.
For many, the answer has been strongholds; massive fortifications of stone and wood overseeing the surrounding lands. Gifted by powerful rulers or carved out of the depths of an unruly wilderness, strongholds act as the ultimate base of operations for heroes.
The concept of players earning holdings for themselves was first introduced in the original Dungeons & Dragons game published back in 1974 by TSR. In the Men & Magic rules there were only three classes: Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and Clerics (arguably the original role-playing game trinity). High-level fighters had the option of building castles and investing in their holdings (see excerpt below):
The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures book contained more information on building and maintaining strongholds, and included pictures and costs of the various stronghold features (gate house, drawbridge, towers, keeps, etc.), hiring specialists, maintaining the lands around the stronghold, and more (see excerpt below):
Combined with the mass-combat rules from the Chainmail miniatures rules that Dungeons & Dragons was based on, strongholds provided a whole new dimension to fantasy role-playing games.
Note: If you are feeling nostalgic, Wizards of the Coast put together a premium reprint of the original Dungeons & Dragons rules here.
The Basic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set was introduced in 1977 by TSR and went through many print revisions. In 1984, TSR introduced a set of Companion Rules that had information on high-level gameplay including a section on “Strongholds and Dominions”. The rules went into detail about the costs of building strongholds, and administering to the dominion, the lands surrounding the stronghold itself. Combined with the War Machine/Siege Machine mass combat rules, strongholds again became a vital part of the D&D role-playing game experience.
The idea of strongholds carried over to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition as well. In 1990 both The Castle Guide and Castles accessory were released. The former detailed the feudal system, the duties of the nobility to their subjects, knighthood, and the construction and maintenance of castles. Both books had rules and scenarios for the newer BattleSystem mass combat rules that became the standard large-scale combat system for AD&D.
The first foray of D&D strongholds into the digital realm came with Dungeons & Dragons: Stronghold. A “Kingdom Simulator” produced by SSI under license from TSR, it was a stronghold simulator set in a D&D world. Players managed a stronghold and surrounding region, building it up and dealing with threats to the kingdom.
With another edition of D&D came another sourcebook for introducing player strongholds into the campaign. The Stronghold Builder’s Guidebook was a supplemental book for D&D 3rd edition published in 2002. It built upon the ideas of previous editions, extensively detailing construction, maintenance, and battles centered on strongholds.
This brings us to the modern day. Neverwinter: Strongholds is the seventh module to be released for the Neverwinter MMORPG, out in Summer 2015. It allows guilds of players to build their own stronghold and protect it from various threats around the Realms.
Be sure to watch for more information on Neverwinter: Strongholds coming soon! Will you #ConquerOrCrumble?