Strongholds & Followers: A Review
  • Strongholds & Followers: A Review


    After raising $2,121,465, Strongholds & Followers might be the most anticipated Kickstarter RPG (at least until the next record is broken). Of course, the bulk of the money raised went to the “Streaming” part of the Kickstarter so creator Matt Colville could get a proper studio for his very popular YouTube channel. The book definitely fills a need within the 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons landscape.



    In early D&D it was commonly accepted that players would eventually build strongholds and attract followers. While it still happens, judging by forum topics and supplemental products, it's not as common in today's games as it used to be.

    Strongholds don't even get a full page in the Dungeon Masters Guide. Followers and hirelings get even less so Strongholds & Followers is definitely supporting, not competing with, the core books.

    Colville lists four types of “strongholds” – keeps, temples, towers and establishments. The first three obviously align with three out of the four core classes. Establishments include bases like bars for rogues, theaters for bards, etc.

    Stronghold abilities are recharged through extended rests to force players to spend time in their base and interact with their people. But not every player base has to be a traditional castle, tower, etc. Colville points out that a barbarian's camp is a mobile keep and ranks a pirate ship as another type of keep.

    Each type of stronghold grants certain benefits, some obvious, like spell research for a tower. Other ideas are less obvious, like towers unlocking battle magic. The spell research in S&F differs from the DMG by involving random tables to make the process fun.

    If random results aren't fun for your group, don't worry. You can change it however you want. Colville emphasizes customizing rules and ideas as much as you want, which is great. Unfortunately, he emphasizes it a lot, like in every section and sometimes more than once on a page. The repetition becomes annoying and distracting.

    Another frustrating point is that Colville mentions towers unlocking battle magic but then refers people to Kingdoms & Warfare. Yet he does the opposite for Barbarian Camp benefits.

    Colville does a good job of planting seeds for how players could have gotten their various bases and the fallout from it, with lots of political intrigue if you wish. I also love the ideas for each class, and how it can have a base of operations distinct from other classes. The follower examples are good, and I l love the sample NPCs in that section.

    Colville clearly wants to inspire GMs and is very enthusiastic about that. You can tell by all the exclamation points, but 298 exclamation points in a 265 page book? (Yes, I hate myself for counting but after running into so many exclamation points early in the rule section and even in footnotes, I became curious.) For example, “How many minutes? You decide! Even 'immediately' is fine!”



    Including a new version of the neutral gemstone dragons from Dragon magazine excited me but artwork of normal dragons with gemstones as growths was disappointing. Giving them psionic abilities distinguishes them from the Dragon #37 version, but psionics have had a fraught history in D&D. I would have preferred something different that worked better with the crystal theme.

    The Siege of Castle Rend by James J. Haeck is a fun four-part adventure for five fifth-level characters. Needless to say, it includes rules from the book.

    S&F has great content I'll definitely use in my games. I'm just disappointed that it wasn't as fun to read as I expected. Consider this a slightly qualified recommendation and hope that the next project improves on this one.

    This article was contributed by Beth Rimmels (brimmels) as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. If you enjoy the daily news and articles from EN World, please consider contributing to our Patreon!!
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. 5ekyu's Avatar
      5ekyu -
      Quote Originally Posted by Skywalker View Post
      I found this book to be excellent. It took what could be potentially a dry and fiddly part of D&D and made it easy to use, fun, and full of added narrative. It is now an essential part of my level 7+ game play.
      Hey, my 3rd level player just got in game a cue to want to get his own lair cuz of possible special features.
    1. Aaron L's Avatar
      Aaron L -
      "Giving them psionic abilities distinguishes them from the Dragon #37 version, but psionics have had a fraught history in D&D."

      The Gem Dragons have been psionic since they were first introduced in The Dragon #37, and it's been a main theme for them since 2nd Edition.

      (That Dragon Magazine Archive CD is still paying for itself decades later!)
    1. jedijon's Avatar
      jedijon -
      Real quick - Beth, you weren’t digging the dragons because they’re organic instead of crystalline beings?

      The word you used was “normal”, and for me a normal red colored dragon has big jaws, frills, and two horns—likely of contrasting color. Heck, Pathfinder trying to find a look for their Red that’s distinct from the enFranchised look of D&Ds...is amusing!

      This one shown above? The outgrowths are tasteful and appear biologically feasible. The wings are small, with creepy narrow joints appearing possibly flightless—like they may just GRAB you with them instead! And the huge underbite with tiny moist dog nose and sorrowful eyes? I figured there was a reason this is essentially the only artwork shown in their monstrously huge campaign—-because it’s AMAZING!

      It’s cool like the Kingdom Death dragon is cool. And the parallels continue as it even is available as an extremely expensive figurine...
    1. André Soares's Avatar
      André Soares -
      Quote Originally Posted by jedijon View Post
      Real quick - Beth, you weren’t digging the dragons because they’re organic instead of crystalline beings?

      The word you used was “normal”, and for me a normal red colored dragon has big jaws, frills, and two horns—likely of contrasting color. Heck, Pathfinder trying to find a look for their Red that’s distinct from the enFranchised look of D&Ds...is amusing!

      This one shown above? The outgrowths are tasteful and appear biologically feasible. The wings are small, with creepy narrow joints appearing possibly flightless—like they may just GRAB you with them instead! And the huge underbite with tiny moist dog nose and sorrowful eyes? I figured there was a reason this is essentially the only artwork shown in their monstrously huge campaign—-because it’s AMAZING!

      It’s cool like the Kingdom Death dragon is cool. And the parallels continue as it even is available as an extremely expensive figurine...
      They can fly, but they use psionics for it not wings, that's why the wings are vestigial in some dragons and more like tantacles and pseudopods in others.
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