Level Up (A5E) Strongholds analysis

lichmaster

Adventurer
Inspired by Stalker0's winner and losers posts, I had the idea to analyze the various strongholds.
Below you can find a shared google doc where are all the computations.

As stated by Morrus more than once, strongholds are basically a set of features with some flavour text and a pricetag, although when handled properly they can make for exceptional campaigns on their own. All strongholds give followers (which are other features) and ASIs, bonus to prestige depending on it's value, some specific features that you pay for and are independent on the type of stronghold (like income) and stronghold type specific features that improve depending on it's grade (i.e. its size).
Strongholds can be divided into buildings and rural (which are mostly land with just a few scattered dwellings), and they can have furtinure and finishings which affect its qualty and how much staff per area unit you get. Rural strongholds are measured in acres, while building strongholds are measured in ft^2. The price per unit area is 1gp per ft^2 for building types and 500gp per acre for rural.

Let's start with the basics: cost per grade, cheapest way to get an ASI
Since quality multiplies both by the same factor, using only one quality is enough to see that for a given grade, the minimum cost for rural strongholds is always higher than for building strongholds. The worst case is 5x for grade 1, the best is 1.04x. So, since you get ASI at grade 3 and 6 regardless of anything else, the most cost effective way to get them would be through a frugal building stronghold. However, since RAW the ability you can increase is tied to the type of the stronghold and some strongholds have a minimum required quality, it results that some abilities are more expensive to increase than the others. In addition, since some abilities can be improved via different strongholds, it means that there's an optimal choice (cheapest) for each ability increase:
Str -> average Castle (5k gp for +1, 50k gp for +2)
Dex* -> none
Con -> frugal Encampment of farm (2750.5 gp for +1, 30250 gp for +2)
Int -> luxurious Laboratory or library (10k gp for +1, 100k gp for +2)
Wis -> average Guildhouse or shop (5k gp for +1, 50k gp for +2)
Cha -> House or tavern (2500.5gp for +1, 25k gp for +2)
*: there's no stronghold associated to a Dex increase! For this reason I'd personally either change some strongholds to increase Dex, or let any stronghold increase any attribute.

Followers
You get 1 follower every 100 staff. The amount of staff you get depends on the actual area of the stronghold but the multipliers are different depending on rural vs building, and the quality multiplier affects this.
  • If you want to get A LOT of followers, the best way is to have a luxurious building, the larger the better. Prepare to spend a lot of money though. You can get 1 follower for 20k just at grade 4 with a luxurious building, the earliest you can get it. Legendary however it's not worth it, as the followers/area ratio is the same as luxurious, so you'd only be paying extra for the same amount of followers. This points us to the following point
  • If you want to get followers cheaply/efficiently, things are more convoluted. Long story short, frugal strongholds are terrible at this, and the best are luxury buildings. For these, the larger the better, although there's a rough spot where you are better off either with a smaller or a larger stronghold (i.e. avoid the sizes around Grade 4). The cheapest cost per follower is at 20k for a luxury building at level 3 or 5+, while the absolute worst is the grade 7 legendary rural, for a staggering amount of 627.5k per follower!

Prestige
Prestige depends on how much you spend, including features like garrison, income, etc. So you either have to build a large stronghold, or make it very fancy (legendary, income, extradimensional, etc). There are diminishing returns, since the first point of bonus prestige costs 1001gp, and the next one costs an additional 24k, and so on.

Features
All the aforementioned benefits come regardless of the type of stronghold: provided it's size, cost and overall quality, you get them. The actual features instead depend specifically on which stronghold you buy. I won't do a specific list for each stronghold, or this already long post would become biblical, but I'll just post 3 for example.

Castle (min grade: 3, min quality: average)
Average quality
Grade 3: For 5k gp, you get a banner that grants advantage on saves vs fear to allies. (also, + 1 prestige, and +1 on Str)
Grade 5: For 25k gp, if your allies successfully save vs fear they also gain inspiration. (+2 prestige).
Grade 6: For 50k gp you get your first follower, +3 prestige and the +2 ASI.
From that point onwards you only get followers and prestige (which maxes at +5 you spend 250k gp, and you have 5 followers at that point)
Luxurious quality
Grade 3: As grade 3 for average, but you pay 10k instead (not a good deal)
Grade 4: You get your first follower for 20k (much cheaper than above)
Grade 5: For 50k gp if your allies successfully save vs fear they also gain inspiration. You also get another follower and +3 to prestige
Grade 6: For 100k gp you get the +2 ASI, +4 prestige and 3 additional followers
From that point onwards you only gey followers and prestige. When you max out prestige at 500k gp, you have 25 followers!
Legendary quality
It's the same as luxurious, but you're paying 2.5x for the same grade, and you get prestige 2 at grade 3, and 1 additional prestige each grade afterwards until grade 5.

All in all, the stuff you get is quite interesting. I surely wouldn't go for the legendary quality, as it costs a lot for just prestige (and I still have to read how it affects the game mechanically), while sacrificing many features because the grade isn't enough. Luxurious seems a very good choice, provided you avoid the obviously bad choice of a grade 3 luxurious castle, which is the same of grade 3 average but costs twice as much. If you have the cash, having 25 followers for 500k gp seems crazy!
If you consider that depending on your level you can get an experienced ministrel as follower (who adds your proeficiency bonus to prestige), the deal for luxurious seems really terrible!
Also, considering that you don't benefit from more than 1 cook, 1 interpreter and 1 ministrel, it means that you could have around 10 porters (making supply trivial), the same number of torchbearers (lighting everything in a huge area), and potentially one smith per character in the party (not sure if different smiths could give the bonus each to a different PC, or only the pc owning the castle is supposed to get that benefit).

Encampent (min grade: 1, min quality: frugal)
Frugal quality
Grade 1: for 250gp You gain an expertise die on ability checks made to hide in natural surroundings
Grade 2: for 1500gp you gain 1 prestige, and when you gain Supply as the result of a journey activity, you gain 1 extra Supply
Grade 3: for 2750gp you gain +1 to Con
Grade 4: for 5250gp you no longer require a haven in order to remove levels of fatigue and strife during a long rest
Grade 5: for 15k gp you can spend 1 hour to create a haven able to shelter a number of creatures equal to your proficiency bonus
Grade 6: for 30 k gp you get +2 to Con and +2 to prestige
From that point onwards you slowly gain prestige, but only get 1 follower after grade 7, when you spent 125k

Average quality
Grade 1-4: same as frugal, except everything costs double.
Grade 5: for 30k you get 2 prestige and you can spend 1 hour to create a haven able to shelter a number of creatures equal to your proficiency bonus
Grade 6: for 60k you get 3 prestige and +2 to Con
Grade 7: for 125k you get 4 prestige and 1 follower
Grade 8: 300k, 5 prestige and 3 followers

Luxurious quality:
Grade 1-4: same as average, except everything costs double.
Grade 5: 61k, 3 prestige and you can spend 1 hour to create a haven able to shelter a number of creatures equal to your proficiency bonus
Grade 6: 121k, 4 prestige, +2 to Con, 1 follower
Grade 7: 251k, 5 prestige, 2 followers
From there onwards you only gain followers

Legendary quality:
Grade 1: 2.5k, 1 prestige and you gain an expertise die on ability checks made to hide in natural surroundings
Grade 2: 15k, When you gain Supply as the result of a journey activity, you gain 1 extra Supply
Grade 3: 27.5k, 2 prestige, +1 Con
Grade 4: 52.5k, 3 prestige, You no longer require a haven in order to remove levels of fatigue and strife during a long rest
Grade 5: 152k, 4 prestige, You can spend 1 hour to create a haven able to shelter a number of creatures equal to your proficiency bonus
Grade 6: 300k, 5 prestige, 1 follower, +2 Con
From there onwards you only gain followers

This stronghold is very different from the castle. First of all, since you can access it as frugal and grade 1, the first benefit can be exceptionally cheap and still be quite useful. The ASI is also very cheap to get, and the other benefits (especially supply and the lack of need for a haven) can radically change how a player deals with journeys. You don't get many followers or prestige, though, unless you go for the more expensive qualities. Average and luxurious are a very bad deal at grades 1-4, although you gain some more prestige and a few followers more later on. Legendary makes for a very different progression, that surprisingly can give you the first point in prestige for cheaper than the cheapest castle. Also the second prestige and ASI are cheaper here than with the cheapest castle, and for pretty much the same price of the first castle ASI you here get 3 rep and you no longer require the haven! From there onwards you gain followers, but you never compete with the luxurious castle: when you get the first with the legendary encampment, you already have more than 5 from the luxurious castle

Workshop (min grade:1, min quality: luxurious)
Luxurious quality
Grade 1: 200gp, Choose the type of workshop. You gain an expertise die on ability checks made to craft items in your workshop
Grade 2: 2000gp, 1 prestige, Any items you purchase from your workshop are considered fine quality, although you only need to pay the cost of a normal quality item
Grade 3: 10k gp, +1 Str
Grade 4: 20k gp, 1 follower, Any items you purchase from your workshop are considered masterwork quality, although you only need to pay the cost of a normal quality item
Grade 5: 50k gp, 3 prestige, 2 followers, You gain advantage on ability checks made to craft items in your workshop and the time required is reduced by half
Grade 6: 100k gp, 4 prestige, 5 followers, +2 Str
Grade 7: 200k gp, 10 followers
Grade 8: 500k gp, 5 prestige, 25 followers

Legendary quality
Grade 1-2: same as luxurious, but 2.5x more expensive
Grade 3: 25k gp, 2 prestige, +1 Str
Grade 4: 50k gp, 3 prestige, 1 follower, Any items you purchase from your workshop are considered masterwork quality, although you only need to pay the cost of a normal quality item
Grade 5: 125k gp, 4 prestige, 2 followers, You gain advantage on ability checks made to craft items in your workshop and the time required is reduced by half
Grade 6: 250k gp, 5 prestige, 5 followers, +2 Str
From there onwards you only gain followers

This is also very interesting for a different reason. The grade 1 lux feature is interesting due to the rules for crafting and tool use: you can make money by using your tools, and expertise makes this easier. Technically, with a Grade 1 legendary (but at least 201ft^2) you can get the first point of prestige. The 10k for the ASI really stings though if compared for the 5k for the castle and 2750gp for the encampent. I guess it's not a problem if you can reliably make money*. Going further, prestige grows quite steadily and you gain followers quite quickly. The features really make creating items a breeze, and potentially a very lucrative option as you only pay for a normal item but you always get a masterwork item, and you roll with advantage and expertise!
The legendary version, grades 1 and 2 are obviously terrible, and I'm not sure the steady increase in prestige and followers may make it worthwile.

All in all it really seems strongholds pack quite some punch for the amount of money asked, and what I really love is the fact that these are a form of investment that both makes sense for the PC from a story perspective and from a mechanics perspective. They add a different progression system besides levels, and are a reward and a goal for the players as well, a way to actually spend money on, something sorely missed in o5E.
That said, the system isn't flawless, as there are some obviously bad options (legendary doesn't seem to actually be useful most of the time), and there are some stronghold features that may be useful only very occasionally (like the possibility to retrain faster with a Training hall). The lack of ASI for Dex is also an obvious point that needs to be addressed IMO.

I didn't consider the additional features like garrison or pocket dimension, but I'll briefly mention that the "income" feature could be very profitable, especially in case there's plenty of downtime and the stronghold is a workshop: between the passive income and the significant amount of gold that can be made by crafting, it may be possible to pay off the difference in price for the income feature quite quickly and then gain a ton of money. However, this does not constitute financial advice :p

I'd say this is all for now. It has been a fun and revealing investigation, although I'm sure you guys will have many more considerations to add. Feel free to play with the google dock linked!
I'll be happy to read about them, and any comments regarding.
 

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