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I have a problem. I am not good at designing dungeons. That aside, I have been challenged to create a fort for an upcoming campaign where everyone gets to pretty much detail their backstory as real parts of the world.
Here are the background details so far:
- The game is 3.5 core + some material from completes, DM approved.
- My character is a scout (starting at level 4) hailing from a Tribe of barbarians dubbed the Striped Dragons.
- The campaign is set in the bronze age. Most weapons will be wood, stone and bone with a few bronze ceremonial pieces.
- The tribe is primarily humans with a few halflings. Elves are nowhere to be seen and Gnomes/Dwarves live mostly underground in places far from this region. Half orcs are present but are mostly wanderers, exiles and outcasts.
- The tribe has a 6th level ranger, 6th level barbarian, 6th level scout and 5th level druid. There is also a 2nd level sorcerer and a bunch of 1st level PCs/NPCs adding up to roughly 70 people. No monks, paladins or wizards but there is a level 1 bard and a level 1 cleric.
- The tribe is a semi-settled community. Living in scrubland with a few plains, most of the tribe moves to the plains during summer and bunkers down around their wooden fort in the bush through winter.
- Most members of the tribe are competent hunter/gatherers and the majority of PC classes are scouts, barbarians, rangers and druids.
- A neighboring tribe (yet unnamed) are unfriendly but not hostile to the Striped Dragons, sometimes engaging in trade but more or less the two go their separate ways.
- Neighboring farmland (the original home of my character when he was really young) raises good crops of Stoutroot (essentially potato + tobacco) but the plant can be found all over the region. The peasants are also unfriendly but not hostile, as the Tribes are the lesser of two evils (see below). Trade occurs but relations are strained.
- One tribe of Gnolls and one tribe of Goblinoids (undecided variety) form the rest of the borders of the Striped Dragon's territory. They frequently attempt to raid and plunder each other, the farmland and the two tribes. They are aggressive and nasty.
Carrying on, the tribe has a wooden defensive structure by the side of a small lake in the scrubland. It is currently not that great, and thats where i need some help. So far I have:
- A three level wooden building. There is two stories and an underground portion.
- Two watch towers are built into the fort, each housing a pair of archers with greatbows (or composite longbows).
- The fort is roughly 100' by 100' and has mostly 5' thick wooden walls. The underground portion has hewn stone for the outer walls.
- The fort is built in a small hill
- The fort has a small ditch with stakes in it and partially flooded with water from the nearby mini-lake.
- The fort is surrounded by the tribe's camp, mostly leather tents.
- There are four ballistae (really more like large bows mounted sideways on secure tripods) on the hill surrounding the fort, made by the druids shape wood spells.
- The fort is rigged with a couple traps, primarily snares and poisoned stakes.
Given the limited selection of stuff I have to work with, can anyone suggest some neat things I can add to the Tribe and/or Fort to make them a bit more survivable?
Additions as suggested so far:
-Clearing out surrounding bushland to prevent fire damage
-Getting some of the water from the lake to flow into the Fort
-Using a bit more leather to reduce vulnerability to fire attacks
-Treating the wood to be fire resistant
-Holes to prevent charging (also makes decent cover for people hiding with slings and whatnot with the removal of trees.)
-start growing thorny brambles for cover and to impede movement
Plans for when we can expand and improve:
- Moving from wood to stone
- Expanding the underground level
- More blind turns, and more long corridors for ranged attacks
- A few halfling-specific areas, to take advantage of their small size and make it really awkward for everyone else.
- Traps containing druid spells like warp wood, entangle, etc
- Better relations with the non-monstrous neighbors in order to build some sort of alliance, or at least a means of early warning
- Make a second and third ring around the fort and enlarge the hill. Alternatively hide more and more of the fort under the wooden part to avoid suspicion.
Edit: Damnit, this should have gone into the 3/3.5/d20 section.
To get a good idea of Bronze Age fortifications take a look at this simple drawing.
The limitations of the age mean simple wooden palisades surrounding the village, with another palisade on top of your hill. You could encourage thistles or other thorny plants/vines to grow around the outter side of the palisade to discourage the casual climber..they would make said palisade a little more flammable, but then it's wood...you can't get much more in the way of a flammable solid. Several tribes in Africa do this (sans palisade) even today (to ward off lions mostly now days).
Depending on the geography of the area you may be able to pull enough stones from your crop fields to build some rough dry-fit walls, much like the countryside of Ireland. These wouldn't really stop an invading army..maybe slow them down a bit...fortunately Catapult's were unheard of in the Bronze age or your enemy would thank you for all the free ammo. You may also be able to use pieces of shale for roofing tiles to discourage the odd flaming arrow.
Since your near the lake I would suggest digging a well in the bottom of your underground section of the main building down below the water table so you can draw water during a siege...and possibly provide a way out if you actually dig over to the lake, but that would require a pretty competent stone mason.
The Khoikhoi of South Africa (called Hottentots by early European immigrants) used to train the bulls of their Nguni cattle to protect the rest of the herd from lions and would often put a bunch in the vangard of an "army" during tribal wars. Nothing like getting stampeeded by a horde of angry bulls. Having your tribe do likewise would add yet another effective fighting force against raids (as well as providing another good source of food/milk). Besides you need to get your leather for your roof's some where.
Since you've got an established village, you don't have to worry too much about your own horses, so digging random holes in the fields around the village (except where you keep/graze your cattle) will do wonders to discourage a cavalry charge...keep them oddly spaced and in a random pattern. About 6" deep should be sufficient to break a charging horse's leg.
Since your in scrub land, clear any vegitation your not eating to a distance of about 100' around the palisade and cattle pens...salt the ground...let nothing grow there. This is your fire break. In the dry season sending one flaming arrow into the dry brush will start a wild fire that can cook an invading force almost instantly, and any natural wild fires will not cook your village.
The general idea is to fortify the village just as much, if not more so than the fort itself. The fort is your bastion of last resort, if your in a position where your defending from in there, you've pretty much already lost.
"He who is blinded by love, is often blind-sided by life."
To get a good idea of Bronze Age fortifications take a look at this simple drawing.
That's actually a motte and bailey fortification, which were very common in the 10th through 13th centuries. Obviously, they're also completely feasible in the Bronze Age and probably before: it's just high ground, a fence, a moat, and any kind of tower or strong building at the top. You can scale it up or down.
Hill forts, however, are genuine Bronze Age stuff. It's mostly earthworks, so it's labor-intensive but doesn't require quarrying and transporting enormous amounts of stone, and can be pretty much gigantic. The concentric rings have gates at different places, forcing enemies to walk around the rings trying to find the next gate when they're breaking through them. The interior would have had all sorts of buildings, and would be used as a shelter both for people and their herds of animals from raids (which often targeted cattle).
Ring forts are more Iron Age, and could be made from earth or stone, with ramparts or stakewalls.
Fronting a lake is a great idea. On a cliff over a lake would be even better.
Also, the main defence of a ring fort, for instance, was dropping a rock on someone's head. Never underestimate the power and utility of rocks: they were probably the most important defensive siege weapon in ancient and medieval warfare. It doesn't take a very big rock to crush a head or ribcage when it's dropped from above.
Take a look at the druid spell list. Possibly add a low-level druid's apprentice?
Some things that quickly come to mind that could have a longer effect on strategy:
- awakened animals/plants
- plant growth
- control water - raising/lowering the water level (may flood the plains around the fort to seriously hinder movement)
If you're set on using wood perhaps alchemically treating or making the material 'fire resistant' would be very useful.
Some intelligent design when it comes to the local flora can be useful as well. Finding small out of the way locations to create small groves/herb/poison gardens that you can comfortably disguise the path to and keep from being found with ease (using path without trace/stealth when visiting these places is encouraged so they cant be tracked down as easily). Growing fruit from trees can be useful to, especially if you can come up with a cheap effective poison to coat them in and start a general rule that eating the fruit without first bringing it to the camp is punishable by death which it is if the poison works which should dissuade your enemies from using the food supply if they cant figure out the trick to cleaning it properly (though this can be a bit extreme unless enemies/thieves are prevalent in the area).
Good relations with your neighbors is always useful and discussing a means of signaling one another from afar in case of trouble should be encouraged. Even if you don't send each other aid, it lets the other know that trouble is in the area and to prepare for it. A 'ritual ground' might be useful as well for conducting various rights, spells etc ie providing morale bonuses and a site for various rp.
Dependent on how superstitious people are playing on these can be a useful defense, after all if an enemies army has a good deal of conscripted peasants who wont cross a druids 'ghost fence' for fear of being cursed etc then that can buy needed time or force the enemy forces to flow as you desire or waste coin and time on the services of another druid/caster to get rid of the superstition etc.
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