Basics for a Successful Stronghold

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I’ve talked a few times about how to acquire a stronghold and rules to use for it. This time, let’s actually run your stronghold. In order to keep the shiny new castle you have acquired, there’s a variety of infrastructure and businesses to maintain day-to-day and year-to-year operations.

To maintain a stronghold, the three basic needs are food, water, and shelter. Typically, shelter takes the form of small houses both inside and outside of the castle walls. These can range from small thatched-roof homes with simple stone walls, to the magnificent mansions of the nobles of the realm. Most importantly for the players running the stronghold is to make sure their dominion has enough space to accommodate the homes of those living and working in their stronghold.

Now that you have your people living in your stronghold, they need to be fed. Some of the most common foods in the Middle Ages included wheat, barley, various vegetables, and animal products. Keep in mind, unless your TTRPG world includes refrigerators, most people cannot keep food for long after it’s been cooked. Livestock can be kept on farms and meat can be cured or kept in salted underground storage for some time. With these various foods, bread, milk, butter, vegetables, meats, meads, ales, and various other foods can be provided to your population.

Most importantly for a stronghold will be a supply of water. Unlike food and housing, finding and keeping this can be a major issue. Simple solutions include building your castle near an existing source of water, like rivers, lakes, or springs. This may not always be possible, so water can also be brought in or created by magical means. Aqueducts from Roman antiquity are a perfect example of solving this issue without the magic included in most TTRPG settings. The storage of water was usually in a massive cistern, or hole in the ground to be less fancy, built under the castle. Keep in mind that water can turn tepid if not well maintained, hence the wheat and barley in the last paragraph for drinks that don’t expire as quickly.

So now we have the three basics everyone needs to run their stronghold. In order to produce these necessities, your stronghold should include farmers, masons, brewers, butchers, bakers, coopers to make storage, smiths to make tools, lumberjacks, miners, shepherds and herders. And of course no self-respecting adventurer is going to sit on their sword and keep track of this themselves, so scribes, administrators, and bookkeepers will be necessary. Oh look, that’s a lot of NPCs who can all be interesting characters to generate stories and quests for your party.

While gaining a stronghold may be the fun part, running and maintaining your stronghold is the important work. The jobs and resources listed here are just the basics to get your own realm up and running, each one providing many avenues for adventure.

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