[Let's Read] The Rules Cyclopedia

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
The next section (p135) is on titles.
I see why you so many problems with that section. Let's skip ahead for a second, and look at that definition you noted was missing:
Rules Cyclopedia said:
A piece of land that is owned and ruled is called a dominion. It may be of any size, and the ruler can be either a PC or an NPC. A dominion could be a small tower on an acre of land, or a mighty empire with thousands of people. All PC ruler strongholds, both human and demihuman, are called dominions.

Most dominions are part of larger territories; the ruler of the dominion typically swears an oath of service and fealty to a greater ruler. The smallest dominion is called a barony. Any larger area, containing two or more baronies, is very generally called a "greater dominion," and may have any of several names (county, duchy, kingdom, etc.).
A dominion is not a unit of area, it's a political unit. A barony can be one hex (the default size for a 9th level fighter turned new baron), or hundreds. Dominions can also be nested, and it's that nesting that defines the greater dominions like a duchy (not size, by itself).
 
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Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
I could certainly see the majority of 9th level characters turning out to be Clerics and Fighters.
I can see that too. But it's still problematic to make them so absolutely normative in the rules.

Dominions can also be nested, and it's that nesting that defines the greater dominions like a duchy (not size, by itself).
Thanks for the clarification. It still bothers me, though, because it suggests that (barring inherited titles, which aren't actually mentioned at all: maybe George Lucas wrote this section) you have to start as a baron and conquer your way to higher ranks, which
  • ignores any possibility of being elevated, say, directly to a dukedom and
  • implies that any counts, duchesses or whatever you encounter in the royal courts in this game have a personal history of conquest,
which is weird and alien compared to the relatively stable system of using the nobility to administer parcels of land and having their titles be hereditary.

It's yet another part of the game which clothes itself in real world medieval European terminology but explicitly works in a completely different way. Which is gonzo fun in a way but needlessly confusing when the terms - real world terms given radically different connotations - are introduced.

EDIT: Also, the nesting isn't robust in any way: a duchess can just rule her entire dominion directly without any subsidiary nobles, so 'dominion' is neither a measure of area nor a measure of level in the feudal governmental structure, yet it's tossed around as a countable noun, as when the book says a count(ess) must rule at least three dominions, all of which may constitute a single dominion administratively.
 
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Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
EDIT: Also, the nesting isn't robust in any way: a duchess can just rule her entire dominion directly without any subsidiary nobles, so 'dominion' is neither a measure of area nor a measure of level in the feudal governmental structure, yet it's tossed around as a countable noun, as when the book says a count(ess) must rule at least three dominions, all of which may constitute a single dominion administratively.
No, the duchess must rule several subsidiary domains, because she had to meet the requirements of a marquise first (with the exception of an independent ruler who establishes a domain in the wilderness, and just decides to call herself a duchess). And the count rules a county, which must include at least 3 subsidiary domains, say 1 barony and 1 (unnamed domain evel) ruled by a viscount, which in turn contains another barony. Those 2 baronies are directly ruled by separate rulers (barons or baronesses, not just seneschals). The only real ambiguity I see is if the count is also a baron and thus rules one of the baronies directly -- does that count as one of the 3 subsidiary domains, or does the count need 3 lesser nobles as vassals? The viscount entry is clearer, since it specifies that a viscountess must have at least 1 vassal baron.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
The viscount entry is clearer, since it specifies that a viscountess must have at least 1 vassal baron.
Ah! I see! I read the passage totally differently and I thought the thing about having a vassal was a special rule for the viscount(ess), just like the viscount(ess) bucks the trend for minimum number of dominions. That makes a lot more sense.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
Ah! I see! I read the passage totally differently and I thought the thing about having a vassal was a special rule for the viscount(ess), just like the viscount(ess) bucks the trend for minimum number of dominions. That makes a lot more sense.
Yes, it took me a while to figure out how you were interpreting those sections, because I learned those concepts from the Companion Set not the Rules Cyclopedia. And in the DM's book in the Companion Set, the first thing they do is define "dominion", and they also cover the oath of fealty (clarifying the whole nesting aspect). There's also some more detail on different ways to obtain a domain -- in addition to founding a dominion in the wilderness, or a land grant from an existing noble, there's also colonization (settle a new domain, in a leige's name), enfieffment (peasants or lesser nobles ask the PC to be their ruler), and conquest (obvious). It's generally much better presented.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
The fortification table (p136 — the table is on p137 but the discussion of it, which I’m still discussing here, starts on p136, which is where I’m up to now) lists costs for various castle components but these assume that the fortification is being built in the wilderness and the workers are being housed and fed as well as paid; only the cost of the supervising engineer(s) is not included. The book makes some suggestions about campaign-specific circumstances which might alter costs and goes on to say that the fortification table can be used for any building using the given components and that a building in a settled area will cost about forty percent of the listed figures for stone and about twenty percent for wood. (So wood is cheaper in a town than in a virgin forest you’re clearing for farmland? The more I think about it, the more I think druids might be adapted to fighting castles.) A construction project takes one day for every 500gp of cost and requires one supervising engineer — at 750gp a month — for every 100,000gp of cost.

In the fortification table, each component is given two armour classes: one for missile attacks like catapults and one for melee attacks such as battering rams and bores. For fortification hit points, the book says that ordinary swords and fists will not knock a building down. (The rules on p116, remember, say that ordinary attacks — referred to there as ‘special attacks’ but from the context the rules definitely apply to melee weapons — do half damage to wooden structures and, to stone structures, either one point per d6 or, if the attack’s damage isn’t normally rolled with six siders, one point per five points of maximum damage. By those rules, a grandmaster with a two-handed sword would do three or four hits of damage per strike to a stone building, depending how you interpret the rules, and a Level Sixteen mystic would do seven points of damage per strike to a stone building. Of course, the DM could rule that an ordinary human can never knock down a castle wall with their bare hands, but what about Iron Fist? And what about a wooden gate or fence? Where do you draw the line? This is just sloppy.)

There follows a detailed write up for each entry in the fortification table, with the table itself on the next page. (Rather than do the table — although it’s a good one, with six columns — I’m going to include the tabulated information when I comment on the write ups. Here we go:

Arrow Slit (10gp [no other game stats]: ‘Angled window 3’ tall, 1’ wide’) This is one of several items with a footnote saying they can be designed into a building by raising the cost of the basic structure by a quarter (presumably instead of paying 10gp per slit). May be built into basically any sort of building (there’s a list but ‘stone or wood buildings’ is one of the listed types) or dungeon corridors (if you’re a killer DM, I suppose). ‘An archer firing through it gets its defensive bonus; he has only a 60° field of fire out from the window.’ (No defensive bonus is specified, either in the write up or on the table. Maybe the archer gets the defensive bonus from whatever the arrow slit is in?)

Barbican (37,000gp, AC -4 [6], 700 hits, BR +14: ‘Two towers (30’ x 20’), + gatehouse, gate and drawbridge’) A footnote says the cost ‘includes and assumes’ internal floors, walls, doors and stairs, and roofs, all made of wood and requiring 15 ‘points of damage’ to make a hole in them. It doesn’t specify whether that’s fifteen ordinary points of damage or fifteen points of structural damage but the listing further down the table for an unreinforced internal wooden door gives ten structural hits, which is, by the rules on p116, sort of equivalent to twenty ordinary hits. A barbican is a gatehouse with stone walls two-and-a-half feet thick (in contradiction to the earlier guidance on the same page about ‘tower and gatehouse walls’ being five feet thick. Or maybe thirty-seven grand doesn’t get you a barbican built to regulations).

Battlement (500gp, AC -4 [6], 50 hits, BR +1: ‘Crenelated parapet 100’ long’) The book notes that soldiers using battlements for cover may receive a cover bonus as detailed in Chapter Eight but the battlement will not confer upon them its own armour class.

Building, Stone (3,000gp, AC -4 [6], 60 hits, BR +6: ‘Two-story [sic] (120’ of walls; doors, stairs, floors and roof of wood)’) There is the same footnote as for the barbican about internal structure. A ‘standard dwelling’ with exterior stone walls one foot thick. ‘30’ x 40’ is most practical and most common for dwellings, while 20’ x 60’ is very practical for workshops. bunkhouses and dormitories.’ (So the ‘120’ of walls’ specification appears to have been understood by someone as ‘120 square feet of floor space’, since the dimensions given yield perimeters of a hundred and forty and a hundred and sixty feet respectively. Perhaps it should be thirty by thirty feet for a dwelling and twenty by forty for workshops and so on?) You can put a number of these buildings next to each other to form one continuous building but that confuses the perimeter versus area question even further you only get one +6 to battle rating.

Building, Wood (1,500gp, AC -4 [6], 40 hits, BR +2: ‘Two-story [sic] (120’ of walls; doors, stairs, floors and roof)’) As a stone building except, er, made of wood. The book notes that, although multiple wooden buildings may be joined to form one large building, just like multiple stone buildings, placing a wooden building next to a stone building leaves you with two distinct buildings. (So: three stone buildings joined together to make one big complex give a total of +6 to BR; two stone buildings joined by a wooden building in between them give a total of +14 to BR.)

Door, Exterior (Iron or Stone) (100gp, AC -10 [2], 35 hits [no BR bonus]: ‘Reinforced & barred (7’ x 5’)’) The book states that such doors are placed on keeps or stone buildings ‘to make them more defensible.’ (I would have thought ‘mak[ing fortifications] more defensible’ would be the definition of what merits a BR bonus but apparently not.)

Door, Interior, Wood (10gp, 10 hits: ‘3’ wide, 7’ high’) 'Keeps, stone buildings and wood buildings' come with this sort of door as standard: you can upgrade to the other types of door listed below. Other buildings (ie buildings not possible using this table) do not come with doors and you have to pay for each one.

Door, Interior, Reinforced (20gp, 25 hits: ‘3’ wide, 7’ high’) There is the same footnote about being designed in as for the arrow slit. Otherwise, see Door, Interior, Wood above.

Door, Interior, Iron/Stone (50gp, 35 hits: ‘3’ wide, 7’ high’) See Door, Interior, Wood above.

Door, Interior, Secret (cost x5: ‘3’ wide, 7’ high; hp by material type’) See Door, Interior above.

Drawbridge (250gp, AC -4 [8], 50 hits [no BR bonus]: ‘Wooden reinforced (10’ x 20’)’) A drawbridge. (Seriously. There’s nothing in the write up. Here’s the whole thing: ‘This is the standard wooden platform raised and lowered by a crank device.’)

Dungeon Corridor (500gp: ‘10’ x 10’ x 10’, stone flagged, stone walls’) There is a footnote explaining that this cost includes digging down to a maximum of fifty feet: if the dungeon corridor is located more than fifty feet down, double the cost for every additional fifty feet of depth to a maximum of five times the listed cost. The listed cost also applies to secret passages through castle walls. (I’m not even sure that makes sense. You can design your building with doorways anywhere you like and you can put secret doors in them for the cost of the secret doors but you have to pay extra for a secret passage? Does it mean passages that follow the line of the wall they’re in as opposed to passages through walls?)

Floor, Improved, Fine Wood (40gp. 25 hits: ‘Price is per 10’ x 10’') Has no defensive value but may impress visitors.

Floor, Improved, Flagstone (100gp. 25 hits: ‘Price is per 10’ x 10’') There is the same footnote about this being designed in as for the arrow slit. Has no defensive value but may impress visitors. (I can’t quite accept the flagstone floor having the same hits as a fine wooden floor but whatever.)

Floor, Improved, Tile (100gp. 25 hits: ‘Price is per 10’ x 10’') Exactly as above, even down to the footnote.

Gate, Wooden (1,000gp, AC -8 [2], 100 hits [no BR bonus]: ‘Reinforced and barred (10’ x 20’)’) This is the standard gate for a wooden fortification; stone walls usually have a gatehouse (below) or barbican (above). (Not sure why the AC is so good compared to the barbican and gatehouse: maybe just because it’s smaller?)

Gatehouse (6,500gp, AC -4 [6], 550 hits, BR +11: ‘Stone (20’ x 20’ x 30’), includes gate & portcullis’) There’s the same footnote about internal structure as for the barbican and another footnote saying the hits ‘can be’ divided up among its components. The standard gate for a stone fortification: the portcullis is towards the outside and the gate is on the inside. (I’m going to assume a stone passageway through the gatehouse, I think.) ‘Add a drawbridge on the outside and two towers flanking the gatehouse and the gatehouse is a barbican instead.’ (A barbican costs 37,000gp, has 700 hits and a BR bonus of +14. A gatehouse with a drawbridge and two towers attached — type ‘Round II’ have the same dimensions as the ones specified for the barbican — costs 36,750gp, has a total of 1,100 hits and a total BR bonus of +21. So why is the barbican featured as a component in its own right?)

Keep, Square (75,000gp, AC -4 [6], 2,500 hits, BR +50: ‘Stone (80’ x 60’ x 60’)’) There is the same footnote about internal structure as for the barbican. This is your starter castle. In a larger castle complex, it’s the last refuge of the defenders if the outer defences are overcome. The 80’ dimension is the height. In a small castle, the ruler may live in the keep; otherwise, it may be used as a store and/or barracks. (Nothing is said about the extremely common practice of having the entrance one storey up from ground level to make storming the keep more difficult. Nor is anything mentioned about other shapes of keep, although, as DM, I’d be very tempted to use the same stats and say you can have any shape with more or less the same floor space.)

Moat, Unfilled (400gp, BR +16: ‘Ditch (10’ deep, 20’ wide, 100’)’) No surprises in the write up. (Nothing is said about putting brambles or spikes in dry moats, or the effect it might have on the moat’s defensive value.)

Moat, Filled (800gp, BR +32: ‘Canal (10’ deep, 20’ wide, 100’)’) The write up says that moats were sometimes filled with mud instead of water.

Roof, Improved (25 hits: ‘Same costs as “Floor, Improved”’) The book notes that tile roofs will not burn. (Nothing is said about flagstone roofs so I assume only tile and fine wood are available.) Apart from that, a cosmetic enhancement like improved flooring.

Shifting Wall (1,000gp, 25 hits: ‘10’ x 10’’) Used to provide an escape route, as a trap (p137) or to confuse. (You could get four secret stone doors for the price of a shifting wall and they would have more hits too. I suppose the big difference is dwarves can detect shifting walls while elves can detect secret doors.)

Shutters, Window (5gp, 10 hits: no explanatory note on the table) There is the same footnote about these being designed in as for arrow slits. All exterior windows on occupied buildings need shutters.

Stairs, Improved, Fine Wood (20gp, 30 hits: ‘3’ wide, 10’ ascent’) A cosmetic improvement.

Stairs, Improved, Stone (60gp, 75 hits: ‘3’ wide, 10’ ascent’) There is the same footnote about these being designed in as for the arrow slit. A cosmetic improvement.

Tower, Bastion (9,000gp, AC -4 [6], 300 hits, BR +6: ‘Stone, half-round (30’ x 30’)’) Normally attached to a wall. For a wizard’s tower, use a keep.

Tower, Round I (30,000gp, AC -4 [6], 350 hits, BR +7: ‘Wide tower, stone (30’ x 30’)’) As above.

Tower, Round II (15,000gp, AC -4 [6], 250 hits, BR +5: ‘Narrow tower, stone (30’ x 20’)’) As above. (Can I have two narrow towers next to each other instead of one wide one? Come to that, can I have two bastion towers back-to-back instead of one wide tower?)

Trap Door (cost x2: ‘4’ x 3’, hp by material type (see “Doors”)’) The cost includes a single trigger attached ‘where and how the builder wants it.’ (Within reason, I assume: otherwise, I have a great idea for a communications system based on coded trap door openings.) A twelve-square-foot trapdoor costs double what a door of the same material costs; each additional twelve square feet of area adds that cost again. (This entry really should be with the doors, under Door, Trap.)

Wall, Castle (5,000gp, AC -4 [6], 500 hits, BR +10: ‘Stone (20’ x 5’ x 100’) with battlements & stairs; BR+ is +1 per 10’ section’) Standard outer walls for a castle complex. You can double the width by doubling the cost, and you can have one wall surrounded by another, and all the BR bonuses add up. The table states that besiegers gain BR +1 for each ten foot breach they make in a castle wall. (It’s not entirely clear whether an attacker would gain BR +2 for breaching a double-width wall or only BR +1.)

Wall, Wood (1,000gp, AC -4 [6], 300 hits, BR +5: ‘Stockade (20’ x 5’ x 100’) with walk & stairs; BR+ is +1 per 20’ section’) No write up.

Window, Open (10gp, AC -12 [0]: ‘3’ x 1’') A window.

Window, Barred (20gp, AC -15 [0]: ‘3’ x 1’') A window.

And that’s it for the fortifications table. (It seems all right but, as I mentioned above, it’s a bit disappointing that the only possibility acknowledged by the rules is a medieval style castle, possibly with a ruinously expensive dungeon. No discussion of what BR bonus might accrue to a dwarf stronghold which is basically inside a hill with some strategically placed balconies for catapults, or a castle with a trapdoor in the gatehouse to drop invaders into a pit. The same problem as what I have with the siege engine, really.)

More next time!
 
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Gemini476

Registered User
Validated User
One thing that's helpful to know when looking at the fortification rules is that the Siege Machine didn't exist when they were made. The War Machine didn't either - these date back to Moldvay/Cook's Expert set, I'm pretty sure. Maybe they're even older than that. That should hopefully explain some of the weirdness regarding BRs.

Some comments:
(I can’t quite accept the flagstone floor having the same hits as a fine wooden floor but whatever.)
The wooden floor only takes half damage from ordinary weapons while the stone floor takes what, a fifth? Roundabout that, anyway. Adjusted for that, the wooden floor has 50HP while the stone has somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-125.

(You could get four secret stone doors for the price of a shifting wall and they would have more hits too. I suppose the big difference is dwarves can detect shifting walls while elves can detect secret doors.)
You could also use a shifting wall to block passage or otherwise trap invaders - it's one of the example "special" rooms later on in the short dungeon design bit in Chapter 17.
Map Change: A shifting wall moves after the
party passes, cutting off their exit. They must
find another way out of the dungeon. The wall
shifts back after a time (1 turn, 1 hour, 1 day).
(Nothing is said about flagstone roofs so I assume only tile and fine wood are available.)
[...]
(This entry really should be with the doors, under Door, Trap.)
Doors and trap doors, and floor tiles and roof tiles, sound similar but are rather different things. Apparently flagstone roofs are a thing, though.
Trap doors, as described, aren't exactly the standard door-in-the-floor real life trapdoor as much as they're an actual trap.


As for the Barbican and Keep, I figure that those are just supposed to be "pre-made" bits that you could stick in if you want to design a castle quickly. (Such as if you roll a castle in the wilderness encounter tables - that was a thing, right? Am I confusing that with something else? There's a random castle ruler table, at least.)

Some of the other weirdness can be somewhat explained by having to man towers etc. and attackers being able to attack individual bits - a wide tower is harder to get through than a thin one, for instance, although if you're just running it in the Siege Machine then yeah it's objectively inferior to two smaller towers. Or, y'know, three bastion towers. The Siege Machine has some issues.
 

Spikey

Mean Mm-Mm Servant of God
Validated User
The wooden floor only takes half damage from ordinary weapons while the stone floor takes what, a fifth? Roundabout that, anyway. Adjusted for that, the wooden floor has 50HP while the stone has somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-125.
Oh yes. I'd forgotten all about that. :eek:

...floor tiles and roof tiles, sound similar but are rather different things.
Don't tell me, tell Aaron Allston.

As for the 'weirdness' about BR bonuses, the fact that they were added later to make the stronghold rules talk to the siege machine doesn't explain anything. At whatever stage the BR bonuses were introduced, they could have done with a bit of editing and (dare I say it?) playtesting, since they're exactly the sort of mechanic (spend this many points from Column A and receive that many points from Column B) that players love to min-max. Personally, if I had a quarter of a million gold pieces to spend on a fortification, I'd be sorely tempted to build three keeps together and surround them with a filled moat. If I knew we were using the siege machine, that is. And that's just off the top of my head.

EDIT: thinking about the BR bonuses, here's a list of battle rating bonus per thousand gold pieces of cost for the entries in the fortification table:

  • Arrow Slit 0
  • Barbican 0.38
  • Battlement 2
  • Building, Stone 2
  • Building, Wood 1.33
  • Door, Exterior 0
  • Door, Interior, Wood 0
  • Door, Interior, Reinforced 0
  • Door, Interior, Iron/Stone 0
  • Door, Interior, Secret 0
  • Drawbridge 0
  • Dungeon Corridor 0
  • Floor, Improved, Fine Wood 0
  • Floor, Improved, Flagstone 0
  • Floor, Improved, Tile 0
  • Gate, Wooden 0
  • Gatehouse 1.69
  • Keep, Square 0.67
  • Moat, Unfilled 2.5*
  • Moat, Filled 2.5*
  • Roof, Improved 0
  • Shifting Wall 0
  • Shutters, Window 0
  • Stairs, Improved, Fine Wood 0
  • Stairs, Improved, Stone 0
  • Tower, Bastion 0.67
  • Tower, Round I 0.23
  • Tower, Round II 0.33
  • Trap Door 0
  • Wall, Castle 2*
  • Wall, Wood 5*
  • Window, Open 0
  • Window, Barred 0
*Assuming the battle rating bonus is per hundred feet like the cost is.

So the stand-out purchases for improving your siege machine battle rating are actually moats and walls, with a wooden stockade being far and away the top buy, assuming the bonus is per length, and stone buildings and battlements otherwise.
 
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falcotron

New member
When a fighter starts building a stronghold, the local ruler will usually just give them the land as a barony. (Honestly, this seems like a much better way of claiming land from rulers than going to war or laying siege. Just turn up and build a castle and they’ll give you a parcel of land and the highest title below actual royalty.)
Baron is the lowest noble title, not the highest, just as in medieval England and in most fairy tales and fantasy fiction. (In France, it's not even that—anyone of noble birth serving as a lord, knight, or official who doesn't have a better title is a baron.)

As for the near-automatic granting of titles, I think you're forgetting the kind of frontier world D&D is envisioning. This isn't the conquest of Wales, the Northern Crusades, the colonization of Siberia, or the homesteading of Indian territory. The land outside the frontiers is ruled by orcs, or trolls, or dragons, or at best it's a no-mans-land so rife with bandits and goblins that super-normal humans (levels 3-8) go there for death-defying adventures. So, if you clear out the trolls and start building a stronghold on the edge of my march, how unpleasant would you have to be before I'd rather deal with the trolls than with you. (And if you are that unpleasant, you're probably scary enough that I might want to appease you…) Plus, consider that if I don't let you build a stronghold on my borders, you can just go a little bit farther out into undisputed wilderness and do the same thing, only now you're not expanding my march, you're building an independent country. I think, in this setting, it makes sense for it to be almost automatic that the marquis grants you the barony.
 
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