Friday, July 27, 2018

Forts on the frontier

Out on the frontier (and these days, it's pretty much all frontier) you're going to need a military presence if you want your empire to be taken seriously.  Forts let you control an area with a small number garrison, as a safe place for them to retreat to when outnumbered and sally forth from to raid your enemies.

Fort Recovery (Chris Light)

Pick and choose some features from the tables below, or roll if you'd like a random result.  If this is a very important fortification near a settled area add +1 or +2 to each roll.  If this is a minor fort or trading post out in the wilderness, use a modifier of -1 or -2.


Start by choosing what type of fort this is, which determines how many defenders and cannons it's supposed to have.  (Whether those defenders and cannons are here right now is another matter.)

Type (d8)defenderscannons
≤3small wooden blockhouse2d40-1
4-7wooden palisade around a sprawling collection of wooden buildings4d61d4
8stone/brick watchtower2d61d4 - 1
9+star-shaped fort with low stone walls1d10 × 102d12

Fort Stanwix (NPS)


The fort was built for a reason, which determines where exactly it's located and what it has a good view of.

Purpose (d6)
≤1oversee a wide area of wilderness
2-3watch/control passage on a river
4-5protect a wilderness route
6defend against an enemy fort/settlement
7+defend an entire region or collect tolls for a road/bridge

Maham Tower


The area around the fort may have been prepared with defense in mind.  Ideally every fort would have an approach well-suited to defense, but time and labor are often in short supply.

Approach (d8)
≤0No attempt to clear out brush or to level out uneven ground.
1A rise in the terrain allows attackers to sneak up fairly close.
2-4Trees have been cut down for clear lines of fire.
5-6A split-rail fence that's too open to provide much cover.
7Wooden stakes have been driven into a shallow, muddy ditch to make it hard to charge ahead.
8A trench has been dug with a vertical outward side for attackers to climb down, and a sloped inward side so defenders can see to the bottom of the trench.
9+The ground slopes upward at just the right angle for the defenders to watch you approach, but so that most of the wall is hidden. The ground drops away just before the wall.

Fort Stanwix (M. Colangelo)

Blind spots

Defenders up in the watchtowers might not have a perfect view of their surroundings.  Roll to see where there are blind spots in their defenses.

Blind spots (d8)
≤1A muddy brook runs down a ditch that's mostly concealed from the defenders' view.
2-3Anyone right up at the base of the wall can't be seen by the defenders above.
4The watchtower(s) can't see one side of the fort very well, probably the side that is hardest to assault.
5Tree stumps and rocks provide just a bit of cover.
6The road leading into the fort is raised up and provides a bit of cover on either side.
7Defenders in the tower(s) can see out just fine, but they can't see inside the fort.
8+Snipers in the squat watchtower(s) can see just about everywhere.

Fort Augusta (Bernard Willington)


Heavy things like cannons are hard to move around.  Roll to see how they can get cannons in and out.

Access (d6)
≤1hauled up a steep slope
2hoisted with ropes/chains and pulleys
3access to a dock
4+decent road access

Fort Meigs (Triple Try)


Roll twice: the first roll shows what this fort is well-stocked with; the second, what they'd run out of during a siege.

Supply (d20)
≤2warm clothing/blankets

Other aspects of life at the fort can be rolled up as an outlying settlement (an upcoming article): what kind of trouble they've been having, business establishments, relations with the local people, etc.

Let's try making a few forts:
  • A trading post surrounded by a wooden palisade, meant to survey a large area of wilderness.  16 defenders, but only a single cannon up in the watchtower where it was hoisted with chains and pulleys.  Trees around the fort have been cut down for clear lines of fire.  Anyone who gets right up to the base of the palisade can't be seen.  Plenty of warm blankets for trade; they'll run out of food in a siege.
  • A small wooden blockhouse built to keep an eye on an enemy settlement across the valley.  It's surrounded by a muddy ditch with sharp stakes driven into the ground.  There are only 5 defenders, but they're well-stocked on firearms and can see everything around the fort.  In a siege, the first thing to fail will be their morale.


  1. I'm really enjoying this blog. I've loved the idea of playing a frontier fantasy game since I first read Robert Howard's Beyond the Black River many years ago. Keep up the good work

    1. Thank, I'm glad you're enjoying it!

      If there's anything you'd like to see more of, let me know.