Strongholds and Followers is a brand new TTRPG companion book written and developed by Matthew Colville. If you’re not familiar with his work, we highly recommend you check it out as he has great advice for Game Masters and story tellers. While Strongholds and Followers is not official DnD material, the book is a fantastic companion for the game and adds in rules that deal with a wide variety of scenarios. Our copy arrived as a Kickstarter reward, and we have been eagerly awaiting the chance to dive into this material.
Strongholds and Followers Review
What is Strongholds and Followers About?
Just like it sounds, this book adds additional rules for handling strongholds and followers to your games. Specifically, strongholds that hearken back to the early days of the game where it was common for a group of adventures to ascend to power and then acquire a base of sorts.
This book divides strongholds up into different functional categories of keeps, temples, towers, and establishments, all of which provide different benefits. Once you and your party have constructed a stronghold you’re seen as a big deal, and that’s where the followers part of this book comes in.
The rules provided give structure to managing this for the both the GM and the players. These rules include a framework for things like warfare, concordance (think high level prayer), creating magic items, adding followers to your party or adventures, and rules for handling things that happen over long periods of time. There’s a lot packed into this book and it’s a well crafted expansion of rules for players that want their characters to settle down in one location and play a larger scale game.
Book Quality – How Well is Strongholds and Followers Made?
The hardcover book meets the high quality print standards we’ve come to expect from TTRPG material over the years. While the book is easily on par with anything put out by Wizards of the Coast, the internal style and layout is a bit different. Strikingly, the internal artwork and design is much more colorful than you might first imagine.
The whole book takes on a medieval scribe’s art style with contrasting blues, greens, reds, and yellows used in fantastic drop case letters and page boarding. I half expected to find a knight fighting a snail on one of the pages.
Standing apart from the more medieval styles in the book, there are also fantastic full color illustrations throughout. These pieces really are well put together and work great with the book’s layout despite their clear style difference.
The binding, cover, and paper quality are all quite high. The pages have a high gloss to them which looks really nice. The only minor complaint that could be given is that sometimes you can see through pages slightly, but that is a super minor issue that only comes up in a few places. Overall the book is a work of art and worth having in a collection on its own.
Writing Style and Quality
The writing in the book feels appropriately instructional. The rules are clear and concise and the descriptions are lively and detailed. The book’s author is a seasoned writer, so this comes as no surprise, but it’s worth mentioning that the sections that cover specific rules are structured very well. Items are bulleted out when necessary, tables are provided as supplement, and things are made plain and clear.
Stepping out of the sections on rules and into parts on running the game the tone and style shift. If you’ve ever watched one of Colville’s YouTube videos you’ll see how it takes on his voice right away. These sections are more causal and use a lot of “I would do this” sort of language. This isn’t authoritative the way a core DnD rule book would be, but instead presents things the same way someone might in a conversation.
Everything in the book feels like a helpful suggestion rather than a strict description of how things have to be. This really lends to the book’s readability, as we found it easier to digest and remember. Often times his more casual tone really gives a lot of personality to the book, especially in the footnotes and asides.
Overall the writing in the book is exceptional, but certainly not what we’re used to in a DnD manual. It breaks the mold in a good way while still sticking to the things that work from official manuals.
The Rules – How Does Strongholds and Followers Affect the Game?
The rules contained in Strongholds and Followers ask a lot of the GM. The game play loop for typical DnD can be fundamentally altered by a group setting up a stronghold. Management of one of these structures takes a lot of understanding. If you’re a new GM this may be overwhelming, but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend skipping it, by do consider the extra work that goes into adding homebrew to your game.
Calling this work homebrew almost feels wrong. While it certainly is an unofficial work, it’s incredibly polished and these rules stand on their own. As of our reading we’ve not found anything that isn’t well thought out or designed. There are certainly areas where the DM would have to make judgement calls and consider how to handle certain parts of the game, but that’s common even in the core rule books for DnD.
The rules that we see in this book mostly have a larger scope than players and GMs might be used to. Building a stronghold happens on a larger timescale than many are used to. Running an organization or ruling an area is certainly larger scale than just adventuring. These activities are so sufficiently different from typical DnD that the rules don’t clash or collide. Almost everything presented sits nice and neatly on top.
Beyond just having rules for running the game, Strongholds and Followers also adds in a lot of material to play around with. The guide provides new monsters, new magical items, powerful deities, and even a full adventure tucked into the book. There’s a lot to love here. It definitely has more packed into it than we were expecting.
Should I Add Strongholds and Followers to my Game?
This is a bit of tricky question and it depends on your group. This is not a decision the GM should make on their own, but instead be something to talk to the group about. Almost all of the rules and mechanics presented in Strongholds and Followers are highly player driven. There’s a lot for the GM to manage and do, but your players ultimately will be the ones deciding if you’re going to need to make use of these rules.
A different way you might use this book that is more universal would be creating strongholds for NPCs, villains, or factions your players will interact with. This allows you to build more robust scenarios around a reoccurring evil force or foe much more easily. In that scenario, this book is a great companion for any game.
Overall Review – Stronghold and Followers is a Yes
If you’re looking for quality third party content for your DnD game, Strongholds and Followers comes through. It’s a fantastic book with rules, monsters, adventures, and more packed into its pages and worth more than its modest asking price. The content is available as a PDF download or Hardcover. The physical book is in wave 2 pre-order at the time of this writing, but comes with a PDF copy upon ordering. Any GM would be happy to add this book to their collection.