Strongholds & Followers

Matthew Colville

Book cover

For those who don’t play D&D, Matt Colville has a very popular, and excellent, YouTube channel about running the game. I’m currently in two different D&D campaigns, and the gamemasters (GMs or DMs) in each have used some of his ideas to great effect. In one of those campaigns, my character has an interest in restoring a partially ruined fortress. So, I picked up this book, which is a set of optional rules for characters to do stuff like that.

The great thing about D&D is that my GM can just say “cool, we can do that” and set up a storyline where my character has to do different things to make that happen. But the real fun of D&D comes at the intersection of rules and no-rules–it should be free enough that you can try anything you can think of, but constrained enough by rules to give some sense of an objective challenge to pit yourself against, with some meaningful probability of failure or at least complications. So, I think it’s a neat idea to have a set of rules to use when a character wants to do something a little outside the standard gameplay.

Overall, the rules in this book seem pretty balanced and reasonably thought-through. At the end of the day, I think my GM and I will cherry-pick some of Colville’s ideas rather than use them in their entirety as written. For example, a fair amount of the rules in the book relate to conducting army-scale combat between different forces, kind of an old-school wargaming approach. I don’t really have any interest in this aspect of having a stronghold, and neither does my character. So we probably will just leave those parts out. I’m pretty sure Colville would be 100% fine with this, and would be happy that his book gave us some inspiration and fun ideas.

The production quality of this book is very good, especially for a third-party product–it’s much nicer than most stuff I’ve seen from DMsGuild, and on a par with official products. I thought the art was especially nice. Colville writes in an accessible and engaging style, although sometimes I found myself wishing for a little more signposting and summarization to orient a reader to the big picture before getting into the details.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars