new rules for building castles

I’ve had a few thoughts about the logistics of PCs building strongholds. There are existing rules for pricing out castlebuilding: OD&D and 1e have their own in the core rules, 2e and 3e have splatbooks, and ACKS has a pretty well-thought-out system. I don’t want to re-invent any of these rules. Instead, I have a few logistical tweaks I think could be added to any of them (to make castle building even more complicated).

Casting a Castle

According to the 1e DMG, it takes 2 to 6 years to build a castle. That means that if I began a citadel in 2006 (at the same time as the launch of Twitter, say) it might just be finished now. Some campaigns have five-year chunks of downtime and some don’t: I thought it would be cool if characters in more high-speed campaigns also had a way to build castles. On the other hand, the various castle-building costs shouldn’t be circumvented.

Here’s a spell/ritual to speed up building:

Unseen Builders (level 3 wizard spell/ritual)

This spell creates a host of unseen servants, each of which acts as a laborer. By using this spell, a wizard can condense months of construction into mere days.

The cost of this spell, in magical components, is exactly the same as the total cost of building the structure without magic, including the cost of materials and human laborers.

The casting time of the spell is 1/30th of the time it would normally take to build the structure (one day per month). During the multi-day casting of this spell, the wizard works twelve hours a day, can eat and sleep, but can cast no other spells.

Extra expenses:

-An architect must be hired to design the building. If the building is to be exceptional, some master craftsmen and artists must be hired as well.
-The unseen laborers can range as far as 1 mile away from the building site, which usually allows them to fell trees, quarry local stone, and mine a small amount of iron. Any more exotic materials must be gathered at extra expense.
-Casting this spell is extremely taxing. NPC wizards usually charge an additional 10% to 20% of the cost of the building as their fee.

Alternate Sources of Stone

Last week I wrote about the many ancient ruins that clutter the D&D landscape. According to The Medieval Machine, by Jean Gimpel, medieval builders often found it cheaper to tear down existing buildings rather than quarry new stones. Therefore, PCs might end up re-purposing ancient structures, potentially with mystic side-effects. You could make up a chart like this one to determine the closest source of stone:

Is there an alternate source of stone? (roll d20)
1 a ruined giants’ castle: cost of building is increased by 25% but every structure has 50% more hit points or other defensive advantages than normal.
2 A ruin of a high-magic empire: cost of building is reduced by 20%, and the final building is provided with ever-burning torches, doors that open at a password, and other conveniences.
3 Ruin of a recent empire: cost of building is reduced by 20%.
4 Holy construction of the ancient gods: if you dare to mine it for stone, the final building is shining white and has 2x normal HP. However, during construction, each worker (or Unseen Builder wizard) will be targeted once by a curse, typically a 10d6 lightning bolt (save for no damage). This is likely to cause an extremely high casualty rate, low morale, delays, 3x or more the normal building costs.
5 demonic ruin: if you dare to mine it for stone, the final building will be black and jagged, covered with crawling purple runes, and will fire invisible bolts against all attackers as if its walls were fully garrisoned with archers. However, after every 100 nights spent in the building, each inhabitant must make a saving throw or accumulate one neurosis, phobia, or obsession. After 3 such failed saving throws, the inhabitant will go completely mad.
6 Elven ruin: cost of building is reduced by 20% and everyone compliments you on how beautiful it turned out.
7 Ruin from the empire of mad archmages: Stone is mined from a Gygaxian death trap. Cost of building is increased by 10%; 5% of the workers are killed by traps or monsters; but mechanical trap construction costs 10% of normal, and you may catch three random monsters for the defense of your structure.
8 Bizarre ruin: structures are made of lava or skulls or something. Your architect must make an Intelligence check. On a failure, the architect cannot work with this material. On a success, the final structure gains some unique ability.
9: The local quarry stone is very hard: +10% to building cost and to HP of all structures.
10: The local quarry stone is soft: either spend +10% building cost on imported stone or the final building has -10% hit points.
9-18: The closest source of stone is a regular quarry. No effect on prices.
19-20: Choice of several ruins or quarries nearby. Roll d10 on this chart twice.


3 Responses to “new rules for building castles”

  1. 1d30 says:

    This is pretty awesome. It could also explain why certain dungeons are the way they are: what happens if you get some demon stone for the lower levels and run out, then use elven stone for the upper works? You end up closing down the basement and hoping nobody goes down there anymore.

  2. Rhenium says:

    It would also explain why ruins are ruins. For example what happened to the outer layers of the pyramids or where many of the ancient wonders have since gone to.

  3. David says:

    I like the spell, but I think the cost should be increased. Laborers aren’t that expensive, and making months and years worth of work go by in days and weeks? That’s worth way more than laborer’s wages.

    The different types of stone? Pretty brilliant!

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