d12 Clever Castle Defenses

Could I interest you in some interesting ways to defend a castle?

There’s a fantastic article in Dragon #185 (a Dark Sun special, nice!) that lists 20 ways to defend castles in D&D. Below I give you d12 methods: some of my own, and some from the article rewritten in my own words.

1. Get Dirty

Literally. We want those footprints, handprints, and slight disturbances to foil invisible and sneaky foes. The article suggests soot because it would be easily available and free. Soot the walls to foil climbers, for example.

2. Deeper Moats

Dig so deep that enemies must climb up and down steep banks or vertical walls, giving defenders more time to whack ’em. You could also add defenses to the moat or moat banks, such as bone-caltrop fields, water mines, vats of boiling goblin fat, and so on.

3. Nets & Stuff

Flip to your player equipment purchase list. Look at everything suitable for defense, such as nets, sneezing powder, and caltrops. Now multiply their number by 10, 100, or 1000, and use ’em.

There are usually enough castle defenders, at least at the start, to employ such obstacles without taking any troops away from walls and front lines.

4. Traps & Stuff

Poke around your traps, hazards, poisons, and diseases lists for brutal defenses.

Then grab your Grimtooth’s Traps and let ‘er rip!

Monsters make great trap-like defenses too. This explains the snake zoo in the dungeon and The Arcane Cabal of Evil Sorcerers (ACES) who were summoned to the castle last week.

5. Comb Your Spell Lists

Some spells can be co-opted for amazing defenses. There are more uses for fireball than lighting your cigar, am I right?

Have tuns of water on hand to spill for the lightning wizard.

Make the enemy fire into windy gusts while your archers can shoot greater distances. Bonus rounds!

Don’t forget potions and spells. How many could the defenders afford?

6. Holy Great Great Great Grandmas Batman!

You were so wise maintaining that nice graveyard run by those loyal necromancers all these years. In fact, let’s make the necropolis a fancy outer ring. Go get ’em, great great great grandma!

7. Be a Fun Guy

Hey, what’s in the forbidden area of the park? You bring all the garbage there, but I never see any coming out. What’s up?

Welcome to Shroomville, where we break the mold and only the most slimy are kept. Talk about living under a mushroom. Sheesh!

And when needed, defenders can hurl, trap, or otherwise gelatinize their foes via catapulted, glass bombed, and fire hosed slimes.

8. Stranger Danger!

Animals make great alarms. Bark, fly, and bite when anyone who smells funny appears. Those who can speak with animals will be retained for herding the “cats” and keeping them alert.

This is also another reason to adventure, because monster hunts are fun.

9. The Underground

Earth-moving magic, tamed bulettes, and secret dwarven methods make below ground an accessible arena.

Dig under the enemy and attack by surprise. Create weakened areas that will collapse if a group traverses them. Flank or ambush with ease.

But, hopefully, our six seasoned sappers don’t meet six seasoned sappers sapping from the opposite side!

10. Magic Mirage

Illusion magic isn’t just for adventuring. Create a false castle front that hides the real defenses. Disguise other castle defenses such as murder holes and arrowslits.

Imagine invaders confidently storming what they think is the main gate, only to find themselves trapped in a killing field. Or perhaps attackers focus fire on an illusory threat, wasting ammunition and letting defenders sneak up for a flank attack.

11. Curses, Foiled Again

All those backbiting cursed weapons that make the wielder attack themselves? Leave them for enemies to make a “lucky find”.

Create cursed locations in foes’ paths, such as by cursing the drawbridge or moat.

Defenders might also voluntarily accept curses, such as lycanthropy, to save their home.

12. The Killing Move

Finally, we want a useful thieves’ guild. They can stealth into the enemy beyond the walls to take out leaders, sabotage equipment, and spoil supplies…for the right price, of course.

I hope these ideas help. They can also be applied to many other locations in addition to castles!

Have more fun at every game!

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