Holdfasts

A single flaming arrow whistled down from the battlements, striking the ground at the commander’s feet. It wasn’t a miss, but a warning. He looked toward the archer who had set it loose, memorizing the man’s features. With one grimy hand, he tugged the still-smoldering projectile free from the loose soil and said, “All right, lads. He gave us this arrow. We’re going to give it back to him.” And then, with a shout, he ordered the army to charge the keep.

Holdfasts

There are a variety of ways to take ownership of a holdfast. Whether won by blood and sword or earned through brave and selfless deeds, many adventuring parties eventually come to be lords and ladies of their own keep. More than just a way to leave an indelible mark on the world, such a holdfast is a personal endeavor that allows parties to craft for themselves a stable home in a chaotic world.

Taking a holdfast is not the same as keeping one. Just as the world is dotted with the ruins of keeps whose noble lineages have met ghastly ends, so are there empty skeletons of many strongholds driven to an untimely end by mismanagement and neglect.

By the same token, a well-maintained holdfast can become a place integral to the security and success of an adventuring party. The more time, effort, and money invested into a holdfast, the more benefits and utility it can provide to its owners.

Humble Beginnings

Before beginning to build a holdfast, adventurers require a key component: land. Land can be earned, purchased, or taken. Depending upon how a holdfast’s land is attained, there may be few existential threats to its existence or many.

This is because the boundaries of a holdfast’s domain are more political than they are physical–in short, they extend as far as the holders and their allies can and will enforce. Land gifted by a more senior noble or purchased from a broker will likely contain clear details on its limits, but a parcel that is invaded and wrestled away from its owners by sword and spellfire may result in far greater challenges to ownership.

Because ambition is endless and land is limited, many holdfasts fall into ruin. It is possible to renovate the ruins of an older holdfast, rather than build one from the ground up entirely. This can significantly reduce the costs and time required versus building a brand new holdfast.

It Takes a Village

Workers are the lifeblood of a holdfast. Most adventurers are too busy and too self-impressed to spend their valuable time doing the grunt work of repairing a ruin or building a keep. In its infancy, a holdfast will require workers with a blend of skills. These workers depend upon their employers for their livelihood, and sometimes their safety.

Worker costs depend upon the skill level of that worker, ranging from unskilled to artisan. Unskilled workers may be employed at a great many tasks in the running of a holdfast, but eventually, individuals of greater skill must be employed, lest projects languish without leadership.

Hiring a worker is done on a seasonal basis, meaning that a hired worker will remain in the service of a holdfast for three months, or nine tendays. Afterward, upon mutual agreement of the holders and the worker, that worker will remain on at a lower rate that represents both wages and costs of care. The expense of hiring and maintaining any holdfast workers is represented by their hiring cost and maintenance cost. The maintenance cost of a worker is equal to 50% of their base hiring cost, ignoring any discounts or added fees.

Costs for hiring workers are represented below:

Skill Level Hiring Cost Maintenance Cost
(paid seasonally)
Laborer Team 100 50
Apprentice 50 25
Journeyman 100 50
Artisan 200 100

You can have any number of workers in your holdfast, provided that you can afford their upkeep costs. Some workers provide superb benefits, like:

Natir, Castellan – Artisan
Natir reduces the hiring cost of all other units by 25% while in your retinue.

Huller, Traveler – Artisan
While Huller is in your retinue, you have advantage on Charisma checks made to hire workers and armsmen. If you do not have a squad of Arambrai Defenders in your Lyceum, you can hire one for 50% of their normal cost.

A holdfast can be a dangerous place, especially without the protective walls of a keep. Most workers lack the skill to defend themselves against roving enemies, and require the protection of armsmen. Armsmen serve as your holdfast’s primary line of defense. They follow a similar cost scheme to workers:

Skill Level Hiring Cost Maintenance Cost
(paid seasonally)
Soldier Squad 50 25
Specialist Squad 100 50

Soldiers are rank-and-file armsmen who contribute to the defenses of your holdfast. Specialists–which include such varied categories as sappers, battlemages, archers, and more–also contribute to defenses, but typically bring additional skills to bear.

Examples include:

Luth’s Hunters
Must be garrisoned in a Grove. This squad grants 1d4 additional DS if there is at least one beast in an attacking force.

Maarlith Archers
Must be garrisoned in a Keep. The attack DC of all fliers in an attacking force is reduced by 1, to a minimum of 0.

Arambrai Defenders
Must be garrisoned in a Lyceum. The attack DC of any humanoids in an attacking force that are not spellcasters is reduced to 0.

Building a Holdfast

Once an adventuring party has a plot of land and the workers with which to shape it, the busy work of building can begin. Holdfasts are based around a variety of specialized zones, called wards. At most, a holdfast can encompass one of each ward, but may have additional parcels of land that can be used for other purposes.

Your holdfast begins with a keep. This keep does not need to be a traditional one–it serves as a main base of operations for your adventuring party, and can reflect the quirks of the individuals it houses. Fanciful manor houses are just as acceptable as imposing towers of grey stone.

Once the keep is completed, your party may want to expand and specialize its resources by building wards like a lyceum, grove, sanctuary, fortifications, or a marketplace.

Keeps and their wards have building and maintenance costs, and can be upgraded over time. The current upgrade status of a keep or ward is represented by its level. Keeps and wards can be upgraded up to three levels.

Your keep and each ward you build comes with features, some passive and others active, that may offer powerful advantages to your party. Upgrading them grants access to new features. Detailed below are the costs for building and upgrading a keep and wards.

Construction projects for keeps and wards take time and manpower. It takes a team of laborers two seasons to complete a project. This team requires an overseer, which can be a journeyman or artisan. You can assign up to three additional teams of laborers to reduce the build time by half a season, down to a minimum of half a season, but each of these laborer teams requires an overseer. Coordinating multiple teams also requires an artisan craftsman to manage the project. The costs for these laborers are in addition to the build cost of a keep or wards.

The benefits of each ward are listed as follows:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Project Build Cost Maintenance Cost Upgrade Cost Maintenance Cost  Upgrade Cost Maintenance Cost
Keep 5000 1000 15000 5000 30000 10000
Grove 2500 500 5000 1000 10000 2000
Lyceum 5000 1000 10000 2000 15000 3000
Marketplace 5000 –  10000 15000
Sanctuary 2500 500 5000 1000 10000 2000
Plot 2500 500

Keep

The keep is the central pillar of your holdfast. Traditionally, the keep serves as the dwelling place of a holdfast’s nobility, and serves as the seat of the holdfast’s military might as well. Your keep’s level determines the number of projects your holdfast can support, and is a key component of defending your workers against raids and hazards.

Level 1: Garrison

Upon building your keep, you gain the capability to support garrisons of armsmen to help protect your keep. Armsmen improve your keep’s defenses as dictated in the section “Defending Your Holdfast.” A 1st level keep can support two wards.

Level 2: Combat Training

A 2nd level keep can support up to three wards. In addition, once your keep reaches second level, the trainers at the keep can help an adventurer retrain a feat or an ability score improvement by undergoing training at the keep. This keep ability is available once per month, and requires the adventurer to expend one tenday of downtime days.

Level 3: Fortifications

At 3rd level, your keep has attained the size and sophistication required to allow the placement of specialized fortifications like catapults and ballistae. Additionally, a 3rd level keep can support a maximum of four wards.

Marketplace

Within the marketplace beats the golden heart of a holdfast. A marketplace provides your holdfast with the opportunity to offset some of its significant costs. More than that, it acts as a place where residents can gather and exchange information about the world. Marketplaces are unique among wards in that they provide income enough to offset their maintenance and more, providing a rare opportunity for steady cashflow.

Level 1: Rumor Mill

A newly built marketplace is a breeding ground for rumors about the outside world. While in your marketplace, you can make a Rumors check to find out what your townsfolk have heard about a subject. Your townsfolk won’t know tightly kept secrets, but they may surprise you with their resourcefulness. You are proficient with this check while in your marketplace. Each level your marketplace is upgraded reduces the DC. The DC is 15 at marketplace level 1, 10 at level 2, and 5 at level 3. On a successful save, you hear an accurate rumor regarding the subject about which you are inquiring. You can use this feature a number of times equal to three times the level of your marketplace each tenday.

Level 2: Hiring Board

Traveling abroad to hire workers and armsmen for your holdfast can present a significant strain on your resources. Upgrading your marketplace to 2nd level increases its renown, drawing traders from afar to join the local throngs. The holdfast’s denizens will establish a hiring board in the market that allows you to search for workers, armsmen, and heroes to man your holdfast.

Level 3: Legends

By the time it has reached 3rd level, your marketplace has become an impressive draw for travelers, troubadours, and foreign traders. Once per tenday, you can choose to learn the tale of a dungeon or object out of legend, which you or heroes in your employ can explore for lucrative treasures.

Lyceum

A lyceum is a place of magical study. By building one in your holdfast, you can attract scholars and mages from near and far. While the primary focus of a lyceum is to forward the study of magic and the arcane, most magicians are more than able to defend themselves. Possession of a Lyceum allows you to garrison squads of spellcasters, a powerful type of specialist armsmen. Your Lyceum can garrison two spellcaster squads at 1st level, three at 2nd, and four at 3rd level.

Level 1: Imbuement

At 1st level, mages at your lyceum are able to instill common spells into objects, creating simple magical wands imbued with a single cast of a spell. Once per tenday, your lyceum’s mages can create a wand imbued with a single charge of a Wizard spell list of 3rd level or below that you choose. This wand has no additional cost.

Level 2: Enchantments

At 2nd level, your lyceum has become a noted center of learning, and its inhabitants have learned to create magical items. Once per season, they can craft a common, uncommon, or rare magical item for the cost of its crafting components, which amount to 50% of the item’s standard cost.

Level 3: Exotic Spell Research

By 3rd level, the mages of your lyceum have built a school of high renown, and have delved into studying the building blocks of magic. This great leap forward in research has allowed the mages to experiment with new spells, which they can record onto scrolls for your use. You can request that the lyceum create a custom spell scroll for you with one use. The mages will attempt to create the spell as you requested, but results are not guaranteed. Once you and the mages have agreed upon the spell’s parameters, they will craft a spell scroll imbued with its power. This can be done once per season.

Grove

A grove is a place rich in nature magics, instilled there by the work of gifted druids and cultivated by wise rangers. More than just a place of tranquility and beauty, a grove harbors powers that grow like the plants themselves, becoming a monument to nature’s resplendent beauty. The grove can garrison squads of druids and rangers that will raise the fury of nature to defend your keep. Your grove can garrison two spellcaster squads at 1st level, three at 2nd, and four at 3rd level.

Level 1: Floral Abundance

In its infancy, a grove is a flourishing font of natural life that draws gentle animals and bursts with verdant growth. Herbs of all sorts thrive in a druid grove, even some known not to grow in the grove’s terrain and climate. You can find herbs of any sort in this herb garden, and foraging within its bounds yields twice the number of herbs per successful attempt.

Level 2: Cornucopia

The flora that blesses a druid’s grove is not merely for medicinal purposes. By 2nd level, a grove produces abundant food staples–fruits, vegetables, and more–that reduce the maintenance cost of all units within your holdfast by 25%. Once per tenday, the druids and rangers tending your grove can supply your keep with a bountiful meal that grants up to ten creatures of your choice the benefit of a Heroes’ Feast.

Level 3: Garden of Miracles

By third level, the grove’s soil is so thoroughly suffused with druidic magics that death itself can be averted within the grove’s bounds. Once per season, if a creature that has died within the past 10 days is buried in the druid grove, it will gain the benefit of the Reincarnate spell.

Sanctuary

Many a leader throughout history has sought to curry favor with the gods. Building a sanctuary within your holdfast is an invitation of their interest, and serves as a home to the devoutly religious. A sanctuary allows you to garrison squads of paladins and clerics, specialists that will defend your holdfast and heal its injured defenders. Your sanctuary can garrison two squads of clerics or paladins at 1st level, three at 2nd, and four at 3rd level.

Level 1: Favor of the Gods

Building a sanctuary causes the heavens to shine upon your holdfast. Rolls made to defend your holdfast are made with advantage.

Level 2: Illuminated Texts

By 2nd level, your sanctuary has grown to attract learned and pious clergy, who will honor your service to the gods by inscribing scrolls with holy spells. Once per tenday, your sanctuary’s clerics can create the spell scroll of a cleric spell of 3rd level or below for your use. This scroll has no cost.

Level 3: Servitor

Upon reaching 3rd level, your sanctuary has become a holy place so sanctified as to attract the attention of beings from beyond. A servitor of a god worshipped at the sanctuary manifests upon your request. This servitor is a powerful heroic unit that can undertake missions and work miracles, provided that you continue to honor it and the god that it serves.

An example servitor is Coruvex, an aranea servitor of Lolth. Coruvex requires that fresh meat in the form of recently deceased corpses be delivered to him in his pit beneath Stonehollow. As a shapeshifter, Coruvex is a master of disguise, and can be convinced to perform assassinations, gather intelligence in far-off regions, or sow chaos through nigh-undetectable impersonations of key individuals. Should adventurers ask too much of Coruvex or fail to sate his hunger, he will abandon the sanctuary where he dwells, depriving his former associates of a valuable ally.

Plot

A plot is a unique ward that does not, on its own, provide any benefits to your holdfast. It contains sufficient space for three specialty buildings. The number of plots your holdfast can support is dependent upon its size, but typically, a holdfast can support no more than three additional plots.

Specialty Buildings

You can further customize wards with the use of specialty buildings. These buildings add capabilities to wards that can provide additional features. Upgrading keeps and wards allows more space for specialty buildings as follows:

Project Level 1st 2nd 3rd
Keep 3 5 7
Ward 1 3 5
Plot 3

Like keeps and wards, specialty buildings have a maintenance cost. This seasonal cost is equal to 20% of a specialty building’s build cost. Unlike keeps and wards, specialty buildings do not need to be upgraded, and provide their full benefit upon being successfully built. Some specialty buildings can only be built in certain wards. They include:

Alchemy Lab     Cost: 2000gp     Build Time: 20 days 
Removes inherent disadvantage when crafting alchemical projects. Comes stocked with an herbalism kit, poisoner’s kit, and alchemist’s supplies, which are replenished every tenday. If assigned a journeyman alchemist, can produce one common or uncommon potion each tenday. Assigning an artisan alchemist allows the production of one rare potion each tenday. Must be built in a Keep, Lyceum, Marketplace, or Plot.

Animal Pen     Cost: 1000gp     Build Time: 10 days
If assigned a squad of laborers, will reduce the maintenance cost of all units by 10%. Provides a tenday’s worth of rations sufficient for eight creatures every other tenday. Must be built in a Grove, Keep, or Marketplace.

Bank     Cost: 5000gp     Build Time: 50 days
A fortified chamber that can hold any amount of wealth and reasonably sized treasures. If staffed with an artisan banker and four apprentices, generates gold pieces equal to 5% of the wealth stored there every season. Must be built in a Marketplace.

Baths     Cost: 3000gp     Build Time: 30 days
You gain temporary hit points equal to your level after completing a long rest in your holdfast. In addition, you smell great. Must be built in a Keep, Grove, Marketplace, or Plot.

Boneyard     Cost: 3000gp     Build Time: 30 days
If staffed with an artisan necromancer, allows the resurrection of recently deceased troops once per tenday as a specialist squad of risen undead with the following abilities: Possesses all abilities that the squad had in life, but cannot benefit from healing, and if they perish, they cannot be resurrected by any means. Must be built in a Sanctuary.

Chapel     Cost: 5000gp     Build Time: 50 days
Must be dedicated to a specific god. Religion checks dealing with the god have advantage while in the chapel. Allows the summoning of an additional servitor in a 3rd level sanctuary. Must be built in a sanctuary.

Compost Pit     Cost: 2000gp     Build Time: 20 days
Once per tenday, can creates a specialist squad of shambling mounds, which have the following abilities: If there is at least one other squad of units and that unit would be injured during combat, the shambling mound squad is injured instead, and cannot be healed or resurrected by any means. Must be built in a Grove.

Domicile     Cost: 2500gp     Build Time: 25 days
Required to house a heroic unit.

Pool of the Farseer    Cost: 3000gp     Build Time: 30 days
You can cast the scrying spell at will without use of material components while within five feet of this pool. Creatures have disadvantage on their Wisdom saving throw against being scryed when the spell is cast in this manner.

Fortified Walls     Cost: 1500gp     Build Time: 15 days
Increases a keep’s or ward’s contribution to the holdfast’s defensive strength by 1d6.

Fighting Pit     Cost: 1000gp     Build Time: 10 days
Allows adventurers or heroic units to fight against powerful opponents, and facilitates betting on the outcome of those fights. Must be built in a Keep, Marketplace, or Plot.

Infirmary     Cost: 4000gp     Build Time: 40 days
Unconscious units and squads have advantage on death saving throws. Once per tenday, you can heal an injured armsman squad, immediately returning it to service at its garrison. Must be built in a Keep or Sanctuary.

Library     Cost: 3500gp     Build Time: 35 days
Allows for research on a variety of subjects. History checks that are made within the library to determine lore about specialized subjects have advantage if the library is staffed with an artisan librarian. Must be built in a Lyceum or Sanctuary.

Lecture Hall     Cost: 2500gp     Build Time: 25 days
Upon spending two hours of downtime listening to a lecture here, you gain advantage on Intelligence skill checks until the next dawn. Must be built in a Lyceum or Sanctuary.

Mage Tower     Cost: 5000gp     Build Time: 50 days
After completing a long rest at your holdfast, you gain an additional spell slot equal to the highest level spell slot that you possess. This spell slot persists for a tenday and replenishes upon long rests during that period. Must be built in a Lyceum. Can be built only once.

Research Chamber     Cost: 5000gp     Build Time: 50 days
Allows Imbuement to produce single-use wands of wizard spells up to 5th level. Must be built in a Lyceum.

Shop     Cost: 3000gp     Build Time: 30 days
If staffed with at least a journeyman shopkeeper, allows you to sell items for their market value a tenday after relinquishing each item. An artisan shopkeeper increases the sales yield by 10%. Must be built in a Marketplace or Plot.

Tavern     Cost: 4000gp     Build Time: 40 days
Reduces the maintenance cost of all units by 10%. Rumor Mill checks in the associated Marketplace are made with advantage. Must be built in a Marketplace.

Teleportation Chamber     Cost: 5000gp     Build Time: 50 days
Houses a static teleportation circle with a unique rune, and allows for outgoing transportations at no cost. Must be built in a Lyceum or Keep.

Heroic Units

Heroic units, such as great generals, world-renowned crafters, and powerful magicians, may come into your employ. They typically provide potent bonuses that are of great value to your keep. Your keep can support any number of heroic units, but each requires a domicile where they can live. Examples include:

Eskalpos, the Accursed Healer
All living garrisoned units that perish in combat are raised as vampire spawn with the same capabilities as their living counterparts. If these vampire spawn perish in combat, they cannot be resurrected by any means.

Branduin Bleakshard
Provides an additional 1d4 DS contribution. Select up to one spellcaster in an attacking force. If the spellcaster does not have legendary actions, its CR contributes 0 to the force’s DC. Otherwise, it contributes half its Cr to the force’s DC.

Blais of the White Claw
Once per tenday, you can convert a soldier squad into a specialist squad of Selunite Werewolves with the following properties: +1 to DS contribution, +2 to DS contribution against lycanthropes.

Defending Your Holdfast

Founding a holdfast is not the same as keeping it. As your holdfast develops, its riches, resources, and inhabitants will become a lure to the opportunistic, the hostile, and the hungry. You will eventually be called upon to defend your holdfast.

Combat for a holdfast is on a scale larger than the combat that defines the experiences of most adventuring parties. Combat occurs when an invading force, typically consisting of a significant number of foes, clashes with the fortifications and garrisoned troops that protect your holdfast.

When you are attacked, your holdfast’s keep and wards contribute to its resilience against attackers. This resilience is the holdfast’s defensive strength (DS). The amount the keep and wards contribute to defense is determined by their level as follows:

1st Level – 1d6
2nd Level – 2d4
3rd Level – 2d6

For example, if you have a level 3 keep and two level 2 wards, your holdfast’s DS would be  2d4 + 2d4 + 2d6.

Your defenses are further augmented by armsmen. Each squad of armsmen garrisoned in a keep or ward adds +1 to the holdfast’s DS. Squads of specialists, such as mages or archers, often have additional bonuses that might help in combat. For example, archers reduce the effectiveness of flying creatures attacking your holdfast. If the holdfast in the previous example had full garrisons in both wards and the keep, it would gain an additional 10 DS (4 + 3 + 3) from the armsmen, plus whatever other bonuses they might provide. Finally, some specialty buildings also increase the DS of your holdfast.

The DC of the attack upon your holdfast is derived from the challenge rating of the creatures attacking. Each standard creature contributes an amount equal to its challenge rating to the attack DC. Creatures with legendary actions contribute an amount equal to twice their challenge rating to the attack DC. For example, an invading force consisting of an ancient red dragon (CR 24) and 40 kobolds (CR ⅛) would have a DC of 53. In cases where a DC results in a fractional number, round up to the nearest whole number.

If the DC of the attacking force is less than your holdfast’s DS, no damage is done to your keep. If the DC of the attacking force exceeds your holdfast’s DS by more than 3, a squad of armsmen is injured at random. A squad of armsmen is injured for every additional 3 points by which the DC of the attacking force exceeds your holdfast’s DS. For example, if the attacking force’s DC is 53 and your holdfast’s DS was 42, three squads of armsmen would be injured.

Injured squads must make a death saving throw. If it fails its death saving throw, the squad perishes. Otherwise, the squad is injured and must recover for a tenday before it can be used again.

A ward or your keep can also be damaged. Damaged wards or keeps provide none of their usual bonuses until repaired, which takes one season, during which the ward or keep costs twice its maintenance cost. During this time, the damaged ward or keep cannot garrison troops. A random ward or keep becomes damaged in combat if one or more of the following are true:

  • You have no uninjured armsmen when an attack occurs
  • Four or more squads of armsmen are injured at once

If all wards and your keep are damaged at the same time, your holdfast is razed. Fate is a fickle mistress.