Stronghold Builder's Guidebook Review

Stronghold Builder's Guidebook Review
As a present for the holidays one year, a book my mom got me was the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook. This book was published in May 2002 for use with Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition. To my knowledge, no official errata has been released by Wizards of the Coast. I have not been asked to write a review, nor am I being compensated for this article. Here's my assessment of this source book.

Partway through my last reading my group let me know they didn't feel like using Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition for the next game. At that time, I realized that this book is very specific for D&D 3.x and possibly D&D in general. The book presents a great many ideas about constructing strongholds, protecting them, acquiring them and even razing them – and almost all of those ideas are attached to either a gold-piece value or a spell used in D&D 3.x. I rank that as high edition-specificity. Adding value to a 3.0 game is something this book was designed to do and it does it very well, though.

As stated above, there's no official errata of which I am aware. This means for anyone playing the more popular 3.5 updated edition, you're going to have a lot of pencil marks in your book where damage reduction values and certain skill checks are concerned. During my read I hadn't yet hunted down the (nonexistent) errata; I don't plan on going through the book and preparing a list myself, either. Unless you have a solid grasp of the differences between 3.0 and 3.5 and can do almost all of the conversion from memory, translating this book to 3.5 is going to be tedious. Again, this was made for 3.0 and it covers that base well.

Ideas laid forth by Matt Forbeck and David Noonan in this book are great fun. There's a collection of material (spells, metals/stones, magic items) that work well with stronghold rules all throughout the book. New concepts presented include how to organize the layout of strongholds and stationary magic items (like enchantments to put on specific rooms or on the entire stronghold). Floating keeps like what's on the cover and mobile strongholds are spelled out in D&D mechanical terms. Even without a campaign using this material coming up I kept reading, which puts this book's creativity at enjoyable. The authors have given many snippets of advice about general stronghold building/upkeep, too.

Forbeck and Noonan could have made one or two more passes through an editor. Beyond a few typos here and there, some sentences come off as very awkward. I didn't notice anything odd about the tables they offer us, but the flow of the text is interrupted more than a few times. That's the reason we have editors and they remain in demand – working on a deadline, producing imaginative work and keeping said work grammatically/mechanically correct aren't easy to do, especially all at once. From a writing/editing perspective, I would call this work incomplete. Things didn't come together as well as they should have.

If you're in the market for some D&D 3.x material, have either a lot of time to prepare or great mastery over the differences between 3.0 and 3.5, and you find this book for low (used market value as of this writing is $14.17) then I recommend you pick it up. Should only two of the above conditions be true, read the table of contents and base much more of your decision on how well you like that. Only one – borrow it from someone before you buy. It's best-suited for DMs with players who want to build strongholds, but is usable for DMs who want to make strongholds of their own.

Value Breakdown
Edition Specificity: 2/5
Ease of Translation: 2/5
Creativity: 4/5
Errors: 2/5
Overall: 10/20

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