Hello fellow DM's, my players were taken prisoner in the campaign I am running at the moment some time ago by a tribe of goblins. They were then sold to a hobgoblin warlord, who used the group as fighting slaves for his amusement in his arena. They managed to please him and were freed by the warlord. The group then reported to an officer of the military order they are a part of and they agreed together, that the warlords fort has to be sieged and destroyed. Additionally the cousin of one PC is a prisoner of the warlord. My question now is, if you have any good ideas how to run a castle siege? To give you more context both sides will have around 100 soldiers (including just small amount of officers and magic users). The fort is made out of a wooden palisade and has a mountain in its back which protects it from attacks from that direction. Also some mines and caves of that mountain are used as part of the fort. It is located in a dense forest. The chracters are level 5 at the moment (but are likely to have reached level 6 or 7 before the siege starts).
I have thought about presenting my players some opportunities, that end up in an encounter or a skill challenge (or both). I come up with different ideas, what they could do:
1. Construct siege weapons like a ballista. 2. Spy the fort patrols. 3. Hunt enemy spies. 4. Take prisoners and arrange a prisoners exchange. 5. Poison the food in the fort. 6. Planning a siege strategy and the positioning and usage of the troops. 7. Fortify the own position.
Maybe you have some other ideas as well or some approaches on the ideas I already came up with to make them more fun or interesting.
In the end I don't want my group to run blind into a hail of arrows and die in a full scale battle, but give them a cool experience, where they really could achieve something and contribute to the siege as a whole, leading to its success/failure.
This homebrew adventure set in Innistrad, did a pretty good job of handling a siege situation for a group of level 5 characters. Granted, in that adventure, the siege was more undead based, but that can easily be changed out. I'd give it a look-see to find out what can be useful to your own situation.
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"The mongoose blew out its candle and was asleep in bed before the room went dark." —Llanowar fable
You could do the classic you've probably seen in a million movies: We need a small team to infiltrate the castle and achieve objective X if this is going to be successful. Where X can be any number of things like, open the gates, free the prisoners and start a fight inside the walls to distract the army, take out the mage with a wand of fireballs who would otherwise chew up the attackers, sabotage key defensive structures, attack/make sure no one escapes from the secret passage through the mountains (because every castle has a secret escape route so the VIPs can get out if the defenders are overwhelmed). You can also combine those like, first priority is the mage, if you succeed at that, move on to the prisoners, then the gate, etc. For each of the objectives the party succeeds at, things go better for the attackers. The better things go, the happier their order is with them, and the better rewards they get. Now that I think of it, have freeing the prisoners specifically be something they are not supposed to do, or the least important thing, so there's tension between the orders they have been given, and the personal desire of the character who, presumably, wants to make sure their family member is safe. Then once they are inside and the fighting has started, make it clear that the goblins are starting to execute prisoners, just to really amp up the tension. If they free the prisoners before completing other objectives, the cousin lives, but their superiors are unhappy with them disobeying orders.
During the fight, you can periodically have environmental hazards pop up, catapult stones or alchemist's fire dropping in the courtyard, spooked horses stampeding out of the stable, that kind of thing, to remind them there's a larger fight going on.
Victory in a siege is often through underhand tactics, not by scaling the walls and killing everyone inside. Think polluting the water supply, unleashing disease-ridden vermin into the fort under the cover of darkness and taking cutting off all supplies to the fort so that the defenders go hungry and their morale is crushed.
Also think of what defences the party and their force will expect. Molten pitch and boiling oil being poured from the battlements, archers firing from loopholes, siege towers and ladders being set on fire or pushed back as they're put up etc.
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