Defenses - Flanaess Ringed Settlements & City Gates


The topic for tomorrow's Legend & Lore Show is Fortifications in Greyhawk which is something I'm very interested in.

A fantasy world like Greyhawk is a violent ad competitive place, in order to stay secure and stay in power you need to defend not only you, but your underlings, your property and more. Like we saw in ancient and medieval times, rulers and  people went to great lengths to enact various forms of defenses. Castles, walls,  moats, dungeons and more where all part of the real arsenal of fortifications, what about people of the World of Greyhawk, how did they try and fortify themselves?

Here comes a couple of examples taken from my view of the setting.  Fortifications varies a lot depending on what kind of threat you are trying to guard against, what material you have to work with and the available labor (and other resources like magic) needed for construction. Fortifications have a number of main functions that might not be so obvious at first glace.


Fortifications need to be impressive enough to an presumptive attacker to make him (or her or it) reconsider. An attack that doesn't happen because the enemy didn't think it was worth the effort has fulfilled its purpose without having to be used.

Even out the Odds

The next function  of fortifications are to give the defenders a better chance, by providing cover, concealment an better positions to spot, fire and defend themselves from. The goal is to force the enemy to have to use way more troops to successfully attack.

Buy Time

If the worst comes and a determined, prepared and strong attacker gains the advantage, the final purpose for the fortifications is to buy time and let the defenders hold out longer increasing the odds for help to arrive or some other circumstance might change and offer a way out.

Re-posting this sketch of a typical small Flan Ringed settlement. I have it that the Flan in the northern often open grass plains who where often of limited means and had to defend themselves against both men and various forms of monsters developed a special form of simple but effective defenses.

Dispersed Defense

Instead of building large towns and cities and seek safety and prosperity in number behind think walls, the flan who settled the plains here choose a different strategy. Small settlements that blended in with the surrounding terrain, and  still provided some protection.

It was common to find a low hill made up of tough soil, dig out the center and a surrounding moat. Use the dug up soil and stone to construct walls, battlements, and reinforce the outside of the dwellings. Sizes varied from a few families up to a several hundred, and in rare circumstances all the way up to town size with a thousand or more. The sketch shows a more typical size with living for 100-200 people and they livestock. Life inside the dwellings was cramped and dense, but people lived outside with their sheep, goats and cattle  most of the daytime, so being cramped at night, or when danger was lurking was accepted.

An important aspect of this design was the proximity of similar settlements, key was to spread out risk instead of center it. The distance between these dwellings where usually a few hundred yards up to a quarter of  a mile, and always within signaling distance, using horns, flags or smoke. This forced the enemy to attack only a single dwelling or spread out their forces. Neighboring settlements could quickly come to aid those attacked. Most adults in this realm can both fight and are able riders. A settlement only have to be able to defend themselves for a short time before they can count on help from their neighbors.

Here is a cut out sample of a large version of the Flan Ringed Settlement. It relies on the same idea, but on a bit grander scale. A larger hill is dug out from the top to provide but foundation and building material. The central core of the hill is kept and forms the base for the main keep. Living spaces, a moat and an entrance tunnel are dug out from the inside. Material left over from the dig are used to build battlements on top of the ring around the inner yard. Walkways between the battlements and the main keep are erected (or kept as part of the original stone). the walkways aid in quick movement between opposite sides of the battlements and the main keep.

The dug in construction also works as a water collector, which is a key point in locations without direct access to water. This design let you collect rainwater even if fairly dry areas. It also protects from wind in colder climates. The natural rock is a sturdy material and with well constructed battlements it is a fortification design that offers good defense considering how difficult it is to construct.

This is totally different type of fortification. Cities need to facilitate lots of people, and goods coming and going, while still be able to keep intruders out when needed. Cities are beacons for everyone, even those who wants it riches (and location) for themselves, so city defenses need to look impressive as well as being effective.

A set of double walls with moats and towers makes for an impressive set of defenses. The city walls also need to be protected from inside the city so they can be used to control the population, and continue to work even after a breach in some other part. Another major function for city gates are to be places to conduct searches and tax collection. By having two set of gates with an enclosed area in between, it makes it easier for guardsmen to divide arrivals into manageable groups seal them off from both the outside and inside, search them, and collect fees and taxes. The area have plenty of murder holes tat can be used by guardsmen on the floor above.

In order to breach the secured gates, an attacker has to get through three doors, two portcullis, two pits, and two closed and locked ramps. The ramps and inner doors have small hatches that can be used to hurl missiles and spells on attackers and the ceilings have murder holes almost the entire way. This means that the attackers have to be both more numerous and stronger than the defenders to have any real chance to succeed.

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