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What Types of Defenses Should My Castle in D&D Have?

Castles have a variety of defenses, ranging from standard walls, moats, and arrow slits, to more exotic and exciting defenses. In this article, we discuss the basics of castle defenses, unique barriers, and how castles utilize natural hazards to create defensive strongholds.

Physical Barriers

Most all defensible locations include some sort of physical barrier to prevent enemies from breaking into the area. Common barriers include walls, blockades, and palisades. Gates, which are manned by guards, are used to control the flow of individuals in and out of the area. Multiple gateways may be present in the location, which can allow for evacuation of citizens in an emergency or help additional reinforcements quickly enter the castle grounds.

Moats may also be used to keep enemies from reaching walls. This can impede combatants with heavy armor, who cannot swim across the ditch, or individuals carrying weaponry or other heavy equipment. Horses also cannot cross deep moats. Moats may be filled with hazards such as alligators or piranhas, which can prevent easy crossing.

Defensive Positions

Castle and walls are built with defensive positions in mind. Platforms and walkways are constructed to allow guards ¾ cover, as well as providing fully covered areas below for citizens and personnel to move within the area. Additionally, arrow slits are placed in strategic positions to enable guards to fire on the enemy and minimize the risk of the guards being struck by return fire.

Trap Doors

Trap doors are often placed in the sides of walls and in ceilings underneath a wall or near the entrances of the castle. These trap doors connect to corridors and chutes, through which guards can pour boiling oil or alchemist's fire on assailants. Trap doors may also be built into the floor of entrances, which can be triggered remotely to open up, causing assailants to fall into pit traps or underground moats.

Trap doors are often also employed inside the castle or wall itself, to be used to evacuate key personnel or nobles when the area is under attack. These passages usually open up to different areas of the castle, to defensible “safe rooms,” or to secret passages that lead outside of the walls of the city.


Traps may also be built into the castle, such as pressure plates, arrow traps, or more elaborate options. Of course, when these traps are designed, it must be ensured that they will not be triggered by ordinary guards or citizens. They may be controlled remotely by levers in the guards’ control room, which are capable of arming the devices and will be used when the corresponding areas of the defenses have been breached.


Many castles have specially trained animals which can come to their defense. Guards may ride griffons, which provide a bird’s eye view and increased maneuverability. Giant badgers or other burrowing animals may also be used to dig beneath opposing forces, causing the ground to collapse and siege weapons to be destroyed.

Other cities are built around serving certain magical creatures, such as dragons, which will come to the city’s defense in times of trouble.


Much like the statues at Hogwarts, the Walking Statues of Waterdeep are enchanted to rise to the castle’s defense in times of trouble. These statues can take out siege forces, trample foes, and hurl fallen rubble at the armies of the castle’s enemies. Other buildings and sculptures may be enchanted to crush enemy forces or to flee in times of trouble, taking refugees with them.

Natural Hazards

Natural areas, such as deserts, mountains, and forests can offer additional protection to a castle. Castles may be built in these areas as a natural defense against invasion.

Traveling through unfriendly terrain can discourage large forces from sieging a location. For armies that choose to cross these areas, they may suffer a substantial loss of troops and have difficulty remaining in the area due to extreme weather, lack of food, water and shelter, and inhospitable creatures.


Ports offer a natural form of defense against land forces, but also open cities up to invading forces from the sea. Siege weapons can be used to destroy invading ships from afar. Denizens of the ocean may be allied with the city, rising to attack invading forces. For example, Aremag, an enormous dragon turtle, defends Port Nyanzaru from attack by pirates and other invaders, in exchange for offerings of gold by sailors traveling to the port. Other denizens, such as sea elves, may mount defenses, in an attempt to sink enemy boats. Natural obstacles, such as sharp rocks and coral reefs, can make it more difficult for enemy boats to navigate the waters.

In summary, castles have a wide variety of defenses, ranging from protective cover, traps, and natural hazards. Understanding the defenses of a castle and knowing what to expect will help you better defend or more easily infiltrate any castle.

What defenses did your most recent castle have at its disposal? Tell us all about them in the comments!


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