Work continues at a frantic pace on the stronghold system – I took a week off work, before the semester starts, largely to give myself time to get this done[1]. This is what I do for you, people – this is how dedicated I am to serving your needs. No, I don’t do it for thanks, or money, or prestige. Mainly because none of that is forthcoming. :-(


Let’s have a look at the second aspect of the stronghold system – the NPCs you recruit to your cause. See, it doesn’t just have to be you and your friends – you’ll find a stronghold is an enticing place to lots of people who are just looking for a safe(ish) place to live. And they’ll come see you!

First of all, if you want people to come you’ll need beds for them – the number of NPCs you can support is directly linked to the number of sleeping spaces you can set up. That means you need to sacrifice some other furniture or equipment to entice them. That might mean giving up storage space for food, or dealing without some of the little comforts that make a home so inviting. Let’s say I put a bed in my stronghold:

> You install the baroque white rosewood queen size bed in the room.

That’s a queen sized bed, so it gives you two sleeping spaces – two NPCs can be supported by the stronghold now. I’m not saying they’ll sleep together, wound up in each others arms, but you know – maybe? I’m not judging. It’s your stronghold, make it a sex dungeon if you like [2]. Assuming you have the beds, every so often, you’ll get an announcement that a new applicant is seeking entry:

> A new applicant seeks entry to your stronghold.

Exciting! By default, none of them will be very impressive, but you’ll occasionally find a little treasure amongst the queues. Let’s see who’s at the door, because there’s somebody at the door, there’s somebody at the door. It’s our first visitor, and we don’t know who they are, so we just identify them by a number:

> stronghold view 1

Name           Unknown
Gender         Female
Description    She is a short woman with short black hair and hazel eyes.
Nation         Algeria
Profession     Soldier
Level          Unskilled
XP             6223
Status         Ready for mission

Barricading    Extremely Unskilled
Combat         Unskilled
Crafting       Extremely Unskilled
Gathering      Extremely Unskilled
Repair         Extremely Unskilled
Scavenging     Unskilled
Social         Very Unskilled
Surveying      Extremely Unskilled

Calm           Extremely High
Health         Quite High
Hunger         High
Loyalty        Average
Resolve        Very High
Thirst         Quite High

That’s who we’re being presented with seeking entry – Some of the information is decorative (descriptions and nation for example), the rest is functional. We’re going to have to wield these stats in the service of our stronghold – if we want it to thrive, that is. So, let’s have a look at what her vital statistics are.

First of all, she’s a soldier – that has an impact on how our stronghold functions – in ways I’ll get to in a little bit. She’s going to be good for stronghold defence, so we need to consider if that’s what we actually need. She’s ‘unskilled’, but has a fair chunk of XP – she’ll gain XP as she goes on missions and performs tasks within the stronghold. Her talents are her capability in various activities, all of which are useful to us, but none of them are very high. She’s going to need a lot of training, but that’s true of almost all your incidental applicants. Her wellbeing is in a reasonably good state, but the loyalty is going to be a problem – the lower her loyalty, the less likely she is to obey our instructions. If it’s too low, she’ll even be working *against* us in missions, squirreling away supplies that should come to the stronghold for her own purposes. We can fix the loyalty, but we need to bear it in mind.

Let’s say she’s fine though – we need help, and she’s what’s on offer. So we accept her into the stronghold, giving her whatever name we like. It doesn’t matter what her real name is, we rechristen her according to our own whims. I’m going to call her Pauline:

> stronghold accept 1 as pauline
Pauline is taken on to the stronghold.
Major Pauline wanders in.
You hire an NPC to your clan.

Major Pauline – she gets the Major title because she’s a soldier. Apparently an officer! But now she’s an actual, living[3] NPC in our stronghold. She wanders around, saying things and performing little tasks (if we tell her to). Unfortunately, the apocalypse has not been kind to her:

She is a short woman with short black hair and hazel eyes.
She is in good shape.
She is standing.
Wearing : a set of red canvas survivor rags.

NPCs in our stronghold can be dressed up however we like – they’ll save their equipment and wear what we tell them. If we have the appropriate permissions, we can even order them around:

> order pauline to bark like a dog
You order Major Pauline to do something.

Whether she does it or not is dependant on her loyalty. Let’s say we want her to be slightly better dressed:

> order pauline to remove rags
You order Major Pauline to do something.
Major Pauline removes the set of red canvas survivor rags.

It’s okay, this isn’t turning into some Epitaph porn story[4]. We’re just doing this so we can outfit her properly:

> You offer to give a pair of black denim jeans to Major Pauline.
You give a pair of black denim jeans to Major Pauline.
Major Pauline equips a pair of black denim jeans.

> You offer to give a black silk shirt to Major Pauline.
You give a black silk shirt to Major Pauline.
Major Pauline equips a black silk shirt.

Okay, so we get to dress them up like little dolls – that’s adorable, but it’s actually functional as well. You equip them the way you want them to be – if you want them to have decent kit, armour and so on you’ll need to provide it for them.

She’s a soldier, so let’s say we want to set her up as a watch. By default, all our NPCs wander around our stronghold, but we can decide whether or not that’s true for each individual. Let’s say I want her to stand at the entrance to the compound, and stay there. First, I need to have a way to describe the room to her – I do that by naming my rooms:

> name here as entrance
You rename this room.

> look
Entrance, Vault 69 (very brightly lit), claimed by Clan Wyrmstalker

And now, I can rehome her:

> set home for pauline as entrance
You rehome Major Pauline elsewhere in the stronghold.

NPCs that are homed will spawn there (if the stronghold reloads for whatever reason), and will be drawn there every reset. They will wander around still,
unless we tell them not to:

> ask pauline about behaviour
You ask Major Pauline a question about "behaviour".
Major Pauline whispers to you: Unless we are at a particular DEFCON level, I will attack, I will defend, I will patrol, I will collect and I will recapture.

We don’t want her to patrol so we tell her not to[5]:

> behaviour pauline to off for patrol
You order Major Pauline to do something.

> ask pauline about behaviour
You ask Major Pauline a question about “behaviour”.
Major Pauline whispers to you: Unless we are at a particular DEFCON level, I will attack, I will defend, I will not patrol, I will collect and I will recapture.

Whether she obeys the order change depends on her loyalty – as does whether or not she obeys it at the time. So, that loyalty stat needs to go up if we want to be able to rely on her. If not, she might cause an incident by attacking a visitor when we don’t want her to, or recapturing rooms that we’re trying to give up. Her behaviours handle how she deals with the stronghold – ‘attack’ means that she’ll be aggressive towards all uninvited visitors. Defend means that she’ll come to a room when someone attempts to capture it. If she finds she is in a room that has a capture counter, she’ll attempt to recapture it. And patrolling deals with her wandering. More of these will come as time goes by.

But what is that about a DEFCON level? Well, your stronghold can define packages of behaviour to override the defaults, for when you need to rapidly change the way your NPCs behave. You can put these packages in effect by setting a DEFCON level. DEFCON five means ‘just do your normal thing’, but all other levels can change the behaviours[5]:

> stronghold defcon behaviour 4 set patrol to on
You change some stronghold DEFCON behaviours.

> stronghold defcon
No special orders.

No special orders.

No special orders.

Patrol             on

Now, if we change the DEFCON level she’ll get the behaviour associated with it:

> stronghold defcon 4
The stronghold DEFCON level has been set to DEFCON 4!
You change your stronghold DEFCON level.

While we’re at DEFCON 4 she’ll patrol even though we told her not to – we can easily switch that off by changing our defcon level back to five. So, if you find yourself overwhelmed by raiders you might want to switch to your ultra-violence DEFCON 1 so you don’t need to reissue instructions to everyone. Again, only those clan levels you permit will be able to change DEFCON behaviours, or DEFCON level.

So, that gives us a little bit of active protection for the stronghold. NPCs do more than that though – they’re available for missions (more on that next post), but their professions also give you passive bonuses. A soldier in a room increases its security value, so her mere presence at the entrance improves that measure. If she moves room, the bonus goes with her. There are other professions too – priests increase the resolve of other NPCs in their room. Carpenters will passively barricade the rooms they are in. Doctors will deal with wounds, and so on. The active effects aren’t constant – they happen occasionally, but the passive bonuses are always on. A good mix of professions will give you a lot of oomph in terms of your stronghold setup. Every so often, an NPC with a better profession will show up – these give more powerful bonuses, but they are rare. You have to weigh up immediate gratification versus overall effectiveness – remember, your stronghold can only support the number of NPCs you provide beds for.

The wellbeing of your NPCs will be constantly changing too – loyalty decreases when an NPC is hungry or thirsty, or if resolve hits rock bottom. Resolve increases based on rooms being well appointed and comfortable, and also by the presence of luxuries and alcohol in your stronghold. NPCs consume food and water every ‘tick’, and you need to have a supply of these as well as places to store them. If NPCs are wounded, they’ll use medicine. If they’re sad, they’ll use up luxuries. If you don’t provide for them, they’ll become progressively more dissatisfied until they simply leave the compound, taking with them everything you gave them – ungrateful bastards. After all you did for them!

Calmness is a general modifier to wellbeing, and is impacted by the number of recreational items you have available in the stronghold – a steady supply of new novels and DVDs (assuming you have the equipment to play them) will keep calmness high. That in turn will make everything easier to deal with. Resolve and calmness also have an impact on your NPC’s mood, which ties into mercurial. If everyone is tense and on-edge, your interactions are going to be equally fraught.

If you have the necessary stronghold knacks, you can even designate one of your NPCs as a trainer, pulling together skills you have bought via knacks and skills for which you have negotiated access as part of trading agreements. If you have a shop, you’ll also need to set one of your NPCs up as the shopkeeper. We’ll talk about missions later, because they’re an important part of making the best use of your resources – but you’ll have a range of missions inside and outside of the stronghold that you can set your NPCs doing. These might be patrolling outside to reduce the danger to your compound; going out scavenging for supplies; sniping enemies from the safety of the stronghold; or barricading rooms against attack. There’s a range of these, and you’ll want to be careful to select the right NPC for the right task.

Nice, right? I think so!

In part three, we’ll talk more about missions and why they’ll be a big part of your stronghold management strategy.


[1] I’m really hoping to get it done for the end of this month, but you know – it’ll take as long as it takes. In the worst case scenario, I’ll likely release a little maintenance patch at the end of this month even if the stronghold system isn’t entirely ready yet.
[2] You guys know that your mobile phones can record video in the game I assume. I’m just putting that out there. I’M NOT JUDGING.
[3] Well…
[4] That’s for the next part of the stronghold sneak peek series.
[5] I know, the syntax is horrible. It’s on the ‘to fix’ list.