20 Borderland Fort Dressings

A borderland fort is a living, breathing locale. Travellers, peasants, soldiers and adventurers all pass through such a place and leave their mark on its buildings and fortifications.


Thus, such places should not be a sterile, pristine environment devoid of minor points of interest. Use this table, to generate features of minor interest the PCs note while visiting the borderland fort.

  1. A lewd picture daubed on a wall depicts a warrior decapitating a goblin, orc or some other kind of evil humanoid. The blood spurting from the humanoid’s neck is particularly overdone.
  2. Recent rain has turned the churned earth of the courtyard into a muddy morass, through which travellers and men-at-arms struggle. A single boot juts forlornly from a patch of particularly thick, cloying mud.
  3. A section of scorched, soot-blackened stone wall along with a newly replaced section of roof bears mute testimony to a bad fire that—perhaps—almost got out of control.
  4. An empty gallows atop a five-foot high wooden platform stands in the middle of the courtyard. Two servants are on their hands and knees scrubbing the platform clean. A bored man-at-arms stands nearby looking on.
  5. A pile of barrels and crates stands against one wall. A large black and white cat lies curled atop one of the barrels, seemingly snoozing in the sun. Nearby, a mangy dog—practically on its belly—creeps toward its target.
  6. One section of wall has been crudely whitewashed. Nails have been driven into the wall and from several flutter various notices. Most are weathered stained and unreadable.
  7. A bedraggled man occupies a set of prominently placed stocks. Several wooden buckets stand nearby full of rotting vegetables. A few children linger near the buckets daring each other to fling the vegetables at the man. As one of the children edges closer to a bucket, the man swears and curses at her.
  8. A line of sparring dummies stands in the middle of the courtyard. Nearby, a small group of trainee men-at-arms cluster around a bin holding wooden practise swords.
  9. A few stones have fallen from a wall, and lie scattered on the ground. Crumbled mortar also dusts the ground and nearby a set of mason’s tool stand propped against the wall.
  10. A score or so starlings perch atop one of the fort’s towers. If disturbed, they take to the air, circle the fort several times and then fly off singing loudly.
  11. Faint, weatherworn graffiti mars one stone at the base of the wall. Scratched in humanity’s Common tongue, it reads, “For his Glory.” It looks like someone has subsequently tried to scratch out the words, but it appears they gave up before managing to efface the message.
  12. An empty, unattended wagon pulled up outside a nearby building sits lopsidedly in the mud. One of the wagon’s wheels is missing. The wheel arch’s wood is also splintered and broken. Clearly, the wagon has been in an accident.
  13. Smoke rises from chimneys in several of the fort’s towers. The air is preternaturally still today; the smoke lingers over the fort like a shroud and does not dissipate until the wind picks up.
  14. Enticing smells wafting from the kitchen fill the air. Perhaps the lord plans a feast? Several small children and a few ragged beggars cluster near the kitchen door in anticipation of the scraps.
  15. A portion of the outer wall near the front gate is scorched and blackened as if it has once been deluged in flaming oil or the like. (Inquiries reveal a roving band of three trolls attacked the fort last year, but the flaming oil convinced them to go elsewhere).
  16. Wooden scaffolding encases one of the fort’s towers; several workers—under a master mason’s direction—work to repair pitted, weather-worn mortar. At the tower’s base a neat pile of dressed stone suggests the work will be extensive and last a considerable time.
  17. The inn’s windows are thrown wide to air out the interior. Blankets and rugs hang over several of the window cills. Periodically a servant appears at a window and vigorous beats the blankets and rugs.
  18. The resounding clang of metal on metal—likely emanating from the blacksmith’s forge—echoes through the air. It stops for a few moments, before starting up again even louder than before.
  19. A wanted poster—depicting a head and shoulders drawing of a particularly ugly dwarf—is nailed to several doors throughout the fort. Apparently, the dwarf, one Durrim Jarbek, is wanted for crimes involving unwarranted groping and failure to pay one’s debt at the local tavern. A reward of 10 gp is offered for his capture.
  20. Extra guards are posted at the front gate. Visitors entering the fort are subjected to extensive searches and questioning before being granted admittance. No one seems to know the cause for the increased vigilance.


This article appears in 20 Things #20: Fort on the Borderlands.

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3 thoughts on “20 Borderland Fort Dressings

  1. Another great list! These lists you create add a lot of flavor and personality to the various settings I use! I’ve even found ways to use some of them in a post apocalyptic setting. Keep up the fantastic work! If the community of RPG creators and players hasn’t recognized your genius and given you an award, they should!

    • Thank you, Michael. I’m blushing. It took me ages to write this list for some reason, so I’m particularly glad you like it. Let’s hope other people do as well!