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Basic Information

A citadel is a castle or fortress attached to an urban area and typically serving as part of the city fortifications.

The role of a citadel varies depending on the culture that constructs it - in more egalitarian societies the citadel may serve as a refuge for the population when under attack (as in the case of Greek acropoli1 and the Roman Arx) whilst in more autocratic ones it is likely to serve as a base from which the garrison keep the population in line. There are many historical examples of a citadel holding out long after the city itself had fallen - and even in some cases against the population of the city and it was not unknown for a small garrison - or one which did not trust the people of the city it was defending - to retreat into the citadel and not contest the city walls at all.

A refuge citadel may be home to a treasury and/or exchequer and to temples (especially in societies where temples are used to store valuable goods), as well as archives and community food reserves. Whilst it may - or may not - be a base for professional soldiers it is almost certain to contain an armoury of some kind (if only to arm those taking refuge there) and will normally be the most likely place for the community to store its common supply of other military equipment including ammunition, logistical stores, vehicles and any artillery park they possess.

The enforcement and control sort of citadel will be more slanted towards a role as a centre of government and military base - all of the military features of a refuge are likely to be there in spades, and some form of treasury is also fairly likely but given the higher level of security things that require mass public access - like temples - probably won't be. Law Courts and a prison are reasonably likely and, at the other end of the spectrum, it's also quite probable that any palace (or other residence of the governor or sovereign) will be at least adjoining the citadel.

The most recent incarnation of the citadel is probably the flak towers built in several German cities during WW2. As well as serving as air defence installations, they also provided air raid shelter and various amenities for thousands of people and served as fortified strongpoints for defence of their cities from ground attack (the Tiergarten and Humboldthain towers were particularly significant in resisting the Soviet onslaught on Berlin). Presumably they also served to reinforce the Nazi-regime's hold on the city in the last days of the Reich.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • PCs might be on either side of a besieged citadel - trying to break into an enemy one, or trying to break through to (or from) a friendly one (which is probably harder).
    • For a real challenge, put something they want in a citadel of a hostile (or neutral) power and place it under siege from a third party that likes neither the PCs, nor the people in the citadel.
  • Where the BBEG controls a nation, any city is likely to be controlled from a mook-nest citadel.
    • Think Bastille day in the event of capturing one.
    • A suitably fantastical citadel, overrun by evil powers, might make a suitable "above ground dungeon" for a Bard's Tale themed game.
  • Conversely, the PCs may find themselves allocated to control a recently conquered city from an undermanned citadel (as, for example, during the campaigns of Alexander the Great]) - that should make for quite a campaign…
  • Or they could find themselves as de-facto leaders of a mob of terrified civilians in a refuge citadel, perhaps as a sort of collective, sedentary Xenophon, pushed into a position of authority after all the original leaders have been murdered.
  • The very fact of a city having an unreduced, hostile citadel in it should make for an interesting atmosphere - remember, if the citadel can be re-supplied (perhaps by sea?) it could hold out for years, making the city beneath a very uneasy place.
    • The Seleucids, for example, held the citadel of Jerusalem even after losing control of the city itself, both under direct siege during the Maccabean revolt, and then for another twenty years following general withdrawal of Seleucid forces and the return of Jewish autonomy under the Hasmodeans.
  • More prosaically, the citadel might be a good place to apply for jobs, especially if the citadel is undermanned.
    • Even a refuge citadel might be where the local law enforcement is based, and therefore where PCs can collect bounties, apply for freelance work and deliver things (or people).
    • They may also be going in and out to visit banks, temples, the archive or any of the tradesmen likely to be wanted by a military base.
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