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Basic Information

A fort (from the Latin fortis - "strong") is a military outpost which has been fortified to some degree. This is distinguished from a castle by the lack of a feudal landlord - it is a purely military facility and not held by any specific tenant. Civilians may have access to the fort and/or settle around it (hence the number of US towns with names starting with "Fort"), but the primary purpose remains as a military base. Depending on the culture which creates it, a fort may be anything from a rude circle of heaped thorn bushes to a heavily armed orbital facility but the "classic" fort is probably the log palisade design used from pre-history into the 19th century.

Forts are generally built to protect a specific piece of geography - passes and river crossings are common locations, but they can also be strung out along a border or built at intervals along a road to provide safe overnight camps for marching troops. Border forts tend to be patrol bases and/or observation posts.

A fort traditionally contains a minimum garrison - often less than the inhabitants suspect is actually required to do whatever it is they are meant to be doing - but attackers can sometimes get a nasty surprise, especially when attacking the sort of fort used as a transit camp. Forts are also common locations for supply depots, field hospitals, workshops and similar things.

Unusually1, a fortress is normally a larger and better established fort.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Frontier forts are traditional nucleii for wilderness settlements, and may also serve as trading posts - not least because that can be a good cover for intelligence work.
  • PCs could find themselves in a small fort, garrisoned by a small number of troops on line of communication duty and also occupied by a field hospital and supply depot. This fort might then be attacked by a large enemy army that has just destroyed a much larger friendly force. GM's choice as to whether they watch Zulu before or after.
  • Investigating a border fort which has gone offline is a traditional mission for military or paramilitary PCs.
  • The marching camp style fort might well be open to civilian traffic when the forces aren't using it.
  • Crossing frontiers is usually a good way to find a fort of some kind - and to need to deal with the occupants one way or another.
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