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"In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a Javelin"…

(from) The Major-General's Song: Pirates of Penzance "Gilbert & Sullivan"

Basic Information

A ravelin is an outwork of an early modern fortification, designed to provide a first line of defence to the main work and impede any direct assault. The traditional form is that of an open backed arrowhead or chevron, consisting of either a complete wall with its own glacis or what is effectively a free-standing glacis with a rampart on the retaining wall. The whole structure is generally lower than the walls of the main work so that the gunners there can fire over the heads of the defenders of the ravelin and the open backed design means that the enemy cannot use the position for cover once it falls.

Ravelins are not traditionally linked to the main defences by any kind of substantial construction and so are vulnerable to being overrun by infantry assault - their successful defence depends heavily on the ability of the garrison to cover the position's flanks and rear with fire. Some designs use the line of the moat to restrict enemy infantry movement around the sides of a ravelin, or at least lay fences to delay it, but this cannot be relied upon. There will also - usually - be some form of connection to the main work to aid the garrison moving to and fro under cover.

The sort of weaponry deployed in a ravelin varies enormously, however, given that there is a real possibility of the position being overrun, it would normally have to be either man portable or something the garrison could afford to lose.

The lunette and demi-lune were fortifications of very similar design, to the extent that it is typically difficult to tell any given example from a ravelin.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • For an example of the role a ravelin can play in a siege, investigate the 1565 Siege of Malta and the battle for Fort St Elmo that took place during that campaign.
  • This is not a great posting during a siege, unless you're the sort of person that likes to be able to sneak out into the enemy lines.
    • So it may be the sort of place that a character gets sent as part of a Uriah Gambit … and possibly hit by friendly fire.
  • Conversely capturing a ravelin by assault can make for a significant achievement for characters in need of one.
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