Last Updated on October 24, 2023
At some point, your character needs to take their own reputation seriously and consider investing in a weapon of mass destruction. This post is your guide on how to do just that.
How Do Siege Engines Work in DnD 5e?
Siege Engines are large weapons that often take multiple creatures and multiple rounds to operate. The resulting attack from siege engines deals massive damage on par with many higher-level spells. These weapons are typically used to damage structures and fortifications.
Why Would You Need a Siege Engine?
The real question is, why wouldn’t you want one? When your character is at a high-enough level that they could trade in a magic item for enough gold to buy a ballista and a team of engineers to operate it, you have truly achieved legend status and should revel in it.
Sure, there are the logistics of traveling with such a crew and their tackle, but the look on Strahd’s face when you launch a giant crossbow bolt enchanted to deal radiant damage at his front door will absolutely be worth it. Or even better, a trebuchet that launches clay pots that are filled with holy water! Can you even call yourself an artificer if you can’t engineer a collapsible mangonel?
Honestly, it’s time you up your game a little bit. So what if you can cast Earthquake? Who cares if you can single-handedly slay a dragon? Until you can manage to lead a platoon of moderately trained soldiers and point their heavy payload at the castle, there is no guarantee the king will pay you for your monster hunting.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide offers a fair bit of guidance for dealing damage to objects.
It all boils down to four things that you need to consider: Armor Class, Hit Points, Damage Types, and Damage Resistance (threshold).
1. Armor Class
An object’s Armor Class is a measure of how difficult it is to deal damage to the object when striking it (because the object has no chance of dodging out of the way).
It is assumed you will hit the thing you are aiming at, especially if it is something as big as, say, a castle wall or a portcullis. Therefore, the Armor Class of a structure does not represent whether you hit — it represents whether you will hit it hard enough to do damage.
The chart below shows the suggested armor class of your structures, considering what they are made of.
Object Armor Class
2. Hit Points
An object’s hit points measure how much damage it can take before losing its structural integrity. Resilient objects have more hit points than fragile ones. Large objects also tend to have more hit points than small ones.
The DMG then goes on to give a chart offering Hit Point values for various objects from small glass bottles to large wooden carts. Structures are much larger than these, and fortified structures will be even more difficult to damage.
When trying to consider how many Hit Points a structure has, I suggest giving each 10-foot by 10-foot section of the structure a number of Hit Points equal to its Armor Class times 3.
3. Damage Types
Structures are immune to poison and psychic damage. You might decide that some damage types are more effective against a particular object or substance than others.
A wooden structure might take normal damage from slashing but have resistance to piercing and vulnerability to lightning or fire.
A stone structure might take normal damage from bludgeoning but have resistance to piercing and slashing and vulnerability to acid.
4. Damage Threshold
In some cases, it may be appropriate to consider that the structural integrity of the entire building might reinforce the small part you are trying to damage. Therefore, you may consider that the building doesn’t take any damage at all unless you can deal a certain amount of damage to it first.
This means, for example, that a wooden wall could have 45 Hit Points, but it takes lots of wear and tear over the years and still stands tough. You may need to deal half of its total hit points in order for any damage to make it through that natural toughness.
This goes beyond a structure’s armor class and should only be considered if the structure was designed to take damage and serve as a defensive position.
A castle wall might have this feature, but not a merchant stall.
Shout Out to Heroes of Battle From 3.5e
Heroes of Battle is a supplemental rule book that came out in the days of 3.5e. This book was basically a how-to guide for running adventures against the backdrop of a massive war or battle.
If you are interested in siege engines and all of the cool things that can be done with them, check out this book. It lists magical ammunition for ballistas, trebuchets, cannons, etc. — magical enhancements that can be placed on these items as well as various spells that can be used to replicate, disable, or improve any siege engines you come across.
Finally, Heroes of Battle discussed how many Victory Points you could get for destroying a siege engine or a team of creatures that operate it. Victory Points were a way of tracking how many separate objectives you were accomplishing as a small band of adventurers amidst the larger war. Often, you would have to achieve a certain number of Victory Points for your army to win the battle. Taking out siege engines was just one of many ways to earn them.
The List of Siege Engines
What Is a Siege Monster?
Siege Monsters are those monsters that seem to greatly enjoy dealing damage to structures made by humanoids who take great pride in their cities.
Many of them are quite large and can be seen happily kicking down skyscrapers or crushing vehicles when they aren’t sleeping between the apocalypses they cause.
They all bear the siege monster trait, which allows them to deal double damage against objects and structures.
In general, these monsters have Kaiju status.
This is not meant to be a complete list, but it should be fairly thorough. Each one of these is worth taking a look at either on your DnD Beyond account or here at BCRPG.
- Earth Elemental
- Baba Lysaga’s Creeping Hut
- Stone Juggernaut
- Tree Blight
- Ogre Battering Ram
- Druid of the Old Ways
- Malformed Kraken
- Sunder Shaman
- Walking Statue of Waterdeep
- Rubblebelt Stalker
- Duergar Hammerer
- Elder Tempest
Don’t get stuck thinking in the same small-minded mode you were forced into at 1st level. It’s more than just you and your sword.
Expand your business by getting the tools to destroy someone else’s!
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].