D&D 5E Buying the Farm - Claiming the Ruin - Occupying the Dungeon

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Have you ever had your players decide that their characters wanted to take over a dungeon, a ruin, or any other piece of property in your game, and claim it as their own? Like, they drove out the bad guys and looted all the rooms and then thought to themselves: "Hey, you know what? This is in a great location! It's right outside of town, close to schools, the neighbors are quiet...I think we should move in!" And if so, how did you handle it?

At our last gaming session, the party of heroes were hot on the trail of a body-snatcher. They followed the clues to an abandoned farm about an hour outside of town, and began to explore it, trying to find any clues that might lead them to their quarry. And then one of the players went a little bit off the rails.

"Hey you know what, guys? This place is abandoned...the DM said that it's sat abandoned for like twenty years. Sure the farmhouse needs to be rebuilt, but there's a barn and carriage house still in pretty good condition, a mill, a well, and an overgrown apple orchard. I bet that if we put in the effort to fix the place up and clear out that spider-infested orchard, we could have a pretty good home base for our characters."

"That's not a bad idea," another player piped up. "I wonder how we could go about doing that? Start with the mayor, maybe?" Everyone looked into their webcams, expectantly.

"Um. That's probably a good place to start," I said, and then I went into Improv DM mode. I spun a yarn about the farm's previous owners and the surrounding area. A couple of History checks later, and I had invented a tale about how two of the characters in the party (who were born and raised in this town, according to their backstories) remembered something about an apple blight and bankruptcy, nobody wanted to buy the farm because of the blight, something something fell into ruin and monsters moved in and rumored to be haunted, et cetera. One of the players recalled the name of the previous owners (that I totally invented on the spot), to give them a lead to chat with someone in town about it. And then I brought the players' focus back around to the matter at hand:

"As you were discussing this casually with your companions, you catch a bit of movement out of the corner of your eye. You glance toward the orchard, but it's gone....you aren't sure if it was a trick of the light, or just your imagination, but you could have sworn you saw someone..."

"Oh yeah," one of the players chuckled. "We're still on a quest. Let's get this guy off of OUR farm!"

So they've got a couple more gaming sessions before they wrap up this "body-snatcher quest," and then they're probably going to follow up on the lead I gave them....so I have a bit of time to prepare.

And I'm not completely surprised...lots of popular video games have homesteads in them (Skyrim, Fallout 4, Stardew Valley...), it was only a matter of time until my players wanted to do the same in D&D. I remember the earlier editions of D&D had a pretty important "Build Your Own Kingdom" element, and there were rules for construction costs, time, taxes, raising armies, building traps, and so forth. So it's not exactly unprecedented.

So I don't have a problem with any of this. In fact, I'd like to encourage it! But there isn't much info in the DMG (or elsewhere) for buying, improving, and managing properties. Before I go out on a limb and start writing my own, I wanted to check to see if there are any 3PP sources out there already.

Have any of my fellow gamers ever done this before in 5th Edition D&D? If so, I have a few questions:
  • How did you balance out the cost, time, and other factors involved in buying, repairing, improving, and owning property in your game world?
  • Are there any resources you could recommend, for players that want to build a homestead and make apple cider in their downtime?
  • How did you make it FUN?
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Yes. In our campaign right now (2e Night Below using Chromatic Dungeons), they've acquired so much treasure they are in the process of buying up property in town and rehabilitating it. Spent an unplanned 2 hours of game play talking about it the other day lol. I wasn't expecting that. :p
 

Stormonu

Legend
Sure did! In the 1E/2E campaign back in the 80's the first dungeon the group cleared they staked a claim on it - Charblon's Pit. Throughout the rest of the campaign the players would bring back trophies and their treasure to the Pit and store it in what had been the White Dragon's lair (yeah, 1st level adventures facing a white dragon ... with 16 hp).

When the characters hit levels to have followers, they'd come back from adventures in the Pit to find applicants waiting for them - who'd become their followers. Some of the more notable ones were an unnamed Ranger and his pet Owlbear that became the front door guard (thanks to a draw from a modified Deck of Many Things), Mortimer - a knight squire loyal to the group's Paladin who patrolled the edifice while the PCs were away, and Kerpis, a young mage apprentice who would brew up potions for the party to test >ahem< ...use on their adventures. Also, since the Pit had originally originally been built for a wizard who was researching lichdom (and in the party's initial foray they helped him finish his transformation), the lich would occassionally return from his extraplanar trips with trinkets, quests or information the party could use.

Near the end of the campaign, a group of bad guys tracked the PCs down to the Pit, and we had a session where the players spent most of their time trapping the Pit and waiting for the survivors to find them in the bottom area. I narrated the bad guy's travel into the Pit and with glee the party got to observe their traps and summoned monsters whittle away at the bad guys, and then the party got to trounce the (two) survivors at the end. They were high-fiving each other for several minutes after that episode.

I think the player's enjoyed it so much because I wasn't stingy or dismissive with their plans for the edifice. Although I produced the initial map, they used a variety of methods to redo and expand the interior, and I let them use whatever treasure they wanted to spruce it up, without it cutting into their adventuring funds. Also, using it as a base where they could (mostly) safely retreat, meet with allies, do research and the like made it very enjoyable. It was a lot like a combination of the Batcave and Hall of Justice, rolled into one. It was, in essence another character in the group, which the players got to build and guide themselves.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
I love it when players do this. It gives such a strong tie in to the campaign world and it shows that the players think of their PCs as fully fleshed out characters with motivations beyond making numbers on a character sheet go higher. I love it when PCs have motivations of their own. Really, it is a way for the GM to see what "winning" means to the PCs. Do they want to be a baron, or own a lovely farm, or become the abbot? It is rare that we get a glimpse into what PCs motivations are beyond the quest.

I actively try to get players to set roots in any area that is central to the campaign quests. It became a bit of a trope that I am always offering quests to clear out haunted manors and towers, where the deed to the place is the main reward.
 


Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
yep.

Usually its the next step after trying to turn every monsters they encounter into their pets and becoming best-friend with all the unnamed, unimportant NPCs.
 

J-H

Hero
I'm currently playtesting (via PBP) a short module called Goblin Defense. 3 players start off as 1st level goblins taking over leadership of a small tribe in a newly-acquired lair. Each gets a small squad of 3 goblins to command in combat or in day to day life.

They have to survive getting found and attacked by adventurers repeatedly until the hit level 7. Between each attack, they have a semi-random number of days during which they can do things like lead their squads of minions in hunting, train them to use better armor and weapons, brew potions, dig and fortify, etc.... plus a short table of random events to add more color and a few choices between fights.

The first fight was a 10 round cluster-mess where about 1/3 of the time was spent fighting over the enemy torches and lanterns to deny them vision. They've also tried pit traps (too limiting) and, at level 3, are now using 3' high alcoves to run alongside the main hallway, while the main hall is difficult terrain thanks to a 1st level druid spell, and they have a bunch of 30" high walls to provide partial cover.

There's a lot of use of light, vision, and traps/terrain spells that don't normally come into play. I am enjoying watching them be savagely creative.

At 7th level they "win" by attracting the attention of a suitable patron who will protect them (dragon, necromancer, whatever).

As a DM I also get to (briefly) try out a ton of different character builds.
 

JAMUMU

go, hunt. kill haribos.
Yes. Eventually my players will come across a hamlet or village or thorp where, for whatever RP reason, they decide they like the NPCs and the location and the view and that this hamlet or village is where they're going to put down roots. If they're low-level, they start nibbling away over time. If they're mid or high level, the process is accelerated somewhat.

I just roll with it.
 

Reynard

Legend
The Rules Compendium (of the old BECMI set) has the best rules every produced for this. Get a copy of that. Alternatively, the 3E Stronghold Builder's Guidebook is not bad and is newer. I can't really recommend MCDM's Strongholds and Followers as much as I want to: it isn't quite what I was hoping it would be and as a first outing for them it is a little weak.
 

Absolutely have! It's wonderful when they're that invested, frankly. I handled it in part by following their lead and in part by following what made sense. The PCs live in a region that is heavily driven by economic power--so the interested players sought out a lawyer to help them acquire the legal right to own that random spot of desert land. Wouldn't be too hard, but a worthwhile effort to ensure they can do what they like with it--and that the original owners will be unlikely to want it back. (TL;DR: secret hidden assassin base. Not useful if its location is relatively well-known and legally documented!)
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I've seen a tongue-in-cheek dungeon as a business operated by intelligent monsters (beholder, mind flayers and drow), where a young goblin was the main character in a solo adventure. The guy running that game made a cartoon story of the adventure. They invested various treasures and magic items throughout a dungeon full of traps, monsters, that are prepared by a crew (resetting traps, healing the injured monster threats through the place.) A success for them was when visiting adventures end up as TPK, those are the most profitable...

Had a group wanted to operate a tavern for a short while, it only lasted a couple sessions before all but one player got bored with it...
 

Raith5

Adventurer
Back in 1e my friend and I played a monty haul type of campaign that you do when you are 13. We played D3 The Vault of the Drow and we led a slave revolt, destroyed the various Drow Houses, and killed Lloth, so we decided to build a massive tower in the middle of the Vault. I am not sure why!
 

It's actually a common trope for a party to be given a stronghold, but it's currently occupied. In a 2E game we needed to drive out drow from an abandoned dwarven outpost because one of the PCs won the title to the property. What's funny is when we found the wine cellar, one of the players said "sweet, I start taking the good wine" followed by him mimicking taking bottle off the shelf and putting them in a bag. When I pointed out he was looting from ourselves he mimicked the reverse and everyone laughed!
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
The Rules Compendium (of the old BECMI set) has the best rules every produced for this. Get a copy of that. Alternatively, the 3E Stronghold Builder's Guidebook is not bad and is newer. I can't really recommend MCDM's Strongholds and Followers as much as I want to: it isn't quite what I was hoping it would be and as a first outing for them it is a little weak.
That ought to be "Rules Cyclopedia", just for the record.

(I only mention it in case someone tries to google it, and since the "Rules Compendium" was a different thing (4e Essentials, iirc?).)
 

In my current campaign I included an abandoned adventurer's guild headquarters in a city where the party was going to spend some time, with the intention that after they did a few jobs for the town guard and convinced them that the town needed adventurers again they'd be offered the space as a base. Alternatively they might just hole up there without official dispensation, it was set up to be a location they would end up clearing out one way or another if they stayed on mission at all, and everything about it was set up to say "make me your base".

First day of the campaign I improvised that the reason the ruins of a wizard's tower I mentioned in passing had never been demolished was that the curmudgeonly wizard had implemented wards against members of the town government. The party had one brief exchange of "so wait, this is like a law-free zone?" and boom, random location I hadn't prepared anything for at all became the base. The abandoned Adventurer's Guild, which I bought a digital battlemap for, has never yet been visited.
 

aco175

Legend
I recall a time back in 2e days when we just finished killing he werewolf hiding in the swamp who had a small keep on an island, but there was some reason that insects did not come onto the island. My thief at the time thought it would make a cool place to create a hideout since it was not too close or too far from town and nobody came to the swamps, plus the lack is insects would make it bearable. No sooner do I say my intend, the DM comes back with a mosquito suddenly lands on my hand to bite me.

The adventure was cool, but by shutting me down, made me not want to keep up with that game. It was fine, but stuck with me.

There was another time with the same DM that we just reached high enough level and gained enough gold to want to create a temple to the dwarf gods and make a place for dwarves to gather. I drew maps of the place and got all into it. The DM created a dream sequence and when I woke up, I was on the windy mountain steppes looking at the temple I had drawn. The gods somehow created the place to match my plans and now left it to my PC to gather the dwarves.
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
One of the games I ran years ago saw the party becoming the owners of a tavern/inn after they trashed it so badly in a fight that the local magistrate required them to pay the owner more in damages than the entire place was actually worth... :p
The previous owner just signed the place over to them and took off for other parts, causing the magistrate to saddle the party with the responsibility of fixing the place up and providing for the employees whose livelihoods they'd wrecked.
They eventually became known as the town's "official" adventuring party, since they ended up owning not just the tavern, but a trading company, a smithy and some low-income housing...

They seriously couldn't manage to walk down the street in that town without somehow causing property damage...
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The Rules Compendium (of the old BECMI set) has the best rules every produced for this. Get a copy of that. Alternatively, the 3E Stronghold Builder's Guidebook is not bad and is newer. I can't really recommend MCDM's Strongholds and Followers as much as I want to: it isn't quite what I was hoping it would be and as a first outing for them it is a little weak.
You're not wrong; the Rules Cyclopedia was going to be my starting point if I ended up having to draft up a 5E version. It's not as detailed or "complete" as the 3rd Edition's Stronghold Builder's Guide, but it's a lot more straightforward...I feel like it would be easier to adapt to 5E.

I'm hoping I don't have to adapt it at all, though. Maybe someone out there already knows of a 5E-compatible resource?
 
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Of course players will take over property. They'll probably want to improve it too. I'm quite experienced with this by now. Happened in every campaign I have been the DM in. In my case it takes surprisingly little effort to manage.

The building, town
You probably have a map already. Hand over a copy to the players. Done. They probably want to rename it.

Fixing, expanding, improving

You can mostly just wing it. Buildings cost in the thousands of gp and takes months to fix. And good quality is a lot more expensive than a quick-fix. And getting stuff done quickly also costs extra.
But if major expansions are considered, or you deal with an entire castle, then "Fortresses, temples & strongholds" is convenient to read. Seems 5E compatible to me.

Let the players mark all changes on their own map, and ask for an update afterwards.

Traps & weapons
The players will likely want to protect their property with traps. And it wouldn't be the first time a ballista gets mounted on top of a farmhouse in D&D. As a DM you only need to check the costs and delivery times of that.

Costs of everything
The construction workers and craftsmen will want to get paid (partly) up front. Players will demand payment after completion. Do some haggling, and then tell the players that you as a DM cannot be bothered to keep track: So while you guys roleplay that some payment is done on completion, the full cost gets deducted from the character sheets immediately - to avoid bookkeeping. Again, no burden on the DM.

Inventory
Managing the inventory (i.e. furniture, chests with stuff, decorations) should be done by the players. It's a nightmare for any DM to keep track.

Personnel

In the game, personnel (i.e. the butler, the guards) can be treated as inventory. Top tip: Don't do that in real life, it's quite unethical.

Plot hooks

If you make anything - even a penny - disappear from their house, catching the thieves and retrieving their stuff is now priority #1. You can use that as a plot hook or side-quest, but players will see it as the new main quest.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
some of the best fun Ive had was when the PCs acquired a manor which included open field system of wheat fields and orchards, peasant hamlets, pastural commons, a forest with a resident druids grove, a swamp occupied by hags and an adjacent market town with a good harbour (lead by a yeoman merchants guild). I learnt a lot about peasants rights of Pannage, Estovers, Turbury, Piscary and Marl and also the English Inclosures (when the commons was turned into private estate).

A Year on the Medieval Farm - Medievalists.net is an overview of each months priorities for a medieval farmer which was a great help and the sight has many other cool info (like ways that servants might defraud a manor lord). Do Farm events per month and see how you can complicate things with seed shortages, goblin raids, resident serf marriages (festivities), tenants refusing to pay rent or the swamp flooding over into the estate, allowing swamp-dwelling stirges to attack new lambs. The swamp cant be drained without offending the hags or druids. negotiating with the town provost to register the farms income or with the druids to supply seeds or the local nephelai to keep it watered are all good.

For mechanics I determined had Farm turns each season spring=seed, summer=growth, autumn=harvest, winter=debt

Autumn Yeild = Acreage farmed *d6+bonus
Harvest DC = Yeild/labour/days v Nature Skill

for size I set the manor at 120 acres, with there being 600 acres in a square mile. The town also covers 120, as does the druids
 
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