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5E How do you handle party home bases (houses, strongholds, etc)?

Ellsworth

Explorer
In our campaign, the party has acquired a house and a couple acres of land that they intend to use as a home-base. As DM, I would like to provide them with opportunities to improve and add to the house (e.g., convert it into more of a stronghold/keep, add walls, library, stables, crafting facilities, etc) that will affect gameplay in a mechanical manner so that it’s not just a place for them to rest and store their stuff.

I considered getting “Strongholds and Followers” to facilitate this endeavor, but after reading this, I’m not so sure it’s what we need:

“There are rules for combining stronghold types into a Castle, as well as class-specific abilities which characters gain from having a stronghold. Interestingly, only one character gains a benefit from a given stronghold at a time…meaning that, unless your party is building a particularly complicated castle, there is no incentive (and perhaps a disincentive) to have a stronghold be your party’s "home base".” [emphasis mine] - Cannibal Halfling Gaming

Perhaps it's not a good idea for a home base to affect gameplay mechanics. Maybe restricting its effects to roleplay situations is the way to go. That alone could be of great benefit to the party, but I've been trying to think of ways to further incentivize the party to invest in their home without breaking the game.

So, DMs: how do you handle party home bases? Any and all thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
It doesn't have to be a castle. A fortified townhouse in Waterdeep, a decrepit Manor on the Fells, an Inn and Tavern in a small town, a bunker in the sewers, there are lots of options. Acquisitions Inc actually has some pretty cool ideas for this, and you can easily tone down the satire to make it fit a more serious campaign. I have avoided going the castle route as it hasn't really fit the campaigns I've run or the parties in them.

A location in a small town is actually really useful. You have a very finite number of NPCs and other locations to bang out, and it's easy for the party to get to know all the regulars. That also makes it easy for you to hook the party into various disagreements in and threats to their little community. If the party acts as the defacto defenders of the town they also end up with a lovely insulating layer of loyal folk to keep an eye out for strangers and other oddities.

Edit - whoops, hit post too fast.

The downtime system gives you a decent model for basic income related stuff that could apply to a manor house. I think player investment is more likely to come from the players getting to know NPCs and fitting themselves into the community. Connections and relationships. The downtime minigame is cool, but I don't think it generates player investment particularly well.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Nothing says you have to use the full rules from Strongholds. Grab the 1e DMG and use the building rules from that. Then talk to your players off board about staff and encounters. Don't make their homebase be the FF tower which is getting attacked every other issue.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Nothing says you have to use the full rules from Strongholds. Grab the 1e DMG and use the building rules from that. Then talk to your players off board about staff and encounters. Don't make their homebase be the FF tower which is getting attacked every other issue.
One good siege at the right time is more than sufficient. Other threats should probably be more insidious, or non-property damage indexed, anyway. That does get old fast. Unless you're playing a war-torn kingdom type campaign, then it's aces.
 

Stormonu

Hero
I've gone the GTA V route. Home bases and strongholds are excellent staging and storage areas for the group, with the potential for side income, trade, crafting and even spawning their own adventures on occasion. Nothing spurs adventurers so much as a threat to their home, for example. I've had players with home bases, fortresses, businesses, ships and likes throughout my gaming career. The latest has been the party's acquisition and refurbishment of a certain Haunted House near Saltmarsh.

A direct example I can give is the old Charblon's Pit from my old 2E campaign. It was an old wizard's dungeon out in the wilderness (somewhat based on Quasquentin from B1) that the party cleared out, and converted into a home base. They populated it with treasure they brought home from their adventures and they converted the wizard's library they had found within into their own personal laboratory where they had enough materials to research other adventure locations, craft a few potions and spells and identify any strange, magical items they brought home. Thanks to a Deck of Many Things, they acquired a ranger henchman who they assigned as caretaker and guardian of the pit. They kept the location of the base secret from even the locals, though they had at least one incident of other adventurers locating and attempting to raid it (the party handily hunted down and dealt with the associated thefts).

Late in the campaign, the party had made some powerful enemies, and those enemies conspired to hunt down the party to destroy them. The PCs got wind of the plot and were able to retreat to Charblon's Pit whereupon they planned an ambush of their enemies. In a very reverse-dungeon sort of session, my players got to enjoy watching (via crystal ball) and influencing the progression of the enemy party's progression into their lair, with a final climatic battle in which they succeeded in defeating the interlopers, and got to use all the fruits of their labor in upgrading and fleshing out the Pit. It was very satisfying for them, to say the least.
 

Well, if running Dragon Heist has been any indication thus far, apparently the result of giving players real estate is hours of time spent in paint.net editing pictures of maps and having conversations with fussy players who just want to make sure their new inn is just right with furniture and room layout. I blame HGTV.

...jokes aside, the most important thing you can do is to make sure it has some sort of roleplaying impact. Mechanical options are great and all, but in all reality you could just listen to what they say they want, estimate what you think is a fair gold cost for each to be achieved and then give it a reasonable time frame to be accomplished in the game. Keep in mind any sort of place will require maintenance as well (taxes, repair costs due to wear/tear, bar fights, employee pay, or other sorts of costs that will inevitably result from when the party makes powerful enemies through their shenanigans). The most important thing is to make the place feel like it's almost another member of the party, one they should ideally be pissed about when someone decides to rob it or lob a fireball into.

Also consider fleshing out the NPCs they might hire to work there at least a bit. Are they family of the players? Friends? Random hires? Your group might enjoy the process of "interviewing" a few potential people. Another trick to breathing life into a place is to make it seem like things happen even while they are away (even if said things are mundane).
 

I've used various home bases for campaigns before, but only once used a stronghold for it. That particularly campaign had a PC knight that kept getting promoted, and during a winter court became engaged to a baroness. She had a title, but few resources, while as an adventurer, he had plenty of loot. This marriage gained him a position that made him the lord of a territory on the borderlands. The stronghold was a simple fort, with a handful of servants and soldiers.

The entire party used this fort for their own uses. The barbarian moved his tribe into the region, increasing the defensive potential, while the knight gave them free reign to set up villages. The bard and sorceress sisters used their magic to help build up the fort, including a tower for them to take apprentices. The eldritch knight decided to take up a leadership role in the castle, but also served as a spy on the knight for his masters back home.
 

I don't mind mechanical benefits, but I don't like the way Strongholds & Followers make them class specific like it does. With Dragon Heist I modified what I read about S&F and some content on the DMsGuild. I basically worked with the players so they could each provide a room upgrade for various things. Like a shrine or an alchemist lab or a research library. Then we came up with benefits such as long rests give 2 temp HP (at 5th level, not a big deal, but a nice reward), inspiration for praying at the shrine, advantage on research checks, ability to craft poisons, advantage on one skill for checks for 24 hours, etc.

It hasn't made much mechanical difference to the game, but it has given the players an additional reason to call Waterdeep home.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
I use this thing that I made! Party Base

I've used this in two campaigns, and it works reasonably well. One base was an abandoned guard tower in an urban environment. For the other campaign, it was Saltmarsh, and the party turned the haunted house into a base.

I do need to make some adjustments (notably, building new rooms should be more expensive, but renovating existing rooms should be less expensive).
 

lordxaviar

Explorer
I have had different levels of this, Creating a honey business near a giant bee hive, Shipping business (which provided its own adventures). Saltmarsh-- they bought and went about fortifying the haunted house. However they did so with out checking with the King. (great problems many months of adventuring/etc) Most have just wanted a place to leave accumulated treasures and Things of value, a library of books etc, It allows for some one on one playing at times when not all the players can make it. Or homework for the player interested in doing it, rather than more work for the DM. Though i go over it and check it to game mechanics. Businesses, run into all sorts of problems, supply demand theft, competition etc. as for an actual Castle Dragon magazine has some great info on this and the downfalls of castle ownership. Some groups like to keep mobile, and had the equivalent of a rolling army of wagons. A major target for all sort of adversaries.1 and 2 editions have a butt load of info, but again if the player wants it, (he gets it) just make them do the work for it.
 


Another thing of note I've tried, if you have access to the game and your base is reasonably sized, Minecraft is an excellent program for making things in d&d. I built several maps using it, including a hedge maze (still the best way to run a maze in d&d I've found), the tavern in Dragon Heist, and castle Ravenloft.

The last map in particular took a damned week to build by hand, but the results were well worth it and my players loved it, and it gave me the benefit of a truly intimate knowledge of the layout of the castle that I frankly would not have had just by looking at a map. The best part is the game's communities make finding different texture packs an easy thing to customize each map.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I use this thing that I made! Party Base

I've used this in two campaigns, and it works reasonably well. One base was an abandoned guard tower in an urban environment. For the other campaign, it was Saltmarsh, and the party turned the haunted house into a base.

I do need to make some adjustments (notably, building new rooms should be more expensive, but renovating existing rooms should be less expensive).
THAT, my friend, is an amazingly useful little document you have created. I have snagged it and its now "a thing" for my game too. THANK YOU!
 

Richards

Adventurer
In our 2E game, we ran through a Dungeon adventure called "Kryptgarden Keep" (by Paul F. Culotta) that ended up being the PCs' stronghold for the rest of that campaign. We even had a failed paladin PC retire from the adventuring life and become Captain of the Guard for Kryptgarden Keep, keeping it secure between adventures.

In my first 3.5 campaign, the PCs were all part of an Adventurers Guild located in Greyhawk City, so that was their base of operations (although they didn't own it outright themselves).

In my current 3.5 campaign (a follow-on from the previous one, taking place 20 years later), the PCs all started out with a headquarters: Battershield Keep, a keep the PCs in the previous campaign had sort of inherited. The king decided it would be a good headquarters for the first official adventurers of the kingdom, and thus it was. I had built a scale model of the keep out of cardboard and we've had several adventures where the PCs were defending it from marauders of various types. (The interior buildings have also been changed out so I can use the keep as different small castles and whatnot throughout the years; I once gave it a second level and made it a demonic dwelling in the Abyss, for example.)

Having a headquarters is, in my mind, a good idea because it serves as a place where others know they can find the PCs. Thus, it's a good adventure starting location; many of my plot-hooks start off with someone coming to the PCs for help and that's much easier to do when they have a standard address where they can be found.

As this current campaign's only got a few sessions left, my new 3.5 campaign will be starting up shortly and I've decided one of the main background plots will involve the PCs needing to travel all across the continent. But that doesn't mean they can't have a headquarters, since in my previous campaign I crafted a life-sized wood colossus that I still have, so I envision at some point they'll find it and make it their "mobile home" since it can change between "building" and "humanoid giant" forms....

Johnathan
 


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