Need for a Home Base

S'mon

Legend
Just musing to myself this morning that all my successful long term campaigns have had the following format:

1. PCs start out in a safe and relatively familiar location, eg "You all meet at the Inn"; though it can be a castle or Pathfinder lodge, etc.
2. PCs hear the "call to adventure" - whether the greybeard in the corner with Quest to Save World, or just rumours of treasure
3. PCs go to adventure site, do stuff, then come back.

So, basically the "Hero's Journey".

Now, sometimes - often - the PCs eventually relocate their Home Base, eg they might move to a new Inn, or gain their own Castle. But the safe & familiar starting point seems to be very important for long term play. If I start the game as GM/am started as player with PCs on the run, looking for safety, or crashed on an unfamiliar & dangerous planet/island, it never works out. All player energy goes into establishing safety - creating that safe home base, or reaching a safe place - at which point the game feels 'done'. The energy dissipates.

Anyone else had this experience? Is it just me?
 

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Arilyn

Hero
I've ran and played in games where the players have no home base, and wander from danger to danger. In these cases, they make temporary safe harbours, so that might not be what you are talking about. As a player or a GM, I rea!ly like there to be an inn or keep that the players can call home. I know what you mean about players thrust into dangerous territory, where establishing a safe zone becomes top priority. I haven't given it much thought, but those games do dissipate faster. The major goal been reached, so story over? Perhaps these types of campaigns feel more like a movie than a tv series. Maybe not having periodic home breaks, like in real life, is just too tiring after a while.
 

My 5E campaign has a lot of elements picked up from previous campaigns from prior editions. One of the things that the PCs have had is a base of operations. There have been/are several groups of PCs over the years, and the first group recorved a castle as reward for an early adventure (the rarely mentioned “Destiny of Kings” module). That castle became their home base.

As time went on they learned that there was much more to the castle than they thought, and it turned out to be a flying castle. Then, not long after that, they learned that it was capable of planar travel.

So their HQ kind of leveled up with them.

Now, our 5E party is looking for that castle and a few others like it in order to prevent the bad guys from doibg their bad guy stuff. The current group of PCs have also established a base. Or multiple bases is probably the better way of describing it. They’ve created the Phandalin-Crux Trading Company (the “PC” Company hah!) which is based out of the town of Phandalin in Faerun and the town of Crux on the World Tree (featured in the 2E Planescape module “Dead Gods”). These two locations are connected by portal to a third location in Sigil.

Again, all these things have been established as the PCs have leveled, and a lot of the expansion has involved downtime activity and research. I’ve always liked the idea of a PC HQ, and building that can be an engaging game within the game.
 

S'mon

Legend
I know what you mean about players thrust into dangerous territory, where establishing a safe zone becomes top priority. I haven't given it much thought, but those games do dissipate faster. The major goal been reached, so story over? Perhaps these types of campaigns feel more like a movie than a tv series. Maybe not having periodic home breaks, like in real life, is just too tiring after a while.

I noticed that my son loved "Shadow of Mordor" computer game, with constant fighting in the hellscape of Mordor; whereas I couldn't stand it. Conversely I love the cadence of "Skyrim", with its nearly-always-safe cities & inns, its dangerous wilderness, and deadly delves. I nearly always 'save' my PC back at home
base, so when I reload I am in the tavern or Breezehome, not neck deep in Draugr. :)
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I tend to have PCs as either members of Mercenary Companies or organisations like the Church or Militant Orders, that provides both a built in Patron and one or more homebases.
One of my favourite (and longest running) games had PCs as members of a travelling Circus troupe, so essentially a moving homebase and an excuse to cover a large area and various adventures.

I've also had establishing and then defending the homebase be the adventure - PCs home village was attacked by an invading army and the populace fled into the forest. The next morning the PCs were tasked to gather the refugees and get them up to 'the old fort' while avoiding capture by the bad guys. They arrived to find the old fort overrun with kobolds, who had to be gotten rid of so the fort could be fortified and defended.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Anyone else had this experience? Is it just me?

Hm. For me...

Back in the day of 1e, we had home bases when we reached name level and built keeps. Not generally before.

Playing Marvel Superheroes - yep, we totally built ourselves a group HQ, as soon as we could. But, an HQ are very specifically in-genre for superhero teams.

Playing Shadowrun... good gods, no. Shadowrunners who tie themselves to a single location are investing in something they can't move, and are apt to lose. Mind you, most of the adventuring was within one city.

D&D 2e, two different campaigns - one I ran, one I played... nope. No home base.

WEG Star Wars - we had a ship, but it moved around a lot. We did have a base late in play, after we had... acquired... several vessels.

Mage: The Ascension - Yep, we had a home base. The rules specifically gave characters a reason to have such.

Deadlands - not so much. The party hung around Dodge for a while, but didn't associate themselves with any particular location in town. Once they got to middling-power, they took to the road.

Ashen Stars - the team has a ship, as part of the general conceit of the game. Th party is most definitely not staying still, however.

D&D 5e at work - definitely not. Playing Storm King's Thunder, and I don't know if the party has stayed in the same place for two nights in a row.

So, mixed bag. Plenty of long-running play without a home base, though.
 

I think a big aspect of D&D has always been acquiring STUFF. Gold, tapestries, etc. AD&D is written to not even give you full benefit of it unless you DO get it back to a safe, secure place. Q: What do you give the man who has everything? A: A place to store it. Even in other editions there's still the need and desire to at some point have a temple to cast rituals, a tower with a laboratory and research library, wanting a hall where your PC can train at improving sword skills - even if they don't NEED that hall, etc. Having a place where the PC's can simply sleep without needing to set watches for fear of being mauled or robbed is understandably preferable, even if the game doesn't say it's necessary to have one decidedly established. But sometimes being murderhobos is fun.

I don't do too much in media res starts where the PC's have no home base, but are given every reason to WANT and NEED one when they normally wouldn't, so I have no experience with a game fading once they have such established. But while there are exceptions, most games I see players wanting a base whether they need it or not.
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
In D&D campaigns I have run, when I didn't provide an obvious home base for the PC's, they made one--more than once out of the first small dungeon they cleared out.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Because of D&D's particular resource allocation structure, the need for a secure 'home base' is absolutely critical if you are to avoid excessive PC deaths. In my parlance, I refer to the home base as 'the Haven'. The haven is where you can go to be relatively sure of not having a further encounter, or that if you do have the encounter it will be in your favor. The haven is essential because when you run out of hit points and spells, you must be able to have a secure long rest to recover. And if you don't have that, then you suffer death by attrition.

I have about a 7 year old campaign with like 150 sessions played, where I think I've put the whole thing at risk by in this latest phase making securing a haven a challenge. The players simply haven't been very good at anything other than kicking the door down, surrounding the baddies, and killing them. When they need to overcome a challenge that can be solved by doing this, they've run into problems and in this case they've essentially tried to resolve the problem of securing a haven by kicking the doors down, killing everyone and taking their stuff. But at best in this case it leaves them "camping in the dungeon", and camping in the dungeon is quite the opposite of a haven. You can't guarantee that if you camp in the dungeon that you'll have no encounters and that if you do those encounters will be in your favor. So a result, they are in a death spiral. It's a big reason other than my own burnout that I put the campaign on hiatus. I knew that with all chance of a haven lost, and with the party already in a death spiral, there was a very good chance that a TPK was just around the corner, and it would be a TPK that would not be easy or even possible to narratively recover from or handwave away.

My suspicion is that D&D with more recent rules sets that lack the mechanical requirement of a secure long rest are apt to not require a Haven, and that players will quite readily succeed without one.
 

S'mon

Legend
The haven is essential because when you run out of hit points and spells, you must be able to have a secure long rest to recover. And if you don't have that, then you suffer death by attrition.

Particularly true in my 5e games with 1 week LRs! Though I do allow overnight hp recovery (1/level), so a few classes like Fighter Rogue & Warlock can get by without LRs if they absolutely have to.
 

Riley37

First Post
For some styles, it's useful for the PCs to have a home base, possibly including a place where they share meals. There's opportunities for inter-character RP around a fire pit or a breakfast table.

Whether that's a *secure* base is another question. The crew of the Enterprise live on board, but the Enterprise is not always a safe place; sometimes it's attacked, sometimes it's infiltrated, sometimes its computer goes awry. The Fantastic Four have a shared home, which has been attacked and damaged once or twice.

In "Pillars of Eternity", Caed Nua is mostly a safe base, because you can choose not to go into the catacombs underneath. But if you do...
 

pemerton

Legend
Just musing to myself this morning that all my successful long term campaigns have had the following format:

<snip>

the safe & familiar starting point seems to be very important for long term play. If I start the game as GM/am started as player with PCs on the run, looking for safety, or crashed on an unfamiliar & dangerous planet/island, it never works out. All player energy goes into establishing safety - creating that safe home base, or reaching a safe place - at which point the game feels 'done'. The energy dissipates.

Anyone else had this experience? Is it just me?
I haven't. The issue of "home base" or establishing safety is not a distinctively big deal in my campaigns.

Although you seem to be positing two possibilities as covering the field: safe place or on the run/in danger. If a game starts with the PCs in a market hoping to find something useful, which do you count that as?
 

S'mon

Legend
Although you seem to be positing two possibilities as covering the field: safe place or on the run/in danger. If a game starts with the PCs in a market hoping to find something useful, which do you count that as?

I'd probably count that as "implied home base" if the market was presented as safe place in safe city, presumably there are inns and such nearby, or the PCs' permanent homes.

If it's presented as dangerous place in dangerous city, and the PCs have no existing background safe base to return to, it's in the "on the run" category.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'd probably count that as "implied home base" if the market was presented as safe place in safe city, presumably there are inns and such nearby, or the PCs' permanent homes.
Re-reading my actual play report, they were able to find an inn but a failed Resources check indicated that it was particularly low-class, inflicting a penalty to recover spell fatigue due to bed bugs.

And they were banished from the town by a powerful mage.

So I wouldn't think of it as an implied home base.
 

S'mon

Legend
Re-reading my actual play report, they were able to find an inn but a failed Resources check indicated that it was particularly low-class, inflicting a penalty to recover spell fatigue due to bed bugs.

And they were banished from the town by a powerful mage.

So I wouldn't think of it as an implied home base.

So, an in-between case I guess.
 

pemerton

Legend
So, an in-between case I guess.
This is why I was wondering which way you thought it might fall. Maybe your sharp distinction in the OP is a False Dichotomy (I've heard capitals are important for this) but I don't think it's obviously so. Eg I wondered if your "danger" category extends to any sort of "in media res" starting point.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Whether that's a *secure* base is another question. The crew of the Enterprise live on board, but the Enterprise is not always a safe place; sometimes it's attacked, sometimes it's infiltrated, sometimes its computer goes awry.

Star Trek has an episodic structure. All problems are always resolved by the end of the episode and at the beginning of each episode the Enterprise is whole, restored, and the party fully recovered from their trials. If the Enterprise is not a secure haven, then the space between episodes certainly is one. It's also true that there are ton of TOS episodes where almost all the drama depends on Kirk trying to contact the Enterprise on his communicator and getting nothing but static.

(Yes, I'm neglecting extended episodes that occur over two one hour time slots, and DS9's attempt to copy the B5 long running story arc format, but mostly because I think they also conform to the above observation.)
 

Riley37

First Post
All problems are always resolved by the end of the episode and at the beginning of each episode the Enterprise is whole, restored, and the party fully recovered from their trials. If the Enterprise is not a secure haven, then the space between episodes certainly is one.

True of the episodes. Variably true of the movies and novels, but that's irrelevant to your point. In D&D terms, Kirk and Spock begin each episode with full Hit Points (and spellcasting capacity or other ability uses, as appropriate).

So for TRPG, that raises the distinction of a safe haven between the action played out in a game "episode", whether that's a session or a story arc across a few sessions, versus a safe haven where no threats will arise *during* the story played out in sessions. Safe enough to rest (and recover HP etc.). Some TRPG tables have "downtime" assumed between sessions, others don't.

I'm interested in whether the story has "on stage" scenes in which the PCs can confer, reflect, debate, etc., without the time pressure of "every ten minutes we spend talking means another wandering monster check". Sometimes the Enterprise is safe enough for that, and sometimes it's not. Same for the Babylon 5 station.

I guess any place safe enough for resting, is also a place safe enough for the intra-character RP "pillar", for those tables which enjoy that sort of thing. Not quite vice versa; Legolas and Gimli might casually chat, on a road which also has the ongoing background danger of a goblin ambush interrupting their conversation.

Perhaps what I'm getting at here, is the role of in-game venues (whether castles, super-HQs, or ships) in the transitions between scenes played out round-by-round or otherwise under immediate pressure, versus scenes with slower paces.
 

I am not sure I've ever had players with a solid base that they used a lot. In my CoC / ToC adventures (Eternal Lies, Masks of Nyarlathotep, Beyond the Mountains of Madness) they didn't really -- even the BtMoM base in the Antarctic wasn't more than semi-permanent. In my Rolemaster and MERP campaigns (multiples), they travelled all over the map. My longest-running D&D campaign had them moving from Eltir Vale through Demonweb pits to Sigil. AT Sigil they split up and each had their own bases (indeed, one mission had the Paladins on the team investigating a local crime lord's base to find it it was now of their team members). In 13th Age, they went all around the edges of the Dragon empire (mostly clockwise, in case anyone is interested)

Dracula Dossier pretty much requires no safe sanctuary. My current Numenéra campaign does have a space ship that is pretty much a safe base, but it's often not available. I run a bi-weekly Big Eyes Small Mouth campaign for middle schoolers and I'd love to tie them down to a base, but they learn about dragon hatchlings off to the north and immediately ditch the current locale ...

I have been thinking of running a short campaign solidly set in a small castle on the edge of the fey lands. That would, by definition, have a solid base. Overall though, it seems very rare in my campaigns.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Perhaps what I'm getting at here, is the role of in-game venues (whether castles, super-HQs, or ships) in the transitions between scenes played out round-by-round or otherwise under immediate pressure, versus scenes with slower paces.

Or, what process of play is used to establish when the "bangs" happen? Who gets to decide when the downtime happens, or The Haven is reached, and why?

Compare the classic AD&D haven/delve format where the players initiate a rest by deciding they've run out of resources and need to exit the mega-dungeon, with Mouse Guard where the rest (in this sense) can only happen on the player's turn in the process of play, and player turns only happen when the GM decides he's introduced enough *bangs* for the scenario. I find it ironic that Mouse Guard actually gives the GM fuller control over the pacing and goals of play than D&D. It's even more ironic when you consider that in order to get actions on the player turn (during the rest phase), the player is encouraged to trade some of his agency to the GM during the GM's turn.
 

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