The TTRPG Revival of PC Bases, Strongholds, and Communities

hawkeyefan

Legend
But it's also, IMHO, not just an anti-murder hobo trend but also an anti-setting tourism one, which I believe you also allude to.

I think these two factors are likely the main ones. A base of some kind not only gives the characters some sense of home, a place that’s theirs, but also the players. Here’s a place in this fictional world that you will create and shape through play.

Very often it also gives the campaign a sense of home as well, as a place that becomes central to play. NPCs Will often connect to the PCs through the base, and events will often revolve around the base. I’ve had a couple of campaigns that have essentially become about the base, they’re so central to play that we think of the campaign being about that place and the people in it.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
One variation on the theme is the travelling base - often some kind of ship.

Scum and Villainy has a Firefly-esque or Cowboy Bebop-esque ship that the crew shares, but even going back to the early days of roleplaying, Traveller and the various Star Trek and Star Wars games have all had a PC home ship by default. Warbirds has all the PCs flying fighters from a single carrier airship...
Yeah, if I was running a sea or space-faring adventure, I would probably have the ship serve a similar purpose. Having a ship doesn't really stop the party muder-hoboing their way across the high seas or galaxy, but it's still a base of sorts. One could also potentially double the ship up with a harbor or port town that also can serve as a base of operations.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
But it's also, IMHO, not just an anti-murder hobo trend but also an anti-setting tourism one, which I believe you also allude to. What's one way to prevent your PCs from being turned into tourists for the game master's world? You make the tourists into residents of a village/city, community, or headquarters who have all invested personal interests in that place. It also keeps the locations (generally but not always) smaller scale, and I also am growing to like smaller scale settings (e.g., OSE's Dolmenwood).
If you mean tourists as in wanderers, I like the PCs wandering around seeing the setting. If you mean tourists as in not connected to the setting, then yes, I agree that’s bad.
 


Aldarc

Legend
If you mean tourists as in wanderers, I like the PCs wandering around seeing the setting. If you mean tourists as in not connected to the setting, then yes, I agree that’s bad.
More the latter where the game seemingly exists more for the purpose of the GM to showcase their world-building to the players, with the adventure dragging the players along a GM-guided sight-seeing tour across the world.
 






pemerton

Legend
One thing that I have been noticing in a fair number of TTRPGs over the past decade has been an increased attention to giving PCs a base, stronghold, or community that, in some respects, acts as a shared point of interest for the party.

<snip>

I am sure there are plenty of more and I certainly welcome hearing about them.
Burning Wheel PC build includes scope for establishing Relationships (to NPCs), Affiliations (with organisations which will themselves have a location, reach etc) and Reputations (which are particular to a locale and/or social stratum), and also for PCs owning property.

These things can change over time, as part of the overall process of PC development and as a result of events that occur in play (ie consequences of action resolution). But there is no notion of an "end game" to these things as is found in (say) AD&D.

HeroWars/Quest has extensive rules for communities. In HeroWars, and I would guess (but don't know for sure) in HeroQuest played in Glorantha, community support is particularly important to permit heroquesting (ie "spiritual" travel into the "other side" of myth, spirits, etc). The standing of the community, and the PC's standing with the community, can change over time including as a result of the PC's actions.

Apocalypse World includes playbooks centred around gangs or cults (the Chopper, the Hocus) and around strongholds (the Hardholder). The relationship of the PC to these things is a big part of the focus of play (eg their are player-side moves which, if failed, might involve a gang or cult turning on its PCs leader).

But what might have triggered this renewed interest in having bases, communities, and strongholds be a part of play?
At least in the games I've described, it's because the intended focus of play is not on "the adventure" but rather on "the character, and how they make their way through the social world in which they find themselves" (though I should add - this is not mandatory in BW, but is a natural tendency of the system).

A focus on this sort of fiction also suggests a change in techniques and authority over various elements of the fiction - eg social resolution mechanics that enable players to have input into how it is that their Pcs make their way through the social world in which they find themselves.

That sort of change in authority over elements of the fiction, in turn, reduces railroading.

Whether awareness of that downstream effect is a cause of the upstream design choice I'm not sure. I don't think it's irrelevant in the case of the games I've mentioned.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Burning Wheel PC build includes scope for establishing Relationships (to NPCs), Affiliations (with organisations which will themselves have a location, reach etc) and Reputations (which are particular to a locale and/or social stratum), and also for PCs owning property.

These things can change over time, as part of the overall process of PC development and as a result of events that occur in play (ie consequences of action resolution). But there is no notion of an "end game" to these things as is found in (say) AD&D.

HeroWars/Quest has extensive rules for communities. In HeroWars, and I would guess (but don't know for sure) in HeroQuest played in Glorantha, community support is particularly important to permit heroquesting (ie "spiritual" travel into the "other side" of myth, spirits, etc). The standing of the community, and the PC's standing with the community, can change over time including as a result of the PC's actions.

Apocalypse World includes playbooks centred around gangs or cults (the Chopper, the Hocus) and around strongholds (the Hardholder). The relationship of the PC to these things is a big part of the focus of play (eg their are player-side moves which, if failed, might involve a gang or cult turning on its PCs leader).

At least in the games I've described, it's because the intended focus of play is not on "the adventure" but rather on "the character, and how they make their way through the social world in which they find themselves" (though I should add - this is not mandatory in BW, but is a natural tendency of the system).

A focus on this sort of fiction also suggests a change in techniques and authority over various elements of the fiction - eg social resolution mechanics that enable players to have input into how it is that their Pcs make their way through the social world in which they find themselves.

That sort of change in authority over elements of the fiction, in turn, reduces railroading.

Whether awareness of that downstream effect is a cause of the upstream design choice I'm not sure. I don't think it's irrelevant in the case of the games I've mentioned.
Games dating from the early'00s (e.g,. Burning Wheel, HeroWars/Quest, etc.) seem to lie outside the scope of a "renewed interest" in bases, communities, and strongholds. To be honest, I will admit that even my own listing of Beyond the Wall (2013-2014) was arguably pushing my sense of "renewed interest" but it feels like a slow burner, as a lot of its buzz has seemingly appeared within the past few years, possibly in conjunction with this aforementioned renewed interest.

I think these two factors are likely the main ones. A base of some kind not only gives the characters some sense of home, a place that’s theirs, but also the players. Here’s a place in this fictional world that you will create and shape through play.

Very often it also gives the campaign a sense of home as well, as a place that becomes central to play. NPCs Will often connect to the PCs through the base, and events will often revolve around the base. I’ve had a couple of campaigns that have essentially become about the base, they’re so central to play that we think of the campaign being about that place and the people in it.
Thinking about this further, particularly in light of talking about Beyond the Wall & Other Adventures, I also suspect that the renewed interest in the "Base (et al.)" has also been spurred by an interest and desire for greater support and tools for sandbox campaign play. "The base" effectively becomes a personalized starting point of the sandbox.
 

Bluenose

Adventurer
HeroWars/Quest has extensive rules for communities. In HeroWars, and I would guess (but don't know for sure) in HeroQuest played in Glorantha, community support is particularly important to permit heroquesting (ie "spiritual" travel into the "other side" of myth, spirits, etc). The standing of the community, and the PC's standing with the community, can change over time including as a result of the PC's actions.
Certainly true of Heroquest (and HQ:Glorantha) and in Runequest: Adventures in Glorantha. In fact potentially several communities, your original clan-group, any cult or other magical organisation you are part of, and possibly also a more organised adventuring band with it's own special practices, magic and spirits.

Pendragon and Paladin have not yet been mentioned as far as I've noticed, and they're definitely games where a domain system is in place and always have been. Your knight almost certainly has land and a family, and a part of the game is devoted to establishing how those are getting on and what you might do to improve things.

I wouldn't regard it as a core part of the game necessarily, but Mongoose Traveller 2e has two supplements for being leadership in large groups - Naval Campaigns in theElement class cruisers boxed set, and ground forces in Mercenary (when that makes it out of kickstarter).
 

pemerton

Legend
Games dating from the early'00s (e.g,. Burning Wheel, HeroWars/Quest, etc.) seem to lie outside the scope of a "renewed interest" in bases, communities, and strongholds.
The copyright date on AW is 2010. And on HeroQuest revised is 2009.

It also seems relevant to me that if in fact the interest in bases, communities and strongholds is found in games that are earlier than the past decade, then maybe the "renewed" interest is more like "some recent designers replicated or built on what some earlier, well-known and influential designs had done". That is to say, it seems relevant to your question about the cause of the renewed interest.
 


Aldarc

Legend
The copyright date on AW is 2010. And on HeroQuest revised is 2009.
That's slightly over a decade for both games. I suspect we likely have different understandings of what "renewed" means.

Much as @Bluenose says, HeroQuest reiterates on RuneQuest's pre-existing emphasis on the PC's community, generally the Oranthi people of Dragon's Pass. So even if the revised HeroQuest was published in 2009, did it actually contribute to this renewed interest? I'm not sure. I'm a bit skeptical. RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha (2017-2018) would certainly then be more pertinent than HeroQuest (2009) on the basis you described, no?

Here I would note that Jeremy Strandberg (Stonetop) has said that while his setting has been occasionally compared to the Dragon's Pass area of RuneQuest, he had apparently never read RuneQuest, HeroQuest, or anything related to Glorantha.

Apocalypse World is potentially a more compelling case, as its playbooks undoubtedly influenced the idea of a base (et al) having its own playbook or character sheet for progression (e.g. Crew Sheet in Blades in the Dark, Stedding Playbook in Stonetop, etc.). Or even the community focus of Dogs in the Vineyard, which is a game that you didn't list that explicitly influenced John Harper (Blades in the Dark). Out of my own interest, I looked through Dungeon World Discord, the Spouting Lore blog, and a Google+ archive for Dungeon World Tavern. It was only in the latter that I found a few mentions of DitV by Jeremy Strandberg.

It also seems relevant to me that if in fact the interest in bases, communities and strongholds is found in games that are earlier than the past decade, then maybe the "renewed" interest is more like "some recent designers replicated or built on what some earlier, well-known and influential designs had done". That is to say, it seems relevant to your question about the cause of the renewed interest.
In which case, we could just list every game that had a base in the history of gaming, but I'm hoping for more substantial out of this discussion than giving people an excuse to simply list any pet game that they like which may happen to have bases/strongholds/villages/communities in them.

What you describe for Burning Wheel, for example, seems to lie outside the scope of bases entirely, and if we included BW for having affiliations, reputation, and relationships, what other games would we also need to include on a similar basis? I would prefer discussing more pertinent samples and attempt to account for this trend. If you want yet another reason to talk Burning Wheel, then that's fine, but I think that the links between whatever is present in BW and the renewed interest in player bases (et al) needs to be demonstrated a little more substantially than you have.
 

I backed the Beast World Kickstarter for 5e a while back. The assumption there is that your party owns a wagon and is part of a caravan travelling with a bunch of other wagons. Which I thought was quite clever. There’s rules for upgrading your wagon with gear or weapons or magic, but it also promotes building lasting relationships with npcs, because often those npcs will be travelling with you in the same caravan/convoy/whatever, so will likely be long-term fixtures in the game even if the campaign involves travelling a lot.
 


To me the fundamental element in blades is the crew, which has various important features, including the lair, but also rep, turf, heat, and such. In fact, turf are rep more important in that it represents your crew getting more powerful.

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've ever played a game that was about a base of operations in some fundamental way. There are games where the characters having a reliable home makes sense--mostly games with urban settings and/or set in 'real' history (e.g. call of cthulhu). But otherwise I feel like 'adventure' is associated with travel, with the journey being a reliable metaphor for character growth and narrative progression. This leads to things like the commonality of the bag of holding in dnd. I suppose a solution to this is to make the base mobile, like a ship, or the caravan in a game/setting like Ultraviolet Grasslands.
 


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