Where's your party’s base of operations?
A party’s base of operations says a lot about the party itself. It can be a place like the Village of Hommlet or (in Spelljammer) the Rock of Braal, a place the adventuring party goes to and lives in when not adventuring, or the aforementioned Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” - Obi-Wan Kenobi about Mos Eisley
What Makes a Base?Not all places are suitable for a base of operations. It’s easy to underestimate how dangerous being an adventurer can be in the “off cycle” when they’re not adventuring – there’s a reason so many adventurers are orphans. Here’s some considerations:
- How likely is the party to be attacked while resting there? In “peace” time, non-adventuring time, characters need a place where they’re unlikely to be attacked by enemies old or new. Not that even if the place is apparently peaceful and innocuous you can have secretive bad guys, a murder cult or religious crazies or smugglers or something else.
- How safe is it when the party is away? In most campaigns there’s an often-unspoken agreement that characters can leave stuff “somewhere,” rather than carrying everything they own with them, and that this somewhere is “not subject to enemy action.” In fantasy role-playing there’s seldom an (insured) banking industry. Further, real estate is neither insured nor entirely safe from disasters.
- How safe from interference is the party? This isn’t necessarily violence, but can simply include the party being harassed by tax collectors, religious institutions, or other aspects of civilized society that make it difficult to be an adventurer. Conversely, the party might welcome some side distractions and interactions like a business on the side to make some extra money or get specialized information.
- What are the opportunities for adventure within the base itself (including something like a “side business”)? Some locations are particularly suited for adventure (e.g., the Yawning Portal). Being near where the party needs to adventure is convenient and gives them a place to retreat to quickly without the hazards of a long trek home. There may be crypts, towers owned by mysterious persons, underhanded guilds, or other features within the base itself that offer adventures.
- Is it a source of “supplies”, whether legal or not, mundane or magical? A cave may make a secure base, but it’s not a place to resupply. Having available components for casters, ammunition for archers, and the ability to requisition food and equipment are critical when the party returns to base. This often makes town bases more appealing, or at least a traveling merchant who is willing to supply somewhere more remote. This can also include information: sages, libraries, old veterans of wars, retired politicians, and so forth may have unusual information useful to adventurers.
- How can new party members be recruited? Bases can be so secure and secret that nobody can find it. This may seem like a great idea until it’s time for someone new to join the team. Bases that are too secure might be detrimental to recruitment. How do parties of adventurers get together? How do new characters join a party? There needs to be a mechanism for this.
The Base’s CharacterBases are characters unto themselves, as Mos Eisley demonstrates. It’s worth considering the character of the base, including the base’s alignment (and that of the surrounding environs).
- Like Mos Eisley (wretched hive of scum and villainy). This kind of base rarely provides a resting place, and you might wonder why the adventurers would want to live there. Maybe there’s no other choice (aside from camping in the wild?).
- A “den of thieves,” but rarely lethal. This might attract daring adventurers, especially those who prefer the dark/chaotic side of life. It might be a good place to run a shady “side business”.
- A place neither good nor evil, where most anything can happen (resembling some towns in American westerns). Perhaps the obvious place for treasure-hunting mercenary-type adventurers. Another place for a “side business”, maybe even a legitimate one.
- A mostly peaceful and mostly orderly place. If you can find such a place.
- A stronghold of the Good. The obvious place for “soldiers of god.” Or whatever amounts to the Goodguys in the campaign.
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