Home Base Tips & Tables
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #699
Five PC Home Base Tips
From Anson Brehmer
Heroes are often shiftless wanderers, wandering from town to town looking for the biggest problem to tackle, the biggest monster to kill, and the biggest haul to score for a night of ale, wenches, and a shopping spree.
This is a fine way to play, but it’s never really been my style.
I tend to run games where the heroes take root in a single location for an extended period of time, sallying forth from their base of operations, tackling the latest adventure, and then returning home to spend their loot, bind their wounds, and do the miscellaneous downtime chores that happen between dungeon crawls and urban shenanigans.
In that time, I’ve come up with a few ideas on what a good home base needs to have.
You All Meet at an Inn…
Most of the time, the group gravitates towards a particular tavern with rooms to rent, possibly run by a retired adventurer. Why? Food, shelter, entertainment, and easy access to plot hooks. A base needs to have access to these to feel like a real home.
From my game, The Black Oak Inn and The Three Keys Tavern were the primary meeting spots for the PCs. This remained true even when they joined the local Adventurer’s Guild and were able to have private rooms there. Why? The Adventurer’s Guild had shelter and easy access to plot hooks, but no food and no real entertainment apart from the occasional spar with fellow adventurers.
Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…
But adventurers need more than a place to rest their heads. They need space where they can talk in private with potential patrons, discuss plans, and recreate. They also need facilities where they can do their downtime activities.
The Three Keys had this in the form of private rooms that could be rented for a reasonable rate for clandestine conversations. Deva’s Dystopia, from a superhero game I ran, also had private rooms (though the intent of those rooms was different), as well as a hidden underground section for the heroes to plan their heroics. (The Dystopia was a nightclub with a bar & grill on site, so it also had food and entertainment covered, and the secret lair beneath had shelter and an AI that could look up interesting plot hooks).
Hello. My Name is Inigo Montoya…
What else does a good base need? Interesting recurring NPCs. While these will often be the provider of plot hooks, they also provide color and roleplaying hooks that have nothing to do with the adventure at hand.
These NPCs should be fond of the PCs, have some sort of neat hook, and provide a valuable service. The innkeeper who cuts them a deal on rooms and makes excellent spiced potatoes, the former swashbuckling adventurer who can provide an extra hand during a tough mission, the AI who can call up information on a whim (and who wants to be a real girl), the bartender with kaleidoscope eyes who serves them drinks. NPCs who are interesting and useful will go a long way towards getting the party to like them.
Hey, I Never Noticed This Hallway Before…
A good base also needs secrets of its own. These are plot hooks you can seed into interactions with the base’s NPCs.
Maybe the base has a mysterious sealed-off room. Maybe the retired adventurer has some unfinished business he’d like to see taken care of. Maybe the place was built on an old burial ground and the ghosts are getting disturbed.
Whatever the hook is, the seeds should be planted over several sessions before they become important. You want to give PCs time to get to know the location so solving the mystery matters to them. And once they do, well, then they will be even more invested in the base! Which is good when it becomes threatened….
All Your Base are Belong to Us…
And threaten it you will. The Innkeeper is late on his protection payments and the crime lord’s thugs are coming to break his knees. The BBEG sends an assassin after the PCs. The thing behind the sealed door attempts to get out. The place comes under siege when zombies attack the town. There’s a fire in the city, and it’s coming closer to their beloved tavern.
If the PCs want their safe haven to stay safe, they’re going to have to fight for it. This isn’t a situation you should spring regularly, but the base needs an occasional threat. This might be early in the game (perhaps the party saves the innkeeper, which is why he offers them a discount on rooms) or later in the game (the supervillains lay siege to the Hall of Justice to get back at the PCs for thwarting them time and again). This will cement the base even more into the game’s structure.
If you want a base of operations to play a significant part in your campaign, it needs to have the following elements:
- Access to food, shelter, entertainment, and plot hooks
- Space for the PCs to gather and do downtime things
- Interesting and useful NPCs
- A couple of secrets to be explored over time
- An eventual threat to be defeated to keep the base secure
Did I miss anything? Are there elements you feel are crucial to your game’s base of operations? Drop us a line!
Brief Word From Johnn
Home Base Tips & Tables
I’ve had great experiences running home base campaigns where the PCs have a place they operate or own and use repeatedly as a launch point for their adventures.
My previous campaign, Riddleport, was 100% a home base campaign, with the characters operating the Silver Chalice Inn. The business was not only a bit of extra income for the party, but it was a place to plan, heal, and rest. It also turned out to be a place to explore and adventure in, as the party discovered later in the campaign. The durable stone building was also a great place to hide in and defend with when foes took the battle to the PCs’ front door.
My Temple of Elemental Evil campaign was a home base campaign for the first half. The PCs operated out of Homlett and befriended the people there. The village offered the group services, goods, and plot hooks.
My current Murder Hobos campaign started out as a home base campaign. The characters operated out of Phandalin and were making the area safe for the farmers and miners again. Well, until the Hobos brought the apocalypse down and Phandalin was wiped. But they are called hobos after all….
Today’s issue is all about home base campaigns. Some great tips and ideas from Anson. And then some juicy tables for inspiration from Eric. I hope these help you run your next home base with lots of fun and adventure for the PCs.
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Twenty Random Home Bases and the Qualities that Make Them Special
From Eric Fabiaschi
Every group of adventurers needs a home base or a safe haven to call home. Often these places are graced with interesting or unique qualities. Some of these places work to the advantage of their owners and the adventurers who call them home. In domain level games, these places can provide income for a party as well as a safe place to hang their hats.
- An old mansion that belonged to a wealthy occultist whose family died long ago. The place is long forgotten and remains intact despite the elements. Secret rooms and tunnels wind through and under the place.
- Ruins used by a band of thieves. The place has an aura of evil about it that keeps people away, and many folks think it’s haunted. A secret dungeon lies beneath the ruins the PCs could discover later in the campaign.
- A large tower built as a folly by a rich businessman whose occult leanings lent this structure its odd air. The thing is said to be aligned with the star winds and to pick up the occult alignments. A set of caverns has been naturally hollowed out below the place and can serve as a safe haven.
- An abandoned shopping mall formerly home to many businesses but now abandoned and boarded up since the murders and massacres. The place is rumored to be the home of gangs. Most stay away, but it is a strategic point between the towns and city.
- A former military bunker and command point, this place has been abandoned for generations. It is rumored to contain secret military technology.
- A hidden series of caves and caverns make up this secret haven that was used by thieves and cutthroats in the area. This place makes a perfect vantage point for the party.
- An abandoned castle that is actually a rich man’s folly. It has almost turned to ruin and rot, but a series of smugglers’ tunnels lies below ground.
- A farm village that has almost but not quite turned to ruin. There are a series of thieves’ tunnels below ground that link all of the locations.
- A former haunted house that is actually the remains of a demon summoning cult. No one goes there. The place is intact and sits on four powerful lay line convexes.
- A former dwarven mine of legend that is now rumored to haunted. There is a series of twisting tunnels and weird Swiss cheese-like caverns, all worked by inhuman hands. The place is a perfect base for outlaws and thieves.
- A park-like grove of trees where a businessman built a strange, small stone cottage. This place is covered in strange pictogram writing. Rumor has it the place is taboo and the fairies have claimed it. It makes a perfect camp spot, and a strange abandoned house with many of the same pictograms sits nearby.
- An abandoned piece of land rumored to be haunted. This was the site of a pagan cult, but locals are not sure of the nature of cult’s magic and god. The place sits on nice land and would make a perfect farm or manor house. There is the matter of the strange stone pylons weathered by age and the elements, though.
- A creepy woodland hunting lodge that has stood the test of time. It is a perfect base for a group of outlaws or bandits. The trees, animals, and woodlands are slightly bigger and more terrifying than similar areas in the vicinity.
- A former military base and fortress. It has seen many massacres, murders, and worse in its time. The place has been left to rot, but it would make a perfect lair for a group of outlaws.
- A former cave system rumored to belong to a dragon and its kin for generations until a group of adventurers ran the thing off. The place now stands empty, and no one seems to go there. The caverns are a series of weirdly lit tunnels with fungus that lights up the place at night.
- A former series of pirates’ or thieves’ smuggling outposts for who knows what. These buildings have been warehouses, outlaw bases, and more. A series of secret passages or tunnels is rumored to be below them. They belonged to a rich family, who are now all dead.
- A former wizard’s cottage now abandoned to the elements. A supernatural aura hangs about the place, and it might make a perfect hideaway for a gang of adventurers.
- The workshop of a former mechanic who produced war machines for the local rulers long ago. It is said the spirits rose up one night and murdered him in his sleep, but this is only local legend. His workshop still stands untouched all these years and is a perfect place for a lair or base for adventurers.
- A small, hidden manor house rumored to have once belonged to a local king as a love nest or base. The place has been abandoned to the elements and time. It boasts many hidden passages and secrets of its own. It would make a perfect place for a group of adventurers.
- A former dungeon ruin has been uncovered by the weather, and bandits were using it as a base a few years ago. Now it stands waiting for adventurers to take it over.
Twenty Home Base Threats
From Eric Fabiaschi
We love to think our homes are our castles. While that might be true if you’re very lucky, the same does not apply to PCs. They live with the constant knowledge that at any moment their homes can be taken from them. Here is a list of 1d20 threats to their homes that can lead to adventure opportunities and threats to life as well as limb.
- A force of 1d20 cultists has heard the legends of the PCs’ property and want it for themselves.
- A local warlord wants the base of operations the PCs are using and has enlisted a local wizard plus his crew to take it from the characters. He will not rest until it is his.
- A wizard has taken a shine to the lair and plans to exterminate every person in the place. He already has invisible, eye-like creatures looking the place over.
- The spirits of those murdered on the property are looking to add a few more to their roster of violence, and your PCs are on the menu.
- There are 1d10 giant mutant mole monsters planning to undermine the property’s foundation because the aura of violence and horror attracts them as mating calls. They are dangerous and difficult to harm, as they are originally from the elemental plane of earth.
- Demons once were summoned here, and a pinhole to Hell is still open to them. They will vomit forth onto the property and plan to take the souls of anyone they encounter back to Hell.
- There are vibrations that attract the attention of a local cult of evil that wants to murder and claim the souls of all those who live on the property. There will be no mercy, and half of the cult members are already free-willed and dangerous zombie things. They will stop at nothing to kill everyone they meet.
- A primeval treasure calls out to a group of ancient evil sorcerers who wish to claim its magical legacy. The PCs’ home lies on top of it, and the sorcerers are already using its evil to cause nightmare demons to plague certain individuals living there.
- A spirit of vengeance and violence wants to claim a treasure that has been secreted in the walls of the PCs’ base. Its minions are already watching and waiting to rain down horror on the occupants. A ley line of evil has been manifesting slowly around the property.
- The ghost of one adventurer’s enemy wants vengeance and seeks to cause wreck and ruin on the property. He has enlisted 1d8 ghostly henchmen to help him. The group must defeat these horrors to free their base from his evil influence.
- 1d10 ancient kings lie buried under the property, and a family of criminals and thieves wishes the return of their ancestral lair. They will stop at nothing to cause ruin to the current occupants.
- A wizard seeks a set of Lovecraftian relics and treasures secreted someplace on the property. He will stop at nothing to recover these objects.
- A mad scientist seeks the dimensional doorway that lies on the ley lines of the property. His weird mutant minions are stalking the adventurers even in their home.
- The site was once a brothel. The madam’s treasure was secreted in a hidden ancient vault, and now her murderous family seeks their legacy and right.
- There are ancient monstrous kings who sleep below the water table on the property. Should they wake, they will tear holes in space and time to let their Lovecraftian masters return. A cult wishes to sacrifice the heroes who live there now.
- Extra-dimensional energies are centered on the property and attract weird aliens and other dimensional raiders. They will stop at nothing to eat or absorb those who live on the property because of their exposure to these weird radiations.
- The property was the home of a witch who still lives in a forgotten dimensional warp. She plots to kill the current owners and the neighbors to eat their souls. Her rat-like minions are already prowling the neighborhood.
- A group of 1d20 shape-changing alien androids is looking to exploit the property as a beachhead for an alien invasion. They seek three keys that are part of a treasure hidden someplace on the property.
- Someplace in the forgotten vault of the property is the resting place of a Star Spawn of Cthulhu that an ancient wizard tried to awaken eons past. But the thing’s dreams warn of its awakening soon, when the stars are right.
- Your adventurers’ other-dimensional doppelgangers want to murder them and take over their lives for evil. They come from a post-apocalyptic hell zone, and death is preferable to living the lie of knowing the PCs exist. They will stop at nothing to accomplish their mission.
Twenty Home Base Secrets
From Eric Fabiaschi
Places are like people – they develop and have secrets over the years, and even moreso for PCs’ lairs. These are places of legend and myth where time, mystery, and history collide in a dance of fate and weirdness. Here are secrets that bind PCs to their lairs, bases, hideaways, and other residences, that may help or hinder them.
- A series of ritualistic murders took place on the property and has imbued the place with an aura of tragedy and sadness.
- A mad scientist used the place for bizarre, cutting-edge science experiments. Legend states the place holds his toxic remains.
- An ancient psychotic killer operated on the property for generations and may have left his victims’ corpses behind.
- Generations of cultists practiced black occult rites and rituals on the property. There are signs and symbols of sinister aspect still etched on certain stones around the place.
- A demon has been bound upon a rock on the property. His aura protects those that live there, but it imbues the place with an occult aspect.
- An ancient weird magick has tainted the property, and those born or raised here are under the shadow of a cursed existence.
- A rock with an ancient blood curse has been buried here along with the corpses of those who gave their lives to secure its weird legacy of horror.
- Twelve spirits of ancient wise men have been bound to the structures on the property, and their spirits haunt the worlds of the living and the dead tethered to this place’s afterlife.
- A set of thirty-two stone relics in the form of demons stare out into the abyss. Their aura of hate and rage protects those who live here. Who did this is unknown.
- A gold crown belonging to one of the twenty kings of Hell has been secreted on this property along with his accursed treasure, but its powers are unknown.
- The bones of a barbarian warlord have been entombed in the old foundations of a former place of worship before the current one was built. His spirit haunts this place, slaying those who trespass here.
- The crucified remains of thirty-five prisoners dwell in the woodlands surrounding this place. They’re ghosts bound to a hidden treasure.
- The mark of the beasts of Hell has twisted the trees and rocks into odd and disturbing shapes that spell out the name of a major demon lord.
- The chests of twelve ancient wizard kings are buried someplace nearby, and only a battered and broken ancient brass cup holds the clues to this place.
- A circle of power and sacrifice has been secreted here. It holds the lines of power and magick for a tribe of ancient aspect. A forbidden magical power courses through the place and calls down horrid weather and weird light shows upon the property. Perhaps a wizard or magus can tap into it.
- This property sits between two dangerous, other-dimensional locations. It attracts the attention of weird and dangerous fairy powers and Lovecraftian horrors from beyond.
- There are eighty-six standing stones on the property that boast a dimensional gateway to another world. Alien life forms watch from beyond with malicious intent upon their minds.
- The treasures of the twelve fairy tribes are secreted upon the property, and a treasure hunter wants to find them before the owners find out.
- A sword of dangerous and magical aspect has been secreted on the property. Its knightly owner’s ghost watches over it. Pity the fool who finds the weapon, for a bound demon owns the blade and wishes to send its next victim to Hell in a wave of violence and bloodshed.
- The property holds portals to other dimensions and alternative Earths. Visitors from those places use these gateways to visit your world. They will try to replace their doubles and take over your party’s lives.