Character Home Bases Part I: 6 Tips
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0757
The Hobos of the Apocalypse (formerly The Murder Hobos now reborn as positive change agents) need and want a home base once they emerge from the bowels of the elemental dungeons they currently cleanse.
The problem is, they’ve got few stakes in the place I’ll design. The campaign started as a pre-gen playtest of D&D 5E and evolved from there.
Now I want them to care about the world and its peoples.
For me, this all starts with their home base. If they care about the people at home, then that will carry through to the rest of the milieu, which is in dire jeopardy due in part to Hobo gaffes.
Here are a few ways I’m considering to help the players care about home.
Offer & Choice
When the PCs emerge from dungeonville, the world will be different. It will be a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Demons and elementalists wage war, uncaring how it affects the land.
I plan to trigger an immediate encounter with a Good Faction. They’ll be waiting and hoping for the Hobos to come back to the land. The region has been quarantined by the rest of the Realms, so no heroes of the PCs’ calibre have enlisted to help.
Fast forward a few encounters and the PCs will meet with the faction leader, who will offer them a home base and faction resources to help build it up. If the PCs agree, they can make strategic use of it.
It’s up to the PCs to choose. I will only make the offer. Through player choice, they will care.
Right now, I’m thinking this will manifest in the game as a request to clear out a dangerous 5RD in the middle of faction controlled territory. There will be an offer of keeping the place once it’s been cleansed.
In the over-crowded refugee tent city at faction HQ, several NPCs will offer to help. They’ll carry the PCs’ stuff, watch over their horses, and volunteer to set-up camp and help turn the now-cleansed 5RD into a community.
If the PCs accept, they’ll need to protect these people ongoing.
I’ll let the PCs drive here. But if it doesn’t come up, then the NPCs will offer various services to make the group’s life easier:
- Goods and services
- News and information
- Healing and spells
I’ll first have the NPCs ask, “What should we do?”
If I know my players, they’ll project manage this. But if they don’t, the NPCs will self-organize and start offering value to further tie the PCs to their home base and bond with it.
The best way to create a community in-game is to give it qualities and to make individuals known.
In other words, I’ll create three line NPCs and roleplay a lot with the players.
I’ll also have a few favourable qualities for the community emerge, like hard-working, honest, industrious.
As the PCs get to know the families they protect, the players will care a lot more.
A bit of competition gets people engaged. It definitely gets me engaged.
So I will form a rival community nearby whose nucleus is a former NPC enemy group, the Second Chancers.
I envision this community making progress, bragging about certain achievements, being a possible shrewd trading partner, and offering friendly rivalry through fests and gains.
Minor roleplaying plots can also help build the competition. For example, the rival community upstream might build a dam, or there might be boundary and border disputes.
The lion’s share of XP must lie outside the community.
All kinds of intra-home base 5RDs are possible. Perhaps there’s a secret adventure site discovered by digging farmers. Or perhaps the original 5RD of this place spawns a new 5RD or gets revivified by evil agents.
But in Season 3 the Hobos need to rid the land of the demons, the elementalists, or both.
Therefore, I will make sure most hooks lead to outside the community. But I will also tie stakes back to the community’s survival, at least at first. Instead of “defeat Orcus” at start it will be “Flying demons laired nearby prevent your farmers from breaking ground.”
It’s an exciting phase of the campaign. The PCs are too high level to find goblins and orcs amusing. The stakes need to be about more than just delve => kill => reward. Having a place to call home and to be responsible for guiding and nurturing it will then give me inroads to a future political side suitable for high level adventure hooks. We’ll see how it goes!