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    Default Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    With my next campaign I want to do something more open ended with a focus on discovering dungeons in the wilderness and exploring them. For that I want adventures to consist of a small wilderness map with a main settlement at the center where the party can set up its base for the adventuring season from which they set out on their expeditions into the surrounding countryside.

    I'd like the town to become an actual place that the players get familar with and not just some kind of adventure selection screen. Any ideas on how to pull that off and how to design a town for that purpose?

    Since I am using an oldschool D&D system, characters get most of their XP from finding and succesfully retrieving treasures. Treasure can still be stolen and is counted at the end of the adventure, which I think should be a lot more interesting if this means returning back to civilization (the town) and not just leaving the ruin/cave/lair. I think this might motivate players to return back to the town frequently to cash in their loot for XP.

    What else should a place have to make players want to visit regularly and get to know the people?
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    ...What prevents the players from pulling a Fallout and selling the treasure only to steal it all back again and flee to a different town? I mean, people might get the wrong idea, so I'd lay it down that the campaign is centered on this particular place.

    Do the players write backstories? Allow them some bits to flesh out. A tavern, a shrine, etc.

    Else, give them a reason to WANT to return rather then steal anything not nailed down. Give them things to do there, and ways to interact with people other then them gawking at the outsiders. If the town is too static, there's little interest. The town doesn't need to be entirely under the sway of the PCs, but having a few junctures they can try to influence things would be quite beneficial.

    Maybe the leader of the town recently caught a particularly nasty case of death. There are three replacements ready to spring into action and try to claim the spot. A corrupt but charming man with connections to other regions and places, who might or might not bend the rules in favor of the PCs. The second is a competent warrior woman who is very strict, but fair. With her in charge, the town will be safe if a little more dull and harder to get away with things. The third choice is a religious person, who might offer blessings at a discount should they get into power.

    If that doesn't work, have a competing town that this town hates and wouldn't mind seeing being eradicated from the map. This rival town stole things from the PCs. Helping the town would greatly annoy the rivals, and give them a way to eventually destroy that town.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    While looking around for what people have written about famous towns like Hommlet and the Keep on the Borderlands, I came across the interesting statement that Hommlet has a history related to the locations that surround it. Which really sounds like a good idea. That way the players can learn useful information about what might be awaiting them if they go to a dungeon. And when they find things on their explorations they have some context that can help them interpret the clues they come across.

    Getting the players to learn about these things from the locals is another question though.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    I like to put in dynamic NPCs. I give them each individual personalities and backstories and schedules for what they could be doing each day, so they're not just "the innkeep" or the "tavern wench". I add rumors about them to be discovered, and tie them in to small or short sidequests or mini stories that play out between adventures, even when the PCs don't get personally involved. They're people, who have their own lives and don't exist as beer dispensers/junk vendors/signposts. Believable NPCs can make a small setting infinitely more engaging.

    It also helps the players get more attached to the NPCs they interact with, and by extension the village they all live in.

    But that's just my approach, and is a bunch of extra work. Start small, with four or five important figures your PCs will interact with frequently. Give them a few different places the PCs can find them so they at least seem to have their own lives outside of waiting for the players. Decide in advance how these NPCs feel about each other. That kind of thing. You can always expand on all that later if you like or leave it simple.

    If you already do some or all of that, then disregard this post. But I find dynamic NPCs are one of the first ways to make small settings more engaging.

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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Hm, an interesting idea. Probably should make the village a lot more interesting if the players want to go to some kind of store but the owner is not currently standing behind the counter waiting for customers. Could be closed and they have to come back later, or an assistant tells them where to find him if they have urgent business.

    One interesting non-game adventure village is the one from Yojimbo. The hero is just passing through and the locals don't ask him to help them with their gang problem. Instead they tell him to just leave quickly. But he stays, observes, and then gets involved on his own initiative. Having sights that make the players curious and start digging on their own could be really neat.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Hmmmm... In the campaign I'm planning I have a similar situation. (Nature of The Beast. A loooooonnng project, mainly due to me having little time to work on it). Some of my thoughts on the matter:

    1- What is the purpose of this base camp? From campaign planning perspective, but also from the players' perspective? Your campaign seem to focus on exploration, yet with intervals at the town, if I understand from the previous "Winter camp" thread? (I read it, but forgot to contribute). The thing is, if you're trying to make the base town very engaging, you're risking dividing the attention of the party.

    I'll explain a bit- Before the current project, my gaming group conquered an enemy outpost, and with the help of their benefactor started converting it into a town and frontier outpost. But they were also expected to search the wastes for a secret enemy base. Now, this became a big problem- Two of the players got really invested in the town, making new organizations, ensuring it's safety, and so on (NOT talking about Kingmaker or mechanical aspects, nearly entirely roleplay!), while two really wanted to get out and start killing/ looting stuff!

    This became a major point of dissatisfaction for the to sides, and some sessions were spent mostly in the town, while others were spent mostly at the outside, yet it was felt that at each point about half the group was also edging to get to the other part.

    So, you'll need to think well and hard on the focus and time distribution of the campaign, and possibly set expectations with the group. Still, you might find the group/ certain players prefer to focus on exploration of the map and advneture sites, while others will focus on the town.

    2- How "safe" is the town? Have you read a bit about the "West Marches" project? Quite an intriguing read. It also focuses on sandboxy exploration, but part of the design is that the base camp is totally safe, the adventurers can recuperate, rest, and not worry. No matter if they angered the gnoll tribe, killed the dragon's babies, or awoken a lich, once they are in town- they are safe.

    In my campaign, one of the opposing factions specifically targets people form the town. (Usually for transformation into lycans), and if the PCs messes some of the wild factions, the town can easily be attacked. And that's saying nothing about schemes within the town itself. Yet... it got me thinking- say the players realize their town isn't that safe, or that NPCs they like/ get attached to, can be hurt? Will the players be ready to leave on long explorations? Or will they fortify in the town, seeking to defend it?

    Or... if in the Diablo games, the town could come under attack, would the protagonist ever leave? Or stay to defend it?

    I quite liked the "winter camp" idea, specifically for this, and I may burrow it for my campaign- Basically in "winter time", I expect (And wil ltalk with my players about it beforehand), the party may spend and interact in the town stuff, yet when the weather permits (Sunny season?), they are also expected to "seek out new life forms, and new civilizations... and to boldly go, where no man..." (You get the idea).

    Not sure it will work though... Players can get really attached, and in a sandboxish game, it's kinda hard saying "But there is SOOOOO much to explore out there!"

    3- Ok, abut making a town interesting. I got a few ideas:
    a) Involvement:
    In my campaign, the party will all get a significant primer on the town, and are expected to make most of the characters FROM the town, and having lived in it. Also, they will get a certain number of "contact points", which they can use to form contacts, either from the exisitng NPCS (When more influence or greater familiarity costs more contact points), or NPCs they create!
    b) Their own touch:
    Enable them to create small things about the place- An NPC or more, some building, some group, or such. Starting minor, but enabling them to become more major in the future possibly. All in cooperation with you.
    c) Factions!
    Players for some reason really like to get into factions/ groups, and gain status/ membership privliges and so on... D&D has some rules for this (Tough they are fairly lame I think), but you can easily make your own- Membership in an elite part of the guard, Membership in one of the temples, and so on...
    d) Town conflicts!
    Not threats from outside forces, but rather inside competition (And please, to make it interesting- DON'T make one side obviously better/ morally right)- Politics between guilds, nobles, a new religion setting up base, a conflict between some farmers and the land lord, and more.
    e) Secrets!
    Have you played Baldur's gate 2? (Shadows of Amn I think it was called?) The home base for most of the game was great at this- it had soooo many secrets to find in it! Secrets to places (A hidden celler, a hidden dungeon, a hidden... portal?), Secrets of people (A forbidden love, a shame well hidden, a chanegling/ doppleganger? The secret for Mary's SUPER DELICIOUS pie?), Secret History (This is not the first time this town stood here. And no, we didn't really conquer the goblins who've been here before...).
    f) Interesting NPCs!
    Forget the dwarven blacksmith. Instead making it a mute centaur blacksmith, who communicates via a blackboard, and clanging it's hammer percisely.
    Or a trio of gnome shop keepers, helped by their erratic familiars?
    Or a temple ran by the ghost of the old priest, which still seeks to lead his flock?
    Or instead of the manor lord, the place is run by tow witch sisters, who's combined powers keep the dark forest at bay... for now?
    g) Interesting themes!
    The town isn't just "Generic village who happens to have all utilities for adventurers", but it has some hostory and special themes.
    Is is situated at the side of a cliff, givign the town a height dimension?
    Does it have a population of two races, some of which are mainly nocturnal, which makes the town change it's nature at night? (Give the phrase "the town that never sleep" a whole new meaning)
    Does the town need to pay a monthly tribute to the 3 fey spirits which protect it (Or "protect" it?)
    Is the town situated in a specific valley with unique accoustics, and has a special arena for musical performances?
    Is the town cursed, for the sins of those who first conquered it? Do it's streets wail at night?
    Was the town a former home for giant kin? DO majestic and huge buildings, with undeciperable writing, still exist?
    h) One town, different sections!
    Many interesting town have several sections/ parts/ districts- Market, slums, rich area, and so on (Usually with -2 creep places, such as necropolis, blasted magic zone and so on). The town need not be very big for this, and it also enables the players like some places more and some less, but still be in the town.
    i) Change!
    Have the town somewhat change as the game progress. From small changes (A wedding, a new business springs up, a funeral, a festivity) to big changes (Change of leadership, new fortifications/ major buildings, upscaling/ downscaling in size). It makes the place feel alive.

    Anyway, just some ideas. Good luck!
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Yes, this question is further research in developing my expedition campaign concept.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kol Korran View Post
    1- What is the purpose of this base camp? From campaign planning perspective, but also from the players' perspective? [...] The thing is, if you're trying to make the base town very engaging, you're risking dividing the attention of the party.
    This raises a very good point. My idea is for an exploration focused campaign visitng different parts of the world, which is why I went with the tame "base camp" over "home" or something of that kind. The party arrives in the spring, spends the summer digging through the various ruins and caves in the area, and then either spends the winter with new local friends they made or returning to whatever place they consider home.

    I guess for this purpose a village should feel "nice", but not actually too exciting. A bit "pleasantly boring" might be a good aim. It's a place for the party to recover after an adventure, replace losses in gear and hirelings, freshen up on information, and then resupply for the next one. I never really have dealt with this before, but I think "downtime" might be a quite fitting description of what I have in mind for villages.

    2- How "safe" is the town? Have you read a bit about the "West Marches" project? Quite an intriguing read. It also focuses on sandboxy exploration, but part of the design is that the base camp is totally safe, the adventurers can recuperate, rest, and not worry. No matter if they angered the gnoll tribe, killed the dragon's babies, or awoken a lich, once they are in town- they are safe.

    [...]

    I quite liked the "winter camp" idea, specifically for this, and I may burrow it for my campaign- Basically in "winter time", I expect (And wil ltalk with my players about it beforehand), the party may spend and interact in the town stuff, yet when the weather permits (Sunny season?), they are also expected to "seek out new life forms, and new civilizations... and to boldly go, where no man..." (You get the idea).
    West marches is certainly an influence for my adventure design. And the idea that no adventures are happening in the town is something I consider to be very good advice for an exploration focused adventure. The exception I am making here is the idea of winter adventures that are happening during the winter break while the weather makes wilderness exploration impractical.

    Considering the safety of the town sounds like a really good idea to me. If the players are supposed to go exploring, they must not get the feeling that the town needs them. So I think it should be mostly well secured. (Which also suits my approach to PCs, which isn't players playing superheroes but relatively average people who go to exotic places.) But what I think you can do is to use the village to give the players hooks to seek out specific places in the surrounding wilderness. Locals can be in need of help, but whatever needs to be done to help would have to take place outside of the village.

    A good idea might be to make these hooks somewhat hidden so that the players only discover them when they are looking for them. And then they should only lead them to places that they can explore anway. I'd avoid obvious quest givers who approach the party as that reinforces a quest mentality, which you don't want in a campaign that is meant to be player driven.

    One thing that I do to let the players know that they are supposed to go exploring is to simply outright tell them. At characer creation I tell the players that they can make the characters they want with the two conditions that their characters have to want to be part of the team (too often players forget that a cool loner doesn't really fit into a group based game) and that their characters have to be excited about exploring ruins and discovering ancient secrets. If someone really has no interest in ruins and wants to play urban adventures, that's the chance to jump ship.

    f) Interesting NPCs!
    Forget the dwarven blacksmith. Instead making it a mute centaur blacksmith, who communicates via a blackboard, and clanging it's hammer percisely.
    Or a trio of gnome shop keepers, helped by their erratic familiars?
    Or a temple ran by the ghost of the old priest, which still seeks to lead his flock?
    Or instead of the manor lord, the place is run by tow witch sisters, who's combined powers keep the dark forest at bay... for now?
    Okay, that just is a neat and cool idea. Probably wouldn't get that extreme, but making the major NPCs immediately stand out and memorable should help a great deal to get the players to remember that the village is populated by actual people they have repeated interactions with.

    g) Interesting themes!
    The town isn't just "Generic village who happens to have all utilities for adventurers", but it has some hostory and special themes.
    Is is situated at the side of a cliff, givign the town a height dimension?
    Does it have a population of two races, some of which are mainly nocturnal, which makes the town change it's nature at night? (Give the phrase "the town that never sleep" a whole new meaning)
    Was the town a former home for giant kin? DO majestic and huge buildings, with undeciperable writing, still exist?
    Most town I've seen in published material are really extremely generic, but making them distinctive sounds great. Just as with NPCs, making things stand out should do a great deal to help players remember that place and make it much more to them just "the village next to Dungeon X".
    Also a great opportunity to show off how the setting of the campaign differs from generic fantasy worlds, if it does.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Depending upon the setting, if you can get your hands on the Village of Hommlet or Against the Cult of the Reptile God, that's apparently a great resource, whether to take as inspiration or lift chunks out of and use directly. Or at least Matt Colville seemed to like those as resources, and he seems to know his kit.

    What else should a place have to make players want to visit regularly and get to know the people?
    Hmm. Fleshed out NPCs that have some hook that gets the PCs interested in them or that gets the PCs interested when the NPC approaches them.

    Encouraging players to build PCs that would have aspirations to be more than murderhobos should help too. NPCs that either have ties to the PCs' backstories or that would be of interest to a PC or some subset of them because of who the PC is and who the NPC is.

    All a bit vague though, sorry.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post

    What else should a place have to make players want to visit regularly and get to know the people?
    The basic make interesting NPCs, of course. But the real trick is if you want the town to be an adventure equal to the wilderness. If yes, just make town adventures, if no, then don't.

    A great hook is greed. Just about all players fall for this one. Something like ''someone in town has magic item X'' (whatever you'd know the players will love), and the character will need to figure out the ''who and where''.

    Or the Archmage, Princess, infamous criminal or such is rumored to live in the town....but no one knows who.

    And a really great hook is the fantasy stuff that goes above and beyond like :

    -The Running Wizardess--this 'ghost' only shows up at nights, 'sometimes' and runs through town, and 'sometimes' she drops a real scroll, with a spell on it.

    -The Boost-an unseen spell effect wanders the town and sometimes casts itself on folks....

    -A wandering gate

    The idea is to give them a reason to go to the town, but not overy ''adventure'' the hook. So they won't go all adventure to catch the ghost, but will try and buy a dropped scroll.

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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Or the Archmage, Princess, infamous criminal or such is rumored to live in the town....but no one knows who.

    -The Running Wizardess--this 'ghost' only shows up at nights, 'sometimes' and runs through town, and 'sometimes' she drops a real scroll, with a spell on it.
    This should also work if you make these as hooks that lure players out into the wilderness to search ruins. Someone is making regular trips from the town to the wilderness and the best way for players to investigate is to search the places they go to rather than to comb through the town. A bit asking around for clues in town first, but then those all lead to a hidden place in the wilds.

    That could work really well for me.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    There's also some stuff you can do spatial design wise. Have a central square that is the focus of village life. When the characters don't know what to do, going there is always an option. There will usually be some sort of hint or plot hook available. Enhance that feeling by placing events in the square, like a small weekly market that occasionally hosts traveling traders, and maybe a spring festival or even a celebration of their adventuring heroes occasionally. This is also a good place for a store that let's them stock up on basic essentials (the market is more fun to role play, but the players might not like it and even abandon their base if you leave out too much of the regular luxuries) and of course a bar, although deliberately placing those elsewhere in town gives you the advantage of making the town feel like a bigger place (even if it is only a few dozen houses you can still have the "church"/"town hall" square and one or more short streets starting of from there), and will give you more settings for springing stuff on your PC's.

    It's also good if the town has some form of defenses. A small wall and some guards. The PC's are safe there, at least from small nuisances. And defending the village in a larger battle can help give the town a place in their hearts.

    Finally a lot of towns worth visiting are on some sort of route or even a crossroad. Maybe the town sits on the bank of a river running from an important city to a harbor town on the coast, near a bridge or shallow crossing which in turn is part of a road crossing the jungle in the other direction, connecting several tiny jungle settlements to the main town and, if you travel far enough, the outside world. This gives the adventurers easy access to adventures, and gives adventures a good excuse to find them. That wizard that has already been robbed by goblins ones while trying to cross the swamp is not going to spend a lot of time sight seeing, being the most decent sized town around on the route to everywhere helps in getting stuff to happen there.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    What else should a place have to make players want to visit regularly and get to know the people?
    Start first with a tavern that gives a serious discount . 1 gold piece for say a weeks bed and breakfast .

    A temple that heals for a reasonable fee say 100 or even 200 per level raise dead fees ?

    Make your hub town more Barbaric and have some sort of fighting pit or arena with prizes . Players can take part and not even leave the town .

    Have the players take part in some sort of competition and the win a house as a prize . Players love playing house in down time mode . Pull off a home schematic off the net and give it as a handout. dont just say you won a house , give em a house map.

    Have them join some sort of town faction eg. Militia , gang , merc unit or heck adventurer guild .

    Quirky or strange but interesting NPC characters are excellent and keeps em rooted . I am sure some sort of "Princess Zelda" in distress npc helps . Everyone wants to be Link .

    Last but nasty idea . Remember this is one for all and all for one . Start fishing with "relationship" bait .
    One player falls in love and "marrys" , DM owns him . "Wifu" does not want to move to another town . Player is stuck which means all his buddies are stuck too .

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    d6 Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Make them an unofficial protecterror of the town.

    The first set of bad guys comes out of the town well that is lower than normal. nobody knew there were tunnels at the bottom. put in a stone ladder to get down that has been there forever it seems no one knew why.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    This isn't something that will be hidden from the PCS, so you can actually get help from the players. Ask them what such a town should include.

    Nearby there should be a population increase providing pressure to expand, and farmers who will work land once the PCs make it safe.

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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    I know it's thread advertisement, but I think this thread(which is in its infancy) could help you come up with some neat places in town, and could benefit from anything you do come up with that you think might fit!

    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...uick-reference

    I know some of you will frown on this, but it's kind of what the thread is there for so I figured I might try and get it a little traction.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    If it were me, I'd have the town live and breathe and grow independently of the PCs.

    That's not to say they can't interact and make changes, but the town shouldn't just stop when the PCs aren't there. While they're off adventuring, they should be left wondering what will change this time:

    • When they left to go adventuring, wealthy Old Man McCreedy was very ill with a fever. Will he still be alive when they get back? If he's died, will his heirs be able to settle his estate between them or will they be engaged in a bitter feud by the time the PCs come back?
    • Their favourite bar was struggling, but the owner won't accept any cash from he PCs to help because she's too proud. Will it still be open when they get back?
    • The stableboy who looks after their horses was about to ask out the person he has a massive crush on; how did things go? Or did he chicken out?
    • A neighbouring noble has been building up his forces during the spring; but what for? The party won't find out the answer until they come back. Hopefully the town won't belong to the noble when they come back...
    • There have been rumours of a war brewing far away. It won't touch the town, but there might be a sudden influx of refugees from far away. What are the PCs going to come back to?
    • Did the circus come through this year, was the tinker late on his rounds? Just little details that the PCs aren't there for, and they only hear about via gossip - how hard it was without salt or sharp knives 'til the tinker finally made it. Assuming he made it at all, since the bandits on the road are terrible.


    It doesn't have to all be big, world-altering things happening, because those are pretty rare. It can be as simple as inter-NPC relationships coming and going. A new shop opening, or an old one closing. Maybe someone dies, or there's a new arrival causing much comment. Or just a bunch of spurious rumours that have come to nothing while the PCs are away.

    I also like to have things going on that don't really relate to the PCs, and definitely can't be resolved by a couple of dice rolls. They can get involved if they want, but they don't have to; they're basically engaging with the world based upon what they want to do and interact with.

    This can be as simple as a poker game in the corner, where a couple of NPCs are chatting to each other about... nothing much. Local gossip. It can be the ongoing saga of someone about to take over their employers' business when said employer gets around to retiring/dying - the PCs can't really help the process, but they can provide support for the very nervous NPC who thinks they're going to screw everything up.

    There could be refugees, stranger or an ex-prisoner settling in to town and struggling since the locals don't like them. Lots of tensions flying around. The PCs could help if they wanted, but... no-one's asking them to and there's not really going to be a reward for them.
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    My advice? Step one, present the players with the given: There will be a town that will be your base of operations. You will have a place to stay there. Everything else that grows - or doesn't - in the town is on you.

    The players therefore know, upfront, that growing the town - or declining to do so - is on them. Great. Now you give them the tools to do so. Start with a couple of core NPCs that basically run the place - a mayor, a barkeep, the guy who runs the general store, etc. Each time the PCs return from a haul, these NPCs have a few suggestions. Build our town a wall. Find us some craftsmen or traders. Encourage the local noble to build a trade route by us. The PCs have the discretion to instruct these NPCs to do X, Y, Z, none of the above, or something completely different. This gets the players invested in the growth of the town, because it's growing as they desire. If they want to see it become a military outpost, it can be. If they want to see it become a hub of trade or crafts, it can be. And as the town develops, perhaps the NPCs in the town may give the PCs relevant information or quests. For example, if the town develops a massive magical library, perhaps the librarian might ask the PCs to retrieve famous texts.

    As the town grows, it draws the attention of other NPCs. The PCs have the discretion of inviting NPCs they meet in their travels to come to the town, or in encouraging visiting NPCs to stay around. When the players express interest in an NPC, you flesh that NPC out - make them into a person, give them a role in the town. If the PCs save a Kobold trapmaker in a dungeon and invite him to stay in town, he becomes the nutty but helpful engineer who reinforces the town's defenses. If they impress a merchant on one of their quests, he sends his son to open a branch of their trade company in town. And so forth. This gets the players invested in the NPCs, because they're basically choosing to populate the town with characters that interest them. One of the biggest problems is getting the players to like the NPCs in your game; by letting the PCs invite their favorite NPCs to become townspeople, you bypass this problem neatly. This also gives you the opportunity to create plot hooks that will matter to the players, because they're coming from NPCs the players already like.

    When the players are invested in both the growth of the town and the NPCs in the town, they'll be more willing to spend time there, visit their "friends," and see how development is moving along. It will still have some shades of the "adventure selection screen," but it will also be populated with characters and places of interest to the players. As mentioned, one of the hardest things is getting the players interested in the "furniture" that makes up your world - but if they choose how they want the world furnished, you'll know that what's there will interest them.
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  18. - Top - End - #18
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Quote Originally Posted by Aneurin View Post
    It doesn't have to all be big, world-altering things happening, because those are pretty rare. It can be as simple as inter-NPC relationships coming and going. A new shop opening, or an old one closing. Maybe someone dies, or there's a new arrival causing much comment. Or just a bunch of spurious rumours that have come to nothing while the PCs are away.
    I'd probably keep it entirely to things that are effectively irrelevant in the long run. Seeing that some of the choices they made during their adventures become reflected in minor cosmetic elements in the town is certainly a nice touch. But give the players the ability to directly affect big changes and then the campaign may very well become about the town, not about ecpeditions to ruins and caves.

    I like the old West Marches paradigm that there are no adventures found in towns.
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  19. - Top - End - #19
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Fel View Post
    The PCs have the discretion of inviting NPCs they meet in their travels to come to the town, or in encouraging visiting NPCs to stay around. When the players express interest in an NPC, you flesh that NPC out - make them into a person, give them a role in the town. If the PCs save a Kobold trapmaker in a dungeon and invite him to stay in town, he becomes the nutty but helpful engineer who reinforces the town's defenses. If they impress a merchant on one of their quests, he sends his son to open a branch of their trade company in town. And so forth. This gets the players invested in the NPCs, because they're basically choosing to populate the town with characters that interest them.
    You said it better than I could.

    As for the issue of "how safe are the PCs from outside threats in town" and "how safe is the town from outside threats?"

    Make them safe. Very safe. Safe, because of isolation.
    • Make it so that getting from town to 'wilderness' requires walking through a secret passageway through a mountain.
    • The town is surrounded by a moat, connected to a terrible swamp.
    • The town is in the Underdark, in a place relatively isolated from Drow and Illithid intrigue.
    • The town is in an almost bottomless pit, with one safe way to drop or climb down.
    • The town is on top of a massive plateau or on the branch of an enormous tree, requiring climbing a 1,000ft ladder.
    • The 'town' is a massive cathedral from an older era, build into a mountain. You can only get there by being flown by giant eagles, dire bats or gargoyles.
    • If the party is high level, put the town in a private demiplane.

    This way, the town is safe without having to stock it with powerful NPC guardsmen. Also, it makes sense that a frontier town would be built in a secure location. Lastly, it gives a definite sense of 'venturing into the untamed unknown' as you cross the threshold to adventure.

    Also, notice how the real protection is that the town is secret? When you want intrigue, develop ways that enemies try to find the secret entrance to the town.

    Lastly, this doesn't mean the town or PCs in the town are automatically safe. Sometimes the most devastating losses can come from internal betrayal. Not all NPCs you rescue in the wilderness will ultimately repay the favor.

    If you can't tell, I want your town to be like a Dark Souls home base.
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  20. - Top - End - #20
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    I ran one of these for the past year. It helps if the first two shop encounters are named NPCs with problems or secrets. Or without problems yet. They'll have problems eventually. The town guard could have distinctive features, if the players ever meet them you should be sure to mention if they ever see them on patrol. The Barkeep in the game I ran was a major character (make sure it's someone you have fun playing if you do this).

    For us, we started each session with The Rumor Mill: various plot hooks, rumors about new arrivals, disappearances, new items for sale, happenings in the frontiers, books published on ancient sites and what not. Usually they also included a name of the person they came from, to make sure A: the name gets repeated enough to be remembered and B: they have an easy in to get more information if the players don't want to charge right in (woe be unto them that do).

    If they encounter NPCs outside of town, having them show up in town again helps them have a bit of known history about them.

    Also, ask them if there is any particular reason the characters chose to come here of all places (encourage quick thinking and making things up on the spot and you could get a very interesting town).

    I took everything they said or assumed about the town and ran with it, or made sure that it was another level or two more complicated. Even the jokes came back again after a couple sessions in a way that was either incredibly tragic or highly amusing.

    Having a couple interesting NPCs loitering in various areas that are useful to them could help them be noticed as well.

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    I'd probably keep it entirely to things that are effectively irrelevant in the long run. Seeing that some of the choices they made during their adventures become reflected in minor cosmetic elements in the town is certainly a nice touch. But give the players the ability to directly affect big changes and then the campaign may very well become about the town, not about ecpeditions to ruins and caves.

    I like the old West Marches paradigm that there are no adventures found in towns.
    That's pretty much what I was suggesting (albiet, apparently, rather unclearly); the PCs can't generally effect large-scale and long-term changes on the town, but things are happening behind the scenes. Or even during the scenes.

    They can't cure Old Man McCreedy. And unless one of the PCs has training as a lawyer, they're probably not going to be able to resolve a dispute over his will.

    They can't stop an outbreak of plague ravaging the town while they're off adventuring in the wilderness.

    They can't stop Lord Thingy raising levies. They can't prevent what he'll do with them. They can't stop him taking over the town while they're off adventuring; they can't stop the King from giving protectorship of the town to Lord Thingy as thanks for driving off the rampaging orcs, or wiping out the rebels/bandits plaguing the road or whatever.

    They can't stop the mill from burning down; heck, it's going to barely effect them since they're rich. But the NPCs will struggle without the ability to grind flour, and there'll be a bread shortage through the winter.

    But what they can do is spread some cash around to help the locals with the new taxes. They can care that Old Man McCreedy's dying, and maybe fulfil a last request - or even just leave flowers on his grave. They can (maybe) stop McCreedy's heirs from murdering each other after he dies. They can pitch in and help build the new mill, or help with the extortionate prices the traders are charging for flour and other milled goods. Or they could get a monopoly on milled goods and make a fortune depending on how altruistic they are.


    My suggestion was less to give the PCs 'quests' during their down time, and more to show them that the world keeps moving even when they're not looking at something. They can't just leave town and expect to come back to things exactly the way they were. Things are happening that don't involve them. Not that they can't get involved, but that they can't make the focus themselves.

    Maybe your players will hate it, I don't know. I don't know your group. Maybe they won't care; but it's what I do with my group and it seems to work for us. The world changes, and the NPCs change with it all on their own.
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  22. - Top - End - #22
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    But why can't they try to protect the village and save people? What it stopping the players from saying that they won't be going to the dungeon and instead go on a quest to find the source of a plague or kill the leader of roaming bandits? If it's there and looks like a plot hook, players are probably going to want pursue some of them.

    If the players are not supposed to pursue such quests than I wouldn't be dangling them in front of their faces. Players should feel like they are chosing their adventures and when you want them to mostly explore ruins then the ruins have to be interesting and inviting investigation and the town does not.

    Though I admit that when you make a town somewhat boring on purpose, there's the question of why developing a well made town in the first place? Possibly the things that people liked about Hommlet and the Keep on the Borderlands are not really things that are that useful for the adventures I want to run. Maybe what I need is really more of a cozy save room and equipment selection screen that comes in the guise of a village?
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  23. - Top - End - #23
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Get hold of the Thunder Rift supplement for BECMI/RC. It is exactly the sort of thing you're looking for. A smallish valley with a couple of towns, one detailed enough to serve as a base of operations. Briefly described but engaging NPCs and a ton of hooks and adventures within walking distance. You can go on adventure outside the town in the morning and come back in the evening. A few published adventures for the place exist (of varying quality).

    Half of the PCs in my group decided to settle down in the main town again after traipsing across the continent, and they all fell in love with a couple of the NPCs.

  24. - Top - End - #24
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    There will be a town that will be your base of operations. You will have a place to stay there. Everything else that grows - or doesn't - in the town is on you.
    Yay free castle .

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Though I admit that when you make a town somewhat boring on purpose, there's the question of why developing a well made town in the first place? Possibly the things that people liked about Hommlet and the Keep on the Borderlands are not really things that are that useful for the adventures I want to run. Maybe what I need is really more of a cozy save room and equipment selection screen that comes in the guise of a village?
    Quick disclaimer; I've never played Hommlet or Keep on the Borderlands of those, and frankly know nothing about them. I also run and play systems that encourage a very different mindset during play than D&D tends to (those are D&D modules, right?).

    But I'm a little hazy on why you want the town to be boring. Especially when I thought you wanted it to be interesting so the PCs would keep going back?

    But why can't they try to protect the village and save people?
    I don't know. Why don't you want them to?

    What it stopping the players from saying that they won't be going to the dungeon and instead go on a quest to find the source of a plague
    The fact that doing so would be incredibly stupid and pointless? Since it may well have started hundreds, or thousands, of miles away when someone burnt down someone else's city and all the rats ran away - now, hundreds of thousands of deaths later it's swept through the PCs' new home when they weren't there because they were adventuring.

    What would they even expect to achieve? The plague's already been and gone, the only people around still likely to be vulnerable to it are them.

    or kill the leader of roaming bandits? If it's there and looks like a plot hook, players are probably going to want pursue some of them.
    Because they're not threatening the town, and they're not close by, they're just inconveniencing it a bit. Because there'll be another leader soon enough. The PCs would have to find and wipe out virtually all of the bandits, and there's going to be enough that no-one else - e.g. local lords, and town guards - haven't done anything about them yet.

    Or, heck, maybe they're lairing in a set of ruins and you've got them back on track.

    If the players are not supposed to pursue such quests than I wouldn't be dangling them in front of their faces. Players should feel like they are chosing their adventures and when you want them to mostly explore ruins then the ruins have to be interesting and inviting investigation and the town does not.
    Okay. Well, if you really think they're going to ignore the ruin-delving adventure they have, presumably, agreed to play given an opportunity... the things I suggested are generally pretty light on the players' ability to directly interact with them. If you think the examples don't work, well, don't use them.
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  26. - Top - End - #26
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Making a good town to be used as a base camp

    Possibly the things that people liked about Hommlet and the Keep on the Borderlands are not really things that are that useful for the adventures I want to run.
    I think that borderlands keep is a pretty vague castle plan .

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