With the approach of Matt Colville’s Strongholds and Followers, I feel inclined to offer my own idea of a singular base of operations in which players may stash their gear, return to repair their equipment, and to rest in relative safety. From here our players may roam out in pursuit of wealth and glory, to return again and tend their wounds, study, and reflect upon their journey. In time, it may become too small for their needs, and they may wish to move on, or they may instead choose to build and expand.
This article is rules-light, but still utilises Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition as a reference point.
Not far along the road from the nearby town of Allblossom there stands an abandoned farm, hidden amid the fallow and overrun fields. No one claims the old stone building, and no one is willing to challenge a band of adventurers looking for a free roof, and a fireplace. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination for such a party to reimagine the place as a home.
House – The house is a fairly simple two-floor stone building with four bedrooms, two washrooms, a kitchen, living room, and dining room all as a sprawling open space, and a couple of separated store rooms. There are two fireplaces, one for warming, one for cooking, and the chimneys will require cleaning with proper tools, or the first fire will fill the building with smoke (Constitution save DC 12 or gain a level of exhaustion). There are two entrances, front and back, the locks on both are rusted and without keys (around 15 GP each). The building is in a state of general abandonment, furniture is collapsed, rotten, or moth eaten, the roof needs repair work (cost about 300 GP) that will prevent players gaining the benefits of a long rest on cold or wet nights. General repairs on the building will cost about 1000 GP, or the building will begin collapsing after about one year.
Stable – The stable has space for three horses, but will require cleaning first. Unless an hour is spent cleaning each stable, a horse staying their will grow ill, gaining a level of exhaustion each night. Two of the doors are in need of repair (about 20 GP each), and if a horse is left in either of those stables they may wander or be stolen after 2d6 weeks. Otherwise the stables are in good condition.
Barn – The barn has space for thirty large creatures, such as cows, or one hundred medium creatures, such as goats. It also has a hayloft filled with mouldering hay that will take about two hours of work to properly clean away. Alternatively it can be used as a multi-purpose space, such as a training room, or workshop. The barn is in general need of repair, costing about 250 GP, otherwise it will collapse in about two years, or one year if put to heavy use.
Tool Shed – Rusted ploughs, garden tools, shattered horse carts beyond repair, tools for cooping and repairing, all are beyond fixing themselves. However, there is a decent sized workbench that could be used to repair items with the right tools, and a miniature forge good for making nails, horseshoes, and tool heads like forks and spades. To be functional the forge will require a thorough clean and upkeep taking about four hours and 50 GP.
Grounds – There is a well that can still give good water once some of the debris has been cleared, taking about one hour of work. There are seven fields within the bounds of the farm, totalling about twenty acres, each overgrown with weeds. A player with experience of agriculture or proficiency in nature will know that it may take two months to clear all fields (assuming only one person works) and another week to prepare the soil to prepare a functioning farm.
Rats – A player (or players) cleaning the hayloft in the barn will be attacked by two diseased swarms of rats. The same is true in the fields, when a player walks across each field roll 3d6, and for each one or two, the players face an angry swarm of diseased rats.
Goblins – Led by a bullying bugbear, a pack of about twenty goblins lurks in the fields. Players may find evidence of their camp in the easternmost field (perception or investigation check DC 13), but the pack will attempt to stay out of sight. They won’t attack unless confronted, but if the players seem weak, or if they begin clearing fields, the pack will attack the farm in the night. Until then, if undetected, they will make efforts to steal food and money from the party.
Cat – A tortoise shell cat hunts rats on the property, and sleeps in the farmhouse. It can be brought around to liking the players with a DC 14 animal handling check and three days of acclimatising. After two failed attempts at befriending the cat, it will leave. The cat is not very healthy, and will require a DC 12 medicine check and about a month of food, and once healthy it will drive away rat infestations.
The Previous Occupants – A player may come to suspect a haunting in the building. Roll 1d6 each night the players stay in the farmhouse, on a one, roll on the following list:
1 – A floorboard creaks where there is no one stood.
2 – Lighting a fire requires several attempts, and the fire dies faster than normal.
3 – Someone appears to be walking through the fields outside, but no one can be seen on closer investigation.
4 – A random player awakens in the night for no apparent reason.
5 – An object falls in one of the storerooms.
6 – The cat – if present – suddenly bolts, not to be found until morning.
7 – A random player is convinced they saw movement in a room they entered, but cannot decide what caused it.
8 – A scratching sound persists in the ground floor all night.
The grounds can be fortified with gates and high walls, turning the farm into something like a defensible estate. Walls will cost about 80 GP for a moderate stone wall to encircle the buildings with a simple wooden gate, 250 GP for a solid wall with a heavier wooden gate. 250 GP to encircle the fields with moderate walls, and 1200 GP for the better stone walls.
While the party are away, the farm may be attacked. Roll 1d100, if you roll fewer than the number of nights the party spend away bandits will come looking for loot. For the bandits, roll 1d20, and they will successfully steal from the party on a result of 8. Add 2 if new locks are on the farmhouse. Add 1 for each wall built around the farm, 2 for better walls. Add 1 for every two members of staff you have, and another 5 if one or more of those staff is a guard.
Farmers might entreat the players for work, offering to oversee the grounds and produce food in exchange for pay. Some may ask for room and board in exchange for work, while others might be willing to travel. Other possible workers might include a stable hand, a smith, a groundskeeper, or servants. The grounds are substantial enough that another building could be constructed to house up to three additional people comfortably, the barn could be converted to house up to four, and the stables an additional two. The amount of money spent will determine the quality of living of each servant, around 750 GP per person for humble quarters, 2,000 GP for luxurious quarters.
The upkeep costs begin at 1 SP per day for the basic farmhouse, and increase up to 5 GP per day for a fully occupied and rebuilt estate. Scale the costs as appropriate.
I considered a few more ideas while composing this particular bolthole. Here are a couple in brief:
A former dragon lair, still littered with the massive bones. Vermin occupy the space, fed on dragon meat, and unnaturally strong, and there are still a handful of traps still functioning. There is still a surprising amount of gold littered about.
Once you evict the bandits inside, a riverside shelter has everything adventurers could want. Defensible exits, access to the water, hiding places for loot, and quiet places to sleep, and train.
A benevolent baron dislikes the dungeon that his predecessor left behind. If the party are willing to redecorate, he’d let them have the space in exchange for their continued service, repurpose the cells into rooms, turn the other… chambers into workshops and studies, make a home of it.
Unique features to add to a tavern, peculiar regulars, rumours about the publican, interesting menu items, or strange stories behind the signs that hang above the door. These taverns and inns can be dropped into most fantasy settings.
A religion, the god they worship, tenets they follow, holy symbol, and a typical sermon dedicated to that gods honour. How might being a part of the religion affect your paladin/cleric/other?
10 different firbolgs, as critical role has made the primal semi-giants popular, let’s explore diversity within the race with a few different characters, and how their heritage influences them.