How-To DM: Strongholds & Businesses

One of the cool things about tabletop games, especially with D&D, is the idea that, during the course of adventures, the party can acquire (and sometimes “acquire” if you catch my meaning…) various things that aren’t traditionally considered treasure.

What am I talking about?

I’m talking about businesses and strongholds.

Maybe the king granted the party lands and titles in service for their deeds. Maybe they cleared out a ghost ship and now want to run a passenger or merchant business. Maybe they got given the deed to a supposedly haunted tavern as a reward for returning a kidnapped companion. Or maybe, just maybe, their uncle died and left them his keep if they can just clear it of the hobgoblins that took it over (RIP Grinkle).

However they got it, businesses and strongholds give the party a place to rest/run/play while in-between adventures. Oftentimes, they use it as a base of operations and it is a sweet thing for the DM to allow. Here’s why:

1) You never know how much things cost until you have to pay the bills.

There is a table inside the Dungeon Master’s Guide that was some activities for downtime and one of those is running a business.

So let’s use that example of the party who inherited a tavern. The first thing that they have to do is fix it up and get people to be employed to run the tavern. Sure, in the short term the party can man the tavern themselves, but they are adventurers! Eventually, they’re going to want to go out and adventure, leaving the need for somebody to pay the bills while they do their thing.

Do you know how much upkeep a stronghold requires? You need somebody to run the household, you need somebody or some people to keep up with the cleaning, you need somebody to keep up with the stables, you need somebody to man the battlements while you are gone. Oh, and pay the taxes and tithe to the local ruler/government. And that’s assuming that you actually have a stronghold to start with! We’re not even considering the concept of having to build it from scratch.

All of this is a great way to separate the party from their hard-won gold.

2) Strongholds and businesses can be great springboards for adventures.

Let me ask you this: how many adventures do you have that begin in a tavern? How many campaigns have begun with a part of adventures sitting in a tavern?

Yeah, that was what I thought.

Well, now they own a tavern or an inn, and you can use those tropes as much as often as you want.

Something threatening the local lands? Maybe there is a tribe of hobgoblins nearby that keeps threatening the local lord’s power?

Well, now they are the lord’s that need help. And you can’t just hire adventurers to go do it for you (I mean, maybe you could, but why pay somebody else to do something that you can do yourself, and probably better!). Better go deal with it.

3) It gives the players and their characters a reason to be more invested into the world around them.

When they have hired NPCs that they will most likely, if you are doing your job as a dungeon master, that they will get to know and love. Imagine having your favorite housekeeper kidnapped! Imagine your Castle being under siege while you are away and your brave men at arms are holding the line while you figure out a way to help disperse this enemy from behind.

This kind of goes along with the idea of the property being a springboard for adventure, but those adventures become much more personal when your character has a stake in the outcome.

In Conclusion

Having the party own property can be overwhelming to deal with if not done right. But if you have a plan, it can be an awesome addition to any D&D or tabletop game.

It can help mitigate overwhelming amounts of treasure, be a springboard for other adventures, and give the players yet another reason to be invested in your game world.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Published by The Daily DM

I'm just a DM telling the stories of my tables.

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