Treasure Tables is in reruns from November 1st through December 9th. I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, and there’s no way I can write posts here while retaining my (questionable) sanity. In the meantime, enjoy this post from our archives.
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Regardless of genre or system, it can be a lot of fun to give the PCs a hub — a home base, even if it’s not actually home (although it could be). Hubs are fun on several levels, not the least of which being that they make great gateways to increasing player involvement.

The nature of the hub will vary dramatically depending on what kind of game you’re running, but these five characteristics are common to most hubs — and they all work well.

Home Base: Whether it’s a place or a vehicle, the hub is the main place that the party spends their downtime — it’s their home base.

NPC Support: The PCs don’t need to be there 24/7 because there are NPCs that can take care of business while they’re gone. Stewards, ship captains, security guards — whatever the case may be.

Player Control: The players have a great deal of control over the nature of their hub, what it looks like, who runs it, how secure it is.

Safe, But Vulnerable: From a GM’s perspective, threatening the hub is a great way to get the PCs involved. At the same time, hubs should be safe most of the time, so that the players don’t have to worry too much about them.

Home-Like: When the PCs return to their hub, there should be a sense of coming home. The NPCs all know them well, the hub’s quirks are familiar to them, etc.

As long as there’s enough NPC support (or the hub is a vehicle that the PCs are never far from), I’ve met very few players who don’t enjoy having a home base of some sort. And for you as the GM, they offer plenty of opportunities to introduce new elements into the game — from the occasional siege in a fantasy game to the chance to build the ultimate security system in a sci-fi campaign.

Hubs also get players involved with the game in different ways. Some players really enjoy being able to tweak and fine-tune every aspect of their hub, while others just enjoy returning to it and catching up with the NPC stewards.

If you’ve been looking for ways to get your players to drive the game — to be more active than reactive — giving them a nifty home base is an excellent way to get the ball rolling.

Many players aren’t used to having control over much of their environment (especially if their primary experience is with straightforward hack-and-slash), and starting with something concrete — and most importantly, cool — is a lot better than asking, “So, what do you want to do next week?”

How do you use hubs in your campaigns?
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Normally there’d be a discussion going on in the comments below, but due to time constraints I’ve turned off all comments during reruns — sorry about that! You can read the comments on the first-run version of this post, and if you need a GMing discussion fix, why not head on over to our GMing forums?