On Friday one of the PCs in my D&D game became the emperor of a newly formed kingdom. They now are the high ruler of a nation formed from 13 tribes of Hobgoblins. The Paladin in the game has taken their money from the same war and built themselves a castle and has started to hire guards and others for their new home. The idea of the PCs having a home base is nothing new in D&D. Heck, Matt Coleville just had the biggest RPG kickstarter in history for a book about building strongholds. Today I want to talk about some of what this means for your game.
I've Got Underlings For That
One of the first big changes that happens with PCs getting landed is the very real possibility that they have underlings for certain tasks. You have word of villagers going missing? What's the better answer: the lord of the castle goes to investigate, or the lord dispatches some men to investigate? Sure, the lord going is the Star Trek answer, but there is a reason Star Trek was often derided for exactly that.
Now this doesn't mean that you can't start plots with the same tags and hooks as before, but it does mean that you have to expect the PCs to be smart about stuff and send minions first. If you want them there faster, you need to come up with something that would pull the PCs out essentially. Something worth that time. What that is really depends on your PCs and who they are.
Things Get Political
Having land means having power. Having power means other people with power take notice. Once PCs are landed, it is very likely the local king, queen, and/or other nobility are going to want to talk to the PCs. The reasons for this are myriad. Some will be worried about this new construction of heavily armed and powerful people that is popping up on their borders. Some will want support for this agenda or that. Some will just be looking to make friends "just in case." And some will be looking to take what the PCs have.
Either way, politics is often a different game than normal adventuring. On an adventure you can just kill your problems, but doing that with a political rival can cause massive problems. Maybe the PCs don't need Lady Eleby, but the Kingdom may need the troops she controls and the alliances of nobles she wrangles on behalf of the crown in order to keep, well order. Not to mention that killing someone with family capable of sending entire armies after you is more or less a combat heavy adventure that writes itself, right?
Me and My 30 Armed Guards
Then there is the one I've seen some GMs have problems with. How do you challenge a group of PCs that are traveling with a battallion or a platoon of soldiers? Not to mention, how do you deal with how long the round takes for that?
Well, first, a few thoughts:
1. Traveling with 30 soldiers means you can have bigger fights. Said bigger fights can isolate the NPCs from the PCs.
2. A fight with 30 helpers sounds like XP is getting divided a whole heck of a lot more, meaning surviving NPCs are going to level up. Once leveled up they're going to need more money to stay loyal, or will leave the PCs service.
3. Having NPCs around gives you a way to warn of more stealthy threats by picking off said NPCs
4. Thirty NPCs are costly to travel with, and will make it impossible for the PCs to travel unnoticed. This means frequent stops and checks for just who the roving mercenary company are and what their business is.
It's Not The End of the Game
Ultimately, giving your PCs political power and followers is not the end of the game, it's nowhere near that. It's just a change, and one that can open new avenues to your game. Have fun with it. Consider the challenges that can pop up. Play with them. Worst case, you can always have PCs retire and new PCs start up under the old PC government.