Business As Usual
Running a business is hard work. This is doubly so if you are moonlighting as a dragon killer for the local duchy on the side. How are you to make sure the horseshoes and armorare mended when you're sitting on the side of a mountain, waiting for the red dragon to leave? While running a campaign, it will become inevitable that one of your players will want to start a business or own some property. As they grow in power, prestige and wealth, they're going to want to have an impact on the world. Becoming a member of the local chamber of commerce is a good way to do that.
Running a business is hard work. This is doubly so if you are moonlighting as a dragon killer for the local duchy on the side. How are you to make sure the horseshoes and armor
are mended when you're sitting on the side of a mountain, waiting for the red dragon to leave? While running a campaign, it will become inevitable that one of your players will want to start a business or own some property. As they grow in power, prestige and wealth, they're going to want to have an impact on the world. Becoming a member of the local chamber of commerce is a good way to do that.
The players are going to have characters with a lot of wealth eventually. There is only so many swords and potions they can buy and carry. They will want to have somewhere to store a lot of this gear. The first thing players will want to do is purchase property, a house or small hovel, to store all that stuff in.
These properties can lead to all sorts of interesting problems. As the players are probably going to be the toughest guys around, locals will probably come looking for them rather than the magistrate. This can lead to interesting adventures and sub plots where the players must deal with either a problem that's too much for the local forces, or deal with a magistrate who feels their characters are stepping on his turf. This is a matter of jurisdiction, so the magistrate might find the characters are making them look bad.
Another problem for players is just leaving all this stuff in an unattended home. The players might have to hire someone to watch their stuff while they trek all over the land fighting evil.
These hirelings can also be a source of adventure, as they will have lives and problems of their own. Perhaps the maid you hired to keep the place tidy is in trouble because her husband owes a lot of money to a local gang. She turns to her employer, the mighty hero to help. Another problem may be the villain of your current campaign has kidnapped her, holding her for ransom unless you return the Tome of Unreasoning evil.
Now aside from the problems of the neighbors and the staff, property also has some economic problems that should be kept in the game. These include repairs, property taxes, and general cleaning costs. All of these must be paid, and can also lead to adventures. Perhaps the local duke who the players pay property tax to doesn't want their money, but needs them to help him with a little problem.
The thing here is to remember this property will also become pretty dear to your players, as it will be a valuable possession. Be careful about destroying it or damaging it unless it serves the plot and the player understands that.
Businesses are even more complicated than property. Staff will almost always be necessary if the business actually resides somewhere. The costs of materials and equipment will be very large, unless the players are able to acquire them some other way. This still doesn't discount repair and maintenance of equipment. The economics of business should not bog down your campaign, but be sure to keep them interesting enough to make the world seem alive. Have the players return from an adventure and have them deal with issues at the business. The other players may get a few days rest, but that player will have to review inventory lists, check orders, and balance the books.
A business can be a good source for adventure, and really shouldn't take over the campaign unless all the players are interested in supporting it. I once ran a campaign where the characters were a mercenary-for-hire business. They had an actual office and staff they had to be in charge of and manage. They would have to juggle jobs with costs and other problems that would arise from their business. A major portion of the campaign involved a rivalry with another mercenary company in town and their attempts to secure work. It wasn't uncommon to find themselves hired on one side of a dispute, and the other company hired on the other.
It was an entertaining campaign, but it only worked because all the players were into the idea. They originally came to me with an idea of being in a business together. We juggled the idea around and came up with something everyone liked and went from there. This could be any kind of business, but I figured it would be easier to try this out with something that was still adventure oriented. Feel free to experiment with what your characters do, as long as all your players are into it.
Property can also be a great reward for a completed task. Large estates were often rewarded during the middle ages to local supporters of the monarchy. Remember that bestowing large swathes of land to your players is going to bestow on them all sorts of problems. There is the problem of security for anyone living on the land, maintenance of those lands. Also the players will have to figure out how to maintain standing forces their to be called to aid the monarch who bestowed the land.
Inherited property can also be a great adventure idea. This can be doubly true if the property in question has problems with it. The nice old house that was left to the players happens to reside over an ancient family crypt that is currently infested with zombies, or a local goblin tribe has taken up residence on the acres of forest left to you from a departed uncle. The players will be held responsible for the problems on these properties and will have to clean them up before they can be put to any use. In these cases, the property is the reward for the adventure.
I try to stick to the rule that the world is happening all the time around the players. Property and business are part of that world, and it's good to have them as options for the players to experiment with. But always remember all actions have repercussions. Owning a piece of property or a business is a responsibility with costs and problems associated with it. The player should understand what these are and be willing to take them on. Of course if you're a mean DM, you can just saddle them with a piece of property and let them work through the issues later.