Systems designer Tim Cain explains what Obsidian is doing with player strongholds, which are a lot more than just gloried storage chests for loot. Party members will even have their own adventures.
Those not with us on our personal journeys will remain back at the stronghold doing various things, like earning extra XP, gold, items or reputation for the player.
"You will be offered the stronghold early in the game, before you finish Act 1. But the stronghold itself is old and dilapidated, and you will want to upgrade it as soon as you can. These upgrades will, in turn, open up new activities and events that can happen, which will make the stronghold a dynamic and fun place to own," explains Tim Cain.
He outlines five bonuses to own a stronghold:
1. Resting bonuses. Some of the upgrades to your stronghold will grant temporary bonuses to your attributes or non-combat skills when you rest there. As examples, you can build Training Grounds to improve your Strength or a Library to improve your Lore skill. Some of these upgrades are expensive, but you’re worth it.
2. Adventures for idle companions. You will eventually have more companions than will fit in your party, so you will have leave some of them behind. While they are idling away at the stronghold, they can take part in their own adventures, earning additional experience for themselves and extra money, items and reputation bonuses for you!
3. Ingredients. Many of the stronghold upgrades will generate ingredients used by non-combat skills. For example, Botanical Gardens create Survival ingredients over time, and a Curio Shop produces ingredients for use by both Lore and Mechanics.
4. Special offers. Sometimes visitors to your stronghold will have rare items for sale, or perhaps they will offer you items in return for something else. Pay attention to these visitors. Some of these items may be nearly impossible to find any other way!
5. Wealth. Don’t forget that by owning a stronghold, you also own all of the surrounding lands and impose a tax on all of the inhabitants. It will feel nice for a change to have someone recognize your high standing and give you the money that you so richly deserve.
Those are just the "passive benefits" of owning a stronghold as we still have activities to partake in. Upgrades will play an important role as they directly affect the relationship between yourself and the world around you. There's less tax to collect if the surrounding populace feels unsafe and generally neglected for example.
"You can begin collecting taxes from your populace as soon as you gain the stronghold. The amount of taxes you collect increases with your prestige (because people know of you and like you), but the amount also increases with higher security, since some taxes are lost to banditry. You will want to keep both of those values high," Cain continued.
We can also employ lackeys to work at the stronghold, but they'll need a regular wage. "These people will provide bonuses to your prestige and security, but they cost money to employ. Some will leave your castle if you stop paying them, but others will wait around to get paid again (but not provide any bonuses until they are)."
Interestingly we'll be able to imprison instead of just outright kill notable NPC adversaries if we go to the trouble of clearing out the dungeon beneath the stronghold and upgrade it.
"Prisoners are kept in a cell in your prison, where you can visit them and talk to them, and occasionally use them as leverage later in the game. But you will need to keep your security level high, or you might suffer from a prison break!"
Cain also warns that good or bad random events trigger at the stronghold "whether or not you are physically there," which may require your immediate intervention "but usually you are given some time to decide what to do."
"The most common event at your stronghold is having a visitor arrive. There are all kinds of visitors, but they all share one thing. They can adjust your prestige and/or security just by being at your stronghold. Some visitors are wonderful and give good bonuses, and you will want them to stay as long as possible. Some of these visitors can even be employed as hirelings and will stay on as long as you pay them," he revealed.
Other visitors may need an escort by one of your companions to make it safely to their destination. Cain also reveals the stronghold can be besieged by attackers.
"Attacks are the most potentially dangerous of all stronghold events. Occasionally troublemakers (of various sorts) will decide to attack your castle. You will be warned ahead of time of any such attack, so you can return to the stronghold and take part in it directly, if you want." Not participating leads to an after action report of what went down.
Keeping security high is crucial to prevent all but the most organised of assaults from succeeding, where upgrades can be destroyed and even hirelings killed. "No matter how you play the game, your stronghold is certain to provide many benefits and also be a lot fun too!" Project Eternity releases on PC in Q2 2014.