In the current game, you save up Influence and buy outposts until the amount of outposts your base can support is filled. Perhaps you keep one slot free for an easy offloading platform when you're going around, but that's about it for how much you think about outposts.
In this idea, each outpost would have multiple upgradeable tiers to it, offering new benefits but at an ever increasing cost. Each tier of an outpost would need to be built and paid for before the next tier can be bought, adding a layer of progression to outposts. I've also included a couple of minor uses for Labor and some more time sinks so that everything in the game takes that little bit longer.
Tier 1 - Dead Drop:
"I got a place nearby with a few bandages stashed under a loose floorboard. We'll get that leg back on in no time eh buddy? Buddy?"
These would contain a limited stash but unable to confer any of their innate bonuses to the community. These proto-outposts cost 200 Influence to set up, no matter their location, and represent your guys setting up some hiding places so that their items are safe in a still untouched building.
Your stash would appear in a Tier 1 Outpost, but you would only be able to drop items into it. Whenever new items have been deposited into the stash and the player leaves the building, they'll make a radio call for "pick up" and 1 Labor will be used as someone comes to collect items from the dead drop and take them home. In reality, those items will simply be deposited into the base inventory, but the call will add to the roleplaying and storytelling aspects of the game.
When players try to take out of a Tier 1 Outpost's stash then they'll be directed to the last tab of the Inventory screen. This is the Cache, where up to five item types can be whitelisted from the main Storage in the base. These five Cache items represent a survival pack that has been hidden in the dead drop. Each item may be picked up from the Cache as often as the player desires, but each one costs 10% of its Influence cost to take out for anyone but a Hero of the community. This allows those who've earned a place in the community access to items, while making newbies have to prove themselves.
Tier 2 - Safehouse:
"We fortified the old auto-shop on Main. Get there, stock up on ammo, and lie low until the horde passes."
These are the current style of outpost in the game, allowing full access to the stash and giving any existing building bonuses to the base. These would cost the normal outpost Influence costs but can only be built where you already have a dead drop. You would also need to dedicate one Labor and 10 minutes for each thousand Influence in order to upgrade to this level of Outpost. Generally speaking, the costlier the outpost, the longer it takes to properly fortify and set up for your needs, but the greater benefits you'll receive from it.
Tier 3 - Annex:
"The trick to restarting civilisation? You start with what you got and keep building on top of it until you can't even see the trash you started with."
This tier of outpost has been built up even more than before, returning some of their pre-zombies functionality and making them further extensions of your base. Upgrading to an Annex costs the same Influence, Labor, and time as upgrading from a Dead Drop to a Safehouse, but the outpost must already be at Safehouse level before it can be upgraded. Some might also require some sort of power generation facility mod (solar panels, generator) to be "spent" in order to upgrade this far.
The abilities given by a Tier 3 outpost depend on which building was upgraded. Most will add mod slots of a specific type, although some will also allow for more specific radio abilities to be called in. These mods will add extra passive abilities to the base, as well as active abilities that can be accessed via the Outposts part of the base map.
- Houses will allow for up to two facility mods to be added to them, of the types Lounge, Bedroom, and Kitchen.
- Restaurants will allow up to three Kitchen and Storage mods to be added, and also add the Kitchen skills without a kitchen being needed in the base.
- Auto-shops give you two Workshop mods as well as the ability to access Auto Mechanic abilities without having to build an Auto Shop in the base.
- Pharmacies and Medical Centres would take two Infirmary mods and also give the basic creation and treatment skills of the Infirmary, should one be without that facility. It's not going to replace having even a basic Infirmary in your base, but gives you something to keep going when yours is damaged.
- Tall Buildings and Towers give the ability to spend 1 Labor and call in sniper support from your radio. This is free in terms of Influence, but has a thirty minute cooldown.
- Power Stations, Water Purification and the like will all have an ability to cause a lot of noise at a cost of 2 Labor. This will take Threat at home down for a while, allowing you to build up there without too much risk of an onslaught from the zed.
- Military Outposts and Checkpoints will allow for a Barrage radio call that drops explosions on your marker at a cost of 2 Labor to man the guns.
Should anything not neatly fit into the Tier 3 outpost, then upgrading that outpost to that level will merely create a scavenging outpost that brings in twice as many resources as it's already collecting. Should it be from a building that doesn't normally collect resources, then at Tier 3 the Annex will collect one of every resource every half game day.
Deconstructing outposts would be a tier by tier deconstruction, refunding two thirds the cost of Influence each time the choice was made. Downgrading takes a tenth of the time it takes to upgrade. Dead drops can be instantly dismantled whenever the player desires, but there will be no Influence refund to the player.