It’s been almost a month since I started my Dungeons and Dragons homebrew adventure. This means that I created my own campaign, characters, and some magic items. But it wasn’t as difficult as you think it might be. Granted, creating your own homebrew can feel like a huge undertaking. There was a time when I thought so to. However, today, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. Creating a homebrew doesn’t mean that you have to start from scratch. For those creating a homebrew campaign for the first time (or not) I have a few tips and resources that I’ve found to be very useful.
Before You Start
Creating a homebrew allows players and yourself to have a lot of options. But having too many options can be overwhelming. As a DM, I tend to ask my players to give me some information about their character before we start playing. What race are you playing? What class? While the answers to these questions won’t necessarily change how the campaign will start, it does determine, at least somewhat, the strength and size of the encounters. I don’t want my players to easily breeze through enemies in some occasions and I don’t want them to have a tough time when the story doesn’t call for it.
Another thing is that I believe the best DMs are those who weave characters’ backstories into the campaign. Before I started my own campaign, I asked my players to make a backstory for their characters. It doesn’t have to be long or too in depth. I just want to have an idea of who these characters are before I introduced them into the world. Are they running from the law? Maybe I can have bounty hunters appear in town one day. Or maybe they’re from nobility and their family needs aid recovering an heirloom. Doing this allows, players to feel like they’re a part of the story and contribute to creating a narrative together. After all, without players, you have no story.
Creating the Homebrew Campaign
Once you have the information on the characters, you have to decide where the campaign is going to start. Are your players meeting at a bar? Perhaps they’re answering a call for help on the side of the road. Simply, what is the game hook? This can be a bit tricky because maybe you have the overall idea of what’s going to happen but not the details, and that’s fine.
The beginning of the campaign doesn’t have to necessarily go into the overall campaign. Pinterest, believe it or not, has really good game hooks for RPGs. There’s one specifically that mentions having to deliver a chest, and while everything was fine, something started to move inside it. You can find that one here.
Another resource is Donjon.
Donjon is a website I frequent when I need to create maps and dungeons for my campaign. The website also has multiple random generators for NPCs, town, and city names. Specifically, they have a random adventure generator where the campaign is set up for you if that is your thing. Typically for homebrew, I’ve found that many DMs have an idea of what their homebrew campaign involves. Donjon also has map generators for adventures so that can save you a lot of time.
Regardless of where the campaign is going to start, the first step is to start. With my campaign, the first thing I had my players do was to go after a bounty. It was just a way for the characters to get to know each other and figure out how to play their classes. I also gave them the option of being able to change their classes if they found that they didn’t like the class.
For creating encounters, I use kobold fight club.
The site allows you to adjust the levels of the players and how many players are at that level. There are filters that let you choose the environment and the difficulty, as well as the page number and name of the book where you can find more information on that creature.
If my characters are going to be in a specific environment, I searched for all the enemies that live in that sort of environment and make adjustments for the party.
I will also mention that I’ve used maps from hardcover campaigns. Specifically, I’ve used Curse of Strahd, Death House map and one of Tomb of Annihilation’s intro modules, Cellar of Death, for a dungeon. There are no rules that say you can’t use other resources to help you out.
Tips to Keep in Mind
It is important to remember that you can’t plan for everything. Be flexible in your planning. Go along with your players and their crazy ideas. This doesn’t mean that you can’t say “no,” but have your players go to jail or get captured. It makes for interesting encounters and roleplay.
Next, don’t marry your campaign. It will change. As I mentioned above, you can’t plan for everything. Allow the story to change and adjust as necessary. Even if you don’t plan for an event, incorporate it into the campaign. Make your players think that it was already part of the campaign to begin with.
Third, make a timeline. With this specifically, have events that happen in the world around your characters. Events happen all around in everyday life and it is only later that we hear about them. Have the same thing happen in the campaign. There are things that your players won’t be able to control. They can only react to them.
Lastly, while some situations will call for roleplay, there will be sessions where the players need to follow the storyline and you can railroad them a bit if they went off track for a while. And don’t be afraid to say “no”. As the Dungeon Master, you have the ultimate say on what goes and what doesn’t.
As you continue to run your homebrew, it gets a bit easier. At this point, I can guess what my players will do in some situations. I let them have fun and, if that screws up some encounters, I let it happen. The most important thing is that everyone has fun. In the end, the narrative is created by both the DM and the players.
Taking the first step to create your own homebrew can be overwhelming. You might not know where to start but any homebrew starts with an idea. If you picture the characters fighting an army of demons then go with that and then figure out how to get your players to that point. Work backwards.
Plus, there are times where I made things up on the spot. My players had to reach the mainland and they were in a port. First I thought they were simply going to board a ship but then I made it a bit more difficult. I had my players try to steal a ship. It ended terribly but we had fun. My best creations tend to happen on the spot and I just roll with it (Pun intended).
Lastly, ask for help. You can ask your players how the campaign is going. Do they want more fighting, more roleplay, or both? Online forums can also be helpful. Reach out to others for advice as well, and, if for whatever reason this homebrew campaign doesn’t take off, don’t be scared to rethink your idea and work with what you have.