Home brew is a term used a lot in the tabletop role playing gaming world. But what does it mean? There are 3 primary uses for the term home brew as it relates to tabletop RPGs.
- A world or setting that was custom made by the game master and/or the players
- An adventurer that was originally made by the game master
- Something for a character that was made up by the player rather than written in any of the preexisting materials
The World or Setting
There are a variety of published materials detailing specific worlds. Worlds like the Forgotten Realms, Ebberon, Wildmount, Ravnica, Grayhawk, and many many more, and those are just some for Dungeons and Dragons. Despite this, some GMs will create their own worlds for the players to explore.This may be because they can’t afford the books, don’t want to read through them, or they may have an idea for a world that lets their creativity run wild. It may also be because a pre-made world comes with many expectations and the GM either doesn’t want to get things wrong or maybe doesn’t want the players to have foreknowledge. Other GM’s may have an idea for a world that lets their creativity run wild.
Adventuring in the Unknown
While there are several worlds that have had many pages devoted to their creation, there are so many more adventurers that have been written, published, and distributed. These adventures range from a page long to hundreds of pages, spanning several books. While a GM may decide not to use a published adventurer for the same reasons they might not use a published world setting, there is another big reason they would decide to make their own adventure. That reason is the players. A published adventure can’t adapt to the foibles of the players as they decided to wander off into the woods. A GM might run their sessions by the seat of their pants and this just isn’t possible when you are using a pre-made adventure.
While the published materials for Dungeons and Dragons is extensive, the creativity of players is bigger. Sometimes a player has an idea that can’t be realized by a simple reskin of an existing feat, background, spell, race, or even class. In this case the player will make a home brew version of what they are looking for.
Keeping It Straight
Now you might be wondering, “how do you keep all that straight?” To which I can tell you taking notes is the answer. To be able to keep all the information from getting muddled you need to write it down. More than that, it is important to know that for some people making something up as they describe it is easier than reading about it. When unfettered by the preexisting content, some GMs’ creativity can create a rich and living world complete with back story, monsters and intrigue. In the same way a blank canvas can freeze the brush of some painters, and excite others, an open world can be a terrifying proposition to some Game Masters and the only way others play.