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Home Brew Worlds…Why I Prefer Them

First, I have nothing but respect for pre-established worlds. They are great in fiction, and the books always have some cool stuff in them. However, I’ve generally always preferred home brew worlds. I’m sure I’m not alone on this, and here are my reasons. Feel free to add any reasons you agree or disagree. After all, I’m just some schmuck writing a blog…I can easily be wrong 😉

The first reason is simple. I like my characters being able to change the world and being movers and shapers in that world. This isn’t as easily accomplished in published worlds. Published worlds are updated generally whenever there is a new edition. As such, if your group updates to the new edition and that particular world, then you’ll find yourself stuck with having to either ignore the great things your character accomplished or to revamp the entire new editions published world to meld with what the characters have done.

The second reason is the ease of the GM to add or subtract as necessary. For example, let’s say the GM decides that he doesn’t want sorcerers anymore in his world. He can have an NPC begin an extermination of all sorcerers in his world, and afterwards not allow anyone to play sorcerers. This is a bit more difficult with published worlds, as there is an expectation of being able to play all classes listed in that world’s handbook.

The third thing that gets me is knowing that players have access to the same information. Metagaming is hard enough to prevent as it is. Knowing the stats of Drizzt could give character’s an unfair advantage. Now, most players will respect the fourth wall, and separate what they know from what their character’s know. However, occasionally even the best player will let it slip and metagame to some extent to their advantage. Home brew worlds often employ variations on monsters that prevents the player from taking full advantage of metagame knowledge.

The last reason is, in my opinion, the best. Flavor. Plain and simple. There’s often no way that a published world will have the flavor that you and your group desires. For example, a D&D campaign based on post Roman Britain (what my personal home brew world is based on), or a d20 modern campaign based on a post apocalyptic world (one I would loooooove to play ;)). Flavor can be tailored more readily in home brew worlds than in published worlds. And that, for me, is the most important one.

Now, can published world kick ass? Absolutely. And many people enjoy running them and playing in those worlds. A GM can make a published world do all the things I like home brew worlds for and make it great for the players. However, my experience is that home brew worlds don’t need that level of involvement from a GM after initial creation.

August 16, 2008 - Posted by | RPG |


  1. I definitely think that in a homebrew world you can feel a level of commitment and love from the DM that’s missing in a published world.

    However, it’s also important to remember that all published worlds (to my knowledge) started as homebrew for someone. Published settings are, as was said, not a bad thing at all, and some really great games can come from them. But because of the level of knowledge that a player might have of the world, it just makes that world seem smaller, y’know? Whereas a world you’ve never explored, or have only really been focused around point A in, has so much possibility in it that it almost boggles minds.

    For my own homebrew worlds, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that does this, except for the major areas of interest and largest cities, most of the map is intentionally left blank. This is done for two main reasons: 1) To allow flexibility in creating adventures or installing prewritten modules, and 2) to allow the players room to expand their own influence without greatly upsetting the balance of the world’s powers – neither of which can easily be done in a published world. Not that they CAN’T be done, just that it’d be tougher, and when the world is updated there could be some continutity issues if the group decides to adopt the update.

    Comment by Liambic | August 16, 2008 | Reply

  2. Published worlds have too much stuff. I have no desire and no need to learn an entire world to run a game. Given a homebrew setting, I can simply decide a few key principles and the construct the world in play. Much more flexible, much more fun and players will be more involved with the world, given time.

    Comment by Tommi | August 17, 2008 | Reply

  3. I fully agree with both of you guys. Of course, that’s sort of obvious from the article 😉

    Published worlds are often to developed to the point that there is little left to explore. Adventure is far more likely to happen for a PC if there is exploration. Otherwise, an adventure is nothing but looking for a fight.

    Comment by Tom | August 17, 2008 | Reply

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