To homebrew or not to homebrew, that is the question.

In recent weeks I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a homebrew campaign to replace the WoG campaign I’m currently running. It’s not like it’s a new thing for me; I’ve designed quite a few homebrew campaigns over the years.

I do dearly love the World of Greyhawk setting, and that won’t change regardless of whether or not I’m actively running a campaign in it. Nor would my eccentric delving and rambling on bits of obscure Greyhawk lore. But I’m wondering if any published setting isn’t just a little too limiting for me at the present time.

I’ve been going through a lot of old issues of The Dragon, particularly articles dealing with campaign creation. I’ve got some ideas regarding religion that I would really like to try out, but which wouldn’t really fit into the schema of pantheons. Plus some Outer Planes stuff that is a complete departure from what’s published. And I would love to experiment with some other ideas, perhaps even going as far as making the new campaign completely devoid of demihumans and humanoids altogether. Heck, I might even drop AD&D in favor of something new (or, perhaps old but new to my players) like Rolemaster, GURPS, or even something completely home-grown.

Of course, I hear some say, you can do most of those things in Greyhawk. But I wonder if it would still be Greyhawk without Heironeous and Hextor, or the Nine Hells, or gnomes and elves and half-orcs. At that point, I think it becomes a case of “why bother to even call it Greyhawk, if you’re changing so much?” (Much like the new Battlestar Galactica television show, or the upcoming remake of Death Race 2000, or, dare I say, the Forgotten Realms.)

As I said above, I’d still be looking at interesting bits of Greyhawkiana, but it would be more in the realm of a scholarly exercise rather than something that had a practical angle for me. Not that most of the stuff I’ve posted here has been particularly practical for my own campaign, which has been set in Tenh and tonight sees the PC’s (hopefully) moving on to the Rift Crag in the Bandit Kingdoms.

Perhaps once (if?) Troll Lord Games ever gets some of its Castle Zagyg material actually published, I would return to running a Greyhawk campaign. That might be just too much to resist. But for now, the muse of unbridled creativity is beckoning to me, and I might just heed her summons.

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Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

7 thoughts on “To homebrew or not to homebrew, that is the question.

  1. I’ve recently struggled with the same issue, different setting. I realize the individual GM has the freedom to change whatever he likes, but it’s tiring to continually correct players with “well, I know it’s that way in canon, but not in my Greyhawk.” If they’re playing in a “Greyhawk campaign,” they may be understandably vexed if foundational stuff is changed on them.

    You could always keep your homebrew on Oerth and move beyond the map borders, to a different continent, or to the other side of the world. That way, all of your Oerth lore doesn’t become useless, you can keep the elements you like, and you have the freedom to move back to the Flanaess when the mood strikes.

    Ultimately, that may be the direction I move with my alternate Wilderlands.

  2. One of my favorite DMs used a world that contained the Flanaess, Lankhmar, Kara-Tur (pre-FR—from the 1e OA), and Faerûn. Who knows what else we might have found? Probably the main part of any other setting he could get his hands on.

    None of us players ever thought to assume anything about the setting rather than asking him because it was so obviously his own melting-pot.

    And it rocked.

  3. Exactly. Increasingly, I am of a mind to fit parts of campaign settings together, rather than treat them as canonical singular entities.

    The East Mark is actually a great example of something that can be built around in that manner.

  4. I have toyed with the idea, after reading some old posts on newsgroups, about running a pseudo-historical campaign, set on Earth, but with magic creatures running amuck.

    I also liberally choose what to accept and what not to in my Greyhawk campaign. I have started salting my campaign with things stolen from old MERP supplements (especially cities), and love reading about products other people shoehorn into Greyhawk. THe best is old Dungeon modules, and Dragon ideas…. but sometimes, there’s so much noise, it’s hard to find the signal…

  5. I am often torn between the worlds I love to read about, and have previously played in and my own world. Until recently.

    I finally sat down and through the course of several months outlined an original world. Its a world with enough detail to self-sustain adventures but enough flexibility to let me do anything I want to do. All the flexibility, but none of the “that’s not how [insert world] is” from the players.

    I think it can be a daunting task, but creating your own world will pay dividends later.

  6. I’m sure you can guess what my answer will be, home brew from scratch! The answer is of course different for every GM, and you have to strike a balance that will allow you to make progress on your campaign without getting bogged down with a work load you don’t want to take on.

    As Scott suggested above, carving out a niche in or just outside of Greyhawk might be a good way to start. There’s nothing stopping you from exporting that home brewed area off to another world once you feel you are ready to call that new world your own.

    Recently I’ve been enjoying the sand-box design approach, where you deliberately begin with a small region, say a town or village, a few adventuring locales ready for immediate play, and a rough map of the immediate vicinity (say 50 to 100 mile radius). Then you let the actions of the players determine your next design project, rather than spending countless hours fleshing out behind the scenes information that may never be used in actual play. And I’ve been there, having written reams and reams of campaign background details that my players were never able to enjoy nor interact with.

  7. My just released Points of Light (from Goodman Games) could help with this.

    I have found that drawing a sketch map of your initial Main Campaign Area then typing a up a one page synopsis is a good way to go.

    The trick is to leave hooks so you can expand later. But not so specific that you box yourself into something before you actually used it.

    For example if you plan to start everyone in a frontier march of the Grand Kingdom. Leave as much of the Grand Kingdom unspecified as you can. That way when you do need the details you can design it based on what you need then not what you thought you needed six months ago.

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