D&D Homebrew: 8 Proven Tips For An Unbelievably Awesome Campaign
What is D&D homebrew? 5e homebrew is when you create your own content for the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition role-playing game. This can be anything from new races, classes, spells, feats, equipment, magic items, monsters, or entire campaigns. While some people might be intimidated by the idea of creating their own content, homebrewing can be a lot of fun and it can add a lot of variety to your game. In this article we will go over tips and tricks on how to run a successful 5e homebrew campaign.
By the time you finish this article you will have the answers to the following questions:
- Dungeons and Dragons, What is it?
- What is D&D 5e?
- D&D Homebrew, what is that?
- What is the difference between D&D modules & 5e Homebrew?
- What are the best tips and tricks for running 5e Homebrew?
Dungeons and Dragons—What Is It?
Dungeons and Dragons is a tabletop role-playing game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It is a fantasy game that has been around since 1974 and it is one of the most popular role-playing games in the world. In Dungeons and Dragons, players create characters that go on adventures, typically in a fantasy world. They fight monsters, solve puzzles, and find treasure.
Dice are used to determine the outcome of events in the game. The Dungeon Master is the person who creates the adventure and controls the non-player characters.
What is D&D 5e?
DnD 5e is the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. It was released in 2014. 5e is a complete rewrite of the game, with the goal of making it more accessible to new players. 5e is the most popular edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and it is the edition that I recommend for new players.
Previous editions in D&D were much more complicated, with many more rules. 5e simplifies the game without losing the depth that makes it so enjoyable. 5e is also more flexible than previous editions, making it easier to create your own content (more on that later).
D&D Homebrew—What’s That?
Homebrew content is created by players, for players. D&D Homebrew can be anything from new races, homebrew classes, spells, feats, equipment, magic items, monsters, or entire campaigns. Homebrew content is not official, which means it is not published by Wizards of the Coast (the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons).
While some people might be intimidated by the idea of creating their own content, homebrewing can be a lot of fun if handled the right way. I will go over tips and tricks on how to run a 5e homebrew campaign later in this article.
I would compare DnD 5e Homebrew to writing the setting for your own book, you created all the lands and inhabited with a ton of interesting creatures and non-player characters, all with rich backstories. Meanwhile your friends are the main characters navigating the world you created, wreaking havoc.
What Is the Difference Between D&D Modules & D&D Homebrew?
A D&D module is an adventure that is published by Wizards of the Coast (or another company) and it is meant to be played with the 5th edition rules. Modules are written by professional writers (for the most part) and they are usually of high quality.
It is much easier to use a D&D module than it is to create your own 5e homebrew content, if you’re a beginner. Using a D&D module as a guide will keep you on track and the stories are pretty great also.
D&D 5e homebrew can be anything you want it to be, which is both its strength and its weakness. Homebrew content is not constrained by the rules of 5e, which means you can be as creative as you want. However, this also means that homebrew content can be unbalanced, or simply not fun to play.
Judging by a lot of the Hollywood movies that are made these days, it’s easy to say a lot of people think they’re great storytellers, but this is obviously not the case. Trying to run a 5e homebrew campaign, if you’re not ready, could wind up being the equivalent to a Hollywood flop.
A D&D module allows you the comfort of sticking to the script and running a campaign that will increase the chances of delivering that satisfying ending your players want.
8 Proven Tips & Tricks For An Unbelievably Awesome D&D Homebrew Campaign
Before the world shutdown due to the Vid, my group of friends would get together in person and play D&D. Our Dungeon Master was running a campaign off of the starter set and mixing it with a different module. There was some homebrew material she brought in, but for the most part it was all from the book.
We were having a blast! Our adventuring party would get together once a week, with our official rulebooks and fight alongside each other in style, as we brought undead creatures hit points down to zero. Sometimes it would take a bonus action or two to do so.
Then the lockdown happened. We put our current campaign on hold that we were playing for years and with that, life became just a little more gloomy. The dark times.
In-order to keep our group together I asked everyone if they would be interested in streaming a homebrew campaign I was working on, till the world got back to normal. For better or worse, they all jumped at the idea.
That campaign lasted for 21 sessions, each episode was around 2-4 hours long and you can watch right here. There was plenty of ups and downs, and learning opportunities galore. I am here to share 8 tips and tricks with you for running a successful D&D Homebrew Campaign and giving you the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.
#1: Use Others’ D&D 5e Content
You really don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is so many great modules to pull from. If you want to make a 5e homebrew campaign, I suggest using an official module as a base, and then adding your own flavor on top.
I used The Game Master’s Book of Random Encounters. It gave me over 500 pre-made maps, tables, and story hooks to use in a 5th edition adventure. Having these encounters and weaving them into my preexisting story helped out so much.
I was able to incorporate these elements into my own setting, tweaking them enough where it made sense and my players thought I was a genius (at times).
#2: D&D 5e Homebrew—Start Small
We all have dreams of creating the next Critical Role, or being the next Matt Mercer, or at-least I do. The truth is, Matt is a seasoned vet and can dedicate all of his time to Dungeons and Dragons. It’s okay to keep things small at first.
A big pitfall I had was trying to stream this new campaign for Youtube. It went from playing D&D with friends to trying to put on a show. Each episode had to be bigger and badder than the last, it eventually got to a point where my level 5 characters were dealing with Divine beings on a regular basis. Nothing made sense anymore. I lost my way. This put more stress on me as a DM and sucked the magic out of D&D and the life force out of me.
There is something to be said about a good small town with small quests that don’t shake the fabrics of time and space. There is also something to be said about a module that was written by someone who knows what they’re doing.
I highly recommend keeping your stories small and if you’re new to D&D, just try playing consistently for awhile before you begin streaming for the world to see. Hell even Critical Role started streaming somewhere in the middle of their first campaign and now they have an animated series based off that very DnD 5e Homebrew.
#3: Allow for Constructive Criticism
Something I felt I did decent at as a Dungeon Master was taking constructive criticism and making changes. Wether it was about a particular aspect of the game, an ability a player wanted to tweak, perhaps a certain homebrew class features needed a second look. Regardless of what it was, I was open to the conversation.
This allowed me to adjust the game I was creating and give my players a better overall experience. It isn’t easy crafting homebrew material on your own. A 5e Module has an entire staff dedicated to it, including a professional editor. There’s no reason you need to do this all on your own.
Heck, I remember a certain homebrew class from Critical Role called the blood hunter. Both Taliesen Jaffe and Matt Mercer worked on the blood hunter together before they even started their second campaign.
Collaboration is key when it comes to Dungeons and Dragons 5e homebrew.
#4: It’s All Fun & Games—Don’t Get Discouraged
When you’re using pre-made material there’s an entire world fleshed out for you with different avenues your players can take you. For the most part however, things were thought out thoroughly enough where if your players go off the rails, theres guidelines on how to bring them back to the main story.
When you’re running a homebrew 5e campaign it falls entirely on you. Homebrew D&D leaves you wide open to your players derailing your story and you left holding the bag. It is easy to get discouraged.
I spent all this time creating this amazing session where my players were going to save this important NPC from a public execution, and this particular character was going to drop a ton of information for them that they needed.
Unfortunately the players decided to grab some beers and watch the hanging like it was a sporting event and then head off in a completely different direction than story was progressing in. Normally this would be fine, but the only problem was I hadn’t developed the town they were heading to or any of the non-player characters yet. I was unprepared, discouraged and freaked out slightly at how much they enjoyed watching people die.
I think it’s important to remember, things will not always go as planned. At the end of the day Dungeons and Dragons is a game and games are meant to be fun. I ended up just winging it completely and modeled NPC’s off of famous Hollywood stars.
It all worked out in the end.
#5: Let the Players Explore Your D&D Homebrew
Okay, so you made this amazing world. You think you wrote the next Lord of the Rings and you just want things to go as planned. Like we mentioned before, they wont. Nothing ever goes as planned in D&D.
Don’t railroad your players, let them explore this world you created. Have a few things written down for a rainy day that you think would be interesting.
Perhaps there is a shrine with a secret magic weapon underneath. Maybe a character discovers a ruin from hundreds of years prior, this could add depth and history to your creation.
The point is, have a plan for when your players do explore, in-order to make it worth their while. Tabletop games are meant to be collaborative chaos.
#6: Mix & Match D&D Homebrew
There is so many great modules out there, you could Dr. Frankenstein a campaign together picking your favorite moments from various stories. Maybe you love the beginning to Tomb of Annihilation, or the ending of Decent Into Avernus.
You can tweak each story to fit your narrative and make it your own. This to me is the best way to do a D&D homebrew campaign.
#7: Stay Organized With Your D&D Homebrew
There was times when I had to create an NPC on the spot, because something one of the player characters did. You know what I did when that happened? I wrote a brief description down to refer back to for that NPC. Just incase I ever wanted to bring that character back into the story or if my platers ran into them again.
Keeping notes is important for any Dungeon Master, it’s even more important when you’re running a homebrew campaign.
You need to be an expert on the world you built, the people that inhabit it and keep tabs on what your players have done.
I find that the best place to take notes and stay organized is using Microsofts One Note. No, I am not sponsored by Bill Gates to say that, I truly just think their folder and tab system works perfectly for D&D and it helped me out tremendously.
#8: Study Others’ D&D Homebrew
Something that I did early and often was watch various D&D streams so I could become a better DM. In fact here are the Best D&D Streams (That Aren’t Critical Role) that I would recommend you check out.
Studying others helps you brainstorm how you would handle different situations and gives you ideas on different elements you can bring to your game.
After listening to Dungeons & Daddies (the Outstanding D&D Podcast), I decided to begin focusing on more theater of the mind, while adding some much needed comedy to our campaign.
It’s important to see what players are responding to, and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Conclusion—D&D Homebrew is supposed to be FUN!
Dungeons and Dragons homebrew campaigns are amazing. They give you creative control to make the world, story and characters however you want.
There are some things you should keep in mind when running one though.
You need to be prepared, take your time building the world and get organized. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun with it.
Now go out there and create something amazing!
Tell us about your DnD Homebrew 5e campaign in the comments below!