ey, I’m Cecil and welcome back to The Role Play Primer.
This week’s topic is homebrew versus published. So first, let's define these terms. Homebrew adventures or campaigns, are written either by the GM or by both the GM and the players. Published adventures and campaigns are written by either the game's publishers or by third parties and are intended as a way to quickly get playing in existing worlds without needing to I shine up very scenario and character.
Some people will argue, very strongly, that homebrew is the only real way to play the game. To those people it might be, but doing things this way takes a great deal more preparation from the GM, they have to map out a starting village and an area around it, give names to the bar keep, the shop workers, the mayor. Not every little detail, but the broad strokes need doing. Small things can be done as the game progresses, as long as you make a note of Richard DuPont, a local noble, when the characters meet him and you completely make him up on the spot. A good thing you can do to help make these situations a little easier, is have a big list of names that you mark off when you create a character, just make a note next to the name of who they are and what they do. If you like to use voices for the characters in your world, makeasmall note of the vocal characteristics. You might not use this NPC again for months, and while you might not remember their voice, your players definitely will.
Once you've got the basic town and surrounding area set out, begin to make small little backstories about some of the residents. Not all residents need backstories, because if they don't meet a certain character, you might be able to steal that backstory. And only make it a couple of sentences long. Players most likely won't be interested in the entire life of shop keeper number 3, but if something interesting happened to them, it could be something story related, or just a little hook to be forgotten by your players for 3 months, until the moment you reveal that this little detail was a portent of things to come. Of course it could just be something that happened in the past and has no bearing on the current campaign, but if gives the players a sense of the world.
One of the biggest parts of RPs is combat, and for some players this is the sole reason to play, either way, you're going to have at least some fighting occur through the story, some games don't even have rules for social situations. Building a combat doesn't necessarily mean a fight to the death in a pit, sometimes combat can be both a physical and mental challenge to the characters, for example they could be on a time limit, they have to escape a slowly encroaching death trap, but they are being accosted by goblins with bows and arrows. Killing everything in the room isn't always the best solution. Remember the Mines of Moria in the Lord of The Rings? They managed to kill everything in the first room, cave troll and goblins. But afterwards as they attempted to flee the complex, the balrog appeared. They had no chance of defeating it so they had to escape, Gandalf slowed the demon down enough for the rest of the party to escape. The party was still victorious from a gaming standpoint. They had met a for much larger and much more powerful than themselves, but had escaped with minimal losses and a knowledge of where they stand in the world. In DnD this would still be enough for characters to earn experience points, which allow them to grow stronger. So remember not every fight has to be throw goblins and party, watch party kill goblins, repeat. Published adventures can actually be a really good source of interesting encounters, including puzzles and death traps that involve no actual monsters, so even if you plan on creating your whole play world, I would still recommend that you pick up a published adventure or two.
Published adventures take much less preparation than homebrew, this does not mean no preparation though. The characters and locations will all have been written for you, at least the important ones. You’ll still probably have to make the merchants and small inconsequential characters between the important ones. Published adventures will focus heavily on characters important to the plot, but might only have a paragraph or two for half a towns population to be generalised.
One thing you must, must do, when running a published adventure, is to read the whole thing first, familiarise yourself with both all the important things happening and get to know the world, you'll be spending a lot of time here, and so will your players. Knowing who the mayor of the town is might not be very important (unless they are the primary source of work during the adventure) but if the players want to see them, it will make things easier to just straight away say It’s Mayor Devera, she's a human and lives in a modest home on the north side of town, but during the day she can be found in the town hall. Little bits of flavour here and there can really add to an already great story, and even save a poor one sometimes.
When buying published adventures you have a few things to consider, what level are the players starting at? How long do you want the game to go on for, one session or for several months? Adventures of all sizes and even themes can be found for the more common games, for example, pathfinder has adventures that are one session long, taking only a couple of hours and going from level one to three, or you can get sweeping adventure paths that take months of regular play to complete, taking characters all the way from level one to level eighteen, which is almost maximum level. These adventures also contain a wealth of knowledge and things you can rework into a homebrew game.
Countless published adventures can be found for most systems and I’ve definitely not played enough to make any solid recommendations, but most if not all RP systems will have a forum where you can find reviews and recommendations for adventures to run and resources to plunder.
I myself have barely scratched the surface, there is enough content to keep you playing for years to come, and I hope that you do.
That’s all for this week because time is a rare commodity, but next week I hope to take you through the basics of character generation for pathfinder and DnD 5e, so until then, Safe Travels, and may you always roll well.