GM Tips, hosted by the talented veteran Game Master Satine Phoenix, is our show to help Dungeon Masters and Game Masters improve their craft and create memorable roleplaying experiences. Last article, we covered a Dread special about Mood and Suspense, and this week how to run improv an impromptu homebrew game.
You’ve got four friends, a night off, and one core RPG book. Now quickly assemble an entire campaign with just that material. For many Game Masters that’s how we got started in our teenage years. These days, there are products galore from official game companies, the Dungeon Masters Guild, or other third party companies. For a lot of GM’s these campaigns are either for easy fun or at worst times, a crutch. But you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars buying every adventure book, or even any of the supplement books as well.
Dave & Tedd from Nerdarchy lend their sage wisdom about running pure homebrew games on GM Tips with Satine Phoenix. Get caught up below!
In the video, they cover about how it’s possible to run homebrew, but most importantly—the why. I’ve personally found that you, and your players, will always have a greater sense of investment when you are playing in something self-created.
Listening to stories of others who bought campaign modules, one of the most common reason I’ve personally run across is a lack of inspiration. A group of people get into the game, run a starter module, and then they just start buying one book after another to get their fix. I mean…it’s not like many of us aren’t guilty of buying way more game books than needed. The how’s and why’s are covered in the video, but there is a secret weapon to get started in almost every core game book: the recommended viewing and watching section. They look like this section from Changeling the Dreaming 20th Anniversary:
Because they aren’t filled with rules, powers, or fiction, this small little section is usually printed at the front or the back of the book under inspirational materials. Open your book, hunt down that section, and go watch something from that list. Even if you aren’t running a homebrew game, it’s good GM practice. Just watching any of the suggested movies will give you ideas of spin-offs or expansions or places to play in there. Look at each piece of source material through the lens of “If I was to run a game here…”
The Dreaded Prospect of Work
Creating your own world, pantheon or adventures might be something you shy away from because of the daunting amount of work needed to do so. We’ve got you covered:
Story supplementing – a guide to all kinds of links and products meant to make your storytelling experience as painless as possible. The internet is a wonderful thing.
Online generators, story hook ideas, and other shortcuts aside—all you need to run a homebrew campaign is a good story hook. “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door…” (Fredric Brown). Or any of Satine’s homebrew’s that she’s done for decades, like Sirens of the Realm which was born from the idea of everyone playing a band traveling across the realms. After you have this story hook, let the players take it from there. Dave and Tedd from Nerdarchy already gave you the keys—just let the players run with it. They are, after all, their own worst enemies.
Setting The Sandbox
Run a heist game.
You want to run a homebrew campaign with entirely off the cuff and have it be a lot of fun? Make it a heist game. You’ve been hired to rob a bank. It’s so simple and it works for every game system by allowing players to have a clear up-front and focused goal for team builder. Character concepts unfold naturally once they have this narrative focus, but it also highlights the importance of a sandbox.
You can generate an infinite number of awesome games by taking the players handbook and limiting it. Only allow characters to play rogues in the game OR everyone is forced to be a young recruited war wizard and shipped to the front lines. Outside of D&D, in say, Vampire: The Masquerade you could set a sandbox by saying that everyone is playing Brujah on the run from the law. You get the idea. Instead of buying books to expand your content, you can dive inward and tell stories by limiting the world to a smaller sandbox. Once you get started this way, plot line and improv storylines create themselves within the game.
So who here started with homebrew campaigns raise your hand? Let us know any tips you have the comments below!
Looking for More Useful GM Tips?
- How to handle long-running and epic rpg campaigns.
- Discover the importance of community-building and organized play.
- Shop the Geek & Sundry store for DM gear, like a “How Do You Want to Do This” hoodie!
Image Credits: Changeling the Dreaming 20th Anniversary
Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.