Modules Vs. Homebrew Campaigns - Web DM



Hello and welcome to Web DM. I'm Jonathan
Pruitt and to my right as always is Jim Davis.Today we're gonna pick his brain and find out what
it takes to be a DM in this 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. So when it comes to starting a new campaign,
a DM has a choice at this point. Yeah Yeah. Do you go module or do you go homebrew? Or
some combination. Or some combination. You know there was a time in my life when I would
have been like homebrew all the way, forget the module. Right. That modules were for suckers.
That they were for DM's who didn't have the creative chops to make their own adventures
and I don't believe that anymore. The modules exist for people who don't have enough time
to make their own stuff, who want to use a module as an idea generator to sort of kickstart
their own campaign. Yeah. So when a DM is sort of sitting down and going should I run
a module or should I run a home game, they shouldn't feel if they don't wnana do a homebrew
that they are somehow less of a DM. Or not as creative as a DM or not as skilled as a
DM, just forget all about all that. A module is just a set of ideas that comes prepackaged
that you can use and it becomes up to you how much you wanna make it your own. Starting
with modules, what are your pro's and con's and also I mean what's the different kinds
of prep? Yeah. You know cause it's a different beast. So pro's and con's for modules, less
prep work for modules, obviously you're gonna wanna read the adventure multiple times and
take notes in it, post it notes, pencil mark it up. Write it up. And if there's something
in the module that you don't like get rid of it, if there's something you want more
of add it more in. The module is a..the beginning of the adventure and not the final word. Right.
It can be a great ideas generator. Running through 'Rise of Tiamat' there's been plenty
of times looking a particular scenario or a problem that I can think of oh well this
a great idea let me spice it up a bit. Or what If I inserted this here? For instance,
would be including a Red Dragon in the adventure. If you look at the number of dragons that
you fight, for some reason Red Dragons are suspiciously absent. So you're gonna wanna
add in your own. Otherwise, they will go through the entire Rise of Tiamat dragon fighting
adventure without ever touching a Red Dragon. Yeaah. I'd say another pro for the module
is it's a shared experience. Being able to online and talk to other people about, "How
did you guys handle fighting the champion outside the gates of Greenest?" How did you
guys handle rooting out the kobald cavern at the Caves of Chaos? For the Keep on the
Borderlands players. That kind of shared experience builds a culture of Dungeons and Dragons,
builds a culture of role-playing. Let's you connect with people at your local game store.
You can kind of share experiences. You can gripe. You can gloat. You can brag. And I
think that that's a real value to running these modules that doesn't often get said.
Maybe a final pro would be modules tend to be combat heavy. It's a pro and a con but
for players who like that kind of thing. For DM's who like a real combat heavy game, having
a module handy that you can just pick up and run, whether its something that is meant to
be played in one afternoon or over a series of games. Having that kind of combat heavy
encounter can be really fun. It's also one of my con's , combat heavy. Modules tend to
be combat heavy. Yeah, it depends on what kind of role playing experience you're looking
for. I mean do you wnat a strict role-playing where you're just in the court saying your
thing. You're trying to make contacts or sometimes you just wanna kick down the door. So, one
thing that DM's who're running modules need to look out for is combat balance and I wish
there was a hard and fast rule that this is what balance means, this is how you achieve
it but there's just not. And I think a lot of DM's struggle with making sure that their
combat encounters are balanced. All they need to worry about is are they balanced for my
players? Are they balance for the adventure I'm going to run? Not necessarily are they
balanced against the entire game. And so I have a lot of sympathy for people who are
writing modules because they are asked to create combat encounters that are supposed
to be universal. Applicable at every table and that's just never gonna happen. Yeah it's
hard to account for all of those options. Right. Like cause what if you have a party
all multiclassed characters that's so bastardized that you can't even really tell what they're
supposed to be, but they're awesome. And they're having fun playing them. They're having fun
playing them. Right. But you're not rolling in there with your standard fighter, cleric,
rogue, wizard. Right. That's one of the things as a DM as you're reading through the modules
that you wanna look out for. You wanna make sure that the combat encounters work for the
group that you're playing them. How hard are they gonna be for that group. Chances are
you're gonna have to adjust them in some way, either adding or taking away some monsters,
creating a different kind of environment to fight in. One of the other problems with running
modules is they're less customized that a homebrewed game. Yeah. So if you have players
who really like to get into the world and they really like to immerse themselves in
it and enmesh their characters in the campaign, running a module can sometimes feel restricting
for them. They might not care much about the scenario or about the problem. And there's
nothing necessarily wrong with that except now you don't have a game and kind of have
to back up. What are we doing here? Yeah. Why are we adventuring? And then of course
there's just bad writing in modules. It does happen. I know you've played in ones where
the map doesn't match the descriptions. Oh that's just frustrating. Or there's poor writing
so you're not really sure how an encounter is supposed to go down. What the puzzle is
supposed to be? Yeah. And it's frustrating for a player. It's frustrating for a DM. You
really wanna try to avoid those as much as possible. Or you know reading through the
module going ahead and identifying those problems and fixing them before you bring it to players.
Right. That way you can kind of hide the faults. Yeah, there are stories of some DM's where
they have their own PC's that they run through the module by themselves. That seems like
a lot of work for me. Yeah. But there are people who when they wanna test out say how
balanced an encounter is that they run through some sample characters. You know I think it
really depends, you can put as much work into a module as you like but definitely read it,
adjust it where you see fit, make it fit for your campaign. Yeah, we all can't be Abed
in the Dreamatorium. Absolutely, would that we could. Yeah, would that we could. Moving
onto homebrew, what are some pro's and con's of your homebrew campaign? So I think for
homebrew what's going to be top on the list of pro is customization. Yeah. You are creating
a world that you know this group of people is going to share and they're going to experience
in different ways but that there's an opportunity for everyone to become invested in the world. And
this is one of those things that some DM's, the world is theirs and just in the same way
that they would tell a player how to play their character. They don't like a player
wanting a stake in the world. I think that's a little limiting. Right. And I don't necessarily
think that that's the best way to DM. I think that you should open your world up to players.
Let them decide what a major organization is. Let them decide the course of a nation,
or the course of even just a region. It gives them a stake in the game and really sort of
opens it up for everyone to have a share in that world building experience. I think proly
what's really fun related to customization is creating sort of the histories and the
organizations and the backgrounds of the world. You can draw on anything that strikes your
fancy. Whatever media or literature or whatever that you enjoy you can incorporate that somehow
into your game. Really let's the DM's flex their creativity in a way that maybe a lot
people to have an opportunity to. Maybe creating a world is their version of writing a short
story or drawing or whatever it is that they like to do. Cause this is a shared storytelling
experience, I mean your creating your own 'Choose your own adventure' as your playing
it. As your playing it. That's the beauty of role-playing. Yeah. It's not just a board
game. Absolutely. It's a storytelling, you're sitting around the campfire. And for the people
who like to come up with a story ahead of time and sort of work through a plot, creating
their own worlds can be fun. For people who like to just have a scenario or two and see
what happens and not have anything plotted out from the beginning, still a great way
to do it. Still a great way to incorporate what you love most about the game while leaving
out what you don't. So what are some of the con's? So..there is a lot of homework involved
in creating your own game world. You're gonna need random tables. You're gonna need descriptions
of locations, even if it's just something that you've just thought about not necessarily
written down. That can take a lot of work creating your own world. And if you're also
creating your own world and creating your own campaign to take place in it, that can
be double work. Yeah. And a lot of that can be very intimidating for new DM's. Yeah. You
know there's two approaches to creating your own world. There's sort of a top down I'm
gonna write out everything possible that I can about this country and that country and
this group and that group. And just have it all mapped out so that it's all there ready
for the players. I kinda think you're doing a lot of work that might never see.. you might
never get a payoff. Right. So I much prefer the bottom up method where picking a starting
location. Better yet have everyone agree on a starting location. As part of group character
creation say, "Alright, I'm thinking about you guys are starting out in this location,
maybe it's a trade city on a major river. Maybe it's a small coastal village. Whatever,
what do you guys think? How do you guys see your characters fitting in there?" And then
let it, let the campaign grow organically. When you guys need to move to a different
location, that's when you adjust it. But yeah, there's no reason to come up with every town
and the population of that town. And what kind of system of government. What kind of
system of finance. You know, I mean. You can do that. I do like doing that, but.. But at
the same time that's a lot of work. You know one of the major con's of running a homebrew
game is that it's difficult to release control to the players. That you get attached to your
creation and you get attached to your world. That can be a real problem because there might
be times whenever a player idea is just better or fits better for the campaign. I mean you
should try to integrate your PC's into the game as much as possible, right? I mean that's
just a free resource of ideas. Yeah. I mean your saying oh even through you're creative
and I'll let you play with me, I don't want your ideas other that you're Fighter/Barbarian
that has a 20 strength. Yeah. That's as much as you get to add to this game. That's as
much as you get to add. And maybe for some players that's as much as they wanna add but
the door should be left open for people for players who want to contribute more, even
if they do so gradually or in fits and starts. They don't necessarily shouldn't feel cut
out from the game. You know some of the best plots that I've some up with and some of the
best scenarios that I've come up with have been 'here's a problem'. As a DM, I have no
idea how it should be solved and just watching the players work it out and think out loud
and come up with ideas. There have been so many times where I've been that's a way better
idea than I thought of..stealing it. And you don't necessarily tell anybody. That's sort
of the dirty secret of DM'ing is you just take it and it was always this way. Oh yeah,
I'm surprised that y'all figured it out so quickly. Geniuses! So having that level of
interaction between DM and player, they can become involved in the world and make the
game more memorable and enjoyable for everyone involved. Not just for one or two people but
for everybody. Alright Jim, so we spend money on these books.
Right. And the DM enforces the rules. Sure. But what happens when the book doesn't have
the exact rule you need? And you gotta house rule it? You gotta house rule. What are your,
what's your thought process for that? So with a newer system, like D&D 5th I try to house
rule as little as possible. I wanna see how the rules work. I wanna see how they fit together.
I wanna see what problems come up in actual play and not on the internet. They've been
a lot of times where you read something online, it's like this spell or this ability is a
huge problem and we need to deal with it. And it's like, that has never been a problem
for my game. So I only house rule things that I know are going to be problems. Try not to
do too much proactively. But that said, you know there are some things that end up getting
house ruled by default. Yeah. It would be like encombrance, rations. When was the last
time we looked at your character sheet and was like how spoiled are those two weeks rations?
Right. You know what I mean. Yeah. Thanks again for watching Web DM. We're gonna
have new one's every Wednesday. Tell your friends. Come back next week.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. I decided to become a DM recently. At first I had a specific group of people in mind to play with but i eventually took on 3 other full groups. I decided to just make one world for all of them to share. It's sort of an MMOTTRPG now with one huge world with multiple groups placed really far away from each other with really big campaigns with multiple ways to enter into a story line. When ever I feel inspired I write down my ideas and incorporate it into the world. I could only do this because none of my groups are free for a while. I don't even care what will be used because the thought of the PCs getting so invested that they muster their own army to go to war with each other makes it worth it. About 60% of my inspiration happens while I'm watching this channel!!!!

  2. That way they feel like they can be a true hero not being beat up or held down buy The Peasant girl

  3. Can't really call that a adventure instead have a base set of 10 then roll 1D 8 that way you don't have a player worried every time it comes to a savings roll

  4. Sample playing character was really looking forward and playing a half orc Ranger druid he chose rolling for his character so he can have decent stats for those two classes when he rolled two sets of three DM felt bad had him try again just his luck another two sets of three now he's stuck with 3in intelligence and Christmas he can't speak all he does is Grunt and drool LOL

  5. You guys are awesome im a new dm you have given me a lot of inspiration i also really like listening to you guys

  6. I've written my own adventures but what I tend to do is take modules and fit them into my campaign world while changing names around and changing elements that I don't like.

  7. I'm going to DM for the first time and my party is an all caster party (Moon Druid, Glamour Bard, Great Old One Warlock and a Conjurer Wizard). I love combat, but I don't want to put them in a place where they're getting KtFO all the time and eventually it becomes a TPK. I'm actually thinking of maybe creating a Cleric as a side character to help, but at the same time I don't because DMPCs can suck the fun out of a game.
    Any advice?

  8. I like to get inspiration from modules and use the established setting and put my homebrew story inside of it

  9. Currently running Tyranny of Dragons, on Chapter 7 of HOTD. Rogue picked the "Half elf friend was kidnapped!" thing, and I made their meeting (as she shows up as a cult member) into an emotional, heart-felt roleplaying experience where he made a series of Persuasion checks to convince her to turn away from the path she was on and lo and behold he succeeded on all of them (I had her WIS (Insight) contest his rolls and she has a +6 to Insight but he rolled lots of high rolls with expertise and she rolled poorly) which ended in her agreeing to be a double agent and basically giving him all the information she could about the Cult and willingly helping him and the rest of the party into the Cloud castle.

  10. My worlds are distinct and self-building. I adjust nothing. If the party ends up somewhere they shouldn't be…too bad for them. I always make sure the world informs them of what they're getting into, usually multiple times, occasionally even point-blank. But, always in-game, and if they don't pay attention, the resulting TPK is not my problem. I'm not their babysitter, nor am I responsible for tailoring anything to them. The world is what it is, it changes on its own, and it changes according to how they interact with it. What happens after that is on them.

  11. A house rule of mine is Bards can get "Effect" cantrips. Adding Wah , amplify or distortion to the instrument at higher levels and can only pick a few.

  12. I'm a first time DnD'er who jumped right into DM'ing. I didn't get the game too well when I just started so I figured I'd start out with the The Lost Mine of Phandelver module included in the starter set. This went OK for the first two sessions, but when my players arrived in Phandelver itself I stopped and start houseruling, because a problem came up: I was scared to say anything about the town because if I screwed up the module might not make sense anymore. I'm now running two campaigns, both in my own world, and the freedom is awesome because if I screw up and go completely away from the story I planned I can change the story and the PC's don't know a thing about it. It gives the PC's more control over my world and it feels a lot less nerve-wrecking to prepare for me. So maybe it's just me but I don't think modules are always the easiest starting point.

  13. My issue with the module I'm running right now (Storm King's Thunder) is how specific the encounters are. There's no guarantee the players will provoke such a specific response.

  14. Personally, I think its your responsibility as a DM doing a homebrew campaign to allow the characters to have major stakes in the world.

  15. Interresting topic, I've never involved player in plots and world building. Maybe because we are doing not more than 10 sessions each time. And I'm not sure how it would work…

    Every starting campaign, I will give a starting point and tell them about of the great lines of the world and follow their steps and will.
    If in a session, players would drasticly change their mind saying : "let's drop to the mission and let's go to the capital city", this where I would use a module to fill the gap.
    I'm always splitting my major plot into clues that I include fast into a random module,
    I had great campaign with players telling me at the end : "everything was linked at the end, how you could know", and I don't tell them 60% is improvised and that most of my work as GM is to sew their adventures in-between session.

  16. I agree with about 95% of this advice. He said a pro of a pre-made is that it takes less prep work, but then he said to read it multiple times before running. Yes, if you are going to run it, it’s best to read it multiple times, however, in less time than it takes me to read an entire module once (depending on the number of pages of course). I could write my own home brew. These days I use pre made modules as he described, to mine ideas and even npcs from.

    To;dr: I would argue that it doesn’t take that much (if any) more time to create a home brew than it does to prep a pre made. Especially after you’ve done it a few times.