One of the biggest debates for DMs out there is to use homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns. There are reasons to use both, but there are also reasons to not use both. This is why it can be polarizing for some.
Homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns? The answer depends on you. Are you okay with more preparation, have more experience, and depend on preference.
There are many different factors that come into play, but first we should go over why people prefer homebrew or modules over the other.
When deciding Homebrew or modules for dnd campaigns, there are some reasons for and against why you would want to use either.
- They show the DM how to create an adventure.
- The Adventure is already made and the DM doesn’t have to make up one.
- There is consistency in these modules and you know what you are getting into.
- They help expand upon the world and DM knowledge.
The reasons for not picking adventures are thus:
- Modules generally need to be adapted in some way to work.
- They STILL require the DM to do a lot of world building and prep.
- It takes forever to read them and be able to understand them on the fly.
The reasons for homebrew are thus:
- Custom creation.
- Allows for more improvisation.
- Can be less prep.
- Cheap and doesn’t require money.
Reasons not to homebrew are thus:
- If you are inexperienced and don’t know how to make a good campaign, you will probably make a bad one or have a bad foundation.
- You are unsure of your DMing skills in ANY AREA! Such as roleplay, making good combat encounters, etc.
- If you become obsessive and either spend too much time out of game making the plot/world, and the chance to railroad is higher.
- This exemplifies every bad trait in a bad DM.
These are all the reasons for or against homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns. From just looking at these points, you might be able to ascertain which one is better for you, but we will go into it a little more. We will go into which is better for new DMs, experienced DMs, and more.
For now though, we will go over which option is better for you as a new DM.
New DMs and adventures
For new DMs out there, you are probably considering which is better for you. homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns? There are arguments for both sides.
The argument for using adventures is thus:
You are new, and should learn how to run a proper D&D game. This will teach you what to do, how a good story is unfolded, and how to make the game better than just a simple number crunch.
This argument is pretty solid. I started my first few games with adventures (they were called modules back in AD&D) when I was 10. I am only 29 now, but you get the idea. I needed modules for me as a new DM since I had absolutely no idea how to script or run a good game, but does that apply to you?
You are an adult and not a 10 year old. You have the capability to make up your own story and tell it. So are adventures really necessary for you?
The answer to that is probably.
Not a solid answer, but there are a few important things to consider. If you have never ran a DnD game, or played one before, you have no concept of what to do. If you were involved in DnD beforehand, you still probably are going to be overwhelmed. That is why getting a plot to follow is generally better than making one up.
You don’t have the experience to make up a good plot yet (for most DMs) even if you think you do, and that is okay. If you make a plot, there will probably be holes in it. Even the best of us have holes in our plots, and that is why it is great to use an adventure. Not because they are perfect and flawless, but because it gives you the opportunity to find holes in their plots.
Adventures are not perfect, but they provide a solid framework to work with and learn from. You, as long as you prep properly, should be able to learn about improvising on a minor level while providing a great game for your players.
These are a lot of good reasons for why you should use an adventure, but what about homebrewing?
New DMs and homebrewing
Homebrewing was done before adventures/modules were even conceived! That is how it was done in the earliest forms of DnD, and that is how it should be done!
This is the biggest argument for why new DMs should use homebrew in the homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns debate. There is one problem with it though.
The first car was the best and we have not improved upon it!
Who has ever said these words? I don’t think anyone has because we realize that cars in general can improve over time to be better than they were first made. This goes for production and everything else. It also applies to how we make campaigns in DnD.
We can improve upon what our forefathers did. We don’t need to handcraft everything on our own, and can use the experience of those before us. That is why we should generally use adventure modules to start, but when should you NOT use adventure modules? When should you just homebrew as a new DM?
The only time that homebrewing as a new DM is better than using adventures to gain your footing is when you have been an apprentice to an experienced DM.
It is not uncommon for a co-DM situation to unfold where 1 DM is the senior and the other is the junior. The junior DM learns from the senior DM how to be a good Dungeon Master and eventually becomes one themselves. If you are in this situation where you have been coached by a great DM, you probably are not going to run adventures.
The reasons for this are simple:
- You will not make a lot of rookie mistakes. Or at least are less likely to do so.
- You have a framework to work with and aren’t just making things up by yourself.
- Forced railroading is less likely.
These are 3 things you NEED before you can make a good campaign, and are the most common issues that new DMs face. If you do not have either of these 3 items solidified for yourself, then you should run and adventure instead of a homebrew.
But what is this point about railroading and having a framework?
The railroading and framework concerns
Railroading is when you make players do something they don’t want to in order to force them to go with your book. Not a plot, but a book that the players cannot deviate from.
The concern for railroading with new DMs is a real concern and much more likely than you think. New DMs don’t have the experience to realize when they are railroading, and might force the issue without realizing it. Making the game worse for everyone. This is why having an adventure is usually better for new DMs in the debate about homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns.
This stems from inexperience and if you homebrew a plot, you will have a personal attachment to it. This makes your players deviation from the plot personal to a new DM, while adventures are more of a math problem. How can you fix or solve the equation for an adventure? Is a much different approach than “That isn’t how it is supposed to be in my plot!”
Beyond just the railroading concern, there is an issue of framework. Look at this map.
This is one of the maps from our cube document. As you can see, I made doors, walls, notes, and more. If you don’t recognize these symbols, then that might be due to you never using an adventure. This could be a problem.
Without knowing how to make these notations, notes, and symbols it will become more work for you as a DM and you might have trouble replicating other DM’s adventures. That makes you have to always rely upon yourself for creating plots, and it can get tiring. It might even cause you to burnout, and we want to avoid that.
Sometimes using other’s adventures can re-ignite the spark that you are starting to lose, and that is much better than just going until you fall down from exaustion.
Also, without this framework you will have to make a completely new personalized system to make up maps, scenes, and more. It is a problem that can be addressed by learning from adventure modules.
The faults of adventures
There so far has been a lot of praise for adventures in the debate for homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns, but is why are adventures not exclusively used?
All of these positive points are generally aimed at new players. It can be nice for a DM to use adventures here and there, but the issue of having a framework, not having enough experience which lead to railroading and more are negated for veteran DMs.
The problems of adventures become extremely apparent with veteran DMs, and the first is the amount of time it takes to read, understand, and run these adventures.
Almost every adventure expects you to read the whole thing once, and then read it again before the section coming up happens.
This is insane when it comes to prep time. You have to read an entire book, twice, (at least) and then have to remember key points later on in the story or you might not be able to run the module. Making every bit of future planning wasted!
What is more, most adventures are not perfect. They have issues that need to be addressed, or might not make sense in some areas for your game. Your players can do something that throws the standard adventure out the window, and even then the adventure requires you to make up extra sections!
For example, they might tell the the DM that a merchant has come to the players and wants help for a goblin killing quest. That is it. What is the merchants name, reason for needing help, and what do they even sell? These are extra things that you will have to work out.
But how do homebrew games solve these issues?
Why most veteran DMs homebrew
If you ask the question “homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns?” Most veteran DMs scoff and pompously say that they prefer homebrew. A lot, possibly even most DMs exclusively homebrew. Why is this?
For an experienced DM, you don’t need to work about all the benefits that an adventure provides. You have learned to have solid framework for you campaign settings, have personalized them, and can easily make a plot.
In fact, making a plot requires maybe 30 minutes of prep time (if that) for the next 3 sessions. When prepping for a session, you can improvise more and leave the players or yourself to fill in the details as they come. You don’t have to read a book twice in order to play the game, which allows you to have more free time.
Since you have the basics down, you don’t need to listen to other’s stories in order to craft a good one. You by now know what makes a good story and what makes a bad one. You have confidence in yourself, and want to create your own story.
Creating your own story is personal and can make the game better since you are more invested as a DM. The plot is no longer a math equation to fix when things go wrong, but instead a living breathing narrative that is crafted on the fly by you and your friends.
This is what DnD is really about. Crafting a narrative with your players to make an amazing story. With that, most DMs prefer to homebrew since it leads to that objective much more naturally.
With all of this, you might be wondering why veteran DMs even bother to run adventures.
Why veteran DMs run adventures
Overwhelmingly veteran DMs prefer to run their own homebrew games. They don’t want to bother with the hassle of reading, following a faulty adventure that is fraught with issues. This is completely understandable, but some veteran DMs still run these adventures. Why?
Adventures give us a different perspective on how to run the game, and the world that we play in. If someone is running a game in Faerun, why not use an adventure to get more information? It will help them expand their world and help in later homebrews.
Furthermore, you are not able to know everything about storytelling. We can always improve as DMs, and these adventures might give us a different perspective that we hadn’t though of before. For example, making story that revolves around a hill giant who just wants to eat. They attack towns for food, and you never considered such a stupid reason in the first place.
For your games it might be more complex, and this breath of fresh perspective makes you realize that creatures/people can have stupid reasons for something. Simple, stupid, greedy reasons that cause problems.
It can even be the opposite where you learn how to craft a more intricate narrative. Regardless of what you learn, it can provide a new perspective which will not only make the current adventure interesting to your players, but also lets you improve future games.
Lastly, while avoiding burnout, we might see an opportunity. These adventures are not perfect most of the time, and we want to personalize them. We improve upon them and make them better, or just play an awesome story that someone thought of.
Adventures like ‘The Curse of Strahd’ are great. It is hard to match them even for most DMs in a homebrew setting, so why not play an awesome adventure? It is a great story, and one that will be memorable for you and your players.
In short, adventures aren’t all bad. They are not just a blight upon veteran DMs whose only purpose is to help indoctrinate newer DMs. They are a tool that can be used to help us enhance our game.
For most DMs out there, you probably have strong feelings in the homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns debate. Some veteran DMs abhor the idea of ever using an adventure, while others can see the benefit of using them.
For new players, you most of the time should start out with an adventure. It is a great way to be introduced to DMing, but it isn’t the only way. You can have a mentor that helps you get started by giving you a great framework, and helps you understand how to craft a great plot.
It is hard for many new DMs to do so on their own, and if you don’t have a mentor why not use the knowledge of those who came before? Learn from them first, then use that knowledge to make excellent adventures for yourself!
Despite how long adventures take, it might be worth it to veteran DMs to run adventures, or at least look at them, from time to time. They can provide new perspectives which can help us even if we are able to make up a new campaign with just small amount of effort.
With all of this, I hope that I have helped you decide which to use, homebrew or adventures for dnd campaigns.
This has been Wizo, and until next time keep rolling!