The best piece of advice I got was when I was 25-years-old. An older, homeless gentleman listened patiently while I droned on and on about all the stuff I knew. He waited until I was finished, then looked me square in the eyes and quietly said, “You don’t know what you are talking about.”
He was right of course. And the older I get the more I realize how little know.
So the next few hundred words from me may be pure baloney. And I don’t know a lick about your homebrew world, I’m just humbly suggesting there are some compelling reasons for you to run a published D&D or Pathfinder adventure, at least for your first few years playing.
Reason 1: Bounded Rationality
Sure, I like to express myself creatively, as nerds are wont to do. But I’ve grown to realize that my opinions are just that: opinions. Besides, they are all from my narrow point of view.
Psychologists call this narrow point of view “bounded rationality.” Summed up, bounded rationality explains how we barrel ahead headfirst with our personal point of view, which seems perfectly darned reasonable to us. But the “bounded” part is there to remind us that we haven’t considered other points of view.
What does this have to do with D&D? Well, even a simple playtest we do on Roll20 can teach us lots, and even if we only make slight tweaks to the original draft, we end up with a smoother experience for folks down the line.
Many of the creative choices made in homebrew worlds suffer from bounded rationality. They need another set of eyes to push back and make them consider those choices from another point of view, even if its just a quick playtest or something.
Reason 2: Playtesting
Let’s push this idea of playtesting further, far beyond a homebrew scenario where our “playtest” was bouncing a couple ideas off a buddy over beer and pretzels.
I’m talking about a STRESS TEST level playtest that surveys a wide range of feedback. You know, the scope of playtest that only a publisher has the resources to do. With the upcoming Pathfinder 2nd edition, Paizo is rolling out a HUGE playtest of the system and the feedback will tweaks and adjust the final system.
Sure, every point of feedback won’t be implemented as you can never make a creative choice by trying to please everyone, but it will darned sure be a better product by having literally thousands of eyes on it. This will give it a polish that homebrewed / houseruled situations simply can’t replicate.
Reason 3: Financial Investment
Playtesting involves a financial investment, so let’s shift to finances for a moment. How much do you think Paizo has invested in the system or WotC has in an average D&D 5e book? Add up salaries and benefits of all those names in the credits, then tack on freelance and consulting fees.
How much can you invest on nights and weekends?
Now, let’s spin that a different way. How much is your time worth? A good deal of expense has already been placed into playtested professionally crafted adventures, pay them $30 bucks for it and save your time, because your time is money.
Reason 4: Less Work
Let’s not overlook the obvious. Homebrewing is a lot of work. Why not let professionals do that work, while we can spend our time at the table?
To be clear, I create of lot of things simply for the joy of creating it. I’m sure that goes for you as well. But I don’t have to, I want to. Besides, I fully realize that what I create as a hobby doesn’t match what experienced professionals create vocationally. The fact is that folks tend to over-estimate their own creativity. Not all of us are Matt Mercer.
So it behooves us to save ourselves some work and look to Chris Perkins for the heavy lifting.
Reason 5: Shared World Opportunity
My favorite RPG setting is Golarion. I share this setting with all the rest of the nerds of the world who play Pathfinder. And as mentioned above, Paizo has literally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the playtesting and professional management.
Let’s talk about player investment as well. Nerds have spent thousands of hours reading Golarion sourcebooks (or Forgotten Realms if we’re talking D&D). There is an opportunity there in several ways. First, players feel good when they have knowledge of the lore. That only occurs with professionally shared worlds. Second, DMs can save a ton of time by simply tapping into the knowledge already in the players’ noggins’ without spending that time crafting home-brew worlds that they’ll then have to ramp up the players on.
Listen, we all have our own tastes, so please hear me when I say “You go, nerd!” if you are bent on homebrewing something unique. But the opportunity to share a professionally crafted world with others is not nothing, because it helps the players step up by being ‘lore masters.’
Reason 6: Production Values
Maybe production values don’t matter to you, but I enjoy them. I love having books on fine quality paper that are properly copy edited. Then, adding in the beautiful professional artwork seals the deal.
So if this reason doesn’t connect with you, that’s fine. I just wanted to point out that a homebrew world can’t compete on production values.
Reason 7: Still Room for Tweaks
In closing, forget everything I said, because we’ve established that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know the reasons why you do or don’t homebrew. But I do know that the beauty of professionally published adventures is that we don’t have to run them as written.
Tweak the heck out of them!
We get the best of both worlds from published adventures when we take what we like about them, including the professionally crafted storyline, then cut the things we don’t, and tweak and adapt as we see fit. That’s just smartly contextualizing it for your group and table.
In that sense, a published adventure morphs into our own homebrew campaign. We get the professional time and talent investment, in addition to the high production values, and the crafted storyline, all set in an established and recognizable world that players feel like they share in the lore.
We’re nerds, so there will be an array of opinions on this. As long as there have been published Dungeons & Dragons adventures, these options of running published adventures versus homebrew adventures have existed. I simply wanted to suss out a few thoughts that you may not have considered.
The truth, of course, is run what you enjoy. Do you love running published adventures? Go for it. Do you love homebrewing your own. Go for it!