MoonHunter Sayeth 20170920


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Homebrew (and why I hate the term)

A while back someone asked, “What is “homebrew”?

People should know enough not to give me an open question. If I know anything about it I will reflexively answer it.

Homebrew came to the gaming lexicon early on (77) from our gamer friends also in the SCA who were brewers (as it was told to me by two sources, one from old Chaosium and one from Lake Geneva).

In short, you take the basic components provided in a brew recipe and add your own touches by adding/ deleting ingredients or altering the proportions slightly. So a brewer can either do mass brew, recipe-it, or homebrew.

Now extend this to gaming.

Mass brews are the published game settings (or game rules) with no deviations.

Recipe are things combining the raw elements presented and generating something pretty much like everyone else. This is mostly used for game settings that follow the ethos of that comes with the game. Every game has a default world that most GMs modify ever so slightly and run it. In most gamer's experience, this is your average D20/ D&D world or canon WoD, where the details might change some, but basically if you knew D20/D&D/ WoD, you can just insert yourself in the game.

Homebrew is a do it yourself. In the beginning, you would take an existing system or setting and change it enough that is is mostly yours. Sometimes you just start from scratch and work from some rule ideas or a historical moment or some setting idea. You make it your own, your own homebrewed system or setting. Sometimes it is great, sometimes it is just good (like most published things), and sometimes you do get to fail.

That was the back in the day. It has been extended now.

The phrase has been extended to those who are making their own unique games or settings. This is the next step from the recipe it. Things are significantly different and if you (as a player) don’t know what is really going on you are going to be lost. We do a great deal of "homebrew" around here at RPG.Net (or my other home We do the unique and the unexpected. We do not stand on the expected, we take it and find our own new twist. Our is independent work, making an independent world or game.

In fact, I make settings as a subhobby, just like some gamers paint miniatures, collect dice, or collect rulebooks.

Now remember "here" is not the usual. In fact, most gamers look down on "homebrew". You can hear it in their voices or read the tone in their responses. "Oh, it is a homebrew."

It does make me want to smack them upside the head.

Can I just say I have a total loathing for the term Homebrew. I feel it cheapens the efforts of people who go to the effort to make their own game materials. It allows others to disregard it with disdain by a simple "oh it is some homebrew".

After all, it is not OFFICIAL or PUBLISHED material, so it must be crap (or cheap, or not as good as "professional products"). Many people have the attitude that if pay money for it, so it must be great. Think about that for a bit. Was everything you have bought great? Were some of the official and published works you have gotten all great?

If you have been gaming a while, you find that some of the best game worlds and systems you have encountered were made by gamers you have met, not publishers.

In fact just because they are published, does not mean they are good. We have all seen stuff published that makes us scratch our heads. (And how many units have they moved?) It just means they have more time and money invested in it than others do. (Though if it is on the 2nd or 3rd printing, there must be something to it.) Some regular companies are better at this and usually produce good or better settings and such. This is not a dig at RPG companies, nor am I saying that all home projects are awesome. It is a comment on the attitude that many people have. It is just a comment on the attitude that seems a bit too common among gamer. Homebrew isn't as good as professional. Okay, YMMV.

Just remember, many professional products started as "home projects".

Can we toss this relic word of the past away? Homebrew needs to be relegated to the dust bin. We should use better terms.

So please use the better terms: Self Developed or Independent


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My son had a stunning observation. His response upon reading this was simply two words (with four more implied).

Do they not know Sturgeon's Law?

Sturgeon's law, is an adage commonly cited as "ninety percent of everything is crap". It is derived from quotations by Theodore Sturgeon, an American science fiction author and critic.

So most of what you experience will be crap (or of low quality), be it Independent or Published.
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