To Pre- or Not to Pre- 2…

Yesterday I mentioned a few good things about selecting a pre-generated campaign setting or making your own “homebrew” one.  Either might be a better option for you or your group, but there are of course downsides to each as well.

Pre-generated Pitfalls

So Many Shiny New Toys – If you are electing to run a pre-generated game that is also not a NEW setting, it is possible to find the wealth of material intimidating.  Consider that most supplements for campaign settings are a small slice of mechanics and huge offering of “fluff” (I kind of  dislike that term) detailing histories, current events, and personalities of the setting or part of the setting you have selected.  Despite their high quality and gorgeous art, campaign setting guides can be a bit like short history books.  For the right person, it could be a delightful afternoon or five of perusing the ancient histories of Endamon.  For the wrong person it is a bit like getting homework from an invisible teacher, in a class without a subject, who then gives you a final that you have to take in front of your best friends in the form of an oral exam… also, you will not receive a grade from the course aside from that in the eyes of said friends.

Loremasters –  Popular games being what they are, you generally are not going to be the only one in your playgroup with any experience with the setting.  Some of them will ALSO have all your shiny books and sparkling  tomes.  They also might have more and have read them.. ALL.  They may have read the novels and the fan-fiction and web errata and the supplemental rules… and…    It is possible that the “Loremaster” will know more about the setting that you will (or ever want to).  This can be insanely helpful.  It also can be annoying, disruptive, and erode your authority as GM… especially when your “Loremaster” is a precocious 14 year old with no emotional maturity or filters of any kind.

Out with the Old – If you are a permissive GM you may run into difficulty with evolving rule-sets or new canon stories in established settings.  If a new story or rules element requires an event or massive change that is “non-canon” you may reach a point where YOUR Endamon is too different from the “official”  world.  Your characters replaced the Fallow King with a new more benevolent ruler right before the awesome Rage of the Fallow King deluxe path came out and now you can’t use it at all without negating your own campaign history.  This can also lead to “continuity reboots” and “retcons” that some long-term players will find highly dissatisfying.

Homebrew  Hazards

A World Without End – No really.  You can spend as much time developing a world as you want.  Or have to.  Or want to have to.  Maps, custom rules,  adventures, stories and the like can flow endlessly from you and eat your life.  A passionate homebrewer can spend as far more time rendering a world than playing in it.  This can eat up resources and drag attention from your  story to that really awesome concept for an elven community you had…  It is quite possible to get lost in your own world and your game can suffer for it.  That said you SHOULD spend some time fleshing the world, otherwise it will come across as a canned generic-fantasy with a random page flip of a Bestiary deciding what’s on the menu for the night.

A World By You is a World For You – And probably NOT all your friends.  The more tailored your setting, the more elaborate your concepts… the more likely you are going to exclude the interest,  offend the senses or otherwise alienate anyone that is not you.  Restriction by rules is an awesome way to ensure the feel of things in your games or to reinforce a concept (Say, the gods are dead, druids are the only divine casters in the world) but this might mean David’s next character concept (An oracle of a Civilization god) might not be workable.  We always make worlds we think would be fun to play but as a player once said to me, “This is a game, not your novel.”  Account for the interests of your group when selecting qualities and traits for your setting otherwise you are risking negative impacts from the very beginning of your game.

A World on Your Feet, hopefully Fast  – You are far more accountable for minutia if you make the world.  And your players might be interested in things that are not or were not of interest to you.  “Who was this guy’s dad?”  Do you know?  Is it important?  You can hand-wave this but every time you do so the world may grow a bit more translucent to your players, less real.  And by the time they reach the throne of the Fallow King, you might realize that they barely care because any question they would ask you have never been ready for, and despite HOURs of prepping the big bad and his dungeon, they aren’t even curious anymore.

These are a selection of issues that are prevalent to me when GMing but they are far from exhaustive.

The TL:DR: Rule – Generally a pre-generated setting saves time and loses flexibility while a homebrew setting takes time and gains freedom.

If you have the option, I highly recommend both.  Learn your players and consider different nights or events to explore each option.   Be honest with your answers (to yourself at least) and evaluate how well each goes.  You might be a poetic world-builder who’s current group wants a nearly sanctioned echo of the official setting, you might be a low-improv meticulous architect surrounded by people craving a permissive free-form  game.   Take care of yourself and make sure you have fun too, but in accounting for other’s tastes your experiences might surprise you.

Next… Enter: Endamon

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