My contribution to Blog Carnival #2, hosted by Donny the DM.
Role-playing is a funny old game. The minute you generate your first character or map your first dungeon, you’re creating something new, something unique. In many ways, everything you do in a role-playing game is Homebrew. The only way to not Homebrew would be to use pre-generated characters and play scenarios completely by the book. And who does that, really?
Ours is a game of imagination; it’s one of creative energy from start to finish where even the roles we play are nothing more than stage directions on a character sheet. Imagine playing Monopoly where each player brings their own counter and plays by slightly different rules. Maybe the dog has to stop at every lamp-post and the car moves more quickly around the board. Imagine halfway through the game you introduce new rules, or kill off your old counter and start again with another one, complete with a whole new set of rules.
We do all that, automatically, when we’re role-playing. I can guarantee that every gamer group who’s played Tomb of Horrors has played it differently, approached it’s challenges from different directions and all of them have tales to tell. Give 5 gamers the same character sheet and you’ll get 6 different interpretations.
Right from the start, role-playing has been a game of innovation, rules-fudgery and invention.
Rewind back to 1983 and the whole world was playing Elite on their BBC Model B microcomputers. Or at least, it seemed like it around our neck of the woods. We were also into an obscure British role-playing-slash-wargame called Warhammer, which back then came was made up of two black books and a superbly funny army roster supplement (incidentally, I still have my copies. They’re rarer than Dwarf’s teeth now). Being the proto-geeks that we were, we put together an encyclopedic Homebrew Campaign and Ruleset combining the two, fusing the Elite universe with the Warhammer rules. We invented ship creation rules, starship combat, the lot. It was a glorious Elite fanfest complete with trading, Thargoids and more.
We called it Rogue Trader.
Fast forward a few years and Warhammer suddenly gets all growed up and popular. A few of my friends have gone on to do gamery things, and Games Workshop (that obscure little British company) announce they were taking Warhammer into space. The title: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader. It was much changed from our scribbled ideas, but I recognised the names in the credits. Our little Homebrew had found a home.
D&D began as a homebrew. Probably all of the rules systems out there began as ideas scribbled in notebooks in someone’s bedroom, garage or office. My own Microlite20 is a Homebrew that started as an attempt to zenify Third Edition D&D and is now played and enthused about around the world.
I guess the moral is this: Everything starts as somebody’s homebrew, somewhere. Who knows where your Homebrew will go?