Dungeons and Dragons: The Wild World of Homebrew

As our venture into the world of table-top role-playing progresses, I and my friends are now beginning to expand beyond the basic rules of Fifth Edition and experiment with more drastic homebrews.

The official logo for Dungeons and Dragons, fifth editionFor instance, for our most recent session our DM led us in an experimental one-shot using the setting of ReBoot.

I have to say I very deeply admire the effort our DM went to for this. He not only had to design entirely new mechanics for the ReBoot setting, be he also had to create the mechanics for the Games we entered into over the course of the adventure. At one point we wound up playing a tabletop version of Mario Kart. It was… different.

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because it did lead to a lot of the session simply being learning new rules, but still, the sheer creativity has to be admired.

The Reboot setting also allowed for some interesting role-play. I of course chose to be a Guardian, but I played him as a hardboiled, loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules. Meanwhile the show was stolen by one of my friends, who made her character an over-the-top cutesy anime JRPG heroine. We were a motley bunch.

For my part, in a turn of events probably everyone saw coming, I have begun working on some homebrew to adapt 5E to the setting of the Secret World. I started out just creating passives for the various factions — I decided that choice of faction replaces racial choices — but it got a bit out of hand, and the document is now 5,000 words.

My Templar tanking a lair boss in The Secret WorldThat being said, I still consider it a rather basic framework. It mostly still uses the same mechanics of 5E. I’ve not touched classes or monsters at all, aside from disallowing a few classes that didn’t fit the setting. I may expand it to include those things at some point, but I’m not sure.

It is very much a vanity project. I’m the only person in my friend group who ever played TSW, so I don’t foresee a lot of interest in this from my friends, and I’m not sure my game design “expertise” is at a level that any strangers would be interested in what I’ve come up with. If nothing else, it amused me.

I do wish to share one thing from the homebrew, just because I’m rather proud of it. I came up with a number of custom backgrounds to fit the modern setting, and while most are somewhat bland, the Conspiracy Theorist background is a bit more fun:

You were right all along! The Illuminati are real! The people in the YouTube comments said you were mad, but who’s mad now?!? You have proficiency in Hacking, Insight, and History, and you are also proficient with a Hacker’s Kit and Thieves’ Tools. You are much less likely to suffer consequences for revealing the secrets of the Secret World to the public, because no one takes you seriously. Your maximum sanity is lowered by 1.

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Dungeons and Dragons: Altitis, Writing an Adventure, and More

So Dungeons and Dragons has pretty much taken over my life.

The official logo for Dungeons and Dragons, fifth editionWhen last we discussed this, my initial campaign had shut down, but another DM had stepped up to run a new one. This campaign is now our focus. It’s a more sandboxy and episodic affair, as opposed to the linear official campaigns.

I’ve been playing a Tiefling Way of Shadows monk who multi-classed into bard for one level for a little extra flavour and versatility. It’s become a very crowded game, though not everyone shows up every week. We also have another monk (an Aarakocra who moonlights as an exotic dancer), a Halfing fighter, an Aasimar paladin (with glorious hair), a Kenku rogue (who’s delightful), a Grung bard using homebrewed racials, and a human wizard.

Like I said. Crowded.

Our general strategy tends to be for my Tiefling and his Aasimar BFF to charge into the middle of things, start smashing everything in sight, and hope for the best. It mostly works, most of the time. There was that one time I got swallowed whole by a giant worm and our other monk had to cut me out of its stomach…

Meanwhile, another member of our social circle has started DMing some games of his own, using Adventurer’s League rules. He has a very tight schedule, so it’s more of a once in a blue moon thing than a regular campaign. We’ve only played one session so far.

In that, I’ve been playing as a Drow sorcerer, who is loosely based on my ranger from Neverwinter. I wanted to play a pure spellcaster for a while, and I’ve always liked the wild magic angle of sorcerers.

My ranger and her sellsword companion in NeverwinterWhereas my other characters so far have tended to be hybrid/supports, this time I’m just going for a maximum “burn the world down” damage build.

It’s a nice opportunity to explore another new character. While I feel that there is a lot of difference between tabletop RPGs and video games, one common thread I have found is that I’m still a hopeless altoholic. I’m constantly coming up with new character concepts, and there’s not enough time to play them all.

In addition to the three characters I’ve played so far, I have fairly fleshed out concepts for two more. One is a ranger that I intend to play in a one-off session using the Eberron setting next week, and the other is a Shadar-kai druid. I discovered the Circle of Twilight specialization, which uses dark magic to hunt undead, and fell in love, and given the anti-undead attitudes of the Shadar-kai and their master the Raven Queen, it all just sort of fell together.

The end result is what I’ll call a “death druid” sent to enforce the cycle of nature, similar to Diablo’s necromancers. I’m very passionate about the idea. Unfortunately, Circle of Twilight is from Unearthed Arcana, and therefore not legal for Adventurer’s League; otherwise I would have used it for the new campaign.

I’ve also found myself missing my original character (the High Elf paladin), so I brought her back for a cameo in the current campaign, with the possibility of maybe switching to her full time.

Art from the Dungeons and Dragons game Neverwinter depicting an Elf very much like my own paladinOur DM wanted me to write an adventure for the campaign for a while, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and wrote an adventure around the paladin.¬†Because I’m still not a total expert on D&D mechanics and didn’t want to have too great an advantage over other players, I only wrote the story for this adventure. Our DM handled the mechanical design.

It’s a bit of a vanity project, but the others seem to be enjoying the story so far, and it’s giving me the opportunity for some great roleplay moments.

Since this campaign isn’t quite as high-power as the old one I wasn’t able to just be a paladin who’s also an arcane archer. Instead, I tweaked paladin mechanics a bit to make them work from range.

Instead of Divine Smite, I now have Divine Arrow, which is pretty much the same thing, except it works from range and rolls D6s instead of D8s for damage, to compensate for the advantage of being ranged.

I also rewrote Channel Divinity. It still gives me one of two utility effects per short rest, but instead of the usual Oath of the Ancients powers, I picked two of the arcane archer spells: Seeking Arrow and Beguiling Arrow.

I’m still weighing whether to switch to the paladin or stick with my monk. For the most part, I do think I prefer the paladin, especially when it comes to game mechanics. I’m glad I tried melee, but I think I prefer ranged when it comes to D&D, and I like having so much healing and support abilities.

Now all we need is a dungeon...However, I do really like how the monk fits into the party and the relationships he’s formed within it, like his roguish history with our Kenku and his buddy cop bromance with the Aasimar.

Also, D&D races don’t seem to be very well-balanced, and Tieflings seem to be just plain better than Elves. Hellish Rebuke in particular is an amazingly strong racial ability, at least at current levels.

Ugh. Decisions are hard.

My indecisiveness aside, I’m really enjoying diving into Dungeons and Dragons. I love building characters and exploring the stories, and getting to share it with my friends is a really positive experience. Our D&D sessions are becoming the highlight of my week.