D&D General Decision paralysis: how do you homebrew?

pukunui

Legend
Okay, you've made the decision on Eberron, in the Eldeen Reaches. Great!

Looking at the map, the NE section (as opposed to SW) looks appropriately empty if you wish to avoid overwriting existing data. If Khorvaire is only Western Europe sized, you have plenty of room. (I note a lack of scale, and sort of recall there was some kerfluffle about that.)

Are there any mountains, rivers, or other such physical terrain that are important in the module?
Here's a map of Elsir Vale (the mini-setting for the adventure):
Elsir Vale map.jpg


The bulk of the adventure takes place in the eastern half of the map.

For comparison purposes, here is a map highlighting the Eldeen Reaches, with the 5e map scale included:
Eldeen Reaches.jpg

And here's a map of the Eldeen Reaches with a map of Elsir Vale superimposed over it for scale comparison purposes:
Eldeen Reaches + Elsir Vale.jpg
 

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pukunui

Legend
If I just wanted to run one specific adventure, I wouldn't bother creating a setting for it at all.
When running an adventure in 5th edition, I would just tell the players to pick whatever races and deities they want from those listed in the Player's Handbook. Those will do.
Maps, locations, and NPCs should already be provided by the adventure, and if things happen during play that requires adding new ones, I'd just keep them in the same style.

Homebrewing a setting makes sense when you really want to go explore the setting with the players. For reflavoring an adventure that already has its own flavor, I think it's really not necessary.
It's not going to end up just being one adventure, though. RHoD is for levels ~5-10. I want to include some adventures before and possibly after. These could potentially take the players out of Elsir Vale and into the wider world.
 

Yora

Legend
In my opinion, good setting homebrew is always all about deciding on a specific style and tone, and setting the environment and culture of the world up to reflect that and bring it to life.
When you start setting up a new world, you have infinite options to pick from for races, classes, cultures, landscapes, creatures, gods, planes, factions, magic items, and so on. Not everything fits the same worlds or works well together when combined.
Making a big list of all kinds of things from existing settings that are really cool is a good first step. But the second step has to be to narrow down a specific style and tone that the new setting is meant to have, and then ruthlessly purging that long list of everything that doesn't really fit into that concept or even just play a meaningful part. I've been working on the same setting idea for over a decade, and mostly the process of refining it consists of identifying more things that need to be thrown out because they are diluting or distracting from the main concept.
 



Li Shenron

Legend
If the latter, do I want to have the gods be greatwyrm dragons? If yes, do I want that to be known or a secret? (I did try running Odyssey of the Dragonlords for one of my groups not that long ago, but we gave up before the big twist reveal.) Or do I just want to have the usual pantheon of squabbling gods? Or do I want something a bit tighter? Another question is: do I want the gods to be a real, knowable force like in the Realms or do I want the matter of their existence to be up in the air like in Eberron? If the latter, do I want to make it so there are no clerics or paladins? I've done that before, and it was fun and different, but do I want to do that again for this campaign? If I get rid of clerics and paladins, do I want to keep things like divine soul sorcerers and celestial warlocks?

The answer to all of the above questions is: I don't know and I can't decide!
Then don't decide at all :cool:

Are you running this new campaign for an established gaming group?

If that's the case, how about asking the players if they have a preference on the setting?

If it's not the case, are you sure they actually care for stuff like pantheons and the nature of gods? You do not have to tell them anything upfront. You can start the campaign locally, and wait for them to discover the world later on. If you have a Cleric in the party, you only need ONE deity to be defined, and you could ask the player to choose anything instead of planning a list for them.
 

Same. However, sometimes all I get in return is "we would be happy to play in whichever game/setting/campaign you want to run." Which, while I appreciate their confidence in me, doesn't help when I've got decision paralysis!

I ask my players. "Do you guys want to play in Eberron, or would you prefer we make up a new world for this campaign?"

Some advice I recently heard (talking about DCC RPG, but it can apply elsewhere) is "don't wait to do the cool thing." If your ideas mashed together from Eberron and Dragon Age are giving you some "oh, this is so cool, I can't wait to see it come to life with my players," then that's what I'd say go with, barring a firm choice from the group.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
It's not going to end up just being one adventure, though. RHoD is for levels ~5-10. I want to include some adventures before and possibly after. These could potentially take the players out of Elsir Vale and into the wider world.
I'd definitely use Eberron, then. If the worst thing that happens is that the Eberron official map and the Elsir Vale map don't line up properly, I don't think that's a huge loss.

I prefer the map found here to the official map, personally; I would use either Eastern Breland above Darguun or Valenar instead of Eldeen Reaches, but using the Reaches with the barbarians from the Wastes definitely works too.
 

pukunui

Legend
Then don't decide at all :cool:

Are you running this new campaign for an established gaming group?

If that's the case, how about asking the players if they have a preference on the setting?

If it's not the case, are you sure they actually care for stuff like pantheons and the nature of gods? You do not have to tell them anything upfront. You can start the campaign locally, and wait for them to discover the world later on. If you have a Cleric in the party, you only need ONE deity to be defined, and you could ask the player to choose anything instead of planning a list for them.
I don't think either of my groups particularly cares about setting details. In terms of gods, though, it's not just about what deities the cleric can pick. I find that the gods are really one of the most fundamental aspects of the setting. They help inform the way the world works, its legends and cultures and mores and all that. There are also a number of NPC priests and religious buildings in the adventure itself, and since I don't want to use the default Greyhawk gods, I need to come up with some replacements.

Same. However, sometimes all I get in return is "we would be happy to play in whichever game/setting/campaign you want to run." Which, while I appreciate their confidence in me, doesn't help when I've got decision paralysis!
Precisely! And this thread isn't really helping either, since some people are saying "Use Eberron!" and other people are saying "Go homebrew!"

I'd definitely use Eberron, then. If the worst thing that happens is that the Eberron official map and the Elsir Vale map don't line up properly, I don't think that's a huge loss.

I prefer the map found here to the official map, personally; I would use either Eastern Breland above Darguun or Valenar instead of Eldeen Reaches, but using the Reaches with the barbarians from the Wastes definitely works too.
Yeah, I've seen that alternate map, and I really like it too. The reason I like the Eldeen Reaches the best is because it's one of the more isolated areas, there aren't any lightning rail lines (unlike in eastern Breland) and the theme of a mostly rural, agrarian society led by druids fits really well with Elsir Vale.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I don't think either of my groups particularly cares about setting details.
Ok, and let's try to take this positively: it means whatever you choose eventually, it'll make a fine game.

But do you mean you have TWO groups you are going to run RHoD for? Could this mean you have the possibility to play it in one setting for group A and another setting for group B? Because that could give you a way out of your indecision.

In terms of gods, though, it's not just about what deities the cleric can pick. I find that the gods are really one of the most fundamental aspects of the setting. They help inform the way the world works, its legends and cultures and mores and all that. There are also a number of NPC priests and religious buildings in the adventure itself, and since I don't want to use the default Greyhawk gods, I need to come up with some replacements.
All right so even if it's just you as DM who want gods, then you definitely need to make a choice.

We can't help you pick a fantasy setting because each one of us has its favourites and RHoD will run fine probably in almost all of them. So let's focus on homebrewing.

You CAN pick just the pantheon from a published setting and put it in your homebrew world. But again each one of us will suggest their favourite. Let's try building a pantheon from scratch instead.

There's a list of basic questions you can go through, each of which contribute to the aspects of the setting:

  • do you want a few big deities (3-5), a moderate sized pantheon (<20), a large pantheon (tens) or a myriad pantheon (hundreds)
  • do you want the deities to be very clearly defined, mysterious or largely unknown (leading to religions being alternative theories rather than simple allegiances)
  • do you want deities to be clearly separate entities or blurred
  • do you want character-like deities or more abstract/conceptual
  • do you want the pantheon to be static (deities never change) or to have new deities being born, disappear, change portfolio or even alignment
  • do you want different pantheons for different worlds, regions or races of creatures
  • do you want the possibility of mortal ascent to godhood
  • do you want portfolios to be simple ("god of justice") or mixed ("god of justice, bogs, cloud giants, bakery and juggling")

At least some of these questions will give you a draft of a list or table to fill in with the specific of each. This is just but one possible structured and "engineering-like" approach to building a pantheon.

An alternative is to steal existing deities from published setting following your guts and sense of cool, then change some details including the names to make them your own. Switch the gender or the alignment, merge two deities together, add one very unrelated item to the portfolio and so on.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Once upon a time I used to adapt it. Square peg round hole.

I would run it as is or just plop is down somewhere in Eberon, change the names and don't think about it.
 

pukunui

Legend
But do you mean you have TWO groups you are going to run RHoD for? Could this mean you have the possibility to play it in one setting for group A and another setting for group B? Because that could give you a way out of your indecision.
Yes, I run games for two different groups, and I could potentially run RHoD for both of them. Yes, I could potentially do Eberron for one and homebrew for the other. That would mean twice the work, but it is something I am considering.

Re: deities - here's the work I've put into it so far: D&D 5E - Dragons as Gods (+)

The first post contains most of the religions / deities from my previous attempt at a homebrew world, with thoughts on "what if they were actually dragons" a la Fizban's. Later in the thread, I had a go at converting a few other existing pantheons (e.g. the Theros pantheon) and also attempted to come up with a new pantheon of gods based purely on the dragons detailed in Fizban's.

This is where I started to become stuck - not just on "do I want the gods to be dragons or not?" but also on things like "do I want there to be clerics and paladins or not?" I tried not having them in my previous homebrew iteration, and I thought it was fun and different, but the players didn't really engage with any of the religions. But then they tend not to engage with them that much even when there are clerics and paladins and one of them is actually playing one of those classes, so I guess religion is not something my players are particularly interested in exploring in their fantasy games (and one of them is even an army chaplain in real life!).

So it's really only important to me as the DM. And I just can't make up my mind. I can't decide what's better.

RHoD by default involves an attempt by the BBEG to summon an aspect of Tiamat, a draconic god. I was talking to a friend who suggested I shouldn't make all the other gods be dragons too because that would lessen the impact of the focus on Tiamat. I'm not sure I agree, but it got me second-guessing myself again.

This brings me back to my OP, in which I said I couldn't decide the details of my gods.

All I know for sure is that I want the "true" myth of the creation of the homebrew world to be very similar to that of Eberron's. Namely, there was a being known as Io the Concordant Dragon, the creator of everything. Io either died and split into three new beings or created three offspring. Either way, he was succeeded by the three Progenitor Dragons. One of them was evil and killed their sibling, so the third imprisoned the first in her body, creating the planet. This dragon essentially fills the role of Gaia / Mother Earth in this mythology.

That's the only bit I can decide on for sure.
 

delericho

Legend
If I go homebrew, I have some bits and pieces already determined, some of which is ripped off from Eberron and Dragon Age and the like. But the main sticking point is figuring out the details of the gods. After reading about greatwyrm dragons and dragons as gods and the like in Fizban's, I got the idea of trying to incorporate that into my homebrew for this world as well.

But I honestly am just completely and utterly paralysed by indecision at this point. I cannot make up my mind. Do I want to do the work to fit it into Eberron or do I want to make my own homebrew world?

If the latter, do I want to have the gods be greatwyrm dragons? If yes, do I want that to be known or a secret? (I did try running Odyssey of the Dragonlords for one of my groups not that long ago, but we gave up before the big twist reveal.) Or do I just want to have the usual pantheon of squabbling gods? Or do I want something a bit tighter? Another question is: do I want the gods to be a real, knowable force like in the Realms or do I want the matter of their existence to be up in the air like in Eberron? If the latter, do I want to make it so there are no clerics or paladins? I've done that before, and it was fun and different, but do I want to do that again for this campaign? If I get rid of clerics and paladins, do I want to keep things like divine soul sorcerers and celestial warlocks?

The answer to all of the above questions is: I don't know and I can't decide!

So my question to you guys is: How do you guys make up your minds about this sort of stuff?!
Faced with something like that, what I'd recommend is writing a very brief treatment for the homebrew with some sort of answers to those questions. At this stage it doesn't actually matter too much what those answers are, they key thing is to write something on paper.

Then put it aside at least overnight, preferably for a week. (Or, even better, give it to someone you can trust for some feedback.)

When you come back to it, read it through and see how it feels. This may then go one of three ways: either you now reject it as junk and start over; or it's perfect and you can build on it; or, most likely, you like some bits and want to change others.

At this point you probably have the start of a foundation you can build on.
 

This is where I started to become stuck - not just on "do I want the gods to be dragons or not?" but also on things like "do I want there to be clerics and paladins or not?" I tried not having them in my previous homebrew iteration, and I thought it was fun and different, but the players didn't really engage with any of the religions. But then they tend not to engage with them that much even when there are clerics and paladins and one of them is actually playing one of those classes, so I guess religion is not something my players are particularly interested in exploring in their fantasy games (and one of them is even an army chaplain in real life!).

So it's really only important to me as the DM. And I just can't make up my mind. I can't decide what's better.

RHoD by default involves an attempt by the BBEG to summon an aspect of Tiamat, a draconic god. I was talking to a friend who suggested I shouldn't make all the other gods be dragons too because that would lessen the impact of the focus on Tiamat. I'm not sure I agree, but it got me second-guessing myself again.

This brings me back to my OP, in which I said I couldn't decide the details of my gods.

All I know for sure is that I want the "true" myth of the creation of the homebrew world to be very similar to that of Eberron's. Namely, there was a being known as Io the Concordant Dragon, the creator of everything. Io either died and split into three new beings or created three offspring. Either way, he was succeeded by the three Progenitor Dragons. One of them was evil and killed their sibling, so the third imprisoned the first in her body, creating the planet. This dragon essentially fills the role of Gaia / Mother Earth in this mythology.

That's the only bit I can decide on for sure.
Well, players will become porportionally invested in what impacts their character's lives. Even so, if they are wholly disinterested in the spiritual angle, that can be a reasonable choice.

For what it's worth, of the twelve main gods of my campaign two are draconic. Nagamat is a CN dragon goddess of magic, and Bahamut is a LG god of Defenders and Sentries. However, Bahamut is usually depicted as a human in scale mail and a draconic themed helm. Gods have many faces, and can appear differently to different cultures. Decide on the details for today, in this region. The coast port, the mountain village, and the trade city may have all rather different depictions of a particular deity. Their customs are likely similar, but not necessarily the same. As an example:

So, we have Lord Brisingr - Lord of Summer, Sire of Sola, Tamer of Beasts, the Unconquered, Watcher of the Ivory Gate, the All-Wise, Patron of the Glaetyri (Elves). Part of Lord Brisingr's domain is Tamer of Beasts; he taught the mortals the secrets of domestication, namely the falcon and the horse. Dogs too, but that was more a mutual agreement. Horses are part of his symbology, and there is a myth on how He and Cousin Horse came to terms.

Lady Ishtar - Lady of Spring, Mother of Rivers, Dancer in Rainbows, Midwife of the Inundation, Shaper in Clay, Mother of Morun, Mistress of Leaves, Patron of the Adan (Humans). She also has influence of shallow seas, although those are contested with Lady Sekhalah. But, the Sea Princes of Equon revere her given they ply the waters of the Silver Way (major river), the Sweet Sea, and the Bays of the SIlver Mane. Not only does the Equon penninsula have a horse-like shape, but they also associate the froth of the waves with the manes of horses. (Similar to the Greeks) Their ship's figureheads are often equine in nature. Horses, in this part of the world, are associate with Lady Ishtar and not Lord Brisingr.

And, to be clear, no one expects this level of detail right out of the gate. This is something you discover organicially as time goes on.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
This is where I started to become stuck - not just on "do I want the gods to be dragons or not?" but also on things like "do I want there to be clerics and paladins or not?" I tried not having them in my previous homebrew iteration, and I thought it was fun and different, but the players didn't really engage with any of the religions. But then they tend not to engage with them that much even when there are clerics and paladins and one of them is actually playing one of those classes, so I guess religion is not something my players are particularly interested in exploring in their fantasy games (and one of them is even an army chaplain in real life!).
For this, at least, I would suggest one of two options (or maybe 3?):
1) Have a very brief outline of your suggested/ideal Pantheon, that you don't have to flesh out at all if no one engages with religion.
2) If someone engages with religion, then collaborate with them around what their religion looks like, its practices, holy days, etc. Make that part of the world building.
3) Consider dropping Paladins and Clerics, and go with Warlocks as your "cleric" class. Warlock with a draconic or extra planar patron could be more interesting to tie in with your ideas around how the world religion works, and would make it more "manageable" (i.e. individual), rather than "clerics all over the place". You could then tailor one or two patrons and outline the cleric spells that would be available. Warlock Pact of the Blade could be your "Paladin" and other Warlocks could be your clerics.

I've also played with only building the religion for my homebrews just in the area the players are. So what are those major deities, what to they look like, who and how are they worshipped. I don't worry about the whole world. If they venture out of this kingdom, then I'll worry about what other deities are out there.
 


pukunui

Legend
Then put it aside at least overnight, preferably for a week. (Or, even better, give it to someone you can trust for some feedback.)
I have tried this several times already. It has helped a little bit but not enough really. This project has been germinating in the back of my head for a long time, and I only recently sort of got it back out to give it another go.

3) Consider dropping Paladins and Clerics, and go with Warlocks as your "cleric" class. Warlock with a draconic or extra planar patron could be more interesting to tie in with your ideas around how the world religion works, and would make it more "manageable" (i.e. individual), rather than "clerics all over the place". You could then tailor one or two patrons and outline the cleric spells that would be available. Warlock Pact of the Blade could be your "Paladin" and other Warlocks could be your clerics.
Yes, warlocks and divine soul sorcerers. Moon Knight is essentially a warlock of Khonshu, the god of the moon, and the elemental cult priests in Princes of the Apocalypse are all sorcerers. Between them and druids, that should suffice for priests with magical powers.

Just roll a D6.

Odds = Eberron
Even = homebrew
I wish this sort of thing would work for me.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Try this: Pick a specific encounter you're excited to run from Red Hand of Doom – something that doesn't have a lot of encoded setting info beyond a town name – and start converting it. See where that takes you.

Right now you're focused on the macro setting scale stuff. But that's actually only a small sliver of what an adventure is about.
 

pukunui

Legend
Try this: Pick a specific encounter you're excited to run from Red Hand of Doom – something that doesn't have a lot of encoded setting info beyond a town name – and start converting it. See where that takes you.

Right now you're focused on the macro setting scale stuff. But that's actually only a small sliver of what an adventure is about.
I have already converted all of the encounters from part 1 of the adventure. I got stuck when I started converting the NPCs in the towns and cities, some of whom are clerics. There are also clerics on the enemy side - the very first encounter of the adventure includes one, but at least the enemy clerics all follow Tiamat. I didn't want to include Pelor, Wee Jas, Erythnul, etc, but haven't been able to figure out who to replace them with. I also need to decide if I even want clerics or not.

I've also had the idea of replacing the goblinoids. If I place the adventure in the Eldeen Reaches of Eberron, I'd replace them with fiends and human barbarians from the Demon Wastes. If I stick with homebrew, I may make them Cult of the Dragon followers (using the stats from the Tyranny of Dragons campaign) plus draconians and abishai in place of the dragonspawn. Partly to mix things up a bit more.
 
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Neko Princex

Explorer
KISS = Keep it Simple, Sweetheart

Keep everything as much the same with minimal modification as possible. Even use the map as is, modifying only names of locations. Change the names of important NPCs as well as Deities. I do recommend putting your own spin on characters, places and other necessities. You might want to keep a secondary GM map to know where the the 'good stuff' is that you don't want the player's to know. As per history and locations, don't go overboard; use simple ideas and extrapolate lightly....as the players adventure and discover, makeup up new information on the fly if necessary. If you have trouble keeping notes, keep audio recordings of the sessions and keep a clock on hand in the room...you can reference the time as an audio stamp for key notes that you may not want to write down right away or because of in-depth improvisation note-taking is just impossible.

Let the players develop the area around the adventuring location as well, as they write their character history, let them come up with names of neighboring cities, countries and kingdoms. They can even develop a couple of contacts that they use on a regular basis. Also allow them to develop an adversary (say a childhood bully). Ask them to write-down as much detail as they want, as their work will minimize the amount of effort you need to put into homebrewing. You can even award XP for world development if you'd like (I've done this in my own games). As they develop the world, make sure to take what they give you and change it just enough to give the players a sense of maybe something being off or wrong, perhaps even let them believe that a contact or dear childhood friend that is helping them, could very well be giving correct information, but leaving out information that could possibly endanger them or that the contact/friend might actually be working in opposition to them.
 

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