- Note to contibutors: This wiki is an encyclopedia, not a repository for fan-made game content. See the list of D&D wikis for sites which accept homebrew material.
Homebrew is fan terminology for game material made by players of a game, rather than by an official or third-party publisher. In a Dungeons & Dragons context, this often includes new spells, character classes, campaign settings or variant rules.
Origin and usage
The word "homebrew" originally referred to private individuals who brewed their own home-made beer or other alcoholic drinks as a hobby. The term entered metaphorical use for anyone who produces hobbyist versions of products which are normally produced only commercially, such as video games for consoles.
The term "homebrew" has been used by the D&D fan community at least as far back as 2003, where it was used to refer to to a home-made D&D campaign setting in contrast to an official published world:
- "As someone who has not until recently learned much about Dragonlance, I'm excited to see what it can offer my homebrew campaign."
- — kexizzoc87, 2003
In August 2003, the Wizards Community Boards had a forum named Homebrew for the purpose of home-made campaign worlds, suggesting that at that time the community used this word specifically to refer to campaign settings.
Wizards of the Coast also used the term in the context of campaign worlds in articles on the official Dungeons & Dragons website in 2005.
The usage of the term "homebrew" evolved from fan-made worlds to fan-made game material in general.
In an article dated July 2006, designer Mike Mearls used the word "homebrew" in a broader sense to refer to monster design. In November 2007, fan-made repository D&D Wiki updated its front page to use the term "homebrew" in reference to all fan-made D&D content, including classes, feats and deities.
By 2017, Wizards of the Coast's D&D Beyond site for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition announced the inclusion of a homebrew section allowing users to post fan-made content.
History of fan-made content
TSR era (1974-1997)
- "First, the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his "underworld", people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the later two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level."
An early amateur publication was Arduin Grimoire Vol. 1 (1978), an unofficial roleplaying game or supplement based on Original Dungeons & Dragons. It describes a thriving community of amateur D&D content creators in the game's early years. However, as D&D became more profitable, its publisher TSR became less tolerant of fan-made and third-party content. The foreward to Arduin Grimoire described the situation as follows:
- "About three years ago fantasy role playing games began to become extremely popular among gamers of all types. At first it was something new and wonderful, and ideas and information flowed freely among the players.
- About a year or so ago [c.1976] things began to change: the joyous games was becoming big business. And those non-amateur game designers took on all the trappings of things that have profit as their main motivational force: greed, secretiveness, hunger to control the market" and all of that other garbage.
- Amateurs who tried to publish their ideas were being told to cease publication if their ideas even remotely resembled any those big business types had published. Yet those same people ripped the amateurs' ideas off quite freely, and with dismaying frequency."
In the 1990s, TSR was frequently criticized online for its legal threats against fan websites, earning the company the nickname "T$R".
Wizards of the Coast era (1997-current)
Wizards of the Coast's 1997 buyout of TSR and the release of the new Dungeons & Dragons third edition in 2000 created new opportunities for players to invent fan-made content. Wizards of the Coast was significantly more tolerant of fan-made content than TSR, and even released large parts of the game under an Open Gaming License to allow third parties to publish D&D supplements without paying royalties.
At the same time, the internet gave amateurs new ways to share their home-made D&D content. RPG forums including ENWorld and the Wizards Community Boards allowed users to share their own game material. Freely-available content management systems such as Wordpress also made it easier for people to publish online.
On 4 February 2006, dandwiki.com was founded to serve as a well-indexed database of fan-made Dungeons & Dragons content. The growth of this site and homebrew in general was helped by D&D 3.5's inclusion of guidelines for making new monsters, and its richness of flexible systems for character customization.
In 2017, Wizards of the Coast released D&D Beyond, a website which allows users to to contribute their own homebrew material.
Fan-made Dungeons & Dragons material is often criticized for low quality and poor balance. This phenomenon is particularly well-observed in Dungeons & Dragons third edition homebrew, an edition which strongly rewards character optimization. Players who create their own game content may be biased toward creating content which make their character more powerful than is standard for their level.
- UnCon Chat Transcript: Dragonlance Campaign Setting Q&A, Wizards.com, December 2003
- Monster Makeover: the Rust Monster, Wizards.com, July 2006
- Main Page, dandwiki.com, 2 November 2007.
- Men & Magic (1974), p.5.