That's why I thought I'd take a moment to point out what I see as a problem with how people tend to throw around the term homebrew these days... particularly when it's used as a pejorative term.
|And especially because the right brew can perk your game up.|
Core, 3rd Party, and Homebrew Explained
So what is the difference, you may ask? Well, let's start with core material. Core material is anything released for a particular game by the company that created it. As an example, take the supplement book Bastards of Golarion by Paizo. I contributed several things to this book, including a bardic masterpiece and the alchemical concoction silvertongue. These things exist as a part of the core game as written and added to by Paizo, in the same way that options from the Player's Handbook or Volo's Guide are considered core options for Dungeons and Dragons.
|Following so far... when do we get to the homebrew part?|
The next category of material is 3rd party stuff. This material is often professionally written, edited, tested, and packaged the same way that core material is... it's just released by a different company. Example of this include the Demonologist (a base class for Pathfinder released from Total Party Kill Games), or the Inspired By Heraldry feats (released by Flaming Crab Games).
All of this material is made for use with the Pathfinder RPG rules system. It was created by teams of writers, reviewed by editors, and assembled with panache to make it as attractive as possible. The only thing separating this from core material is that it was released by a different company. This makes 3rd party stuff kind of like an off-brand soda. It's still really good (even better, according to some enthusiasts), it meets all the same checks and requirements as the original product, and it's often for sale in a lot of the same places. The flavor might be subtly different, but sometimes that's the appeal.
So what's homebrew?
Well, homebrew is just what it sounds like; something a person made up at home. Homebrew material typically has a single creator, and it lacks a lot of the editorial oversight and presentation that 3rd party and core material have. To keep with the manufacturing example, homebrew material is that root beer your friend's dad makes in the basement, and always brings to get-togethers in the summer. My example for this is how I made up stats for Reinhardt's energy shield in my Overwatch character conversion article for him. While the stats might be usable, and some folks might want to try them at their table, it's just something I made up because there was a specific niche that none of the existing mechanics covered.
I would like to reiterate here that homebrew content is not inherently bad. There are a lot of creators like Clinton Boomer who make all kinds of fun stuff, and who also have professional bona fides. The lack of oversight and editorial review means that homebrew content doesn't have to pass a filter, though, and as such there is very little quality control beyond what an individual creator can do on their own. You might get something great, or you might get a half-baked ass waffle because some guy named Geoff thinks a samurai with the powers of a gold dragon needs to exist.
To any publishers reading this, I will create a balanced version of that class if you'd like me to.
Big, Small, and Everything In-Between
A lot of folks don't bother separating 3rd party content from homebrew content. To their way of thinking, if the material didn't come from the sovereign company, then it's all the same (and not in a good way).
I'm not saying to open your table boundaries and let people bring whatever they want to your game. However, there is a big difference between a product created by a professional game company with all the same experience (and often the same staff) as a company like Paizo or Wizards, and content made without those same resources, experience, or staff. I'd also like to remind people that money, personnel, and a publishing staff is no guarantee of quality. Sometimes big publishers stumble, while the little creators get it right.
Just something to think about.
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