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AP vs Homebrew

Gamer Talk

Sovereign Court

Our game group used to be Home brew only, that was back when PF just came out hard cover. before that we where a 3.5 Home brew group. We initially had 2 DM's (myself and 1 other) that would switch off DMing after every 4 - 6 sessions typically. We got another guy in the group that DM'd and shortly after are other main DM left. The new DM decided to Run Kingmaker and it was not to long another person joined that DM'd. The DM playing Kingmaker left the group because of martial issues (We would not baby sit her 2 young children so she could go shop and he could play every 2 weeks). The other DM decided to run Serpent Skull and we had gotten almost through Book 2 in Kingmaker when that DM left and then just to book 3 when the other DM left for medical reasoning. I at this point decided to run CC just so I could have things prepared quickly to game. We got in 2 more players that DM's (both still with us) and another that just left us for employment reasonings (Yeah we are a meat grinder to people leaving) One New DM ran 1 book of Jade, The other up into Book 3 of LoF and the one that just left 2/3 through Shackles.

After playing though parts of KM, SS, CC, LOF, JR, S&S I think we have found every AP to be predictable and admit ably not that rewarding to this gaming group. What AP's offer is a quick way to run a game with little to no prep. BUT there is no choice to what PC's can do, if the PC's decide they don't want to open the magic artifact scroll that will destroy the world and sell it, then the AP ends and the game becomes home brew and the DM's would rather run their own adventure in their own worlds.

We also found AP's are killers. if you take 4 players at 15 pt buy there is no way you can live. Especially when you have 6 players with 4d6 drop the lowest getting killed easily even when played smart and not Min-Maxed.

After this last partial AP I think our group has decided Home brew games will be are meat and potato's. The home brew tends to offer more RP, better character immersion and makes the players feel they are more a part of the adventure than AP's. Since a Home brew is far more sandbox offering players a greater selection on what to do. They can go where they want, when they want and a DM can flow ith it much easier, though with a lot more work.

So what is your opinion on AP's vs Home brews? How does your group handle them and what do you as a player/DM prefer?

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

A home brew will match the DM and party better (I assume a good DM here). That makes sense.

The AP does require the DM to put some thought into how his party playes vs the AP as written. For example I had one Party filled with people who loved to power game. I had another who was less into the rules and more into the story. Both were fun to run, but how I ran things was very different from group to group.

I am very interested in hearing more from others about this. We have been using home brew for years but are looking to play an AP so the GM has less prep.

The Exchange

I'm in an online group that switched from Homebrew to AP, and I also joined in to an AP before. I've also played in 3 other homebrew settings. I completely understand where you're coming from about the APs, but don't forget that if you don't have a good GM then a Homebrew can be just as killer. The only TPK that I've been in was in a Homebrew, and it was just because of the conditions that were set up, not because of the enemies being strong or the party being weak. I'm certain that if all of us were able to participate equally in the fight we would have breezed through it like it was nothing.

I like Homebrews better simply because the GM can cater to each specific player (If they are able to join) easier than an AP. In a Homebrew you can have a wandering _____ who is pretty strong because of the party comp, but has an item that the party would like to have. IE, a roaming Druid with a wand of Cure Light Wounds.

This doesn't necessarily mean I don't like APs. They are generally balanced so that no matter what you, the party, play as you will be able to get through it with the same general outcome.

Good topic, by the way.

Liberty's Edge

Our group had always done home brew. We just started working through APs. We have found that the APs have provided challenges to our group that we never thought of putting into our home brew stuff.

Definitely both.

If I plan to run a short, high-concept campaign for no more than a dozen sessions, I will homebrew.

If I want an epic-scope campaign that will run over years, an AP helps to prevent burnout by letting me be less of a writer and more of an editor/director.

I will say that running APs has upped my homebrew game as well. And they're only as railroady as the GM lets them be.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Circumstances have led me to do mostly homebrew, but I haven't had opportunity to fully test out APs.

DQ Rambling Endlessly Style:
Well, I have never actually played through an AP in my whole life, save for a Kingmaker based PBP I'm in that's extremely slowly paced (I doubt after a couple years we're out of the first book). There are only few of us that have bought APs; the one who has bought the most has been on a break from GMing and I doubt, given he's got a taxing job and a new baby in the house, he will not GM for at least another few years.

I have another GM who's run out of linked modules but not APs. This I think is easier if you can't predict how long a campaign will be--it gives you an adventure to structure things by, but it's short enough that if things end sooner than you expect, you can wrap it up. And if it keeps going, you just grab another module.

I've got a long standing homebrew world that I've been developing for around 10 years now, before I ever heard of an adventure path, and prefer designing adventures from that world -- cribbing from APs and modules, sure, but reshaping things not only to my world for my own purposes, but repacing things for a group that cannot meet usually more than once a month (this is based on past activity, I'm on a GM break at the moment as well).

One of the campaigns I hope to run in the future is a seafaring campaign. But when I was first planning it, I thought, heck, how am I going to devise rules for ship to ship combat and piracy and am I going to have to write up a zillion pirate and privateer and naval officer stats? And then Skull and Shackles was announced. Nice. So I do own that whole AP, but even then I don't plan to run it--just crib the rules and stats and maybe a few maps and individual adventure ideas. I feel certain knowing my group trying to run the AP as written, things would go quite awry and as unexpected and I'd end up having to wing most of it anyway, so I'd rather just go in with the expectation of having to wing most of it, then hope to stick to a script (however very loosely) and then be unprepared when something happens.

I think APs are long and if you can't count on a campaign lasting a long time or you can't meet very often to play they can end up being unwieldy -- but are also designed as such that indeed they can be mined for ideas and stats that you can then adapt to homebrew.

And then as above, there's always modules for when you don't have time to prepare and don't want a lengthy campaign.

I think deep down, I've always preferred the freedom and creativity that homebrew offers. As a GM, I'm not particularly interested in using somebody else's material - I'd rather devise that sort of stuff on my own. That's what's fun for me.

On the other hand, I do like to steal good mechanics/encounters, particularly because I find writing up statblocks to be a real chore. And if you can manage it, completing an Adventure Path is pretty spectacular. A few years back, my friends and I managed to complete Age of Worms (quite the task in itself, and it took us well over a year of regular gaming). Our DM pulled out some extra special stops for us towards the end, making specialized miniatures out of paper-mache (we still have the giant Kyuss model he made, and it looks great). Another player purchased a poster for the AP and then, when we finished, had us all sign it in glossy ink and framed it. I thought that was a really nice capstone to everything.

Currently, we're on year 3 or 4 of Savage Tide, and despite some long interruptions and hiccups, we're closing in on the end (level 16 right now).

Being able to provide a way to "go the distance" with long-term engaging plots is the big advantage that APs have over homebrew, I think. Finishing one of those is a real accomplishment, and if you can manage it with your entire original gaming group (as we managed to), you feel pretty awesome.

Liberty's Edge

I run homebrew. More due to the fact that when I try to run an AP my group fights it the whole way. They prefer to not have me look at a book to say where the storyline is going.

I also enjoy running my own homebrew (I made my own campaign world). I love being able to suddenly run with a bout of inspiration or suddenly work out how to run with the curve my players just took.

Right now due to the way negotiation went with some lamias the group promised to break the curse on the lamia race in exchange for the allegiance of the lamias in the battle I'm prepping to end the campaign. Thankfully I planned for this to go beyond 20th level already so this should be interesting.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've run homebrew for most of my GM life-- which was admittedly on hiatus for 15 years until last May. I've been running RotRL since then, but I've been doing a lot if additions & modifications, tailoring the AP to my group. So... I guess I've got the best of both worlds!

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber


Homebrews are insanely flexible, but require an extreme amount of work to pull off.

APs are more restricted, but offer more content support to ease the burden of the DM.

Organized play makes for good modularity at the cost of player agency.

Modules are great one shots but hard to make into an extended story.

Each have their advantages and disadvantages, making them all equal in different ways. The same way novels, movies, and television series are all equally enjoyable, in different ways.

All my best gaming experiences have been homebrewed. I haven't actually cracked an Adventure Path, mind you. But old-style modules just aren't particularly fun, in my opinion. And there almost never seems to be any good reason for the module's structure (I use the term loosely, here) to exist.

An exception to the "modules suck" rule: most of the modules that were made for convention play (the Slaver series, the Hidden Shrine of Timuachan, etc.) are actually pretty fun. But most of them require pregen characters, which I don't usually like.

So, anyway, I think homebrew is better. YMMV

I prefer homebrew. I also prefer gaming techniques that reduce the amount of prep I have to do (I also enjoy them when I'm playing).

I've played in three APs, they've been okay. I'm sure a DM can make them awesome, but I'm not enamoured so far. I could see borrowing heavily though.

I'd love to do homebrew, but the two groups I play with do not have the same style as I do so I use APs for now.

Sovereign Court

Since i am the only GM in my group, i mostly run homebrew. I did convert and run Age of Worms and Savage Tide for three years, without any additions/changes. But aside from that i have run homebrews for 9 years. On the other side of the coin is one of my players, a 1st and 2nd edition grognard who always gripes how PF is too easy, but still always plays with us. He never ever ran anything but published modules and campaigns. I think he intends to run Rotrl after i finish a current game.

Never officially did an AP, but when running through "Hungry are the Dead" (is it technically an AP, or too short?)
I hated it. Might have been the GM, but I was the only one with an issue. It just felt so fake. Like "why am I here?"

I've only experienced a fraction of one AP -- the Red Hand of Doom.

It was fun, but most DMs like to run their own stuff IME -- myself included.

Shadow Lodge

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Both. When I run APs, I homebrew the heck out of them. Relocate them to my setting, reflavor a ton of stuff, revamp NPCs, adjust encounters, constantly tweaking everything. Mostly an AP just saves me some time on a few statblocks, and gives me maps and plot (which I still end up tinkering with). By the time I'm done with it it's generally recognizable as what it used to be, but only through a few visible similarities - in practice it might as well have been cobbled together from scratch.

When I run a homebrew campaign, I'm basically doing the same thing, just without the luxury of the leg-up that the APs provide. So I'll end up stealing stuff out of APs I have lying around, getting plot ideas, statblocks, maps, etc. that I have to spare, and using that to add to my ideas.

I think the main difference is in an AP the story's laid out for me in advance, I just tweak it this way and that way as I go; whereas with a homebrew, I come up with a few major plot points, but leave the rest freeform and ad-lib along most of the way. I'll really only do hard prep the night before/a few hours before a session, once I'm pretty certain I know what's going to happen (and don't expect too bad of a curve ball from my players), and that's when I handle my area descriptions, monologues, etc.

Otherwise, at least in my case, there's very little difference between the two in the end.

I am currently running a homebrew play by post and playing in a kingmaker play by post.

Sovereign Court

Good feed back, thanks for everyone so far for your thoughts.

I know from 2 of the players in my group their fondest memories and tales have both been Home brew games. Neither really has the "Good Memories" of the AP's we tried.

I know after this last S&S session where the DM was leaving us, I think we have all concluded Home brews are what our group needs. The other two DM's in the group are on board to do home brews in time and on occasions we MAY jump to an AP.

Even in my Home brew games I toss in a module here or there. Hell I have modules from all the way back to Dungeon issue 1 though way to many as well as Dragon magazine adventures from 35 - the 300 range and the Dragon Magazine CD. So if I need to just toss in some random thing to break up my games, a little work and I have an adventure, not to mention any of the PF modules which I might bring in for a session or two for fill.

I guess our group just find the structured you must go here and do A and then go here and do B to restricting. We found having choice A, B, C, D, and E and go where ever just better fits the mold for us.

By what I read here, seems many also play home brews.

Thanks again and keep it coming.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

You've probably never had your players ask you 'where is the next railroad station?' when they didn't know what to do next. :)

I suggest using 20 point buy not 15, and every AP has that one "What were they thinking?" hard encounter. I see AP's as being focused, but no less so than some homebrews. If the players don't want to take a specific action then don't try to force them to take it. You just have to get them to take another path back to where you want them to be. That is the same thing I did when I used to write homebrews anyway.

edit:I also give the players some background on the AP before I run it. That way they are onboard, and that makes sure their characters are onboard. As an example if I tell them the AP will be asking them to risk their lives for other without much compensation they will know not to expect compensation.

When I've run home brew at times I have given the players a choice of four or five different things. Behind the screen each of those choices was a (modified) module. That way I don't worry when two or three of the options are not utilised. This keeps the players thinking about what is the more important option for the character or the group.

I set time limits on the options, through such plots as the local constabulary dealt with that problem, that train has left town, that creepy hermit's hovel looks like it was abandoned last week. Sometimes, despite telling them that constabulary have dealt with the problem I will reflavour the module (again) for use in the near future. This gets harder if the PCs have levelled a few times, but still do-able.

I've not run an AP, nor played in one, but the group is talking about starting one soon.

Silver Crusade

It's nice to use an AP if you're short on time or ideas. Personally, I've run out of both lately. APs have helped.

That being of the reasons my Saturday group and I broke up as it were is due to the supposed railroading/lack-of-free-will that an AP provides. I personally like the obvious adventure hook, and admittedly a good and experienced GM will be able to modify things on the fly for their players.

I'm neither good nor experienced at GMing, and I'm afraid I handled the situation badly. Enough that the play style differences between the group's expected and my normal (honed via Friday night group) became impossible to bridge.

I've written a homebrew campaign someone else GM'd, back when 3.5 was fresh and new. I've played in and run at least a partial AP. While some people don't love the APs, generally, I enjoy the depth involved even in Paizo's least favored "canned ham".

Our Friday group sometimes does 32 point buy, just because it can be awesome to have near-superpowers once in a while.

Shadow Lodge

I'll probably be picking up a homebrew idea when I finish Kingmaker. I'm trying to decide between "Winter-themed story featuring ex-PC villains I love running stories for", "Megadungeon campaign that combines the best of Castlevania, La-Mulana, and UnderMountain", or something else that may come to me in the interim. I'll probably steer clear of Fey and Wilderness-based stories after Kingmaker, and likewise Urban campaigns as my group's other active GM will be starting Council of Thieves shortly.

Orthos wrote:
my group's other active GM will be starting Council of Thieves shortly.

And I have no idea how that's going to go. I'm a newbie GM and have only done a little homebrew so far...and adapting APs to a homebrew setting is revealing itself an exercise in beating my head against a wall.

Orthos wrote:
I'll probably be picking up a homebrew idea when I finish Kingmaker... "Megadungeon campaign that combines the best of Castlevania, La-Mulana, and UnderMountain"...

Do you GM for VTTs much ever?

Shadow Lodge

Evil Lincoln wrote:
Orthos wrote:
I'll probably be picking up a homebrew idea when I finish Kingmaker... "Megadungeon campaign that combines the best of Castlevania, La-Mulana, and UnderMountain"...
Do you GM for VTTs much ever?

I'm going to say no because I don't know what that stands for.

My groups either game by play-by-post or Skype + MapTool.

Orthos wrote:
Evil Lincoln wrote:
Orthos wrote:
I'll probably be picking up a homebrew idea when I finish Kingmaker... "Megadungeon campaign that combines the best of Castlevania, La-Mulana, and UnderMountain"...
Do you GM for VTTs much ever?

I'm going to say no because I don't know what that stands for.

My groups either game by play-by-post or Skype + MapTool.

VTT = Virtual Table-Top (sometimes VGT, Virtual Gaming Table)

In other words MapTool. But my current favorite is

Shadow Lodge

Gotcha. Yeah MapTool's what we use. I'm pretty lousy for keeping locations and combat stuff straight in my head, so I need something visual. Minis in person, tokens online =)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber
Evil Lincoln wrote:
But my current favorite is


I may be running an upcoming Richard Pett adventure via Roll20 next month...

I own every Pathfinder AP volume published so far. All 62 volumes of Pathfinder Adventure Path plus Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition. I also have the Shackled City Adventure Path hardback.

I have never played in or ran an AP. I do read the AP volumes though, and I love looking through them for monsters, NPCs, items, and plot/encounter ideas when I get them.

I have ran mostly prefab adventures, but they were all 3.5e WotC books. Almost finished Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave before my group broke up when half of them left the state to go to grad school. I've also ran the very beginning of Expedition to Castle Ravenloft a few times.

I'm trying to get a "sandbox" Ustalav game off the ground. I can't call it "homebrew" because I'm using the Golarion campaign setting, but it's not an adventure path or prefab module either. Basically just adventuring in the county of Amaans in Ustalav with a few themes that may develop into plots later.

I love prefabricated campaign worlds, so to that end I'm not a fan of homebrew at all. If homebrew means the DM is making up the campaign world as he goes, that's a game I'm more likely to avoid. I like to immerse myself in the setting. I love Golarion, the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, and I loved Forgotten Realms 3e. (As a DM on a Neverwinter Night server that still operates, I still love Forgotten Realms 3e.)

I was working on a Masque of the Red Death game (Masque of the Red Death is Ravenloft on 1890s Earth) using the Pathfinder rules, but one of my friends indicated a preference to play in the Pathfinder setting and I like Ustalav, so I started working on stuff for Ustalav. I still have Masque of the Red Death campaign notes I may eventually get to use for a ghosthunter campaign in 1890 London though. The main plot is focused on a murderous doctor and the child ghost who haunts him. Not a lot of Masque of the Red Death material out there, but there is plenty of material on 1890s London.

Oh well, that's my nickel. I tend to say more than I need to, I think.

I should also mention that while I've never ran an AP, I'd love to run Carrion Crown. I'd actually like to be so immersed in it as to be "that guy that runs Carrion Crown." I want to know it inside and out if/when I run it.

I find when I run published stuff I have to read it twice and still refer back constantly while I'm running it to make sure I'm getting it "right". When I home-brew stuff I have no trouble remembering how everything I've created fits into place because it came from my imagination. The NPC's and locations feel more alive and real and I'm not afraid to let things go off the rails because I know how the world will react. So for me running published things doesn't save any prep time after all.

Shadow Lodge

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(As a DM on a Neverwinter Night server that still operates, I still love Forgotten Realms 3e.)

Which server, if I may ask?

I define "homebrew" as "anything not pre-plotted". You can do FR homebrew, or Golarion homebrew, or Greyhawk homebrew, just by coming up with the story and such on your own rather than using a pre-prepared plot like an AP.

That said, I'm with Grimmy in that I've been working on my own homebrew for so long I know it like the back of my hand, while I'm only sketchily familiar with parts of Golarion and Oerth and only slightly more so with Faerun.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The problem I always had with homebrew campaigns was designing the overarching plot. I'm much better at writing encounters or adventure areas. I'm not super-great at improv, and I tend to script out what I'm going to say in certain situations, and then read it.

My players actually like the plot hook/follow the clues style of play and tend to get bored and/or antsy when faced with sandbox-style play. They like revealing the secrets and putting the pieces together-- which is something I've always had a hard time writing. For me, running an AP campaign solves that, but still gives me the freedom to redesign or add encounters, make changes to the plot, work in character backstory into the plot, etc. The AP gives me a clear framework within which I can work my "magic."

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

For me, it's a bit of both at the same time. Basically I'll take AP or module content and incorporate/heavily modify it to fit into my homebrew world and its plots.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Class Deck Subscriber

My players are like Haladir's. They want the railroad tracks to follow, otherwise they get frustrated.

Given the option as a player, I'll pick a well-reviewed adventure path over a random homebrew game every time. I've had way too many bad experiences with homebrew games (in terms of the GM burning out after a couple of sessions or having the GM get frustrated when we aren't following his homemade plot "correctly").

What can I say? I'm risk averse.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Well, as a player I don't like railroad tracks, or at least not obvious ones. OTOH, I even more dislike the stereotypical sandbox game where you really are just "murdering hobos" looking for any kind of excuse to kill monsters to get their stuff.*

I like plot hooks and following the clues, as long as we've actually got choices about what to do and where to go. Like Haladir's players, I like figuring out the secrets and finding out what the BBEG is up to as much as I like actually stopping him.

*I did say stereotypical. I know they're not all or even mostly like that. It's about as true as any adventure with a plot is a railroad.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
hogarth wrote:

Given the option as a player, I'll pick a well-reviewed adventure path over a random homebrew game every time. I've had way too many bad experiences with homebrew games (in terms of the GM burning out after a couple of sessions or having the GM get frustrated when we aren't following his homemade plot "correctly").

What can I say? I'm risk averse.

GMs can burn out running APs or get frustrated if you're not following the AP correctly.

Not following the AP correctly can be even worse, since he now has to either force you back on track or abandon the purchased works. With a homebrew plot, it's easier to shift things around or just roll with it and detail the new direction and abandon the ideas you probably hadn't detailed anyway.

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