You’re sitting at your desk, designing your latest masterpiece. It came to you last night while you were watching an Alien V. Predator, Lovecraftian Movie, and Pokemon Marathon. (Shut Up… It was a Tuesday. There was nothing else on)
You’re going to run a campaign where the characters are caught in the middle of a war between the Xenomorphs and the Yuatja (name of the Predator species, for the ones who’s geek vein doesn’t run quite deep enough to know that). And, on tip of that, the war has ripped open a rift in the walls of our dimension, releasing the Great Old ones and all of their spawn.
The only hope is for the Heroes to retrieve the Magical Orbs that release the Primordial Nature Gods, Charizardion and Pikachuranius.
You have everything planned out, but when you go to plan your encounters, none of the marvelous beasts are present in any one the different versions of Bestiaries and Monster Manuals.
That leaves you with three choices:
- You can give up on the story you were born to tell and go buy a pre-written adventure.(This isn’t really true. Giving up on that kind of awesomeness is NEVER an option)
- You can homebrew something. I am a huge proponent for Homebrewing. But I must point out that it isn’t the simplest thing to do. The inexperienced can easily create a creature so over powered that you end up with a TPK in the first round of combat. Or, just as bad, you could end up with something so under powered that the party wipes out your Big Boss with just a few hits.
- You can re-skin an existing monster to fit the one that you need. This is, I believe, to be the best option for newer GMs (Or vets who simply don’t want to, or don’t have the time to homebrew their own creations)
This series is really about walking newer GMs from the shallow to the deep end. So Lets begin with the easier of the two processes: Re-skinning.
I know what you’re thinking, this is going to be a several page breakdown on how to transform one creature into another. Nope. It’s not that complicated.
- Read through the Bestiary, Monster Manual, or whatever book you happen to be using for creatures in your game.
- Make note of the ones that are close to the Challenge Rating and damage that wish for your creature to have. It can also be useful if they share some of the same powers or spell like abilities, but that’s not completely necessary. A lot of this can be added by changing a single stat or adding one feature
- Change the fluff to match your desired creature’s descriptions, attacks, look, and theme.
For example: Obviously for Charizard the re-skinning is easy. Give that puppy the same stats as an Ancient Red (Or in the case of Pathfinder, Magma) Dragon. But for Pikachu, there are a couple different options. Maybe we could go with a colossal sized Lightning Elemental, or keep it in the same section of the book and just go for a Blue Dragon.
That’s it. That’s how difficult it is.
Now what’s your excuse for not doing it?
You don’t want to simply borrow the stats for someone else’s creation?
Okay.. I guess that’s understandable. I mean, you’ve spent all this time building everything else in your world from the ground up. You want to be able to say everything in this world came, fully formed, from your own mind.
Then the thing for you is Homebrew. But be forewarned. This is where things start to get tricky and you have to be careful. Most monster translate a lot more powerful (or LOT less) than you would first believe. Or, you can be so excited to get something really cool, that you throw in everything but the kitchen sink, and end up with some nonsensical mess.
There are thousands of examples on the internet of both good and bad homebrewing and I’ll be linking done of my favorites further down the page. But, for now, let’s get back to the subject.
How to go about creating Homestretch changes from system to system, but it usually follows the following steps.
- Using the core rules, you decide the primary stat block for your creature
- Go back through and add any special features or abilities that your creature might have
- Figure our the Challenge Rating (or the equivalent for the system you are using)
- Play test it and make sure that it stands up to the level and number of characters you are planning for.
- Play test it again. Make sure the characters can reasonably stand up to your creature.
- Go back and fix any bugs that were revealed by your play testing.
- Readjust the CR
- Play test it a few more times.
- If everything works, use it in your masterpiece.
For this example, lets take those Xenomorphs we mentioned previously: Building its physical stats won’t be that hard. Nor its size and its base AC. But what about its exoskeleton? What does that add to its AC?
And if its natural armor is pushed past by an attack, then how does its acidic blood react? Does it drip? Does it spray? Does it do damage to the weapon that injured the beast? If it sprays, does it do damage to the attacker?
What about its tail spike? Or its Wall Climbing ability?
These are all things that need to be taken into account. And if, when you add it all up, you find that your beast is too powerful to place in conflict with the heroes. If it is, then you need to choose whether you are willing to cut back on its power, or keep it in the stasis pod of your imagination for the heroes to reach that level. (Keeping in mind that, with certain systems, few modern players are playing to levels higher than the low teens)
Are there details I’m leaving out? You betcha.. As I said before, the exact process changes from system to system. So, break out those books and get to creating.
If you want to know what good homebrew looks like, might I suggest the many homebrew SubReddits for the different game systems? (My favorites being for Pathfinder and DnD5E. Those folks come up with some amazing stuff. Links to theseand others that I enjoy,as promised, are listed below)
If you want to know what bad homebrew looks like, well… that’s easy to find. It might even be on some of the wikis for these systems. (though I won’t call out any specifically)
I hope you like this article and that it helped you decide which method is best for you. If it did, you want to chat about RPGs, or make suggestions for a future article, hit me up in the comments, or on Twitter @DMLeviathan.
Have a good one…