Help With Building a Homebrew World

The secret to Homebrew

I have mentioned in previous posts that I am wrapping up my current DnD campaign. The group still has four of the Five Blades to hunt down, but then the campaign which has been going on for a year now.

We are also starting our play-test of Clockworks, a steampunk campaign setting by Shawn Gaston. My groups chargen creation posts are here and here.

Anyways.. The Point

I was planning on running a 3.5/Pathfinder game after we take a small break from DnD and focus on the clockworks steampunk game. I was planning on running the game in Eberron since I love that setting, but I have been running games in Eberron since it first came out for 3.5.

I’m really considering doing a homebrew world, but in all honesty I am very rusty on doing a homebrew AND when I used to do nothing but homebrew worlds I would create TONS of information and towns and etc for it, and the players would never see it.. I understand that is part of the risk of homebrewing, but I don’t have a copious amount of free time… I’m also interested in doing some group world creation.

This is a Call to all the Cows

I’m interested in how you come up with your homebrew world? What are you secrets/advice on doing homebrew? What do you view as important and pertinent info and what is superfluous and be negated. How do you handle, if you do so, group world creation?

Thanks for the help!

Author: wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn.

5 thoughts

  1. I draw inspiration from a ton of sources, but I always find myself returning to two:

    – World Builder’s Guidebook (technically AD&D 2E but completely system-neutral)
    – Ray Winninger’s Dungeoncraft articles (

    My last world building project has fallen to the wayside, but you can see the first steps at

    Good luck with the world creation!

  2. Wikipedia is the world-building resource I probably use the most. I try to mix and match cultural elements from existing cultures and mythologies as much as possible. It’s surprising how much mileage you can get out of renaming existing stuff.

    Currently, I’m hard at work on a culture based on Atlantis. I’m using Eberron as a rough template, mixing magically-powered technology with Greek and Roman naming. As I drill down to specific details, I’m grabbing stuff from all over. If you’ve got a D&D Insider account, you have access to a lot of adventure PDFs. I pillage these extensively, pulling NPCs, locations, and plot elements out of context and plugging them into my stuff.

    I also try to grab maps wherever I can find them. I’ve used many of the maps from the game Oblivion, available on the game wiki site. These I repurpose for my own game with D&D monsters and such. However, I sometimes keep the names because many of them were cool.

    Names! I grab names wherever I can. The subway stations in Athens, Greece. The names of card sets and characters from Magic: The Gathering. Books (The Larousse Dictionary of Literary Characters is the best source of NPCs ever.) Names often lead me to imagery completely different from their original intent or connection. I run with that kind of stuff. Sometimes this confuses my players for a bit, when they expect one thing and get another, but mostly it works wonders for efficient use of time in creating world stuff.

    My current project is also one that I’m requiring input from my players on via questionnaires. I usually guard the world-building part of DMing pretty closely, but it just takes too much time and the rewards of having the players pitch in are too great to overlook. Letting go means I have less control of flavor, but I’m learning that the compromise is what is going to keep my players really involved and excited.

  3. Thanks Anarkeith! Good advice there.

    Yeah I agree with letting go. I worry about the flavor being reshaped from what I have in mind, and although I want them to contribute I usually have a “this is my overall theme, how do you want to add to it.” Many ideas I’ll take, but some I’ll reject for various reasons, but the ones that I reject I give a valid reason why.. And maybe it can be morphed to work more properly for the game.

    I have plenty of time to build this world since I’m planning on focusing on Savage Worlds for a bit and also finishing up our current campaign.

  4. Another flavorful thought: Hit up the kids section at your local library for books on thinks like swamps, or jungles, or other interesting geography. These books will often have a few simple things (with illustrations or photos!) that you can easily drop into your world to add flavor. I used a book on swamps when describing the edge of the Vast Swamp in Greyhawk and here’s what I got:

    Groves consist of tupelo (nectar used in honey production), white oak, and cypress trees festooned with Hag’s Hair (Spanish) moss growing directly out of the water, or on muddy islets. Vines and snakes (Perception, DC 15 to spot) hang from the tree branches as well. Woodpeckers, thrush and owls live here, as well as opossums, bobcats, newts, and raccoons.

    Snake — Ghostmouth
    Poisonous Snake: +6 vs AC to hit, 1d6+3; Secondary Atk +5 vs Fort, 1d6+3, ongoing 2 poison (save or sumac berry paste ends)

    Plant — Strangler Vine
    Obstacle Hazard: +6 vs Refl to hit, target immobilized; Secondary Atk +5 vs Fort, 1d4, ongoing 1 constriction (Athletics — Escape Grab, DC 10 ends)

    The “Ghostmouth” is basically a Cottonmouth (Ghostmouth sounded cooler.)

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