It's fairly well known that homebrew is a rather... contentious topic on this stack. From what I've noticed during my short time here, it looks like homebrew questions get a significantly higher number of downvotes compared to other questions.

While I understand why people generally dislike homebrew content, I do wonder whether some of the "homebrew-hate" goes beyond the guidelines described in this meta post.

From what I can gather, it seems that homebrew is typically downvoted due to a lack of effort of lack of research. However, I often see homebrew questions, that, while being poorly balanced, nonetheless demonstrate a clear enough effort that they don't deserve a downvote.

The most recent example is this question, which:

  • Demonstrates a high level understanding of how Monks are balanced around budgeting Ki points.
  • Has a strong thematic
  • Has a stated goal (wanting to "feel like Yojimbo")

Of course, as demonstrated by the answers, the question is guilty of unbalanced numbers and is somewhat ignorant of the general style of 5e features.

But these are precisely the kinds of problems that homebrew-review should try to fix.

So, should poorly balanced homebrew be considered low-effort or unresearched, and are they deserving of negative response they always seem to get? I fail to see how this stack can educate new homebrewers if each of their questions are met with derision and scorn.

I'll admit that I have a soft-spot for these kind of posts as I remember my first steps into homebrewing being rife with exactly the same kind of problems, and I wonder whether I would have continued if I had been met with the same response as they.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not going to leave an answer; I think homebrew tends be high effort, but it also tends to be demanding and poorly stated which can easily be remedied by reading and applying the meta guidelines. Down/Upvoting tends to be incredibly subjectve and rarely is tied to the quality of the research in the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ With your addendum, i'm not entirely sure what your question is about anymore. Additionally, DaleM's answer that we actually downvote these less makes it even fuzzier. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 15:37

4 Answers 4


Homebrew review is a "show your work" type problem.

Homebrew content creation does not necessarily require a master's understanding of the underlying system. While experienced designers to produce better results, we should not discourage those with limited experience or foresight from trying to create new things.

Homebrew review is important because designing good homebrew content is hard for solo authors. Designers may overlook their own biases, or there may be flaws that aren't apparent but could emerge in gameplay. An eager author could spend honest effort and research, possibly learning the system and trying different approaches; yet if the final product is unbalanced or bad, then it's difficult for a reviewer to see how they reached that point.

When someone asks for a homebrew review, it's critically important that they show their work. What did they intend to make? What's the basis or justification behind their design decisions? Why is some feature implemented one way and not another? Have they tested it or compared it against existing material?

Other StackExchange sites apply similar standards for code review questions.

If the final result is poorly balanced, but the author has provided explanation for why and how they reached that point, then it's a sign of effort. The proof of work also lets the reviewers understand the model and provide better feedback on how to improve it, such as suggesting better ways to achieve the original design goals, or challenging why certain elements don't work.

Showing the work can also provide evidence of a lack of effort. Consider the cases of homebrew content that copy-and-pastes mechanics from other parts of the system (such as a homebrew D&D class that gains features from existing classes). Such work is lazy, but if the author explains their methodology, then at least the reviewers can respond to the author's design choices.

Many of the homebrew review questions on this site (and on other sites) don't provide proof of work. It often seems like someone has a sudden "cool idea", then haphazardly arranges some rules text, and presents it to strangers as a complete product. There's no evidence of the motive, process, or metric by which they created it. Such reviews are along the lines of a "do the thinking for me" question, seemingly lazy and low effort, and the community responds accordingly.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely agree that explaining the reasoning behind homebrew will make any such question better. Perhaps the community wiki answer for this guide should be amended? I think it could go a long way to improving people's questions and the resulting feedback that they receive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 18:46
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth I have seen perhaps one in several dozen homebrew-review questions actually justify and lay out the reasoning behind their design choices. Honestly, I had thought doing such a thing would make the post noisier, but if explanations behind each and every choice are expected of such questions then I very much agree with Andrendire that the guide needs to be updated to match these expectations \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely agree with this answer; it's often that some homebrew review questions seem poorly thought out, rather than simply badly designed, which attracts downvotes. I'm not sure there's a way to do this humbly, but I believe this question of mine is a good example, where I describe my goals, state that I'm drawing on feedback based on a similar Q&A, then give "designer notes" for each part of the homebrew class archetype (in this case) so that people can see my train of thought and what I'm trying to achieve. It was a well received question. \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 14:16

Poorly balanced isn't low effort, but there can be other signs that imply that it is

We all make mistakes, and homebrewing is a really good opportunity for making mistakes. So coming up with and working through an idea is likely not going to result in an immediate success. Which means that a poorly balanced homebrew isn't indicative of low effort.

The other signs

However, when a poorly balanced homebrew is asked and it also has some of the following issues, odds are good that I'll be downvoting:

  • Lots of misspellings/bad grammar. There is a minimum of effort I like to see in homebrew review request. Especially one that should have gone through several revisions by the querent before posting to us. If they haven't made it clear with minimal errors (again, no one is perfect), then they're already showing that they haven't put that much effort into this.
  • Clear mechanics that are way above and beyond the standard. This one is harder, as it may be okay as some other official things can seem overpowered when taken out of context. But it also should be somewhat simple for someone to do their own analyses first which should at least highlight potential issues for them (see next bullet.)
  • Missing self-analysis For me, this is another big one. I fully expect folks to have done their own analysis first and identified areas that they have concern about. If they haven't done that and they are just asking for everyone's opinion, it very much feels like they're presenting a first or early draft.

Overall, what I want to see (but rarely do) is a clear explanation of what the goal was, their own analysis and highlighting of problem areas, and a well written draft that shows that the querent has put in their own effort first before coming to us for review.


Are you looking for a solution in search of a problem?

You say "homebrew questions get a significantly higher number of downvotes compared to other questions".

Except they don't.

This query shows the number of questions, the number of downvoted questions, the downvote rate, the mean, median and maximum scores by tag for every tag with more than 50 questions (there are 287 such tags) ranked by the downvote rate. , and rank 263, 285 and 254 with 33.4%, 46.8% and 31.8% of these tagged questions attracting downvotes respectively. So they definitely attract more downvotes than most questions.

They also attract slightly fewer upvotes but more than 98% of these categories do get at least one upvote.

However, it's not a lot more. The median number of downvotes is ... 0 - as it is for every tag except . The means are 0.56, 1.16 and 0.70 compared to an overall mean for all tags of 0.41.

On average these tags are attracting about 1 more downvote than the average tag.

Given the inherently more speculative nature of these questions, I don't think its a big problem.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for looking into the actual numbers. I'll adjust the text if the question accordingly, but I still believe that the points made inside the question and in its responses are still very valid. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Judging by the quantity of meta posts dedicated purely to homebrew question etiquette, I think it's fairly safe to say that there is a problem worth addressing. Just because it's not the stack's biggest problem doesn't mean it's not a problem worth fixing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrendire
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the issue is that homebrew questions get barely any upvotes to compensate the downvotes, at least in my experience. I'm not very familiar with the querying system - if you could adapt your query to count upvotes, I would appreciate it :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 10:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster query updated to show Up and No votes. Short answer, almost all get at least one upvote and they get slightly less than the average number (except for house-rules which gets more). \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 4:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andrendire your point is well made about relative privation but my inquiry is not about "How bad is this problem?" it's about "Is there a problem at all?" There may very well be one but its existence is better illustrated with data than anecdote. I like your other question better as a result. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 4:28

MikeQ brings up a good point that "do the thinking for me questions" should be avoided. I agree with this sentiment, however I think that we should carefully consider whether a question actually fits this description.

An inexperienced homebrew designer might simply lack the knowledge to see certain issues with their designs, and while it may be true that they can remediate this by spending hours on research, I don't think that there should be an expectation of master-level homebrew design for every question asked here.

Unless I'm sorely mistaken, RPG stack should be open to people of all levels experience, and it's important to help raise up inexperienced designers instead of grinding them into the ground.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Almost always, someone links to the meta about how to ask a homebrew question. I think that solves the helping folks bit. Being inexperienced and being lazy are two different things. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm always curious how many people actually read it, and if it actually helps. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose I'm gonna probably guess it's non-zero, but pretty close to zero. And that they generally either don't think it's helpful or don't want to do it. But that's a pretty pessimistic (realistic?) view. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 19:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure how specific an answer you were looking for, but it struck me that the example question you cited was explicitly a "do the thinking for me" question - the querent wasn't posting their own work, and including exactly zero of their own thoughts or reasoning about the homebrew they posted. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex M
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 21:16

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