Sunday, June 19, 2011

Free RPG Day - Ode to Free RPGs and not just whatever was put out ...

Today was free RPG day and while I appreciate the sentiment I think that there's a lot of people who need to understand that it can be free RPG day every single day and not just when people feel that it's an opportunity to provide a marketing push for RPGs as a whole, though really only the ones that can afford to print a whole pile of free material in the hopes that you will pick up their books.

Where to begin? I guess the first thing is to try to see if you have a bias against free RPGs. I know I developed one over the years. I know when I was a teenager and this new-fangled internet thing was still new I used to look everywhere for free RPGs. I was but a youth and had no cash and this looked like it could be used to provide hours of entertainment.

Then I got a job and started being able to buy stuff and soon fell into the siren song of paid for RPGs. Clearly they have to be better than the free alternatives right?

That is not the case at all. In fact, I think there are some brilliant ideas coming out of Free RPGs that people really need to see.

How do I start?
Well there are a couple of good resources to go for Free RPGs. The first is Dr. Rob Lang's Free RPG Blog where he goes over and reviews a wide variety of Free RPGs.

There is also the Free RPG community over at where a lot of free games are hosted. There's also a forum where there is chatter by a pile of monkeys about games in general.

There is also an wiki that has a list of all the free games called the Year of Living Free by Sanglorian. Definitly worth a check out.

There are too many of them! I am paralized by choice!

Allow me to make some recommendations.

1. Lady Blackbird

A wonderful setting with quick game play, Lady Blackbird is one of the most popular free rpgs. It's also been hacked a lot, so if you know how to play this one you'll have an idea on how you can play the million or so renditions of others.

2. Metropole Luxury Coffin

A Cyberpunk Future where fashion is king, your face time is your currency and you all dream of finding a way to raise your status enough so that you can leave the Metropole Luxury Coffin Motel. It's a great game, with a great dynamic between the players and the world. It very much deserved to win the Cyberpunk Revival Project contest.

3. Action City

This is a great game if you want to play that Action Movie(tm) kind of game. Seriously, at the end of every major scene there needs to be an explosion of some kind, and it's hard wired in the rules. How do you go wrong with that!?

4. The Droog Family Songbook

What if you mashed up the Sound of Music with A Clockwork Orange? You would get the most amazing bit of music mixed with ultra violence. Protect your favourite things against the invading Nazi hoards in 1995 by relying on fate, or acts of ultra violence.

5. Geasa

Yes this is my own game, and the link is to the free version. If you want a co-operative and competitive storytelling experience then you want to play Geasa. The Free version contains all the rules, not just the ones that might give you a feeling for how the game plays, but all the rules are there. You can even modify them and print your own game since it's under a Creative Commons BY-SA license.

It's free! Check it out.

There you go. Five games to get you started. Anyone else want to suggest their favourite Free RPG?


Rob Lang said...

Great post!

My favourite (at the moment) is Michael "Stargazer" Wolf's Warrior, Rogue and Mage. It's the first lite game that has made me even consider running a fantasy game.

Get it here:

I'd also recommend John Kim's List of Free RPGs:

Jonathan said...

I added another post because Brennan Taylor's Three Black Crows, Three Dead Men is also a phenomenal game. We played it at Dex Con and it was good fun.

Mikael Andersson said...

Here are a few classics, reflecting some of my personal biases:
The Pool, one of the primordial "storygames"

The Shadow of Yesterday, the game which Lady Blackbird at least borrows heavily from

Donjon, marrying oldschool hack-and-slash and exploration with a player-driven narrative

FATE 3, the base rules for Spirit of the Century and Dresden Files, highly reusable and adaptable

I could probably spend half a decade or so just playing these, and home-made variants on them... but then what would I spend my money on?? :)

Jonathan said...

My games! There are also a lot of great not free RPGs, but I just thought it was kind of odd to have a "Free RPG day" and not talk about, well, actually Free RPGs.

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