This Saturday is Free RPG Day, an annual celebration of role-playing games mostly observed at local game shops. Participating stores are handing out free stuff including game modules, dice and T-shirts, as well as hosting games and other events. Here’s what to look forward to.
Get something free
The idea behind Free RPG Day is that everyone gets something free from their local game shop (donated by game publishers), and hopefully they buy something while they’re there — or a free game sparks their interest in a publisher’s other offerings.
To see what your local shop is giving away, check their website and their social media pages. And to find local participating shops, search on the Free RPG Day site.
The free stuff usually runs out by the end of the day, so show up early and don’t expect guaranteed freebies. That’s only part of the day’s fun, anyway.
Play a game
Most game shops also have a few tables where customers can play games, not just today but all the time. These games can feel a little intimidating, but an event day is a good time to work up some courage and ask how to join in. It’s like showing up to church for the Christmas Eve service — a good shop will be especially trying to win over converts today.
Again, check the social media for your local shop to see what they’ll be playing, and to ask them directly how you can get involved. You might even need to sign up ahead to get a seat.
Download a game
There are thousands of RPGs that are always free, all the time. DriveThruRPG, “the largest RPG download store”, is advertising its wide catalogue of free games and modules. It’s a mess of offerings with little explanation or guidance, but an experienced gamer can look around and try anything interesting — and since it’s free, you can download a ton of material and sort through it later.
This is a good weekend to discover a new game or a cool scenario for one of your favourite games:
- The Premiere of the King is a Call of Cthulhu scenario set in 1920s Hollywood, where a cultist is producing a cursed screenplay, The King in Yellow.
- Lightmaster is a retro fantasy adventure game cloning an old edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
- Paws & Claws is a beta version of an RPG inspired by the Redwall books, with adventures between talking animals.
- The Random Encounters map collection is a pack of dungeons and adventure settings you can throw any set of fantasy adventurers into.
If you’re new to gaming, that array of options can be a little overwhelming. Let me steer you toward one-page RPGs, which are much less complicated and usually free.
I wrote a whole guide to this exciting genre, which skips the chunky rulebooks and supplements and even the weird dice. You can play a game with nothing more than a few dice and a sheet of paper.
I used to play in the same <em>Dungeons & Dragons</em> campaign every week. Now my friends and I struggle to arrange a play session every few months. At one point I tried to make it work with another group. We made a six-month Doodle calendar to find one date we could meet. We got together, discussed character creation, and never met up again.Read more
If you’re still intimidated, find one friend who’s experienced with RPGs and have them run the game as your dungeon master.
Host a game
If you already have an established gaming group outside of a store, and you have all the gaming stuff you need, this is still a great day to play your own game, especially in public.
To play at a bar or in a cafe — or anywhere a group of people can talk and laugh without being rude — play one of the minimalist RPGs listed in my other post, or one of these other options:
- This Is a Sad Place, Where Ghosts Live: You’re clumsy ghosts trying to make people happy without scaring them.
- Be Gay Do Crimes: You and your fellow players have to pull off the gayest heist in history. I mentioned this last time, but it was designed during Pride 2018, and now it’s a holiday tradition.
- MASH Mums in the PTA: You are mums arguing at a PTA meeting. Character creation is done by playing a game of MASH.
- Let’s Be Grandma: Oh ME, Oh MY, It’s Grandma Time!: You are grandmas, nanas and meemaws bribing your hordes of grandchildren with boiled lollies.
- Lost in the Fantasy World: You’re modern kids trapped in a D&D-style universe, fighting to get back home. You have to choose between helping people in this world and reuniting with your own families. It’s Jumanji meets Stranger Things meets The Neverending Story.
Or find a game on the OnePageRPGs subreddit, where I got all of these. Many of these games are posted by their creators, so you can ask them directly for any rules clarifications, or find their other work. Now go inside and play!