Tuesday 29 September 2009

Free resources to help you find players

You know you're a gamer, it says so on the label on your underpants. But how do you go about finding other gamers? Unless you live in a very friendly culture, you can't go around yanking on y-fronts and inspecting labels. Instead, wire up your difference engine to your elastic trickery pipe and take a thrilling ride on the global information super tramway. In the name of web journalism, I will be plunging into these sites and immersing myself if their online goodness. All that without any consideration for my own personal well being. How I suffer for you, dear reader!

How are you testing?

In the least scientific manner possible. I shun science! I put myself in your shoes, I want to find a game. I want to find an AD&D/D&D/D&D&DA&D&D&D game and a free game (Jags, Fudge, Icar). I will also search by location. As the internet still orbits the USA, I will pretend I am in Reading UK and in 90210, which is the only Zip code I know off the top of my head. Why? I'll let you figure that shame truth out. I generally found that searching by location was more useful than searching by game.

Access Denied

Inappropriately named and long in the tooth, Access Denied is part of the old guard of player databases. It has been online since 1997 and I can believe that as I found myself on there using a nickname I haven't used in at least a decade! You can search by city or by game. There are 2500 people listed as AD&D and I am not sure how many of those players are still active. I couldn't contact myself, for example. Icar is in there because, well, I probably put it in 10 years ago. I could find gamers in Reading but could not search by Zip code.

Board Game Geek

Board Game Geek is a superb website that concentrates on board games. There is an RPG version, Geekdo but I can't find the game finder on that site, so I used the BGG one. I tried to search for a game in blighty but it only accepted Zip Code. However, when I used my assumed 90210 zip, it did show a lovely load of gamers nearby. They might be board gamers, though and I know a few of them. From a distance. Through binoculars. I liked the Google Maps output, though.

Nearby Gamers

Nearby Gamers is designed purely for the purpose of finding your gamers. It uses Google maps and to get the most, you need to register an account. So I did. I managed to find some gamers both in Reading and in 90210. Gamers and games are categorised by tags, so it was very easy to find free RPGs (under the Indie heading). The level of granularity is just right, you can browse into the tags to find something new or head straight to an old favourite. The design could do with a bit of sprucing up but then so could this blog. I like Nearby Gamers, it works a treat.

Pen and Paper Games

Pen and Paper Games is a forum haunt that I like to drop in on once in a while. It has a registry search, which uses Google maps, of course. There are 9000 users in the database, I can't say how many of those actually appear on the map. I know I don't. Still, if you like having a community around the search facility then PaPG is definitely good for you. The site also lists people as either player or GM, which is a cool idea but what if you do both?

RPG Game Find

New on the block RPG Game Find is a text based tool that once you scroll past the huge header and adverts is a good game finder. Sadly failed to find anything in Reading without hopping on a plane. 90210 did turn up some results but the categorisation of roleplaying games is too coarse for me to locate a free or indie game.


Meetup is a social networking site that is general purpose and I didn't manage to find too many gamers on there. If you are organising a regular get together, it might be worth a look. I prefer those aimed at Gamers, though.

RPG.Net Gaming Gatherings Forum

If you're not afraid of your post sinking without a trace then the ever active big purple might be for you. It's not really a searchable thing but games are regularly added and you can't fault big purple for the huge number of people on there. I also made good use of their list of player finders thread to compile this.


My favourite? Still Nearby Gamers fits my bill. It does the one job and very well. And I like maps. With Google.

A final thank you to Derek (Little Sherpherd), without whom I would have never ventured to write this post!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Glorious multiple personality disorder with Joe in Ten Persons by Daniel Ravipinto

In Joe in Ten Persons every player plays a version of the same person, called Joe, each from a parallel world. Wandering between parallel worlds, you have become obsessed with one Joe called Joe Prime. Your task is to find out what Joe Prime's big decision is and why he's avoiding it. If you have felt that The Free RPG Blog has failed to offer you anything new then Joe in Ten Persons is for you. Designed for a one shot. Joe in Ten Persons was written in 24 hours for the FRPGB and 1KM1KT competition.

Character Creation

Before you start creating the individual Joes, you must decide in which decade he was born. This is important from a time frame point of view. If you choose 1920 then modern day would make Joe nearly 90. It's best to choose an era such that your players are familiar with it. You then choose the setting but more on that later.

Unlike most roleplaying games, you do not create your own character individually but you create ten Joes simultaneously with a pseudo random process. The players engage in some free thinking anarchy and scribble random words on folded pieces of paper, which are assigned randomly to ten Joes. These words act as inspiration for one of the two Statistics: "My Obsession". From there, you decide on a "My Decision" for the Joe you have. You finish by choosing an age that you feel is appropriate to the obsession and decision. Now that all of the Joes have been created, each player picks one to be their character.


Joe in Ten Persons is set wherever you are. You are encouraged to utilise local landmarks. This is good because stepping from dimension to dimension through time is rich enough without having a detailed setting on top. You could set it in the same universe as your recent roleplaying campaign. The one connection between all the Joes is that they all met someone called Keeton, who showed them how to travel between parallel universes.


The system perches uneasily between a roleplaying game and board game. It shuns its wargame roots giving it a more storygame and less traditional feel. Joe in Ten Persons has a winner. The person to have the most influence over Joe Prime. To influence Joe Prime, you must influence the Joe NPCs. In a turn, you can either increase your influence with a Joe NPC, move the influence from one Joe NPC to another or destroy the influence of another player. These actions are taken by risking existing influence tokens, rolling some dice and roleplaying a scene.

There is considerable help with deciding the scene, although it is driven entirely from the players - there isn't a GM as such. The players compete in these scenes to gain influence and roll dice to decide who wins.


[24 Hour Proviso] Joe in Ten Persons is superb. There is very little I can recommend to improve it. The only thing that comes to mind is more graphics. Before you ask to change the record, the graphics are inspired from the excellent web comic xkcd and as such they should be easy to produce in droves.

This didn't win?

Joe in Ten Persons is excellent. It's novel, interesting, thoughtful and exceptionally presented. My biggest problem with Joe in Ten Persons is will a group of players accept it? On two fronts, is it actually fun to play - as the burden is on the group, it requires a good dynamic and people willing just to make things up. Most groups aren't like that. The second, more wintery front is that Joe in Ten Persons is a very difficult sell. How do you go about explaining and selling this to a group? I think it might be just too left field for 90% of gaming groups. The proof is in the playing but getting over that hurdle may be too much for a group to jump.


Joe in Ten Persons is a work of genius. It's inspired. I cannot begin to imagine how it might play but if you read one roleplaying game this year, make sure it's Joe in Ten Persons.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Nothing says raw punk like Geodesic Gnomes by Dyson Logos

Geodesic Gnomes by Dyson Logos (of A character for every game blog fame) is a free cyberpunk RPG where you play low-tech gnomes who live in the superstructure of huge domed cities. As gnomes, you fight against injustice toward the gnomes, either from the proles who live in the main domes or from other gnomes. If you are looking for a cyberpunk roleplaying game with quite a twist of vodka, Geodesic Gnomes is for you.


Games that have interlocking system and setting are obvious during character creation and Geodesic Gnomes is no exception. You begin by rolling for your Generational Cohort. The higher the Generation, the longer your family tree has been living in the walls of the superstructure and the more of a hardened genetic throwback you are. Your Cohort decides your vital statistics, which are: Tunnels, Tribe, Tools, Timing, Toughness and Tallness. Talents are rolled randomly, and generally boost Stats in certain situations. Finally, you pick some equipment. Like a 6th Generational gnome, short, sweet and uncomplicated.


Typical of a 24 hour RPG, Geodesic Gnomes has featherlight mechanics. You roll 2D8 and pass when you are equal or less than your statistic. Difficulty is added on as you might expect. In opposing rolls, there is a little logic to obey to determine the winner or if there is a stalemate. Generally speaking, the higher roll wins. Conflict is taken in a story game context, encouraging Statistic checks to be made for persuasion, intimidation and one-upmanship! Damage is done to Stats, depending on which Stat you were using for the conflict. Getting to zero means a permanent affect and healing

Initiative is calculates with 2D8 plus the Timing Stat. The GM then moves up the numbers from 4 and anyone with a number higher than this can act. This means that if you have a high initiative score, you get more choice. I like that a lot.

Gnomes in Domes

The apocalyptic setting of an failed atmosphere, Geodesic Gnomes focuses on Gary, Indiana - or Dome City. In the walls superstructure the characters eek out a low fi living akin to Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic (as noted by Dyson). The Domes are lavish affairs, the prole inhabitants living a privileged if rather stayed life. Flavour upon depth upon detail gives Geodesic Gnomes a very distinct setting. Society is structured hierarchically, giving the Gnomes social standing to fight for. It is cyberpunk but it is not Cyberpunk 2020. It's cyberpunk from the veins of Gibson rather than a derivative of a derivative. The writing throughout is excellent. I liked the description of the effects of talents in character creation as "a special and unique snowflake" particularly. The layout is simple and there is a sample adventure that sounds fun to play.

To do...

[24 Hour Proviso]I would move the character sheet to the back and compress all the files into a single document. I would also include a cheat sheet of the salient points of the system. Geodesic Gnomes is also desperately in need of some graphics. Like most Sci Fiction, one can do only so much without imagery. Dyson does well in the text but I imagine more would be encouraged to play with some pictures. The opposing rolls section could be made a little simpler by adding the roll to the T-score and comparing. This is not mechanically equivalent but it would be much quicker to resolve. Dyson's writing style is very precise and technical and that does seep through in places. It's not jarring but I would prefer a more Gibson-esque use of modern terms. Ensure you download the Content version with a white background if you're going to print.


Geodesic Gnomes is tighter than the suit you only wear for weddings and funerals. The system does not wear the setting like a serial killer might wear the skin of a victim but embraces it like an over affectionate grandmother. The setting is great and would stand up next to much larger games. If you think you've seen Cyberpunk done every possible way, think again. Well done, Dyson, it's a marvellous game!

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Show how bad your ass can really be in Badass Presidents by Orion Cooper

Badass Presidents is a bonkers pulp post-apocalyptic-supers roleplaying game where you play an American President from history who has reappeared to fight all manner of beaked, tentacled and suckered evil. Play Lincoln with a rocket launcher or Washington with a machete and kick some deity/space monster/mutant/evil historical figure's ass (or arse). Written by Orion in 24 hours as an entry into the 1KM1KT / Free RPG Blog 24 Hour Competition.

Making Mr. President

You begin by picking an American President (or King/Queen/Dictator if you're localising it to your homeland). Next, you work out how old your President is by subtracting the year of their birth from the current year, 2023. Multiply this by 10 to get your Power stat. Therefore, George Washington is likely to be one of the most powerful Presidents. Now you begin compiling a description of your character by picking three 'facts' (or assumed rumours or things you think are funny) about your President.

The sticky task of choosing whether the President is a Liberator or a Tyrant. You need to know your rulers quite well for this one. Orion has provided Lincoln, 'the master pugilist' as an example.


Power Points are the novel core to Badass Presidents. You spend them to do fantastic things, such as flying through the air or ploughing more dice into an attack or defense. When you run out of Power Points, your President is exhausted! Each President begins with a Humanity of 0. Being saintly raises your humanity towards 100 and being evil decreases your points toward -100. As you cross a boundary (say -30), your President increases in fame or infamy.

Combat is an ordered affair with foes facing off one-on-one. A Queensbury Rules affair, combat from a more elegant age (except with more spitting, headbutting and planting a foot in your sensitives). Starting from the left of the GM (called The Commander in Chief), the players take it in turns to face off against their foe in pugilist style. Depending on initiative, one becomes Aggressor and the other Defender. The Aggressor goes first and if they succeed, they retain the right of Aggressor and get to go again. Death is not impossible, neither is knock-out or abduction. Orion has included a handy example to sign post the way.

Plausible future this is not

An exercise in daft, this is. The setting is described such that it is fully aware of the cliches concerned with post-apocalypse. The Earth has fallen foul of every form of unspeakable evil you care to choose. Caused by the Large Hadron Collider, every manifestation of 'bad' flooded the world and in an unexplained balance of karma, so did those things required to stop it. The fate of the world is dealt with (emphasis being on the US, naturally). The brevity Asia's description still makes me laugh out loud:
"The land of Asia is as diverse as it is large. It got blown up. Nothing is there anymore."

For the GM, the are NPCs drawn from history. Death (who drives a white Pontiac, naturally), Evil Jesus, Bismark and a small bestiary of space monsters and assorted horrors.

To improve

[24 Hour Proviso] For character creation, I would like a list of popular Presidents. I can name a few but would like some help. Also, having all their birthdays to hand would be good. I would like to see a sample adventure and an improved layout. The pictures are great but I think the style could be toned. I would like to see history thoroughly plundered for its villains and more walking Gods from non-European cultures. I'd like some ideas on how to localise it: Badass Kings and Queens or Badass Dictators. I know I ask a lot but I want it in the same light hearted form as it is now.


Badass Presidents is silly. A delightful, quixotic, Monty Python silly. You start by thinking it is the work of a derranged mind but then, to your horror, can only begin empathising. You can see where Orion is coming from and to, a puzzled dotage eating beans out of a shoe with a copy of The Times. Furthermore, it's not written with a sense of "Ooooh, aren't we being funny? *wait for canned applause*" but a modest, genuine appreciation of the bizarre. Badass Presidents is a smashing little game that earns is place in the ranks of odd alongside Keeton Must Die and Asteroid 1618.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Adventurer by Joe Pruitt For when you need to crawl through a dungeon - Right Now!

Review by Jason Kline (aka the Great Chainsaw Aardvark)

Adventurer is a one page fantasy RPG by Joe Pruitt.


You have the stats Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, each of which begins at seven, modified by your chosen class (Fighter, Rouge, or Wizard) and Race (Human. Dwarf, Elf, Goblin). Roll 2D6 – if the outcome is equal to or less than the attribute tested, you pass the test. Those two sentences sum up almost everything you need to know about creating a character and playing the game. In fact, the entire document fits on one side of an 8.5 x 11 inch page.

Delving a little deeper, we find the system to be a little more intricate, but not by much. Each race and class has a special ability – Fighters get +1 on weapon checks, and Dwarfs get dark vision. Combat order is determined by Dexterity, and damage once the roll to hit is made derives from the equation:
(Margin of success + Weapon Rating) – Armor Rating = Hit Points lost
Any injury requires a test to remain conscious (roll less than or equal to remaining Hit Points) and, of course, zero Hit points means death. Notes about non-combat injuries from falling, fire, poison, and drowning, as well as advancement rules also appear in this short game.

Free form Magic

Perhaps the most impressive element is that is that about a third of the document is dedicated to a free-form magic system. A Wizard chooses one of 20 effects (such as bolt, cure, heal, and ward) then adjusts the duration, magnitude, range, and size/area then determines the final cost in Hit Points to cast (there are no spells per day or mana points. One shot scrolls and Hit Point storing crystals are available though). The caster's margin of success reduces the cost – so players can take exciting gambles for high powered spells, or stick to low power and greater safety.

Single page simplicity

As you might expect in such an abbreviated work, there are no graphics. Die-hard layout artists would call the formatting very amateurish – the text is small, headings are the same font, just slightly larger and in all caps. However it's unfair to compare this to games without such a staunch space limitation, and its not like your eyes have to wander far to find what you need. More importantly, it has excellent design compared to most of the other one page games. Compared to other one page games, the document has excellent design as information is set in useful blocks rather than simply crammed together to put as much information in a limited space as possible. A complete character sheet rounds out the bottom right hand corner of the game – so every player can have both abilities and the complete rules in front of them.

Admittedly the game lacks any sort of monster list, background, maps etc. However, a Gamesmaster has both the time saved from not reading a 128 page retro-clone and the whole back of the page to work these sort of things out.


Joe Pruitt not only managed to make a playable game on a single sheet of paper. He also managed to inspire a few other writers. Hence we have Excalibur: The Complete Guide by B.G. Selidio Tan. This expands the game to sixteen pages – keeping the simplicity of playing and most of the rules. (though a fourth attribute – faith – is added.) However, player and Gamesmaster options expand greatly - the number of races is increased to twelve, classes to fourteen, six pages of spells, and twenty assorted summons/creatures.

Given that the review you just read is actually longer than the game it describes, there is really no good reason for you not to head over to 1KM1KT and download it to try for yourself.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Welcome to guest blogger Jason Kline, The Chainsaw Aardvark

I would like to introduce you all to Jason Kline (aka Chainsaw Aardvark), who will be helping me by reviewing sporadically here on The Free RPG Blog. Jason's credentials are excellent and somewhat familiar: he is a moderator on the 1KM1KT forums, was a judge in the 24 Hour Competition and has been supportive to free RPG authors for years.

Jason bests me in number of games produced (although has more in the wings, I feel). You can get a feel for his writing on 1KM1KT but being the kind soul I am, I've done the hard work for you (no need to thank me). Here's a short list of his games on 1KM1KT.

Many thanks for coming to help in my time of need, Jason! I am sure the readers will be thrilled to have more reviews. Jason's first review will be Adventurer, which will be posted tomorrow.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Once you visit The City in Verge by Nathan Russell, you won't want to leave

Verge is a fantasypunk roleplaying game set in 'The City', enclosed, crawling, sprawling, overcrowded, dark and beautiful. It was Nathan's entry into the 1KM1KT 24 hour RPG Competition and a particular favourite of mine. If you're running a fantasy campaign, then throw The City into it. Your players will thank you for it. This review will treat it as a complete game, which it is, but the setting is breathtaking.


You play Vergers (which made me smile, in rural England a Verger is someone who looks after a church. Normally quiet, kind people with beards - not as described...), people who live on the bleeding edge of society. They go where normal people do not, they twist morals into an ever deepening helix. They are mercenaries but with intrigue and more grit that a snowy road. Creation order is standard: start with a concept, assign Stats, Edges, Traits and define an Agenda. A Concept is a little like a class (without any tight banding), some good and setting specific examples are given.

Stats are Strength, Wits, Grace, Attitude and Prowess. Each valued from 1 to 5. Initially, you start with 15 points to assign. Edges are advantages to the character, such as a weapon or 'handsome'. There's an excellent example list that gives you an idea of what edges you might choose. You get 5 points to assign amongst up to 5 Edges. Traits consist of Health and Reputation and are derived Stats. Finally, the character needs to have an Agenda, or personal goal.

The Setting

Take Neotokyo from Akira and rinse with liquid Dickens. Cram overcrowding, slums and a gulf between social classes and you have the setting. Beyond The Cage, a huge wall that surrounds and protects The City, lies The Great Betrayer. The Great Betrayer and its villainous minions are the evil of the setting. Iron Lords represent the ruling classes, living in massive iron towers that command areas of the city. Magic is mysterious and dangerous. Technology is the steam age but only on an industrial scale. Your place as protagonists leaves plenty of rocks to dash against. My plot shooting anarchists would feast on the sheer volume of plot devices and depth here.

I am undecided of the cause but as I read I found the sleeping GM in me spurted plot ideas. The prose draws you in, envelopes you and consumes you entirely. It speaks volumes in mere pages. I would love to distill the essence of Nathan's writing that has that affect, synthesise and reproduce in Icar. If there are any professional writers reading my meanderings, please enlighten us all in the comments. What steps do we take to write like Nathan? To think that he did this under a time and family constraint is remarkable.

Mechanics et al

The system is familiarly elegant: roll as many D6 as you have in the relevant Stat. The GM also rolls some D6, depending on difficulty (the more difficult, the more dice). Dice with values of 4,5 or 6 are successes. For each success, the GM and player take it in turn to state something about the action. If any of your Edges, Agenda or Traits apply then you get more dice. Reputation points can be used to improve the number of successes. Combat is dealt with is much the same way.

The Gamesmaster is looked after with techniques for running Verge. Budding GMs will also find some plot hooks and and a sample bestiary.

Where to go next

[24 Hour Proviso] As beautiful as Verge is, it would benefit from some pictures. I can feel The City, for all its sooty grim and filth but I would like to have it illustrated too. Verge could also do with a map and a list of some nobles to get the GM started. Also, I'd move the character sheet to the end. I'd also change the name. Verge does not scream fantasypunk to me. Finally, I'd change the back cover to something more printer friendly for those putting to paper at home.


In sixteen pages, Nathan has marinated Verge with depth, colour and a grit that rivals longer games. Writing and presentation are artful. The City is coherent, fascinating and could fit into any fantasy campaign. When I wrote Cloudship Atlantis, Verge had set the bar very high indeed: it is possible to produce a very, very short period of time.

To Nathan Please, please, please expand Verge. A setting this good should be a book of 90 pages, rather than 16. If you pump it up, I'll review it again.