Tuesday 29 December 2009

Become an Expert in Free RPGs - 2009 in Free RPGs

Friends! Roleplayers! Philanthropists! Lend me your eyes. Charge your tankards with your favourite poison, put your feet up and feast your peepers on a 2009 free RPG review. Rediscover something old or find something new in one handy review of the year. If you've been looking for a free RPG blog post to link to, this is it.

Not surprisingly, there is rather a lot. I have split up the reviews into Fantasy, Generic Systems, Historic, Modern, Resources, Science Fiction, My Achievements, For Players and GMs, Blogs and Podcasts and Statistics.

The Games


Adventurer by Joe Pruitt For when you need to crawl through a dungeon - Right Now!
A one page fantasy RPG, whose review takes longer to read than the game.
Most aptly named RPG of 2009: Brutal by David J. Stanley
Brutal has a single aim: to make a combat system that is as rich and gloopy as the congealing blood of your slain enemies.
Feel the subtle and delicate touch of Dark Dungeon by Jaap de Goede
Dark Dungeon
Dark Dungeon is a free fantasy RPG sitting neatly in the old school while offering a different perspective.
Pick up axe, put on Chainmail and kick the door of the dungeon in with Dungeonslayers by Christian Kennig
A fast, trim, dungeon-crawling, monster-hacking, treasure-thieving game.
Fear the Roleplaying Game? Yes, you should because it's bigger than all of us. By Paul Jeffcoat
Flexible Easy And Realistic (Fear) has everything except a kitchin sink monster. If Fear was the only book to survive the apocalypse then a society could be built upon its teachings.
Epic detail in Legendary Tales by Peter Samuelsson
Legendary Tales
Legendary Tales is a cohesive, comprehensive and brimming with ideas in the form of detail.
Go natural in Tales From The Wood Simon Washburn and Mark George
Tales From The Wood
Tales From the Wood is a roleplaying game where you play animals from the British woodland: Mice, Rabbits, Vole, Squirrels and Hedgehogs.
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.
Like Mariah Carey, Wonderland by Marco Chacon is beautiful and insane
Alice in Wonderland gone horror. Even if horror isn't really your thing, check out Wonderland, it might just change your mind. Or ruin it.
Makes Britannica look like a pamphlet: World of Gainar by Christopher P. Todd
World of Gainar
Gaianar is setting, system and huge bulk of tech-and-fantasy resources. A system so crunchy you'll lose enough teeth on your first bite to warrant mortgaging your Grandma.


Fate - The system that might make you change the way you play
Fate is a professional inspiration made free. Allow the players some control, after all, why not? If you're looking for something different, Fate might just be the system to refresh your ideas about roleplaying.
Brain off? Risus on. The Anything RPG by S. John Ross
Risus is an excellently thought out, laid out and played out game. It builds on a solid, simple mechanic to provide fun at a moment's notice.
GM gone down with the plague? Fill your evening with Sketch by Farsight Games
Ideal for those evening when your GM is ill and you just want to play something. Comes with a selection of settings.


Wild West John Waynery in Big Hearts in Big Country by CC Chamberlain
Big Hearts in Big Country
Big Hearts in Big Country is an innovative Wild West game that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Mechanics and setting are woven together inextricably.
The sun won't come out tomorrow in Doom and Cookies by Andrew Peregrine
Doom and Cookies
In Doom and Cookies you play orphans determined to escape from the evil orphanage owner, Mr. Keeton and his foul Wife.
Go Berserk! Burn, Pillage and have non-consenting sex in Midgard by Ben Redmond
If you like the Vikings. If you like burning, raping and pillaging Northern Europe.
Let's hope they have another go - The French Invade Texas by Jaap de Goede
The French Invade Texas
The French Invade Texas is an alternative-history (sort of) roleplaying game by Jaap de Goede. Play the role of La Salle, a French explorer and use the King of France's extensive resources to colonise and fight the Spanish.


It's a deal, it's a steal, it's brilliant: Dog Town by Cold Blooded Games
Dog Town is a professionally produced, crunchy gangster game that feels like a gangster game. By the end of my stop and search, I felt like a criminal.
Relive your mis-spent childhood with G.I. Joe by Jay Libby
G.I. Joe
GI Joe successfully represents the pulp-military feel of the kind of universe I imagine GI Joe exists in.
Glorious multiple personality disorder with Joe in Ten Persons by Daniel Ravipinto
Joe in Ten Persons
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.


Players will never forget their friends - or enemies...
NPC Contact Cards
Help your players organise who they know in your compaign world with NPC contact cards. Download 8 examples, with four contact cards on each page in a handy zip file.
An ingenious setting creator: Instant Game by Mike and Kyle Jones
Instant Game
Invent a unique and ingenious setting using a few d100s and Instant Game. If you have a system you want to use and it is bereft of setting then use Instant Game to do that for you.

Science Fiction

Show how bad your ass can really be in Badass Presidents by Orion Cooper
Badass Presidents
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.
Cloudship Atlantis - my live blog post
Cloudship Atlantis
Cloudship Atlantis is my steampunk roleplaying game set upon the floating city of Atlantis. My 24 hour RPG live blog post.
Befriend, ride and obliterate bugs in Dragonfly by Jeffrey Schecter
Starship Troopers meets Pokemon in Dragonfly, a near-future Science Fiction RPG. A novel, well considered setting that can be pulp or deepen to taste.
Nothing says raw punk like Geodesic Gnomes by Dyson Logos
Geodesic Gnomes
A free cyberpunk RPG where you play low-tech gnomes who live in the superstructure of huge domed cities. The setting is great and would stand up next to much larger games.
First Birthday - Celebrate by joining me in rubbishing my own game
I can say without any doubt that Icar is definitely one of the most mind bogglingly dreadful roleplaying games I've read. A disparate, disjointed and disappointing mess.
Old fashioned space opera, digitally remastered. Star Frontiers.
Star Frontiers
Space opera born in a more innocent time, when RPGs had just walked upright and stepped away from their war game cousins.
Ascend into the upper reaches of hyperbole with Sufficiently Advanced by Colin Fredericks
Sufficiently Advanced
Sufficiently Advanced has successfully married together every single possible piece of Sci Fi technology I can think of into a single, cohesive setting.
Prance across planes of reality with Superliga by Brendan
Superliga is a multi-genre RPG based on a bespoke d20 system. Superliga will see you characters exploring genre mashups: fight Knights with AK-47s, solve crime dramas with a magical axe, see off dragons in a mecha.

Other freeness

My Achievements

Link Directory

In March, I created the Free RPG Directory. Inspired by John Kim's mamoth list of free RPGs, I thought it was time to create a more structured directory that had only links that were still live. So far there are 325 links in the directory, each one categorised so you can find what you're interested in. I am still moving all the links in John's list into the Directory but I think 2010 will see it finished.

I ran the 24 Hour Competition

In association with those nice chaps at 1KM1KT, I ran the 24 Hour RPG Competition between April and June. The aim was to write an RPG in 24 hours and the submissions we received were simply superb. The winner was the unsettling Keeton Must Die! Teddy Bear Bloodsports by M. S. Jackson.

Dyson Logos' Marvellous Random Dungeon Maker

In November, I took the excellent map tiles from Dyson Logos' blog and turned them into Dyson Logos' Marvellous Random Dungeon Maker. The maps are a work of genius and although the aim was for people to download and print, they do tile well. Since its first release, I have made a few updates and will continue to play.

I helped authors

The only thing I love more than Free RPGs is their authors: the philanthropists. A charming and delightful bunch I've had the pleasure of chatting to over the yeah. Having ready many free games now, there seemed to be some places where they strayed from the path. I thought I'd share these common mistakes. Firstly, I wrote Rob Lang's free guide to organising your RPG, which was very well received. I followed up with How to turn your stock fantasy RPG into a unique delight, which felt contraversial while I was tapping it out but seemed to resonate with many readers.

I created

In May, I entered the 1 Page Dungeon competition with Ognort's Goblin Nightclub. A tongue in cheek affair, I got some great feedback but didn't win anything. Ne'ermind, it was top fun trying to stuff a map into a single page. Even better than winning anything, the Chatty DM compiled all the entries into a free codex. Hurrah.

I Campaigned at the Ennies

I believe that free should just be that and I was upset that only two of the games in the 2009 Ennie nominations were actually free - most of the others were commercial quick starts. Along with other bloggers, I campaigned to get Swords and Wizardry to a win position. Which it did. I doubt it was much my doing but the result was very aggreeable nonetheless.

I created a banner for RPG philanthropy

I thought it was high time that those people who loved a bit of free had a way of showing their love to the world. I created a shield for philanthopists to get behind, post on their blogs and link to their favourite land of free. I've seen it pop up in a few places, thank you to you. Think not of it supporting me but supporting the philanthropists - those people who gift their toils.

For Players and GMs

I like any service that serves to help players and GMs for free. I reviewed player finder services in September and in November, I reviewed the excellent Nevermet Press - who have a compiled book of their entries, well done!

Blogs and Podcasts I follow

I see philanthropy in all forms of online exploit and two which often escape people's notice is that of bloggers and podcasters. They entertain and inform in a variety of ways. Here's a pictorial of those that I avidly watch, read and listen.
Is there a blog or podcast that I really, really, really should be following? Let me know in the comments.


Statistics are great, and powerful only in the sweaty mit of the weilder. I collect all my statistics through the excellent free service at Google Analytics. This is what it turned up for a single year:
Goodness knows how Analytics makes this stuff up

The Future

Two Thousand and Ten is going to be even better. I have been recording 60 second podcast guerilla podcasts that I'm going to try and insert into other people's podcasts. I am going to finish Icar version 4. I am going to finish moving the links from John Kim's list into the Directory. I am going to give 1KM1KT a brand spanking new archive. I am going to keep reviewing free RPGs.

And a final thank you to all the commenters, bloggers, philanthropists and great friends I've made over the year. Let's make 2010 a free RPG year.