Tuesday 31 May 2011

Why your free RPG website must be great and how to get one

As a free RPG author, convincing a GM to run your game is not easy. You need to demonstrate in the blink of a discerning eye that your game has had enough thought and effort put into it to make it worth playing. If you would be delighted for other people to play your game then first impressions count above all. Your game might be a glittering gem - ideal for very person viewing your site but your 1990 HTML homebrew might well put them off before they've ever clicked download.

How to get one

Getting a free website has never been easier. The easiest and cheapest way is to have a blog and link to the game files. The benefits of blogs is that they have intuitive editors for writing about your game, a massive selection of free graphics templates and built in widgets to connect to your fanbase.

The biggest two blogging systems are Google's Blogger (which the Free RPG Blog uses) and Wordpress (which I've used elswhere).

A blog won't always let you put your game files in the same place as your blog. For game files, I recommend having a Google Docs account. You can upload big PDFs, Word documents or any other supporting file too. I also like that you manage versions there. The link doesn't need to change but the document you download can.

Having blog subliminally suggests to your visitors that there will be regular updates but do not let that stop you. On the other hand, you can use the blog to put out thoughts about your game, ask questions of the community and write fiction too. Each post can be short - only a couple of paragraphs or an image. That might be annoying on a normal web page but people's expectations of blogs are much mo rerelaxed.

If you find that lots of people want to chat about your game and comment threads aren't really enough then point them to the 1KM1KT Forum. If you end up with a lot of interest, we'll make you your own forum!

Best practises

Some commont things that might help you.
  • Have the download front and centre.
  • If the game has a nice cover, use that picture as a link to the download.
  • Avoid large scripts of text - try describing your game in 20 words.
  • Don't promise anything.
  • Link to other places you like.
  • Avoid putting lots of white text on a dark background, it's hard to read.
  • Welcome them and thank them for their feedback.
  • Avoid ads if you can.
  • Introduce yourself somewhere. It's nice to know the game was written by a human. If you have this section in your game, rip it out and put it on your site.
  • If you have a forum, expect to do most of the posting yourself. You will have to power the community, others won't do it for you. If it falls silent, it's better to not have one at all.


It's a wonder that with all that feverish creating, philanthropists have any time to create websites at all! However, they do. And there are some delightful examples. I asked the monkeys over on 1KM1KT what they thought and my good friend and fellow philanthropist Jason 'Chainsaw Aardvark' Kline came up with some super examples. So, here are some lovely sites, in no discernible order whatsoever.

Old School Hack

A professional looking home that ticks all the boxes. The game is right there ready to download, there is a simple menu and it has an evocative logo. It might be too plain for some but I like its simplicity. It also have the joyous features of social integration and forums.

Lady Blackbird

A simple home for a lite game. Lady Blackbird relies heavily on a single beautiful graphic and is a single page but it does its job very well. I particularly like the little rules pages on the right hand side, a sneak peek into what you will be getting.

Children of Fire

An evocative blood red page that draws you in to click once more. I'd like to have the downloads a little more prominent on the front page but at the same time I rather like it as it is.


Another clean and professional looking site. The typography is particularly easy to read. Not sure everyone will like the Scribd plug-in on the front page since Scribd went evil on us. The Mysterous Anonymous Benefactor (MAB) has done a splendid job on it.


A bold site with some cool graphics that show you what you're getting. You're getting lite, fun and dungeon hacky. And that's what you're getting. I would probably have a link to the core rules right there on the front page. The news isn't updated enough to pretend it's a rocking high-speed blog.


Small and neat, you can get at the game right there. The cover is close at hand too. The images are click-able and there are links to the community too. It gets my vote.

Dead and Back

The Live From The Dead Air blog is the homepage of the Dead and Back RPG (Jason again). It's a good example of using Blogger to have a blog section (where he publishes short stories from the game world) and the game on a separate page. It's not particularly pretty but it does feel like the grey grit of the game itself.

I've probably missed some corkers?

Is there a free RPG game homepage that is so staggeringly breathtaking that I should really have mentioned? Is there a homepage where you downloaded the PDF before reading the text and realising you've just downloaded "The Hot Goats' Love Nest RPG"?* Please do tell the world in the comments below!

* If you have, please keep it to yourself.
P.S. I currently hate the Icar homepage, so let's just ignore that one, OK?

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Inject some wonder into your modern world with The Cursed by Michael Evans

The Cursed RPG by Michael Evans is a free roleplaying game set in the modern world with elements of the supernatural interlaced with every day life. The Cursed have The Gift: the ability to reach beyond our mundane world into a supernatural realm. Each gift is different and as the name suggest, not always understood or welcomed by humanity. The world the Cursed live in is our world. The aire is an optimistic one: people are generally nice to each other but there are fringes who are bat-shit mental. There is a simple mashing together of supernatural ideas and the real world, a duality tightrope the player characters teeter on each day. The Cursed is definitely homebrew but is it the tasty scrumpy you've distilled in your shed or is it the harrowing vinegar widow maker?

You're a bit Cursed

Player Characters are Cursed. In my case, so are the players. Each have a gift (unlike my players). There are broad character classes: Shamans, Mystics, Sorcerers, Summoners, Blessed and Changelings. Each draw their power from different places. There are 5 primary statistics (attributes): Body (Strength), Health (Resistance to sickness), Mind (Intelligence), Social (Like-ability) and Soul (Willpower). You roll dice to determine your points and then assign. On top of that, you pick skills, class, spells and powers.

At the final gong, you can spend some more points to beef up the areas to bring your character together. I like this step because it admits that character creation is a process that isn't linear. No matter how hard we designers try to make the steps simple and straight forward, the process the player's imagination goes through is anything but that. The process one of my players goes through is a terrifying ordeal of GM baiting maelevolence.

A bit of mechanics

Very functional. It uses a D20. No surprises. I'm not going to dwell. Let's move on.

Your world, and a bit

Many modern RPGs say that the setting is "Where you live - Ta daa!" and this is about as welcome as a drunkard announcing descent for landing. In The Cursed, it's imperative that it is where you live because without the familiar, the extraordinary isn't. You need to base it in a place entrenched in the minds of the player group and where better than your home shire*/town/city/village/hamlet. What makes The Cursed an interesting prospect is that Michael has provided a swollen sack of evocative places, monsters and organisations for you to permeate the place you reside. Most are familiar but are gathered together and described in such a way that storylines tear of the page.

The descriptions are very much set on the personal scale. The secret societies and planes of existence where your players can visit are well described, although I would like some more indication of how they work together.

There are plenty of character driven goals to meet without resorting to battling with the FBI of becoming the chief Mason. You could run this with that scope but I feel The Cursed is brave and novel for not doing that. I like the idea of beginning a game session where the PCs have just met up for pizza after a mundane day at work and one of the group of friends runs in having seen a portal open up in the middle of a grinning mugshot on a billboard. A quick shuffle up a ladder (which is also a good description of the UK's Space Program) and the player characters (some still eating pizza) can see into the Astral Plane. Or Spirit World. Or Goblin Market. Or the World Wide Web. They notice from the bite marks in a nearby truck that something came out. It's broader than Buffy, nuttier than Neverwhere and more varied than... than... a modern fantasy story beginning with V.

I cursed, a bit

Michael has definitely applied my rabid guide to organizing a free RPG but there is still some work to do. The layout is very simple, needing full justification, reducing the paragraph indent and increasing its spacing. There's a load of white space that needs removing. I would cut back on the designer's self questions. Much better placed on the website. There is a lot of repetition and at a casual glance, it suggests that big organisations aren't important and then lists lots. You have to read most of the book to realise it's a personal-level game. Some of the bigger, less obvious spells could do with a short précis. You could end up with a rubbish character because of the point assignment. All of these can be tidied without much of a problem and did not detract from my enjoyment of the game.

My only other minor concern is that the character classes are described as being pitted against each other. As a GM, you will have to come up with a reason why different Cursed are working together or take the chicken's route and force all the players to play the same class. That might work in your group, I'd be lucky to leave the building in pieces identifiable by forensics.

A bit of a conclusion

The Cursed tastes like the homebrew you tell all of your friends about. You know, the one that you drank all night, made you merrily bellow Rollerblades into the dishevelled face of your angry neighbour at 3am before performing a mumbling collapse in a trash can 11 miles from home. The next morning, you wake without a headache and unveil to your friends this incredible elixir: that caused a 6 mile conga line, cured you of your embarrassing kneecap baldness and got you a wallet stuffed full women's phone numbers**. They take one look at the murky sludge in the plastic tub and leave, later un-friending you on Facebook. You know, that homebrew***? The Cursed is a delightful read that cannot fail to cause tickly idea bubbles in your tired grey matter. Go on, take a sip...

Thank you for sharing, Michael! :)

* Don't laugh, quite a lot of us live in a shire. I live in the Shire of Berks.
** Most of which can only have been gained during your romp through a retirement home.
*** It's just me? Oh.

Saturday 7 May 2011

How I ended my campaign - with a free campaign comic

My last Icar campaign was a lot of fun. Although still Sci Fi, the characters were low powered drop outs from society. The players kept the campaign rolling along, often by random acts of violence and a good time was had by all.

I had remembered reading a Gnome Stew article the year before about ending the campaign on purpose and as the game came to a close, I decided to mark the end with a surprise comic depicting the campaign as a whole and then having a wrap party (dinner at an Italian restaurant). It took me a good couple of months to do (in the evenings and weekends), finishing off the book just as the players completed the game. This seemed fitting for a campaign where the characters would often get the munchies at the worst possible time and demand lemon cake. And the players too, come to think of it.

I like to pull the book out to remember the stories of the campaign and I know it was appreciated by the players too: a happy memento from two years worth of gaming. Now you can have it too.

Download it from Google Docs

Have you ever done anything to wrap up a campaign? Let us know in the comments...