Tuesday 5 April 2011

10 free RPGs you must play

Free RPGs are all over the major PDF download sites like DrivethruRPG and RPGNow, but the real task is to sift through the mud and find the best free roleplaying games. Now, I'm not talking about introductory games here, I'm talking about full blown core RPGs for free. You can't go wrong there. So let's take a look at what RPGs the web has to offer our cheap and greasy hands.

CJ Carrella's Witchcraft - If you're looking for modern horror and urban fantasy you need look no further than Witchcraft. Playing out like Buffy and Supernatural, Witchcraft uses an easy system - Unisystem, that allows for a lot of variety in your game.

Labyrinth Lord - One of a couple of OSR games on the list. Labyrinth Lord is a wonderful re-imagining of the Dungeons and Dragons B/X rulesets. As long as you don't mind text-only, this is a free RPG you don't want to miss.

Tales from the Wood
- Sure, playing as a vole or ferret doesn't sound like much, but once you get playing Tales from the Wood you'll realise there's a lot more to this little game that meets the eye. Rather than playing humanoid animals, here you take on the role of actual animals in their fight to survive in the woods.

Swords and Wizardry - This is one of my all time favourite games. Swords and Wizardry is a great free roleplaying game that emulates the original D&D edition. This is pure old school mayhem and it doesn't get much better than this.

D6 System - Bundling 3 settings for one great price of nothing, the D6 System is a simple and effective ruleset used in games such as Xena and Star Wars. For diddly squat you get Adventure, Space and Fantasy. You can't ask for much more than that.

Barbarians of Lemuria - This game rocks all kinds of face. BoL is set in a low fantasy, sword and sorcery world and contains some amazing streamlined rules. My favourite part is the freeform magic system, which allows the player to pretty much do whatever they like with their magical powers. Great free game.

Neverwhere 3rd Edition
- Based on Neil Gaiman's book and TV series, Neverwhere is an urban fantasy game set in London Below, a magical parallel realm that co-exists with London, or 'London Above'. Check out the source material and get playing.

Mutant Future
- Gamma World gets the OSR treatment with Mutant Future, a madcap post-apocalyptic RPG where you can play as a plant. Oh hells yes.

OSRIC - Here's a cleaned up ruleset based on 1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Worth a play if you feel like harkening back to the glory days of roleplaying for free.

Four Colour System
- Ah, the golden age of comic books, when heroes were heroes and villains were nasty but loveable. 4C has a great set of rules to run a supers game for free!


  1. I'm not sure if it's free but Simon has another animal RPG - Woodland Warriors. It uses a variation of Swords & Wizardry and it rocks!

  2. I've been enjoying Stars Without Number, a free "old-school" sci-fi rpg.

  3. Hogscape, I haven't heard of Woodland Warriors, but I'll check it out. Dogs of War looks cool. I love Beyond Belief Games.

    Callin, I've seen it but I haven't played it. What are your experiences with it then?

  4. You forgot dungeon slayers!

  5. It's funny how all those games don't sound familiar to me. Perhaps I might have stuck myself to a certain game that I've been playing for quite a long time now. Glad to see the list though, I'm gonna check those games for sure.

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  6. I've never played it, but Mazes & Minotaurs is very well-supported. The core setting is pseudo-ancient Greece, but there are also variants for Vikings, ancient Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa.

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  8. I've downloaded Labyrinth Lord. It's a very nice remake of original/advanced D&D with some polish and the advantage of having all the rules in one spot.

    I've also played Warrior Rogue and Mage but I can't say that's one of my favorites.

    *Deleted above comment for typos.*

    Thanks for the great post and running such a great blog, Trollish Delver!

    All the Best,

    David L. Dostaler
    Author, Challenger RPG (free)

  9. I've seen a few articles like this about the web, and it's lead me to a question: Do you think you need a PDF version of your rules to be successful as a free RPG? I'm the web designer for a new free super hero RPG, Enhanced: Humans and Heroes, and the game's creators and I designed the rules to be web friendly, with links, multiple web pages, etc. We don't have a PDF version of the rules because it would be much less convenient to use. Do you think we need one to be noticed?

    Thanks for the great blog, by the way.

    1. First off, thank you for the kind words and thanks for commenting.

      I think that in an age of Kindles and tablets, it's becoming more common to just read a PDF rather than a physical book and with easy distribution from sites like DriveThruRPG it gives small press publishers a simple way to get their product out there. Also, PDFs don't require an internet connection, which is an added bonus. I'm not saying that web-based rules don't work, but PDFs are just a more convenient way for people to read.

      I hope that helps.

    2. Yeah, I'm starting to think you're right. I'm leaning more and more toward creating a single PDF with everything in it. I've always personally preferred the offline availability of a PDF, but I thought with the prevalence of smart phones and tablets that I was in the minority, but maybe not. Thanks for the advice!