Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Free And Cheap RPGs Galore

I am not a fan of really expensive RPGs. I got burned when I bought Mongoose Publishing's Conan RPG for $50 and discovered it was lousy with editing errors and its binding was utter crap, and I wasn't alone. Mongoose shortly thereafter released their "Atlantean Edition" which was a (somewhat) cleaned up and much better bound reprint of their core book. It also cost $50, but you got a discount if you hacked up your original core book and sent them the UPC.

Of course, a couple of years after that, they released - you guessed it - a "Second Edition" of the game. The core book for that ONLY cost $40. And if you take a look at Mongoose's website for the Conan RPG, you'll see that you could really, really quickly spend a month's rent in Boston on supplements for this game.

So, it's through this lens and the lens of many other (often mis- or over-priced) RPG products that I read this column over at Stargazer's World on free or cheap RPGs. I highly recommend that anyone who hasn't read it heads over there and gives it a once-over right now. Especially check out his list of links at the end of the column.

At the risk of grandstanding a tiny bit, I'll also repeat here the comment I posted there with my additional list of Free/Cheap RPGs:

* Mazes and Minotaurs: This is a really impressive free game, and there’s both a “Basic” and an “Advanced” version, as well as compendiums and a Gazetteer. Lots of good Greek/Roman fantasy ideas as well as some more expanded / generic fantasy around the edges.

* ZeFRS: Based on Zeb Cook’s roleplaying game engine used for TSR’s Conan RPG. Not an amazing game, mostly because it's somewhat bare-bones, but like many free games, definitely worth getting and reading if for nothing more than idea mining.

* Barbarians of Lemuria: Either the free “Basic” version or the expanded & revised version which costs you a few bucks. This game for me defines “beer & pizza gaming”. Some really amazing stuff in both versions, and I especially like the career-based non-combat skills mechanic. It does exactly what it needs to do – no more, and no less.

* The Basic Fantasy RPG (BFRPG): A good (great?) alternative to Labyrinth Lord. Has a few “new” ideas creeping into it, but nothing that prevents it from being a rock-solid “retro-clone” RPG.

* Swords & Wizardry: Although not personally a fan of the game, a lot of bloggers out there stand by it, and there’s more and more support for this game out there every day. Oh, and it’s free.

* Broadsword RPG: Jeff “Evil DM” Mejia’s 1PG System “80’s fantasy movie RPG” is well worth the few bucks the PDF cost me, and his “World of Broadsword” campaign setting is likewise worth the price if you want to have a handy default setting to turn to on those nights when you and your buds sit down to do some hackin’ & slashin’ but don’t know just what to play.

* Castles & Crusades: Although you gotta pay $20 for the PHB and $20 for the Monsters & Treasures book, the rules are simple and straightforward enough that a $40 investment for the GM and a $20 investment by a player or two (so there are “pass around” copies of the PHB) is well worth the price. Yes, you could go with OSRIC, but the C&C system is clean, simple, straightforward, and the books are quite nice – mine have stood up rather well to the abuse I’ve put them through.

1 comment:

Frost said...

I'm a big fan of Castles & Crusades and just thought I'd point out its makers, Troll Lord Games, offers quick start rules from free. Also, you can get a the Collector's Box set, a condensed version of the rules, for $30.00.