Friday, March 21, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite Free RPG List!

Chris challenged me to list my favorite FREE RPG's in a comment on my previous Top 10 Favorite RPG's of all Time. It seemed like a cool idea. So, here we are. The previous list was an "All Time Favorite" list and included a lot of games that are long out of print. For this one, I decided to limit myself to games you can still find. Since these are free RPG's available on the web, it just made sense to make sure you could read them and play them too. Links are included with each entry. Just click on the cover graphic.

10 - Starter Traveller
I owned this when it first came out. A classic from the 80's that people still play today. This "starter" version is complete and fully playable. GDW made if free back in 2010 and it's been available since. Although the blurb on the page says "Until Dec. 31st" to emphasize this as a Christmas present, GDW has awesomely kept the game free these past 4 years. This is a true Old-School Classic and a must have for any RPG collection at any price.

9 - BUST - Explosive Roleplaying
BUST is a great little universal RPG that uses a card mechanic. The Marvel Superhero Adventure Game using the SAGA system instilled me with a fondness for card systems and this one is among the best I have tried. BUST - Explosive Roleplaying is an awesome little game. You should go download a copy today!

8 - Squadron UK - Basic
The only superhero game to make my list, this is a completely revamped version of Squadron UK, and although listed as the "Basic" version, it's not a stripped down or watered down "Quick Play" style entry. This is a complete game. If you are looking for a Supers game on a budget this is the place to go. And if you like what you find, a print version is available that's packed with even more goodies than the free version.

7 - Simplicity
This is a fantasy RPG in the style of the B/X, but with feats and trappings for player customization like D&D 3.5. It's the first of a number of "retro-inspired" games to make my list. The OSR has created a flood of these games available for free, so a few did make my list, but I tried to make sure each of them is it's own unique contribution. Simplicity, for all its ease of play at the table, might be the "crunchiest" game on my list. It provides the greatest character customization of any of the free retros. Check it out.

6 - Mini Six Bare Bones Edition
At number 6 is Mini Six! This is a modern reworking of the classic D6 system designed by Greg Costikyan for the original Star Wars RPG. There's really nothing "bare bones" about this beautiful entry. It's a tight little volume full to the bursting with D6 gaming goodness. Nothing is wasted here. The game system has been tweaked slightly where needed and can handle any game setting. There are a bunch of sample genres included and awesome support from the community. Check out Mini Six!

5 - Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook
It was a tough choice between Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord, but what sold it was the fact that S&W's free entry isn't diminished in anyway from the pay version. It's complete, all text and graphics included. This is the OSR entry for people who want to play old school D&D for free. It's got everything and its presentation is second to none. Swords and Wizardry is an OSR masterpiece!

4 - Old School Hack
Another OSR entry, but this one is for the story-tellers. It keeps rules light and fast, has a mechanic for players to reward other players and combat abstraction that caters to a more narrative than tactical style of play. I have run this a few times and it's a lot of fun.

3 - Legends of the Ancient World
Legends of the Ancient World is a fan made recreation of Steve Jackson's, "The Fantasy Trip." The designers sell modules for the fantasy as well as science fiction and old west versions of the game, but provide the rules for free. These are classic time tested rules and I ran a successful LAW campaign for over two years. If you are a fan of TFT, then this is the game for you.

2 - Retro Phaze
My favorite of the free retros, Retro Phaze looks at D&D through the eyes of 8-Bit and 16-Bit console RPG's like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. The implementation of computer game influences makes a game that plays fast and furious. The game also changes all the dice mechanics over to the D6 which earns bonus points from me. It's a concise, well considered little game with a lot of punch and is also available in print on demand should you want it.

1 - Lady Blackbird
My number one pick is a fairly new discovery for me, and may be gaining some preferential treatment because of my current interest in story-telling game mechanics, but that doesn't mean it's not absolutely awesome. Lady Blackbird is an RPG adventure module and game system all rolled into one. This is another mind blowing example of making the most of every page. The game system is interesting and accessible and even though there are not specific rules for character creation, so much is here that you can extrapolate anything you need. Testament to that are a dozen spin-off creations that have been produced based on this one tiny module. Don't take my word for it. Download Lady Blackbird and see for yourself!

There you have it Chris: my Top 10 FREE RPG List. What do you think?!




  1. And, here are my Top 10 Free RPGs...

    - Five By Five (
    Yes, this is my shout-out to this blog's author. However, I seriously like this game, though I'll admit having a bias to a modified first edition. What am I saying?! When I get done with it, it'll be a jumble of all the editions! Five by Five is a fantastic game to have in your RPG arsenal regardless of the edition you employ. It's fast, flexible, and intuitive.

    - Risus (
    S. John Ross' Risus RPG is about as quick and dirty as you can get. Just grab some d6s, pick a few cliches, and you are off. Risus is short (4 pages) and tongue-in-cheek, so don't expect long-term play out of it. Still, it's great for one-off pick-up games when you can't think straight and just want to have a light RPG experience.

    - Mini 6 (
    Before Open d6 was released, the guys at Anti-Paladin Games gave us Mini Six, a slimmed-down version of West End Games' classic D6 System. This game distills the D6 system down to it's purest essence, cutting out a lot of nonsense and superfluous rules from it's progenitor. If you were a fan of the D6 system, this game's for you.

    - Ebon (
    Ebon is by EABA author Greg Porter and is a complete departure from his usual gear-head, mechanics-heavy RPGs. And when I say departure, I mean a two-page modern horror RPG. That includes the awesome Cthulhu-esque character sheet, by the way. The game has some interesting mechanics, tracking damage on the constellation-like character matrix itself. It's definitely worth a look.

    - Microlite 74 (
    Take 0e D&D and cross-pollinate it with Microlite 20 and you get Microlite 74. This game is a small, no-frills, concise version of 0e D&D with some fun house rules tossed in for good measure. And, it comes in three varieties: Basic, Standard, and the best of all, Extended. On top of that, five Companions are available which ass more of everything.

    - Marvel Super-Heroes RPG (
    TSR's old Marvel Super-Heroes RPG, using the FASERIP system, has been available online for years. Every boxed set, adventure, and supplement is available for free at the website above. Yes, it's dated, but the system still stands up and many characters are profiled on the site. Even for nostalgia purposes, the game is worth the download.

    - Old School Hack (
    Sadly, it looks like development of Old School Hack has ceased. That's too bad, as all we're left with is the beginning of what might have been an awesome spin on old-school D&D. The not-too-serious style of this game, coupled with interesting mechanics such as Face Dice, Arenas, and Awesome Points, begs for expansion. Where is my "Expert" set, Kirin Robinson?!

    - Star Frontiers (
    DWD Studios carries the Star Frontiers torch, providing downloads of all the original boxed sets and supplements. In addition, they still crank out issues of Star Frontiersman, the SF fanzine. A new game from DWD, Frontier Space, will be loosely based on the Star Frontiers game.

    - Fudge (
    Steffan O'Sullivan's Fudge RPG is as flexible an RPG as you can find. It can be as detailed or as vague as you like. Tack on whatever sub-systems you like to tailor it to your game world. This RPG opened my mind to the idea that rules are there to be modified or broken at will by the GM. More of a tool kit than a complete RPG, Fudge went on to be the basis for Evil Hat Games' Fate RPG, among others.

    - Swords & Wizardry (
    Yes, this is the definitive OSR game. If I want to feel like it's the old days, this is the game I would turn to. It doesn't get much better than this for old-school play.

  2. Awesome list ... I went with Traveller over Star Frontiers, but both awesome games. I didn't choose Marvel, because I wasn't sure the fan provided scans were strictly sanctioned by the original publisher ... it seems like a little bit of a gray area to me. Of course I think the same might be said for The Fantasy Trip which did make my list, but Dark City Games doesn't offer the original TFT scans, they just grabbed the important bits and repackaged. Much like was done with Marvel and 4C System, but for some reason with 4C System, it just "lost" something in translation for me, which is why that product didn't make my list. Anyway, awesome list ... and I have never heard of "Ebon" ... I will check it out!!

  3. I don't think many people have heard of Ebon. It was a one-off for a very obscure contest Greg Porter had entered back in 2006. I stumbled across it by accident around that time. I was intrigued by the simple, yet elegant mechanics centered around a very innovative character sheet. You probably couldn't run a long campaign with Ebon and Porter has no intentions of expanding on it (I asked!), but I still keep it around for one-shots. It would actually work well with Porter's Code: Black setting, now that I think about it.

  4. Try Dungeonslayers - A fast playing fantasy RPG. You can go through a 12-15 room dungeon in one session, typically.

  5. I am a fan of Dungeonslayers. There are so many really awesome free RPGs out there. When I ran my Legends of the Ancient World campaign, Dungeons Slayers (2nd Ed) was one of the games I considered. In fact the 1 page dungeon, "Tomb of the Rat God" (I think that's the right name.) from Dungeon Slayers was the adventure I ran for our first session even though I used the LAW rules set. So many awesome games ended up on the cutting room floor as I worked to trim my list down to a top 10.