This week I have done a lot of the mental lifting on my project: The Colonies. Thus far a rough draft of the first chapter, written last week, was polished up a bit. The first half of the second chapter, which I anticipate to be the longest, has been put to paper as well. In all a little over 8000 words so far. My original goal was about 30 to 35 thousand words. After seeing how quickly I blew past the 25% mark, and how much more I think I have to do, that number seems small. Looking at the how long it took me to get to this point, however, I figure it will take me until the end of August to finish the first draft. Then to editing and layout etc. This is turning into a much longer project than I had first imagined.
Also, thinking about the project has left me less time to think about what I am going to write here. I would rather not post than post some inanity just to keep up with a deadline. So, if I cannot write anything about the hobby that is thoughtful each time out, at least maybe I can post something useful. And so, I present the following:
DrivethruRPG has a ton of roleplaying material for sale. Some of it is wonderful, some of it is crap. Most people reading this probably already know this by now. What you might not know, though, is that they also have a TON of free stuff there as well. Much of that is not all that great either. Some of the free stuff is really good though and here are a few of the ones that I think are most worthy of spreading the word about. This is likely to be the first part of a series of entries. Today, I will be focusing on complete RPG game rulebooks. Later entries may cover things like free minis, adventures, etc. My criteria here specifically excludes Quick Start rules systems, Kickstarter previews, and scaled down "basic" rules systems. Some of those are good too, but what I want to focus on are games you can download and use without thinking: "Now I have to buy something else!"
Atomic Highway: There are a lot of post-apocalyptic RPGs out there. Despite being free, I consider this one to be one of the best. Certainly, it is one of my favorites. It was not a free product when it was originally released, but the author decided a few years ago that he had made all the money he was likely to make on it and made the PDF free for everyone else. It is not a complex game, and does have some simplicity in the rules (especially for ammunition) that might drive some players to distraction. It make up for these things by packing a lot of cool ideas into a compact package and telling the GM: "Here is what we have for you, take it and run with it!" My favorite part are the scavenging tables. Much of the stuff on the list is just junk, but it is creative and interesting junk. I want my players to find old 8-track tapes and then figure out a use for them.
Swords & Wizardry: For the old school D&D Fans, here is one of the better first edition clones on the market. Like Atomic Highway, the complete edition of S&W was not originally a free product. The folks at Frog God games, however, made releasing this edition for free a stretch goal in one of their successful kickstarters. Frog God products are usually of very high quality, but at a wallet busting price point (e. g. Razor Coast). Swords & Wizardry gives you the high quality without the second mortgage. Plus, it gives you some funky Erol Otus cover art for that extra nostalgia kick.
Stars Without Numbers: This one violates my "no scaled down" versions a bit, but only back handedly. This edition came out and was the complete game and then the author expanded it for the current for sale product. Even without the expanded material, however, this is a complete game. And a damn fine one at that. In fact, it is probably the best game I will mention here today. This one takes old school rules, adds some intuitive skill systems, and throws in a unique sci-fi setting. Then it pitches the whole concoction into a blender and turns the setting to "atomize." It is mind boggling how good the final result is. Gameplay feels old school and new school at the same time. What is more, his creation of a system for creating content for the game is innovative and amazingly effective. For the GMs out there: if you take nothing else from this post download this and look at the "World Tags" section. This is truly useful stuff for thinking about how to world build.
D6 System: This is recommendation is a bit different than the others because it is a series of books instead of a single product. You will note that most of the stuff on the link page is free. All of the free products are worth your time. Once upon a time there was a company called West End Games. They made a several very influential games: Paranoia, the first Star Wars RPG, and TORG. Later they made a bunch of other games, some of them good, some of them not-so-good. Then they lost some of their high profile licences, ran into financial problems and sold out. They new buyer seems to have been a poor businessman and the various remaining properties were sold off piecemeal to other companies. The core d6 system that was so central to many of their successes was turned into an open source project and the d6 books were released as free product. They seem a bit dated now, but in the right hands they can be a very useful system. And the price cannot be beat.
CJ Carella's Witchcraft: This last one is a bit of a stretch. Not because I do not think it is a good game, but because I only have anecdotal evidence about it. Fact: CJ Carella has written a number of things that I have really liked over the years including three of my favorite GURPS works (Martial Arts, Imperial Rome. and War against the Chtorr). Fact: Witchcraft uses the Unisystem, the game system also used by All Flesh Must Be Eaten and Terra Primate. Two games that I own and am fond of. Fact: This game got a lot of good press when it came out originally. Fact: I am generally uninterested in this type of game but I know that some of my readers like it and others might. Opinion: It is a complete and free game, so given the facts presented above, if you like this sort of genre, what do you have to lose?