Don’t let the high price of beautiful, hardcover rulebooks stop you from getting some great RPG action. As long as you can scrape some pens, paper and dice together, you and your friends can have a good time — and hell, you don’t even need the dice! If you see any RPGs you’d like to add to this list, please contact us or leave a comment below!
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5
The entire ruleset to the most popular edition of arguably the role-playing game is available online, thanks to D&D 3.5‘s Open Gaming License. The basic rules are easy to get into, and there’s tons and tons and tons of 3.5-compatible material out there on the internet, including its most popular successor Pathfinder.
Too much talking and not enough monster-smashing in your RPG? Dungeonslayers is a self-described “old-school” role-playing game, which means no “elaborate, realistic rule mechanics” or “pseudointellectual drama filled with egomaniac monologues”, but lots of straight-up room-clearing monster-bashing action. The links below include the core rules, as well as adventures and maps.
Pathfinder is an update to/revision of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules, streamlining the clutter and creating a new “3.75” RPG which has managed to be more popular than both the original 3.5 and Wizards’ own D&D 4E combined. And the best thing is that it’s completely free, because it’s based on the Open Gaming License. Get some friends together and give it a try.
Swords & Wizardry
Take things back to the old days with Swords & Wizardry, which is a “retro-clone” of the original Dungeons & Dragons rules that started it all. Created by Mythmere Games, the system is designed to deliberately bring back a sense of vagueness to the rules, or in their own words, “where the referee is truly a referee, not just an opponent for the other players”.
Eclipse Phase is a roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic transhuman conspiracy and horror. Set in the future, players are part of a secret network called Firewall, acting to thwart threats to the very existence of humanity. Jumping from body to body and from planet to planet, Eclipse Phase deals with what it means to be human in an age when your personality and very soul can be cloned and stored on a hard drive. Plus, you can play as a genetically modified octopus in a robot suit.
FATE is slightly different to your traditional DM/GM-controlled roleplaying sessions, instead focusing around a system of aspects which both players and the “storyteller” can use to create events and conflict. It’s worth giving it a try if you like more role and less roll in your RPG, and you can pick up the core rules from the links below.
Quite literally the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, GURPS is a role-playing system designed to cater for nearly anything you can imagine. While the full rules aren’t available for free, Steve Jackson Games have made the Lite edition available to download as a taster, and it’s more than enough to get you and some friends playing.
This is of course not an exhaustive list of free RPGs, but rather a selection of some of the ones that are the easiest to get into or have the most concise, well-produced products. Many others exist out there and you can find some great lists of them at places like…
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