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The Best Things In Life Are Free

I am arranging a small convention that will be open to the public in the small town where I live. More details will be coming about that in future articles, but the purpose of the convention is to introduce new people to RPGs. For this reason I am building the convention around the theme of using open source systems and materials, because a free sample never hurts when you are trying to gain new customers.

Free RPGs are a wonderful way for GMs to expand their styles and abilities without making costly upfront investments. Here are three of my favorite free RPG systems.


As many readers already know I am a huge fan of Fudge [1] and its derivatives. One of those derivatives is FATE [2], and a wonderful derivative of Fate is Free FATE. I find this version of the FATE rules to be the most concise and well-written version, especially for people new to FATE.

Download Free Fate v0.5. [3]

The MicroLite20 RPG Collection

Another derivative work, this one of the OGL System Reference Document for the d20 system, the MicroLite20 RPG Collection [4] is not only a great barebones game system but a wonderful assortment of settings. You do not need to download the whole collection, as many of the individual games are available on their own web sites (such as Where No Man Has Gone Before 2.0 [5] which is what I will be running for my next campaign).

There is something about this 661 page PDF that reminds me of how much fun I had as a kid when I first started playing RPGs. Maybe it is the seemingly endless possibilities, or is it simply because I adapted D&D to be used for every setting I wanted to play back then? Who cares? This is good stuff!

Download the MicroLite20 RPG Collection. [6]

Open D6

Many a fan of Star Wars RPGs [7] knows about the West End Games [8] version that used the D6 system as its core engine. Well that system is open, and not only that but you can download four PDFs for the system: the core book, the fantasy supplement, the space supplement, and the adventure supplement. Not to bad of a start if you want to experiment with a different set of rules as well as build your own setting for your next game.

Download all four D6 System PDFs from this site. [9]

What’s Your Favorite Free RPG?

Those are my top three favorites, at least for now they are as there are more and more great RPGs being released by fans for free it seems. What are some of yours? Share your favorite free RPGs with the rest of us by leaving a comment below.

25 Comments (Open | Close)

25 Comments To "The Best Things In Life Are Free"

#1 Comment By obgoblin On November 9, 2011 @ 2:18 am

Free games can afford to be very targeted. My favorites do one thing well:

Lady Blackbird – High-flying fantasy adventure, great for newbies

GHOST/ECHO – Easy GMing, different every time

Monsters and Other Childish Things – My monster ate my homework—and my family

A Penny For My Thoughts – Memory reconstruction/deconstruction

#2 Comment By NoFairFights On November 9, 2011 @ 2:53 am

I’d be a bad Savage, if I didn’t say:

Savage Worlds Test Drive!

Plus a slew of FREE stuff for SW:

Also, the full PDF of Atomic Highway just went to “free” mode.

#3 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On November 9, 2011 @ 5:27 am

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of WitchCraft over the last decade. [17]

#4 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 9, 2011 @ 6:44 am

[18] – Lady Blackbird and GHOST/ECHO are both good examples of free RPG products, but aren’t M&OCT and APFMT both games that need to be purchased? I was not aware of a complete free version for either one.

[19] – I thought about including the SW Test Drive, but decided against it because it was not the complete system. It is an excellent sample/demo product though, and it certainly is all that you need to introduce people to SW. The rest of the free SW stuff is aces too!

Atomic Highway on the other hand is a great find for a free RPG! Thanks for sharing that. I’m downloading it now.

[20] – Another free game which I am now downloading. I may never buy another RPG aga… oh, who am I fooling? 😉

#5 Comment By gyakusetsu On November 9, 2011 @ 6:52 am

My favorite is definitely Dominion Rules:

#6 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On November 9, 2011 @ 7:11 am

The Pathfinder system reference document is also pretty complete and incorporates the rules from most of the rulebooks.


Even if you have the game, using this with a laptop beats the heck out of lugging around the paperweights that are the PF rulebooks 🙂

#7 Comment By shadowacid On November 9, 2011 @ 7:15 am

My two personal favorites are:

the [url=http://perilplanet.com/fu/]Free Universal RPG[/url].

and [url=http://www.stargazergames.eu/games/warrior-rogue-mage/]Warrior, Rogue, & Mage[/url].

#8 Comment By shadowacid On November 9, 2011 @ 7:16 am

My two favorites are:

The Free Universal RPG


Warrior, Rogue & Mage

#9 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 9, 2011 @ 7:36 am

[25] – And another one that I am downloading as of right now. 🙂

[26] – I thought about Pathfinder too, but I figured it was so popular that it didn’t need to be mentioned. There are some great conversions of the SRD into PDFs if you take the time to look for them, such as: [27]

[28] – FU is good, and WR&M is definitely some top notch stuff! Good calls on both!

#10 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On November 9, 2011 @ 7:59 am

There’s also GURPS Lite, which is a complete game if limited to “mundane” adventures.


#11 Comment By Inumo On November 9, 2011 @ 9:23 am

I’m (intermittently) working on an open-source homebrew game at [30] (shameless plug, woo!). Aside from that, I’ll have to check out all of these free games; I never knew so many existed!

#12 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 9, 2011 @ 10:23 am

[31] – GURPS is a system that just does not get the respect that it deserves. People should check out the lite version and play a few games of it IMO.

[32] – This is just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks for sharing your own contribution.

#13 Comment By obgoblin On November 9, 2011 @ 11:03 am

[33] – You’re absolutely right, my mistake. I somehow jumped from listing free games to ones that do one thing well.

#14 Comment By GiacomoArt On November 9, 2011 @ 11:13 am

I haven’t actually tried it yet, but The Pool ( [34]) contains some interesting ideas.

#15 Comment By wothbora On November 9, 2011 @ 11:19 am

Every System, Every Genre, Every Thing you can imagine is here…


I’ve downloaded and read so many free RPG’s from this site that I can’t keep them straight anymore… If a link ends up being dead, make sure you use the Wayback Machine. Archive.org is your friend!!!!

#16 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 9, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

[36] – Speaking of games that do one thing well, here is one of my favorites that also happens to be free:


[39] – Another new game to check out! 🙂

[40] – I am a big fan of that site as well, but it is not as complete as I wish it were. This is not to say that the site isn’t great, but there are so many free RPGs out there that no one site has the definitive collection of links! What a wonderful time to be a gamer!

#17 Comment By offtehcuff On November 9, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

I haven’t had a chance to try it but Dead Simple RPG looks good.


#18 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 9, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

[42] – I think I’m getting a bigger kick out of this article than the Stew’s readers are! That is another game that I just downloaded. I try to at least skim over games when I grab them, but today I admit that I am overwhelmed.

What I really like about that Dead Simple RPG is that every download was a single page!

#19 Comment By tezrak On November 9, 2011 @ 4:32 pm


Shameless self-promotion.

#20 Comment By Volcarthe On November 9, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

Kirin Robinson’s Old School Hack

#21 Comment By Rob Lang On November 10, 2011 @ 4:30 am

Good question! I normally answer that my favourite is whichever the last one is that I’ve read. At the moment, it’s Resolute, Adventurer & Genius [45]

You can find many more reviewed on my blog [46]

#22 Comment By Dunx On November 12, 2011 @ 10:05 am

I would be remiss as a Keeper if I did not point out the Call of Cthulhu Quick Start download –


… which is a complete scenario and enough materials to run it.

Chaosium also have a BRP Quick Start download, which I have not looked at because I like Call of Cthulhu too much.

#23 Comment By GregStolze On November 12, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

In the perpetual spirit of self-promotion…

[48] for …in Spaaace!, the game of silly sods in starships (now the engine for the non-free game Dinosaurs… in Spaaace! at [49] — see how that works?)

[50] is the link to Executive Decision, a sort of West Wing LARP party game. Then there’s…

[51] …for Meatbot Massacre, a minis skirmish game that started this whole idea of getting free stuff by paying for it. If you’re interested in other free stuff that’s been paid for, [52] has what can, I think, be accurately described as a shit-ton of it.


#24 Comment By MonsterMike On November 15, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

Open D6 has been mentioned. I’ll give a shout out for Mini Six, a rules-light derivative of Open D6. Articles like this are very bad for me to read, since I like to know a little about all RPG systems. Now I’ve got to go out and try GURPS Lite.

#25 Comment By Smashinator Rex On November 28, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

WUSHU is my favorite free game. Nothing quite like a pick up and play at any time game like this.


Also, Risus is my number two free game. Generic and simple.


Old school hack is amazingly cool. Nothing like some good old hack and slash that rewards you for taking risks.


Finally, Starore.