Thursday, May 29, 2014

Free D&D and other choices

Wizards of The Coast is releasing a pdf version of basic in an incremental release over this summer. It will be (according to press releases) as stripped down but entirely playable version of D&D. Some people consider it a simple marketing ploy, others see it as a boon to the hobby. I see it as the owners of the Dungeons and Dragon brand are finally catching up with the rest of the RPG market. There are a number of fine games out there that offer free versions in pdf form and have been doing so for several years in some cases:

Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or just LotFP.
 Is a darker take on D&D-like RPGs supported by a small publishers that puts out adventure modules that range widely in taste and style. I’d recommend it for players more familiar with D&D as some elements do need a modestly experienced DM to do well. It’s certainly worth a look and it’s spin on the classic magic system is good.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
A well written recast of classic RPG rules with a few minor tweaks. It uses an ascending AC system where AC goes up and there are options to add details to the game that don’t bend it out of shape. It’s a very solid fanstay adventure game and I used it mysekf to run a series of modules from olf classical TSR ones all the way up to modern release with little issue. Neophytes and veterans could find it useful.

Labyrinth Lord
This recasting of classical RPG follow pretty closelt to the early/.mid eighties versions of D&D. It is a commercial relase by the small publisher Goblinoid Games but the no-art version of the pdf is free and includes the whole game. There are a large number of free or cheap expansions by other publishers and fans out there. Excellent for veterans and neophytes wanting to play a classical fantasy RPG.

Seven Voyages of Zylarthen
A reconstruction and expansion of the original D&D rules  that covers ground forgotten or underplayed by many other versions of the game. The books are inexpensive but the whole thing is also free in pdf. Old-timers will note the similarities and spot the expansions and newbies will have a playable version of the game similar to it's roots.

The old school reference and index compliation started out as a means to distribute rules and publish adventures compatible with AD&D without violating copyright. It stands on it’s own as a good solid game that anyone who played AD&D in the past will recognize and be comfortable with.

Epees & Sorcelerie
Started out as a reworking od classic D&D in French, it’s available in English too. This version of the game is very old school and goes it’s own direction somewhat but it presents an interesting and useable version of the classical game.

An excellent retro clone of D&D in a few different edtions.  You can get the simple less complicated Whitebox versions, the Core Rules, or Swords & Wizardry Complete for free in pdf. I use Swords and Wizardy myself as a sort of default version of D&D-like RPG here in this blog a good deal of the time.

There are many other excellent games  out there that are available for free or have a free basic version that cover D&D-like adventuring. Do some web hunting you are sure to find them.


  1. When I got back into RPGs this year and was pondering D&D or Pathfinder the fact that the full Pathfinder rules were available free online and were searchable was one of the reasons I picked Pathfinder. As a result of that not only have Paizo had a fair amount of my money but since I started running it several of my players have also bought the Core Rulebook.

    On a similar note one of my players GMs GURPS and has just bought the books after running with the free light rules for several months.

    Some of the above look really good, I'll have to check them out.

    1. Glad to point them out to you. Even as a source to borrow things they are worth a look.

  2. I'm glad you included Épées & Sorcellerie (the 2nd 'l' seems to come and go from one citation to another). It was in some ways a primary influence on my own effort even though I only read through it a few times and never played it. I liked the restrained presentation, if that makes sense. Among other things, it seems to be about the only original edition or clone (except perhaps for the 3 LBB's) that doesn't assign inflated hit dice to ordinary or at least semi-ordinary animals. A wonky point perhaps, but I think it's important for the overall feel of the game. So, for example, compare these hit dice figures: Tigers: AD&D: 5+5, E&S: 3, Elephants: AD&D: 10 or 11, E&S: 5, Brontosaurus: AD&D: 30 (!), E&S: 8 (!!).

    I also liked the way Dessaux put a new angle on some of the tropes, like giving Magic-Users the ability to hide in shadows.

    1. I definitely do like how the monsters are scaled within those rules and that the magic-users are spooky dudes.

  3. I really liked this post so I linked to it in my Best Reads of the Week series. I hope you don't mind.

    1. How could I mind, you have excellent taste.