Why should I make a “Free” Role-Playing Game?

Howdy Guys and Gals! I’m Thomas Novosel and I am writing for Game Creator Social Forum today. The topic I am going to discuss is aimed towards Tabletop Role-Playing Game Designers and it is:

“Why should I make a Free Role-Playing Game?”

Now as a game designer myself who enjoys writing RPGs, I have found that free games do not bring money in from their sales. However, there are more than enough reasons to still release a free game for download!

  • It can help get your name out there: That’s right! Everyone has to start somewhere and writing a free game in your spare time can help spread that name. Most people will look at games based on who made them, how well-developed they are, and on pure cosmetic appearance alone! So if you are new to the gaming world and want to write (but do not have the resources or experience to help sell copies), release a free game. It will help people understand your style, and will also give you wiggle room to learn and expand; whereas if you ship a game that people paid for and has flaws… it won’t make a positive impression.

    Honestly, if it wasn't for the free RPG "Cthulhu Dark". I would have never known who Graham Walmsley is or what he has written in the past!
    Honestly, if it wasn’t for the free RPG “Cthulhu Dark”. I would have never known who Graham Walmsley is or what he has written in the past!
  • Contests, Competitions, and Challenges: Creating a submission for a game design contest can help get your name out there (especially if you win!). But most RPG design contests specify that your submission must be free and available for their use. Examples are: Game Chef and One Page Dungeon.
  • Do you have a blog? Well if you don’t you should consider starting one to document the process and also give updates to fans and followers. But don’t just give updates, give a reader a reason to view your blog by performing Challenges! A Game Design Challenge is generally a personal goal/endeavor to design/write/create a game within a set amount of time based upon a theme and a limit in pages/paper (front and back of a single letter page!). Performing these kind of Challenges and spreading information on it can help draw people to your blog, and hopefully to any title releases in the future. A good example is the challenge that I started/created called the One Sit, Hand Writ Challenge.
  • Playtest Edition: Do you need feedback? Well make a playtest edition! It is a good way to show off your game and get some valuable feedback at the same time which will improve the final product. Just make sure the game is playable/readable before posting it online for people to see!

    Dennis Detwiller (writer for the popular Delta Green supplements for Chaosium's "Call of Cthulhu") recently released a public playtest of a full and dedicated game for Delta Green! I am sure this will help turn some heads and grow a following (even larger than he already has!).
    Dennis Detwiller (writer for the popular Delta Green supplements for Chaosium’s “Call of Cthulhu”) recently released a public playtest of a full and dedicated game for Delta Green! I am sure this will help turn some heads and grow a following (even larger than he already has!).
  • Preview/Starter Set: Starter Sets are a popular thing nowadays, I see them for everything! But most of the time they are called Quickstarts. These shortened and edited versions of a full game are a dozen or so pages long and give everything that is needed to get sucked into a product. Think about giving one out, if it has full art and beautiful work done in it. It might just get you some sales on the full game.

    The game by Wizards of the Coast is reinvigorated by the fact that their newest edition of the fantasy series has a Free Basic version of the rules to play (which bring a lot of enjoyment to many people! AND THOSE PEOPLE USUALLY BUY THE BOOKS AFTER!).
    The game by Wizards of the Coast is reinvigorated by the fact that their newest edition of the fantasy series has a Free Basic version of the rules to play (which bring a lot of enjoyment to many people! AND THOSE PEOPLE USUALLY BUY THE BOOKS AFTER!).

 Those are the big reasons! Now how do you put them into good use? Well a first tip for getting a free game out there is to have it done and advertise about it. I don’t know many people who follow a free game waiting for a release (unless the author has some good history or writing credits; but then again that is because he/she has their own dedicated following).

Which brings me to another point, if this is a free “version” and not a full game, it might be a good idea to release before the full game is out. That way potential customers can have a chance to try before they buy. At the same time, however, having a Quickstart be released after the full game is released can reinvigorate sales in a product line (people who didn’t catch the initial title may be dragged in by the Quickstart which leads to more sales of the full game).

Personally, I tend to go with building my name up with some micro-games such as Wee Exploits.

So next time you dismiss the word “Free”, just remember that it can lead to more sales down the road. It is more valuable than you may think (in the Role-Playing world).


 

Thomas Novosel has been designing games for six years, at an incredible pace that perplexes even himself at times. He is always at work designing and writing games, some of his friends say it is like a second full time job for him. He is the founder of Orbit Above Games (a small game design studio), he has a Patreon, started theFreeRPGHunt (a special subreddit!), and also is found on Tumblr playing Wee Exploits .

 

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