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FREEDOM!

or Why Free Games Are Awesome for Games Wafflers

For the last ten years, my general drive in gaming has been more or less dominated by what I could get for no money. My favorites are small projects, but I also like old games on PDF or free download abbreviated versions of larger games.

I think one of my most favorite has to still be Old School Hack, which takes a lot of the ideas of the old school games and tacks on some simplified mechanics and brilliant layout. It doesn’t hurt that it is a mere 26 pages. Most of the stuff left out of the game is so ingrained in my skill set that I forget it is even missing, at least until I am faced with explaining it to someone.

The D6 system, which was based on WEG’s version of Star Wars, which was a development of their previous Ghostbusters game, showed up in a couple of places and can still be had for free, but my favorite outing is in the book Mini Six. The six basic attributes are pared down to four, and skills may be built up from there. In its 38 pages it packs enough complexity to run any sort of RPG you care to, with example settings that show how it could be used. The only hang up I have with the system is the target numbers. They seem so amorphous and difficult to pin down, and it feels like I am, as a GM, either giving away rolls or putting up walls.

Wizards of the Coast made a brilliant move when they issued a free basic version of the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. It is a great way to get someone reluctant to part with their money to pony up after they have seen how cool it is, but it is also a very good game without further input. It was enough that I could make a fairly interesting character and play him with no trouble at a regular D&D table. As professional and awesome as the more complex version of the game that is found in all of those hard cover books of awesome.

Free is a very good price. I realize that all games being free means that not a lot would be created, as the profit motive makes the world turn. I even profess that game writers deserve to be paid for their awesome hard work. Free stuff, however, makes for an excellent ‘gateway product’ to get folks into the hobby. I hope that every game has a free basic version to drag me in by, but I will continue to be a fan in any case.

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