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Everyone likes free stuff

06/06/2013

My, how time flies. I realised last night that this blog turned two years old last Friday. I’m sure I’d be feeling it if I posted more often, but it is what it is. Anyway, I’m not going to do anything special for the two-year anniversary. I’m not really big on celebrating my own birthday, so why buck the trend? Instead, I’ll tell you all about something that holds a special place in my heart, even though I’ve never taken part: Free RPG Day.

Free RPG Day is happening on June 15th this year and, as the name suggests, is the one day of the year that you’re able to pick up gaming material for free (well, legally anyway). Set up in a similar way to Free Comic Book Day, each participating store receives a box of products from the companies participating in the event. However, unlike FCBD, stores only receive a few copies (between 1 and 15) of each company’s offering. This means it can be easy to miss out on the more popular items if you don’t get in early.

Where FRPGD really differs from FCBD is that many of the offerings are adventures, meaning multiple people can enjoy them at the same time. While not every store has the space for people to sit down and roleplay, if your store does and is participating in the event, see if they can make that part of the day. Instead of having people pop in, grab what they want then immediately leave, get them to get some players together (or bring them along), bust open the game in store and start playing. Seeing people have fun with a product is a great way to get other people to buy it.

Unfortunately, FRPGD does not seem to operate on the same scale as FCBD. Most of the companies taking part are small to medium-sized gaming companies, none of whom can hope to reach Marvel or DC levels of participation. There also is not the same level of participation from retailers outside of the United States. Here in Auckland, I can think of three comic book stores that took part in FCBD, while I can’t think of a single gaming store that has ever taken part in FRPGD. There is one key reasons for this: gaming stores here don’t care about RPGs. Okay, that’s a little hyperbolic. It’s more accurate to say that gaming stores here don’t care about any RPG that isn’t from Wizards of the Coast or Fantasy Flight Games. This is because the stores already have trade agreements with these companies for their other products (WotC’s Magic: The Gathering and FFG’s board games). They also tend to limit their supply of FFG RPGs to the Warhammer 40,000 titles, and are then usually only available in stores that also sell the miniature game. You will occasionally find a game from another company on the shelves, but these tend to appear when someone has ordered something in then decided not to get it after it has arrived.

While this sounds pretty dire for our local gaming scene, we do have a couple of things that work in our favour. First, the rise of PDF publishing has made it incredibly easy to get our hands on just about any RPG we could want. Sites like DriveThruRPG fill in the hole in the market that our gaming stores would normally occupy. Second, the NZ dollar has been at an all time high against both the US dollar and the British pound for some time now. While this hurts our exporters, it’s a massive boon for gamers who do a lot of shopping overseas. Add to that discounts from sales and promotions, and it can feel like we’re living in a golden age of gaming. For all the benefits of the current system, I’d honestly still prefer it if I could buy my books from a local store. It’s much easier to find a gaming group if you’re bumping into potential players every time you walk into a store, and this is one hobby that’s all about being social.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that FRPGD holds a special place in my heart, but that I’ve also never taken part. I should probably explain that. Way back in 2008, Exile Game Studios asked me if I would like to write their FRPGD offering – a one-shot adventure for Hollow Earth Expedition. The adventure (which comes with Quick Start rules) is still available on the Exile site it you want to take a look at it. In hindsight it was a bit basic, but it was also the first time I had ever written an adventure in its entirety. I’d run plenty of adventures written by other people, but never made more than basic notes for scenarios I had designed myself. It was a pretty daunting task, but one I’m glad I took on. One of these days I might do it all over again. It certainly did give me a thrill to know that GMs across America, Europe, and elsewhere might be pitting their players against dinosaurs and Nazis because of something I wrote.

One last thing, when you’re down at your local store this June 15, try to buy something to go along with your freebies. Maybe some shiny new dice, or some figures you can customise to represent player characters and NPCs, or even an actual book or two. Running a gaming store isn’t exactly a profitable enterprise, so it’s always good to show your appreciation for them making the effort to get involved in events like this. Also, I hear new dice roll better on average than old ones. Honest.

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