Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne shares his thoughts on the Free RPG Day kit.

This year's Free RPG Day is winding down and as usual, we had a line of people waiting to get into the store before we opened and we have done over twice a typical Saturday sales for the day.  I have a couple of observations on the offerings for this year:

  1. Fewer offerings.  We had a lot fewer items in the kit this year, about 14 by my count.  I am excluding the single item offerings such as the Kobolds Ate My Baby quickstart and Dice Tray as I considered those more "samples" than I did offerings.  I counted about 14 items of which we had a large enough quantity that we could reasonably put them out as part of the selection.
  2. Higher quality.  In the past, we have seen publishers provide single or folded page black and white photocopied freebies as their product in the selection.  Almost always, those were the last items selected.  This year, everything was in full color with much higher production values.  All of the items we received, with one exception which I will get to later, had high enough production values that I could see it as a salable item.
  3. Variable Quantities.  The larger publishers who participated (Goodman Games,  Paizo Publishing, Catalyst Game Labs, Steve Jackson Games, Pelgrane) sent more quantities of their giveaways than did the smaller publishers (Troll Lord, Wyrd, Khepera), again with one exception to which I will get to at number 5.  Since Free RPG Day is a great opportunity for smaller publishers to get materials out into the hands of those people who would show the most interest in them, I hope that smaller publishers participating next year include more copies of their contribution so we can get more of them into the hands of those gamers most likely to purchase the associated products.
  4. Add-ons.  The single items included with the kit generated some interest.  Most people thought the metal coins were cool but couldn't really think of a good use to which to put them.  One Free RPG Day t-shirt wasn’t enough for this year, so we special ordered additional shirts from Off World Designs, which arrived in plenty of time for staff to wear them ahead of the day.  The Chessex dice went to gamemasters, but the item getting the most attention was the knock-down dice tray.  Customers seemed much more interested in this than in last year’s Meeple dice tower and we will be adding the dice tray to regular stock.
  5. The Exception.  The SoundSet cards from Syrinscape were an exception I mentioned earlier.  From the description on the card, SoundSets are a set of RPG character sounds that a player can download to the "Fantasy Player" they install on their smart device or laptop.  When their character does something in the game, they can play the appropriate sound through the player.  Syrinscape is a new company but they sent as many Pathfinder SoundSets as did a larger company like Paizo.  However, the cards bearing the SoundSet codes were pretty small, about a quarter larger than a Magic card, meaning that we had to keep explaining what they were, otherwise people were going after the larger booklets.  Once we explained them, people thought them quite cool, but if we didn't explain them, they got skipped.  A larger card explaining on both sides what the customer was getting would help.

So Free RPG Day 2015 is on the books and we will start planning for 2016 next week.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of