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 observations from Free RPG Day.

I cannot comment about Origins yet, since I sent a couple of staff members to it rather than going myself.  They can use the experience and seminars at Origins Trade Day as well as seeing all of the "kewl" new games on display.  I will get a report from them and comment on it next week.

This week, I want to follow up on last week’s column regarding Free RPG Day with some thoughts based on my admittedly anecdotal observations of Free RPG Day.

People still prefer free comics to free role playing supplements.  We had a line half a block long waiting for us to open for Free Comic Book Day.  We had one person waiting for us to open for Free RPG Day and he sat in the car with the air conditioning running until we actually opened up.  In addition, it is rather humbling to realize that something that I have sold day in and day out for 20+ years is still not readily recognizable to everyone who enters the store.  We had a couple of new customers who, when we welcomed them to Free RPG Day, looked at us blankly and asked what an RPG was.

Scarcity breeds desire.  The short-packed items in the selection were the ones gone first.  The two copies of the promo book for Primeval Thule lasted less than 10 minutes after we opened the doors and the equally restricted quantities items from Gaming Paper, Blue Panther Games (which provided six of their Flat Dice) and the Call of Cthulhu adventure from Chaosium all lasted less than three hours, while we still had comparatively large stacks of We Be4 Goblins, the Valiant Universe RPG, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and the 13th Age/Night’s Dark Agents combo adventure.

People don’t read signs.  Due to the nature of its contents, as mentioned last week, we kept the Lamentations of the Flame Princess creature compendium Slugs behind the counter with a sign prominently displayed on the table informing people where it was and how they could get a copy ("Ask").  Even with that, we still had customers asking us where the Lamentations of the Flame Princess item was.

Brands are still important.  Most people looked at the offerings on our table and figuratively scratched their heads.  Castles & Crusades, what’s that?  Faith: The Sci-Fi RPG?  Never heard of it.  13th Age?  Blank look. Atlantis the Second Age, Feng Shui 2?  Equally blank looks.  Well, we have this adventure for the Pathfinder RPG.  A look of recognition crosses their face.  The question we got most often, even more than where is the Lamentations of the Flame Princess book, was "Do you have anything for Dungeons & Dragons?"  As I have indicated in previous columns, for most of the public and the casual customer who might come into the store, Dungeons and Dragons IS the role playing game.  Once we pointed out items that were related to or compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, such as a few items we had left over from last year, as well a Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades and Dungeon Crawl Classics, people started taking them and eschewing items from non-D&D games.

Now to figure out a way to build the brands of 2nd and 3rd tier RPGs, unfortunately without using signs.

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