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, Scott Thorne shares his observations on Free RPG Day, the first under new ownership.

Running about a week late with my comments about this year’s Free RPG Day, but I felt last week’s column on the passing of Bill Jaffe and James Mathe took priority; so here are some comments  on this year’s event.  Gaming Days LLC, the company that took over Free RPG Day from Impressions, did a fine job running the event and my hat is off to them.  With that, here are my thoughts:

1.  As usual, we had great sales on Free RPG Day.  We always follow the rules about giving away at least one item free by giving away two, then tying the opportunity to get additional items through either making purchases at the store or donations to either the Humane Society of Southern Illinois or the Good Samaritan Food Pantry.  We used to run the various modules or sample games of the assorted roleplaying game quickstart rules given away, but after about the second or third year, we found that people were more interested in looking over the offerings, buying stuff, selecting their free items and leaving than they were in sitting down for an RPG session so we gave that up in preference to garnering donations and increasing sales.  However, remember this is anecdotal evidence and according to Steve Ellis, one of the principals of Gaming Days, "Most retailers find that running RPG events during the day is a key point of interest for their customers and that it translates directly to increased sales."

2.  The annual Lamentations of the Flame Princess offering was typically one of the highest production quality items in the bundle and also the one that created the most controversy as every year a number of retailers would complain about having it in the selection.  We always put a note out saying we kept it behind the counter and customers could have one if they asked for it.  Dropping it this year meant one less complaint for Gaming Days to deal with.  We did have one person ask about it this year but they did not specify Lamentations, only asking if we had the "18+ book" this year, which indicates to me that the publisher needs to work on name recognition.

3.  I have said this before, but it is useless to provide a single copy of an offering.  If you want to get your promo into potential players’ hands, we need enough that a reasonable number of people can get one.  Ellis of Gaming Days says the company expects to have multiples of all RPG supplements and quickstarts next year.

4.  Customers saw significantly less value in the smaller-sized supplements compared to the 8 ½" x11" ones.  We went through almost all of the bigger ones fairly quickly while the smaller were picked up with a feeling of "well there is nothing else here I want so I guess I will take this one."  We also didn’t see a lot of interest in either the Red Dragon Inn or Pathfinder Adventure Card Game promo cards, likely because most people didn’t know what they were.

5.  The thing most people asked: "Which of these will work with D&D 5E?"  We had some 5th Edition Fantasy modules left over from last year and put those out after the third person asked for a 5th Edition-compatible item and they were gone within two hours.  In the aforementioned email, Ellis of Gaming Days says the company expects to include at least one 5th Edition-compatible offering next year.

6.  Including a poster(s) with the kit showing all the offerings with a quick description of what each one is (i.e., adventure, quickstart rules, promo card, dice).  Although we had someone manning the table, having a visual they could use to quickly ID what each item was would have helped.  Again, Ellis in his email says Gaming Days plans to include a poster in next year’s kit.

Some 500 retailers participated in Free RPG Day this year, 330 of them located in the United States.  Looking forward to an even better 2020 event.

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