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 reports on Free RPG Day and the launch of Warhammer 40,000: Leviathan.

Free RPG Day always means a stellar sales day here, doubly so when combined with the release of Warhammer 40,000: Leviathan.  Looking at the social media feeds of several stores shows staff sitting on thrones built of Leviathan boxes (and at least one older picture of someone sitting on a similar throne of Dominion boxes).  While it is good for the stores that managed to get large quantities of Leviathan, and most retailers were happy for them, some of those that only got their orders in after Games Workshop started putting low caps on order quantities, leaving a lot of stores with large numbers of pre-orders they could not fulfill.  Sales on the set, or rather the lack of them here, have rather surprised me. We had healthy preorders, but no off-the-shelf sales so far.  Players can already download the rules for free, and I have had a few players tell me since they do not play the armies included in the set, they will wait for the rulebook to release separately.

This year, unlike Free Comic Book Day, we had a line of people waiting to get into the store to snag free RPG items with people driving in from Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri.  Since the kit only included one each of the logoed dice tray, dice bag, dice set and promo miniatures from WizKids, we opted to keep them behind the counter and require a $50 purchase to select one.  Items that we had multiples of went out on a table with everyone coming to take one item with the ability to get more by making purchases in the store.  We also partnered with a FLGS down the block, allowing customers to take an additional item by showing us a $20 receipt from there with the Free RPG Day date.

As expected, customers looked first for items usable with 5E (see "Tales of Great Magic Sales").  We ran out of the scenarios from Dragon Shield and Loke Battle Mats early on, but surprisingly, we still had copies of the Pocket GMs Guide later in the day, likely because the cover designer had placed the "5th Edition compatible" in the lower corner (meaning customers could overlook it).  By 5 pm, we only had copies of the Pocket RPG Guide, GNP’s Loup Garou and 9th Level Games' Mazes remaining from this year’s kit.

As I have noted in the past, it is pretty useless to include just one or two copies of an item in the kit and we had a couple of companies do just that again (see "Six Thoughts About Free RPG Day").  I know some companies justify including one copy by calling it a sample for the store to consider.  However, Free RPG Day is an opportunity for companies that are not Wizards of the Coast to get their products out in front of potential customers. This would have been a great opportunity for Kobold Press to tease its upcoming Tales of the Valiant system (see "Kobold Press Tells Tales of the Valiant").  Oh well, there is always next year.  Thank you, Gaming Days, for another great Free RPG Day.

Comments on Leviathan or Free RPG Day?  Did your store run events?  If so, how did they do?  Send them to

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