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 takes a look at the offerings for Free RPG Day 2024.

Thanks to Gaming Days LLC, I got an early opportunity to look through the selection of books and items for this year’s Free RPG Day and I must say, this is the best selection of books yet.  There are about two dozen, by my count, with 80% of them being full-sized 8.5" by 11” booklets and only seven of the smaller TPB-sized volumes.  The full-size books show off the game and art better, are easier to read and appear to offer a better deal to the customer choosing items.

I've noticed, over the years, that those selecting Free RPG Day items tend to pick the full-sized books first.  I was also glad to see no "one-sheet" items in the kit.  Every book is saddle-stitched or perfect-bound.  Again, Free RPG Day participants want to select the items that give them the most perceived value, and a 16-page booklet appears to offer more than a one-page sheet.

Another thing Gaming Days has done with this year’s kit is making sure there are at least three copies of any of the RPG books to give away.  No more one copy "sample" books, which were pretty useless as far as getting them into the hands of potential customers who might be interested in a new RPG.  If there is only one copy of a giveaway book included in the kit, customers may never see it if either the retailer hangs onto it to peruse it, or one of the first customers in sees it and grabs it.  The person who snapped it up gets to look over the game, but no one else does (which somewhat defeats the purpose of including it in the first place).

There are still 10 RPGs in the kit with only three items; I would really like to see six of each, but that is still far better than in past years.  I was also struck by the number of offerings based on 5E rules despite the problems with the OGL in 2023 (see "OGL Version 1.2 Still Some Concerns").  Paizo had its updated Pathfinder and Starfinder adventures and Kobold Press offers an adventure using its Tales of the Valiant rules system, but there were still a good half dozen adventures and/or supplements advertising themselves as 5E compatible.  Meanwhile, Magpie Games went one step beyond promoting its offering, releasing a new adventure for its Avatar:  The Last Airbender RPG and also providing a dice set to give out with each copy of the adventure, should the store choose.

There are also several really impressive ancillary items included with the kit: a coupon from Roll20, Drizzt dice from Sirius, a Lost Tome of Monsters pin from Foam Brain Games, a dice bag and tray with the Free RPG Day logo from BCW, Story Engine Decks from Story Engine, adventure decks from Nord Games, miniatures from WizKids and a very nice ring-boxed D20 from Dispel Dice.  What truly impressed me was that the kit includes multiples of most of these items, making for some very nice giveaways.

Free RPG Day is set for June 22, 2024 and orders for the kit will close at the end of May so stores still have time to send orders.  Since Free RPG Day is always a good sales day for us, we have plans already in place (including cupcakes) and, along with our customers, look forward to it.

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