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, columnist Scott Thorne gives us his annual report on Free RPG Day.

Free RPG Day took place this past weekend and boy, were there a lot of RPGs represented in the kit, roughly two dozen different items by my count, including dice, terrain pieces, sample adventures and quick start rules (see "Free RPG Day Set for Fall").  The kit contained large stacks of the Root RPG quick start rules and scenario; the Level 1 Indie RPG Anthology, and with the exception of Fabula Ultima, other items in quantities of 3, 6, or 12. The first thing we ran out of was the Press Start into adventure for Fabula Ultima because there has been some hype for it, and we only received a few copies of the adventure.

Next most popular were the Fifth Edition Fantasy from Goodman Games and Epic Encounters adventures from Steamforged Games, primarily because they were both compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5E. Since most of our customers play D&D 5E, any new products that were compatible with the system are highly sought after and vanished quickly, as did the dice from Sirius and Q-Workshop.  Customers also liked the introductory Achtung Cthulhu, because, well, it is Cthulhu and who doesn’t like anything dealing with a giant Elder God?  The Star Trek and Dune RPGs also got takers because people recognized the names, while WizKids Grim Cottage Encounter kit brought a "Wow" from a lot of attendees (see "Exclusive 'D&D' Encounter").

Originally, I thought "How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber" from Dave Taylor Miniatures, Manti and Army Painter was a guide to designing the main villain for an encounter.  Only when I flipped through it did I realize it was actually a guide to building and painting the room in which the final encounter of an adventure takes place.  Here, I was pitching it as a system-neutral villain guide.  If we have any left, we will rack them with the Army Painter and other miniatures paints, handing them out as a painting guide.  Given that we have seen an explosion in interest in painting miniatures, any materials we can give out to support interest in the hobby will help.

Maybe it is just that we are located in a comparatively small community, but our clientele generally shows little interest in non-D&D RPGs, which is certainly a change from the 90s.  Even Pathfinder and Starfinder, which used to have strong communities, Organized Play programs, and would see their selections each year vanish quickly, languished on the table this year.

Unlike a lot of stores, we opt not to run events tied into the Free RPG Day offerings.  We have tried doing so in the past and for whatever reason, have had dismal turnout.  We have tried running the indie RPGs and found no interest in sitting down and playing.  Given the epidemic still widespread throughout the country, I cannot say I am unhappy about no events taking place this year (see "Rolling for Initiative -- DCC Day Followup".  Maybe next year.

Still, the sales were up 40% over a typical Saturday.  The number of customers that make a special trek to the store for Free RPG Day makes it certainly worth our while to participate.  I hear reports of store having people come in only once a year for the free stuff and while we see that as well, the number of paying customers far outweighs the ones who grab and go.

What results did you have with Free FRPG?  Leave them in the comments or email

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