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 in his store, with six additional thoughts.

Following up from last week’s column on Free RPG Day, we had another successful event this year (see "Free RPG  Day and RIP Paul Arden Lindberg").  As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we had arranged for the Carbondale city government to proclaim June 25 as RPG Day in the city (See "How We Got the City to Proclaim RPG Day") and while we did not get any television coverage as a result of the proclamation, we did get several inches of column space in the local newspapers, which generated some additional sales. Unfortunately, traditional non-digital media is extremely hard to track, so while we did see some additional foot traffic, as people mentioned the articles, it is hard to tell accurately how much.

While I was writing this column, late Saturday afternoon, foot traffic through the store increased about 30% above a normal Saturday with sales up about 40%.  We spent the previous two weeks promoting Free RPG Day and when I arrived at the store this morning, we already had a line of people half a block long waiting to get inside.

Six items of note from today:

  1. Three-dimensional items such as the Q Workshop dice and WizKids paint kits vanished first, with several late comers disappointed not to get one.  I know some stores separated those items from the paper Free RPG Day giveaways and had attendees complete "quests" or purchase something to get those items, which sounds like a pretty good way to utilize them.
  2. Dungeons & Dragons 5E adventures proved the most popular items, and all vanished by early afternoon.  We had a number of attendees disappointed that we had none left by the time they got there and were at loose ends as to which item to take.  If you are a company that makes a 5E-compatible product, Free RPG Day is a good way to expose it to potential customers.
  3. Renegade’s character folios for the Hunter: The Reckoning, Transformers, G. I. Joe and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers RPGs struck me as a less than functional set of offerings.  After all, aside from a small resolution table, there was nothing in them to help players understand the game.  However, I guess branding works as younger attendees snapped them up within a few hours, attracted by the recognizable characters and logos on the covers.
  4. A packing slip listing the items included in the kit would have been helpful. I had to contact Gaming Days to find out what we were supposed to receive.  We did get an Indie RPG Retailer Purchase Guide but a number of the companies listed did not have items included in the kit.  If you want me to order the RPGs on the list, having a sample set of the rules included in the kit would certainly help get me to do so.
  5. Once again, the most interesting item in the kit was the Level 1 Indie RPG Anthology, which collected small press RPGs from several publishers.  Unfortunately, the front cover just did not entice people to pick it up and the small quantity we received lasted throughout most of the day. A Familiar Problem, the RPG created by Critical Role’s Marisha Ray attracted a lot of attention, especially since we streamed the session she ran on the store TV.
  6. Unlike many other stores, we again opted not to run RPG sessions of the various offerings as we have always had problems in the past filling tables.  I read of many other stores wanting to run sessions and having problems recruiting GMs.  Our attendees appeared quite happy to come in and get their items and, while here, spend money so I count this year's Free RPG Day a resounding success.

How did your store’s event do?  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