Free RPG Day is Saturday, June 24. Like Free Comic Book Day, it’s traditionally been an opportunity to visit your friendly local game store and stock up on bite-sized tabletop role-playing games and one-shot adventures. For 2023, publishers have cranked the dial up to 11 by tossing several meaty quick-start guides into the mix. But what really stands out is how things have gone to the dogs — literally.
Heckin’ Good Doggos
This year’s most interesting release is Heckin’ Good Doggos: Someone’s Last Day At The Track, an all-ages TTRPG quickstart document from Wet Ink Games. Using just a handful of six-sided dice and a regular deck of playing cards, players can crack open this slim, 33-page softcover book and get right to doing their business. And that business, my friends, is role-playing as a dog. It’s a wonderful intro experience for families — or, really, anyone new to tabletop role-play as a hobby. This booklet includes all the rules needed to play and an adventure. You can find the full game on DriveThruRPG.
Not to be outdone, the Ennie-award-winning team at 9th Level Games is back with Level 1, an 80-page softcover book filled with novel rules-light TTRPGs. The standout here is called Rainbow Bridge. In it, players take on the roles of pets passing on into the afterlife. It’s a tiny, three-page game that is dense with emotion. You can find previous years’ Level 1 volumes, available as free downloads, on the 9th Level website.
Wrapping up the rare pet-lovers’ TTRPG trifecta is a one-shot adventure for Steamforged Games’ Animal Adventures, which uses the rules of 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. The Faraway Sea: Apocalypse Miaow is 27 glossy pages long and includes full-color art and a battle map — the perfect add-on to the U.K.-based company’s Animal Adventures Starter Set, which includes seven miniatures of adorable furry adventurers.
Quickstarts for days
A “quickstart” document for a TTRPG traditionally comes with all the rules you need to play the game, plus an introductory adventure and some pregenerated characters. Think of them as pamphlet-sized starter sets, and this year there’s a bunch of them to be had.
By far the most sizable quickstart in the mix is for Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game, which absolutely killed it on Kickstarter with more than $9.5 million from backers. The game is available for order now, but if you don’t want to dive in and buy a copy just yet the quickstart guide comes in at 48 pages plus includes pregenerated characters and some quick reference sheets. You can read more about Magpie Games’ blockbuster in our feature story.
Also included this year are quickstart guides for the following games: Achtung Cthulhu (Modiphius Entertainment), Dragonbane (Free League), Root: The Roleplaying Game (Magpie), and Swords of the Serpentine (Pelgrane Press).
Finally, there’s a neat little quickstart packet for a rules-light game called Mazes (9th Level Games) that I find really fascinating. It’s literally a pad of paper with rules written on both sides. Just tear them off in order, reading aloud what you’re told to read aloud, and your table is set and your players are ready to roll. If you only have 30 minutes to hang out in your FLGS this weekend, spend it with this game and you won’t be disappointed.
“One-shot” adventures are short, multi-encounter supplements that will require you to own the core rules to run them. All of them are available for free in stores, but all of them will require you to also have the rules of a particular TTRPG to make use of them. Thankfully, most of those rules are available as quickstart documents that you can download for free. We link to them below as they apply.
Here are the other one-shot adventures available during Free RPG Day:
- A Taste of the Moon for Vampire: The Masquerade (Find the quickstart on DriveThruRPG.)
- Cobra/Con Fusion for G.I. Joe Roleplaying Game and Transformers Roleplaying Game
- Operation Seaside Park for Starfinder (Find the Basic Rules Cheat Sheet at the Paizo website.)
- Storm Eel’s Rest for Adventures in Rokugan (This game is compatible with the rules for 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons.)
- Piercing the Demon’s Eye for Dungeon Crawl Classics (You can find a quickstart guide on the Goodman Games website.)
- Car Crush and Oliver Twisted for Zombicide: Chronicles (The quickstart is on the CMON website.)
There are also plenty of surprises in store for those who make it out to their neighborhood game shop. But be advised that quantities of all of this stuff are limited, so before you make off with one of the more sought-after items, maybe ask around to see if anyone wants to play a quick game before you head home with your loot.