We need a RPGNow for Free RPGs!

I am pretty sure you all know RPGNow (or one of the other OneBookShelf shops). It’s a great marketplace for RPG products in digital format as well as POD.

For the customer it’s easy to browse and search for products, buying and downloading products works flawlessly and you can rate and review every product you bought. For the publisher uploading their products, setting up product descriptions and cover images and running promotions is easy as pie. In addition to that you get extensive statistics on how often your products have been sold.

There is of course free stuff on RPGNow, too, but it’s first and foremost a shop that wants to sell products and make money. But wouldn’t it be great if there were a site that offers at least some of the features that RPGNow does, but for free RPGs?

Imagine a site, where creators of free RPGs can sign up and upload their free PDFs, enter product descriptions and add a cover image. Having some kind of way to track the number of downloads would be handy, but not that important.

The “customers” of the site can download any free RPG/supplement for free and without the need of being registered at the site, but being registered might have some benefits like being able to post reviews and rate the stuff you downloaded.

This site could be THE place where people go first when they look for free roleplaying games and it could help support many indie game designers out there, who like to give away their games for free.
What do you think about my idea? Is this a project worth pursuing?

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

26 thoughts on “We need a RPGNow for Free RPGs!”

  1. While the idea does sound very good and useful, I suspect you can already tell what the major hurdle would be.
    Most free games are designed to be low-size PDFs, but they remain something that in large quantities would take up a lot of space, not to mention potential traffic.
    The vision is noble, though, and I would love to see a site like that come around, expand and thrive.

  2. I think this idea would be worthwhile. In fact, I’d be surprised if it weren’t done before.

    It would be trivial to track the number of downloads with any free FTP server. Setting up the site itself would probably be the most challenging task.

    If a free RPG site/store/archive were available, I’d definitely use it.

  3. Hosting would be a major issue. But I have already thought about how you could avoid that issue. While it’s handy to have one central site where people can browse, rate and review free RPGs you could have the files themselves hosted on Google Docs, various share hosters etc.

    1. That would of course be cool, but I have my doubts. OneBookShelf is a business and need to make money to survive and pay their employees. Something like I proposed will only cost money.

  4. RPGNow is that site. I want my games to be where people looking for games can find them, not somewhere that people have to be looking specifically for free games before they stumble on them. Particularly since a bunch of the latter folks are probably going to go looking at torrents first. Why reinvent the wheel, particularly when your new wheel is going to be HO scale?

      1. That’s pretty short-sighted of them. Any download from their site means they’ve already had the chance to capture new business. If they can’t do that they’re a failure as a web business, and if they can do that then they’re worrying needlessly about a site feature they choose to provide.

        Aside, what was the source of the conflict of interest? I can’t think of how reviewing other companies’ games can cause a conflict of interest if you also publish games.

        1. I don’t blame them for their policies and they actually haven’t caused me any troubles. It was my decision to cancel my publishers agreement with them because I wanted to avoid possible future issues.

          It’s just that I don’t feel like I want to deal with stuff like that at the moment.

    1. I know and love the site, but I would prefer something looking more like RPGNow. 1KM1KT looks more like a blog and sometimes it’s pretty hard to find stuff there.

  5. I would love to see that sort of thing. Most folks I know have had to ditch unnecessary expenditures, like hobbies, due to the economy. I’ve even had to stop with the 1-5$ a week purchases I used to make picking up 3rd party adventures.

  6. Yeah, 1km1kt isn’t very user friendly for finding games. It needs better tagging, searching, and browsing (and probably rating too).

    It’s interesting you bring this up, because I’m working on a non-RPG-related project where the client uploads & maintains a vast quantity of file resources. The infrastructure would be well-suited to a project like this.

  7. An awesome idea! I used to release free e-zines supporting 4e, but they were difficult to find on RPGNow unless you had a habit of searching the entire 4e database.

    The trick, as already mentioned, is making it sustainable but I think it’s equally important to set up such a site as a resource for up-and-coming designers and getting feedback is crucial. What if you can set up a consumer account and download X number of PDFs for free, but for every review or comment posted, you unlock access to more freebies. Encourage feedback and reward with more perks, allowing publishers like myself details on how well received a product is. It’s the one thing lacking (and I admit, I’m just as bad) in free downloads.

  8. Actually the major cost would be bandwidth right? Why not use bittorrent to distribute the files? You could set up the sever to ensure there is always one seed (The server) or more (Super Seeding), but for popular games that are getting a lot of downloads the other users would pay a lot of the bandwidth costs.

    Sure, it would be slower, but hey, free.

  9. Herr Wolf, we’re going to have to have you killed. You have stumbled onto something not ready for human consumption.

    There is a secret project codenamed … errr… I can’t tell you*, OUR GLORIOUS BENEFACTOR would have me shot. I can’t tell you any more about it except that it solves all the problems outlined here (and some problems specfic to free RPGs in general). Including space – OUR GLORIOUS BENEFACTOR (he who makes the hard drives whirrr) has plenty of it. And bandwidth too.

    The only bottleneck is me. I have a HUNDRED different projects on the go at the moment! During the day I’m an enterprise level web team lead, so know my POSTs from my PUTs. Also, no-one has been asking for it (except the 1000 monkeys) so I’ve not had a lot of drive to complete it.

    I expect that’s changed now.

    When it’s stable enough to show what it can do then we’ll be doing it agile/open beta/public test/etc so that its direction can be steered.

    * It’s codenamed 2KM2KT

    1. If there’s anything useful I can do, let me know. I’m not a cybernetics professor or a OUR GLORIOUS BENEFACTOR (He who is, and was the internet before there was an internet) but I have a few webbish skills.

  10. This idea is great indeed. We have such thing in Poland, but it’s only for LARPs (http://larpbase.boo.pl), with no tabletop RPGs. I guess you could always add advertisements to this website, so it can generate some money that could be used to pay for hosting. Also there’s some apps that allow users to pay voluntarily, if they can and are satisfied with the content of the site.

  11. If the RPGs are CC-licensed or public domain, archive.org could be a spot to host them. If someone wanted to curate getting 50+ items, a collection could be made for them. I’m currently uploading all of my podcast files to archive.org.

    So, if it’s bandwidth, there are options. Now, the store front-end is another matter entirely.

  12. I tried to do something similar with the OSR Conservation Process ( http://ocp.no-ip.org/ ) , but the aim is different.

    Bandwidth and cloud space are cheap nowadays, so such a site could be easily hosted and maintained on a very small budget.

    Torrents are an easy delivery solution too.

  13. Theoretically a good idea – I think it would need to be watched pretty thoroughly though, to prevent people putting up PDFs that weren’t free. A lot of RPG games turn up illegally on sites like Scribd and it does get tiresome when you’re trying to make a living writing games.

  14. I don’t understand. So what if RPGNow is there to make money? What is bad about using it for free RPGs?

    Conversely, I can see plenty of things going wrong with a seperate RPGFree.Now.

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