Thoughts on Free RPG Day 2017

While I would love to rave about another wonderful free RPG Day on today sadly I can not. This year for the first year in the last four years that no game store in 100 miles in any direction of the grand city of Charleston South Carolina even participated in the event. Shockingly enough when I expanded my search I did find a handful of stores with Free RPG Day kits. Three stores in the whole of South Carolina took part in the event this year, ouch! I don’t know if this is a growing trend in other areas but I for the first time in years felt the pain that I have seen other

Shockingly enough when I expanded my search with the store locator tools I did find a handful of stores with Free RPG Day kits. Three stores in the whole of South Carolina took part in the event this year, ouch! I don’t know if this is a growing trend in other areas but I for the first time in years felt the pain that I have seen other gamer’s struggle with.

With the explosion in popularity of tabletop games in the last two years, you would think that every store in the country would be looking for ways to draw in more customers to their venues. Tabletop gaming is rapidly closing on its first golden age. Why would you not want to take every advantage its current popularity to rise with it?

Now I understand we RPG players need to contend with the fact that many of the local stores run MTG three days a week or more here. Card floppers continue to outspend tabletop players likely more than ten to one, I get it. Yet when every FLGS turns their back on the opportunity to draw a larger audience they inevitably force their loyal customers to look elsewhere.

Please understand that by no stretch of the imagination do I think that Free RPG Day is free to the retailer. I know it costs money and I can only imagine that no stores locally took part because in years past they have failed to profit from the event. I also think that with proper promotion Free RPG Day could be profitable to stores if they market the events to draw the local gamers in. Demos and mini store conventions took place in many locations across the country with wild success. These things could be done here or in any location in the country to help ensure profitable Free RPG Days.

When Free RPG Day started it was about trying to draw in an audience of gamers. To Infuse the hobby with fresh to grow a new batch of gamers. But since then Free RPG Day has stopped being that. The kits can be costly and there just simply are not nearly enough of them to go around. So I think some of this falls on the FRPGD shoulders as well because the event is not nearly as well known as International Tabletop day and it is older than that event.

Also, I think some of this falls on the Impressions Distributors of Free RPG Day’s shoulders as well because the event is not nearly as well known as International Tabletop day and it is near twice as old. Not only did every store take part in International Tabletop Day but many of the locals had home parties. This is something you will never see with Free RPG DAY because they don’t support their event unless you are a FLGS. This goes againt the idea of Growing the hobby in a truly frustrating manner.

I will end with a personal experience when I was running the RPG portion of Storm-Con a few years back. Our convention date fell on FREE RPG Day. We as a convention reached out willing to buy kits for our con and we were iced because we were not a retailer. We were then told if we were to get a retailer to buy kits for us we still would not be allowed to give them away at our convention, Craziness! 300 gamers would have gone without Free RPG Day products that year. In the end, one of our vendors decided to bring their Free RPG Day kits to the con.

So what are your thoughts on FREE RPG DAY ? Were you left out in the wild or did your store particapte? Did it go over well or was it not well handled in your location? I would love to hear your thougths on the subject.

5 thoughts

    1. Ouch, with having had a store near me my entire adult life it just feels weird to have none of them doing anything. Its been a long time since I have had to drive an hour plus to get to a game store lol.

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  1. I get what you’re saying. This year only 2 stores near me participated, fortunately, I was able to attend to both as they were having different activities scheduled, but overall it is sad that they are not appealing to a larger audience.
    I think this is a problem that faces many fronts, on one side, the DMs were there out of love to the hobby as far as I can tell, the first store had several people showing up just because they are regulars, so, a fail in the attempt to bring newcomers, there is nothing that makes the day really appealing for customers, and as you stated before, MTG used a lot of the playing area of the store, but even worse, in the second store, I joined a party for numenera which was half made from the store staff just so the DM that was kind enough to show up wouldn’t waste her time. In the end, it was fun nonetheless.
    Speaking of which, the organization is just terrible, the DMs didn’t get the material early enough so they could prepare the sessions, and we had to figure out several things on the fly, and especially with numenera, the demo is useless if you don’t have previous knowledge of the system and the handbook close by to sort out a lot of things really badly explained by the demo booklet.
    Which brings up another problem, I don’t know if it is the organizers not being cooperative enough or just lazy publishers, but most of the stuff I tried and watched was not worthy of showing how fun roleplaying can be, I understand that it is not easy showing the full flavor in just a couple of hours, but I had the greatest time with the short campaign 13th Age prepared, it felt like a full adventure and inviting to continue exploring. But again, sadly that was not the case for numenera, it felt very linear, everything tries and almost succeeds in killing you unless you take a very specific course of action(which takes the whole essence of Role Playing out in my opinion, feels more scripted) and is in no way apt to be played fully in just one session, let alone one of a couple of hours that you’re expecting from this kind of events. My utmost respect goes to the DM that managed to succeed in making this a memorable night(in a good way for the most part) but that kind of playbooks makes you run away from the series instead of towards it.
    Overall I think there is a lot of room for improvement and I hope that others voice their experiences in order to keep the event alive and improves, or that someone takes all these comments and finds a way to make the kind of event players deserve as well as helping promote the games and FLGS.

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    1. Tremendous comment! Also a shame about numenera!! The whole cypher system is 100% around deep RP. Sad to hear this experience.
      You are also 100% spot on about DM’s not getting advanced product. This should be the day that Every RPG company puts their best foot forward to draw in new players to their products!

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