I had the thought today that there’s just sooo much cool stuff floating around out there for free, and I don’t even know where to begin start looking, so I started looking and this is some of what I came up with.
This is not an attempt at making a comprehensive list, and the quality control is mostly based on “what have I actually played”, “what have I heard about” and “what do I like”. There is some overlap between games at some of the sites (the Jeep-site, Our Many Games and Stockholm Scenario Festival, for instance). That being said, I hope it will serve as a useful starting point for some of you, and aid you in the exploration of the rich and wonderful world of Stuff Out There.
A lot of it is in the “freeform” or “indie” vein, whatever that means.
Thanks to people on both G+ and the Facebook group Rollespill.info for input!
Stockholm Scenario Festival have put up a lot of freeforms/short-larps from the past couple of years. See the «Archive» section on the homepage: http://scenariofestival.se/ (These are curated in the sense that they’ve been picked out especially for the festival by a committee). Some games I’ve played and enjoyed: Robin’s Friends (a short, tightly focused scenario about friendship, often used as an introduction to “Jeepform”), 600 (loosely based on Chuck Palahniuk’s “Snuff”, about “the world’s biggest gang-bang).
I’m hearing good things about: The Journey (post-apo inspired by “The Road”), Under My Skin (a game about the challenges of love and relationships in a tight-knit circle of friends), and many, many of the others. Lots of high quality stuff here, folks (albeit a bit bleak, some of it).
The Jeepform webpage doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2009, but there are lots of high-quality freeform/shortlarp scripts. Many of them are somewhat in the same vein as the Stockholm stuff, often dealing with various (serious) real-life issues. It’s an acquired taste, I guess.
Chamber Games was an early (2007-2008) collection of Scandinavian short larps (in English). Various themes, free for download. Some overlap with games at aforementioned sites.
Nørwegian Style has tons of short-games, RPG poems, playsets, and «meditations over role-playing games», all in English.
Unfortunately, it’s all chronological and has little in the way of an index, so you either have to scroll through or know what you’re looking for. Some recommendations: Archipelago III (GM-less storytelling game with some innovative mechanics), Fiction – A flexible freeform framework (what it says on the tin), Until We Sink (a collaborative GM-less storytelling game aided by cards, fairly innovative in its day), A Trip to the Moon (a very nice game that’s a bit like a good-night fairytale. I remember it as a very pleasant experience, but haven’t played it in 12 years).
This blogpost by American author Lizzie Stark gives an introduction to the label «American Freeform», and a selection of games, all given a brief introduction. Ten of them are labeled as «free downloads».
There has recently been a 200 Word RPG challenge, the final results will not be announced until Thursday, as this is being written. But there are lots and lots of interesting games there, and this address, currently, lists the finalists: http://schirduans.com/david/2015/04/200-word-rpg-challenge.html
Howling Tower has a list of OSR games. I’m not familiar with these (I tend to just play D&D if I want to play D&D). The list is organized alphabetically, but there’s a short but fairly thorough review of each game. The aim seems more to have been to include the games that have some kind of merit, rather than every single OSR game ever put online for free. Which I think is a good choice, when making such compilations.
There are about 50 (?)downloadable freeforms on the Golden Cobra contest page, but it requires some patience to navigate. Besides the «honorable mentions» page, there doesn’t seem to be much of an overview/presentation on the page proper: http://www.goldencobra.org/
Our Many Games is an interesting, ongoing initiative to showcase games from game designers of a great variety of backgrounds. There’s already quite an impressive collection of links, in separate categories (table top, “freeform larp” and family friendly). Some games are free downloads, others you have to pay for.
Game Chef is an annual competition where you try to make a complete, short role-playing game in about a week. It’s been running for several years. There’s a history section over on the site. There’s probably a lot of interesting stuff to learn about the trends and developments of games and individual designers in the indie community. However, it looks to me as it will require some patience to navigate. Some links are dead, some will lead you to a forum, sometimes you’ll find the finalists entry but not the runners-up, etc.
Onesevendesign seems to have about seven free, short RPGs for download. I’ve heard a lot of good things about “Lady Blackbird”, but haven’t played it myself.
Shifting Forest has about ten games, short larps and story-games, available for download. None of the scripts are familiar to me, but it looks interesting.
Jason Pitre has put together a nice, at the time of writing fairly short, list where he’s hand-picked six games he recommends (a good variation of genres and formats).
The FOSsil Bank has a long, long, list of free RPGs and larps (and other games). It’s sort of exactly what I wasn’t looking for: organized alphabetically, probably quite comprehensive, but no recommendation lists, real reviews or anything telling me what is good and what is just… old.
Similarly, DriveThru has a whole section with Pay-What-You want RPG products, but I have absolutely no clue where to begin, what is good and what is… less so.
… aaand 700 more games to choose from over here: http://www.1km1kt.net/cat/rpg (seem to be organized chronologically).
If you want to jump in the time machine, John H. Kim’s list of free RPGs was valiantly updated for years. This page hasn’t been since 2003, though, mercifully for him (organized by category/subject, and with a helpful intro page highlighting some favorites).
When Alexandria.dk update their English-section, I’ll give that a much more prominent spot. I’m amazed by what the Danes have accomplished with their scenario database over the past several years. The presentation “leaves something to be desired” (I think it’s fair to say that goes for many of the entries. And this list, too, probably).
I considered including the sites of individual creators/companies like Bully Pulpit, Lumpley, Jackson Tegu, Buried Without Ceremony (seems to be down at the time of writing) and others, but then I would probably be sitting here well past my bedtime, so I’ll leave the rest of the hunt to you. Best of luck!
(Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments. I might edit in some stuff later if I feel I’ve missed something important).