Now in its fourteenth year, Free RPG Day in 2021, after a little delay due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, took place on Saturday, 16th October. As per usual, it came with an array of new and interesting little releases, which traditionally would have been tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Of course, in 2021, Free RPG Day took place after GenCon despite it also taking place later than its traditional start of August dates, but Reviews from R’lyeh was able to gain access to the titles released on the day due to a friendly local gaming shop and both Keith Mageau and David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3 in together sourcing and providing copies of the Free RPG Day 2020 titles. Reviews from R’lyeh would like to thank all three for their help.
‘One Night at Bain House’ by Monica Valentinelli is another one-night affair, but a more interesting and playable game than the earlier ‘Judas, a dinner party’. The Player Characters are guests at a surprise costume ball, which turns out to be the revenge of monsters tired of being hunted. They turn the Player Characters into monsters, but which? Their aim is to determine which monster they are, exploring the house to reveal further secrets, expose invisible threats which plague all of them, and eventually find the cure. The game is diceless, so can be played anywhere with the losers of any actions temporarily taking over the role of Game Master to handle threats. It is also intended to be flexible, so it could be a co-operative game or an adversarial one, and so on. Overall, one of the more detailed and explained designs in the anthology.
Naturally, ‘Gods of Rock’ by Patrick Watson & Nat Mesnard of Oat & Noodle Studios turns up the sound to eleven in a post-apocalyptic confrontation between two classic rock (music) gods who have been friends and enemies forever. The confrontation switches between duel and performance and back again, in far more effective fashion then the earlier ‘Battle of the Bands’. Dare Hickman’s ‘The Slate: A Game of Creation and Destruction’ is a storytelling game of creation of a world, populating it, filling it with life, destroying it, and so on. It is a short, one session game which progresses to a Final Judgement, an enjoyably sweet exercise in creation and destruction. It is difficult to describe ‘The Stars Were Many’ as a game exactly. V. R. Collins’ design is a solo game in which the player races to save the falling stars from their constellation. It is all done to a time limit in which the player draws cards to plot the movement of his stars to get them into alignment once again. It can be best described as more timed puzzle than a game.
LEVEL 1 – volume 3 2022 is a slim, digest-sized book. Although it needs an edit in places, the book is well presented, and reasonably illustrated. In general, it is an easy read, and most of it is easy to grasp. It should be noted that the issue carries advertising, so it does have the feel of a magazine.
As with previous issues, LEVEL 1 – volume 3 2022 is the richest and deepest of the releases for Free RPG Day 2022. Not every one of the fifteen games in the anthology explores its theme of ‘myths and legends’, but for the most part, the fifteen are interesting, even challenging, and will provide good sessions of roleplaying. Some though are not interesting or even playable as a game, but the good outweighs the bad—or the uninteresting. Once again, despite the variable quality of its content, of all the releases for Free RPG Day 2022, LEVEL 1 - volume 3 2023 is the title that playing groups will come back to again and again to try something new each time.