I’m going to tell you a little secret, you don’t need all the crap. All the books, figures, maps, expansions, subscriptions and who knows what else. In fact, role-playing is one of the cheapest hobbies out there, second only to watching paint dry, and much more fun.
You’ve probably seen the paragraph in your favourite game core rule book entitled “What you need to play the game.” It probably mentions a pencil and scrap paper, dice and the book the text is printed in, with a copy of some of the main books for the Game Master (GM) and a book of baddies. This has been the trend with a number of books, but some publishers have offered the whole game in one book, such as Mouse Guard, Warhammer FRP and many indie games. These companies usually offer a number of additional books to help you expand the game, but generally you can get by without them. Some games, including some really good ones, are absolutely free. Just google Pokethulhu and download a copy of the rules, it’s a great system that can be adapted to play in any setting.
You will need to buy dice, and role-players are pretty grumpy when it comes to sharing their dice, so be sure to buy your own set. I don’t think there’s such a thing as good or bad dice, roll them hard enough and you’ll eventually roll high. I recommend getting a set including at least a D4, D8, two different coloured D10’s, a D12 and a D20. Anything else is superfluous. For the D6’s I recommend getting a set of board game dice in a few colours, which you can take from Monopoly, because who plays Monopoly since Settlers of Catan came out anyway?
Another neat trick about dice that will save you some cash, but generally slows down play is to use a D6 to make up the rolls of less common dice:
D4: roll a D6 but refill any result of 5 or 6.
D8: roll for odds or evens, then roll as you did for the D4, multiplying the result by 2 if you rolled evens.
D10: roll for odds and evens, then roll again and reroll any sixes. 1-5 is your result if you got odds, 6-10 if you got evens. Use this method to roll up D100’s as usual.
D12: roll for odds and evens, then a roll of the D6 is 1-6 for odds and 7-12 for evens.
D20: roll like you would a D10 above, but with an extra roll to decide if it’s a result from 1-10 or 11-20. This is quite a hassle, but a neat party trick. I’d recommend you get a D20 though, it’s like a sign that you’re a role-player, an open minded individual who sees the world in full colour and not just as little game pieces on a fold out game board.
As for the rest, there is so much free stuff out there that you can get deep into the hobby without much overhead. Still, I’d like to say that I’m all for supporting the game developers and publishing houses that sweat blood so we can play better games. As a writer I have some idea of the effort that goes into brining quality to the table, and it isn’t cheap. You can support them without breaking the bank by buying digital versions of your favorite games from places like Drive Thru RPG.
It’s NaNoWriMo month so I’m back to the trenches. Let me know what tips you have for saving hard earned cash and especially any free RPG’s you’d like to recommend.