Gaming on a Budget

It can be rough if you are a gamer on a budget.  To get the shiny source-books for your favourite RPG or the latest cool euro-boardgame, stores would prefer you traded them currency for their product.  And if you lack the required currency (say, because you were laid off seven months ago) you are not going to acquire all the gaming pretties you need/want.

But does living on a budget mean you have to stop enjoying RPGs and board games?  Heck no!  I would even go as far as saying hell no!  There are plenty of resources for the gamer on a budget, that range from cheap to free.  Most require only an internet connection, a printer and some imagination.  That last is probably the most important; a gamer on a budget has to get cunning, because throwing money at the problem isn’t an option.

So here are some ideas and resources for all you gamers that want to live large when the budget is small:

Find the SRD – Many role-playing games, such as Pathfinder and Spirit of the Century, have an SRD, or system resource document, available on-line.  These are essentially everything you would find in the RPG’s rulebooks, without all the pretty formatting, design and art.  They exist primarily as a reference document for anyone writing for the game, as they are a much cleaner and easily searchable version of the rules.  But in many cases anyone can access the website, which makes them a great resource for the gamer on a budget.  They are not as nice as having the books in front of you, of course.  And you will need to have a laptop or pad with internet access in order to use the SRD at the gaming table.  But if you just can’t afford the books this is the next best way to get playing a new game or keep playing your old one.

Search Keyword “Free” – Online stores like Drive-Thru RPG and it’s indie offshoot RPGNow are a great source for the gamer on a budget.  You can find low-cost .pdf copies of just about any gaming source-book you desire, including many out-of-print games.  But better than that, each site has a button located in the left-hand column of the home page, marked “Free Stuff”.  Clicking on that button is like opening a treasure chest of gaming material!  Yes, there is the usual slough of character sheets and promo items.  But you will also find complete RPG games, adventures, maps and gaming e-zines.  Best case scenario, you find a new game (like the Dogtown RPG) to take out for a spin with your friends and you have fun for an evening.  Worst case, you have plenty of inspiration and the bare bones of something you can re-skin or re-purpose for your own games.  Sure you have to do a bit of digging and thinking, but this is where the aforementioned imagination comes into play.

Cheapass is Not Just a State of Mind – Years ago there was a fine little company called Cheapass Games that made games on the cheap.  The idea was simple: if you already played board games then you likely had all the pieces that were standard between games (pawns, dice, tokens money and so on).  Cheapass Games, therefore, included just the bits you needed with their games, which in most cases was a board or cards or both.  This led to extremely inexpensive games, that also had the benefit of being amazingly imaginative and fun.  Sadly, there was a “Cheapass Games Interregnum” in which Cheapass Games stopped producing games.  I am happy to report that dark period is over! The new Cheapass Games website features links to all their popular games, plus a bunch of new ones.  Of note to the gamer on a budget is the page of games, free to download.  Some are just rules, some require you to print out cards or cards/game board.  But all of them are metric tonnes of fun.  And if the mood strikes you can (and should) support Cheapass Games with a donation; they even have a suggestion for donation amounts.

There you go, three ways to help your gaming dollar go a little further.  Of course, it goes without saying that if you can afford to support your hobby, you should.  That isn’t to say you grab every book that comes down the publication pipe.  But the companies putting out these cheap and/or free games for your enjoyment deserve some recognition for their work.  If you can swing it, hit the donate button every once in a while and help keep these companies producing.  And if you can’t do that, support them by being vocal about their work.  If you can help draw paying customers to a gaming company’s site, that will help ensure they are around to give us fun for a good long while.

Have any free/cheap RPG or board games resources to share? Slip them into the comments section below…

2 thoughts on “Gaming on a Budget

  1. Rule of Cool recently put out Legend, a really cool d20 variant. Available on a “Pay-what-you-want-to-Child’s-Play” model.

    There’s also Red Box Hack, which is really a hack of a hack. There’s a free version of Lamentations of the Flame Princess on James Raggi’s website. The first 70-odd pages of Burning Wheel Gold are available in the main website, but you need to do a little digging. It’s the bulk of the rules, and there are demo scenarios on the wiki that you can run with it, and with those characters you can run some simple adventures of your own until you can get together 25 bones for the rulebook. Eclipse Phase, transhumanist horror, is available in pdf for whatever you want to pay, and the writers have even thrown it up on various tormenting sites for free download. I have more, but I need my computer to track them down.

    Cheers 😀

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