beware the mad hermit of the northlands

So you've listened to the D&D podcasts I did with Scott Kurtz, Gabe, and Tycho

You've read my series of posts about playing 4E with my son and his friends

You've read my post about being a Dungeon Master

You've read my other posts about gaming, especially how much I love D&D, how surprised I was to actually like 4E, and the backstory for my Avenger

You have an appetite for gaming, and the only thing standing between you and actually giving 4E a try is the not-insignificant investment in core books and stuff….

Well you're going to dig this news quite a bit, I think: Wizards of the Coast is making D&D 4E's quickstart rules and its first adventure, The Keep on the Shadowfell, available as a completely free download. They've also thrown in the free version of their 4E Character Builder, because that's just how they roll (up new characters, yo.)

Still not interested in 4E? No problem. This is also a good time to point out that my friends at Green Ronin have had the True20 Quickstart Rules and Death in Freeport online as free downloads for a million years, and my friends at Steve Jackson Games do the same thing with GURPS Lite.

Now go forth, my friends, and hurl many polyhedrons.

74 thoughts on “beware the mad hermit of the northlands”

  1. Wizards of the Coast is making D&D 4E’s quickstart rules and its first adventure, The Keep on the Shadowfell, available as a completely free download.
    I am so excited. I’ve been debating buying Keep on the Shadowfell but without a group I’ve hesitated. No longer. Let the dice flow!

  2. HOLY-frak!
    This is the best thing to happen to me this week since discovering Warren Ellis’ sexy-ass webcomic FREAKANGELS on Monday. The Venn diagram of D&D geek, Comics geek and online geek is COMPLETE!
    Much rejoicing at free module gawking and hurling of the dice!
    [Wil: on the subject of polyhedrons, I hope you enjoy the odd little d20 within a d20 which I think I managed to give to you at EmeraldCityComicCon while sliming.., er, saying how impressive your creative works are… Also, Amy loved the signed headshot – much happiness for me that week too ]
    Thank you for sharing this D&D news! Looking forward to the next WW/D&D team-up!

  3. Oh, I am SO there.
    Question! I’m going to be playing with a bunch of friends on Skype. Without using the Skype Whiteboard app, is there any way to kind of work around the whole “squares/miniatures” thing, or are there similar, more user-friendly applications out there?

  4. I too, feel your pain. 20 Years ago I was invited to join a group playing “Vampire the Masquerade” but banned the same day by my then boyfriend for bringing too much of our “relationship issues” into my character. *Sigh* been doomed in the role playing front ever since.

  5. I used to use OpenRPG as a free RPG generic virtual table. It was pretty awesome when it worked. I’m open to suggestions on new ones to use though. I’m assuming WotC won’t get theirs up for another couple of years. πŸ˜‰

  6. What good timing for me! I’ve bought my 11-yr-old a set of beginner books and some dice, but there must be other stuff he’ll need. Maybe some cool internet downloads will make it 21st century enough for him. πŸ˜‰

  7. About flippin’ time. After moaning how everyone was pirating the PDF files, maybe they’ve realised that part of the problem is the ridiculous entry price.

  8. Thanks for the D&D links Wil. Your post about the original Penny Arcade podcast got me wanting to play that I had to find a game to play. I found a group using 3.5 rules and my dwarven monk is almost 4th level. I am transport back to Jr. High every session.
    Also a contest to play a session with Wil would be the coolest!

  9. Wil, there are many free RPGs that are available right now that boast of professional quality and, best part IMNSHO, they hew close to that D&D that you and I grew up with:
    Swords & Wizardry (Original D&D clone)
    OSRIC (AD&D – virtually identical)
    Labyrinth Lord (Basic/Expert)
    There are a ton more but these are good ones to get started. I’d also recommend the magazines Fight On! and Knockspell for old school style magazines – like Dungeon mag and Dragon mag used to be back in the day.
    Disclaimer – I’m a self-proclaimed Grognard who never left OD&D/AD&D in his heart and when 3E made me cry, these clones helped me to rediscover the love.

  10. That d20 within a d20 is one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten in my life, and I’m glad you posted here so I can thank you again.

  11. But…I haven’t played since High School. That is so pathetically lame, I know, I’m kind of wondering if it’s like riding a bike right about now. My geek senses are telling me that it’s totally not, though. ::sigh::

  12. Still on the fence about 4e… seems too simplified. Besides that, getting my group of mostly older players to switch from 3.5 isn’t likely to happen anytime soon,

  13. I haven’t played D&D since High School. Kinda sad really. We move around quite a bit and finding a group of people that *get* D&D and how totally amazing and stimulating it is mentally is very difficult. Though I will be checking that download out. Thanks for the update on it.
    I did read the blog about you DMing for your son and his friends, and to me that makes you a FANTASTIC Dad. We need more Dads like that for our boys and girls. Thanks for being that kind of parent.

  14. they actually make a d10 inside of a d10, which is very useful for making percentile rolls…I guess you could use the d20 with a d20 inside it to make multiple attacks?

  15. For anyone who really liked 3.5 D&D and would like to keep playing it, but would also like it to be supported with new source/adventure material, there is yet another option! This system is (for the most part) backwards compatible with that entire bookshelf full of 3.0/3.5 stuff that you bought, too, which is nice. Also, they have a PDF version of the core rulebook (which is basically a tweaked version of the 3.5 PHB)available for FREE.
    And now, the link:

  16. Is there a video I can watch to learn this stuff? I haven’t played in years. Even then my character was a hippy healer named Poppy whose math was done by a friend of mine who had a fancy ranger guy who shot fire from his eyes or something. I just rolled dice. I don’t do math well. The quickstarts are a lot of reading with random numbers thrown in for the simple purpose of confusing me. heh. You should do a beginners’ guide video.

  17. I feel your pain, also. Everyone in my town has a group already it seems. Still, I’m going roll up characters and take them on an adventure myself.

  18. 4e is very easy to learn. I started playing on version 3.0 and then 3.5 and then played in a 2e game. After all those 4e has been the easiest to pick up, roll a character, and jump into the game world for me. IMHO, you should especially try it with the quick start rules. I really quite love 4e right now!

  19. So, um, I’ve never played, but have been getting curious about this. Is there a good site that’s a little For Dummies about this whole thing? I’m sure I can eventually find something by googling, however I think I should ask you guys first as want to check it out right.
    I remember in high school I watched a Star Wars game that I think was played like D&D that was at a local comic book store after hours. I don’t know if it was because I’m not that into Star Wars, or they didn’t really explain anything to me, or I was watching not playing, or (UH-OH!) I was preoccupied by the boy I had a mild crush on, but the evening was full of fail :-)

  20. W[H]il, I am simply Overw[H]elmed by your Strike of D&D ability. Thank you for sharing all of this with us, some of us, who might have created a character named Prayer to Selune because several of his recent characters had been total redshirts and he fully expected this one to share the same Spinal-Tap-Drummeresque fate- which instead became Praytos Silverstar his longest lasting D&D character.
    Some of us.
    Might have.
    Okay, fine, I’ve been a D&D geek- I admit it! Sigh.
    That said, I’ve yet to play 4th (having played a lot of 3 and 3.5, home and Living campaigns). Perhaps this contest of yours will offer me my first opportunity. πŸ˜‰

  21. I was all excited when I saw the Character Builder was free, but it’s the lame level 1-3 version and there’s no way I’m subscribing just to get access to 4+ levels. When they decide to sell it as a standalone without an ongoing subscription fee, I’m there.
    Free KotS is a good move though!

  22. Too late! it’s all too late! I’ve already spent well over Β£100 on books and minis and all kinds of stuff, not to mention spent about 30-40 hours writing my first adventure and drawing out maps in Illustrator.
    I have just spent a very satisfying morning cutting out all my lovely rooms for the next installment of the adventure I’m writing and running for my friends. It’s fantastic fun and we have our next session tonight!
    Oh, and it’s all your fault Wil πŸ˜‰

  23. This is something I worried about when I started playing a month or so ago. I’ve been amazed at how many people I know are closet D&D players (or used to play it years ago and could probably be pursuaded to dust of their cloaks and wizard hats).
    Take the risk!

  24. That’s fantastic news! Based on your Blog posts my Girlfriend asked me to try out D&D with her – we played our first game of 4E earlier this week.
    I’ve been re-reading your blog this week to try and pick up some hints on how to better DM the games.
    Keep blogging dude.

  25. I was not entirely sold on the new system, until I tried it. There are some problems that they’re fixing, but overall its great! Me and my giant D20 approve. I still say better than any pre-created module though is a creative DM. We have one, no downloaded or store bought adventures for us!
    Must kill some orcs now.

  26. One more for your list… Pinnacle provides a free “test drive” ruleset PDF for those interested in their Savage Worlds RPG system, along with a number of different encounters for their various universes.
    I just tried Savage Worlds and its Rippers expansion (Victorian steampunk horror/adventure!) a month or two ago at a small con. It was remarkably fun to play… and the core rulebook only costs $10, which is pretty sweet by any measure.

  27. Oh, me too!!! The D&D players on my campus are all smug about it and I don’t really want to ask to join their little circle.
    But perhaps now I can convince my friends who are addicted to video games like Zelda that D&D isn’t too much of a stretch? If it’s free to start, how can you beat a deal like that?

  28. I appreciate the fact that they have updated their Character Builder to work properly on 64 bit Vista… From The Future!
    “11/12/09: We have updated the Character Builder installer to work with the 64 bit version of Windows Vista. If you previously downloaded the application and were getting an error on launch, you will want to”
    Or did I miss a year? Not that that’s happened….

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