Open System Reference Documents(SRD). These tend to vary between documents and pages that can list an entire tabletop that was released for free or, for big-name publishers and the like, content released under Creative Commons allowing for creators to reference and create content using uncopyrighted items.
What this means for the everyman, however, is that there is a whole smorgasbord of free tabletop role-playing games out there that you can just dive right into without blowing a truckload of money on Core books. Give it a shot before you(eventually) spend all your money on dice!
Every link here has been submitted to the Wayback Machine, by the way. It means that these links last as long as this page does. I’ll also be submitting this page to the Wayback Machine so you’ll be able to find an archive of a collection of archives even decades from now!
I want to preface this section with the fact that I haven’t actually played all of these. There’s a lot, man. So I can’t really give too much commentary on them unless it’s warranted. So keep an eye out for that.
Adventurer Conquerer King System(ACKS). Brought to you by reddit user langlo94. “[It has a bunch of things] like domains, strongholds, sanctums, and mercantile stuff.” Good if you want to make a kingdom?
Archmage Engine. Powered by 13th age!
Blades in the Dark. Very fun system. You play as a group of scoundrels/thieves in a gang. It can get a bit samey with the setting/goals/missions, but it’s a highly unique system and offers a lot to it.
Cepheus Engine. Technically a ‘free’ DriveThruRPG game. Throw money at em.
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. Fully compliant, but the real kicker here is the Divine creation rules. If you ever wanted to make your characters into gods, ho boy did 3.5 know how to deliver.
Eclipse Phase 1st Edition. Eclipse Phase! Transhumanist future in space. It’s actually really really interesting and I’ve been a fan of the setting for a while. Submitted by reddit user certain_random_guy.
FATE. One of those games I can’t recommend enough. Incredibly fun, and it’s all open-sourced!
FATE 3.0 – Spirit of the Century. One of FATE’s first big settings. Has the old school 3.0 rules so you’re certain to get a treat reading this.
Final Fantasy D20. Do you like Pathfinder? Do you like Final Fantasy? Do you like massive amounts of content one guy just did that’s super cool, balanced, and playable? This has literally everything you need to run a full Final Fantasy campaign. The last FFTTRPG thing you’ll ever need. Ever.
Fudge. Grey Ghost Press’ 2005 SRD of the game that FATE built off of. There’s a lot of history here and it is an absolute delight to go through.
Ironsworn. Don’t know anything about it but it comes recommended by reddit user ronfrazier. “Ironsworn is a fate / pbta blend that lends itself to a unique play that can be solo, co-op gmless, or traditional gm led game. There are quite a few nice tables.” It’s also pay-what-you-want on DriveThruRPG.
Lancer. Mecha piloting! Think if into the breach had solid roleplay and HIGHLY customizable mecha.
Magic Goes Awry. I stumbled upon this one while I was doing research. I need to look into it; it looked verrryy interesting.
Psi-Punk. Based off of Fudge.
Pokemon Tabletop United. I mean it’s RIGHT THERE. Updated with a newer/actually existing tabletop. Currently has Alolan pokemon, and currently in development too!
(Unofficial) RWBY Tabletop. After years in the making, it’s finally done! It’s a link to the reddit post for v19.6.30 for now, and I’ll keep it updated if I can, but here’s a direct link to the PDF, the Character Sheet, and a Reference Sheet. It’s a fantastic piece of work.
Soft Horizon RPG. Brought to you by reddit user klintron. “…the system used for VCSA’s King Machine. […] it appears to be a streamlined, narrative-focused system heavily inspired by the Powered by the Apocalypse engine.”
Spite RPG. Pulled out using the Wayback Machine.
Talespinner. A “setting-agnostic, classless, modular and non-linear Tabletop RPG system.” It has a lot of terminologies unique to it and heavily based around skills.
Warrior, Rogue & Mage. Fantastic system and somehow both OSR and rules-lite. I fell in love with this back into 2015 and it’ll always have a place in my heart.
Year Zero Engine[File]. The engine behind Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, and other systems. It’s a google doc so I don’t know how long it’ll stick around. Update me if the link breaks. It was surprisingly hard to find. Suggested by reddit user Dzinko.
A few websites and collections that already have a bunch of SRDs. Hit them up!
A collection with an actually fully legal partnership with Paizo/Pathfinder. It has literally everything under Paizo’s name aside from the specific fluffing and high-quality print. The perfect place for all your Paizo goodness.
- Pathfinder 1e. Where 3.5e players went to flourish. A bit overly complicated, but probably the most anime game on the market. Yes. Even more anime than the anime tabletops.
- Pathfinder 2e. Cleaned up and raring to go, 2e is what I want to say Paizo’s first dive into a truly unique system all of their own and god they came out swinging.
- Starfinder. Pathfinder. But in SPACE. There are laser guns and it’s great.
“The Open Gaming Network is a family of wiki-like rules reference websites for various Open Gaming Licensed game systems, or similarly-licensed RPG systems.”
While not every page is https safety compliant, the OpenGN does collect a lot of highly sought after collections. The full-page has more games, but the ones I’ll link here are the ones that are safe under https security.
- 13th Age. Incredibly narrative and the system behind Gloranthia.
- Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Surprisingly, a website that complies with the 5e SRD. Nothing illegal to see here folks.
- Dungeon World. A hack of Powered by the Apocalypse for all you fantasy fans. The OGN, wiki-like version.
- Play Manga d20. A very anime version of Pathfinder.
- Mutants & Masterminds 3e. Superpowered folks!
- Swords n Wizardry.
- Traveler. Imagine Star Trek but more death.
“This page only shows free, libre and open tabletop games.”
This page has a MASSIVE collection of old school and indie games circa pre-2015. It has a lot of resources and main publisher websites as well, but you know what you’re really here for. Also not https compliant as it’s pretty old, but absolutely fascinating for a dive.
Run by Ewen “It sounds like Aaron” Cluney, Yaruki Zero Games has a bunch of his anime-themed games that he dabbles around with in his spare time. Great place for weebs. I spent a lot of time playing Magical Burst and can recommend his other stuff 100%
- Magical Burst. A personal favorite of mine. If you ever wanted to play dangerously unstable magical girls ala Madoka Magica, this is the game.
- Sixtacular. Pretty much FIREBALL the dice system, but for every roll. Intense.
- Slime Story. Monsters pop up in our world and teens have to FIGHT THEM FOR MONEY.
- Thrash. An older game from 2007, but exciting all the same. It’s like if Street Fighter was a tabletop.