Playing Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t need to cost the Earth. In fact, it doesn’t need to cost anything!
Well, once you have those funny math-rocks, that is.
But as far as rules go, you don’t need to spend $150+ on three rulebooks. In fact, this article will link to heaps of good rules for playing D&D for free.
Disclaimer: I have only included full one-book rule-sets in this list.
Let me know if I have missed any in the comment below and I will add them.
Play Fifth Edition for Free
If you want to play 5e then simply download the open source SRD and go for it – totally free and legal, and it’s even nicely formatted for you.
There is even a website which has it all formatted for you, in case you prefer a web-based version.
Of course, there are other clones out there that try new things and create their own vibe, and are well worth checking out – all for FREE!
Harn 5e is available for free if you want to play in the HârnWorld setting using D&D 5e rules. Here you will find a ‘light-touch’ adaptation to capture the gritty, low fantasy medieval feel of Harn, while retaining 5e’s game mechanics.
Olde Swords Reign is another free 5e clone, but designed with emergent gameplay in mind. It’s faster, a tad deadlier, and relies more on player creativity to problem-solve than the options on a character sheet.
Earlier Editions for Free
You can also still access the 3.5e of Dungeons & Dragons rules online. Of course, this is just the SRD base rules, but the game is still playable in its basic form.
Play Old School D&D for Free
Now, if you want really good Dungeons & Dragons for free, then look no further than these impressive titles.
Due to the fact that Old School Essentials is based on an SRD, they have their own rules for OSE online for you to use.
If you would rather a PDF, then here is a list of old school clones for you to download for free.
Dark Dungeons, the retro-roleplaying game in the style of old-school 1980’s and 1990’s role-playing when rogues were thieves, and races were classes.
For Gold & Glory is based on the 2nd edition of the game, and contains all that you need to run a complete game.
Basic Fantasy RPG (3rd Edition) is the revised edition of Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game: a rules-light game system based on the d20 SRD v3.5, but heavily rewritten with inspiration from early RPG game systems.
OSRIC Pocket SRD represents a compilation of rules for old school-style fantasy roleplay gaming, and is intended to reproduce the underlying rules used in the late 1970s to early 1980s.
The BX Advanced Gold Edition (no art version) rules are based on the 1978 advanced first edition edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game with the less complex game systems of the 1981 B/X edition.
Blood & Treasure (First Edition) is the fantasy role-playing game for people who want to spend less time arguing over rules and more time playing! Compatible with most old school games but not shy to dip into the new school, it keeps the rules simple and the play quick.
Heroes Against Darkness is a free, fast, flexible, and fully-featured fantasy d20 RPG system.
Swords & Wizardry is the ENnie-Award winning “retro-clone” of the original fantasy roleplaying game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The Core Rules also contain some selected material from the supplements (1974-1978).
White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game is an easy to learn role-playing game in the style of the Original Edition from 1974 by Gygax and Arneson. It is based on Swords & Wizardy WhiteBox.
And if you want to go real old school, you can download the Original Dungeons and dragons – Book 1 – Men and magic by Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson. (Thanks to Eric for this tip).
Free Quick Start Rules
There are a bunch of free starter sets you can download for free as well.
While these are not full rules, they can be just as fun and entertaining – and will give you a taste as to whether you want to buy the full version at a later date.
Dungeon Crawl Classics Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventures were written specifically to introduce judges and players to the DCC RPG system. In some areas, rules have been condensed and simplified. These rules will serve primarily to get characters through their first level 0 adventure and their first level 1 adventure. (Thanks to Michael for the tip).
With Scarlet Heroes Quickstart you can have a taste of this game, all wrapped up in a crisp 32-page digest-sized booklet. Scarlet Heroes is an old-school tabletop role-playing game designed to provide classic sword and sorcery gaming for one player and one gamemaster.
Use My Zines for Free
Of course, you can also compliment all these free D&D games additional rules and inspiration contained in my catalogue of D&D zines, d12 Monthly – all available for free as well.
Over to You
Have I missed any? Which is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
While You’re Here…
Since 2021 I have been publishing d12 Monthly, a monthly zine, which has a ton of articles for any edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
I will also be releasing some more products in the near future.