Announcements - [Hell for Leather] Free Edition

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jun 12th 2010 edited

I've just released the official free version of Hell for Leather. It has been seeded on Demonoid and Pirate Bay, but you can download it direct from either DriveThruRPG or Cobweb Games.

Here's the splurge:

Best Dark Game - 2G1N '09 | Banned on RPG.Net
"Produces acts of sheer gruesomeness" Malcolm Craig (A|State, Cold City, Hot War)

Hell for Leather is the zero-prep storytelling game of explosive death and murder. There's no GM, no lengthy setup, and it plays out in under 4 hours. If it were a food, it'd be a pizza delivery...

Using a tower of dice, tell the story of contestants on the world's most dangerous gameshow. It's grim, explosive and spattered with blood.

Warning: Contains sexy gore.

Hell for Leather, the game where Murder = Extra Dice!


Contains everything you need to play, including the game text, three Hell for Leather playsheets and two handy in-play cheat sheets. If you like what you see, please consider supporting the author.

Please visit for more information.

Posted by: Iain McAllister On: Jun 13th 2010

Hi Sebastian,

First of all let me say I haven't played Hell for Leather yet, but I hear only good things. I love the way you are promoting the game prior to releases through your website, web presence and more unusual things like the recent youtube video showing the dice mechanic. Excellent stuff and a really good example to follow.

I was hoping you could go into why you are deciding to release a version of the game for free and also what will be different between this and the final version.



Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jun 13th 2010 edited

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your support. I guess I'm releasing this version of the game for three reasons: piracy, feedback and promotion.

Firstly, I know the game will be pirated anyway, so why fight it? This version is completely usable, but not as pretty as the full version. Anyone who wants to try before they buy can enjoy the complete game without committing piracy.

Secondly, the game is 99% complete, but maybe someone will find some of the text unreadable, or they'll notice a typo. I'm hoping to crowd source a bit of feedback before the final print release.

Thirdly, I want people to notice my game. I thought that a bit of gratuity would help toward that. Actually, it helped promote the game better than anything I expected. Since I uploaded the file to Demonoid, the number of unique, non-spam, website visitors went from a measly 20 hits per day up to 300. Which is probably nothing compared to proper websites, but was a big boost for me. The biggest so far.

There are other side-effects, I hope. Like, maybe people will cut me some slack when they review the game, because I've done something free. Or maybe I'll cut out a whole load of bad publicity by un-selling the game—people who hate the game can realise they hate it before they pay for it (something that Gregor has posted about before). I only want money from people who like the game, not people who hate it.

There will be a couple of benefits to buying the full version. The text will be refined based on the feedback I receive and there'll be loads of yummy illustrations all over the place. People who enjoy the game can buy a prettier product, with better text. Or they can get a print copy instead.

So, that's my thinking. It's done now, so there's not much I can do now except try to learn from it.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 13th 2010

I think it will be an interesting experiment for sure.

I'm not sure if there are going to be more Indie RPG awards, but you'd be eligible for entering the Free Game category with this.

You'd also be eligible for the Free Game category at the ENnies too (for next year's awards as the deadline for this year's has past. It was May the 8th.).

You lose nothing by entering them and get more eyeballs looking at the game in return.

My a priori feeling is that you'll get more feedback and eyeballs by having a version for sale, and I think a lot of peer-to-peer collectors of the PDF will not read it until prompted by an AP or review by someone they value. They are indeed just collectors of stuff.

Now, it's no bad thing that they have it for free. Don't get me wrong. A lot of people (9k) got 3:16 with the Haiti Bundle and some of them then started to read and play it, but only once they'd read about it elsewhere and then realised they owned a copy.

I think you are doing the "try before you buy" thing well with this. And the goodwill it engenders hopefully leads them to upgrade to a sell-for product later (if you feel like doing that).

I guess another option might have been to make an almost complete version (i.e. where it stands right now) and have a very limited number on the Ashcan shelf of the Adept Press booth at GenCon. I feel that method works best when it's not making ashcans for numbers of sales or for money, but for finding people engaged and interested enough to give you the feedback to take your game to the next level.

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jun 16th 2010

Hi Gregor,

Useful feedback. I think you're right. There have been way too many downloads of the torrent file. Since your post, I realise that these guys must be hoarders. I no longer expect any of them to give feedback.

I'm glad I learned that now. It's good to manage one's expectations.

I'm going to run another playtest tomorrow night. I expect, as usual, that all will go well. If it does, I'm going to drive for immediate release. All this Hell 4 Leather excitement has got my rubbing my trousers with anticipation. I wanna see a H(4/f)L double on IPR.

Posted by: KWales On: Jun 16th 2010

Hi Sebastian,

I will admit I've downloaded a copy from RPGnow, I was hoping to have a look at it this week but snowed under with paper work at the moment I'm afraid and need to get a DoN 2nd ed. session running either this or next weekend.

I would be interested to see how sales go for you as it's a risky move. And I will admit that I have made a purchase in the past based on pre-reading a (ahem) pdf. I know it wrong to do this and for me to download such a file but if I like what I see I do make a purchase and I will also let the publisher author know where the file is located online. I realise it sounds like double standards and yes it is, but a good game will get me hooked and a purchase made.

Sorry if this annoys or upsets anyone but I'm just being honest.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jun 16th 2010

Hey Kev

I think what you're saying actually fits well with what Seb is doing. He's saying "If you want a copy without paying then, sure, you can have it. Without the bells and whistles, but it's there". This is very much what Eppy Ravachol did with Dread (the Jenga one). All the rules are online. For free. But people still buy the damned book (and deservedly so).

Eppy always makes a point of telling people they can get it free. Some reply saying they already have it for free. But they want to pay for it and get the paper one, with the extras and so on.

I'm unsure if the torrenting will lead to feedback.

However, Kev, you're an RPGnow downloader. That says two things to me: (1) you already use RPGnow/DTRPG to get legit PDFs there, (2) you're not just a collector -- you're used to making transactions online for games you intend to read and (hopefully) play.

I think there is more chance for feedback from those people.

And I think there is a chance for feedback from the torrenters too (Andy Kitkowski has gotten some great feedback on Maid from people that illegally torrented that book -- and bear in mind that Seb is legally torrenting a version of his book) -- but that feedback will only come from them somehow being stimulated into reading the PDF they got from the torrent. What will do that? I don't know. A forum post? An AP? A review? A recommendation from someone?

I (personally) doubt they will just wake up one day and read the file from the torrent, try to play it and give you feedback. But I would love to be proved wrong!

Worth a shot!

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Jun 16th 2010

Sorry if this annoys or upsets anyone but I'm just being honest.

Hi Kev, like Gregor explains, I'm completely sympathetic to this kind of media consumption. I've done it countless times myself with music in the past. I used to download new bands and buy the CDs of the artists I enjoyed. The same goes, I understand, for RPGs and gamers. That's why I went down the torrent road.

The last thing I want is someone to pay me for a game they hate. I'd rather someone play it for free and then opt to give me money if they like it. Torrents and free releases are the future, baby.

But I would love to be proved wrong!

I really don't think that's going to happen.

Posted by: KWales On: Jun 17th 2010

I must admit I would never image the like of Wizards doing such a thing. Personally for me, in recent years I've far more enjoyment from independant RPG's than the main stream.

I gave up on D&D, gurps, and a load more mainstream RPG's I just find the independant game have a much more personal touch and provide a richer more (if I can find the right word or words) interactive or perhaps comminicative experience, and give the players as well as the GM much more scope to expand upon a story themselves. Overall a better gaming experience.

I'm glad you have taken the bull by the horns and are willing to see what happens.

I'm also pleased that there is a discussion such as this going on here. I've noticed when such discussions rise is many forums (one of the reasons I very rarely get involved with them) they degrade into mud slinging and flaming and become pointless. This is a much more resourceful, intelligent discussion that should be had. So personally for me thank you for that.



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