I've only got a few of the books I picked up with me, so I'm gonna go through them.
Generally from Free RPG Days materials, I expect a few things.
I want it to give me a taste for the game, flavour and mechanics both. Generally, I expect a sample adventure, with a few pre-gen characters. I don't mind if the system is dumbed down a bit, since we only need to get the flavour of the game.
But there's one thing that's a bit of a game breaker for me.
The books are designed to be ready to go games. One of the elements there should be ease of preperation, particularly in getting the players their characters.
Of the handfull of books I got on FRPGD, I think only Mongoose's playtest guide for Corporation had PCs who were laid out as two page characters, ready to be removed from the centre of the book and handed out. I can't figure out why that's so important to me, but I really want to be able to just pull out the centre fold or two and just hand them off to players and go.
Geist seems to be particularly opposed to making the PCs easy to get to; The PCs are put in the back of the book over multiple pages. Getting them to the playes would require either everyone having a copy of the quickstart booklet, or enthusiastic photocopying.
It would have been easy enough to edit them so they were a set of two page characters in mid book, ready to be ripped and distributed, with a character sheet on one page, and rules explanation and background on the other (or the character sheet can be shrunk down to give more space for background and rules info). The key motif used in the borders is kind of nice.
Rogue Trader does a good job of making the PCs one page sheets, but they are in the beginning of the book. That means that there'll be either photocopying or two players sharing a sheet ripped out from an inconvenient place. It also makes me think it should be about bankers who get in over their heads and end up bringing down national institutions.
Admittedly, both of them look good, and their presentation and layout are pretty good other than the character quibble. Both of them interest me, although Warhammer 40K's aesthetic and world just don't grab me. Geist I'm interested in, although I look at it and my lizard brain says "You aren't my mommy, Wraith is my mommy!"
Dragon Warriors and Paranoia, which are also both from Mongoose, really drop the ball in terms of getting the players PCs.
Like Corporation, both of the books are half sized, and Paranoia really suffered for it, with cramped, tiny text scrolling down the page in three columns. Dragon Warriors is in two columns, but doesn't even include characters, instead including rules for generating either a Warrior or Barbarian character. Dragon Warriors made me interested in the game in spite of the presentation (although the sample monsters are a bit fey).
Paranoia was a pure mess, and I couldn't even get through the lousy presentation to make it to the game stuff inside. The characters seem to have been mixed into the book wtih a blender.
Corporation is the one game that seems to hew furthest from my interests. It's some kind of posthuman cyberpunk corporate espionage game, and the corporations listed within seem somewhat laughable, especially for 500 years in the future. But the book presents the world and setting well enough
All the books contained interesting elements, of course. Corporation managed to make a book that just was the most useful for me.
xposted to thebitterguy