How to Install RetroPie as an App in Raspbian on Raspberry Pi

Capture Date: 08.06.2018 00:27:01

Want to install RetroPie but don’t want to lose your existing Raspbian projects and environment? Not keen on the idea of dual booting? The answer is to install RetroPie as an application in Raspbian. In fact, it’s so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this way befor

You Don’t Always Need a Dedicated Disk Image

Raspberry Pi users have been sold the idea of having a single function for their computer. This single function is typically the Raspbian distro, which users are encouraged to reinstall for each major project. Not only does this reduce the lifespan of your SD card, it’s unnecessary.

The Raspberry Pi can support booting from USB devices, and it’s even possible to install multiple operating systems on a HDD via BerryBoot.

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In short, things have moved on since the Raspberry Pi first appeared in 2012. Dedicated disk images might be useful for Pi-based retro gaming projects, but if you want more of a versatile experience, Raspbian Stretch is more than adequate. We’ve already looked at how to install Kodi in Raspbian, so let’s find out how to install and configure RetroPie.

What You’ll Need

As ever for a Raspberry Pi project, you’ll need a reliable power supply, a microSD card (at least 8GB, with Raspbian Stretch pre-installed), and a HDMI cable (unless you’re using a touchscreen display).

Manually install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi

You’ll also need an Ethernet cable connection to your router (or Wi-Fi connectivity), a keyboard and mouse, and a game controller. Whether you keep these connected or not will depend on the type of games you intend to play.

Indeed, if you’re interested in a very particular type of game (such as those released for the Commodore 64), then a keyboard and two-button joystick will be all you need.

Configure Raspbian to Install RetroPie

To get started, boot up your Raspberry Pi, and change the locale options. This can be done in the command line using:

sudo raspi-config

Here, go to Localisation Options > Change Locale and scroll through the menu to select the en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8 option. Select OK to confirm, and wait while the change is made.

Manually install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi

Then, reboot the Raspberry Pi with:

sudo reboot

You might prefer to use the desktop Raspberry Pi Configuration Tool, available in the Preferences menu. In this case, go to the Localization tab, select Set Locale, and choose the en_US.UTF-8 character set. You’ll be prompted to reboot, so click OK.

With the computer restarted, open a new terminal window and enter the command:


Check that each parameter has the en_US.UTF-8 value assigned.

Install RetroPie on Raspbian

Before you install RetroPie, you’ll need to ensure that git is installed in Raspbian:

sudo apt install git

With this done, you’re ready to install RetroPie:

git clone

Manually install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi

The RetroPie-Setup folder will download, so change directory, and make the script executable:

cd RetroPie-Setup chmod +x

You can now install RetroPie using the setup script:

sudo ./

Wait while this runs. Some additional packages may be installed. Once this is done, the RetroPie-Setup Script menu will appear. Select OK to close the intro screen, then choose 1. Basic install.

Manually install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi

This installs all packages from the core and main RetroPie projects; select Yes to proceed, and wait as the emulation suite is installed.

This will take a while, and once done, you’ll be returned to the setup menu. Select R Perform Reboot, and select Yes to confirm.

Log In and Configure RetroPie

When the computer restarts, you’ll see the desktop at first; then this will close and display the command line interface. Login with the usual Raspberry Pi credentials. Once you’ve done that, run EmulationStation:


The user interface to RetroPie will load up, and you’ll be prompted to configure your controller. If you prefer to skip this and navigate via your keyboard, you can deal with the controller later.

Next, if you’re using wireless networking, rather than Ethernet, you’ll need to connect to your wireless network. Go to the RetroPie menu, then choose WiFi. Select 1 Connect to WiFi network and select the correct network name. Click OK, then enter the passkey, confirming with OK.

When this is done, wait for the menu to appear again; if successful, it should display the IP address for the wireless connection. Select Exit to close the menu.

Manually install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi

As things stand, you’re ready to install BIOS files and game ROMs on your Raspberry Pi. But you might need some emulators first. You’ll find these via RetroPie > RetroPie Setup > M Manage packages. Here, select opt Manage optional packages, and find the one that suits the platform you wish to emulate.

Along with recognizable gaming platforms like the Nintendo 64 and Sega Dreamcast, you’ll find old 8-bit systems and even arcade games (always labelled “MAME”). Meanwhile, classic games ported to the Raspberry Pi can be found in the list (such as Doom and Quake), as can the ScummVM program, which enables you to run certain point-and-click graphic adventure games.

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When you find the emulator(s) you want to add, select them one at a time, using Install from source. This can take a while depending on how many (and which) emulators you have chosen. Click Back when you’re done until you return to the main RetroPie-Setup Script menu, then select R Perform reboot again.

BIOS and Game Files

In order to play games on RetroPie, you need a BIOS file for the emulator concerned, and ROM files for the games you want to play. Due to copyright law, we cannot link to these, but you should find what you need via Google. Note that if you’re using ROM files, you should already own a copy of the physical media.

Manually install RetroPie on a Raspberry Pi

When you have the files (ROM files should be saved to the appropriate emulator folder, BIOS files to the BIOS directory), you’ll be able to run the games in EmulationStation.

Usually, we would instruct you to do this via SSH or FTP from a second computer. However, this isn’t necessary if you can easily drop out of RetroPie and back to the PIXEL desktop in Raspbian. This way, you can use the Chromium browser to find and download your BIOS and ROM files, and save them to your Raspberry Pi.

Exiting RetroPie

To exit RetroPie, click the Start button (which you will have configured earlier) and select Quit > Quit EmulationStation, then when the command line appears, enter:

sudo systemctl start lightdm

This will restart the Pixel desktop on Raspbian, and you can continue using your Raspberry Pi as normal. Perhaps you have a project you’re developing? If not, there are many other great uses for a Raspberry Pi.

Whenever you want to launch RetroPie again, simply use the emulationstation command.

Remember, RetroPie isn’t the only retro gaming option for the Raspberry Pi. Other retro gaming methods for Raspberry Pi exist, although they may not support manual installation like RetroPie does.

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Adventure Awaits! Play These 5 Free Indie Tabletop RPGs

Capture Date: 06.05.2018 00:27:05

Want to play something new? We’ve brought you a great list of free tabletop RPGs before, but that first list was composed of games that benefited from promotion and financial success.

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This list aims to introduce you to the best indie RPGs you’ve never heard of. Whether you’re just looking for a one night change of pace, or you’d like to run an extended campaign, each of these free games has something fresh to stir your imagination. Break out your dice; it’s game time!

Lady Blackbird

Lady Blackbird’s simple rules and pre-generated characters make for an awesome ready-to-play package that caters to groups comfortable with the idea of the players building the setting as the game is played. Each player takes charge of one of the five crew members of The Owl, a steampunk airship that sails a fast expanse of sky between exotic worlds. The included story starter has the characters attempting to break free of an imperial battleship to escort Lady Blackbird (played by one of the players) to her pirate lover at the far end of the Wild Blue, but from there, you’re encouraged to develop characters, worlds, and complications your group finds most interesting.

The biggest strength of Lady Blackbird is the way it weaves its pre-generated characters together in a powderkeg of interpersonal drama ready to explode. Each character comes with a personality, and predisposed attitudes and relationships to at least some of their fellow crew members. The game’s mechanics reward players each time they tap into their personal motivations, and encourage them to look toward and roleplay with one another instead of putting all eyes, and all pressure, on the GM. If you have a soft spot for Joss Whedon’s Firefly, you’ll find lots to love here.


Weighing in at only six pages, Risus is a system designed for comedic games, but capable of running serious ones if you put your mind to it. You’ll describe your character with a series of flexible clichés and assign each one a number of dice. So, for example, your character sheet might include the cliché, “Savvy Netizen With Great Taste In Tech Blogs (3)”, whereas mine might have, “Self-Important Blogger With Delusions Of Grandeur (2)”. Anytime you come up against a task a character with that as one of their clichés might be able to solve, roll the appropriate number of six sided dice, and compare the total to the target number or opposition.

Risus’ niche is that it’s easy to play when you and your friends are up for an RPG, but are too tired or unfocused for a complex game like Dungeons & Dragons. Clichés immediately and clearly communicate character strengths, so there’s no need for a bunch of fixed skills or long lists of unique talents and spells. GMs can run the game with no preparation, since coming up with characters or monsters is as simple as describing them, and assigning numbers that fit. If play is the point, Risus gets you to it quickly.

Warrior, Rogue & Mage

Want a game with the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons, but at a fraction of the size? Warrior, Rogue & Mage (WRM) is an incredibly complete game for its size and price point, and that’s before you add in the game’s five supplements (also free). Every character in the game is described by their proficiency in each of the title’s three archetypes. Add in a few skills, talents, and spells, and you’ve got a character ready for adventure.

WRM sits in a complexity sweet spot with its 41-page core rules. When rules are too light, conflict resolution can feel arbitrary, and some players struggle to get invested if there’s too much luck involved in overcoming challenges. Here, characters are detailed enough that you can make interesting tactical decisions, and players have a sense of control over how events play out. It also doesn’t suffer as much from D&D’s issue of physical characters being completely overshadowed by spellcasters, since even a character with even one point in the Mage stat can perform some amount of magic.

Anima Prime

Like watching cool anime? Can’t get enough Final Fantasy? Anima Prime takes clear inspiration from both with its innovative battle system that paces fights like the best of Japanese media. Characters open battles by building advantage with descriptive maneuvers, and then spend that advantage to cut loose flashy signature moves, combos, and finishing strikes. The game relegates all non-combat activity to freeform roleplay to keep you focused on big cinematic battles with legendary weapons and summoned monsters.

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The free version of Anima Prime may come without art, but the game’s rules do a great job of letting you play the character you want. Each special ability in the game has unique rules, but gets defined with enough flexibility that you can easily describe it how you want in the fiction. What’s your fiery strike like? Is it a blazing sword? An arm possessed by fire spirits? Do whatever sounds coolest to you!


What do you when fickle deities torment mankind with plague and disaster? You end them! Mythender lets you play superhuman heroes of myth and legend as they fight to kill divine beings. But your mythic powers come with great risks. Lose touch with humanity, and you might become one of the very creatures you set out to destroy. The game is rich with all the heavy metal badass attitude you’ll need to get you in the mood to slay a pantheon.

Mythender has a similar mechanical feel to Anima Prime, but with special reinforcement for playing grim, tragic heroes. Neither human nor god, the only other people who will understand your plight are your fellow Mythenders. You’ll find yourself stuck in battles for the sake of mankind that you know you can win if you just embrace your inner demigod a little bit more, but each time you do, you take on a little more corruption that will one day make you everything you despise. At its best, it isn’t a game of happy endings, but rather one of pressing on for one more fight in a battle you know you’ll one day lose.


All of these games are a blast. Make sure you download them, even if you’re not sure you’ll ever play them as written. If nothing else, they’re great inspiration for crafting new stories or house rules for your favorite existing games, and there’s certainly no arguing with the price.

Have a favorite free or small press RPG? Tell our community why it’s awesome and where to find it in the comments!

How to Introduce Your Kid to Dungeons & Dragons

Capture Date: 24.03.2018 16:01:21
Illustration by Angelica Alzona/GMG

Once upon a time, I was a wizard named Gandalf. It is an unimaginative moniker, admittedly, but it came from a tween who just finished reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Gandalf, I knew a few common spells, for protection and attack, and could speak dwarvish. I declared my alignment to be Lawful Good, naturally, and went about my business seeking gold and magical treasure.

By the time I rolled ability scores for Gandalf—my first role-playing game character—Dungeons & Dragons had been out a couple years. My most geeky friends and I would get together on Saturdays or during sleepovers to pretend we were medieval fantasy heroes, battling Lizardmen and Beholders in search of the elusive +2 Vorpal Blade. Even as I stashed my 20-sided die into storage when I headed to college, I couldn’t wait for the day I could get it back out and role-play with my kids.

In 2010, I bought my two sons the Fourth Edition starter kit for D&D, which is made of a collection of nuanced rules. The game lost my kids’ interest before their first characters could swing an axe.

I could empathize. Arguing fine print is as much a signature of the game as the crazy dice. Many of my D&D sessions as a kid and an adult wasted lots of time trying to get an adventure started, or looking up specific rules as situations surfaced. To make my childhood pastime more accessible to my kids, I had to iterate.

Keep It Simple, Sorcerer

At the time, my solution was coming up with a stripped-down version of D&D (“DnDish”) that threw out all but the most essential parts of the experience. In doing so, I gutted the rules and only kept the crucial parts: Create a character, Roll the dice, Level up. The rest relied on our collective imagination.

With the release of the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2014, the official rule set now addresses some of the obstacles my family encountered trying to learn the game. However, there are still some things you can do to simplify 5E and improve the experience for your kids.

The biggest threat to an enjoyable RPG session is attention span, so all of your house rules should be implemented with three goals in mind:

  • Quicken the pace to first action.
  • Minimize reference lookups.
  • Keep players engaged at session end.

These goals can be achieved with a combination of rules omissions and game preparation by the Dungeon Master, the person most responsible for moving the adventure forward.

Hide What You Don’t Use

Battling some easy monsters early will help a new player learn how their armor, weapons and magic work. That knowledge will last into future sessions, but the little-used bits will likely to force a DM to consult the books. While you thumb through one of the three main D&D guides or surf an online resource, your kids may find more interesting things to do. To avoid costly reference checks, don’t play with the parts that prompt research.

When you can’t eliminate reference checks, consider making the information you need easier to find. Create simple one-page cheat sheets that contain only the most useful information. Try to reduce all the books into four key pages—Character creation, Player actions, a Shopping list, and Leveling up. If something doesn’t fit on a sheet, don’t use it.

Decisions Are an Investment

In D&D, a lot of decisions are required to create your character. For new players or those attempting to use an unfamiliar character class or race, those options can delay the start of action for everyone. The quicker you can get to the first monster, the better.

There are 9 core races and 12 classes in 5E, though most are rarely used. You can reduce a lot of complexity by making everyone use a Human Fighter as a character template, but let them play as anything they can imagine. In my own kids’ adventures, we had Oracle Ducks, Toddler Plumbers, and Walking Goldfish Chef Wannabes. Under the hood, though, is a single D&D archetype.

Some boxes on the standard D&D character sheet are vital. You need a name, of course, and an alignment. (Kids usually choose Lawful Good, but play Chaotic Neutral.) Ability scores and their modifiers drive most of the game play. There are also a handful of derived stats—like initiative, passive wisdom, armor class, speed, and hit points—that are used regularly. The rest of the sheet looks open-ended but is actually backed by a lot of structure found in the Player’s Handbook. If you replace that structure with negotiation, kids’ imaginations will create their own constraints.

Don’t offer an option to play a pre-rolled character. While that will certainly get you to game action quickest, players tend to be less invested in characters they didn’t create. That makes it easier for them to disengage later or make reckless choices in game.

Let Weaknesses Become Strengths

When creating characters, it isn’t uncommon to see a bunch of low numbers and hear, “That didn’t count.” Re-rolling to get an acceptable set of high numbers guarantees your character will start strong, but playing with low scores inspires creativity.

In FATE, another RPG platform, character traits are treated as double-edged swords. Every strength can be a weakness, and vice versa. This is a valuable perspective to take when encouraging kids to play with bad rolls. The DM has the power to make use of ambiguity to reward weaker characters for embracing their faults, or to turn strengths against others. The smartest tactician can overthink a plan, and the dumbest tank can be insightful.

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Use Fewer Dice More Often

Rolling dice is the most enjoyable part of an RPG. It combines player control with destiny. Since the dice only come out when there is some challenge to overcome, there is always an anticipation that the story could take a dramatic turn. Players shouldn’t be rolling dice for every action, but asking a character to roll when player attention wanes will increase engagement for everyone without having to rely on endless monster battles.

In D&D, there are typically seven dice—d4, d6, d8, 2d10, d12 and d20—but most of the action can revolve around just two. A 20-sided die is used heavily in battle and in skills checks. Rolls of 20 (critical success) and 1 (critical failure) allow the DM to augment an outcome to cause extra joy or pain to a character. d20 is the signature die for D&D.

The rest of the dice are most often related to damage inflicted by different weapons or to facilitate larger lookup tables. By replacing these dice with the most familiar one—d6—you can reduce the frequency of the common question, “Which dice to I use?”

Clearly Separate the Context of Conversations

Bored kids get goofy and say funny things. There is a difference, however, between Susy insulting an Orc and her character Pickles the Bard doing it. Within a game, poor behavior can have deadly consequences. Out of the game, the DM and players can talk more freely without their characters picking an unwise fight.

Use of conventions like “In Game” and “Out of Game” help to delineate what is exploratory or offhand and what is a game decision that could impact the narrative.

End Before They Are Ready

The younger the kids, the less stamina they likely have for a long gaming session. I try to adhere to a Three Encounter rule, where the goal is to get three opportunities for experience in any gaming session before stopping. This means a 90 minute to 2 hour session is a reasonable duration, long enough to get players in a flow but not so long that we’ve overstayed the welcome.

It helps future game play to wrap things up while the players are all paying good attention. Gaming sessions are like episodes in a TV show. While I try to resolve the last encounter before closing the session, I like to leave with a hint of the next mystery or drop in surprise character at the end. Doing so generates conversation in between sessions and makes it easier to ramp up the next time we play.

Make Leveling Up Simple

Leveling up a character is an intermittent reward for continued play. The economics of experience points is such that it takes an increasing amount to reach the next level. In D&D, point values vary from one monster or action to the next. Rather than deal with those nuances, I award the same points for each encounter. Every character who participates earns those points. Forward movement in the story is still incentivized—the more encounters, the more points—but it de-emphasizes individual achievement.

Don’t delay gratification. Because my kid-focused games have unreliable attendance, we have to deal with characters who don’t progress at the same pace. The last thing I do in a gaming session is award experience points. This avoids an awkward situation in the next session where some players have to watch as others use previously-earned points to increase ability and power.

Manage All Character Sheets

Unless you enjoy rolling up new stats and backstory every week, it is a good idea to collect the character sheets at the end of each session. Not only does this lessen the chance of a player losing theirs, but it allows you to review the character abilities between sessions to cater the next chapter of the adventure.

Between doodling and injury, a character sheet can become overrun with pencil marks. If you keep a digital copy of the character sheets, you can update and reprint them to keep everything legible.

A DM should know how to play the full game, even if the players don’t. If you are brand new to D&D yourself but are interested in learning it, odds are good you already know someone who runs a game. An estimated 20 million people have played D&D since it was created, and the long public playtesting of 5E has resulted in a resurgence of interest in the RPG. Once you know the rules, it will be easier to find the places to break them and make the experience more enjoyable for your kids.