Originally Posted by Morello
Champions and Rune Pages are available for IP, which costs exactly zero USD. So...yes. They are free.
The issue right now is that getting a robust set of champs and rune pages is expensive. And more importantly, buying rune isn't fun, while buying champions is. Some rune page setups will cost you 10K+ IP and only provide a modest increase in power.
So players have to choose between buying champs(which is fun) and buying runes(which will make you win more). Then you also have to buy rune pages, which are extremely expensive.