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Basic Roleplaying: A Played It Review

If you haven’t investigated d100 RPGs, BRP is a great place to start

Basic Roleplaying: Universal Game Engine is to d100 games what Dungeons & Dragons is to fantasy d20 RPGs and the OSR. If you haven’t investigated d100 RPGs, BRP is a great place to start if you like to create your own setting and adventures. I couldn’t be happier that this book is coming back to print, now in full color and open source.


Thanks! and Disclosure

I want to thank Michael O’Brien at Chaosium for providing me with a copy of the PDF to review. Full disclosure: I wrote Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea an adventure for Chaosium’s upcoming Lords of the Middle Sea but I did not contribute in any way to this book.

Overview of the Rules

If you are a big fan of d100 games already you likely already know what is in this book. Since it hasn’t changed much in this version (although there are wonderful additions), the rest of this review assumes only a passing knowledge of d100 games.

BRP powers Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, and Pendragon and a variety of RPGs that have followed including Mythras, Delta Green, and M-Space. BRP is a toolkit for GMs to use to build worlds of their choosing. Three dials allow a wide range of customization: power level, powers, and options.

Before diving into those three dials, let’s take a look at the basics. Player characters in BRP are built using characteristics and skills. Skills are percentage based. If you have Dodge 55% then you can dodge attacks 55% of the time. That makes it easy to understand. Like D&D ability scores, characteristics range from 3 to 18 and characters have hit points as well. Characteristics, skills, and hit points form the basis for a PC.

Both the campaign and the PC are then shaped and molded by those three dials. Power level creates starting PCs of four types: Normal, Heroic, Epic, or Superhuman. Powers include magic, mutations, psychic abilities, sorcery, or superpowers. Not all powers will be in every campaign; the GM turns these dials off or on and up or down as needed. Options include a host of optional rules that a GM can check to turn on or leave unchecked to leave off.

The GM sets these three dials to match the world and the abilities of starting PCs needed for a campaign. The rules can cover everything from normal humans trapped in a horror movie up to powerful superheroes and demigods. Again, the GM sets the dials to create the setting. Everything in this book will not be used as the same time in the same campaign.


Liberty Agency Actual Play

An example of setting this up is the setting I ran called the Liberty Agency. The PCs were Heroic investigators in a near future setting becoming infused with the weird and supernatural. The PCs were Heroic humans without powers but they started running into beings and creatures with magic, mutations, and psychic abilities. The PCs had access to powerful military weapons but ran into surprises like a werewolf and an undying serial killer. The PCs had higher starting hit points as an option and other options to enhance combat were included. I even pulled in the automatic fire rules from Mythras Firearms because I prefer systems in which burst and auto fire decreases your chance to hit.

This campaign did not use sorcery or superpowers at all and the other powers were rare. The game focused on investigation, the weird, and explosive combat. The PCs were tough and could take a hit or two but werewolves were dangerous and unnerving. It was amazing and a joy to run.

Should You Get BRP?

If you want to branch out from D&D, then is an excellent place to start. If you are eager to build your own setting and are willing to do a bit of work up front, this ruleset covers a huge range of campaign options from traditional or urban fantasy to superheroes to modern action and horror. And a huge range of RPGs use d100 and can be used with minor modifications.

A review of this length can only scratch the surface of the range that an RPG like Basic Roleplaying covers. But jumping into d100, whether starting with a toolkit like this or a full RPG like Call of Cthulhu will support GMs working to create great campaigns and entertaining adventures. I am glad this book is coming back into print.

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody


#1 Enworld Jerk™
You can review it here - lots of new content in the Jonstown Compendium on Drivethru.
Thanks for the link.

Yeah, looks like it's still the same SRD (1.0) and the FAQs right below it tells me they are still pretty defensive about all the criticism they received from it a couple years back.

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I have been playing BRP games for more than 40 years (as well as a lot of other games!) My crew and I like BRP because the system encourages much more creativity on the part of the players. Someone on Reddit said "What was once narrative is now mechanical" about crunchier games like 5e, and that rang true to me. There are no highly detailed classes or subclasses; there are no real bonus actions and reactions; there are no real mechanical benefits to different heritages/races. The players, and the GM, have to make the characters personalized and unique in a way that other systems spell out for us. We've always enjoyed this aspect of the Chaosium engine.

None of that is to disparage other systems, or 'yuck someone's yum' about what they enjoy! I just love BRP, and I'm glad Chaosium updated their Big Gold Book.
I've found BRP to be especially good at pushing itself to the background and out of the way, allowing players to focus on the adventure at hand. Because there isn't a lot of time spent on understanding how the system works (people grok roll under d100), they are freer to spend time on roleplaying, engaging with the challenge of the adventure, and generally less systemwanking. It takes literally 5 minutes to teach the game, and then we're on with actually gaming. If that's 'primitive' then I'm happy to be a grognard.
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I've found BRP to be especially good at pushing itself to the background and out of the way, allowing players to focus on the adventure at hand.
I think it's fairly widely agreed that BRP is good for RPGing where the mechanics do little work (outside combat), and where PC sheets mostly provide descriptors (in the form of skill ratings) that (i) inspire players to declare actions for their PCs, and (ii) guide GMs in saying what happens next as a result.


Again, in my experience, I have found the lack of pre-determined character components/mechanics to be a good spur for player creativity. If you want to be a pirate, act like a freaking pirate. There is no pirate character kit that tells you how to mechanically be...piratey.

Again, in my experience, I have found the lack of pre-determined character components/mechanics to be a good spur for player creativity. If you want to be a pirate, act like a freaking pirate. There is no pirate character kit that tells you how to mechanically be...piratey.
Even in the new RQ where you can have passions or rune affinities, these are more to determine a course of action for things that “punch your characters buttons” when the appropriate reaction may be unclear or in tension with something else. But even then it’s discouraged to use these as mechanics for roleplaying. I don’t understand trying to quantify character too much. Best to leave the roleplay freeform.
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Michael O'Brien

Note: All entrants retain ownership of their work in its entirety. Chaosium does not require the signing over of rights of any kind in order to enter the BRP Design Challenge.

Download the free Basic Roleplaying ORC Content Document here – it's essentially the entire text of Basic Roleplaying Universal Game Engine, which you can use royalty-free for personal and commercial purposes.


Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
I wonder about something. Percentile stats, like in CoC 7e, aren’t in the 7e. In practice I can’t design anything for publication for the foreseeable future. But if I could, I old I get in trouble using percentile stats? Or would be in safe ground based on the obviousness of the idea (pointing at zines I wrote in the ‘90s as support)? And the same question with regard to 1-29 stats and d29 resolution.

This is a request from a position of genuinely ignorant good will.


BRP is, in the end analysis, still a primitive system.

The conflict resolution is primitive - as discussed, the delimitation of skills can be very arbitrary, and what your percentage really represents is also chiefly left up to each GM.

Charbuilding is also primitive. Yes, you have good support for starting characters, but then you're mostly left on your own. Meaning that there aren't really any concept of guiding and limiting your progress - you're mostly free to improve whatever skills you fancy (and what you and your GM deems reasonable).

In my opinion, the popularity of D&D is in no small part due to how characters are given limited choices at each level. Yes, one word for this is characters are "restricted". But the restrictions and limitations is what creates interesting choices. The choice in BRP to either improve a life-saving skill like Dodge or Firearms or improve a character-defining skill like Riding or Basket-Weaving just isn't interesting. Either you value your survival or you're playing in a campaign where you can afford civilian skills.

This is why I characterize BRP as a primitive system. Chaosium will never achieve any great success with their BRP system as long as they remain unwilling to change up the original formula. They're basically still trying to sell the same fundamental rules construction as forty years ago.

They definitely need to provide support for the very reasonable objections voiced in this thread (if they want BRP to be seen as a relevant ttrpg today), except I'm not sure they are even aware their offering is coming up short in these regards.
lol just lol

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