Saturday, April 23, 2011

B is for Basic Roleplaying

I've been searching for quite a while now for my favorite RPG. I don't think I'll ever find it, but for the immediate future, BRP seems to be it.

The thing I like in particular is that the characters are pretty much human. Sure, Superworld allows for super-human abilities, and other iterations include magic, mutations, sorcery and high tech, but the basic character is recognizably human.

And, more to the point, stays that way.

The one gripe I've always had about D&D and similar is that as characters advance they become less human and more godlike. Look at a high level fighter in D&D. You can shoot him with a cannon and he'll shrug it off. High level magic-users can alter reality and also take a sword to the chest and laugh it off.

Whereas real people can be killed with a mere dagger.

BRP gives the options for (game mechanical) greatness, but retains the essential frailty of the human form. And I like that.

But then, there's another version of edition wars:

Sharp-eyed readers of this blog may have noticed that I specified that I'd like to use Chaosium's Worlds of Wonder to run SPI's Freedom in the Galaxy. The question may have arisen "Why not just use the current incarnation of Basic Roleplaying, aka the Big Yellow Book (aka BYB; or sometimes BGB for Big Gold Book). Especially, I might add, because I do own the Big Yellow Book.

But it's 400 pages!

I'm sorry. I love the idea of the game. I love the 16 page booklet I bought back in '83 or so. I love the way new games have continually added to the core rules.

But I just can't get through 400 pages of rules in any consistent or meaningful fashion.

Worlds of Wonder, on the other hand, has the 16 page BRP with which I'm familiar, plus three settings that are 18 pages each (including a mini-adventure!) Now, many of the Superworld rules won't be necessary, and most likely ditto for Magic World. In fact, I'm going to lean heavily on the BYB for inspiration. But the final rules I use will be more akin to WoW than BYB.

One reason is size, as mentioned above. But another reason is Awesome, as mentioned yesterday.

Magic World gives us Sorcery, which is almost directly repeated in the BYB as Magic. But only almost.

The BYB gives us tiers of power, depending on how one wishes to run one's game. For starting spells, the Normal tier gives 4, the Heroic tier 6, Epic 8 and Superhuman 10.

These all start at a %-value of the character's INT x 1 (although it does note that characters may spend skill points).

Magic World only gives the starting spell-caster 4 spells, like the normal tier. But they start at INT x 3.

(No, I won't be using spells in a science fiction game; this is merely illustrative.)

So, the older version gives more awesome characters (in my opinion) than the later one does.

Also, because of the aforementioned size, it's easier to carry.

Stay tuned tomorrow! Since I'm not following the strict rules of the A-Z thing anyway, I'm going to go ahead and post on Sunday! Any guesses what C will be?


Sham aka Dave said...

Coffee perhaps? The drink, not you. I hope. :-)

Dr Rotwang said...

I, too, less-than-three me some BRP. Totally. But I feel that I must, in the spirit of brotherhood and homey-ness, wonder out loud about a misunderstanding on your part:

Hit Points in D&D aren't the same thing as Hit Points in BRP. They measure different things.

In BRP, Hit Points measure how much physical damage a character's body can sustain before it, you know, breaks. It's the average of CON+SIZ, after all -- clearly physical stats. Run out of those and it's curtains. This is one of the ways in which BRP is elegant and intuitive.

In D&D, though, they are much more of an abstraction. They don't measure how much punching, kicking, swording or arrowing a PC can sustain; they measure how much attacking a character can take and keep fighting. It's one of those things that, I think, has been lost somewhere along the line and misinterpreted by many -- myself included.

A high-level D&D fighter has tons of hit points to model the fact that you can whack at him all day and he's going to dodge, parry, block, swerve, grimace, grunt and roll with the punches...until you wear him down, at which point he's got no fight left in him and he's yours. SWORDED!

A BRP fighter with lots of experience, conversely, is (probably) going to have the same amount of HP as he did when he was first rolled up, so that sword to the gut is gonna kill him now as it would've killed him then. But his Dodge, Block and Parry skills are going to be pretty high -- he's going to turn away those blows with relative ease, and protect his precious few HPs a lot longer.

All of which means...not much, really. Just that the two games do things differently. For the record, like like 'em both a lot, and your post about BRP freedom In The Galaxy has planted a seed in my mind and my own BYB lying on the floor by the couch because I was goofing around with it the other, yeah.

Okay. Pedantic lesson over.

Will Douglas said...

(Damn thing ate my comment!)

Doc Rotwang said:

All of which means...not much, really. Just that the two games do things differently.


But for this game, I prefer the way BRP does things.

Other games use game mechanics (such as D&D's levelling up and T&T's stat increases) to simulate increasing in skill. BRP just lets the skill level go up, and there you go.

Plus it's easier for me to see a world like this using BRP; I've never successfully been able to use D&D for anything other than D&D. Sure, it's a failing of imagination on my part, but I'm cool with that.

Besides, since BRP (81) has so many fewer rules, I should have correspondingly fewer rules lawyers in my game!

Also, Doc, I have to thank you for a post you did a couple of years ago that brought BRP up in my mind. You wanted to do a game in a certain style, so you grabbed your BRP stuff and just did it. That reminded me that I had a copy of BRP from the early 80's (which I couldn't find and had to replace), and which leads me to now.

So, thanks for that! (a couple of years too late). And thanks also for your comment here; it helped me clarify (in my own mind at least) why I want to do things the way I want.

Anonymous said...

So which non BYB version?

Blue Dragon or Kraken?

Will Douglas said...


Not sure I understand your question.

I'm using the original (1981) version of BRP, as presented in Worlds of Wonder. (I have the first three printings of it.)

Anonymous said...

So it has a blue dragon on the cover. Or does it have a Kraken on the cover?

Will Douglas said...

Sorry; didn't quite get it there.

Yes, it has a blue dragon on the cover, as seen in this image on RPG Geek:

But the third printing is monochrome, in green ink on an off-white background (or possibly faded). So that was what threw me about your question.

(And the other one, the first printing, doesn't have a cover on it at all -- but it does have the notation "Not for Resale". This was the one that came with the boxed set.)

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