Basic Role-Playing

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Basic Role-Playing (BRP)
Basic Roleplaying.gif
Cover of the first edition of Basic Role-Playing
Designer(s) Greg Stafford and Lynn Willis
Publisher(s) Chaosium
Publication date1980, 1982, 2002, 2004, 2008

Basic Role-Playing (BRP) is a role-playing game system which originated in the RuneQuest fantasy role-playing game. The BRP standalone booklet was first released in 1980 in the boxed set release of the second edition of RuneQuest. Greg Stafford and Lynn Willis are credited as the authors. A percentile skill-based system, BRP was used as the basis for most of the games published by Chaosium, including Call of Cthulhu , Stormbringer , and Elfquest .

Role-playing game system Set of game mechanics used in a role-playing game

A role-playing game system is a set of game mechanics used in a role-playing game (RPG) to determine the outcome of a character's in-game actions.

<i>RuneQuest</i> role-playing game

RuneQuest is a fantasy role-playing game first published in 1978 by Chaosium, created by Steve Perrin and set in Greg Stafford's mythical world of Glorantha. RuneQuest is notable for its system, designed around percentile dice and with an early implementation of skill rules, which became the basis of numerous other games. There have been several editions of the game.

Fantasy genre of literature, film, television and other artforms

Fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction set in a fictional universe, often without any locations, events, or people referencing the real world. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became literature and drama. From the twentieth century it has expanded further into various media, including film, television, graphic novels and video games.



The core rules were originally written by Steve Perrin [1] as part of his game RuneQuest. [2] It was Greg Stafford's idea to simplify the rules (eliminating such things as Strike Ranks and Hit Locations) and issue them in a 16-page booklet called Basic Role-Playing. Over the years several others, including Sandy Petersen, Lynn Willis, and Steve Henderson, contributed to the system.

Stephen Herbert Perrin, often simply known as Steve Perrin, is a game designer and technical writer/editor.

Greg Stafford American game designer, publisher and self-proclaimed shaman

Francis Gregory Stafford, usually known as Greg Stafford, was an American game designer, publisher, and practitioner of shamanism.

Sandy Petersen American board and video game designer

Carl Sanford Joslyn "Sandy" Petersen is an American game designer.

The BRP was notable for being the first role-playing game system to introduce a full skill system to characters regardless of their profession. This was developed in RuneQuest but was also later adopted by the more skill-oriented Call of Cthulhu. [3] [4]

BRP was conceived of as a generic system for playing any sort of RPG. Specific rule systems to support differing genres can be added to the core rules in a modular design. In order to underscore this, in 1982 Chaosium released the Worlds of Wonder box set, which contained a revised main booklet and several booklets providing the additional rules for playing in specific genres. Superworld , a superhero-themed game, began as a portion of the Worlds of Wonder set. A third edition of the core booklet, now titled Basic Roleplaying: The Chaosium System, was released in 2002. [5]

Worlds of Wonder is a 1982 multi-genre role-playing game publication produced by Chaosium. It is a boxed set consisting of four 16-page booklets: Basic Role-Playing, Magic World, Superworld, and Future World, an even shorter pamphlet on joining the settings together, a sheet of cardboard figures for each setting, and dice. The authors on the box are credited as Perrin, Henderson, Monson, Stafford, and Willin.


Superworld is a superhero-themed role-playing game published by Chaosium in 1983. Written by Basic Role-Playing and RuneQuest author Steve Perrin, Superworld began as one third of the Worlds of Wonder product, which also included a generic fantasy setting, "Magic World", and a generic science fiction setting, "Future World", all using the same core Basic Role-Playing rules. Only Superworld became a game in its own right.

In 2004, Chaosium published the Basic Roleplaying monographs, a series of paperback booklets. The first four monographs (Players Book, Magic Book, Creatures Book, and Gamemaster Book) were essentially RuneQuest 3rd Edition, but with the RuneQuest name and other trademarks removed, as Chaosium had lost the rights to the name but retained copyright of the rules text. Additional monographs allowing for new mechanics, thereby extending the system to other genres, were released in the following years. Many of these monographs reproduced rules from other Chaosium-published BRP games that had gone out of print.

In 2008 most monographs were collected and updated as a single, comprehensive book, nicknamed the "Big Gold Book", allowing game masters to essentially build their own game from the various subsystems included. A quickstart booklet for new players accompanied it.

Other games published over the years by Chaosium using the BRP ruleset include Ringworld , Hawkmoon , and Nephilim .

<i>Hawkmoon</i> (role-playing game)

Hawkmoon is a role-playing game published by Chaosium in 1986.

Rules system

BRP is similar to other generic systems such as GURPS , Hero System or Savage Worlds in that it uses a simple resolution method which can be broadly applied. BRP uses a core set of seven characteristics: Size, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Power, and Appearance or Charisma. From those, a character derives scores in various skills, expressed as percentages. These skill scores are the basis of play. When attempting an action, the player rolls percentile dice trying to get a result equal to or lower than the character's current skill score. Each incarnation of the BRP rules has changed or added to the core ideas and mechanics, so that games are not identical. For example, in Call of Cthulhu, skills may never be over 100%, while in Stormbringer skills in excess of 100% are within reach for all characters. Scores can increase through experience checks, the mechanics of which vary in an individual game.

<i>GURPS</i> role playing game system

The Generic Universal RolePlaying System, or GURPS, is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting. It was created by Steve Jackson Games and first published in 1986 at a time when most such systems were story- or genre-specific.

Hero System role-playing game system

The Hero System is a generic role-playing game system that was developed from the superhero RPG Champions. After Champions fourth edition was released in 1989, a stripped-down version of its ruleset with no superhero or other genre elements was released as The Hero System Rulesbook in 1990. As a spinoff of Champions, the Hero System is considered to have started with 4th edition, rather than on its own with a 1st edition. However, the first three editions of the game are typically referred to as Champions, rather than the Hero System, as the game for its first three editions was not sold as a universal toolkit, instead largely focusing on superheroes.

Savage Worlds generic role playing game

Savage Worlds is a generic role-playing game and miniatures wargame written by Shane Lacy Hensley and published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The game emphasizes speed of play and reduced preparation over realism or detail. The game received the 2003 Origin Gamers' Choice Award for best role-playing game.

BRP treats armor and defense as separate functions: the act of parrying is a defensive skill that reduced an opponent's chance to successfully land an attack, and the purpose of armor is to absorb damage.

The last major element of many BRP games is that there is no difference between the player character race systems and that of the monster or opponents. By varying ability scores, the same system is used for a human hero as a troll villain. This approach allows for players to play a wide variety of non-human species.

Licensed games

Chaosium was an early adopter of licensing out its BRP system to other companies, something that was unique at the time they began but rather commonplace now thanks to the d20 licenses. [6] This places the BRP in the notable position of being one of the first products to allow other game companies to develop games or game aids for their work. Companies such as Green Knight and Pagan Publishing built their earliest works to support Chaosium's games.

Other, non-Chaosium games have used BRP for its core rules. For example, Other Suns , published by Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU), used them under license. BRP was also used as the base for the highly successful Swedish game Drakar och Demoner from Target Games. [7]


Ronald Pehr reviewed Basic Role-Playing in The Space Gamer No. 41. [8] Pehr commented that "Basic Role-Playing is too little too late. RuneQuest is long established, does an adequate job of teaching role-playing, and there are now even more games to choose from. If you want to teach role-playing to a very young, but literate, child, Basic Role-Playing is excellent. Otherwise, for all its charm, it's not much use." [8]


The BRP itself has been the recipient, via its games, of many awards. Most notable was the 1981 Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules for Call of Cthulhu. [9] Other editions of Call of Cthulhu have also won Origins Awards including the Hall of Fame award. The BRP Character Generation software has also won awards for its design.

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Call of Cthulhu is a horror fiction role-playing game based on H. P. Lovecraft's story of the same name and the associated Cthulhu Mythos. The game, often abbreviated as CoC, is published by Chaosium; it was first released in 1981 and is currently in its seventh edition, with many different versions released. It makes use of Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing (BRP) system, with special rules for Sanity.

Chaosium Inc. is one of the oldest publishers of role-playing games still in existence. Established by Greg Stafford in 1975, its first title was the board game White Bear and Red Moon, set in Stafford's fictional fantasy gaming world of Glorantha. Over the years Chaosium has published many acclaimed and award-winning games. These include the roleplaying games RuneQuest, set in Glorantha, and Call of Cthulhu, based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.

Glorantha fantasy world created by Greg Stafford

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Nephilim (role-playing game)

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<i>Stormbringer</i> (role-playing game) role-playing game

Stormbringer is a fantasy role-playing game published by Chaosium set in the world of the Young Kingdoms, based on the Elric of Melniboné books by Michael Moorcock. The game takes its name from Elric's sword, Stormbringer and uses the Basic Role-Playing game system, a percentile-dice-based system used in many role-playing games designed by Chaosium.


  1. Ehara, Tadashi (June–July 1979). "My Life and Role-Playing". Different Worlds . Chaosium (3): 8–9.
  2. Donohoe, Jim (February–March 1979). "Open Box: Runequest". White Dwarf . Games Workshop (11): 18–19. ISSN   0265-8712.
  3. Turnbull, Don (August 1982). "Open Box: Call of Cthulhu". White Dwarf . Games Workshop (32): 18. ISSN   0265-8712.
  4. Szymanski, Michael (March–April 1987). "Call of Cthulhu in the Eighties". Different Worlds . Chaosium (45): 8–9.
  5. Stafford, Greg; Willis, Lynn (2002). Basic Roleplaying: The Chaosium System. ISBN   9781568821689.
  6. Shannon Appelcline (2006-11-02). "Brief History of the Game". RPG.Net. Archived from the original on 23 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
  7. (in Swedish)
  8. 1 2 Pehr, Ronald (July 1981). "Capsule Reviews". The Space Gamer . Steve Jackson Games (41): 30.
  9. Origins. "Origins Award Winners (1981)". Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 2007-09-14.