Basic Role-Playing

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.

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


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.

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]

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.

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.

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.



  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. ^ Swedish)
  8. ^ a b 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.

External links

1980 in games

This page lists board and card games, wargames, miniatures games, and tabletop role-playing games published in 1980. For video games, see 1980 in video gaming.

Call of Cthulhu (role-playing game)

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.

Delta Green

Delta Green is a setting for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game created by Adam Scott Glancy, Dennis Detwiller, and John Scott Tynes, a.k.a. the Delta Green Partnership, of the Seattle gaming house Pagan Publishing. Delta Green is set in the contemporary era, revolving around a highly secretive organization known as Delta Green, tasked with protecting the United States from paranormal and alien threats. Delta Green takes the classic setting of the Cthulhu Mythos from Call of Cthulhu and mashes it with conspiracy fiction.

In August 2011, Arc Dream Publishing and the Delta Green Partnership announced development of a standalone Delta Green role-playing game. Funding began in 2015 and in 2016 the Agent's Handbook was released followed by the Handler's Guide in 2018. Arc Dream Publishing also made a partnership with Pelgrane Press to release a prequel named The Fall of DELTA GREEN using the Gumshoe System in 2018.

Dorian Hawkmoon

Dorian Hawkmoon, Duke of Köln is one of the fictional characters created by Michael Moorcock in his series of the Eternal Champion books. He is the main character of "The History of the Runestaff" cycle, published 1967–1969.

Drakar och Demoner

Drakar och Demoner (Swedish for Dragons and Demons, in Sweden commonly referred to by the abbreviation "DoD") is a Swedish fantasy role-playing game first published in 1982 by the game publishing company Äventyrsspel ("Adventure Games", later renamed Target Games).

The first edition was basically a translation of Steve Perrin's Basic Role-Playing (which in turn is based on RuneQuest) combined with the Magic World booklet.

The second Edition was published in 1984, rewriting the text from scratch, fixing many translation errors and glitches in the rules although no other major changes were made. One of the available player races, the anthropomorphic ducks, was incorporated from Glorantha.

The transition to a new system of rules began in 1985, not with the third edition which mostly corrected spelling errors, but with the publication of an "Expert" rule expansion: Drakar och Demoner Expert. This among other things introduced hit locations and the use of a 20-sided die instead of the percentile die for skill rolls.

The fourth edition in 1991 was a major revision of the rules, superseding Drakar och Demoner Expert by incorporating it into the basic rules and then expanding them.

In 1994, Target Games released a fifth edition, called Drakar och Demoner Chronopia. This version was notable mainly because it came with an integrated world description. Changes to the rules were minor, mostly reflecting the new campaign setting.

In the late 1990s, Target Games found itself in financial difficulties and discontinued their line of role-playing games. The rights to Drakar och Demoner were transferred to Paradox Entertainment, who in turn licensed them to Riotminds. Riotminds published a new version of the game in 2000. This sixth edition was a complete overhaul of the game rules, supporting a much less generic game world. The idea of "Expert" rules was re-used, and many rules expansions followed.

When Riotminds released their first take on the venerable Drakar och Demoner ruleset, it featured a concept very close to levels ("yrkesnivåer"). It didn't take long before an official addendum appeared on their website, with optional rules on how to play without this feature. In the subsequent reprints (as well as later editions) little or no traces of "yrkesnivåer" remain.

In 2006, Riotminds consolidated the line with the seventh edition, which again meant many rule changes to better support its campaign world. Among the changes was the removal of the basic character stats (grundegenskaper) which were replaced with 'exceptional abilities' (exceptionella karaktärsdrag) and the introduction of specializations of skills. This edition is called Drakar och Demoner Trudvang and is the first boxed one in many years.

In 2015 Riotminds announced an upcoming re-release of the popular 1987-edition of the game featuring new art and minor fixes but otherwise identical. A line of products including several new campaigns is planned after the release which is set for August 2016. On May 16, 2016 Riotminds announced that Drakar och Demoner Trudvang would be released in an English version, under the name Trudvang Chronicles.

Elfquest (role-playing game)

Elfquest is a role-playing game published by Chaosium in 1984, based on the Elfquest series of comics.

Hawkmoon (role-playing game)

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

Justice, Inc. (role-playing game)

Justice, Inc. is a role-playing game designed to simulate the adventure stories in the pulp magazines of the 1930s.

It was one of the first non-superhero applications of the point-based game system that had been developed for the Champions superhero game. The generalized point system would eventually be published as the Hero System, following in the footsteps of Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing System, but preceding GURPS as a non-genre-specific game system.

Nephilim (role-playing game)

Nephilim is a role-playing game about powerful elemental entities reincarnating into human beings. The players take the roles of these beings as they adapt to their newly symbiotic existence and learn the secrets hidden behind veils of obscurity and mysticism, seeking the path toward enlightenment, Agartha. The game contains much symbolism, primarily related to the Hermetic tradition.

Pendragon (role-playing game)

Pendragon, or King Arthur Pendragon, is a role-playing game (RPG) in which players take the role of knights performing chivalric deeds in the tradition of Arthurian legend. It was originally written by Greg Stafford and published by Chaosium, then was acquired by Green Knight Publishing, who in turn passed on the rights to White Wolf Publishing in 2004. White Wolf sold the game to Stewart Wieck in 2009. Wieck formed Nocturnal Media, which has since updated and reissued the 5th edition originally published by White Wolf.

In 1991, Pendragon (3rd edition) won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules of 1990. In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Pendragon as one of The Millennium's Most Underrated Games. Editor Scott Haring said "Pendragon is one of the few RPGs that has a moral point of view ... And it's a great melding of game system with game world.". The 5th edition won the Outie award for Best Retread in 2006.

Ringworld (role-playing game)

The Ringworld science fiction role-playing game was published by Chaosium in 1984, using the Basic Role-Playing system for its rules and Larry Niven's Ringworld novels as a setting.

Role-playing game system

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.


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.

Steve Perrin's Quest Rules

Steve Perrin's Quest Rules (SPQR) is a role-playing game system created and sold by Steve Perrin.

Stormbringer (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 (though one edition was published as Elric!) and uses the Basic Role-Playing game system, a percentile-dice-based system used in many role-playing games designed by Chaosium.


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.

Target Games

Target Games was a Swedish publisher of role-playing games active from 1980 until the year 1999 when they went into bankruptcy proceedings. Until the mid-1990s they published their Swedish roleplaying games under the brand name Äventyrsspel (meaning "adventure games").

The Laundry

The Laundry is a role-playing game published by Cubicle 7 in 2010. The game is based on novelist Charles Stross's the Laundry Files series.

Worlds of Wonder (game)

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 (Steve Perrin), Henderson (Steve Henderson), Monson (Gordon Monson), Stafford (Greg Stafford), and Willin (Lynn Willis).

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