Thursday, 7 July 2016

BRP blues

Inspired by this think piece

You can skip my complaining and goto the end is a guide to some of the magic system choices in BRP games. I started being meaner about this topic but then looked at books a bit more properly inspired by RQ2 arrival. I have got two new Cthulhu game items and seen new ed cthulhu game - which having seen it now I have a better feel for new edition. More on this later.

I have over 110 BRP products in my years of 33 years of gaming. Ive lost or destroyed more BRP books than I have purchased from any other company (I have regained 20 TSR things and 30 GURPS things, A few GDW, R Talasorian games, increasingly indy dominates purchases now).

I obviously filled my game system slots in my brain years ago because Im not really plastic enough to get into new systems. I have run very few systems straight. I had my own d10/d100 system in 80s I ended up converting to BRP as it was evolving closer to BRP anyhow.

I found rq6 to be a tough read and kept thinking omg how tedious - too many new things that I have to know and 30 years of brp systems and I found it unfamiliar - I felt sorry for my shop for getting in hardbacks when I knew system was expired. None of the RQ6 generic settings set me on fire. The monster Island book was most interesting read but I still have not dug deep.  I still will get Luther Arkwright and the Arthurian supplements and I did get PDFs of most of them. To be fair rq6 has lots of good spot rules and ideas. But one or BRP faults in complex stat lines for bad guys the GM needs to create or use mook rules to handle. So rq6 introduces several new stats and features, some I have to look up like combat styles and if I have say 5 villains with several different styles and equipment the complexity goes up. The simpler to adlib bx dnd stat blocks were a big part of me going back to dnd the last few years.

Rereading the new RQ2 it is a pleasant read. RQ3 is tougher but we stuck with it long enough to get it. When some of the last supplements came out there were stat blocks with very interesting uses of sorcery which the edition would have benefited more from. I liked on Griffin Island box set orcs were sorcerers.

In my stripped down rq3 games I managed to introduce new rules and add complexity, some players struggled constantly, a few got hang of and used to win. At it's simpler end BRP has most of what a player needs on the sheet. At more complex end with tactical rules you make mistakes and you suffer.  It is a problem for new players and trying to catch up with veterans. I'm reminded of differences between bx dnd and 4th ed dnd. Im also reminded of why I started playing DnD again after a 20 year break. Game systems developing new rules and copying each other and kind of morphing into each other is a bit sad. Everyone does a sanity system now.

Mongoose version made me get the duck book and some of the second age stuff like the Clanking city were great. They made lots of interesting 2nd age products but the system interested me less. I didn't like the spell system requiring crystals and runes and reduced damages on halberds and a few things upset me. Modern games have been reducing effect of pole arms. Ive seen pole axes chop through meat. I don't believe they are only slightly better than a one handed sword.  Mongoose had some cheesy art that didn't feel RQ. I'm dyslexic and If I can see typos there is a problem (magic world was a bit spotty too).

RQ is sorta highbrow. RQ cultures reflect old anthropology texts and Joseph Campbell mythography. It took mythology and history more seriously.

Current claims RQ magic only suited to Glorantha seems odd after playing rq3 dark ages, babylon, rome and other historic settings for 30 years

This expiring ed thing is my most hated element of gaming
I feel alienated from brp after playing since 84 as my main system
When people at clubs only want to play latest version is a bit sad
I usually use Cthulhu as a trojan horse in my historic games

I liked brp, magic world and rq3 rq2 is nice too

I scrapped strike ranks as it confused most players and used dex and used weapon stats as tie breaker - i scrapped stst skill mods and used ringworld bonus system - so a sword skill goes up to total of two stats then you specialize in types - i scrapped seperate att/parr as it meant less record keeping even though it was fun. I used rq3 skill lists for experience as suggestions for 8 professional skills. I used education stat.

I find with RQ it takes little time for a player to know what they can do from character sheets without books but nitty gritty magic and fighting is slower - my first few years I only used divine magic from rq3 (system ppl now saying was a problem but was used for ten years) then after being a player in rq2 i got spirit magic. It took a science graduate several years later to look at sorcery and get rest of us into it - I like the Sandy Petersen variant version was online lots in 90s. The min max maths players loved sorcery but most found very difficult and never got past basics. Choice of systems was interesting and I sometimes use an obscure BRP magic system in play.

I find basic spirit magic fastest for players to use. A player three times tried to be a shaman and they never quite got it and made shamanhood in last session of one campaign. Divine was tricky but most common to max out in with least amount of trouble. Once players got it they made requirements for priest quickly by the time I ran Rome. I expanded cult champion rules a bit - i used acolytes but i probably will not use again (although rq6 might be place to look). I like the vikings blue box covert possession spirits that can give renewable rune spells or at will spirit magic.

Id say some of the magic rules took several years to get hang of one or two magic systems. A good aspect is i could customise player magic use well with choices from many books including cthulhu.

I feel alienated by modern dnd and now feel like im being pushed into the past by RQ and BRP - Cthulhu 6th ed seems to be for ppl with poor maths skills. I might get it as it once again has some ok spot skills but as I rarely used the x5 multipliers in my games changing all stats to the x5 multiple and using quarters instead of 1/5ths is annoying as hell.  I cant say what a great recent Cthulhu product is and I have been disappointed by several for layouts and lack of density. Laundry stuff has been more consistent.

I made a brp universal table every player uses at my tables like marvel one - it streamlined all the maths. I was going to do a combat and magic cheat sheet too. Actually gaming has always helped my arithmetic, % and measurement skills. There are lots of games now using almost no maths. I don't feel they simulate action or risk so well.

I will probably talk through with my players

Had a good fued with friend about systems as he is a gumshoe cthulhu gamer and LARPer and story gamer who doesn't really like dice. Id say I like dice and a big number range like d100 as I feel it more gritty and tweeky and I can scare people better with off the chart power. We discussed idea of making a d100 roulette wheel. He says physics and elements should fit in setting so he doesnt like universal engines and says they bottleneck or wall off what you can do. I dislike gimic and low number range games that cannot handle wide variation and don't distinguish things well (but TOON works). He calls me a simulationist. I  think his games good for con one offs but unsuited to long campaign and I don't feel a sense of risk. Dice I feel better than phone apps for group drama. I like knowing where bullets go and estimating risk with game physics - my gun combat more complex than any official BRP system. I guess I remember role maser and pheonix command from 80s which to me over do simulation. I find Gumshoe linear, depressing and unsuited to long campaigns or on the fly sandboxing like say the Arkham county series. Possibly Im seeing generational differences in oldschool vs newschool a bit more clearly.

Just while I'm here ranting about RQ and BRP

Some of the ways of power

Spirit Magic and shamans
Divine Magic and priests
Sorcery and magus - sandy petersen sorcery rules makes even better weirder wizards
Enchant - all magicians have versions
Summon - all magicians have versions

Possibly RQ editions could be variant practices or for subtle differences in dimensions

Stormbringer has various versions for elementals, demons and gods
(but i didnt like the stormbringer ed using superworld with chaos points)
Balancing Stormbringer was not a great move in later versions
Gonzo crippled beggars adventuring with god summoners was half the fun

Mutation - i endorse using chaos to hothouse yourself, destroy your rivals even becoming a demon  (or a broo or a gorp when it fails).

Call of Cthulu has a magic system any one willing to go mad and study hard can get ok at. I use for corrupt evil cult magic of old gods in my settings it works fine.

Cthulhu Grimoire from dark ages also good for witchy stuff.

Laundry has a magic system good for occult but also good for techno magic

Land of Ninja Box set for RQ3 has a system for ki skills which I have allowed some masters an cultists to learn.

Gods of Glorantha has several other magic systems or variations such as Lunar magic a mix of sorcery and shamanism mixed. I like that philosophy of Glorantha makes magic schools hate each other and culturally limit crossing types. You cuold get branded a heretic.

Warlords of Alexander BRP game is free in a few places and has a music song magic system I used for bard types in several games. One player played several generations of viking bard in my game. Easy to adapt this to other settings.

Pendragon effects for virtues I used in a fantasy game with magic effects and bonuses are good and Pendragon magic system does awesome stuff but you might need to sleep for a hundred years. I think traits worked here and were more useful than stats in play.  Adding traits into more detailed combat games like rq6 is less successful. Shame never did a d20 simple BRP like this. Pendragon was the original story centered rpg. I guess prince valient d2 coin flip is a forgotten story game too. Glorantha works well with Pendragon rules.

Psionics and mental powers - in BRP and Ringworld has some good systems too, Laundry supplement does include some too.

Magic World system i haven't played much but it is different and looks interesting, has a advanced book and feel of lots of different systems from storm bringer.

Nephalim - had Enlightened magic system which was reprinted in 2015 it is ok but I don't know how it fits in my pre modern settings. Also I'm sick of golden dawn magic in games and comics.

Classic Fantasy BRP looks good adding dnd like magicians and has a new version

Anyone read BRP witchcraft magic book?

Superworld point system i found a bit anoying and grafted onto BRP. It was like having a BRP character and a champions character sheet at once. It was a odd uncomfortable hybrid system. Using the chaos point system of demon building in Stormbringer didn't feel very chaotic to me me when they ported the superworld rules over. Points would work better for Law. I will use a much simpler point system If I do this. Something like d6/5 stat points per point with starting 20 points max of ten on any thing.

Probably I Missed some but DM can tempt players with all kinds of systems that prove difficult and obscure to master. And If his character doesn't get it that incarnation what you learn will help your next character.

Gurps magic slots in pretty well with BRP, TORG had lots of interesting ideas.

Some cunning players some went for illumination but some went for becoming powerful without using spirit or divine or sorcery power. There are a few ways but one player - again a scientist just spent every coin and favour on getting magic tattoos full of armour, hp, spells and spirits - property and friends just get stolen or destroyed so only depend of you.

Some players in RQ dislike having to depend on communities and organisations. People who roleplay this stuff better do better mechanically and get more powerful. Some dumber players got frustrated by this. Race class and gender keep being handicaps in historic games too.

Someone should publish Ringworld RPG system as a Space World BRP just change setting into a more generic one. BRP makes good gritty SF like Aliens, Ringworld, 2300 even Traveller. Wells suited to space horror. Players at my clubs universally prefer star wars and science fantasy. Some interest in star trek which used to be a huge gaming presence in early 80s with RPG and several board game space battle and play by mail games of Starfleet Battles. Spaceworld had some fun innovative stuff like the tacpack defenses you could allocate power to resisting various attacks. Id like too run space BRP sometime.

Im sure I will play some version of BRP for a long time but one of the things I liked most was consistency and minimal changes. Those strengths have been weakened. I can see  any companies not wanting to make licenced product after the last year with whole product line cancellations. The new d100 systems and open licence versions of BRP are promising, at least I can enjoy some diversity if not consistency. I'm missing monograph editions, still plenty I would like even if quality varied.

As I said several Cthulhu review shortly.


  1. I'm feeling much the same regarding current Chaosium and... chaos.
    CoC 7e isn't for me... it seems like its changes are self concious moves towards 'hipper' systems and storygames (fine games but why should everything become like them?).
    Chaosium's moves have basically fired me as a customer. I'd like to see a more DIY/OSR community arise out of the 'monograph' approach... maybe using Gore as the foundation.

  2. it touches on more design elements i mostly dislike but does them tolerably - at least I get what aim was more now I have seen them which I couldnt tell from B&W quickstart rules

  3. There've been highs and lows. I'm eagerly expecting the next edition of RuneQuest and, despsite what Chaosium say about it being 'Glorantha only', I already have plenty of ideas to use it in a variety of settings.

    1. I love you BRP I just dont want you to change or grow up into cool hip teenager who sasses me

  4. I agree but im disappointed by what was most consistent system going all edition wars

    feels like d20 era a bit