Tabletop games Wargaming

Basic Role-Playing

Basic Role-Playing cover page
Publication date 1980, 1981, 2002, 2008
Genre(s) Universal

Basic Role-Playing (BRP) is a role-playing game system which originated in the fantasy-oriented RuneQuest role-playing game rules. A percentile skill-based system, BRP was used as the basis for most of the games published by Chaosium, including Stormbringer, Worlds of Wonder, Call of Cthulhu, Superworld, Ringworld, Elfquest, Hawkmoon, Elric!, and Nephilim. However, Pendragon (acquired in 1998 by Green Knight Publishing, and 2005 by White Wolf), while related, has sufficiently different mechanics that it can be seen as a separate system. The BRP standalone booklet was first released in 1980. Two years later it became part of the Worlds of Wonder boxed set. The first edition boxed set of Call of Cthulhu included the booklet as its character creation rules. Greg Stafford and Lynn Willis are credited as the authors.

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, in this case an attempt to roll under a certain number with percentile dice. 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.

In 2004, Chaosium published the Basic Roleplaying monographs (the hyphen was dropped in the later products). Books with a quick and inexpensive printed format of tape binding and printed cardstock covers, the four monographs (Players Book, Magic Book, Creatures Book, and Gamemaster Book) were printed in order to assert Chaosium's copyrights in the run-up to the publishing and distribution of Deluxe Basic Roleplaying, a game system that is essentially RuneQuest 3rd Edition but with additions to allow play in other genres.

Chaosium released a new version of BRP on June 24, 2008 as single comprehensive book.


The core rules were originally written by Steve Perrin as part of his game RuneQuest. 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 their final form.

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 and the dark fantasy saga of Elric in Stormbringer.

BRP was conceived of as a genre-generic engine around which any sort of RPG could be played, much like GURPS and the d20 system have become today. In order to underscore this, Chaosium produced the Worlds of Wonder supplement, which contained the generic rules and several specific applications of those rules to given genres. Superworld, specifically, began as a portion of the Worlds of Wonder product.

The fantasy game supplement Thieves World, based on the popular series of books by Robert Lynn Asprin, used both the system for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as well as the RuneQuest variation of the BRP for character statistics, representing the two most popular game systems of the time.

Rules system

BRP was developed from a core set of attributes similar to the original Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Size, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Power, and Appearance (or Charisma) replaced the D&D norms. From that was evolved a structurally simulationist system. Therefore hit points (which increase with experience in D&D) were based on the average of Size and Constitution and were functionally static for the life of the character. Skills, using a d100, rather than the D&D d20, were used to simulate the way that people learn skills. Experience points were replaced by an experience check, rolling higher than your current skill on a d100. This created a learning curve that leveled out the higher a skill was.

Whereas D&D merged armor with defense, BRP treated them as separate functions: the act of parrying was a defensive skill that reduced an opponent's chance to successfully land an attack, and the purpose of armor was 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. This element is shared with and originated in Tunnels and Trolls. By varying ability scores, the same system is used for a human hero as a trollish villain. This approach also led quickly, as it did in T&T, to players playing a wide range of non-human characters and game worlds that were deeply pluralist.

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. 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 earliest works were built 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 used (through a special arrangement with Swedish Fredrik Malmberg) as the base for the highly successful Swedish game Drakar och Demoner from Target Games.

BRP was also licensed to Oriflam in France to create a French language second edition of the Hawkmoon game called Hawkmoon, Nouvelle Edition. This version was an adaptation of the mechanics seen in the newer Elric! game, adding new rule systems specific to the setting (e.g. Mutations and 'Weird Science').

BRP was also licensed to Japanese companies. BRP games in Japanese are Houkago Kaiki Club (1997, school life and horror, Hobby Japan), Genom Seed (2004, mutant action, Shinkigensha) and Taitei no Ken RPG (2007, SciFi-jidaigeki, based on movie of the same title, Shinkigensha).


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. 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.