Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BRP & Me

Adam has an interesting post linking to another post arguing that RQ/BRP is better than D&D. I agree in so far as I personally like the BRP system better than D&D's mechanics, but I wouldn't claim one is better than the other. It's like arguing about whether DC is better than Marvel or vice versa. It's really just a matter of taste. But I do prefer BRP. In fact, it's one of my favorite game systems. If you've read this blog before that may come as something of a surprise since aside from the occasional mention of Call of Cthulhu or Elric!/Stormbringer I hardly ever talk about it. That's because I don't play it any more. How can it be one of my favorite systems if I don't play it? I'll explain that later. First, let me spell out why I like it.

One of my favorite things about BRP is the ease of play. You roll your attributes, then pick a few skills to define your character and you're off. What I like even more is that it completely does away with character classes and experience points. Character classes are nothing but a group of skills, either implied or enumerated. With a skill system classes become superfluous. Want to be a thief? Give your character the skills Pick Pockets, Move Quietly, Spot Trap, etc. Want to be a fighter? Pick a bunch of combat skills. Want to be a fighter and a thief? You don't have to mess around with some awkward "multi-class" with a separate experience point table, you just choose the mix of skills that fits that kind of character. In fact, you don't have to mess around with experience point charts at all because there are no experience points. If you're like me and you think keeping track of experience points is about as fun as balancing a check book this will make you happy.

The other great thing about this approach is that you can modify the skill list to suit your fancy. Do you have a fighter who wants to use nunchaku? Just add a nunchaku skill. Does someone want a Fast Draw ability? Just add a skill for it. Do you want magic users to be able to smell magic? You got it, Smell Magic skill. This is a great approach to gaming and it's stood the test of time. The BRP system is so stable it has remained virtually unchanged since it first appeared. So why don't I play it any more?

I used to use BRP for just about every game I ran. It was great because the percentile based system was so intuitive that players would pick it up in a snap. The hardest math was multiplying your base attributes by 3 or 5 to get different saving throw values. But the thing about the percentile system is that the skills are defined too finely. If one character has a Boogie skill of 63%  and another has a Boogie skill of 64% that's not a meaningful difference. In fact, to make a real difference you need a much coarser separation on the order of 5-10% or so. So instead of multiplying your attributes by 5 you should be dividing your skills by that much. And once I started thinking along those lines I realized that you didn't need all those different polyhedral dice. Just divide the skills by five and roll that number or less on 3d6. Kind of like GURPS but without the fiddly stuff.

So I moved away from BRP. I still think it's a good system, and it has had an important influence on the hobby, but I doubt I'll be running games with it any time soon.


Ka-Blog! said...

Or maybe Fuzion (Instant / Basic). :)

Jerry Cornelius said...

Exactly. That's another nit-pick I have with BRP: that your attributes only influence skills indirectly. I definitely prefer systems like D6, Interlock/Fuzion/Action! System, or BESM where your stats directly influence skill rolls. Plus it's a snap to convert BRP characters to those systems. So while I still like BRP I won't be switching back to it.

Ka-Blog! said...

My wife likes BRP because of the percentiles -- easy to gauge your chances of success.

Plus the 'roll to increase' bit.

I myself always wanted a tweak to reflect degrees of success beyond the impales.

Jerry Cornelius said...

I like both of those things, too. I had quite a few house rules for combat worked out at one time. Maybe I'll dig up some of my old notes and post them sometime.