Basic Roleplaying (1980)

When I stole my Dad’s copy of RuneQuest, inside the box was a small booklet entitled, “Basic Roleplaying: An Introductory Guide“. Although I had played a little Traveller with friends before getting this game, I didn’t own any of the products. RuneQuest was my entry into RPG rulebooks. But BRP (as it was known) was my introduction to “how this game is played”.

When I look back on my roleplaying history, this is the book which taught me the most about how RPGs were played. In other words, while BRP contains some simple rules, it was my introduction to FRPG methodology. Later, when I got the D&D Red Box, I would learn all about dungeons and how to write adventures. But this booklet helped me decode how the game is played.

You can see this in the Introduction, wherein there’s a discussion of what FRPGs are and an example of play. The emphasis is on the cooperation between players and the Referee: firstly, players are a team and must collaborate but, secondly, the players and the Referee have to work together too:

The player-characters should pit themselves against the world, not the referee. The referee should not be afraid to ask others their opinions on game matters… Work out questions by discussion, not fiat…

Basic Roleplaying (1980), Chaosium, page 3

As the booklet develops, the player is introduced to many subtle details on how the game is played that I remember being a series of “aha!” moments in understanding the core RuneQuest rules. I began to play alone using just the BRP rules and then, slowly, worked out how to apply the main rules alongside the suggested methodology. This was, and still remains, a solid beginning for the fantasy FRPer.

Today, I am minded to use it again to revisit D100 gaming. It’s a minimalist slice of gaming rules and methods that suits me well for my solo play. Despite browsing a wide-array of games built around that old D100 BRP engine, in a lot of ways there is nothing quite so useful as beginning again at the beginning.

And I love the old minimalist character sheet too: seven characteristics, eight skills, Hit Points and armour, plus weapons. Let’s play!

Game on!

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