One of the oldest RPG systems in existence is Chaosium‘s Basic Roleplaying System that powered games like Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest or Stormbringer. Last year Chaosium finally released a generic BRP rulebook that covers everything from fantasy to science fiction in one book.
If you are still unsure about whether you want to buy a copy of the BRP book or not, you should have a look at the free BRP Quickstart PDF. The 48-page PDF has been released just recently and contains character creation, rules (including combat), a couple of short adventures from various genres and even some monsters.
If you ask me, the BRP Quickstart PDF is one of the best quickstart products I have seen. Especially the fact that they added several adventures is a nice touch. You can download the BRP Quickstart PDF here at the Chaosium site. Please note that you’ll have to register an account there in order to be able to download the PDF.
Savage World's Test Drive is better, IMO, since it includes enough rules for Powers to be usable. BRP Quickstart is practically crippleware, or at least I can't remember the last time our group played a setting with no magic or esp powers at all, even for the NPCs. An experienced group could improvise something, but an experienced group wouldn't need a page explaining what the GM does and how to read dice.
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I have always loved the worlds in Chaosium's products, but their skill system has always sucked. I downloaded the Quickstart, hoping that they had finally fixed it, but alas not.
The problem is opposed skill checks. They are completely broken at higher levels. If both players succeed, the higher skill rating wins – always. Suppose we have a Stealth skill and a Detection skill (to spot a stealthy character). In this system 94% stealth character will almost never be able to get past a 95% detection character; both will succeed and the Detection skill wins. On the other hand, a 10% stealth character has a not unreasonable chance of getting past a 50% detection character.
The best thing that d20 ever did was popularize (but not invent) an opposed skill mechanic in which the skill values of the two sides are combined. This way skill checks are a function of relative level, but not absolute level. The only problem with d20 is that gives a uniform probability (but does d%), when often it is better to have a more normal distribution like you get with 3d6.
Hmm, there may be some truth to that. My experiences with BRP are mainly with Call of Cthulhu and I can't remember if we had ever a character with skills in the 90% range. Usually they died or have gone insane long before that.
And I have to admit when I ran CoC as a GM I never used opposed rolls. Usually I just decide how difficult the action is from the standpoint of the player character and asked him to do a normal skill roll. This may not be 100% correct, but it's usually faster and my players don't mind.
My experiences with BRP are mainly with Call of Cthulhu and I can’t remember if we had ever a character with skills in the 90% range. Usually they died or have gone insane long before that.
Yes; Call of Cthulhu (which I love) tends to lend itself to one-shots. Players are so weak, and they rarely go up in level, that you never get the distortion effects of the skill system.
This skill system positively crippled RuneQuest, however.
"The problem is opposed skill checks. They are completely broken at higher levels. If both players succeed, the higher skill rating wins – always."
Why does the higher skill rating wins?
It is normally what result is rolled on the dice that matters, the lower roll wins – always.
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This is an official MUST HAVE for an RPG collection. We've used this to toss together some small campaigns based on a player-created setting, and it's been a blast.
It's easier to download BRP QuickStart from here:
(No need to register, and it's still 'official').