Friday, October 29, 2010

A look at Basic RolePlaying, pt.2

As mentioned in the previous post, there are five types of special powers in BRP; magic, sorcery, mutations, psychic abilities and super powers. Of these, you might think of magic as the default, since it is the only one that uses the basic d100 resolution machanic. It is also the one that most closely resembles the standard D&D style of magic. If you want to cast spells that burn or freeze your target, or turn you invisible or heal wounds, you use the magic system. In keeping with the d100 mechanics, successful casting of a magic spell requires a roll. Spells are treated like skills and in order to be proficient, a lot of skill points must be invested. As such, a typical magician will only have a small repertoire of spells that he is really adept at casting. It is also possible for a non-magician character to cast spells, but such a character would not be permitted to use professional skill points to improve his spells and would, therefore, be far more limited in his spellcasting abilities.

In a typical heroic-level campaign, a magician will start out knowing six spells. While it is possible to learn new spells, the magician will never be as adept with these new spells as he is with the original ones. Spells must be memorized, but once they are, they can be cast as often desired or until the magician runs out of power points. A magician can memorize a number of spells equal to half his INT, although if he has more spells than that in his grimoire (i.e. spellbook), he may cast them directly from the book. Variables such as damage and area of affect are determined by the level of the spell which is a function of the amount of power points invested into the spell. For example, a Fire 1 spell does 1d6 points of fire damage and costs 3 power points, while a Fire 4 spell does 4d6 points and cost 12 power points. Needless to say, players with D&D experience may find BRP spells somewhat underwhelming at first, but given that a typical character will start with 10-12 hp and probably never see an increase in that number, one can see that spells can be quite lethal.

Sorcery is handled differently from magic. Originating with the Elric! and Stormbringer games to model the distinctive Moorcock style of magic, sorcery spells are generally weaker than magic spells, but do not require an activation roll. The more powerful sorcery spells are those that summon demons and elementals, in keeping with the dark fantasy genre that spawned these rules. It should be noted that sorcery is rare in any game in which it is used. A character requires a POW of 16 to even cast sorcery spells. This requires some pretty good rolls or, at the very least, decent rolls combined with a redistribution of stats.

Mutations are, as you might expect, handled quite differently from magic or sorcery. They typically involve physical changes to the body, giving the character enhanced (or diminished) abilities or even new abilities such as flight or poison attacks. Mutations are rolled randomly and may be beneficial or harmful. When an adverse mutation is rolled, it may be avoided by a Luck roll (5 x POW). If successful, the character is entitled to a reroll. Any time a Luck roll is failed, the character is stuck with the negative result. Needless to say, mutations are a mixed blessing.

Psychic abilities are handled in much the same way as magic spells. They are learned like skills and require a successful activation roll. Characters normally use personal rather than professional skill points to improve psychic abilities, so the number of abilities a character can be good at is quite limited, although GMs are advised that some settings may allow the use of professional skill points, creating, in effect, a professional telepath. The abilities themselves include all the standard sci-fi tropes such as telekinesis, mind control, precognition and pyrokinesis.

Finally, there are super powers. Personally, I am thoroughly indifferent to just about everything associated with the superhero genre. Combine that with the fact that the super power rules are the most complicated set of rules for any of the powers in BRP and suffice to say, I just couldn't bring myself to fully absorb them. It appears a roll is required to activate some super powers, although they do not work like skills, so it is not entirely clear how the success number is derived. The number and relative power of super powers are based on a number called the Character Point Budget derived from the character's unmodified stats and the power level of the campaign. There is a large variety of super powers to chose from, although they do not seem any more powerful than the other types of powers available in the game. This is probably a good thing since it allows cross-genre campaigns without fear of super-powered characters dominating the mutants, psychics and sorcerers.

That is all for now. I will look at combat next time.


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