Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A look at Basic RolePlaying, pt.3

Basic Roleplaying incorporates rules from many past and present Chaosium games, such as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest and Elric!. Though all these games used the basic d100 mechanic, there were some variations in some aspects of the game system. You certainly see that in the powers rules and you also see it in combat, resulting in a variety of optional or alternate rules. For example, initiative can be handled in a number of ways. The basic approach has four stages; statement of intent, power use, actions and resolution. In the first step, players and NPCs declare their actions. This is typically done all at one time in order from highest DEX to lowest DEX. However, several variants exist, including dispensing with the declarations entirely or declaring them in reverse order, lowest DEX to highest so that characters with higher DEX can react to the declarations of those with lower DEX. The next step is the use of powers such as sorcery or psychic abilities, performed in order from highest INT to lowest among the characters who have chosen to use them. Powers typically take a full round to use, so their effects are manifested in the following power use phase. After power use comes actions. Actions are performed in order from highest DEX to lowest, although one optional rule is to add a d10 to DEX to allow for some random component to initiative. If this option is chosen, however, it has implications for multiple attacks since the number of attacks possible in a round is dependent on initiative number, so it's possible to get more attacks with DEX + d10 than just DEX alone. This may make smaller weapons such as daggers more attractive because of the extra attacks they allow. Following each action is resolution. Unlike the other phases, this phase is done after each individual action rather than being grouped together. Resolution in combat is generally some sort of active defense (assuming the attack was successful), a dodge or a parry. There are varying degrees of success for both the attack roll and the defense roll, so these results have to be compared. It is possible for a successful attack to beat a successful defense if the degree of success is greater for the attack. However, the successful defense likewise reduces the effect of the attack, even if it doesn't defeat it entirely.

As mentioned above, there are multiple degrees of success when making an attack or defense roll (or any skill roll for that matter). A roll equal to or less than your skill percentage is a success, a roll equal to or less than 1/5 of your skill percentage is a special success and a roll equal to or less than 1/20 of your skill percentage is a critical success. Each level of success defeats a lesser success, although in the case of dodge or parry, a lesser degree of success will mitigate the effects of a special or critical success result for the attack roll. Special successes on attack add a special weapon effect to the normal damage, such as bleeding, impaling or crushing damage. Critical success cause maximum damage for the weapon and ignore armour. There are rare circumstances (i.e. impaling attacks vs. unarmoured opponents) in which a special success result is actually better than a critical result. In those instances, the player is permitted to choose the better effect when scoring a critical success. In BRP, armour serves to reduce damage, rather than reduce the likelihood of success. This means that combat is somewhat less streamlined than in D&D, but it also allows for more realism and more options, especially for cross-genre campaigns. A perfect example is the introduction of firearms. D&D has never been able to handle firearms satisfactorily. The challenge has always been to model the advantages of firearms over bows. Bows are obviously faster, so even if a musket does more damage, the extra attacks enjoyed by the archer will finish off the musketeer long before he gets reloaded. Factors such as ease of use or intimidation just never seem to be incorporated into the rules in such a way as to make firearms attractive. However, in BRP, firearms work just fine. Armour only provides half the normal protection against firearms and reduces your active defense options significantly. Therefore, the introduction of black powder weapons into your campaign greatly reduces the attractiveness of heavy armour, just as it did in history. Sure, your heavy plate will reduce the damage from a musket ball, but it's far better to dodge out of the way entirely. This is the real strength of the Basic RolePlaying combat system. It is very portable.


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