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dulcamara

Some questions from a BRP first-timer

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Hey all... putting together my first BRP campaign and am probably going to start running sessions in about a month or so. I have a handful of Chaosium titles and feel like I have a decent enough grasp of the rules, but you never know until the time arrives. All my players will be new to the system. None of them I'd describe as 'hardcore gamers' though most will come from a long running retro-style AD&D 1st edition campaign I've been in. The setting will be fantasy, but more of a Iron/Dark Age environment than your garden variety Tolkeinesque or High Middle Ages setting, and I'm trying to keep an undercurrent of "realism" (at least in the physical sense) despite the ample supernatural elements.

As I'm fleshing things out, questions on the ruleset are popping up left and right. I'm sure some of them will get ironed out in gameplay but I'd like to address as many as possible now, as I want the players to enjoy the system and return! So I'll probably be coming in here regularly with questions... here are a few off the top of my head:

1. Obviously the ratio of skill points available at char creation to number of skills to choose from can have a big effect on players' starting power. I've cut out all the non setting appropriate ones and was thinking of slimming the list down even more, but don't want to unbalance things. Assuming the default "normal" level skill points, what's an ideal # of skills to choose from?

2. I'll be using a magic system along the lines of the Sorcery powers. What kind of tradeoff at chargen (skill points? attributes? other?) works best to balance the advantages of sorcery use?

3. Obviously, coming from AD&D many of the players are used to absurd amounts of HP. Most of us agree that's a problem and I'd like to start with the SIZ & CON average, but not sure if that's too steep a change. Definitely using hit locations. Any of you folks run games with SIZ + CON HP?

4. Any other general advice for a BRP novice?

Many thanks in advance...

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Welcome aboard.

1. Obviously the ratio of skill points available at char creation to number of skills to choose from can have a big effect on players' starting power. I've cut out all the non setting appropriate ones and was thinking of slimming the list down even more, but don't want to unbalance things. Assuming the default "normal" level skill points, what's an ideal # of skills to choose from?

I tend to give skills based on Background and Profession, so the players have a good pool to choose from anyway. I don't think that reducing the number of skills will affect things that much. Similarly, having a reduced skill pool won't particularly unbalance the characters, they might get a few more points in skills but that won't have too great an effect.

2. I'll be using a magic system along the lines of the Sorcery powers. What kind of tradeoff at chargen (skill points? attributes? other?) works best to balance the advantages of sorcery use?

You don't need to balance things, in my opinion.

So, a PC has good sorcery spells, it probably means that he will be rubbish at other things. Character generation is pretty much self-balancing.

High INT and POW might make a sorcerer more effective, but if you are using a Point-Allocation chargen then the PC will be weak in other areas.

3. Obviously, coming from AD&D many of the players are used to absurd amounts of HP. Most of us agree that's a problem and I'd like to start with the SIZ & CON average, but not sure if that's too steep a change. Definitely using hit locations. Any of you folks run games with SIZ + CON HP?

I don't, personally, but it should work well. Using SIZ+CON means that your HPs per Location will double, thus making it more difficult to kill or maim a PC. Which is fine, PCs should be able to survive a long-term campaign.

Presumably your NPCs will still have (SIZ+CON)/2 HPs? So, PCs are tougher than normal NPCs. If so, I'd make important NPCs like PCs with SIZ+CON.

4. Any other general advice for a BRP novice?

Healing. Give them lots of Healing. BRP Combat is quite deadly, especially coming from D&D. Provide healing salves and potions, allow someone to learn healing spells, make healers available in major towns and cities. Don't be stingy on the healing otherwise your players will be rolling up characters every few sessions and nobody really wants that.

Be free and easy with skill rolls.

If somebody has an inventive way of doing something that isn't covered by the rules then let them do it.

It is not a contest between GM and players. As a GM you can always win, one way or another, so sit back and let everyone enjoy themselves.

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1. Obviously the ratio of skill points available at char creation to number of skills to choose from can have a big effect on players' starting power. I've cut out all the non setting appropriate ones and was thinking of slimming the list down even more, but don't want to unbalance things. Assuming the default "normal" level skill points, what's an ideal # of skills to choose from?

I like Elric! Skills for fantasy.

2. I'll be using a magic system along the lines of the Sorcery powers. What kind of tradeoff at chargen (skill points? attributes? other?) works best to balance the advantages of sorcery use?

Again, i like an Elric!-like tradeoff. Give spells to caster, and increased skill points to non casters.

3. Obviously, coming from AD&D many of the players are used to absurd amounts of HP. Most of us agree that's a problem and I'd like to start with the SIZ & CON average, but not sure if that's too steep a change. Definitely using hit locations. Any of you folks run games with SIZ + CON HP?

On our RetroQuest campaign, characters have average CON+SIZ, with a (POW-10) bonus to rune-level characters (chamans have extra hit points depending on their spirit selection, and sorcerers divert some damage to MP).

I would start with total HP if i were you; it's easier to say "ok guys, this isnt working, lets halve the HP" than to say "ok guys, this isnt working, the party didn't die so revive your chars and add some HP"

4. Any other general advice for a BRP novice?

Many thanks in advance...

Just run it using the basic rules, spot rules are not needed at all, you can add them little by little once you feel comfortable with the system. Also, start with low-skilled opposition and increase the difficulty by steps; characters SHOULD "own" their first encounters; it's better to use a low-skilled opponent at its best than throw a high skilled creature and downplay it.

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2. I'll be using a magic system along the lines of the Sorcery powers. What kind of tradeoff at chargen (skill points? attributes? other?) works best to balance the advantages of sorcery use?

I prefer the magic systems that require skill points to be put into spells. This serves to even things out to some degree, though not completely. I like Magic from the book, but I've adapted some of the Sorcery spells to it to expand on it.

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For a gritty fantasy setting, I'd certainly use Hit Locations, it makes things so much more 'tactile', and will add a different flavour to combat than what you got with AD&D. I'ld suggest that you go with Hit Points as written, rather than 'tank' the PCs up too much. It makes players think much more in combat, rather than approach the session like they are in an online MMO where they just mow down the opponents.

For a more 'pulp' feel once the characters progress, you can always halve the Hit Points per Location for unimportant opponents ("fodder"). Don't change their Total Hit Points though. This way the opponents are not necessarily killed easier, but they are disabled much quicker. The end result is that if you want to play a cinematic style game then the PCs delay, eliminate or otherwise dispose of the munchin hoards until they get to your Big Bad Boss opponents, if that's the kind of thing you're after.

I much prefer the more gritty approach, but the idea I floated above can simulate Savage Worlds/D&D style play if you want it to. Typical BRP combat can be quite...interesting to new players heh heh

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2. I'll be using a magic system along the lines of the Sorcery powers. What kind of tradeoff at chargen (skill points? attributes? other?) works best to balance the advantages of sorcery use?

What I usually do is giving out either sorcery or the benefits of Step Six. If a character has sorcery, he or she cannot use any of the options in Step Six, as magic aptitude is considered an additional option. Remember the POW limitation for sorcery, though. If you are using Magic, instead, the skill points required for the spells will even out the odds against non-magic users.

You can also use Fate Points (p. 176) to keep people alive. As magicians have less PP than the others because of spellcasting, they will often be unable to use Fate and tend to stay out of melee range, as they should.

3. Obviously, coming from AD&D many of the players are used to absurd amounts of HP. Most of us agree that's a problem and I'd like to start with the SIZ & CON average, but not sure if that's too steep a change. Definitely using hit locations. Any of you folks run games with SIZ + CON HP?

As Soltakss said, give them Healing and all will be fine. Teach your players that skill, not HPs, makes them invincible in BRP. Fate Points could also help keep them alive.

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Many thanks for all the insights guys!

I decided to go with the sorcery system over the skill point-based magic to differentiate those powers from "just another set of skills." Nothing is set in stone though and I do see the balancing effects of skill based magic, things might change. I'll be using random attribute generation (with the option to re-allocate a couple points afterwards), so unfortunately not a ton of point-based balancing for sorcerous characters. Think I'll probably just reduce the starting skill points for magical professions. Also creating an arcane/occult language as a necessity for mages - I figure this directly simulates some of the study required.

Great advice on the combat/HP too. I'm still on the fence - personally I'm of the more-grit-less-pulp school, but as icebrand said, it might be easier to downsize HP than rewind an early TPK that finishes off some promising characters due to unfamiliarity with the system. But yeah, I'm kinda weary of the so called cinematic "mow down a legion of mooks, then face the badass villain and his lieutenants", predictable as all hell... so I tend towards the standard BRP Hp and make sure healing is easily available, at least early on...

Rosen McStern mentions Fate Points. Anyone use them? They looked a bit overpowered and maybe a little too meta from first impressions...

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Many thanks for all the insights guys!

I decided to go with the sorcery system over the skill point-based magic to differentiate those powers from "just another set of skills." Nothing is set in stone though and I do see the balancing effects of skill based magic, things might change. I'll be using random attribute generation (with the option to re-allocate a couple points afterwards), so unfortunately not a ton of point-based balancing for sorcerous characters. Think I'll probably just reduce the starting skill points for magical professions. Also creating an arcane/occult language as a necessity for mages - I figure this directly simulates some of the study required.

Great advice on the combat/HP too. I'm still on the fence - personally I'm of the more-grit-less-pulp school, but as icebrand said, it might be easier to downsize HP than rewind an early TPK that finishes off some promising characters due to unfamiliarity with the system. But yeah, I'm kinda weary of the so called cinematic "mow down a legion of mooks, then face the badass villain and his lieutenants", predictable as all hell... so I tend towards the standard BRP Hp and make sure healing is easily available, at least early on...

Rosen McStern mentions Fate Points. Anyone use them? They looked a bit overpowered and maybe a little too meta from first impressions...

Both sorcery and magic are viable. I would give increased skill points (the int multiplier) with chars without sorcery (INCLUDING characters with magic)

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I would give increased skill points (the int multiplier) with chars without sorcery (INCLUDING characters with magic)

So you would *increase* non-sorcerers' skill points rather than just *decrease* sorcerers' skill from the default?

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Rosen McStern mentions Fate Points. Anyone use them? They looked a bit overpowered and maybe a little too meta from first impressions...

Actually, I tend to tweak them a bit. You'll see what I mean when BRP Mecha is published. And I am not so keen on using them in Fantasy games. But RuneQuest uses them all the time, and they work fine (my bro managed to downgrade a 24-point blow to the abdomen from "cut you in half" to "knock you down" effect on friday, not to mention how much we used them when we played with Loz at Eternal).

Other people use them, too. So, if you feel like using them, do not worry. But the game is playable also without.

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Great advice on the combat/HP too. I'm still on the fence - personally I'm of the more-grit-less-pulp school, but as icebrand said, it might be easier to downsize HP than rewind an early TPK that finishes off some promising characters due to unfamiliarity with the system. But yeah, I'm kinda weary of the so called cinematic "mow down a legion of mooks, then face the badass villain and his lieutenants", predictable as all hell... so I tend towards the standard BRP Hp and make sure healing is easily available, at least early on...

Having double Hit Points will not unbalance your game. In BRP you are unlikely to be able to wade through an army of mooks, unless you have very, very good armour and have a lot of healing. otherwise criticals, impales and good damage rolls will finish you off in no time.

Rosen McStern mentions Fate Points. Anyone use them? They looked a bit overpowered and maybe a little too meta from first impressions...

I'm running RuneQuest at the moment and we use Hero Points, which are sort of the equivalent to Fate Points. They work really well and my players would be very unhappy if we stopped using them. From one point of view, they are a bit meta, but my players just view them as "Whew, that was close" or "Wow - just made that".

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I haven't really played BRP straight (who does? Everyone has house rules!) enough to comment on the fine details of your excellent questions. But for what it's worth...

...it might be easier to downsize HP than rewind an early TPK that finishes off some promising characters due to unfamiliarity with the system....

Personally, I think it'd be much harder to take HP away from the players than give them extra later (if you really must). A TPK, if it happened, can be worked-around in the 'story' somehow - or players might actually like an opportunity to make a character differently once they know the system a bit better (or just tweak the previous one slightly, as a younger brother/sister, perhaps... now itching for revenge!).

Having double Hit Points will not unbalance your game. ... From one point of view, [Hero/Fate Points] are a bit meta, but my players just view them as "Whew, that was close" or "Wow - just made that".

To me, though, FP and/or doubled HP would feel like cheating. If they know they've got unfair advantages like that, your players may lose their sense of achievement. Why not try it 'straight' at first, then introduce fiddles later if required?

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I wouldn't double the Hit Points either, but each to their own.

Fate Points are a much better option if you want to even out the PC's chances yet keep gritty gameplay. Discussion threads have arisen here in recent memory concerning the pros and cons of Fate Points. Personally I like the idea that the PCs must use Power Points to access a Fate option, it's like they have to invest themselves into the world to get something back.

I find the Fate rules a little fiddly as written, so I pretty much make it a standard cost of 5 Power Points to utilise any Fate option, and these Power Points are recovered slowly, only after a successful POW x5% per day for each Power Point used (as opposed for to an automatic 1 PP/hr recovery when used for magic use). These means that Fate is used sparingly, so it's more of a last resort kind of thing. I found that when the Power Point recovery was the same rate as when used for Magic then Fate was used quite a lot, a little over-used for the gritty fantasy genre that I prefer to GM.

Occasionally I'll reward a character in-game with a Fate Point, which they can use to 'cash in' as a Fate option without investing Power Points, or perhaps use to intensify the Fate option. They must use it within that same session or story arc (so this doesn't lead to too much accrual them). Recently I allowed accrual, converting them to Hero Points which means they can't be accessed as Fate, but they can be accrued for purposes of meeting the requirements for Legendary Abilities (I ported this over from MRQ2 - if you don't have this then disregard this last bit).

Anyway Fate works for my troupe, but the only issue is that Specialist spell-casters will tend to be a bit compromised by accessing it as they'll already have reduced their Power Points by casting spells. Never worked out a way to balance this.

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The HP question is a bit tricky, especially if you're using Hit Locations. I love how brutal the system is but it can put players off when they realise how easily a guy with a knife can kill them.

I'd recommend using the basic HP system as even with doubling their HPs a decent hit to any location will wipe it out instantly. I love hit location systems but the problem with the BRP system is that instead of just adding more detail it makes the game a lot harsher. This is because the weapons are set up to deal damage to 'global' HP where location doesn't matter. A shot from a gun dealing 10 points is usually survivable when it's being dealt to abstract body areas (think of it as points from the leg reinforcing the hand that got hit). When you divide it down by location a 10-point hit is going to wreck a limb easily.

I'm planning on using the doubled-HP in my upcoming game but mainly because it's SF and so there are going to be some fairly damaging weapons around and while I want the players to feel combat is dangerous I don't really want them getting wiped out the first time they pick a fight with someone toting an assault rifle. For a fantasy game that may not be such a problem.

The healing suggestions are very useful though. Natural healing rates in BRP are fairly realistic and while this can be great to underline how dangerous combat can be often you won't want to take a 3-week break while someone heals up. I played a D&D game once where our party (of two) didn't have a healer and the GM just refused to make up for this by letting us stock up on potions or find easy healing between adventures. It led to a very frustrating game. Perhaps that was because our D&D expectations were different. If it had been WFRPs or BRP we probably would have accepted it more easily but quick and easy healing are D&D's bread and butter.

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I'm not sure melee weapons are set to deal 'global' damage, as even my old Chaosium RQ2 had Hit Locations and it was primarily melee focused.

I do think that it may seem much more harsh if you are using modern firearms or sci-fi weapons, and maybe it might be wise to double the Hit Points or not to use Hit Locations in these genres so that it's just global damage, like in Call of Cthuhlu. But for a gritty fantasy setting, I'ld play Hit Points as written, and with Hit Locations so you can capture that 'tactile' flavour of BRP melee.

First Aid skills are a must for a least one or two PCs, and provide opportunities to advance natural healing, such as magical potions etc. Don't go overboard on these, but allow an opportunity to get them or something like that, just so everyone doesn't die. The combat sessions are not always so brutal to PCs, but the unpredictability makes things alot more dangerous than D&D.

As a GM make sure you use circumstantial modifiers to show how to get combat advantages - such as flanking, slippery surfaces etc and make the opponents cause these eg: throwing oil on the floor, flinging sand in someone's face before striking etc. Once the PCs see how such things can be used for advantages in combat then they'll start thinking of creative combat moves themselves.

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Good use of tactics is key in a game where you don't collect HP like my suit does cat hairs. Whenever I'm running a game as brutal as BRP can be I always drill it into my players that smart, tactical thinking will save lives and D&D-esque "it's only a million orcs, let's go toe-to-toe" gameplay will result in more dead players than a nuclear strike on London's West End (or Broadway for you Yanks).

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If your sessions are half as creative as your use of one-liners Kingskin it'd sure be an entertaining gaming table to sit at heh heh

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So, there's already a bunch of great advice here. I'm going to toss in my two groats for the hell of it.

1. *snip* Assuming the default "normal" level skill points, what's an ideal # of skills to choose from?

I run Elric! rules, so a starting Profession has eight associated skills that the character can distribute 250 points to. In addition, the PC gets to distribute 20 points to groups of skills depending on whether they choose the Athletic, Technique, Intellectual or Charismatic skill package. They can add more points by making an older character, so there are a lot of high skills in my game. I recommend that my PCs start with at least one skill over 100%, generally it's a weapon skill.

2. I'll be using a magic system along the lines of the Sorcery powers. What kind of tradeoff at chargen (skill points? attributes? other?) works best to balance the advantages of sorcery use?

Depends on what spells you're giving out. If you're giving out 1-3 simple spells than I think allowing the PCs who don't choose sorcery to bump three skills by 20% each or to increase a characteristic by 3 points is a very fair trade. Sorcery can be very useful sometimes. Sometimes it won't see play in a game session. Sometimes it will be a few sessions before the PCs remember to throw a spell.

3. *snip* Most of us agree that's a problem and I'd like to start with the SIZ & CON average, but not sure if that's too steep a change.

It works well, especially if you're using Major/Minor Wounds. Minor Wounds actually come in handy. If the PC gets enough Minor Wounds to equal half their hit points they make a POWx4 roll to prevent themselves from collapsing. It has the effect of reminding them that they are very much mortal and that they are in trouble. Or, it takes them out of combat and makes them convenient hostages/left for dead.

What ever your decision, the key is to play it through a bit so that you see the ins and outs of how it works. I find it helpful to peg percentages with a sort of general description of effectiveness. In my game, a novice is going to rate at about 20%, someone trained is going to be running around at 40%, skilled is 60%, expert is 80%, veteran is 100% and master is 120%, as a sort of rule of thumb. You may be surprised at how much of a challenge a few trained guards at 40% will pose to a PC sitting at 120%.

4. Any other general advice for a BRP novice?

Small changes make a big difference in the feel of the rules. If you're not grooving with the system at first, there are plenty of ways to tweak it, so don't worry. :)

As a GM make sure you use circumstantial modifiers to show how to get combat advantages - such as flanking, slippery surfaces etc and make the opponents cause these eg: throwing oil on the floor, flinging sand in someone's face before striking etc. Once the PCs see how such things can be used for advantages in combat then they'll start thinking of creative combat moves themselves.

Great advice. Also, take a good look at the Spot Rules. There are a couple of dice tricks in there that can be distilled and used in a great many other situations. If a player comes up with something and is doesn't seem unreasonable, I like to be able to pull out a trick to give them a chance at success.

Good use of tactics is key in a game where you don't collect HP like my suit does cat hairs.

Indeed. Although honestly, for me a great amount of BRP seems to play like AD&D at 5th level or so (though it's not really a true comparison but more of a feeling). One way of getting them into the new system framework is to run a mock battle with them. You could give them some pre-gens and do a sort of intro to your campaign. Then your players will have a bit more of a handle on things for character generation.

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I vote you start your intial session with a pulpy battle scene.

Perhaps the PCs are villagers who find their village attacked by raiders, or maybe they are slaves in a pit fit etc. The only difference I would do is treat any lethal wounds or impairing damage as Incapacitiation. Once a character is incapacitiated, they are effectively out of the melee and current scene (but not dead or permanently disabled).

Whatever the outcome of the initial battle scene, you then set you main scenario thread some weeks or months later, which explains why the characters are all healed and ready to go. You've given the characters a bonding thread to begin a campaign, and you've also exposed them to the combat rules right off the bat. You can explain to them that in future battle scenes the outcome of combat will be more serious, so it'll give them pause to think about their actions, rather than just go in as MMO tanking style - this way they'll see why pnp rpgs are NOT mmo with paper and dice. And BRP sure ain't D&D either

Trust me, you'll be off to a good start if you pull something like this off in your first session

Edited by Mankcam

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