For my first UK OSR review, I’ll be looking at Basic Roleplaying Rome published by Alephtar games for Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying Game, by UK author Pete Nash.
The first half of the book gives a full comprehensive guide of the Roman Republic from its foundation to the its end with Augustus’ establishment of the Empire. There’s a lot of info here, that is peppered with pull out boxes of gameable info. You could argue that by picking up the right selection of history text books you could produce a similar guide, but the genius of BRP Rome is that it does this heavy lifting then peppers it with gameable nuggets (such as some rules for Chariot racing) in highlight boxes scattered throughout the text.
The second half of he book gets down to business giving rules for Character gen, distinctive Roman Magic and Creatures. Finally there is a selection of Adventure seeds and biblography.
Why this book is important to the UK OSR?
Despite being published by an Italian company (which is very apt 😉 ), its by a British Author ( Pete Nash – one half of the Design Mechanism that are now working on RuneQuest 6). It is a break out product that shows that UK RPG writers can get international acclaim. Without any reviews it got a Silver Ennie, an awards ceremony infamously dominated by 3.5 D&D product.
Apart from the core rules, its very much a solid all in one book. UK game books in the 80s were very good at craming as much gameable material in between the covers, and this continues that tradition. In many ways it could have been released as a series of White Dwarf articles back in the day. “Ancient Rome using RQ”, with parts 1-3 coveriing the setting material, whille 4-5 covering the rules specific chapters (chapter 6 would have had to have been a Fiend Factory special 🙂 ).
To my mind it sets the bar high, of what a UK style book can achive in today’s crowded market as well being a bloody good gamebook which can run a wide range of Roman games out of the box.