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Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest rules become free for anyone to make their own RPGs with under new D&D OGL rival

Publisher Chaosium updates its Basic Roleplaying system for the Open RPG Creative Licence.

Image credit: Chaosium

The roleplaying system that powers seminal horror RPG Call of Cthulhu and classic fantasy game RuneQuest is being opened up to allow anyone to freely make their own tabletop RPGs based on its ruleset.

The Basic Roleplaying system debuted in Steve Perrin and Greg Stafford’s influential 1978 mythical fantasy RPG RuneQuest, before going on to serve as the foundation of several of publisher Chaosium’s other RPGs - most notably its 1981 Lovecraftian magnum opus Call of Cthulhu and Arthurian epic King Arthur Pendragon.

Basic Roleplaying was released as a separate set of standalone rules in 1980, allowing its system - which sees players hoping to roll a chosen skill under a target number using 100-point percentile dice - to be used with any setting. The system has since seen a number of revisions and editions over the decades.

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The latest update to Basic Roleplaying will see Chaosium move the ruleset to the Open RPG Creative Licence (ORC), announced in January in the wake of industry backlash to proposed changes to Dungeons & Dragons’ Open Game Licence (OGL).

Created by Pathfinder studio Paizo with the pledged support of publishers including Chaosium, ORC was proposed as a way for RPG makers to offer their games’ rulesets freely to other creators, who can then use the rules and basic elements outlined in each game’s system reference document (SRD) to create their own games and materials. In doing so, Paizo said the licence “irrevocably and unquestionably keep[s] alive the spirit of the Open Game License”.

Despite D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast later rolling back its controversial changes to D&D’s OGL and releasing the core D&D ruleset under a public Creative Commons licence, more than 1,500 publishers reportedly backed its rival ORC.

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Basic Roleplaying will be one of the first major releases under the Open RPG Creative Licence, with Chaosium saying it had revised the system’s newest edition specifically to cater to use via the new licence.

The Basic Roleplaying: The Universal Game Engine book will include the system’s core rules for creating characters and progressing them through levels, as well as details on how to handle combat, magic and superpowers, weapons and equipment, vehicles, and more. In keeping with the system’s setting-agnostic core, the rules are designed to be used with the setting or genre of the player’s choice.

Chaosium said that, as well as being suitable for everyday players, the updated rules would be open for other RPG creators to use as they see fit, with the ability to “develop their own games, royalty-free and without further permission from Chaosium” under the ORC licence.

The new edition of Basic Roleplaying, under the title Basic Roleplaying: The Universal Game Engine, will release digitally in April ahead of a full physical book later in 2023.

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Matt Jarvis


After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.