Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Good Cliche Is Never Inappropriate

Some people may accuse me of over thinking things. This is especially the case with games and what the dog is trying to tell me (hey, Yorkies are deep thinkers.) While I was thinking about Risus Supers I came up with a quick way to tell what sort of activities your super hero would suck at. I sort of regulate what is appropriate and inappropriate.

Below is a quick diagram breaking superpowers into five types (the Big Bang Theory fans have already realized I lifted this from Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard. Spock.) I suppose they could be used for almost any Risus game with a little tweaking so go ahead. Basically there are five areas of a conflict can fall into. Every cliche is inappropriate to two types of conflict and has two cliches that are inappropriate to its kind of conflict. 

 In game terms a Single Action Conflict would have its difficulty increased by five, 10 or more. An combat could have the cliche deemed inappropriate, halved or be handled using the brevet dice method. Hypertrophied Man  Infinitely Muscled (5) (Power Cliche) is confronted By Necromantic Evile Wyzard (4) (Magic Cliche) who uses his magic to trap the hero in a magical cage of forces. H-Man discovers his punches just rebound (he gets two brevet dice and Necromanti's Evile Wyzard gets boosted to six, but by spinning himself and the cage rapidly using his Speed of Lightning (4) (Movement) he makes the construct fly apart. Just be consistent and use the method that works best for you.

Some examples of cliches in the five areas;
Power: Muscles, Strength, Energy Blasts, Rocket Launchers, Lightning Bolts, Throwing a Big Rock, Body of Metal, Lots of Minions. Epic destruction.

Spock: Telepathy, Mind Blasts, Illusions, Mental Control, Magical Spells. Transformations, or Transmutations, Super Senses. Transforming something else.

Scissors: Armor Suits, Utility Belts, Trick Throwing Blades, Robotic-Fu.

Lizard: Super Speed, Flight, Martial Arts, Brachiation, Swimming, Danger Sense. Skill with something or natural dexterity.

Paper: Invisibility, Non-Corporeal, Teleporting, Gaseous or Liquid Form. Transforming yourself.

Seen another way the diagram could be used to create characters. Assign dice as usual to four areas (or five if you want a 15 die character (and want to be a total twink.) Everyone will suck at one thing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Death Traps and Consolation Prizes

A principle of Risus is that the winner of a conflict can dictate the consequences to the loser. Hopefully players will use this rule to promote dramatic play possibilities and move the story forward.

But sometimes they just want to kill off that villain the whole session hinges on, the one you spent a week of lunch hours tweaking. In that case you might want to offer the player some sort of compensation for letting your plot go unharmed. In this case assuming the player or referee comes up with a plausible reason (or at least something for a good story) that character is awarded a temporary Lucky Shot die (once you use it, it's gone unlike the Lucky Shots you bought when you created the character. So the character pockets his bootie and the villain escapes mysteriously or at least manages to get a lucky shot in and run for it.

This can work both ways. A villain who captures a hero would be well advised to shoot them dead right off the bat. If they give the hero a chance to escape by sticking them in a death trap the villain gets a Lucky Shot as well. Anyone listening to a monologue without attacking until it is over also gets a Lucky Shot die.

Dice can also be awarded for completing side missions. If a mad scientist is stealing  components to build an invincible robot monster each robbery your heroes foil or investigate could be worth a Questing Die for dealing with the robot when it is completed. 'Boss' level villains could be handled the same way. Each fight you survive gives you a Questing Die to use against that villain.

Lucky Shots and Questing Dice can also be used defensively. When you take a hit sacrifice an LS or QD. Questing Dice are still under their usual restrictions. If you have Questing Dice to use against Dr. Invincible they can't be used to take a hit from the Jagged Scorpion.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Risus Supers

In addition to d6 and Mongoose Traveller I like the Risus system. The strength and appeal of the system is its adherence to the KISS principle. The new edition of Risus, for example pared the rules from 8 pages down to 4! Not that I mind reading anything S. Jon Ross writes. He is awesome. But it's great he writes well and get me into the game. The only minor problem I have is that he really doesn't do super hero settings. So you have to do your own and tweak the rules to fit it. That's what I'm doing today so Risus fans brace yourselves. If you aren't a fan yet ... give it a try. It's only 4 pages. I'll wait.

The Basics
Fighting super-humans is hard for normals! A single ordinary person (even a policeman, soldier or thug) has no appropriate cliches to engage a super-human. Ducking the guard or trashing him is a single action conflict and often a cinch. A squad of ordinary humans is handled under When Somebody can't Participate. They get two brevet dice and the super fighting increases their cliche by two for that fight. An elite squad could have two or three dice in an appropriate cliche to fight a super-human. Anyone more competent than this is a super-human in their own right! Play an extended conflict out!

So the Blue Crusher needs to raise some capital. He walks into a small bank and clocks the guard (Cinch: 5.) While he piles the money from the teller cages into his loot bags a bunch of police show up. He has Super Thug (3.) The cops are normal humans and have no appropriate cliches for a super showdown. The referee awards them two brevet dice and adds two to Blue Crusher's Super Thug cliche raising it to 5 dice. The cops get trashed in two rounds by the Crusher who continues to grab money (he has Buy a Clue 1d.) While he does this a SWAT team shows up (Fighting Supers 2d.)
The Crusher has to fight these as an extended conflict.

You might want to add First Tier Supers. These characters are a cut above ordinary characters and are made with 15 dice. They have a five die cliche limit. DC Comics has a lot of these guys. If a character makes you think, how do fights with him last beyond the first panel he's probably a FTS.

Characters can be powered or non-powered. Non-powered characters are just that. They still get treated like supers when dealing with normal humans (their powers are their skills and gadgets.) They can fight powered supers normally since most have some device designed to capitalize on their foe (or friend's) weakness. More on that below.

Any super might have an inappropriate cliche for a fight. Remember the aggressor gets to choose the nature of the combat. If the Spoilsport decides to have a Judo contest with Hypertrophied Man his Strength of a Monorail (5) cliche is not appropriate since he is being subjected to a sneaky Judo throw. He could use it to open a fissure under Spoilsport by stomping the ground or come up with some other explanation to let him use it. ("I throw a rock at him! ... It's a very big rock!)

Lucky Shots and Questing Dice
Characters can start with both Lucky Shots and Questing dice at the usual rates. These dice are replenished at the start of every session. In addition they may be awarded temporary Lucky Shots and Questing Dice each session if they jump sufficiently high for the referee.

If the referee wants a villain to get away or have a hero's results dictated by story needs (and truly this should not happen that often) or just generally ask a player to put up with being hosed then he should reward that player with a Lucky Shot or Questing Die. Generally if he uses a Hook it's a Questing Die and if it's Background related it's a Lucky Die. So yes, Neonite does render Hypertrophied Man powerless and he'd really be a dope to open that lead lined box given to him by the mysterious stranger. OTOH he really needs a couple Questing Dice so he does open it. Letting the villain finish his monologue or throw you in a death trap should be good for a Questing Die or Lucky shot too.

Backstory and Hooks
Characters should all have Backstories. Actually running the origin as a solo session is great fun btw. They can have as many as three Hooks if they want. You don't get any extra dice for these attributes but can get temporary Lucky Shots or Questing Dice as listed above. A Hook can be a weakness: for example Hypertrophied Man is powerless against magic. Important: the referee decides how the weakness will affect you. He may decide H-Man gets only two brevet dice ins a magical combat. A magical sword might halve H-Man's cliche or render it inappropriate. It depends on the situation. The type of award for dealing with a weakness is usually a Questing Die. This can also represent a gadgeteer who tweaks his gear to deal with a menace after being defeated.

Tying a situation into your backstory is worth a Lucky Shot. finding out that villain is your long lost uncle or that you are your own second cousin etc. Write a good Backstory.

Tools of the Trade
Heroes have tools of the trade like anyone else. In some cases this may be a power source. For example Hypertrophied Man draws energy from life energy around him. Going to Antarctica to battle the Killer Penguin he discovered the nearly lifeless surroundings cause his power related cliches to be halved. In some situations heroes may need to perform a mission to get the tools needed for a special job. Glowing purple meteors or pages from the Nuclearnomicon are not always available. At the very least the referee might make a hero roll against his relevant cliche to see if he has the required tool.

More on setting and a few characters next time

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Next Level

I've been trying to get to the next level in rp and wondering how to go about it. Understand I'm talking about my actual play, not a game character. I've met some lovely, lovely players on a text based MUSH. I plan to run some games for them if they wish on Hangouts or Roll 20. But after a hiatus of several years I'm looking at how I play and wondering what I can do to make other people want to play with me.

Characters have it easy. The way they improve is usually spelled out in the game books. I have to make it up as I go along. Obviously I need more experience i.e. doing more scenes with other players. I also need to learn some more MUSH coding. But beyond that I'm adjusting my style of play in a refereeless game as follows:

1) when I pitch a scene to someone I try to see it from their POV. How can I create a scene where their character is a valued part?

This is something I used to do as a GM without a second thought. As a player among equals I have to remember that we are all responsible for each other's enjoyment.

2) How can I show my character in an interesting light? I should make others want to play with me. I need to play off their chars in a dramatic fashion, find new takes on my character, and make him 'pop'.

3) Am I being a twink? Fair question. Showing off your character is one thing. remember not to let him overshadow the others just because there is no ref. have a good idea of your limits and those of others to be fair about what you say is happening when it is your turn to play God.

Have I done all this? Not all the time, not yet. I'm still between levels.