Monday, March 31, 2014

The Only Sci Fi Cliches You'll Ever Need Pt. 1

First check out this post on

Did you read the whole thread? My hat is off to the OP. All right let's go. Starting from the Upper Left Corner of Space:

The only SF Cliches You'll Ever Need (more or less)
Catgirl (driving men and many women to distraction, moving silently, fast reflexes, landing on your feet, having ridiculous luck [nine lives], seeing in near darkness)

High Tech Elf (identifying ancient artifacts better left alone, making your surroundings aesthetically pleasing, being aesthetically pleasing, repairing biotech, seeing in the dark, knowing a bit of ancient lore from many lifetimes ago, knowing people almost anywhere)

Space Bureaucrat (running background checks, dealing with byzantine administration, setting up byzantine administrations, finding a loophole, always having the right form ready, inundating computers with enough data to drive them nuts, keeping your own computers happy and productive, treating your human workers like garbage, crunching numbers into neutronium)

Alien Space Asian (being inscrutable, organizing for maximum effort, teamwork, knowing protocol for every situation, intimidating subordinates, cozying up to superiors, observation)

Space Zombie Hiver (breaking in airlocks, scaring the hell out of nearly everyone, grabbing victims, playing dead, finding victims, turning victims into more Space Zombies, grossing people out, eating anything that was once moving)

Space Libertarian (survival in most situations, negotiation, diplomacy, jury-rigging different technologies, driving a hard bargain)

The following worlds and places are also cliched and of course need cliches. Here are some ideas:
Demon World (Goddawful big monsters, erupting volcanoes, endless jungle, raging rivers, insidious vermin, insidious poisonous vermin, quick sand)

Pleasure World (every vice known to Man and his peers, every vice unknown to Man and his peers, booze, drugs, gambling, spectator debauchery, mass debauchery, individual debauchery, amoral courtesans, Cat Girls!)

Ocean World (Lone tiny island, flying piranha, saltwater corroding everything, sudden storms, sea monsters, gentle sea giants)

Black Hole Station (temporal phenomena, gravity storms, meteors, mysterious visions of different futures and pasts, alien transmissions and probes, psionic interference, and ghostly hauntings)

Space Whale Nebula (beauty to hypnotize the mind, gentle space giants, giant space predators, sensor jamming, ion storms)

Starship Graveyard (great place for an ambush, great place to be ambushed, debris clouding sensor readings, that spare part you needed, booby traps from a forgotten war, hermits/nomads)

Decadent Ancients Civilization (powers of the mind, starship snares, bizarre games played with humans [and others], downtrodden peons, dusty treasure chests, ancient wonders no longer understood)

Friday, March 28, 2014

There's Always a Hook Attached Pt. 2

Oops I did it again.

The first rule of risus is there is no wrong way to play.  However, when tweaking Risus I keep another rule close to my heart or try to: Keep it simple. I've messed that up with my idea of cliche hooks. I trotted all kinds of ramblings about negative cliches. Not simple. Cliches help you do things. The higher the rating the better you do those things. Period. A person should not have to engage in combat against his own cliches. 

So forget all that stuff. What I meant is this:

A hook cliche is used to resist some addiction or compulsion etc. It works with the hook. If your hook is Alcoholic, your cliche would be something like On the Wagon (3). Hook cliches all start at 3. You don't pay anything for them. You receive an extra die for the hook as usual. Another, more extreme example might be Hook Womanizer and the cliche Celibate. The cliche is used to make rolls to resist the Hook. The GM sets the TN for the roll (10 being about average temptation, whatever that is.) The cliche can be used in combat which would require you to assign dice to the object triggering the hook. Our On the Wagon (3) might have to roll 5 to resist drinking hand sanitizer, a 10 to avoid a beer and a shot and 15 or higher to resist twenty year old Scotch if that is what his taste runs to. 

If you want some additional drama persons, places and things that trigger a hook might be given an appropriate cliche. Stinky Pete's Cafe might have the cliche Infamous Gambling Den (4) and a character with the Hook: Gambler and the cliche Recovering Gambling Addict (3) may have to engage in a combat to pass by. If he has other cliches that are appropriate he might use them in place of Recovering Gambler. A doctor making a house call or on the way to surgery might roll on his Hippocratic Oath cliche (4) and might see it reduced in combat instead of risking lowering his Recovering Gambler cliche (he has to pass by the same place on the way back) and being unable to make further rolls to resist temptation.

Thanks to Guy Hoyle, and Scott Lorch for  comments and feedback. 

There's Always a Hook Attached

Everyone likes hooks in Risus (I think.) They give you an extra die and are an easy way for the GM to introduce some role play to your character. Hey, want a gorgeous significant other? Set it up as a hook. You have to pay attention to your lover, remember birthdays, anniversaries etc.

What if you take a personal failing as a Hook: Coward, Drunkard, Grabby Guy, Addict, various OCDs etc? One answer is a representing it with a disadvantageous cliche. I'd suggest they all be 3 dice in strength. Note that you get one free die for the hook as always and you do not pay anything for this stinker of a cliche. Then when your pet peeve rears its ugly head you have some options. For one thing you have something to roll to resist temptation. If you take Greedy So and So (3) passing up a $20 bill on the street might be  TN 5, returning a wallet bulging with bills TN 10, finding the owner of a white gold Rolex TN 15 etc, stealing that magic artifact from your party members might be TN 20 or 25 (hey it said I could have it!)

This can also set the stage for ... inner combat errr conflict. Say Commander Quirk is confronted by a beautiful alien woman who pleads for him to remove his space helmet and play tonsil hockey with her. Commander Quirk has Old Space Dog (4) and Hook: Over Sexed (3). He knows the planet's atmosphere is too thin for Earth men. His two cliches fight it out. If the Old Space Dog (4) wins he keeps his head, and helmet. If Hook: Over Sexed (3) wins he may be turning blue. Obviously a Hook could play in social combat. If Commander Quirt is arguing his case at a court martial and the prosecutor is a former love of his, he may be fighting not only her but his own hook. If someone wants to try to talk Quirk out of it they could make a single roll vs his hook or enter combat with him to talk him into behaving for at least the rest of the scene.

Unlike most cliches a hook can't be pumped though Questing Dice and Lucky Shots can be used to improve your chance of making a TN. Note that a hook can come back to haunt you at anytime. If Quirk took Over Sexed Old Space Dog then his eyes might stray to that pretty helm person resulting in higher TNs to command or perform bridge actions while she is present. It would not affect his other cliches. His Xeno-Diplomat would work fine in the presence of lovely ladies (he likes an audience.) A hook however can affect anything you do.

In very rare cases a hook can be used as an appropriate cliche. If Captain Quirk is rescuing a beautiful Space Princess from a Monochromatic Void Dragon he could be justified in using his Over Sexed cliche in the fight (the Space Princess is into him; no dragon is blocking him.) Of course letting your hook cliche take damage is also dangerous. Getting it knocked down to 2 makes it hard to resist temptation and at 1 or 0 well you may have a lot of explaining to do to the the Space King and Space Queen about being all grabby with their Space Daughter (call the Space Executioner!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Generic Non Copy Right Character SMASH

I decided to write up the Hulk for Risus (braces for a storm of controversy.) I'm trying him as a player character so the goal is to bend a few rules, but not break them and end up with a combat machine who'd still be fun to play. Also getting some ideas for upcoming posts would be nice.

The Hulk is first and foremost a combat machine for rules purposes. For those unfamiliar with him, the angrier he gets the stronger he gets with no potential limit. He can regularly lift over 100 tons and in full out pissed off prowess has been known to lift buildings and even a mountain (Secret Wars.) He once threw a loaded freight train at Thor. It hurt.

Normal Risus Combat
Non-Lethal: The Hulk is very difficult to pin down. Stick him in a dead end and he’ll make a door (most likely through your most important machinery, art collection, explosives store room etc.) Also a part of losing a non-lethal conflict in Risus is the real possibility of taken serious damage. Lose the fight and you might be covered with a gun to your head. That won't bother Hulk who will merely spit out the bullet.

Lethal Combat
The Hulk will restore his appropriate cliche at the expense of his other cliches. He regenerates very, very fast!

Jade Skinned Giant [4] (Lifting tremendous weights, like so big that the object takes up a page and the Hulk is a teeny figure in one corner, wrecking nearly any material short of adamantium, jumping miles and landing with huge collateral damage, holding off an army.)
Berserker (3) (resisting mental control, persuasion or various mental attacks.)
Questing Dice 0 0 0 0 0 Hulk Smash!
Used to restore the Jade Skinned Giant cliche or add to its rolls in physical combat.

This is the Hulk as written for a player character and they should be darned glad to get it. Obviously he is not as unbeatable as in the comics but that’s okay because this is for a game!! Using the Questing Dice and reducing his Boundless Rage he can take up to 12 hits in a combat before being taken down!

Despite this you can beat him. Engaging in social combat (which involves harassing or annoying him and dodging like mad), trying to outwit him (he uses Anybody Can Play rules for such attempts) or dropping a building or other trap on him where he has no target for his anger are all good choices. Finally, don’t go it alone against the Hulk. Now for the hooks. I gave him two extra for his special use of Berserker and Hulk Smash!

Hook- Uncontrolled Transformations: The Hulk spends a lot of time as Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, one of the world’s greatest experts on gamma radiation (Stan Lee was not one for subtle irony.) As Banner he is Nuclear Physicist (4), Brawler (1), Meditation (3). Extreme anger, pain or the wind blowing will turn Banner into the Hulk. He remains the Hulk for a few minutes to several hours depending on his mood and whether any morons want to mess with him (there usually are as the Hulk sitting on a rock and watching the sunset does not sell comics.) Basically Banner must roll 15 or more on Meditation to stop a transformation.

Hook- Gullible: If you tell him gullible sounds like oranges when you say it slowly he’ll say oranges to try it out. He is not slow to react to a threat. He has basic common sense. He won’t hold a tac nuke for you while you set the timer but he might believe it’s a boom box he could listen to if you tell him nicely.

Always Soldiers Chase Hulk: At the GM’s whim a random assortment of soldiers will show up to harass the Hulk and his colleagues. Armament and numbers are up to the GM. They’ve been known to use power armor and energy weapons against the Hulk. You wanted to hang with the Hulk didn’t you?

That is my take on the Hulk or any big mean monster you want to give your character a hard time. Just turn him orange or purple or some other hue and give him a try.

If my rule tweaks offend play him with the standard rules. The Berserker cliche should be used in combat when the Jade Skinned Giant Cliche drops too low. If you want to make him more of a boss add some Lucky Shots or Questing Dice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ignorance Is Bliss But Idiot Is a Cliche

Let's talk sidekicks. I'm not referring to junior partners to heroes like the original Teen Titans. I'm talking about people who are not only drawn stupid but act that way too. National Comics (later DC) practically cornered the market on them in the 40's. The Green Lantern had Doiby (Derby) Dickles, the Justice Society of America had 'Ma' (Red Tornado) Hunkle as a 'mascot', and Wonder Woman had Etta Candy. For a while it seems the government issued a short, feisty, funny looking little scrapper to watch every hero's back and boost the War effort. In spite of atrocious grammar, a short fuse, over confidence, a complete lack of common sense and little knowledge of the laws of physics each sidekick had one amazing power: they could move a story forward.

I think sidekicks would work best as the main character's cliche (Idiot, Comic Relief, Man Friday etc.) The cliche could be used in most conflict situations. Stuck in court? Let Marty the Janitor argue with the judge, get socked with contempt and allow you to rework your defense. Being chased through a dark warehouse? Marty lights a match and sees all the crates marked 'Fireworks.' You get the idea. Using and reducing the sidekick cliche will give your character some extra staying power.

To move a story along you'd make a single roll with difficulty set by the referee based on how far you strayed from the story. The Risus Companion also has some good pointers under Stealing the Spotlight that deals with similar situations. Success means that  God (or the ref) does look out for children and morons: the sidekick stumbles across a clue or even the bad guy! Now the bad news: stumbling across the bad guy is bad for a person's health. Maybe he and his gang pick a fight with Marty the Janitor after he mops their new shoes or pokes one of them with his broom. Unless the sidekick roll was made by at least five or 10 he winds up in some sort of danger that the main character has to get him out of (and believe me you'd know it's your boy or girl or whatever behind the explosion or flood or fire set to finish him off.) The rescue can be as dangerous or aggravating as the referee can imagine and certainly falls under S. Jon's mantra of 'think of everything that can go wrong then have it happen.'

Truthfully any ref worth his salt will make up an elaborate pickle for your sidekick to get into and fudge the roll so you succeed by no more than four.

If the sidekick's roll fails he discovers nothing, gets sidetracked himself and loses a rank temporarily. Don't overuse your sidekick. It's bad form.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Cat, a Reverend, a Doctor and a Vagrant Walk Into a Bar

Let me tell you about the world in the pages of Cat-Man #1 (Publisher Holyoke, May, 1941 The issue has a bunch of larger than life characters: ace reporters, heroic firefighters, and even a cowboy. I'm going to touch on four of them: the Cat-Man, Dr. Diamond, the Deacon, and the Rag Man.

David Merrywhether was traveling in Burma as a child with his parents when they were ambushed by bandits. His parents killed Peter was taken in by a tigress who raised the boy. This association gave Peter strength, speed, and other cat like powers. Furthermore the tigress would appear as a spirit when Cat-Man was badly injured to heal him (the nine lives of a cat.)

The Deacon started out as an unnamed criminal. After informing the police of a robbery that involved murder he was caught in a shoot out between the gang and the cops. Wounded in the arm he fled to a deserted church and found a deacon's suit which he put on. The other members of his gang cornered him there and despite his injuries and former lack of courage he defeated them in a vicious brawl. He became the Deacon and adopted a young boy named Mickey whom he found also fleeing a gang.

Dr. Drake Gorden was lost in a shipwreck and washed ashore on a mysterious island. There a giant eagle (!) flew him to its master, a mysterious monks. He gave Dr. Gorden a black diamond that supposedly gave him the strength of fifty men and a red airplane to get back to America.

Rag Man was originally Jay Garson who wrote a newspaper column exposing racketeers. The gangster lured him to a deserted park with a phone call telling him his fiancee was in a car accident. At the park Garson met a homeless man who was a dead ringer for him. The gangster thought so too and shot the the homeless man who died in Garson's arms. Garson switched clothes with him letting the world think Garson was dead. As the Rag Man Garson waged a war on the gangsters while continuing to publish his column for a thoroughly confused editor (who didn't mind the boost to circulation.)

How do you get super powers in this world? They all seem to have a spiritual or mystical component. The Cat-Man has a spirit tiger who resurrects him for gosh sakes. The Deacon finds his fighting spirit in a church. Dr. Diamond gets a mystic diamond. Rag Man takes on the identity of a man slain before his eyes to become an avenging ghost like figure. Other heroes can have an animal spirit to empower them or be born of tragedy or divine calling.

What is the nature and scope of super powers? No one is bullet proof. Cat-Man and Dr. Diamond are the strongest of the characters but they can be stunned by a blow to the head with a pipe or heavy tool. The 'normal' human character, the Deacon, shows amazing fighting skills being able to fight and take down several armed men at once.

I'd represent super strength and skill with the standard 1-4 die cliches. Super strength allows a character to roll lower numbers for various feats. For example, in issue 1 the Cat-Man holds up a collapsing bridge (actually it looks more like braces a crucial support beam weighing  a couple tons) until a repair crew can set up braces. For a person with a cliche like Athlete or Football Player or Big Dumb Guy they might have to roll a 30 or 35 or 40. Cat-Man's Tiger Prowess (4) means he has to only roll a 20 (he still had to pump it and use a Lucky Shot die.)

Extraordinary fighters like the Deacon have 4 dice in that cliche and stand a chance in a brawl against Cat-Man. Still it won't be an even fight. Most thugs will have 1-2 dice in a brawling or combat cliche while exceptional henchmen and bosses will have a 3-4 and be a real threat. Most ordinary citizens will have to use the Anybody Can Play rules. A gang of goons would be about 2-3 dice in the appropriate cliche. A brawl is assumed to cover the use of guns, knives, clubs and fists. Guns don't seem to give most heroes a bad time and are merely another tool of the trade.

Cliches for the setting
Adventurer (piloting a small plane, ship, or sailboat, traveling safely through jungles, deserts etc. speaking a smidgin of nearly any 'trade' language.)

Mystery Man (brawling, climbing, swooping, running on roofs, making a dramatic appearance, breaking and entering, spotting a clue.)

Sleuth (trailing a suspect, finding an informant, researching a background, telling whether a mook is lying.)

Strong Man (lifting huge weights (several tons), smashing in steel doors and machinery, fighting robots and giant robots, jumping huge distances, surviving anything short of molten lava or disintegration.)

With those cliches and the power levels sketched out here are the four Holyoke heroes in Risus terms:

The Cat-Man
Strong Man (3) (Swimming, leaping, and climbing feats beyond human ability, lifting several tons.)
Cat Senses (3) (Seeing in darkness, incredible hearing and sense of smell, sharp eyesight.)
Adventurer (2)
Lucky Shots (3)
Questing Dice (5) Return from dead. Whenever Cat-Man is taken out by a lethal attack he may spend a Questing Die to be restored to consciousness the next round. Any cliches that were reduced are raised to half their value.

Cat-Man's Strong Man is his go to cliche in a fight. Instead of a detective cliche he uses his keen senses (3) while constantly patrolling for clues (and Lucky Shots for blind assed luck.) A superb fighter may still be able to take him on and he is not by any means bullet proof. If you play with backgrounds and hooks he can invest one die in Strong Man and one die in his sidekick, Katie (Kitten) Conn, who appeared in Cat-Man #4. David gets the Hook of being Kitten's guardian.
Mystery Girl  (3)

The Deacon
Mystery Man (4)
Confessor (3) (Hearing a person's story, inspiring them to be better people, learning of the crimes they committed.)
Sleuth (3)
Lucky Shots (3)

Mystery Boy (3)

The Deacon is pretty straightforward. He takes the hook of Mickey's guardian since the kid was with him from the go.

The Rag Man
Sleuth (4)
Mystery Man (3)
'Ghost' (3) (Frightening people, baffling editors, passing unseen)
Questing Dice (5) Surviving death (Rag Man can use these dice similar to Cat-Man's nine lives.)

Brawling (3)

The Rag Man uses his tattered appearance to appear like a vagrant, largely ignored. His appearance can also be very unsettling whether from his reputation or the fact that that bum suddenly pulled a gun on you. Apparently he can turn this fear off when he wants to be be unnoticed. A lot of crooks who fear him like the angel of death for his sudden appearances and vicious attacks. Unlike the other heroes Rag Man often carries and uses a pistol and has no qualms about killing criminals. Tiny, his chauffeur, confidant and body guard was mostly used to drive the car and beat up the bigger meaner thugs. But doesn't seem like the mystery man type. He is also a very racist cliche. I chose to keep him and concentrate on his positive attributes. He's brave to a fault, has unquestioning loyalty and let Garson have his apartment and money back (which Jay left him in a will) when it turned out he wasn't dead.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Quick Combat Resolution

You say you love Risus' Unholy Trinity but combat takes a little too long? You say you want to pound people for more than one die of damage an exchange? Read on!

We're all familiar with combat now. You roll, the other guy/gal rolls and one of you loses one or three dice from a cliche (remember what inappropriate cliches do?) Since I've gotten into Risus some folks have wanted a mechanic to drop the other guy faster (they don't seem to consider the possibility of being dropped faster themselves.) I thought of the following today.

Both sides roll their dice as always. They then compare individual die rolls. Every tie goes to the guy who rolled less dice. Compare the dice left greatest number to least for both guys. Each pairing a player lost loses him a rank from his cliche. For every die left over the guy who rolled less dice loses one die unless he won all exchanges.

Catman rolls his cliche Public Domain Super Hero (4) against a generic evil robot. He gets

6, 4, 3, 1

The robot rolls Infernal Device (3) and gets
4, 3, 2,

The fours and threes are ties. Catman will lose two dice. His 6 beats the robot's 2 and since he did win one exchange his extra die causes the robot to lose another die. At the end of the round Catman is Public Domain Super Hero (2) and the robot Infernal device (1). Note if the robot rolled 5, 3, 2 it would have won all three exchanges and lost nothing. Be careful with this option.

This can represent a character going all out and taking foolish risks to end an exchange quickly at the cost of taking some additional damage. It's best used against someone you have a couple of dice over.

If any number crunchers want to figure out just how bad this approach will screw the players go right ahead.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Usual Suspects Redone

This is the last time I write a post at work with a head cold and fever. As I have written about Risus I've tried to keep to the RAW (I'm most proud of my piece on equipment in this regard.) Well this time I got a little full of myself and started making stuff up and renaming stuff unnecessarily. So allow me to present this rewrite of the rules part of my last blog.

Let's talk Shield Mates. Using the Risus Companion we can create companions in Risus. Ta-dah! I find creating a companion has many of the same pitfalls of creating an exceptional piece of equipment in that it makes the main character's cliches less important. Want to play a nerdy academic but don't want to be the target if swirlies or wedgies? Create a shield mate who is Big Dumb Jock (3). Want to solve mysteries but hate looking for clues? Make up a pal who's a genius but hangs with you to avoid big dumb jocks giving him swirlies and wedgies.

A companion's cliches are less unbalancing than those of equipment. Equipment is at your constant beck and call while humans have their own lives and might fail to appear or run at the first sign of trouble or just get instructions wrong. They also require proper treatment. Your big dumb body guard might want a couple beers now and then. Your genius pal might need help with some bullies, not to mention birthdays, holidays, christenings, and Bar Mitzvahs. You get the idea.

The referee could also require sidekicks to team up with their senior partners whenever both are present. That way the major character’s cliches are most important (well what hero hides behind his sidekick in a fight?)

A follower doesn't have to just be a cliche. In the same vein as having equipment be interesting rather than an out and out bonus or extra cliche, a follower can have advantages in some situations. Each of these abilities costs one die from the creating character:

Cautious: the follower allows the character to make a reroll once per session. The character must either abide by the reroll or take the better of the two rolls at the referee's whim.

Team Player: the follower will absorb one hit you take in a combat, shoving you out of the way reducing their cliche accordingly (one or three dice.) If the character and sidekick are part of a team up this does /not/ count as stepping forward to allow the leader to double their dice.

Avenger: your follower gets to double their attack dice the round after you go down. 

Followers can have Lucky Shots and Questing Dice which they buy out of the dice they start with (so you pay 2 dice to create a 6 dice sidekick and they become a 5 dice sidekick with 3 Lucky Shots or 5 Questing Dice. A sidekick may only use these dice when their creator is present. They may lend the dice to their creator if the player comes up with a good rationale (he always has the tool I need for a job or her cheerleading inspires me to break skulls!)

Hook: the follower is actually a dependent: parent, significant other, child etc. This counts as a hook for the player and entitles them to a die. The referee is encouraged to be fiendish in the needs of a dependent.

Since I wrote this some readers (wow I have readers!) have suggested a cliche to represent loyalty. I thought about and checked the RAW which says that sidekicks are loyal to the end unless betrayed and may be used and abused by /the GM/ as frequently as the player who created them. I take that to mean that any unjustified or crappy treatment of a loyal shield mate allows the GM to take it over for the purposes of hosing you in return. Remember the lesson of the evil overlord who /didn't/ shoot his trusted lieutenant when the lieutenant brought bad news because he was their trusted lieutenant!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Usual Suspects

Let's talk Shield Mates. Using the Risus Companion we can create companions in Risus. Ta-dah! I find creating a companion has many of the same pitfalls of creating an exceptional piece of equipment in that it makes the main character's cliches less important. Want to play a nerdy academic but don't want to be the target if swirlies or wedgies? Create a shield mate who is Big Dumb Jock (3). Want to solve mysteries but hate looking for clues? Make up a pal who's a genius but hangs with you to avoid big dumb jocks giving him swirlies and wedgies.

A companion's cliches are less unbalancing than those of equipment. Equipment is at your constant beck and call while humans have their own lives and might fail to appear or run at the first sign of trouble or just get instructions wrong. They also require proper treatment. Your big dumb body guard might want a couple beers now and then. Your genius pal might need help with some bullies, not to mention birthdays, holidays, christenings, and Bar Mitzvahs. You get the idea.

A follower doesn't have to just be a cliche. In the same vein as having equipment be interesting rather than an out and out bonus or extra cliche, a follower can have advantages in some situations you don't. Each of these abilities costs one die from the creating character:

Cautious: the follower allows the character to make a reroll in any critical situation. The character must either abide by the reroll or take the better of the two rolls at the referee's whim.

Deep Pockets: the follower allows the pc three Lucky Shots per session due to a knack for always having just the gizmo you need.

Team Player: the follower will absorb the first hit you take in a combat, shoving you out of the way.

Avenger: your follower gets to double their attack dice the round after you go down.

Hook: the follower is actually a dependent: parent, significant other, child etc. This counts as a hook for the player and entitles them to a die. The referee is encouraged to be fiendish in the needs of a dependent.

When creating a follower think about who and what the follower is. A person's gender, age, and race may all be important. The gritty detective can't follow his suspect into the ladies' room. His Plucky Girl Friday can without raising an eyebrow. The only witness to an alien abduction my be an eight year old who is frightened by your Man In Black (4) cliche. But he might be quite informative to another eight year old (even if that eight year old happens to be Alien Shape Shifter (4).) A follower who is a hottie could score you an entrance to a trendy club or even free drinks. A cute dog might be just what you need to break the ice and get to talk to the reclusive contact who happens to love dogs. The list goes on. Having a follower who is an academic is very useful for research. If he happens to have a bad limp then you can score parking in the handicapped zone. If your pal happens to be a member of a nearly extinct race or culture he could get you an interview with the anthropologist who has the key to decoding the Voynich manuscript, The list goes on and on.

As a final note I present to you the Underage But Mature Looking Hottie. If you can't beat the villains fair and square destroying their reputations is the next best thing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Let's Talk About Equipment

Let's talk about equipment and Risus. Equipment in most roleplaying games fall into the following categories: shit you have to lug around and shit you'd never leave behind. The stuff you have to carry around are what encumbrance rules were made for (in other games at least.) In Risus this stuff is simply tools of the trade. You're a detective, you have a magnifying glass, fingerprint kit and revolver. Your barbarian has some patchy armor, a big sword and a big wineskin. It's basic stuff you need to function and stay alive.

The other stuff is what has given referees trouble long before Risus was a gleam in S. John's intellect. It's stuff that increases a character's abilities. On one end of the spectrum we have a (relatively) reasonable magic sword allowing a character to attack magical creatures invulnerable to normal weapons like Flying Acid Monkeys. On the other side of the curve we have the Spleen of Poont giving its sucker ... master the power of a sociopathic deity. Risus has little to say on this stuff.

I'm against a piece of equipment that adds to a cliche. You introduce stuff like that and you erode the importance of cliches IMO and open the door to characters trucking all kinds of gear around to increase their cliches (because if you give one guy a +1d6 sword everyone will want one.) That way lies madness and encumbrance rules.

Instead (and this is just me) I'd bear in mind that anything in Risus can have a cliche. Give your spiffy piece of equipment a cliche of its own, a suitably narrow one. A barbarian hero's magic sword has Bane of the Liche Lord (6). If he actually gets into combat with the LL fine. Otherwise he falls back on Mighty-Thewed-Barbarian (4) for most sword swinging. Optionally you could limit the equipment's cliche to the user's highest appropriate cliche.

Equipment could also be bought as Shield Mates (from the Risus Companion.) Since characters have to sacrifice their own dice to create the equipment they'll be more conservative about it. As a game progresses you might even let them add to the equipment's cliches to represent further tweaking or unlocking hidden powers.

A piece of equipment could be a failsafe rather than a game changer. Your Mighty-Thewed-Barbarian (4) might turn his nose up at Sword of Skulls (3). However once he takes a few whacks in combat and is Mighty-Thewed-Barbarian (2) that sword is looking pretty good because he can use its cliches to buy some breathing room.

Exceptional equipment can give bonuses not represented by cliches. Armor of Charisma? Your opponents never initiate Deadly Combat but will always try to capture you alive. Pinstriped Suit of Power absorbs the first hit you take in any social combat. Little Black Dress of Clubbing lets you get a few free drinks at any club once per evening (it has a Hook, jerks hitting on you.) The Sword in the Stone made you rightful king of England (Excalibur came later, now you're talking game changer.)

The ultimate piece of equipment in my book is the Mother Box. The Mother Box was created by Jack Kirby for his Fourth World series of comics. About the size of a DvD case the MB was a living computer that could do damned near anything in the story. When I was statting it for a game I was playing in the other players expected pages of references to the different powers the things displayed. My write up ran along these lines:

Mother Box: The Mother Box can do anything necessary to move the story forward. It replaces any equipment or conveyance the character needs to get to the next plot point. If they need clues on the Moon, the MB will teleport them there and provide a breathable air bubble. It will provide translation for any unknown languages, be a first aid kit or anything else needed to keep play running smoothly. In combat it will take one hit for its user and then shut down.

Fortifying Foes by Dan Suptic at the Risusiverse site ( has many many more ideas for non-cliche bonuses that could be applied to equipment.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Age and Treachery vs. Youth and Superstrength

We've all seen this: Hypertrophied Man decides to throw down with Crossbow. The fight takes place on a crowded street. Hypertrophied Man decides to use his Infinitely Muscled (4) cliche. The type of combat he choses is Power based. Crossbow's best cliche is Baron of Broadpoints (4). H-Man has a Power Cliche and Crossbow's is Movement/Skill. Using my diagram from 'A Good Cliche Is Never Inappropriate' we find Crossbow is screwed since his cliche is inappropriate against H-Man's. H-Man might just have to beat him in one exchange or just exceed a target number to haul the master of Archaic Archery in. This makes some sense as a steel tipped bolt won't bother a man who survives a tac-nuke going off in his hand.

What can we do to remedy this unwanted realism? Without too big a Risus hack?

Off the bat Crossbow could sacrifice one or more Lucky Shot dice to change the nature of the combat to Movement/Skill at the gm's whim. H-Man has to fall back on Faster Than a Speeding Kestrel (3). Crossbow beats him by loosing a flurry of shots at innocent bystanders. He distracts H-Man long enough to escape! The referee could make it a bidding war to decide the nature of the combat.

Or we could give the street itself a cliche: Innocent Bystanders (4). Crossbow can attack the bystanders instead of attacking H-Man. In effect Crossbow uses the street's cliche. If H-Man wins the combat he gets all the people to safety (innocent bystanders rarely hang around when capes and masks throw down.) If he loses Crossbow gets away (and optionally someone got HURT.) In a case like this you might want to cap the location's cliche at the character's cliche level. So Inadequate Man with B-Villain (2) could only use 2 dice of the street's cliche.

A location could also give a number of Questing Dice. Ducking Behind Innocents (5) would let you add a die five times to your cliche (or brevet dice) roll or absorb five hits.

Finally you can use the idea of relative success. Set a target number for the location Innocent Bystanders 20. Win or lose if you roll under that number you either lose the fight or cause an injury. This works for both characters using appropriate cliches particularly well.

There are other features that could allow a character an advantage; Cluttered Location, Delicate Machinery, Bad Visibility, Electrical Storm etc. A location might attack all the characters fighting in it: Burning House (3) or Poison Gas (4.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lucky Shots and Questing Dice for Comic Effect

The Risus Companion has several different effects you can purchase using Lucky Shot or Questing Dice. I won't go into those here except to say you should run to buy it at the Cumberland Games and Diversions website. In any case here are some comic book effects a Lucky Shot or Questing Die can buy.

Full Page Splash
The character gets a really god shot in. How good? Their cliche is not reduced till the end of the round. They could engage several people and lose several combats but their cliche will be unaffected till the end of the round.

After Image Attack
The character can take up to three actions in a combat round besides making their attacks. Each action after the first adds 5 to the target number of the task rolled for. Some tasks may not require a roll.

Utility Belt of Holding
The character just happens to have just the item needed in their utility belt. For one turn any cliche may be considered appropriate.

Crowded Panel
Everybody losses one die from their appropriate cliche including the character.

Speech Balloon Cover
Everyone must succeed at rolling a 12 in their appropriate cliche to make any attacks. Those who don't succeed still engage in combat but can't reduce their opponent's cliche even if they win that round. The player must talk continuously until their next round or lose a die from their relevant cliche.

Penalties for Losing
Players can sacrifice a Luck die to lessen the effects of their losing. The villain can make his escape or opt for a mysterious death etc. heroes can get one more try to escape the death trap.