Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dueling Cliches

On a personal note: it is hard to write three posts a week. I am going to keep doing it and try to update on M-W-F because I feel it is making me a better writer and gamer and I enjoy hearing from you. Today we deal with combat situations.

Duels- Sometimes a fight boils down to a single round or two. A shoot out at high noon, a iajutsu draw draw between Samurai, and flamethrowers at ten paces are all examples of combat that boils down to draw and attack. It's also a great way for a badass character to shine. Risus as written does have a provision for this. Any attack may be resolved with a single roll with the GM assessing the outcome. For example, a heavily armed and armored warrior attacks a tiny gremlin. The GM decides the gremlin will be hit and stomped on a 15 or higher (he's little but quick) and if the warrior fails the roll the creature escapes. This works great for mooks who really only exist to slow down the players.

But some combat is between two equals or near equals. In this case the RAW still provides an answer. Use a Single Action Contest and both roll their cliches. It's good and quick but lacking a certain drama. Again the rules as written have a solution: play out the combat normally. Risus combat is not about trading blows and lopping stuff off but jockeying for position to deliver a punishing blow or otherwise subdue your foe. In this case they aren't moving around and parrying attacks so much as staring each other down before they draw.

How to jazz it up? Don't tell the rest of the group, if any, who is winning. Don't let them see their friend's rolls and tell only the duelist whether he wins or loses with a note or other sign. Or don't tell anyone who has won until the combat is over. In this case don't drop either character's cliche, just keep track of hits and reveal the winner dramatically when one character's hits exceed their cliche.

As an alternative the player character and his enemy may decide to lose more than one rank from their cliches for losing this exchange. Any number agreed on is good.

The Death Spiral- Once two equal characters start a combat there is a danger that the first character to lose a die will enter into a spiral of losing, having their cliche reduced and losing still more often. Not very dramatic (unless it isn't your character losing.) A lot has been written on preventing the Death Spiral, some of it involving <shudder> hit points.

First a character may have more than one cliche that is appropriate for a fight. A character who has Sharp Tongued Sword Master (4) might switch to Barroom Brawler (3) when his opponent wins a couple of exchanges with rapiers. Closing in the brawler unleashes an uppercut knocking his opponent's Hot Tempered Rapier Artist cliche.

As I've posted before I'd let my players use Lucky Shots and Questing Dice if appropriate to absorb a combat loss.

As a alternative with a good reason or perhaps by spending a Lucky Shot or Questing Die a character can change the type of combat. A hilarious example of this is in the movie 'Support Your Local Sheriff' where the title character sick of the latest in a long stream of hoot outs gets his opponent completely off balance by throwing rocks and him and chasing the mortified killer out of town. (check the link at 1:15.)

In fact the hero makes a point of turning violent situations into battles of wits (social combat) with a number of dimwitted opponents. With the rules as written for Risus the aggressor which (he was not) is the one who decides the type of combat. Why not let a player who is caught in a fight change the nature of the exchange by paying one or more dice? Imagine a shoot out or a curt room drama suddenly turned into a pie fight. More seriously your grim vigilante (you did give him some Lucky Shots to represent gear and training, right?) turns a super powers fight with Primary Colors Man into a martial arts brawl. PCM's super strength avails him not as he is thrown onto a table! You might want to limit the effect of these changes for a turn or two. So our vigilante could use his judo to win a clean break and escape but not beat a man who can move mountains into snot.

As always responses and thoughts are welcome. I'm also trying to get into a Risus game if there are any on Hangouts or Roll 20.