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.