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!!