Converting to D20
I apologize in advance to all you D20-phobes out there in the Risusverse, but I'm going to start to tackle the issue using Risus as a short-hand for D20 characters. As mentioned in this post, I typically generate a large number of NPCs for the local area of my campaign setting. Doing this in Risus is a snap, where a character can be represented in as few as 2 phrases (plus cliché level):
Name: Cliché (level).
A more complicated character might include additional clichés, a physical description, a Hook, some Lucky Shots, notes about Tools of the Trade, and role-playing hints. But even the most complicated of characters will only take a few moments to imagine and document. There is no need to consult a rulebook or worry about a bunch of inter-dependent statistics.
A Risus character is usually sufficient for most NPCs. But if a character is expected to see combat in a D20 game, more concrete statistics will be needed. Deriving those statistics is what I plan to address.
Before I get there, though, I need to mention my philosophy of character conversions. While I try to stay true to the numbers, the most important thing in a successful conversion is to remain true to the character concept and preserve the things that the character can actually do. The actual probabilities of doing things are a secondary concern.
STEP # 1 - Ability Scores
Deriving D20 ability scores from a set of Risus clichés is not as hard at it would seem. In a sense, any single cliché implies a set of ability scores. At their most obvious, clichés may explicitly state a connection to an attribute: a Charismatic Socialite (4) or Brawny Lass with Heroic Potential (4), for example. They may also state a connection in the cliché description: "being tough" or "being clever". In these cases, one simply needs to convert the cliché dice to the attribute bonus [i.e. D20 ability score = 10 + 2*cliché dice]. Funky Dice give proportionally higher ability scores [i.e. Supernaturally Strong Son of a Demigod (3d12) should give a Strength of 22].
When an ability score is not listed directly in the name of the cliché or in the cliché description, one must determine if the given ability score is a secondary or tertiary ability of the cliché. Strength might be a secondary ability of Dwarven Hardcase (4), while Constitution might be considered a tertiary ability of Successful Warrior Adventurer (4). Secondary abilities convert at half the level of primary abilities, while tertiary abilities convert at one quarter. When deciding if an ability score is primary, secondary, or tertiary to a cliché (and if it is an ability at all), I tend to ask myself "how much better at the attribute is a character with one more die in the cliché ".
What about substandard ability scores? There are two ways to get them. The first is through a Hook. The second is through a negative cliché descriptor, such as in Dumb Jock (3) or Sickly Wizard (5). In either case, assign the relevant ability score a value of 8 or less.
If the character has more than one cliché that covers the same attribute, use only the cliché that provides the ability score that best suits the character concept.
Up next: Class & Level