Lately, there have been a number of questions on RisusTalk
about how to handle magic-items and other gadgets. This is a great way to start arguments about the proper role of equipment in Risus
. Even though a properly indoctrinated
player will insist there is no wrong way to play, you'll find that many will tell you precisely how you should play anyway. I'm kidding, of course. Risus
players are seriously too cool for that. But sorting through the various suggestions on how to handle equipment can be daunting to players who are just learning the system.
The rules as written spend a scant four paragraphs on Tools of the Trade. These four paragraphs are technically all that need be said on the subject of equipment, but I can attest from personal experience that I needed help rejiggering my brain into a state where these four paragraphs were all that needed to be said on the subject for me
. Even after adjusting to the Risus
mindset, I still find the pages in the Risus Companion
that discuss the topic to be immensely reassuring. I was primarily a Gurps
guy, after all. Equipment and stuff mattered.
So, to paraphrase the Companion:
If you love stats for gear, you've come to the wrong blog, but you've come to the right post. Weird.
For the sake of brevity, I'm going to ignore the many different custom rules floating around and instead focus on interpretations of what is in the basic rules and the Companion. What follows are the standard ways that you can handle gizmos, gadgets, and magical artifacts:
Tools of the Trade:
There is no need for a Strapping Farm Boy Chosen To Wield The Ancient Sword Of Legendary Heroes (4) to actually define his magic sword separately. Having a magic weapon is what his cliche is all about. It's what gives him four dice of effectiveness and allows him to do cool things like fight creatures that can only be affected by magic weapons and to slice and dice otherwise unbreakable objects. The Legendary Sword itself is a Tool of the Trade. Without it, our poor Farm Boy is going to be at half dice at best, or unable to use this cliche at worst (depending on the task).
Bonus Dice Gear:
Ah yes, but what if anybody can benefit from that Legendary Sword? Instead, perhaps it awards those who use it with one or more bonus dice to the cliche that they are using in situations that are relevant to the sword's powers. But the Bonus Dice approach is a powerful blunt instrument that can rapidly overpower your characters, especially in a game where a single die radically changes the odds of a contest. These types of items are best limited to gear that is only useful in specific situations. The rules also wisely point out that characters should never begin the game with bonus-dice gear. Save it for the kind of sparkly dingus that is awarded after a dangerous trek through a Dungeon of Doom (6).
Lucky Shots/Questing Dice:
But what if the player wants to start with an item that grants a bonus? Time to break out the rules for Lucky Shots & Questing Dice (introduced in the Companion and summarized here
). An item that universally grants a bonus a limited number of times in a given session is a great way to explain the effects of Lucky Shots. But what items universally grant bonuses? For gadgets and gizmos and magic items, Questing Dice are where it's at. Questing Dice are associated with specific situations where they can be used. Using the Legendary Sword certainly counts as a specific situation.
Sidekicks & Shieldmates:
This is perhaps the most controversial of my interpretations, but I have employed the rules for Sidekicks & Shieldmates (another Companion rules summarized here
) for magic items and gadgets in past campaigns. Essentially, the item itself becomes a sidekick and may team up with a user in situations where its cliches are relevant. Its controversial because it seems powerful at first glance and some might take issue with the notion of a non-sentient item teaming up with anybody. But mechanically, there is no difference between an item sidekick and a grunt squad of minions. I like this approach because a Legendary Sword of Ancient Heroes (3) is so much more interesting than a +1 Sword.
It's Just Cool:
Perhaps the best way to handle magic-items and gadgets is to avoid numerical rules entirely. The Legendary Sword of Ancient Heroes lets characters fight creatures that they couldn't normally fight, adjusts the Target Number for impressing snooty sword collectors, illuminates dark corridors, and detects the presence of ill-tempered humanoids. It doesn't need to add dice at all. In effect, we've come full circle. This is what happens when the Strapping Farmboy Chosen To Wield The Ancient Sword Of Legendary Heroes (4) gets wounded and must lend his weapon to the Stinky Barbarian From The Badlands of Noor (4).