Concept | Character Clichés | Sidekicks | Lucky Shots | Final Character Bits | Example Characters
|Healing:||Completely heals a wounded, embarrassed, discouraged, or otherwise weakened character.|
|Repairs:||Completely repairs or restores something that isn't a character, such as a vehicle, dwelling, or piece of equipment.|
|Training:||Prepares a character or group of characters for a specific big scene. During that scene a group of characters will gain a +1 die bonus to every roll, or a single character can gain a +2 die bonus instead.|
|Recruiting:||Allows the characters to recruit a Grunt Squad (5) for use through at least one big scene.|
|Shopping:||Allows the characters to purchase, steal, make, or scrounge equipment so that they are considered fully equipped for the task at hand. This montage sequence cannot be used to acquire bonus gear.|
The final steps in character creation involve fleshing out the details not immediately apparent from the character's clichés or hook. The player should note the character's appearance and other physical details. The player should also note which languages the character speaks or reads (and to what level of proficiency). Some clichés allow the character to have command of a large assortment of useful languages. In these cases, the player should only note what languages the character definitely does or does not speak (or read), while other languages can be known with a Target Number roll.
Finally, the player should note any additional equipment or possessions, beyond those that were agreed to be included with the character's clichés. The GM will approve most reasonable requests, so long as they are properly justified.
Here are some example characters. Notation is per standard Risus, with brackets for Double-Pumped clichés. Additionally, an underscored cliché value indicates an ability to use magic, super-science, or other powers to create fantastic effects outside of combat.
Sylvia Franco: Gorgeous pulp archaeologist who is also witch and a werewolf.
J. Robert Hinkley : Confident young student of Science!
Lionel Joseph: Solitary Buffalo Soldier who can talk to spirits.
Wayne McCoy: Vampiric gunslinger.
We will be using the "Boxcars & Breakthroughs" rule from The Risus Companion. When a character rolls all 6's, they may immediately roll all their dice again and add the results to the first roll. If this second roll also produces all 6's, then they may roll yet again (continuing until they fail to roll all 6's).
Combat in Silverlode 1908 will be handled using a system that is a subtle variation on the standard Risus rules (so subtle, in fact, that you may not notice the difference). Here's how it works:
We go around the room, allowing each character to act in turn. On a given character's turn, that character has the spotlight for enough time to perform one or more short maneuvers, followed by one or more offensive actions against a designated target. The player can say something as simple as "I try to shoot him in the head" or as complicated as "I leap across the pit, lunge at my opponent, and press my advantage until I hit". The player then specifies what cliché their character will employ in this action. The GM will rule on the appropriateness of the action and the choice of cliché to perform it. The Inappropriate Cliché rules are not used, since any action that is allowed is actually appropriate in this situation. If the attack is clearly less than effective in this situation then a penalty can be applied for lacking Proper Tools.
The player of the defending character then describes their response to the attacker's action. Like the attacker, this might be simple ("I duck out of the way") or complex ("I retreat across the bridge, parrying my attacker's blows while I look for an opening to get under his blade and strike"). The defender then specifies which cliché the character will use and the GM once again rules on its appropriateness against the attacker's tactic and cliché. Unlike standard Risus, defending characters will only inflict "damage" on their opponent if the description of their defensive strategy includes an offensive component or at least an explanation of how the attacker might "lose ground" as a result of a successful defense. Otherwise, the defender may only avoid defeat. A sub-optimal defense may result in a penalty for lacking Proper Tools.
Now, both players roll dice against their characters' clichés and apply "damage". If the loser is still up, then the GM will narrate the result of the exchange and explain the character's cliché loss. If the loser is reduced to zero dice then the winner can do whatever he or she wants to the victim (subject to GM veto if it doesn't follow from the attack description). This allows for violent fights to end with surrender, flight, incapacitation, or death as needed. There is no accidental death.
Of course, as with standard Risus, this system also works for combats that are actually chases, seduction attempts, exchanges of ego-bruising insults, and any other conflict that can be narrated as a series of moves and counter-moves.
There are a few nuances that I will describe below (such as Teams and "When Somebody Can't Participate"), but that is the gist of it. Characters can try anything that is appropriate for their cliché (and some things that may seem less appropriate). For that action, the character is the star of the scene. You can describe one attack or many. Weapons (other than special treasure items) are mostly special effects and even ammunition is only counted as common sense demands. Players are free to be as cinematic or mundane as they choose.
Clarifying the Risus rules as they apply to my take on combat:
On any given player's turn, one of the characters may need to invoke "When Somebody Can't Participate". An example of this is when an untrained character picks up a machine gun and starts shooting or when an ordinary Joe must withstand the mental assault of a diabolical telepath. The 2d6 bonus dice apply only for that action. If either character takes damage, they may chose to take it from their unmodified cliché (assuming they have one) or from the bonus dice themselves. In the later case, the character will now have fewer dice (1d6 or 0d6) to call on next time the "When Somebody Can't Participate" rule is invoked. These lost bonus dice recover at a rate similar to that of regular clichés (according to the nature of the attack).
The rules for player character Teams are different than standard Risus. In combat, characters may give up their regular actions to spontaneously team up under a designated "Team Leader". When the Team attacks or defends, Team Members must describe how they will contribute to the effort and what cliché they will use to do so. If someone intends to step up and take damage on a loss then the Team Member's description of the action and choice of cliché should account for this possibility.
Teams only persist for the remainder of the combat round. There are no penalties for disbanding a Team, just as there are no "vengeance" bonuses. Note that Team Members still take a die of "damage" if the Team Leader is reduced to zero dice (from the shock of watching their leader go down if there isn't a better explanation).
Note that the Team rules can also be applied to non-combat Target Number rolls where a group of characters is cooperating to achieve a desired objective. Examples of this would include multiple characters trying to lift a heavy object or a circle of wizards trying to cast a powerful spell.
The Risus Companion section entitled "Target Numbers and the Single Showoff" will be my guide to handling the rather open-ended use of superpowers, magic, psionics, and weird-science gadgets. Target Numbers are assigned to tasks based on the dramatic impact of what the character is attempting. The following table is for players who lack The Risus Companion (it also borrows from S. John Ross' article on Elemental Magic):
|Simple (TN5)||Any effect up to and including that which helps the party achieve something as a whole, or that acts as a tool to facilitate another activity.|
|Ordinary (TN10)||A standard effect that is meant to overcome a single obstacle that faces the character, or handle the character's share of an obstacle that faces the party.|
|Complex (TN15)||The effect would hog the scene a bit.|
|Difficult (TN20)||The effect would entirely upstage the other players, turning the other characters into bystanders for the rest of the scene and then some.|
|Dangerous (TN25)||The effect would shortcut (or instantly rewrite) the whole scenario.|
|Impossible (TN30)||The effect would utterly wreck the campaign world or campaign plotline.|
To the above Target Numbers, I will add a modifier based on how appropriate the cliché is to the given task: +5 if the cliché implies a secondary ability, +10 if the cliché implies a distant ability to handle the task, +20 if the cliché implies a remote chance of success.
Just what is actually possible and how it can be achieved depend entirely on the cliché description. When describing their character's supernatural or super-science clichés, players should consider the following:
Nature of the Ability: Players should describe the nature of the ability as well as any peculiarities of its use. Does the cliché allow the character to perform magic rituals? Does it allow the character to invent super-science gizmos or alchemical formulations? Perhaps it is an inborn psychic ability? The possibilities are endless, though players should consult with the GM to make sure that the nature of the cliché is appropriate to the setting.
Repertoire of Effects: Players should specify, at least in general terms, what it is that the cliché allows their character to do. Perhaps the character knows one or more spells and can research and invent more? Perhaps the character has broad powers within a narrow metaphysical domain? A Mad Scientist might have a technical specialty and supernatural creatures usually have very specific powers. It is also possible that characters can gain access to more effects as they gain dice in their cliché (drawing inspiration from other game systems). Players should consult with the GM to make sure their cliché is specific enough and that the GM and the player are interpreting the cliché in the same manner.
Proper Tools: Unless it only grants a handful of specific effects, players should specify interesting and inconvenient Proper Tools for their cliché. For clichés that grant the ability to research and invent new effects (such as Hermetic Magicians or Mad Scientists), it is appropriate and recommended that the exact Proper Tools depend on the specific ritual or invention. In these cases, the GM can help assign Proper Tools appropriate to the task at hand. It is also important to remember that Proper Tools are not always physical objects; gestures, forceful incantations, special talents, and auspicious times are examples of interesting and inconvenient Proper Tools that enhance the atmosphere of the game.
Double-Pumps: If the cliché is Double-Pumped, players should be prepared to explain the nature of dice loss due to Double-Pumping, as well as under what circumstances a Double-Pump can be used. It should be noted that characters may be allowed to Double-Pump supernatural clichés outside of combat, though the dice benefit is only that of a standard Pump and it will take longer to recover lost dice (pumping outside of combat is not normally allowed in Silverlode 1908).
Funky Dice:Funky Dice are appropriate for many kinds of supernatural clichés but Funky Dice are never allowed when rolling against Target Numbers based on dramatic impact (when their use would regularly produce campaign-wrecking effects). When using a Funky cliché for these types of rolls, downgrade it to regular d6's for this roll only. In all other rolls, including single-action contests and regular combat, Funky Dice can be used normally.
Failure: Finally, players should specify the possible consequences of failing their Target Number rolls. The player has three choices. The simplest, and least interesting choice is that nothing happens on a failed roll. This option should only be used for clichés that produce very limited effects. The other choices depend highly on the nature of the cliché. In cases where a little knowledge is worse than no knowledge (such as most magical and weird-science clichés), characters who fail their Target Number roll will still produce effects appropriate to the magnitude of the roll, only the effects will be unpredictable and most likely annoying or dangerous to the character and the party. In other cases (such as for most innate supernatural abilities), rolling low is bad thing and the severity of a mishap will depend entirely on the margin of failure. True mishaps would be rare and even narrowly missed rolls can produce some beneficial effects with side effects.
Characters with the ability to produce supernatural or super-science effects will likely want to create lasting enhancements with their special powers. This can be handled by trading dice from the character's cliché to buy either cliché augmentation for themselves or others, or to gain three times as many points in Bonus Gear or Sidekicks. For as long as the effect is still considered temporary, the character will roll to advance using the old value. Permanent effects permanently reduce the character's cliché and advancement rolls are thus made at the new value.
Note that a Target Number roll is still required to create Bonus Gear or enhancements. Most lasting effects will be Complex or Difficult, as they tend to hog the scene a bit. Also note that minor "enhancements" that alter the nature of a cliché without changing its level are possible. In these cases, a minimum sacrifice of one die is still required.
Click here for examples of play.
Concept | Character Clichés | Sidekicks | Lucky Shots | Final Character Bits | Example Characters
Boxcars | Combat | When Somebody Can't Participate | Teams | Magic | Bonus Gear | Examples of Play
Created: 12 March 2004 / Last modified: 10 January 2010
Risus: The Anything RPG ©1993-2010 by S. John Ross.
Silverlode 1908 ©2004-2010 by Tim Ballew.