The beauty that is Risus: Combat Magic

Risus has a warm and cozy place in my heart, and it’ll always be that way. Sure, I have an on-and-off relationship with it. Sometimes, I lovelovelove it because you can create characters in a few minutes, and you have ALL the rules you really need to play even an extensive campaign. And sometimes, I can’t stand it because of its “unified mechanics”, to use stilted rpg theory lingo.
But ONE thing, one thing will always stand out for me: The awesome way Risus handles magic.
A few bullet points:
  • no spell list — you specify what your wizard specializes in (or not)
  • spells against non-living targets use a target number you have to beat (in the rules as written always multiples of 5, so easy to remember)
  • combat spells are treated like regular combat, with the mages rolling their cliché dice against the target’s cliché dice, lower roll loses one (or more) dice. This rolls “spell drain” (exhaustion) and damage into one roll — beautiful.

So for instance:
A battle-hardened Combat Solipsissimus of the Royal Court (4) sends a combat spell (you can determine what exactly it is: a fireball? An ice ray? A cloud of distintegration? An ooze of stench?) against a Simple Town Guard (3). 
The mage rolls 2,2,3 and 6. We’re using the ‘Evens Up’ rule, so every 2,4 and 6 count as success, and you get to roll a 6 again, for even more successes. The mage has scored 3 successes so far. The player rolls the 6 again, and it comes up a 4, another success. Combat Solipsissimus (4) has a final score of 4 successes.
The Simple Town Guard (3) rolls 3d6, for 1,2,6. The six explodes, but the new number is a 3, so the Guard scores 2 successes.
The Combat Solipsissimus (4)’s 4 successes minus The Town Guards (3)’s 2 successes means the Town Guard loses 2 cliché dice, turning him into a Suddenly Very Frightened Town Guard (1).
The mage doesn’t lose any cliche dice — he dominated this situation.
What would happen if the Combat Solipsissimus of the Royal Court (4) wanted to blast a hole into the castle’s outer wall? Well, Risus Magic really is universal, so the referee can come up with a target number easily: we’re using Evens Up, so the mage needs 3 successes or more for the spell to blast through the castle wall. That’s a Hard task. The player rolls 4d6 and scores 3,4,5,5 — one success. In a very tough game, the referee could now say that the spell drained the mage’s energy (3 required successes minus 1 success scored = lose 2 cliché dice). In easy-going games, the mage would keep his cliché dice and maybe suffer some minor consequence instead.
That flexibility and ease of use at the table is the beauty that is Risus.

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