Warhammer – with Risus

Yesterday, we started a Warhammer campaign. This is the first Warhammer game in 30 years for me, and I’m proud to say: It was great!
The game went smoothly. Especially because the dreaded Risus death spiral is somewhat softened by the High Die rule. One of the characters is a former Gambler, and by pure luck defeated a footpad in a dark alley of Nuln. Pretty cool.
Why did I switch to Risus?
For several reasons, really.

First, I know that Risus works really well once you soften or neutralize the death spiral and remove math from the rules. The High Die rule does that very efficiently. I don’t have to add dice together, I just look for the highest die (and, in case of a tie, the next highest, and so on). This is really fast.

Second, whenever I try new rpg stuff, the first thing I do in my head is convert things to Risus clichés. It’s that language-first approach that I like so much. Rather than having to think about how many hp and what stats a creature has, I just have to describe it in normal language and slap one number on that description (“Blood-dripping Thorn Monster (4)”, “Shifty-eyed Merchant of Illegal Goods (3)”). No stat block, just one cliché.
Describing things and creatures as clichés forces me to think about what I really want them to look like. See, you can have a full D&D stat block and still not know anything relevant about a monster. In my opinion and experience, that’s not the case with a good Risus cliché.
Pros and cons of Risus Warhammer
Pro: Simplest and easiest character and npc generation because you’re using natural language
Pro: I LOVE mass or group combat with Risus. Just roll all cliché dice of one party against all cliché dice of the other party. Heaps and heaps of dice. I like that.
Pro: No bookkeeping during combat. You get hit, you lose a die (or more, in case of a crit). Simple as that.
Pro: The power of a character in any certain area is immediately visible (tangible, even) because of the “better cliché = more dice” thing Risus has. This helps me as DM to gauge situations better.
Pro: Even if I don’t have a clue about a location because the player characters decide to explore places I haven’t prepared, Risus is there for me: I simply slap a cliché on a room, for instance: “Dark, warm and moist cell with pulsating walls (4)” not only tells me the look and feel, but also how many cliché dice monsters living there will have.
Con: If you’re a sucker for damage dice or armor classes, Risus is not for you. Sure, exceptional weapons and armor may grant you more cliché dice, but for some folks, this doesn’t cut it.
But that’s the only con I can come up with, really.

So, now, finally, the rules:

1. Roll for your Race
1-5 Human
6 Roll again (1-3 Dwarf, 4-5 Hobbit “Halfling”, 6 Elf)

2. You get 3 Fate Points.
Spend 1 Fate Point to avoid certain death. When they‘re gone, they‘re gone.

3. Use Warhammer FRPG 1e to determine age, skills, career and equipment.
The career you just rolled is a cliché (4). To give you an idea of what the character is capable of, consult those skills. Let that knowedge color your decisions. You don’t get any other clichés.

4. You start with 3d6 Gold Crowns.

5. We’ll be using the Highest Die option:
count only the highest die and multiples. For instance, if your roll 2,3,4,4 – your result is 8. If you roll 2,3,4,5 – your result is 5. In combat, if you roll more than twice as much as your opponent, it’s a Critical Hit: roll 1d6 again: the result is the number of cliché dice your opponent loses.

6. Tasks and required successes:
The GM rolls cliché dice for every opposition or task, against the player. For instance: an Arrogant Thief (4) is trying to pick a lock. The GM rules that the lock was made by a master locksmith, and is a Good Lock (3). He rolls 3 dice, with 2,4,5 – a 5. The thief rolls his 4 dice, with 1,2,4,6 – a 6, and so he manages to open it.

7. Magic is the offspring of Chaos.
It’s powerful, but dangerous. Spellcasters decide how many of their magic Cliché Dice they want to roll for any spell.

Choose one of six Schools of Magic you belong to. Each school practices one general type of magic.

Amethyst = death, undeath, entropy
Ruby = fire, hell, blood
Amber = animals, monsters, emotion
Gold = metal, industry, physics
Moss = plants, plagues, life
Sapphire = time, abyss/stars, thought

7.a. Casting Spells
Spells are freeform – describe what you want to achieve, and the gamemaster rolls the appropriate number (determined by them) of cliché dice against you. Roll as many of your Cliché Dice as you like.

7.b. When casting combat spells, roll your magic dice against a the target‘s cliché dice. For instance, you‘re casting a war spell against a Victim (3). You would roll your cliché dice against the Victim (3)‘s three cliché dice. Casting directly damaging spells against mundane targets grants you 2 additional Cliché Dice. Treat combat magic like regular combat. For instance, using a combat spell against a Feral Town Dog (3), an Inexperienced Wizard (3) rolls 5 dice.

7.c. Casting other spells follows the same logic. The GM rolls their cliché dice against you, you decide how many magic dice you roll, then roll them. If your roll is higher, your spell is successful. If not, it simply fizzles. If your spell manipulates another being in a non-combative way, the GM only rolls that being’s cliché dice, divided by 3. So, soothing a Feral Town Dog (3) with magic means the wizard rolls against Feral Town Dog (1).

7.d. Sixes explode: If you roll a Six when casting a spell, that Six explodes: roll that die again and see if you roll more sixes. If the new number you’re rolling happens to be another 6, keep rolling.


Every 6 you roll opens a rift in the fabric of the world, and Chaos creeps in. This directly affects you, the spellcaster. One 6 might be a minor mishap, 2 mean minor mutations and inabilities, 3 are major coinequences, and so on – but the more 6s you roll, the more gory and terrifying it gets. If you get between 1 and 5 sixes, consult the Mishap Table for your school of magic. If you ever happen to roll 6 Sixes for a spell, you’re doomed: Roll on the Doom Table for your school of magic.

8. Optional Rule: Gore Die
Fights have to be… a terrifying mess, frankly.After all, this is Warhammer, right? When you roll dice for combat, ONE of your dice should have a different color (preferably red). This is the Gore Die. The higher the result on that die, the messier, bloodier, gorier your hit is (if you hit).

Note that a gory, bloody, bloodspraying, disgusting hit will not kill the opponent if he still has cliché dice left – but it will definitely put some kind of negative modifier on his next roll, movement, abilities, skills and so on. Only when someone’s cliché dice are reduced to zero, that character dies. To give you a few rough ideas for Gore Die results:

Gore 1: drop weapons, superficial wounds, hits that knock the wind out of you, stumble, bruises, stuns, knockdowns
Gore 2: dislocations, shattered weapons, numb limbs
Gore 3: incapacitated limbs, deep wounds, smashed teeth, broken bones
Gore 4: severed arteries, internal bleeding, spine injuries, gouged out eyes
Gore 5: half a limb lost, organs ruptured
Gore 6: entire limb lost, body parts hacked in half
Gore 7: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, flying body parts, fuck what a mess
Gore 7? How? This is another optional rule: When a character is down to 1 cliché die, the next hit that takes him to his gods counts as Gore Die +3.

3 thoughts on “Warhammer – with Risus

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