FKR: Risus, played with The Landshut Rules.

Now, that’s going to be fun!

I love Risus for more reasons I care to admit, but its game system doesn’t sit right with me. At least, most of the time. So why not FKRify it?

A standard Risus character starts with 10 so-called cliché dice. These dice are distributed among several traits (clichés) the player defines themselves. No cliché starts higher than a 4.

So this is a typical Risus character:

Kenna McKormick

Burned-out Magician (4)
Master of White Crane Kung Fu (3)
Avid vegan chef (2)
Lucky Shots: 5

(Lucky Shots are brownie points you can spend on a 1:1 basis to roll additional dice. 5 Lucky Shots cost 1 ciché die.)

How to roll FKR Risus dice

You don’t have to change anything on the character sheet. Just roll 2d6 or 1d20, according to the Landshut Rules. When a character has an advantage (because of a higher cliché number, for instance), add one or two points or so to the roll. Higher roll wins, as always. You could even add the cliché number to your roll. Do whatever feels best for you and your group.

Hit Points

If you’re into hit points and your character has just lost an opposed roll, simply reduce the cliché your character just used by 1. Zero cliché dice means the character is now at the mercy of their opponent.

And if you don’t like numbers on your sheet

That’s easy, too. 6 is the human maximum in Risus. World champion level. 3 is average. So, using the Kenna McKormick character again:

Kenna McKormick

Burned-out Magician who’s still better than most wannabes
Thinks he’s a Master of White Crane Kung Fu, but really isn’t
Avid vegan chef with, er, room to improve
Lucky Shots: 5

FKR No-Pool Risus (also: One-Die Risus)

It came up today on the FKR server: dice pool systems. I generally have a love-hate relationship with them. They offer advantages (bigger pool = more power; what a immensely visual way to portray your character!), but to me, there’s a huge drawback: counting the dice. Or, worse, adding them, as T&T does, or the d6 gaming engine. Or, sadly, Risus.

BUT the single best way to play Risus (for my group and me) is this little hack:

You get to create your character as per the Risus rules. Multiply the cliché number by two. The result is the type of die you roll against the referee’s die. Whenever you’d lose a cliché die in Risus, you step down the die (so, for instance, a d12 becomes a d10 becomes a d8 becomes a d6 becomes a d4 becomes a d2 becomes zero).

So, a Grim Swordfighter from the Frosten Wastes (4) rolls a d8, while his Angst-ridden Orc Enemy (3) rolls a d6.

Easy-peasy. And works like a charm.

Using Risus characters in Bloodstone

This post really is just an exercise in flexing my writing muscle, so feel free to ignore it 🙂

Recently, I posted about playing Warhammer with Risus rules. It works beautifully, it’s quick smooth. It will also change during play because that’s just what happens when I’m refereeing games. With this in mind, let’s try a Risus Warhammer character with Bloodstone.

Durand Sixtus
Human Male, age 30, 6′, 250 lbs, lots of hair, grey eyes, huge
Soldier (4 – skills: Disarm, Dodge Blow, Battle Tongue, Street Fight)
Tough as nails (3)
Equipment: Battlehammer, knife, chainmail, helmet, 6 Gold Crowns

Please note that the skills mentioned for the Soldier cliché are just there to give the player an idea of what Durand is capable of doing with this cliché.

Now, let’s take a look at the Bloodstone character creation:

Title: Durand Sixtus, human male soldier
Huge, lots of hair, grey eyes
Bio: not yet
Good Stuff: soldier, tough as nails
Equipment: battlehammer, knife, chainmail, helmet, 6 Gold Crowns
Hit Points: N.A. (or, for groups who need them, 5)

As you can see, it’s almost a one-to-one translation. That was to be expected.

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.

Alternative Combat rules for OSR games and other level-based rpgs

(Taking inspiration from Risus)
Each combatant rolls (Level)d6. Adjucate monsters and npcs: What Level equivalent do they have?
If you’re a fighter, add 3d6. Aggressive monsters do so, as well.
Add 1d6 for any other advantage you have in combat.
Roll your dice against the opponent’s dice. Look for the single highest die. Compare with the opponent. If you’re higher, the opponent loses 1d6. If there’s a draw, look for the next higher die and follow the above steps.
The side with zero dice left is defeated. The winner decides what happens to the loser.
One huge PLUS of these rules is you won’t have to look up anything, and you can combine all dice of all party members and roll them in one huge pile, T&T-style 

Optional Critical Hit rule: Add the highest die and its multiples together and compare to your opponent’s. If your number is at least three times as high, the opponent loses 1d6 dice.

A walk through our house, in Risus

The Entrance of Dreaded Narrowness (3) — Laundry Room of Poo of Babies (3) — Office of Beautiful Pendants (3)
Staircase into The Light (2)
The Living Room of Cluttered Chaos (4) — The Kitchen of Strange Smells (4) — Restroom of Claustrophia (4) — The Room of Laughing Giant Toddlers (4) — Energetic Bedroom of Lost Sleep (4)
Staircase into The Light (2)
The Office of Living Stacks of Paper (3) — Restroom of Female Toiletries (3) — The Roof Deck of Eternal Sunshine and Much Needed Alcohol (4)

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.