Designed by S. John Ross, it is the lo-fi generic roleplaying system that the snobs at RPGforge use for textbook examples. A very good choice for people who are too tired to do math, minmaxing, or any kinda simulation gaming crap. If you aren't turned off by the stick-figure artwork in the rulebook (rules pamphlet?) then you're good to go.
"Die" means d6 unless stated otherwise.
A character in Risus is, essentially, a collection of clichés. "Viking Barbarian," "Disgruntled Postman," "Vampire Wanker," "fa/tg/uy." Each cliché is rated in one or more "dice," which is how many dice you would roll and add up when the character is doing an activity you'd expect that cliché to be proficient in. Write each cliché on the character sheet, followed by the number of dice in ( ) brackets.
- Cliché examples
- Viking Barbarian: swing axe, pillage, drink from mugs made from horns, etc..
- Disgruntled Postman: knowing where everybody lives, walking all day, assault rifles, etc..
- Vampire Wanker: drinking blood, writing emo poetry, seducing teenage girls, etc..
- More examples below
Characters start with 10 dice, which are each allocated to the clichés the character has. 1 die means you can do it, but you fail more often than not. 2 dice means you can get by day by day, 3 dice for someone who's actually good at their job, and so on. Characters can't start with more than 4 dice in any one cliché (barring a really good excuse), and clichés max out at 6 dice.
It's assumed that every character has the gear they need to perform day-to-day tasks for each cliché; the "tools of the trade." Nothing special, but nothing lacking either. If a character loses their gear, they can only roll half their dice for that cliché. Such a penalty should be temporary, their cliché should make it simple to regain appropriate gear. It's also possible to get extraordinary equipment for your cliché that would give 1 or more bonus dice (ie. magic sword, military-grade cyberdeck), but characters cannot start with extraordinary gear.
There's three kinds of conflict: dude vs. environment, quick dude vs. dude and ongoing dude vs. dude.
Aie! I have no cliché I can use!: In any conflict, if there's people who want to get in on the action but don't have an appropriate cliché by even the thinnest stretch of the imagination, the GM can let them participate by giving everyone 2 extra dice, *including* people who are using their clichés. (ie. in an origami-crane folding contest, the dude with "Space Marine (4)" would get 2 dice, and the dude with "Zen Monk (3)" gets (3+2=) 5 dice.)
|Target||Difficulty of Task||Effect on the story|
|0||Any shmoe off the street does it without thinking.||No practical effect, will never be mentioned again.|
|5||You need to know how to do it, but only amateurs screw up half the time.||Success will make things fun for everybody.|
|10||A pro has a 50/50 chance of doing it.||Success would be nifty.|
|15||A heroic stunt.||Success would steal the scene for a bit.|
|20||Only a master could pull this off.||Success would upstage all the other characters in this scene.|
|25||You need to be like an olympic-level to succeed just half the time.||???|
|30||Jegus. Even with a full 6 dice you have a 2% chance of success.||Success would upset the whole story.|
If the GM thinks it isn't a given that you can accomplish a task, or it would be interesting if you fail, a character may have to apply one of their clichés to see if they will succeed. Roll all the dice for the appropriate cliché, and compare the sum to a difficulty number set by the GM, based on either how hard it would be to do the task, or how disruptive it would be to everyone's fun: Remember that losing your tools of the trade for a cliché means you can only roll half your dice for that cliché. To get extra dice to roll, you'd need to acquire some sweet gear during the adventure.
quick vs. dude
For competitions where it's just one action and pass/fail, or more than one person is trying to achieve the same exclusive goal, or you just want it over quickly so it's not a distraction from the main event, it's called a non-combat conflict. Each of the characters involved roll their appropriate cliché dice and whoever's result is higher wins. Examples: lunging for the one gun on the floor, grabbing the last slice of pizza in the fridge, Iron Chef competition in Kitchen Stadium.
ongoing vs. dude
For ongoing conflicts -- where you wear down your opponents into submission -- it's called a combat conflict. The GM aribtrates what clichés are appropriate, although you can bend the rules a little bit (see below). It's done as a series of quick conflicts, and after each exchange the loser drops one die temporarily from the cliché that was used. If this drops the cliché to zero, then the loser is utterly defeated and the victor decides their fate (death, humiliation, embarassment, eyebrows singed off, etc..). A cliché reduced to zero doesn't necessarily mean wounds; it could be loss of morale, exhaustion, running out of money or hairspray... the cliché just can't be used until the character does something to recover.
Inappropriate clichés: If you can convince the GM or the entire table that you can use one of your odd clichés to defend or attack, with a suitably amusing and plausible description of how you'd do it. If you manage to succeed with an inappropriate cliché, the other dude will lose THREE dice instead of one, for being taken totally off-guard and humiliated. (Beware a skilled hairdresser backed into a corner.)
Hordes & Mobs: When one of the side in the conflict is "700 Lemmings armed with toothpicks" or a gang of mooks, just treat them as one single opponent with a single cliche. As they lose dice from that cliche, the mob disbands, until there's just whimpering stragglers left at 0 dice. When defeated, always make sure some escape (to plot revenge!) and a significant member of the horde is left behind for the players to berate, browbeat or deal with in some satisfying manner.
Teaming up: More than one person can help out by working as a team. Whoever in the group has the highest-ranked appropriate cliché becomes the group's leader. Everyone else can contribute by rolling their own appropriate cliché, but they can only add one of their dice to the sum rolled by the leader. When a team takes damage in conflict, either someone on the team can volunteer to take a TWO dice hit (or SIX if an inappropriate cliché succeeded), or everyone on the team rolls their cliché dice and whoever has the lowest result takes a a single die hit. If someone volunteered, the leader gets to roll double dice in the next exchange as a 'vengence' bonus; if nobody volunteered, there is no 'vengence' bonus. If the group disbands, everyone takes a 1-die hit to their clichés, and members can immediately re-form into a new team. If the group disbands because the old leader volunteered to take a 2-dice hit, the group can reform immediately and the new leader will gets the 'vengence' bonus on the next exchange.
At the end of an adventure, roll the dice for each cliché. If all the dice come up even, you can add another die to that cliché, up to a max of 6. If you want to add a new cliché, you can use the die you would've added to one of your other clichés to get a new cliché at 1 die. (This is why you roll for your 6-die clichés, even though you can't increase them.)
- If you add a detrimental flaw to your character description, you can add another die to the 10 you start with for character creation. This flaw has to be something that can be used to disadvantage the character somehow.
- At the GM's option, you can provide a backstory for your character to add more details the GM can use during the adventure. If it's entertaining and/or useful to the GM, you can get another die to the 10 you start with for character creation.
- When faced with overwhelming odds, you can overextend your cliché for a heroic effort that leaves you exhausted. For one roll during a vs. environment or onging vs. dude combat, you can roll up to twice as many dice as you have for the appropriate cliché. Immediately afterwards, that cliché will get hit for as many extra dice as you added. Don't forget that you also lose dice if you or your team loses, which could exhaust that cliché completely.
- You cannot use this for quick vs. dude 'non-combat' conflicts, because they're over too fast and nobody's cliché gets worn down.
- example: Asuka and Shinji are in a Dance-Dance Revolution competition. Shinji decides to use "Whiny Emo Kid(3)" and pumps it up by 2 dice, rolling 5. If he succeeds, Asuka will stop dancing long enough to yell "Shut the hell up you pussy!", but Shiji's cliché takes a 2 dice hit, because he put so much effort into it that people are getting tired of his emo shit, making it less effective.
- During character creation, you can spend 2 dice for every 1 die on a cliché to make it a double-pump cliché. When you pump this cliché, you get TWO extra dice for every 1 die of exhaustion you take after the exchange. Use [square brackets] around the number after the cliché on your character sheet to mark it as a double-pump cliché. They're expensive at first, but they advance just like any other cliché, making them a good investment. Characters can only have one, so make it count.
- Funky Dice
|Target||Example feat of strength||Effect on the story|
|30||Throwing a motorcycle.||(._o)|
|50||Throwing a tank.||(o.o)|
|70||Throwing a loaded train.||(0.0)|
|85||Throwing a pile of 100s of loaded trains.||(>.<)|
|100||Kicking the Earth five feet out of orbit.||(;_;)|
- Maybe you want superheroes or demigods in your Risus game. Then you'll want bigger dice. Character creation is now based on starting with 60 'points,' and each dice is worth as many points as its highest number (d6 = 6 points, d8 = 8 points, d12 = 12 points, etc.) Characters still cannot start with more than a (4) or  in any one cliché, but it could be (4d12) !
- When teaming up, the leader is whoever has the most dice in the appropriate cliché, regardless of the size of dice. (ie.: Clown(4d6) will be leader even if there is a Pie-Archer(3d20) in the team)
- Advancing a cliché can now go beyond 6; when advancing beyond 6, drop one die but increase the die size. (ie.: 6d6 -> 5d8 -> 6d8 -> 5d10 -> ...)
- Hooks and Tales are each worth 10% of the starting # of points in character creation.
- Double-pump cliches cost double the points that would be used, but still advance normally.
Unofficial Optional Rules
- Evens Up
- When rolling dice, you only count the dice that come up showing even numbers as "successes." Target numbers are now 1/2/3/4/5/6 instead of 5/10/15/20/25/30. Dice that show a '6' (if you are using Funky Dice, any even number 6 or greater) are counted as a success AND rolled again (aka exploding dice). This method makes for a smaller gap of successes betweeen smaller and larger clichés. Optional optional rule: if any die shows a '1' things got more complicated; player must come up with a reason why things just got harder, and needs one extra 'success' to succeed.
- Negative Clichés
- To simulate ongoing conditions that persist beyond the usual recovery of depleted clichés, the GM could assign a temporary cliché that represents something the character must overcome, and opponents can take advantage of (i.e.: "Shellshocked(1)" or "Sopor Slime Junkie(2)"). This could also be known and difficult quirks of equipment or situations (i.e. "Glorious Communist Consumer Product(2)", "City Hall Bureaucracy(1)"). Characters can take 1 or 2 dice in a negative cliche during character generation to get that many extra dice for other, more positive clichés. When used, an opponent can add the dice for negative clichés once and only once to a roll of the dice if the negative cliché is narrated as interfering with the conflict. In combat conflicts, the negative cliché can only be used once during the entire fight, even if there is more than one opponent trying to make use of it; in non-combat conflicts, there is only one roll. Temporary negative cliches must be role-played to get rid of, but the GM can assume that during down-time between adventures, characters can do whatever it takes to drop temporary negative clichés, like heal-up, relax, repair, see a doctor, consolation by a priest, meet with a financial advisor, etc. At the end of an adventure, you can use the die you would have added to one of your other clichés to reduce a pemanent negative cliché by 1 die. A permanent negative cliché can only be reduced by 1 die per adventure.
More Cliche Examples
- TVtropes has all the clichés -- all of them.
Start at their Characters page and take one step in any direction.
- Astronaut: Piloting spaceships, not puking in zero-gee
- Barbarian: Beating things up, drinking, whoring, grunting, sweating
- Biker: Riding Harley, brawling, being Invisible to other motorists
- Bimbo: Available in both genders. Distracting, teasing, not teasing...
- Computer Geek: Hacking, programming, fumbling over introductions
- Con Artist: Convincing other people to give you money, evading cops
- Cowboy: Ridin', ropin', brandin', spittin', and shootin'
- Fighter Pilot: Dogfighting, not blacking out at high-Gs, bragging
- Gadgeteer: Building a radar out of a bent fork and some gum
- Gambler: Betting, cheating, winning, running very fast
- Gangster: Shooting, speaking with an accent, intimidation
- Geezer: Wheezin', cursin', bitter reminiscin', failin' to understand kids
- Hairdresser: Dressing hair... um, yeah.
- Kid: Being a sidekick to heroes, making friends with Giant Monsters
- Knight: Riding, lancing, sword-swinging, heraldry, being chaste
- Latin Lover: Seducing, loving, running from irate husbands
- Mad Scientist: Raving, trying to play God, defying physics
- Martial Artist: Fancy hand-to-hand combat, flying without (visible) wires, out-of-synch speech
- Magician: Palming things, sawing ladies in half, public speaking
- Sorcerer: Spellcasting, demon-summoning, speaking in gibberish
- Novelist: Drinking, brawling, cut-rate world traveling, introspection
- Olympic Athlete: Running, swimming, jumping, skiing, javelin-tossing
- Outdoorsman: Following tracks, building shelters, finding wild food
- Policeman: Eating donuts, writing tickets, shooting badguys
- Poltergeist: Being dead, throwing things, scaring people
- Soldier: Shooting, hiding, partying, catching venereal diseases
- Special Forces: Following orders, looking stern, following orders
- Swashbuckler: Stabbing things, swinging from ropes, sailing, romance
- Thief: Sneakin' around, gaining access and objects they shouldn't have
- Vampire: Charming people, sucking blood, turning into mist or bats
- Other Kind of Vampire: Self-pity, erotic blood poetry, wearing black