50 Games in 50 Weeks: Risus

Oct 19 2011

I had the good fortune to play a game using the free Risus “everything RPG system” as part of DC Gameday this year.

Risus is very generic, which is its key strength. The system can be explained in two short paragraphs, which I will now attempt to do.

Each character is made up of clichés, each of which gets 1 to 4 dice. Each character has a total of 10 dice to distribute amongst clichés. You can add a “hook” (interesting backstory) to your character for an extra die.

To attempt an action, choose a cliché and roll that number of dice. Add the result (rolling 3, 4, and 4 results in 11); if you meet or beat a target difficulty number, you succeed. If you fail during a conflict, remove one die in that cliché for the rest of the conflict; if you lose all your dice in one cliché, you lose the conflict. You can also “team up” to assist a team leader, by rolling one cliché’s dice and adding all the sixes you roll to the team leader’s roll.

'John Carter of Mars' by artmessiah on DeviantArt

'John Carter of Mars' (c) artmessiah on DeviantArt

Our game was a Flash Gordon-style story, set in a garden party on Venus. The cast was as follows:

  • An arrogant spaceship captain (think Zap Branigan)
  • An ace reporter
  • A Robby the Robot-style robot
  • A slightly mad professor
  • A spunky female hover-limo driver
  • A femme fetale

We had an excellent group; people were throwing ideas out and actively playing. Unfortunately, though we raced after the mad Moon Men, we were unable to complete the story in time.

Risus is a flexible and straightforward system that struck me as easy to play and easy to GM. Opposed actions are against other characters’ clichés. At most, you’re rolling a couple of dice and adding the result. Boom.

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