Yet More Thoughts on Risus (YMToR)

risusbtnI have had a love/hate relationship with Risus for about three years now. For the longest time I struggled to find any brave souls to attempt this unique game system with me. When I finally did, well, I hated it. This was partly due to a misunderstanding between a player and I. I wanted Risus to be the universal system I have always looked for, where he saw it, probably rightly, as a simple comedic, fun game and proceeded to do some fancy Wushu-like moves. The rest of us were a little dumbfounded by his acrobatics. I have sinse chaulked this up as my not stating the entent behind the game clearly. Since then, prior to running any Risus game, I make sure the entent is clearly presented to the players so they and I know what each is expecting in the session. Is it flat out comedy? Is it a serious dungeon delve? Does it lie somewhere in ‘teh awesomeness’ in between?

I recently ran another session with Risus and I can say that I was not entirely thrilled with how it went. The player(s) liked it so they said, but I just felt something was amiss. Again, something was off a tad. Again, this was an attempt to run a serious game using Risus. It is a homebrew setting called Lavinlore and is a mish mash of a few different genres and ideas all thrown together. Either way, I am starting to wonder.

I really feel that Risus IS a universal and amazingly adaptable gaming system, I am struggling with implementing it, and it is driving me nuts. I consider myself a fairly adept GM: having ran too-many-to-count campaigns…usually with players clamoring to get into the game, creating a few of my own worlds, and generally GMing for almost 25+ years. I thought i could tackle any game system with ease (not that I would want to, the D&D4 is a beast that I wouldn’t touch with your…well, you know). I really love Risus. I love how everything literally is possible with it, and setting, any genre, any thing. I find it difficult NOT to think in terms of Risus when I read another system, think how much better Risus could do it.

But man, Risus has seriously got me questioning myself. Have I lost it? Am I no longer the GM I used to be? Has this little 6 pages RPG kicked my ‘tocks? I am hoping not, and maybe Alex is right, I should jsut stick with it and push on through. Games have a way of working themselves out and with a little elbow grease (thats work, for all you youngin’s) this one could do the same.

That said, I am considering calling off my hopefully someday weekly game called Lavinlore and run a old school D&D module (maybe even use an actual TSR module) using Risus. OD&D is something any retarded ghoul could play, if Risus fails at this, or it feels odd, well, I hate to say it, but the search may be on again to find snikle’s System of Choice™.


15 thoughts on “Yet More Thoughts on Risus (YMToR)

  1. I say work on Kumquat. I think your on the right track with it. I don’t know if any other system out there is going to satisfy your needs. The ONLY problem I forsee with creating it, is finding players. But if you switch systems everytime you wll still have that same problem.

    By the way, I did have fun in the game. Sure it may have felt off, but the story, setting, and your GMing were all fine.

  2. Snik, old buddy, how much have you played with FATE? If I recall, the Aspects are really inspired by Risus’ cliches.

    I think that the problem with Risus as a serious roleplaying engine is that a cliché can be any long string of words. You actually want a cliché to be a bit ridiculous so you can do more with it.

    Maybe if you had more clichés you could tone down the silliness a bit.

    What about a FATE/Risus hybrid? You know, a cliché pyramid.

    You get 1 cliché at 4 dice, 2 at 3 dice, 3 at 2 dice, 4 at 1 die.

    You could make clichés be a little more specific. Instead of “spunky and sexy redhaired reporter”, you’d break it down into “Spunky,” “Sexy redhead,” and “Reporter for the Risus Times.”

  3. I think you need to stick with it for at least a little while longer, and, more importantly, I think you also need to play it! GMing and playing it I think are two vastly different experiences, but that’s just me.

  4. I’ve been pondering this tonight. It seems to me that you, like me, are looking for the Holy Grail of RPG systems. I thought I’d ask you a few questions to help you narrow it down.

    If your perfect game (story, not system) was a movie, what kind of movie would it be? Action? Mystery? Epic? Supernatural Thriller? Road Movie?

    What things do you think system is incapable of handling that has to happen on a social level?

    It seems to me that you’re looking for GURPS without all the book-keeping and crunch. A system with a simple, elegant mechanic that can handle any kind of story, but still define the characters and their actions to a high degree. Is this correct?

  5. “If your perfect game (story, not system) was a movie, what kind of movie would it be? Action? Mystery? Epic? Supernatural Thriller? Road Movie?”
    Hmmm, good question. Well, I think I would say pulpy good time. I remember the best games I ever DMed were much like Indiana Jones, dashing heroes that swung in at just the right moment and saved the day. A little mystery, a little bit of a love story, and an exciting ending to round it off.
    One of the most awesome gaming experiences I remember was using AD&D long ago was because it had a pulpy feel to it. The heroes were heroes damn it. And that made it kick ass. The players were in some dungeon exploring and they were standing knee deep in a stream of what they thought was water. Turned out it was combustible and when they realized it, they were legitimately concerned I was going to a TPK. Of course a flame was produced and a fireball can shooting down the tunnel they were in. They ran for their life, towards the end seeing a opening, the stream spilling out the side of a sheer cliff, the flames getting closer and closer (envision the Falcon speeding out of the Death Star if you will). In the end, the players blindly leapt out the end of the tunnel with complete disregard for how high up it was, if they were going to live, anything, they just did not want to fry in the tunnel. It was one of the few times I have ever seem player honestly concerned and terrified into hectic action. It was just so perfectly timed and everything fell magically in place. I, of course, had no intention of ever doing a TPK.
    So anyway, I would say think Indie or Luke and Leia, and you would be pretty close to my perfect movie. Maybe throw in a little bit of Lovecraft and post-apocalypse(though that is more setting than system) in there for good measure and it might be orgasmic. 😉

    “What things do you think system is incapable of handling that has to happen on a social level?”
    Hmm a difficult thing to answer. My usual GMing method is to work out most of the game via role-playing instead of rules. That said, there are times when i want to be able to use the system to work out something if we seem to be leaning that way. That is one thing I like about Risus, if we wanted to role-play out something, we could easily use a cliché OR role-play it out. Either would work and both feel natural in the system.

    “It seems to me that you’re looking for GURPS without all the book-keeping and crunch. A system with a simple, elegant mechanic that can handle any kind of story, but still define the characters and their actions to a high degree. Is this correct?”
    Damn you and your hard questions. No I do not want GURPS, I hate GURPS. I think I just need the structure of play a little more mapped out, but I think one of my players (Alex!) may have figured this one out for me without really realizing he did it in a suggestion he actually made for kumquat. What I want is an easy to use system without tons of pages of rules to learn or memorize (or for someone to Min/Max it) that is flexible enough for me to use in whatever setting I want. I tend to flipflop on setting allot, almost scarily so, so setting based rulings are not important to me, but the rules being able to handle any of those settings (even perhaps with a few minor tweakings) is primo importante to me.

  6. I think you should check out FATE 3 in its various implementations: Spirit of the Century, Starblazer Adventures, Awesome Adventures, Diaspora. Every system I try to design ends up being a less elegant version of FATE.

    Spirit of the Century is built for pulp. Starblazer is built for space opera.

    Risus is a bit too simple for me. Have you tried The Pool? There’s a couple of flavors of the ruleset: an Arthurian and a Viking, if I recall.

  7. I have The Pool (I LOVE the Viking version) and it was actually the game that I discovered following The Window that made me really want to leap into different games. I was never able to convince someone to try it with me. Now however, I have a couple of friends that are much more open to trying something, so long as we are playing they do not seem to care. Maybe I will take a stab at it again.
    I have Fate2 and Fate3 SotC SRD. Fate2 is only 90 pages, I think I could stomach that, but the other is over 200 pages. Hell, I might as well play D&D. 🙂 I just do not have the time, mental power, or inner strength to learn a huge system. I don’t wanna, and you can’t make me. I do see things I like in it though.
    I hate this because I like parts of so many games, just cannot settle on just one. I have a head ache from thinking about game systems and games……

  8. I think you need to try WoD as well. I never read it, didn’t think I would like it until this week. Now that I read it, it seems very similar to many of the games like Risus, Savage Worlds, and so on.

  9. Although I love Risus I would also like to recommend PDQ:

    It\’s free and very Risus like …and traits *can* be adjectives 😉

    If you pay for it there is also some adaptions (I like Questers of the Middle-Realms and Zorcerer of Zo) for specific genres available on RPGNow:

    I feel the same way about the bulky SotC SRD. Much of it is listings of specific stunts and other stuff you can skip. The most important thing is Aspects which is a short read.

    I recommend \”Fudge and Fate on the fly\”:

    There is also these Fate lite yummies:
    Wheel of Fate:
    2d6 Fate:

    I hope you find your \”One True System\”. Please write about here on your blog, as I too am searching and would be happy to hear about it.

  10. (btw IOR104, I do not publish the email addresses people enter to post to the site, that is just a measure to make sure you are a person and not a robot. And no, I will not spam you…unless you tell me you love Obama, then I might)

    Seems like I have found some secret brotherhood or something. I have been exploring indie games and rules lite/universal games for about two to three years looking for THAT game.
    I have every single one of those you mention except for 2d6 Fate (which the link is now dead). Will take a look at it when I can find it. Crazybear LOVES pdq and Zo. I have actually taken Wheel of Fate and modified it slightly:

    I think you could take all the listed Aspects out of SotC and it would be a pretty good rules lite system too.

      1. I like the weapons/armor rules from this.

        Another way to use 2d6 in FATE is to do it the Starblazer way: 1d6-1d6. It’s a bit more cinematic than using Fudge Dice, but nice if you don’t have/don’t want to shell out for Fudge Dice.

        Being a dice geek, it’s not a problem for me.

  11. I meant it in a “snikle doesn’t want that many pages of rules to read or aspects to learn, it hurts his teeny weeny head” sort of way. I like Aspects/Traits/Edges, but I think you can just as easily do it without having them all written out in page after page of rules. I like the way Risus does it, I just think they need to be a little more constrictive in the way they are produced. Cupcake Maker (3) is not equal to Scourge of the Seven Seas (3) in my book.
    I didn’t want to say anything, but this leads into something I just started on today. I am using Careers as a sort of aspect like rule. Players choose a Career such as Medic, Grunt, Ranger, Scout, Logistics (yeah, using the Army as a guide here) and with it comes a set of logical (e.g. I am not listing them all) list of types of things that someone with that career could be expected to know how to do. I will have more of a write up tomorrow for the blog on some details from this new idea.

  12. Mike Holmes (of Universalis fame) has some cool ideas about Aspect/Skills in this document from the FATE yahoo group.

    Here’s the jewel:

    Players should present each Aspect in the following format:
    Aspect: (the name of the aspect)
    Type: (see below)
    Skills: (the four skills associated with the aspect)
    Background: (where the aspect came from and when)

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