RISUS Superheroes!

RISUS for superhero gaming? Oh yes. For those that don’t know, RISUS falls into the category of games that are either stupidly simple, or simply stupid, depending on which direction you’re looking at the time. It’s a free download but if you join the International Order of Risus fan club for $10 you also get the Risus Companion, a 64 page supplement that’s one of the best player/gm advice guides (for any game) around.

The character generation rules for RISUS are about as easy as they come. You’ve got 10 points. Allocate them among a handful of clichés with no more than 4 points to any one. That’s it. One character, done.  You have any equipment suggested by your clichés, but you’re at a penalty it it’s somehow lost or damaged. A character with Knight(4) might have a gleaming set of full plate armour and a fine steel longsword whereas one with Knight(1) a tarnished hand-me-down rusty chain shirt and blunt shortsword. As there’s no weapon or armour stats (everything is calculated from the cliché) it matters not but this openness adds to the strength and speed of the system. This is one fast, fluid system folks.

The magic comes into play when it comes to defining what those clichés are. A character who has Cowboy(4), for example,   is good, but one with World Weary Cowboy Unable to Settle Down(4) is better. This is true character generation at work – you’re creating personality, not a bunch of stats which dictate how much of a Heavy Load he can carry. A full character might look like this:

Maxwell Carter
World Weary Cowboy Unable to Settle Down(4), Ice Cool Poker Shark(3), Ex-Sergeant now Disgusted with Military Life(2),  Keen but Talentless Harmonica Player (1)

Central to RISUS is the idea of Conflict. This may be direct combat, but it could be anything else. In fact, it’s quite likely to be anything else! The number beside the clichés are the number of d6s you roll. Your opponent rolls theirs and the highest result wins. The loser drops a dice from that  cliché, and the conflict continues. If any cliché drops to zero, the winner chooses the fate of the loser. Read that again, and let it soak in. Losing doesn’t have to mean death. It could be something far worse, and you’re letting the player (assuming they win) choose it!

Using Maxwell as an example, he could be in a High Noon standoff against a Mean Drunk Hothead(3). He first uses his Poker stare to psyche him out (knocking him down to 2) then issue a barked order in his best Sergeant voice to tell him to sober up and clear out (down to 1 – Maxwell is on a roll). The Mean Hothead almost complies then turns and draws – but he’s too slow. Maxwell fires. The Hothead is down to zero and Maxwell is standing over him. “Stick him in the stocks till he’s sober.” he drawls, “it’s a hot day and thar’s plenty of veg going rotten. The children got target practise.”

And that’s RISUS, in a nutshell. Add in a straight roll higher than a given Difficulty Class for non-conflict checks, and you know how to play. There’s a few additional rules – such as Teaming Up, using Inappropriate Clichés (which is inspired, to say the least) and Pumping (boosting your cliché, for a price) and they’re all very straightforward and fun to play with. And yes, there is Character Advancement too.

Anyhow. Superheroes.

With ICONS just around the corner (something I’m very excited about, btw) I’m itching to try out the lighter side of superhero gaming. So, Mutants & Masterminds is put on a backburner for a while and it’s time to try out RISUS, Superhero style.

There’s two ways to turn RISUS into a superhero role-playing game: change the dice, or change the scale. The default option (given in the RISUS core rules) is to open the game up to all those funky dice. Rather than ‘mere’ six-sided dice, the heroes can have such clichés as Superstrong  Guy With a Heart of Gold (4d8), or Millionaire Playboy in Power Armour (2d10). That’s good, but I prefer my simple gaming to stay….. well, simple. The idea of a go-anywhere lite d6-based superhero role-playing game is an appealing one.

So, let’s change the scale. This is an option suggested in the Risus Companion and is, imho, one better suited to Risus than breaking out the oddly-shaped dice. Where Risus’ difficulty ratings go up in 5s – 5 = easy, 10 = professional level, 15 = heroic, 20 = master, 30 = superhero, etc. I suggest going up in 2s: 2 = easy, 4 = professional, 6 = heroic, 8 = master, 12 = superhero, etc. This means even a lowly Thug With Baseball Bat (1) can occasionally excel, while a Badass Shadow Detective (3) will always do the easy stuff, but usually reach heroic or master levels in his badassery.

Let’s end this with a handful of sample heroes and villains, just to show how wonderfully easy and intuitive RISUS is.

Captain Crime
Evil Criminal Mastermind with a Cat (4), Handy Dandy Teleport Cane (3), Near Limitless Supply of Crazy Gadgets (2), Flawed Planning (1)

250 Arm Ninjas
Doing Ninja Stuff (5)

Yes, I can group 250 ninjas together and roll for all of them with just 5d6. Awesome, no? Time for a superhero Team-up!

The Whip
Agile Whip Wielding Heroine in a Skimpy Black Suit (4), Tabloid Journalist Who Writes Wild Tales (That Are Probably True) (3), Bad Girl Turned Good (3)


Superstrong Guy with a Heart of Gold and Flesh of Iron (3), Ultra Confidence (3), Hollywood Super Stuntman (3), Strict Follower of the Heroes’ Code (1)


Midnight Man
Shadowy Detective of the Night (4), Wealthy Playboy Super Ninja (3), Scary badass (2), Sense of Humour (1)


There you have it, folks. Expect more RISUS goodness to follow!

11 Comments on “RISUS Superheroes!”

  1. I’m very much looking forward to ICONS as well. It takes care of two things that I’ve wanted to Lite M&M up for in the past. 1. Speed of Character Creation and 2. Replacing FASERIP for straight forward character writeups online.

    Doesn’t do anything for enhancing the street level experience but there are other games for that.

    Interesting thing about what you have here, many of the traits could be quickly converted to ICONS Qualities and Challenges… at least by my basic understanding of the preview material.
    .-= DarkTouch´s last blog ..Paragons of Freedom Session 2 =-.

  2. @DarkTouch I’m looking forward to the random character generation. It’s about time that made a comeback. Some of my favourite characters were born out of Marvel RPG random chargen. I think ICONS is going to be seriously hot when it’s released.

    @Elton More renders coming soon! And yes, I’ve seen the Djinn and they’re going straight into my wishlist :D

    @Tourq RISUS comes highly recommended. It’s great fun to play, fast and about as minimal as they come.

  3. Welcome to the Risus Collective! I really like your summary of the system and your sample characters perfectly capture the spirit of the system. I’ll definitely be checking back here regularly to see what else you come up with.

  4. @Clan Mum Thanks for the link. The whole cliche/conflict thing sure does make for a unique way to play. Love it :D

    @Zachary Tell me more!

    @Larry I think it deserves a place in our Top Four Games – M&M, D&D, Savage Worlds and now Risus. Between all of those, I reckon you can play any gamestyle from complex hypersimulationist to beer’n’pretzels, and any genre you care to mention too. Perfect!

    @Risus Oh man. Now I’m a part of another collective. Help! Man overborg!

    @Patv Thanks for that link. Now I’ve another website to pour over :D

    Thanks again, all!

  5. Wow, great stuff! @Patv, the Mystery Men link is killer funny. After finding Risus about 2 years ago I cannot wrap my head around any other system without extreme difficulty.
    Good stuff guys, keep up!

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