Risus: The Anything RPG
Risus: The Anything RPG Playtest Review by Larry Bullock on 24/08/01
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
I finally review something you can get, it's free, and you should get a copy!
Product: Risus: The Anything RPG
Author: S. John Ross
Company/Publisher: Cumberland Games
Page count: 6
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Larry Bullock on 24/08/01
Genre tags: Generic
Risus The Anything RPG (version 1.5)
|Fushaz, created by Larry Bullock|
|Description: Average height and build. Slightly dirty from being outside all of the time. Likes to be out in the woods. Makes a living acting as a wilderness guide and as a messenger.|
|Cliches: Woods Guide (4), Survival Nut (3), Courier (3)|
A word on equipment. You are assumed to have the proper tools for your given clichés. If for some reason you lose a necessary tool, your rank may be temporarily reduced (anything from half to down to one). It's hard to joust if you're a knight without a lance, but you're welcome to try.
If you want to do something that the GM feels success isn't a given (or someone is opposing you), you pick an appropriate cliché (most of the time) and roll the dice. If you beat the target number (assigned by the GM), you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. The target number isn't rocket science (to throw a different kind of cliché into the review). The target numbers presented are a guideline, and they are very much based on the GMs estimation as to the appropriateness of your cliché. If Fushaz wanted to operate on someone, he could try, but the target number will be extremely difficult compared to an actual surgeon.
Combat, or opposed actions, require both parties to roll against their cliché. Highest total wins. The loser must reduce his cliché temporarily by 1. This continues until one side or the other gives up or one side is reduced to a cliché of zero. If you are reduced to a zero cliché, the winner gets to determine the final outcome (death or dismemberment are quite common in combat situations depending upon the genre you are playing in — although if you are doing big time wrestling, you may just end up thrown out of the ring unconscious).
Rules are presented for using inappropriate clichés in combat (in keeping with the humor angle), teaming up in battle, what to do in situations when someone can't participate (the example is a pie eating contest and no one has any eating clichés), and character advancement. There are also advanced, optional rules available.
The first Advanced Option: Hooks and Tales provides characters a way to get more dice in character creation. The second: Pumping clichés provides a way to temporarily boost a cliché rank for a round (for those times when you really need more dice). The third: Double-Pumps provides rules for allowing really major boosting of dice (recommended for spell casters, super heroes, etc.). The final option: Funky Dice provides ways to incorporate other dice than a d6 to help differentiate characters more (all the way from d6 to d30 is covered). This option is more for the super hero game than standard D&D fantasy fare.
Yes, Risus is designed as a rules-light system geared towards just having a good time. However, Risus also works well for serious games (if you want). Risus doesn't contain some typical rule book conventions: there is no "what is roleplaying" section; there are no guidelines for creating adventures; there are no guidelines for creating a world. Basically, Risus is rules for people who either already know the basics of roleplaying or have someone willing to teach them. If the GM is experienced, Risus is probably one of the easier RPGs to teach to a newbie.
One way that I guage whether or not a free game is worth checking out is the support for it. Does it exist? In Risus, you better believe it does. The main Risus website contains other Risus materials (GM Screen Sheet (to tape on one of your existing screens), dice (they may be paper, but they are free), and miniatures (a Sparks sampler)). There's a link to the Risus mailing list — a somewhat active list of Risus players and GMs sharing information, thoughts, and ideas (moderated by S. John Ross himself). S. John Ross also maintains a series of links to Risus resources created by other people (adventures, rule expansions, etc.). You can even find copies of Risus in languages other than English. I would say that Risus is fairly well supported.
Overall, the Style of the Risus PDF is Excellent. You can really tell that S. John Ross is a professional who understands page layout and design. The Substance is also Excellent. Risus has quickly become one of my all time favorite RPGs. You really owe it to yourself to check this game out if you haven't already.
What do you think of Risus or my review? Please use the forums to let me know.