How to Run Practically Any RPG Concept with Risus

Posted by on May 23, 2017
mashup by Alex Sacui

mashup by Alex Sacui

Ben has a concept he wants to run as a tabletop RPG, but it doesn’t fit any system he knows. It’s a weird mashup of genres.

Ben decides to go for it anyway.

Because the players won’t have crystal clear ideas for their characters, Ben ideally wants to create characters during play. He’d prefer to start with basic character concepts, then define cool things they do as they play.

Then, Ben comes across an article I wrote about running practically any RPG concept in Risus and decides to adapt that to building characters in play. Risus works best with more pulpy genres, which fortunately fits Ben’s concept nicely.

He starts by messaging his players ahead of time about the basic genre, and asks them to think about the look for their characters. He suggests that they think of the look like, say, describing an Overwatch character. No need to get really detailed.

Then, when the players gather for the session, he gives them each a piece of paper and a pencil, and has them write down the look for their character and read it out to everyone.

Ben then explains the Risus system, and tells everyone that each character will have a 4-dice catchphrase, a 3-dice catchphrase, a 2-dice catchphrase, and a 1-die catchphrase.

He asks if anyone has any catchphrase ideas yet. Somebody probably does, so he encourages them to write those down.

Then Ben jumps into the session. He quickly introduces the characters and a big conflict. He asks the players what their characters do.

As players describe their characters’ actions, he encourages framing those as catchphrases. For example, Tracy says her lanky, cloaked character jumps from one rooftop to the next. Ben says, “Oh, so she’s really agile? Do you want to make a catchphrase out of that, like maybe ‘Flies like the wind’?”

If a player faces a conflict and hasn’t filled out any catchphrases, Ben lets the player roll one d6, always against a target difficulty number of 6.

Within 30 minutes, almost all of the characters’ catchphrases are filled out, and the session is rocking along. Ben’s brought his weird genre mashup to the table.

And that’s how you can run practically any genre concept with almost no prep.

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