Risus Epic

Elegant. Lightweight. Story-Centered. Risus is an RPG for the ages.

by Colin MacIntyre

Fans of Risus: The Anything RPG agree, the pen and paper roleplaying system created by S. John Ross is the system literary types and word-wranglers have been looking for but didn’t know it.

The version described in this document takes the basics of Risus and welds it together with the best alternate rules from the community. This “gestalt” is designed to be the perfect choice for those longer, heavier campaigns where you would want more potential for your characters and stories to develop. This is Risus Epic.

Let’s get started.

1. The Cliché
2. Creating Your Character
3. Playing the Game
4: Advancing Your Character
Appendix I: Cliché
Appendix II: Dreams
Appendix III: Agonies
Appendix IV: Flaws
Appendix V: Hero Moves


The Cliché

What really makes Risus so unique, so good, is the elegant simplicity and power of the mechanic at the heart of the game — the character cliché.

A cliché is shorthand for a kind of person. It implies a whole bunch of associated things like skills, background, social status, clothing, tools and more. In this way, the game refuses to get bogged down in explicit details, relying instead on imagination and common sense to infer what’s there already. This opens up a vast space for what really matters — the story itself.

Aragorn son of Arathorn
Silent Ranger (4)
, Friend of the Elves (3), King of Men in Denial (3)

Prince Humperdinck
Mildly Effeminate Warmongering Royal (3)
, Hunter Who Can Track a Hawk on a Cloudy Day (5), Exploiter of Innocents to Further His Own Ends (2)

These are two Risus player characters (PC’s), each with three clichés. Each cliché has a number in parentheses (x) that tells us its level:

     (1) — Novice
     (2) — Beginner
     (3) — Average
     (4) — Expert
     (5) — Master
     (6) — Legend
     (7) — G.O.A.T.

When a PC’s prowess as a Wizard, Starpilot or Kung Fu Master is challenged, dice are rolled equal to their cliché level.

1.1 Novice at Everything

It is assumed that each PC is at least a novice (1) in every cliché imaginable, so at character creation all written clichés start at (2). Incidentally, this means that any challenge may be attempted with 1d6 if no cliché fits the bill.

1.2 Death and Defeat

If any clichés are reduced to (0), a character is defeated and may become debilitated, sink into despair, fall into a coma, or whatever the GM decides based on the events leading up to that outcome. If all of a character's clichés fall to (0), the character is dead. Kaput.


Creating Your Character

Let’s look at a more complete Risus player character:

Ragnar Lothbrok
Description: Blonde, blue-eyed, and muscular. Likes to drink and fight and chase Viking women and sail to new lands and raid. Dreams of great sagas written about him and to die well and then, in Valhalla, to do it all over again.
Clichés: Viking Leader Intent on Legacy (4), Opportunistic Dreamer with Eyes Like the Sea (2), Notorious Scourge of England and France (2)

To create Ragnar, all we had to do was name him, describe him, and assign clichés.

2.1 Creation Dice

Each player gets eight starting dice to spend on 3 to 5 clichés (two more dice are available by choosing a Dream and an Agony, but more on that later). The first cliché you choose is the Primary — the one that most clearly expresses how your PC sees him or herself. Brand new PC’s may not advance clichés higher than (4), so Ragnar’s Viking Leader Intent on Legacy is maxed out, for now.

2.2 The Loaded Cliché

Each cliché implies a lot about the character, including their abilities and gear. One expects that Ragnar is comfortable with blades and battle. He’s probably an accomplished sailor, a runner, and an all-night reveler. No doubt he owns a good sword and axe, and wears a long, colored tunic over wool or linen trousers, and tied with a leather belt.

Using Ross' examples, Psychic Schoolgirl (3) probably has the power to sense (and be freaked-out by) the psychometric residue lingering at a murder scene. She probably owns a cute, plushy backpack filled with school supplies. Roguish Space Pirate (3) can probably do all kinds of Han Solo-type thing, wears a holstered laser pistol, and owns a used star freighter of questionable lightspeed capability.

2.3 Tools of the Trade

As you can see, each cliché is implicitly loaded with several tools of the trade – whatever makes sense for the campaign. However, equipment may still be lost or damaged, which can cripple or limit that cliché’s power. A Roguish Space Pirate (4) with an impounded space freighter loses all ability to haul cargo to distant suns no matter what his cliché level. On the other hand, a Psychic Schoolgirl (3) who’s plushy backpack is stolen would lose none of her ability to roll 3d6 to sense paranormal details at a murder scene. Hirsute Barbarian (3), forced into a gladiatorial arena without his trusty blade can still rely on his bare hands, but would roll half-dice (rounded up, so 2d6) until he’s once again properly armed. The backpack-deprived Psychic Schoolgirl might face a similar penalty when it’s time to do her homework.

In the course of an adventure, PC’s may discover enchanted, cutting-edge or otherwise special equipment. The basic kind, Bonus-Dice Gear, add extra dice to your roll when used, but plenty of other kinds exist, with game mechanics as wide as the imagination.

For example:

  • Experimental Navigation Software lets you reroll any 1's.
  • Elegant Stradivarius alone is able to seduce the Vampire Prince.
  • Brass Knuckles of Mercy grants dice at least equal to your foes, but their lives must be spared.
  • King’s Own Ring allows the wearer to win any ties in a verbal challenge.
  • Sword of Boasting grants its bonus only when an audience is watching.

2.4 Lucky Strikes

Instead of allocating all dice to clichés, dice can be spent to buy 3 Lucky Strike charges per die. On a cliché roll, any number of Lucky Strikes can be spent to add 1 extra die each to the roll. This represents good fortune, divine favour, flashes of inspiration, etc.  All Lucky Strikes are restored or reset between game sessions, but cannot be hoarded.

2.5 Questing Dice

Whenever a PC makes an important step forward in their story arc, the GM may grant Questing Dice. It’s a way to reward PC’s who “stay on track.” Questing Dice can be spent to boost a roll like Lucky Strikes, but they do not reload between sessions and they can be hoarded. Questing Dice can even be exchanged for Hero Points at 3 to 1.

2.6 Hero Points

Each PC begins the campaign with one Hero Point. Hero Points can be spent to activate several in-game special effects called Hero Moves (see Appendix V: Hero Moves).

Hero Points are awarded

  • by the GM in the event of a particularly heroic act
  • by a player as gratitude for saving their PC’s life
  • when rolling for character advancement (sometimes)

2.7 Creating NPC's

In order to smooth gameplay, you may want NPC's (Non-Player Characters) to be created with less dice than your PC's. A thug might have 3 to 5 dice, while a major villain might have 7 to 9 (and use his clichés more creatively). Allied NPC's should always have between 4 to 6 dice, unless they're permanent campaigners, whereupon the full 8 to 10 is advisable.

Enemies too easy? Dan Suptic has concocted several compelling ideas for making opponents stronger.


Playing the Game

Risus gameplay consists of PC's embarking on a series of adventures, each of which involve a series of encounters, many of which need to be resolved through challenges. A challenge simply means rolling dice against an opponent or a target. To resolve a challenge, the player chooses a cliché (now active), rolls a number of d6 corresponding to its level, and totals the score.

3.1 Boxcar Breakthrough

If a roll comes up all 6’s, they “break through” or “explode”, meaning all dice may be re-rolled and the result added to your score.

3.2 Critical Hit

If, during a Contest or Battle, a character gets a result at least double that of their opponent, the loser must roll 1d6 and lose that many dice from their active cliché.

3.4 The Three Challenges

Risus features three kinds of challenges that govern all in-game encounters:

  1. Contest (one round character vs. character)
  2. Battle (multi-round character vs. character)
  3. Target (character vs. environment)

GM's switch between these three methods many times during an adventure depending on the situation, pacing and mood. Sometimes, a strength challenge works best as a Contest. If long and drawn out, better to declare it a Battle. And sometimessay, in the event of rubble from a fallen tower trapping your loveras a Target.

3.5 Contest

Two characters grab for the same bag of loot. This calls for a Contest—a decisive single roll between active opponents. Roll bones and winner-takes-all! No second chances. In this case, whoever rolls the highest total gets the loot.

3.6 Battle

In Risus, a Battle occurs whenever two rival characters face off against each other in a series of contested rolls; jockeying for position, launching attacks, activating defenses, or otherwise wearing down an opponent in order to gain victory. This can be literal or metaphorical in the sense that Battles encompass everything from city sieges to fighting temptation as well as jousts, psychic duels, gunfights, wrestling matches, arguments, seductions, horse races, dueling banjos, aerial dogfights, etc.

The GM decides when a Battle has begun, at which time each participant makes an attack in turn. What constitutes an “attack” depends on the nature of the challenge, but it should always be roleplayed if dialogue is involved, or described in entertaining detail.

3.6.1 Cliché Dice Loss. Both parties in the Battle (attacker and defender) roll using their chosen cliché. The player with the highest total wins the round, while the loser subtracts one die from their active cliché. This die is lost for the rest of the Battle to signify that the character has just been pushed a step closer to defeat. The loss of cliché die needn’t always be interpreted as loss of blood or HP, however. As seen in this very famous example, Battles can be about tactical advantage, where no one is injured, and (like Inigo) the loser needn't die. It can mean the loss of will, stamina, self-control, appetite, ammo, honor, memory, mana, allies, votes, sight, faith, hope, love, and a host of other possibilities. Fully embracing this aspect of Risus is vital to getting the most out of the game.

3.6.2 Bait and Switch. 
In a Battle, clichés may be swapped every round if desired. If Cutthroat Corsair (5) wants to lop heads one round, and switch to Raised by a Troop of Baboons (3) the next to swing on chandeliers, that’s fine. However, anytime a character has a cliché worn down to (0) in combat, he’s been defeated, even if he has other clichés left to play with.

3.6.3 Fleeing. If a character wishes to flee a Battle, he or she must roll one more time, as normal. A win means they successfully run off, losing no dice. If they lose, active cliché dice are lost, and the character is forced to continue battling for their life.

3.6.4 To the Victor... Eventually, one side will be left without dice. At this point, the winner decides the fate of the loser. In a physical or magical Battle, the loser might be killed (or mercifully spared). In a courtroom, the loser is sentenced by the judge, or fails to prosecute. In the case of a seduction, the loser gets either a cold shower or a warm evening. While the GM has veto power in governing proper context, the spoils of war are otherwise up to the victor.

3.6.5 Evening the Odds. Facing an overwhelming opponent? Fret not; memorable roleplay is born in such crucibles. To even the odds, good players practice resource management, making liberal use of their equipment, Team-ups, Pumps, Lucky Strikes, Questing Dice, Hero Points, and, above all, creative roleplay.

3.6.6 Time and Distance. No standard time or distance scale exists in Risus; everything depends on context. In a melee, each round might represent just a few seconds, while rounds in a negotiation between planetary ambassadors might represent hours or days.

3.7 Target

In the event a character faces a challenge in which no one opposes them directly, and the GM thinks success would not be automatic, the GM sets a Target number based on the applied cliché. Roll the dice against the following table:

      5 — Easy
    10 — Tricky
    15 — Hard
    20 — Heroic
    30 — Legendary
    40 — Impossible

3.8 Inappropriate Clichés

The GM determines what sort of clichés are appropriate for the challenge. Any others are considered inappropriate. In a physical fight, Waif-like Washerwoman (3) is inappropriate. In a magical Battle, Apprentice Blacksmith (2) is inappropriate. However, inappropriate does not mean forbidden—provided it’s imaginative or entertaining enough, anything is possible. Of course, its use must be plausible within the context of the challenge, the genre and the tone that the GM has set for the adventure.

In the case of inappropriate clichés, all challenge rules apply normally, with one exception—the loser subtracts two die instead of one. Thus, Creative Court Jester (4) could be dangerous if cornered and attacked unfairly. The stakes are higher, beware!

When in doubt, the instigator determines the type of challenge that occurs. If Maniacal Wizard suddenly casts Magic Missile at Apprentice Blacksmith, it’s a magical Battle, in which case the latter’s clichés will likely be inappropriate. But, if Apprentice Blacksmith smacks Maniacal Wizard in the back with a hammer, it’s a physical Battle and the mage’s clichés will likely be inappropriate. If both agree to Battle at the same time, both their clichés are appropriate and on equal footing.

3.9 Recovering Clichés

Once the challenge ends, cliché dice losses are recovered at a healing rate determined by the GM and based on the nature of the attacks involved. If mounts or vehicles were used (mules, starfighters, mechs, Spanish galleons) then they are likely damaged too and must be healed or repaired.

Sometimes, recovery is dependent on conditions, not only time. Consider what really “feeds” the cliché. If it’s physical, such as Star Athlete, or Bare-Knuckle Brawler, it may simply require rest and a bandage. Yet note that the former may be fed just as well by a rousing speech from coach; the latter with a swig of mead.

3.10 Team-Ups

Two or more characters may team up for a Battle or Contest. For the duration of the team (usually the entire challenge), they contend as a single unit. There are two kinds of teams, Character Teams (for PC’s and NPC’s), and Brute-Squads (for nameless NPC hordes)

3.10.1 Character Teams. Every character in the team chooses their active cliché, but subtracts one die. They roll, adding their totals together. If the team loses, the dice loss is taken by the player with the lowest roll (if this is a tie, the player with the highest cliché die takes the loss). If a teammate’s cliché is reduced to (0), that character is incapacitated until the end of the challenge, whereupon their fate is decided by the victor.

3.10.2 Brute Squads. When a swarm of a thousand locusts attack the PCs within the lair of Osiris God of Egypt (7), the GM needn’t keep track of a thousand sets of dice. Instead, they may be declared as a brute squad, in which case they participate as a single entity, e.g. Swarm of Locusts (6).

Mechanically, a brute squad is identical to a single foe, but there being strength in numbers it will more than likely have more cliché dice. Returns can diminish of course, and three party-loving Prince (3) banding together may become a liability as Inept Trio of Drunken Royals (1).

Brute squads stick together until they’re defeated, at which point survivors may flee (though at least one will remain to suffer whatever fate the victor decides). In this way, an entire ship’s crew, an elven forest, cities as economic rivals, or nations at war can be represented by a single cliché.

3.10.3 Complementary Clichés. If a character has a cliché that is only indirectly related, but could conceivably aid another in a task — for example, a Goblin Mechanic (3) and a Zeppelin Captain (2) trying to repair a hot air balloon — the complementary cliché adds half its dice rounded down. Goblin Mechanic would roll 4d6.

3.11 Pump, Pump the Jam

Characters may pump their clichés in the face of any challenge. This is interpreted as an extraordinary effort at the cost of later injury. Choose how many dice you want to pump your cliché by and add that number of dice to your roll. After it resolves, the cliché returns to normal, then suffers immediate dice-loss equal to the boost. This takes time to heal.

For example, Ivar the Boneless (2) is attacked by Björn Ironside the Warrior (5). Ivar doesn’t have much of a chance in physical combat, so he opts for a trick. Ivar switches to Smooth-Talking Chess Player (3) — a fairly inappropriate choice. He also opts to pump it up by two dice. Ivar the Smooth Talking Chess Player (5) is going to gamble everything on his ability to lay a verbal trap. In round one, Björn Ironside the Warrior (5) rolls five dice, and Ivar also rolls five, telling him that he has kidnapped Björn’s wife and children—their life depends on Björn’s surrender. If Ivar loses, he’s defeated: his Smooth Talking Chess Player cliché would drop to (1) for the pump, then to (0) for losing the round (actually, it’s worse than that since an extra die is lost for using an inappropriate cliché). Björn sees through the bluff and slays him.

But, if Ivar wins, Björn Ironside the Warrior (5) drops to (3), and Ivar’s Smooth Talking Chess Player (3) drops to (1) for the pump. In round two, Ivar can switch back to Ivar the Boneless (2), where he’ll be on slightly better footing against the stunned Björn. Maybe he’ll pump that to get one extra die, try a Lucky Strike or spend a Hero Point to even the playing field further.

Pumps are legal for any kind of cliché roll, provided the GM agrees that “pushing it” fits the action involved.

3.12 Buying Items

As mentioned, the power of clichés lie in their ability to brilliantly abstract details, and money is no exception. Economically, clichés allow the player to show that value is in the eye of the beholder, and that supply and demand is not a zero-sum game. There will be no static equipment lists or currency tables here. Everything is roleplayed, and clichés like Velvet-tongued Card Sharp, Charming Prince, or Resourceful Merchant become prime agents for amassing wealth and items, just as in the real world.

Want that rune-covered tower shield or luxury spaceliner? Enter a Contest or Battle with Tight-Fisted Seller (3) and choose your best cliché!

3.13 A More Lively World

If time allows, and using a little creativity, personifying otherwise inanimate objects can make for a more memorable encounter. Instead of a Target, the GM could declare a Contest and have a team roleplay saving their companion from under Ridiculously Heavy Fallen Log (4). A leap from the keep to a tower might pit a PC against Awfully Vast Empty Space (5). With enough imagination, it's possible that Targets could be removed from the game entirely, resulting in an atmosphere that feels like the world itself is alive.

3.14 Places as Clichés

In this vein, one other power of clichés is their ability to deftly abstract cities, dungeons, rivers, planets, or any location imaginable.

Three examples:

New Vegas, Jewel of Mars
Description: Astride the River Thoth sits a bustling city that never sleeps. Birthplace of the Martian Queen, New Vegas boasts impressive cultural attractions, luxurious inns, hidden gambling dens and a thriving black market.
Clichés: Tourist and Shopping Mecca (3), Underground Crime (4)

Khazad-dûm, Dwarven City
Description: A fabled dwarven city built underground and frozen in time. Rumored to be haunted, but more likely abandoned. A godforsaken complex of crumbling fortifications, crypts, trapdoors and lairs, it is a place both lusted after and feared by scavengers hunting for old gold and secrets.
Clichés: Haunted City (4), Ancient Traps and Secrets (3), Scavengers (4), Hiding Places (2)

Description: You find a lucrative port on the coast of West Africa.
Clichés: Ship Traffic (4), Rich in Trade Goods (3), Heavily Guarded (3)

There are two ways to use clichés in locations.

3.14.1 Active. The location wants to challenge the PC’s. The Seaport is Heavily Guarded (3) so, while they’re sneaking around, the Seaport rolls 3d6 against them. If the Seaport wins, the PC’s have a run-in the local militia. In New Vegas, the GM might use Underground Crime (4) if the players try to pull off a heist. Does the local criminal community object to the PC’s poaching on their turf? Roll 4d6 against the PC’s Reformed Ex-Con (4) or Infamous For a Crime He Didn’t Commit (3).

3.14.2 Reactive. The PC’s want to challenge the location. They want to fence some stolen goods from their heist. Can they find anyone? They Contest Underground Crime (4) to make an unsavoury connection. Or, in Khazad-dûm, the PC’s are making their way down a dark corridor, searching for loot. They Contest Ancient Traps and Secrets (3). If they succeed, a valuable secret is uncovered. If they fail, a trap is sprung. The alarm sounds, and the PC’s scramble to contest Hiding Places (2) as they hear the roar of Balrog, Demon of the Ancient World (6) approaching.


Advancing Your Character

Character advancement occurs if any of the following conditions are met:

  • The adventure session has ended
  • The GM wishes to reward a player mid-game for outstanding roleplay
  • During the adventure, all 6’s are rolled on a cliché of at least (3) (a 1/216 chance)

4.1 The Roll of Fate

To advance a PC, the player chooses an existing cliché and submits it to the winds or handsof Fate, meaning they roll 2 dice. If both die show the same number, and that number is higher than the level of that cliché, increase that cliché by 1 level. If the number is equal to or lower than that cliché, add a new cliché of level (1) to your character sheet.

Otherwise, subtract the two numbers and

     1 — add or change one cliché descriptor
     2 — gain a Hero Point
     3 — find Bonus-Dice Gear
     4 — gain a Lucky Strike
     5 — replace a Tool

4.2 Advancing Past Six

While no cliché may advance past (6), the player may at that point split it into two (or more) related clichés and advance them independently. The dice value of the original cliché is then allocated among the new as desired.

For example:

Blind and Bitter Sell-sword (6)

becomes (with appropriate roleplaying):

Blind and Bitter Sell-sword
    Blind War Veteran (3)
    Scoundrel With a Heart of Gold (3)

And some time later:

Blind and Bitter Sell-sword
    Blind War Veteran
       Warlord of the North (4)
       Blind Loremaster (2)

    Scoundrel With a Heart of Gold
       Godfather to Multitudes (3)
       Secret Founder of Thieves Guild (3)

Appendix I: Clichés

Can't think of a cliché? Here are some questions to help you devise that perfect run-on phrase.

Ask yourself:

What is my character's profession?
Race or species?
Living background? Shantytown, Remote Village, Capital City, Underworld
Personal history? Rightful, Former, Once Known As, Haunted by, Defrocked, Last of the,
Level of dedication? Amateur, Veteran, Devoted, Zealous, World-Weary, Reluctant, Diehard
Religion, philosophy, ideology? Mystic, Worshiper of, Pious, Impious, Extremist, Anti-magic
Social class? Heir, Aristocratic, King of the, Freeman, Commoner, Slave
Group? Guild, League, Alliance, Legion of, Would-be, One of, Initiate
Demeanor? Jolly, Surly, Gentle, Starry-eyed, Sinister, Haughty, Stalwart
Appearance? Square-jawed, Beady-eyed, Pale, Voluptuous, Scarred, Giant
Self-image? Legend in His Own Mind, Humble, Unfit to Live
Relationships? Father/Mother/Son/Daughter of, Adopted by, Disciple of
Dreams? Determined to, Bent on, Eager to, Plotting to, Secretly in Love With (see Appendix II: Dreams)
Agonies? (see Appendix III: Agonies)
Flaws? (see Appendix IV: Flaws)

(With thanks to Anatomy of a Clichéby S. John Ross)

Alternatively, flesh out your PC by filling out this questionnaire:

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you from?
  • Why are you here?
  • What are you looking for?
  • List three things your character does better than the average [race]?
  • List three things your character does worse than the average [race]?
  • List three things everyone knows about you.
  • List three things no one knows about you.
  • List three things you believe are true.
  • List three things you want but don’t have.
  • List three things you have but don’t want.

(From Maximum Risus Fun! by Guy Hoyle)

Appendix II: Dreams

A dream is a lifelong goal;
The quest that bypasses earthly desires,
and moves upon a character's soul.

Throughout history, heroes and heroines have left behind their past and risked the present in order to respond to the siren call of the future. Dreams are the primary cause for why characters strive to do great things, and a source of frustration if too long unacted upon. Over time, dreams will be challenged, and the character will have to make a choice to either stay true to their dream, or to compromise and squander it. A warning, however: one's dream may be only a lesser one, a waystation on the path to something more that must be sacrificed like an old wineskin in order to attain the greater.

Browse these examples, or roll to choose at random:

  1. Ascend to the Spiritual Realm
  2. Assassinate the Unjust Prince
  3. Avenge the Death of My Wife
  4. Become a White Wizard
  5. Become Immortal
  6. Blot Out the Sun
  7. Bring My Enemies to Ruin
  8. Bring Peace to My Nation
  9. Build the Tallest Ziggurat
  10. Conquer the New Frontier
  11. Complete My Pilgrimage
  12. Deliver My Village Out of Poverty
  13. Discover the Lost City of Gold
  14. End the Royal Bloodline
  15. Eradicate the Faithless
  16. Find My Long Lost Children
  17. Find the Holy Grail
  18. Free My People from Slavery
  19. Enkindle Ragnarok
  20. Keep My Sister Safe
  21. Kill the White Whale
  22. Leave These Lands and Never Look Back
  23. Never Need Again
  24. Raise a Crusade Against the Invaders
  25. Repay My Debt
  26. Reconcile With My Family
  27. Reconcile My Faith
  28. Reform the Ruling Regime
  29. Rescue My Father
  30. Restore My Family’s Honour
  31. Repay My Crushing Debt
  32. Return Home Again
  33. See the Edge of the World
  34. See the Face of God
  35. Surpass My Mentor
  36. Take Back the Throne
  37. Unbind Myself From My Contract
  38. Win Back Her Heart

Writing your character’s Dream into a cliché nets you 1 extra die at character creation.

Appendix III: Agonies

The problem is, even a past left behind has the tendency to ambush one's future. A character’s Agony has the potential to really spice things up, for it is their unspoken secret; a deep-seated emotional wound from their history in which brokenness was born. Whereas a Dream is something a character wants to achieve in their future, an Agony is likely something they wish could be removed from their past. Agonies function as negative motivations; either to avoid or to prevent something similar from ever happening again. Though painful, Agonies are the foundation for true epic storytelling, for when faced squarely alongside the twin companions—Truth and Love—pain is unveiled as strength and fear as opportunity.

Some poignant examples, or take a chance and roll:

  1. Abandoned My Post
  2. Abused By My Father
  3. Accidentally Killed Someone
  4. An Innocent Paid For My Crimes
  5. Betrayed My Best Friend
  6. Called Worthless My Whole Life
  7. Committed Adultery
  8. Dishonored My House
  9. Entire Childhood Was a Sham
  10. Excommunicated From My Order
  11. Failed My Mother’s Expectations
  12. Failed to Protect my Children
  13. Gambled and Lost Everything
  14. Lost My Only Child
  15. Shunned By My Family
  16. Sold My Soul For a Pittance
  17. Unwittingly Unleashed a Plague
  18. Wife Left Me For Another

Writing your character’s Agony into a cliché gets you 1 extra die at character creation.

Appendix IV: Flaws

“They were great men with huge flaws, and you know what, those flaws almost made them greater.” —Harry Potter

Agonies tend to bear inconvenient fruit. A flaw can be a vice, a shortcoming, a character defect or other negative trait that diminishes your PC, even in their moments of glory. Though not the disease, flaws are the visible symptoms of Agonies.

Examples abound in fiction:

  • Lord Macbeth of Overambition and Hubris (3) assassinates the king, becoming King Macbeth the Guilt-ridden and Paranoid (3).
  • Oskar Schindler the Greedy Industrialist (4) experiences an epiphany and becomes Daring Rescuer of the Oppressed (5).
  • Captain Hook the Pan Obsessed (3) and Ahab the Fanatical Whale Hunter (5).
  • Iago the Cruel and Manipulative (5) exploits Othello the Unreasonably Jealous (3) to drive him to murder.
  • Veruca Salt the Unbearable Brat (4) receives her just desserts upon meeting Willy Wonka the Eccentric Confectioner(5).
  • Doc Brown the Absent-Minded Genius (4) manages to help Marty the Brave but Accident-Prone (3) save George the Painfully Timid (3).

For the purposes of the game, physical defects have also been included as flaws. Browse the list below for a suitable flaw to work into your PC's cliché. Or roll 1d100 for a random touch.

  1. the Absent-minded
  2. the Addicted
  3. the Aggressive
  4. the Aimless
  5. the Anxious
  6. the Arrogant
  7. the Big Mouthed
  8. the Bigoted
  9. the Blind
  10. the Callous
  11. the Childish
  12. the Close-minded
  13. the Controlling
  14. the Cruel
  15. the Cursed
  16. the Cynical
  17. the Deaf
  18. the Dependent
  19. the Delusional
  20. the Deranged
  21. the Dishonest
  22. the Disloyal
  23. the Drunk
  24. the Dyslexic
  25. the Eccentric
  26. the Entitled
  27. the Erratic
  28. the Fanatical
  29. the Fickle
  30. the Fierce
  31. the Flirtatious
  32. the Foolish
  33. the Frail
  34. the Gluttonous
  35. the Gruff
  36. the Gullible
  37. the Hedonist
  38. the Humourless
  39. the Hysterical
  40. the Illiterate
  41. the Impatient
  42. the Impudent
  43. the Incompetent
  44. the Indecisive
  45. the Jealous
  46. the Judgmental
  47. the Klutz
  48. the Lame
  49. the Lazy
  50. the Liar
  51. the Manipulative
  52. the Meddlesome
  53. the Megalomaniac
  54. the Melodramatic
  55. the Mute
  56. the Naïve
  57. the Narcissist
  58. the Neurotic
  59. the Nosy
  60. the Obsessive
  61. the Overambitious
  62. the Overprotective
  63. the Overzealous
  64. the Pacifist
  65. the Paranoid
  66. the Passive
  67. the Perfectionist
  68. the Pessimist
  69. the Phobic
  70. the Predictable
  71. the Prudish
  72. the Rebellious
  73. the Reckless
  74. the Remorseless
  75. the Sadist
  76. the Self-destructive
  77. the Self-pitying
  78. the Self-righteous
  79. the Selfish
  80. the Senile
  81. the Shallow
  82. the Short-tempered
  83. the Soft-hearted
  84. the Spineless
  85. the Squeamish
  86. the Stubborn
  87. the Superstitious
  88. the Tactless
  89. the Thin-Skinned
  90. the Timid
  91. the Unkempt
  92. the Unlucky
  93. the Unreliable
  94. the Vain
  95. the Vengeful
  96. the Violent
  97. the Weak-willed
  98. the Wounded
  99. the Withdrawn
  100. the Xenophobic

(Dreams, Agonies and Flaws are based on the excellent Epic of Dreams RPG by Drew Cochran. Basilisk Edition on Kickstarter soon!)

Appendix V: Hero Moves

Each Hero Move can be chosen once per game session. To perform a Hero Move, spend a Hero Point and choose one:

Berserk. Affects all opponents in the challenge. You roll once, against which each opponent rolls their cliché. If you beat all opponents, they each lose one cliché die. If you beat some opponents, you and those beaten lose one cliché die. If all opponents beat you, you lose one cliché die.

Build. In place of taking an action, prep a nominated cliché. Next round, an extra die is added to that cliché, at which time you may either continue building up or attack. If you are attacked, the buildup is aborted, with no chance to retaliate.

Eye for an Eye. If you lose this round, your opponent loses one die too. Cannot be used to reduce an opponent’s cliché to (0).

High Stakes. Next round, whoever loses must lose 1d6 cliché dice instead of the normal 1. (Thanks to René Vernon)

Miracle Heal. Immediately restore one die to a cliché. May be used to recover from (0) if used immediately.

Overdrive. Pump a cliché, but take only half dice in injury rounded up.

Perfect Moment. Instead of rolling as normal, the result is calculated as if all 5’s were rolled.

Rage. If a roll involving a PC's Agony fails, reroll all dice.

Scrounge. Instantly replace a broken or missing Tool of the Trade for any one cliché.

Total Focus. Add two dice when rolling against a Target (not a Contest or Battle).