Static Clichés & Demi-Dice
I've always thought that the abstract target numbers in Risus are a bit... well, un-Risus-y. To increase the Risus-ness of Risus I use an alternative dice mechanic that enables target numbers to be represented using static cliches like Unpredictable Toaster (2), Seedy Biker Bar (3), Sturdy Oak Door (4) or whatever. I call them static cliches because the number is a fixed target number and not a number of dice, although you can read them as dice if you want.
To make static cliches work you need to read your dice as demi-dice: the numbers 1 to 3 are read as rolled and the numbers 4 to 6 are read as 0. When read in this way the average result produced by a given number of cliché dice is equal to the number of dice rolled. This aligns dice rolls, cliche dice numbers and target numbers rather neatly.
Static cliches make target numbers easier to assign and assess, with a given target number challenging to a character with an equal number of cliche dice: a TN of 1 will be challenging to a 1-die sap, a TN of 2 will be challenging to 2-die wannabe, a TN of 3 will be challenging to a 3-die pro and so on. A characters chance of beating a TN with a given number of cliche dice is illustrated in the table below: cliche dice are across the top and TNs are on the left.
Table 1: Chance of beating a static cliche
Static cliches also enable a fourth horseman to be added to the unholy trinity of action resolution: an extended version of TN resolution that works just like combat. Each good roll reduces the TN by 1 with success at TN 0 and each bad roll reduces your cliche by 1 with failure at 0 dice. I refer to this form of action resolution as a staged test and the single action equivalent as a snap test, with combat called a staged contest and single action conflicts snap contests.
This alternative dice mechanic also requires new rules for dealing with teams, with allies contributing 1 to a team leaders total if they roll 3 or more, 2 if they roll 6 or more and so on.
Softening the Ability Gap
Demi-dice soften the ability gap between characters with different numbers of cliche dice. This eliminates the 'hose the loser' feel of staged contests and makes dramatic reversals of fortune reasonably frequent. Even so a single cliche die still represents a big difference in ability, so prudent resource management, clever tactics, good roleplaying and artful weaselling still play a significant part in resolving staged contests. And don't forget running away.
The degree to which demi-dice soften the ability gap is illustrated the the tables below. These show a characters chance of winning a round with ties re-rolled using normal dice and demi-dice: PC cliche dice are across the top and foe dice are on the left.
Table 2: Chance of winning a round with normal dice
Table 3: Chance of winning a round with demi-dice