A Familiar Combat Example
Risus combat is a common topic of discussion on the Risustalk mailing list - user h3rne777 gives us this excellent example of combat, and how die loss can be interpreted.
There have already been some excellent answers to this, but here’s the crux. I would contend that RISUS is one of the few RPGs (please chime in with others but purely narrativist systems are cheating!) that would allow me to have the sword fight that I’ve always wanted to have in an RPG. The coolest. sword fight. ever. I’m talking about the encounter between The Masked Man (Dread Pirate Robinson) (6) and Inigo Montoya 20 years seeking revenge for the death of his father at the hand of the 6 fingered man (6) in The Princess Bride (10!).
Any mainstream “trading blows” system would make this fight essentially impossible to recreate. RISUS, OTOH, can have this happen because “your Cliche is not HP”, it can just be tactical advantage. No one is injured during this fight, and the loser doesn’t die at the end.
And that’s the most powerful feature of RISUS IMHO. The downward spiral means you can have your PCs whupped but not killed or even captured (losing all their cliche dice may just mean they are forced to flee or retreat). Certainly, if I want to have the PCs captured, then I just stick in an encounter with a foe with +2 cliche dice and, as it’s been observed, this pretty much guarantees they’ll lose. As the GM I get to narrate what “lose” entails.
So just for fun, here’s the fight according to RISUS (thanks to http://www.princessbride.8m.com/script.htm#16 for the script) Here I’ve shown some representative rolls and the narration that I think follows them. YMMV.
Inigo (6): You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.
Man In Black (6): You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.
Inigo (6) rolls 12
MIB (6) rolls 19
Inigo (5): You are using Bonetti’s defense against me, uh?
Man In Black (6): I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain.
Inigo (5) rolls 20
MIB (6) rolls 20
A draw - no effect.
Inigo (5): Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro.
Man In Black (6): Naturally, but I find that Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don’t you?
Inigo (5) rolls 22
MIB rolls (6) 19
Inigo (5): Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa, *Jumps after him* which I have!
Inigo (5) rolls 14
MIB (5) rolls 17
Inigo (4): You are wonderful!
Man In Black (5): Thank you. I’ve worked hard to become so.
Inigo (4): I admit it, you are better than I am.
Inigo (4) rolls 20
MIB (5) rolls 13
Man In Black (4): Then why are you smiling? *Forces Inigo toward the cliff’s edge*
Inigo: Because I know something you don’t know.
Man In Black: And what is that?
Inigo (4): I am not left-handed.
*Switches hands, they begin to move up the stairs*
Man In Black (4): You’re amazing!
Inigo (4): I ought to be after twenty years.
*Begins to force Man in Black toward a balcony. His body moves the rocks*
Inigo (4) rolls 17
MIB (4) rolls 18
Man In Black (4): There is something I ought to tell you.
Inigo (3): Tell me.
Man In Black (4): I’m not left-handed either.
*Switches hands and flourishes sword*
Inigo (3) rolls 12
MIB (4) rolls 19
The Man in Black knocks Inigo’s sword from his hand. Inigo jumps down to retrieve it. The Man in Black tosses his sword into a patch of grass. He flips over a beam and lands next to his sword, plucking it from the ground.
Inigo (2): Who are you?
Man In Black (4): No one of consequence.
Inigo (2): I must know.
Man In Black (4): Get used to disappointment.
Inigo (2): *Shrugs* Okay.
Inigo (2) rolls 9
MIB (4) rolls 13
They continue to fight until the Man In Black knocks Inigo’s sword from his hands.
Inigo (1): *Kneeling* Kill me quickly.
Man In Black (4):*Circling Inigo* I would as soon destroy a stained-glass window as an artist like yourself. However, since I can’t have you following me either….
Inigo (1) rolls 6
MIB (4) rolls 11
* The Man In Black hits Inigo over the head with the hilt of his sword.
* Inigo hits the ground, out cold.
Man In Black (4): Please understand I hold you in the highest respect. *Runs off*
Incidentally, for the next encounter (Fezzik) I would allow the MIB to recover all his cliche dice as all the lost dice were essentially tactical advantage.