Dungeon Master the RPG

Dungeon Master

The Risus version

Utilizing Dungeons & Dragons as source material for playing fantasy Risus

It is strongly recommended that this game be used with the PHB, the DMG (magic items mostly), the monster books, SRD, and other open and closed gaming products. This game assumes some familiarity with Dungeons & Dragons as well as the Risus system.

This is a work in progress, and I had a lot of fun creating it. Feel free to correct any mistakes or completely remove this if the content is inappropriate.

Character Creation

When creating new characters, players get 12 Character Points to build their character: Each Character Point provides 1d6 die for a Cliché. Starting characters can put no more than 4 dice into a Cliché. Use only Clichés found in the recommended source material. Example: A player creates a Sorcerer character using 12 Character Points. The player puts 4 points into Sorcerer Dice 4, puts 4 points into Elf Dice 4, puts 2 points into Familiar (cat) Dice 2, and puts 2 points into Craft Scrolls Dice 2. Poof! Instantly, an Elf Sorcerer. Twelve Character Points should be more than enough for starting characters. For less heroic games use only 8 Character Points.


A Class Cliché is a broad based descriptor that essentially includes 1st through 20th level character elements. Among these elements, Class Skills, Class Feats, Class Powers, Class related equipment, Class Spells or spell-like abilities, Class Saves, Class's Primary Stat are all properties of the Class Cliché.


A Race Cliché is broad based descriptor of an entire race. This includes Racial Powers, Racial Skills, Racial Feats, Racial Spells or spell-like abilities, and Racial Saves.

Character Levels

A Character Level represents the starting Action Points for each scene. These points are recovered at the end of a scene. Either half their character level points of recovery if the PCs are still in danger, or full recovery if the danger has passed.

Action Points

Actions points are handled in one of two ways. Either one additional temporary Die per Action Point spent in a particular task Or an Action Point can grant a Surge, which gives a +8 (or +5 for less dramatic games) to a roll without an increase in Dice. The difference between a Die increase and a Surge is that with a Die increase the Target Number's effective Dice Points affect a parry, dispel, or save. A Surge doesn't count as extra Dice in this regard. To dispel a Surged spell is easier than dispelling a spell that was upped in Dice. Subtract the Surged amount from the total of the defending spell when determining if a dispel works.

Hit Points

N/A. Risus uses Cliché dice loss to measure damage during conflicts. However, there is a Toughness Feat which can be used to absorb physical damage from an attack in exchange for a single die loss.

Hit Dice

N/A. The range in dice that is used to determine how much punishment a class can take is negated with the Risus ruleset. Hit Dice are not required because the end result is tracked through Cliché Loss.


To keep with the spirit of the game, and to help keep the world in sync with the game mechanics, Characters must have an Alignment. Note: The nine standard alignments are not considered Clichés.

Magic Items / treasure

Equipment carried by a character is not necessarily a part of that character's Clichés, but such items may still add bonuses to other Cliché uses.

XP distribution and awards

When giving out experience points for defeating encounters divide the opponents CR value amongst the PCs. XP can be spent immediately.

XP uses

XP is the driving force that makes characters better at what they do. It allows characters to improve existing Clichés and obtain whole new Clichés.

Ability Scores

Although not necessary, if a player would like to utilize Ability Scores, one need only size up the character's overall abilities in a short descriptive phrase. For example, Clichés such as Strong, Healthy, Wisecracking Know-it-all, Athletic, Nimble, Persuasive, etc. are all appropriate to emulating Ability Scores. Note: When converting Ability scores into Risus Clichés any score less than 10 is either Poor or average and need not be recorded unless it's important to the character concept.

  • 12 to 14 = Dice 2

  • 15 to 17 = Dice 3

  • 18 to 22 = Dice 4

Ability scores higher than 22 should be converted as multiple Clichés to reflect a greater focus around the character's Ability Scores. Abilities stack with related skill tasks. For example, an Athletic Cliché and an Ogre Might Cliché would overlap much of the time indicating a focus on the character's strength and stamina. Please note, however, that as per the normal rules regarding magic items that provide the same bonus types (such as strength), bonuses from multiple magic items do not stack unless specified in the item description.


Compatible feats may be combined into single Clichés or left separate for stacking effects. For example, Two-weapon Fighting and Weapon Focus are both melee Clichés that can be summed up in a single Cliché such as Dual-Sword Fighting, or they can be separate Clichés that stack with each other when used together.


Improving a character's Cliché cost 8 XP per Die increase. To raise a Fighter from Dice 2 to a Dice 3, the player need only spend 8 XP for the increase. Another way to improve a character's capabilities is to broaden the character's Clichés. In essence, broadening a Cliché changes it in some way. If players would like to modify a Cliché to encompass more capabilities then a player can spend 4 XP for this change. This is known as Broadening a Cliché. This can be done with narrowly defined descriptors such as feats, skills, crafts, professions, items, individual powers and spells. Of course, spells and powers are subject to normal class restrictions. For example, a Fighter may find an intelligent sword that he or she wants to bond with and make part of their Fighter Class Cliché. By spending 4 XP, that fighter can then utilize the magic sword as an extension of the Fighter Class. During the Broadening process a player may modify the phrasing of the Cliché to reflect the change. In addition to the above Fighter example, the player might choose to rename his or her Fighter Cliché to Ariel Swordbearer, which is a fancy way of saying Fighter with the addition of a magic sword that the character cannot easily loose. For a wholly new Cliché a player can spend 8 XP for the new Cliché Die 1.

Character Conversion

For existing well developed characters that are converted over from established games, sometimes extra Character Points are required to capture all the aspects of a character. This is subject to GM discretion, but it is heavily dependant on the degree of "loss" the players feel. If more points are needed feel free to offer 1 to 6 more Character Points to the players, but be sure to do this for all the PCs.

Making Saves

Use an applicable Cliché vs. a Target Number to determine if a character "saves", such as a Fighter's Cliché would use fortitude against a Sorcerer's "cone of cold" using Target Number based on the Sorcerer Cliché's effective Dice. Attacks of Opportunity Keeping with the flavor and spirit of the game, characters that attempt to leave, enter, move through, or become distracted during melee combat without a proper tactical maneuver face potential Attacks of Opportunity by adjacent opponents. This is, of course, an optional rule and may not be appropriate for some games.


Without hitpoints Risus uses temporary Cliché Loss to mark the affects of Damage. This damage can be considered healed after a scene as per the Risus recovery rules. Non-lethal damage translates into Cliché Bruising, which are refreshed after a scene or during a scene where the character takes a turn recovering for each lost Die.. Ability Score Loss that is temporary is treated as Standard Damage above, but the damage must be applied to an appropriate Cliché or as close as possible to the type of Ability Score targeted.

Weapons and Unarmed Combat

Melee combat involves using weapons, but sometimes less deadly methods are used. Combat using hands and feet are not considered deadly, and therefore cause Bruising Dice not Damage Dice. One of the obvious exceptions is the improved unarmed strike.

All or nothing spells and effects

Some spells have an all or nothing affect. In effect, if the spell works then it causes the full effect. If the spell fails, then nothing happens. As per any Standard Target Number based on Dice, if the spell succeeds apply any affect as appropriate to the spells description.


If the effects of a spell are a type of polymorph then alter any appropriate Clichés to reflect new form. For example, a Sea Hag that was polymorphed into a Rat would then have any remaining Cliché Dice (ones that a Rat could not use) would be distributed into Rat Clichés such as Biting, Small Size, or simply the Rat Cliché. This might still leave a dangerous foe with which to contend.

Healing Magic

If the all or nothing affects are of succor then apply those succeeding Dice to appropriate Clichés. Of course, one Action Point must be spent per healing. Though a group heal spell should suffice for the entire party.

Deadly Spells

If the all or nothing effect of a spell is meant to cause Death and if the Standard Target Number for the appropriate "save" is failed then the target dies. However, there may be special cases where the Clichés convert to Undead or Afterlife Clichés as appropriate to the story.

Level Loss

If the effect is Level Loss is temporary, then the effects are treated as standard Damage. If the level loss is permanent, the Cliché Loss is permanent, but can be rebuilt by spending XP. Alternatively, the victim may option to take the Damage as Character Level loss.

Full Spellcasters

Spellcasters can cast spells from their spell list with normal restrictions such as arcane spells for arcane spellcasters or divine spells for divine spellcasters.

Partial spellcasters

Cast at two Dice Less when emulating full spellcaster's spells.

Specialized Spellcasters

When casting an appropriate specialty spell, casters who have specialized get an extra Die for those spells. For example, an Illusionist would receive an extra Die when casting illusory spells. As per the normal rules for spellcasters who specialize, they must also choose the schools from which they cannot learn to cast.

Magic Devices

When it comes to using magical devices such as scrolls, wands, rods, staves, rings, and other magical devices, the rules apply to class restrictions, alignment, race, and triggers, etc. based on the nature of the magical device. If a skill roll is required to use magic device then the dice must succeed in order to use the device.

Prestige Classes

The normal Rules apply for having any prerequisites in Class skills and other Clichés needed to qualify for a prestige class.

Game Balance

Risus has a wonderful mechanic for keeping game balance. Ultimately, it is the GMs job to balance the story with the players, but to help the GM with this task Dice are used to level the playing field. Characters with the same number of Dice in Clichés and Level are pretty much equally matched in survivability. Some Cliché combinations are better at doing particular things, and as such players will find their characters can do a great many things better than other characters. So too will other characters be able to things better than their character. Classes may appear to be loosing out to some other classes. For example, it may seem that spellcasters suddenly are very powerful now that they have the full accompaniment of spells from the spell list, and their hit points have become the same as the fighter types. This unbalanced appearance is an illusion. What Risus does is make spellcasters much more like the magic users you find in stories. By the same token fighters have advantages in absorbing damage and their fighting techniques will work within anti-magic fields. It is just as well sword bearers can swing their swords all day, and so too should spellcasters sling their spells. Cliché Dice determine much of the effectiveness of any action. A Fighter Cliché at Dice 4 can do as much damage as a Wizard Cliché at Dice 4. What really makes a character's effectiveness shine is the use of Action Points to Surge and increase Die.

Excessive Use

An overused Cliché may become fatigued. Swinging a sword for an hour, running at top speed through a maze, and continually casting spells without a break can all lead to fatigue. There are no hard and fast rules for fatigue because each task is different. A character that can set a good pace may be able to maintain a good steady run, and spellcaster that holds back may be able to crank out several spells, and a fighter that finds a rhythm can hack and slash for while. Warn players when they are overexerting their characters, and give them a chance to spend an action point to get a second wind.


It goes without say, but it should be mentioned anyway that Dice represents the importance of a Cliché to a character's concept. The higher the Dice, the more important that Cliché becomes. However, lower ranked Clichés should not be discounted as unimportant.

Equipment and Item Clichés

Equipment comes in two basic types: Items and Item Clichés. The difference can be subtle but has an impact on the way the game is approached. Any equipment that is part of a Cliché or a Cliché in itself defines an essential element of the character. These items are generally untouchable by others. Item Clichés may be borrowed or even stolen briefly, but the end result of an item Cliché is the security that it cannot easily be taken away. Equipment that is not part of a character's Cliché is temporary, disposable, stealable, and not as important to the definition of the character.

Magical Equipment & Items Clichés

Magical Equipment is simply a magic item that is in a character's list of possessions. It can be stolen, sold, lost, or destroyed, though any one of these actions may be difficult in to do without the owner's permission, but the point is that Magical Equipment is temporary ownership. Magic Item Clichés are items that become a defining element of a character. Any character, not just an Artificer, may have Magic Item Clichés. A Cliché offers more than just a boost of power or effect. It offers a source of Damage or Bruising during conflicts. Since it's an essential element of the character, the magic item does not easily leave, cannot be stolen (for very long), and in the case of single Clichés will provide damage dice and refresh Damage as per the Risus recovery rules.

Crafting Magic Items

Experience points must be spent in creating magic items. Normally there are two flavors of magic items: Magical Equipment and Magic Item Clichés. Creating magic items cost 6 XP for Magical Equipment per Die of Cliché Modifier (starting at Die 1) and 8 XP for Magic Item Clichés (starting at Die 1). Disposable one time use magic items are cheaper and net cost half as much in XP as other magic items. The XP cost determines the number of days as the amount of time it takes to make the magic item. So, a Wand of Lightning Cliché Die 1 would cost 16 XP.

Artificer Cliché

Arguably the most complicated Class available, the Artificer is a crafter of magical objects. To keep this class's crunchy flavor the Artificer has the following as part of the Artificer Cliché: An artificer is not a true spellcaster, but a magic item creator, and as such has the ability to mimic the spellcasting requirements of a spellcaster to put magic into items. To mimic the casting of spells to be placed into an item an Artificer is crafting, roll to mimic the necessary spellcaster Cliché to be placed into the item at Artificer Dice or lower using the desired spellcaster Cliché Dice Target Number.

Artificer XP Discount

Artificers receive half their Artificer's Dice modifier in XP as a discount in creating each magic item. This means that an Artificer Dice 3 can create Magical Equipment at only 4 XP per Die and Magic Item Clichés at 6 XP per Die. So, a Wand of Lightning Cliché Die 1 would normally cost 8 XP, but an Artificer Dice 4 could get it for 6 XP (8 minus 1/2 of 4) and it would take the Artificer 8 days to create it. A Scroll of Lighting Strike Cliché Dice 3 would normally cost 4 XP (8 halved for being equipment), but the same Artificer would get it for 3 XP (8 - 1/2 of 4 and then halved and rounded down).

The Artificer's Deconstructing Magic Items

A powerful aspect of the Artificer is his ability to deconstruct magic items. By spending a day with a magic item, the Artificer can extract the magic and use it as an XP resource to constructing other magic items. To make things even more complicated, the XP retrieved in this manner is half the amount normally used to create such an item. Magical Item Clichés are quite dangerous to extract from as they are part of another character's descriptor. If the owner of that Cliché is opposed to loosing the magic item, the item can fight back with all the resources of the Owner's other Clichés (or at least it's Dice) to defend itself. Individual crafts and professions are not part of the Artificer's Cliché and must be purchased separately.

Artificer's Casting Ability

Artificers have a list of raw magic "molds" that can be molded upon objects, places, and constructs, as per the normal Artificer rules and with their respective gold cost. These molds are short lived magical effects that the molded item possesses. Class and Combat There are 3 basic levels of expertise in combat. Class Clichés reflect this with Downed Dice for less capable fighters. Classes that are moderate fighters such as a Cleric Cliché have their Melee at two Dice Less. Poor combatant classes, such as the Wizard Cliché, fights at four Dice Less. There are 3 levels of Saves. Good, Poor, and non-existent. Saves for Poor take three Dice less. The non-existent saves follow the normal rules for special cases when save are required, otherwise non-existent saves are ignored.

Monster Clichés

Monster Clichés, like Race Clichés, have specific abilities both pro and con. Aspects of monster Clichés that are vague, generic, or suggested as options should be taken as separate Clichés and not considered automatically part of the creature. Some monsters can have classes, but if the class is not mandatory then it can be purchased as a separate Class Cliché. Ability scores lower than 10 are considered Die 1 or worse. Scores lower than 7 can be considered non-existent or still Rank 1 if appropriate to the character concept. A Familiar's strength is a good example of a practically non-existent strength. Negative descriptors of a monster can either be considered weaknesses, hooks, tales, non-existent Clichés or vulnerabilities. If something in the standard rules makes no sense for a monster then correct the error with a house rule. Be sure to remain consistent in these rulings, because special cases will always crop up.

Psion and other classes of power

Like the Wizard Cliché, Psions can specialize. These specialized psions get a 1 extra Die when using a power in their specialty. They are also restricted from using powers from other specialized lists. The general powers list is available and works normally. Wilders get the powers from their list. Their special ability allows them to Surge with the same Action Point they upped their Die with. Psychic Warriors are partial psions and they get their list of powers but are at 2 Less Dice when using their powers. Soulknifes get their mindblade and feats associated with the Soulknife class, and they have no powers list.


Characters, mainly PCs, play a role in the adventuring world. As they progress in power and levels they become proficient at what they do. Since Dice 4 is the highest level attainable by starting characters, experienced characters have the luxury of expanding their abilities beyond their initial character creation by attaining new classes, feats, magic items, treasure, and templates. Obtaining Ranks above 4 is paramount to becoming the Best of the Best in that Cliché.