A rules supplement for Risus GMs by Dan Suptic ©2011
For one-shot and comedic Risus games, the normal Risus combat rules work excellently. Toss some dice into an enemy's cliché, point the PCs to the bad guy's hangout and let the dice fly. The system's simplicity is perfect for silly, quick fun.
Those odd members of the Risus community who like to run serious Risus campaigns (myself included) know that house rules and other tweaks are needed here and there, to help keep things interesting and give players a sense of advancement. For players, there exists a plethora of options for giving their characters unique abilities, and options for character growth beyond adding dice to clichés. Risus's Advanced Options and the Risus Companion's extra Advanced Options are bolstered by many player options found on the Risusiverse page and throughout the online Risus community.
GMs also need to do their fair share to make campaigns and serious Risus play work out of course, and this supplement is geared towards giving GMs abilities and options for their NPCs and monsters. The goal here is to make sure combat never feels stale in a serious Risus campaign, giving players new and challenging obstacles to overcome in the field of battle.
Abilities are presented with a name, a description and options for even more powerful versions of the ability.
The simplest way to make a combat a little more interesting is to give an enemy another combat capable cliché. Having the enemy switch clichés once they're about to run out of dice in their primary cliché is a good way to wake up the PCs and make them take the combat a little more seriously.
Extra backup - Give the opponent even more than 2 combat worthy clichés to make a long lasting, epic battle. More than 3 combat clichés may feel excessive to players, so add extra combat clichés with caution.
Playtime's over! Grant me power!
Similar in theme to the Backup cliché. Once defeated, the opponent becomes something new altogether, with new clichés and a fresh start. Typically seen once the human looking bad guy is defeated, then turns into something monstrous and resumes fighting.
Behold my true form, and despair! - Toss in yet another post-defeat transformation for transcendent baddies. As with Backup clichés, more than 2 transformations may feel a bit excessive to players.
Player options for baddies
Any starting Risus character should have no problem defeating an Orc (3). But, toss that Orc a +1 die sword, a sidekick/shield-mate Wolf (3) and some lucky shots, and the odds tip more towards the Orc's favor. Risus's simplicity tends to make GMs forget than their NPCs and monsters can benefit just as well for options normally presented for PCs.
Powered up player options - With enough player options, even a lowly Baddie (1) can be a force to be reckoned with. No one may respect Tommy the Incompetent Space Mercenary (1), but with his +3 dice Megawatt Power Blaster, +3 dice Mecharmor and loyal Killbot (6), he still can be a major problem.
When making a group of enemies, have one or two be a special healer type. They can use their turn to restore 1 die to another monster or NPC's damaged cliché. Naturally this will make the players want to take out the healer first, but this will leave the other baddies alone to do their own thing.
Greater healing - Let your healer units heal more than 1 die in a cliché on their turn, or allow them to revive their allies after they drop to zero dice. This will really force your players to go after the healers before dealing with secondary threats.
Every turn, the unit with this ability automatically heals 1 die in their damaged clichés, while still being able to take normal actions. Concentrated teamwork by the players will help take down a foe with regeneration.
Greater regeneration - Increase the number of dice healed each round. If this number gets higher than then number of PCs in the party, then the players will need to think of alternative ways to defeat their foe.
Any PC who took damage from this enemy in combat will lose a die in that same cliché every scene after that combat, until healed via magic, super science or special means. This can represent poison, disease, massive damage or mutilation, a lingering curse, or any other form of ongoing cliché damage. Increase or decrease the frequency of die loss in relation to the severity of the lingering damage. Losing all cliché dice due to lingering damage can result in anything from just being too fatigued to fight anymore, to a coma, or even death.
Infection - If someone loses all cliché dice do to an infection lingering attack, they transform into whatever dealt that damage to them. Perfect for zombies, werewolves and vampires.
Unless a player rolls at least 5 more than the armored opponent when beating them in a round of combat, the combat round only counts as a tie. The opponent still beats the player when rolling above the player's roll, no matter by how much.
Heavily armored - Increase the amount in excess needed to 10 or even 15 for foes that will make the players burn through lucky shots, questing dice and their pumpable clichés.
Anytime a foe with Dodge would take damage to their cliché, they have a chance to proactively avoid damage. When they would lose a die, have them roll a d6 – on a 6, that combat round counts as a tie. Similar to the armor ability, but the foe has a chance to avoid damage no matter how high the player rolled.
Avoidance - Increase the foe's ability to dodge, letting them avoid damage on a 5+, 4+ or better on a d6. A 2+ dodging enemy would be a pain to beat, even if their cliché isn't too powerful. Obviously, 1+ dodging shouldn't exist, unless there's a way to cancel the foe's dodging ability.
Whenever an enemy with life steal damages a player's cliché, they can heal a die in a cliché of their choice. So long as the enemy can consistently win combat rounds, they can pump their cliché by 1 everyone round, healing the damage from pumping after each successful roll.
Bottomless cup - The enemy not only can heal damaged clichés when they win a combat round, they may also choose to add a temporary bonus die to a fully healed cliché. These bonuses stack (so someone better beat the baddie quick), but disappear at the end of combat.
The NPC or monster is immune to a specific type of attack. Fire magic, laser blasts, slashing weapons – any general group can be taken. When a player wins a combat round while using an attack the enemy is immune to, the combat round counts as a tie.
Invulnerability - The NPC or monster is immune to anything except for a specific type of attack. Learning what that one weakness is can make an excellent adventure arc all by itself.
The monster can let loose an attack that affects all the PCs in the area. They roll just once, and the PCs use that at a TN to beat in order to avoid taking a die of damage in their cliché. The monster or NPC does not lose dice if players beat the TN of their area attack, but they can only do the area attack on their turn.
Selective area - Minions and allies of the bad guy using the area attack are immune to the effects of the area attack, able to go toe to toe with the players without worrying about getting caught in the blast.
This ability allows the user to do 2 dice of damage when winning a combat round instead of 1.
Excessive damage - Increase the dice lost to 3 or even more for truly powerful foes. An enemy that can take out a PC in one hit will give your players a run for their money.
Every time the NPC or monster with this ability is involved in a round of combat, they may roll their dice twice and take the better of the 2 rolls.
Really lucky - Not only does the opponent take the better of 2 rolls, the player fighting them must roll their dice twice and take the worse of the 2 rolls. Coordination and luck will be required for PCs to win fights against really lucky foes.
When losing a die to their cliché, this enemy splits into 2 identical entities. For example, in a fight with a group of PCs, when a Blob Creature (4) loses a die, it becomes 2 Blob Creatures (3).
Rejoining - On their turn, an enemy with rejoining can merge 2 of its split forms into 1 form with +1 die to the cliché. For example, if the 2 Blob Creatures (3) from above take their turn now, they can rejoin into a Blob Creature (4).
When reduced to zero dice in their cliché, the opponent with this ability releases some type of energy or projectile that deals 1 die of damage automatically to the player that defeated it. This damage is done to the cliché that reduced the opponent to zero dice.
BOOOOM!! - Like above, except every player in the area takes an automatic die of damage. This damage is done to whatever cliché each player used last. Hopefully the party has a good healer on hand.
The enemy can focus on one character, drawing their attention away from the rest of combat. The player targeted by this ability may attack the goading enemy normally, but attacks made against any other enemy take a penalty to the combat roll. This penalty may be minor (-1 or -2 to the total roll), significant (-1 die rolled, or halving the combat roll) or crippling (only gets to roll 1 die, or any combat rolls against other enemies automatically lose). Only 1 enemy can use compel duel against a specific character at one time.
Enforce duel - Instead of creating a penalty to attacking other enemies, the character takes a die of damage in their attack cliché if they choose to attack an enemy other than the one who used enforce duel on them. As per compel duel, only 1 enemy can use enforce duel against a specific character at one time.
Whenever a character wins a combat round against the creature with this ability, that character takes a -1 die penalty to their next roll. This penalty can be increased even more for truly blighted monsters, but no matter how many negative dice the player is rolling, the player can roll at least 1 die for their action.
Voodoo doll - Whenever a character wins a combat round against the creature with this ability, that character takes a die of damage to the cliché they used. Increasing the damage reflected will be painful to any character fighting this monster – if you do increase the damage, consider letting a specific type of weapon or power negate the ability.
Bonus die gear does not work against this foe. Any bonus die gear used counts simply as tools of the trade for combat against this enemy.
Denial - This entity is immune to anything manufactured at all. Unless the character has a cliché that implies it can fight barehanded, or with natural weapons, the character is considered to be fighting without tools of the trade. These characters will be forced to roll half their dice against combat with creatures using this ability.
Instead of doing a die of damage to a character when winning a round of combat, the opponent may instead choose to control the character for their next combat round. The opponent may force the character to attack any other character, or even hurt himself (automatic 1 die of damage to their cliché – technically the same as doing a die of damage from winning combat, but stylistically cooler).
Domination - If the opponent wins a combat round against a character, they may take control of the character until end of combat instead of doing a die of damage. The opponent may still take normal actions on their turn as well, but they may only have 1 player character dominated at a time.
Either through magic ensnarement, high tech entangling ammunition or some other form of restriction, a character that loses a round of combat against this enemy can no longer participate in combat until making a non-combat related roll to escape their bonds.
Punishment - As above, the character is restrained until they escape. In addition, the character also takes a die of damage to their cliché (the one originally used in the failed combat round) every turn until freed.
That's the list - I hope you enjoy using these abilities to make some fights more memorable. Feel free to add multiple abilities to your boss-monster level baddies, and remember, not every enemy needs an ability. Giving special abilities to about 1 out of 3 or 2 out of 3 should be a good balance, giving your PCs challenging fights while still letting them beat up on generic Cliché (#) foes every now and then. Any criticism is welcome, as are submissions to this list – as always, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
Finally, a special Thank You goes out to S. John Ross for helping with the title of this article.