Dao Sheng

Dao Sheng

A martial arts Risus setting by Dan Suptic and Nicholas Suddarth ©2006
Artwork by Ben Clay ©2006

A note about Risus

Risus: The Anything RPG is a free and easy to learn role-playing game (created by S. John Ross and is Copyright ©1993-2013,2021 by Dave LeCompte) that is used to play Dao Sheng. The whole system is 4 pages long, and that’s all you’ll need to play. Download it, print it, heck, even put it in a nice 4-page binder. So long as you read it too, you’ll be able to play Dao Sheng.

Dao Sheng

Dao Sheng is a Mandarin Chinese phrase meaning Birth of a New Way. Our planet has gone through some changes in the Dao Sheng setting, and the people of our world have taken up a new way of life. In this section, you will see what happened to our world, and why almost everyone you meet knows some form of martial arts.

Good intentions

About 20 years in the future, the world is doing great. No war raging on, no places of great famine or disease, and the economy is doing better than it has in a very long time. With the growth and spread of humanity, the biggest concern of most countries is that energy costs are starting to get a bit out of control. So, to solve this, a team of US and Japanese scientists got together to build a power plant greater than any other running in the world. Using cold fusion and point-mass fuel cells, they found a way to generate limitless energy with a nearly unending supply of power. The power plant itself was built in Uranium City, in Saskatchewan, Canada. They built giant relay towers all over the world and attached them to the power plant in a web of high transfer power lines. Once the world was connected, they powered up the plant.


The power plant turned on. It generated immense and limitless power. But it did not transfer it. Somewhere, somehow, components of the plant were installed wrong. The plant let out an EMP so massive that it spread over the entire earth. All over the world, lights flickered, screens dimmed, and everything electrical shut off. Everything except the plant, which still emits its powerful EMP, keeping the earth in a powerless state.

So why not just turn the power plant off?

Good question. The EMP field around the power plant, and about 15 miles out from it, is so strong that it stops even the electricity in the human body. Get within 15 miles of the plant, and your heart stops instantly. No one has figured out a good way to get to the power plant, and the fuel cell still has 35,000 years worth of life in it. So, for now, the world is stuck as it is.


Riots broke out pretty quick. In a few days, after a lot of food spoiled and people were getting hungry and angry, fighting broke out everywhere. Gunshots filled the streets, and many people died. The world’s armies tried to maintain order, but without communications or mobility, they fell to rioting like the rest. For years, the world was a battlefield. But, city by city, country by country, the gunfire ceased. Bullets ran out, and without supply caravans or factories running, no one had modern ammunition. The riots calmed down, but resources where still scarce, and people armed themselves with whatever implements were at hand.


It didn’t take long to see that groups and individuals who could fight without guns were winning battles and getting the best land, housing and non-perishable foods. So, people began to look into unarmed and melee weapon fighting. Asia already had a great wealth of knowledge on martial arts, and North America began seeing people using boxing skills along with Tae Kwon Do and versions of Karate and judo. Even the most peaceful recluse would hire someone or acquire manuals on defensive martial arts. It didn’t take long to see martial arts and other close range combat skills spread through the lands. You learned a martial art to defend your home or to take supplies from those less worthy.

Life Today

Living in the world of Dao Sheng is a constant test of your will to live. Money no longer means anything – goods and services are bartered and traded. With resources in short supply and people all over the world needing them, day to day life is filled with hard work and occasional run ins with people who want what you have. You may live alone, maintaining a small family and area to farm. You may live in a small commune or clan of people who work together to maintain a block of houses and stores of food. You might live in a military style complex, likely in an abandoned office building or skyscraper, as a member of a scouting team finding new places to farm or caches of old non-perishable food. Any way you choose to live, you have to work everyday to maintain your way of life. And any free time you have is devoted to your martial art or weapon style to keep what you have from countless enemies. This is the world of Dao Sheng. It’s your job to keep your place in it.

Combat in Dao Sheng

Combat in Dao Sheng works like normal Risus combat, with the addition of stances. Every time you use a Martial Art, Animal Style or Weapon Style cliché, you choose one of three stances. The GM (or opposing player) does the same. You and the GM reveal each stance at the same time. The easiest way to do this is with a deck of cards, with each person getting 3 different suits. Each stance does better against one other stance, similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors.


There are 3 stances for each Martial Art, Animal Style or Weapon Style cliché: Offensive (abbreviated O, and using Spades), Defensive (abbreviated D, and using Clubs) and Technique (abbreviated T, and using Diamonds).

  • Offensive beats Technique – You go in fast and furious while the opponent wastes time setting up a complicated technical maneuver.

  • Technique beats Defensive – While the opponent waits for your attack, you do something complex and unexpected.

  • Defensive beats Offensive – You bide your time while your enemy tires himself out, waiting for the perfect chance to strike.

Each style has different numbers for each stance. When you beat someone’s stance, you get a bonus to your total die roll equal to the stance you took. So, if you take an Offensive stance (and your Offensive score is 3), and your opponent was in Technique stance, you add 3 to the total roll of the dice. Ties give neither side a bonus.


Characters are created with a base of 10 dice. Advanced options I and II are used. Lucky Shots and Questing Dice may also be used (from the Risus Compendium) at the GM's option. When picking a Martial Art, Animal Style or Weapon Style cliché, the level you take it at determines it’s name according to this chart.

  • [Name of Style] Student (1)

  • [Name of Style] Adept (2)

  • [Name of Style] Disciple (3)

  • [Name of Style] Warrior (4)

  • [Name of Style] Sensei (5)

  • [Name of Style] Master (6)

So if you take Tae Kwon Do at cliché level 4, you would have Tae Kwon Do Warrior (4).

And remember –

  • O – Offensive win bonus

  • D – Defensive win bonus

  • T – Technique win bonus

Martial Art Styles

  • Tai Chi – A fluid art that focuses on redirection and well timed attacks.
    O-1 D-2 T-3

  • Wing Chun - A Chinese martial art that emphasizes short-range combat and quick, strong strikes.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

  • Muay Thai - Muay Thai is referred to as "The Science of Eight Limbs", as the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively in this art.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Kenpo – Also known as Karate, this is a standard art that teaches a well rounded suite of moves.
    O-2 D-2 T-2

  • Tae Kwan Do – A Korean art that focuses very heavily on all types of kicks.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Jeet Kun Do – Bruce Lee’s style, very quick and agile, and very showy.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Aikido – A defensive martial art that focuses on using your opponent's energy and strength against them.
    O-1 D-3 T-2

  • Jujitsu – Also known as Judo, this is an art that focuses on throws and take downs.
    O-2 D-3 T-1

  • Parkour – A French art that uses constant movement and the environment around you to take down your foe.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

  • Capoeira – A Brazilian art that incorporates dancing into their powerful attacks.
    O-1 D-1 T-4

  • Boxing – A simple attack style that uses fierce punches exclusively.
    O-4 D-1 T-1

  • Hung Gar – This martial art features a low stance and focuses on hand strikes.
    O-3 D-2 T-1

  • Drunken Boxing – This style’s moves are hard to predict as the practitioner emulates being drunk.
    O-1 D-2 T-3

  • Shinwa Tae Do – A mostly defensive martial art that focuses on locks, throws and sympathetic pain points.
    O-1 D-4 T-1

  • Dim Mak – A martial art that uses knowledge of pressure points to cause suffering to opponents.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

Animal Styles

  • Tiger – A very powerful style that incorporates a 2 hit strike with the palm and fingers that can literally tear off skin.
    O-4 D-1 T-1

  • Crane – A defensive and reactive art, Crane style users almost always wait until their opponent moves in.
    O-1 D-4 T-1

  • Leopard – A more agile and defensive version of the Tiger style.
    O-1 D-2 T-3

  • Dragon – A powerful style full of advancing and rushing hand strikes.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Snake – A very quick style that uses spear hand, ridge hand and knife hand strikes in quick succession.
    O-1 D-1 T-4

  • Small Monkey – An art where you dart around and distract the opponent while timing your strikes.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

  • Stone Monkey – A more aggressive form of the Monkey style.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Mantis – A fluid art that forces your opponent into very close quarters.
    O-2 D-2 T-2

  • Eagle – In this style, you strike fast with a curved hand, digging into your opponent.
    O-2 D-3 T-1

  • Bear – This style emulates a bear’s ferocity, power and rage.
    O-3 D-2 T-1

Weapon Styles

  • Katana – This curved sword is handy for any close combat encounter, also can be a Samurai sword.
    O-2 D-2 T-2

  • Bo Staff – A long wooden staff with excellent reach.
    O-3 D-2 T-1

  • Bow & Arrow – A bow an arrow, easy to make, easy to use.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Three Section Staff – A very complex weapon made of 3 sticks attached in a line by chains.
    O-1 D-1 T-4

  • Nunchaku – 2 short sticks attached by a chain or rope; very fast and hard to predict in it’s movements.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

  • Butterfly Swords – 2 short and thick blades with a slightly rounded edge; almost always used in pairs.
    O-1 D-3 T-2

  • Hook Swords – Swords with a half-circle curve on the end and a bladed guard; almost always used in pairs, and useful for disarming opponents.
    O-2 D-3 T-1

  • Rope Dart – A long rope with a metal spike on the end, thrown spike first at the opponent and quickly pulled back.
    O-3 D-1 T-2

  • Chinese Strait Sword – A straight blade, useful in both thrusts and slices.
    O-3 D-2 T-1

  • Eskrima – 2 20-25 inch straight wooden sticks, always used in pairs. Uses the 12 angles of attack routine.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

  • Iron Fans – Collapsible fans made of sheet iron. Fast and easy to conceal, usually used in pairs.
    O-1 D-2 T-3

  • Sai – A small 3 pronged weapon, perfect for defense and disarming; usually used in pairs.
    O-1 D-4 T-1

  • Kama – A small stick with a curved sickle blade on the end; almost always used in pairs.
    O-3 D-2 T-1

  • Naginata – A long polearm with a long, curved blade on the end. Very powerful with long reach.
    O-4 D-1 T-1

  • Throwing stars – A pack of small bladed stars, easy to conceal and accurate in throwing.
    O-2 D-1 T-3

But my style isn’t on the list!

No problem. All you need is a Name, Description, and the 3 stance statistics. You get 6 points to allocate between the 3 stances. None of the 3 stances can have more than a 4, or less than a 1. That’s all there is to it.

Gun clichés

Despite not having mass produced bullets, simple guns are still appearing here and there. Any cliché that uses a gun (like Gang Member or Soldier) assumes that you have an older gun and home made bullets. Your gun-using cliché also lets you create new ammunition. When a gun is used in battle, it has a 1 in 6 (a roll of one on a d6) chance of failing, reducing the gun cliché to 1 (where you can now just pistol whip your opponent). Every consecutive turn you use a gun cliché, the odds of failure go up by one. So, the second turn you use the gun cliché, it fails on a roll of a 1 or 2 on a d6, etc. Martial Arts, Animal and Weapon styles get no bonuses for stances, and anyone damaged by a gun cliché loses 2 dice instead of 1.

Non-martial art clichés

Any cliché that is not a Martial Art, Animal or Weapon style (with scores in the 3 stances) does not get to choose a stance. Any style’s stance used against them automatically beats their non-stance, and gets the stance’s bonus. Thugs, street fighters, brawlers and any other combat cliché that doesn’t imply formal training fits into this category.

Adventure Seeds

Defend our home

The PCs are paid to protect someone’s living area. The PCs must formulate a plan to protect it and keep stamina up for the entire assault. What the PCs don’t know is that their employer paid several groups to attack his own home, hoping the PCs (who wronged him previously, at least in his opinion) will be killed.

In need of healers

Someone in the PCs home area is very sick or injured. They need them to get well since they train the people here in martial arts. The PCs must go forth and find doctors and supplies to bring the Sensei back to fighting form.

Get him!

A local gang of fighters is causing hell for the community. The PCs must infiltrate the enemy’s stronghold and dispose of the leader. It doesn’t help that this group has a bunch of guns, and that their soldiers are trained marksmen.

Supply chain

The PCs are selected to guard the caravan that brings food and supplies to the local community. They must defend against thieves, protect the caravan from the elements and help choose what food and supplies are needed for their home.

Character Example

Angela Wall

  • Kenpo Warrior (4)

  • Nunchaku Disciple (3)

  • Amazing Scrounging Cook (3)

  • Bluegrass Violin Player (2)

Hook – Bad Temper – Whenever things don’t go right, or people tick her off, Angela tends to fly off the handle. And break stuff.

Tale – Angela was born in a commune south of Chicago where she was trained to be a cook. She took to it quite well, but was always interested in being a fighter. Angela would always sneak into the training dojo and practice the moves, out of sight of the instructors. She constructed her Nunchakus herself, and is quite skilled with both those and her Kenpo. Angela helps with a little bit of everything, and cheers the whole commune up with her lively music. She’s happy to remain a cook for now, but will take any chance she can get to go into battle.

Go in Peace

Enjoy the world of Dao Sheng. Thanks go out to Nicholas Suddarth for help with the martial art styles and to Ben Clay who created our great Dao Sheng title page art. If you have any questions or comments, please email them to dsuptic@gmail.com May you find food and shelter in these dark times.