A setting for Risus: The Anything RPG
Murphy's World is very, very unlike our own world.
First of all, the history of Murphy's World has decided to hate parallel development and thus move at a different pace depending where you go. That's why the inhabitants of the world live in different periods. For instance, the inhabitants of the land of Musthak mostly travel their wide plains as nomads, praying to weird gods (such as Zteel, the God of Chromium) and spending their days bashing each others' heads in with big, blunt and rusty swords. Then again, on the far side of the ocean, there's also the Federal State of Regania (by which name it is only currently known; the country is generally renamed after its current president) which has banished all gods from the country except for one or maybe two and finds great pleasure in developing nuclear bombs in stylish shapes and portable sizes.
It's only natural that there is nothing but chaos on Murphy's World.
Then again, what really sets this little green, blue and neon yellow planet (the Reganians have a very peculiar taste in colors) apart from Earth is the fact that the Laws of Nature have decided (probably in a secret meeting with history) not to follow any of the usual rules except for that of Entropy, or chaos.
With that settled, there was only one defining element left for the entire world, and that was Chance. Fortunately, one could usually rely on Chance, as long as it remained nice and random, but unfortunately, a man named Murphy (thinking himself quite the clever guy) got a really neat idea he shouldn't have got, and he did with it what he shouldn't have done, namely publish it. That idea was: "God doesn't throw dice."
Naturally, God threw a fit because he liked to play, and he did what angry gods always do in these situations.
He got himself some loaded dice.
And from that day on, everything went wrong on the planet, including Chance.
(Maybe Murphy's world isn't entirely unlike our own.)
The general setup
Murphy's World is a horrible jumble of historical clichés ranging from late prehistoric barbarian tribes over renaissance swashbuckler nations up to modern-age cold-war spy-network-toting global superpowers. The strange thing is that the world is at balance as it is, though it's the sort of fragile balance that's tipped over when someone sneezes loudly. Fortunately, it builds itself back to another sort of balance after each such incident. If you ever needed proof that there is order in chaos, you'll find plenty here.
On a rough overview, Murphy's World looks as follows:
There are six major continents on the Planet: Cinderia, Amerita, Newropa, Friacca, Downunder and Southpolia. There was a seventh continent - Northpolia - but due to extensive nuclear testing by some nation, it has melted. Ever since that day, all of Southpolia is a nuclear-free zone.
The planet is two thirds ocean and one third land mass. None of the six continents are directly connected by dry land, but there is an abundance of small island states between Amerita and Friacca which are all connected by a bizarre system of bridges (and each of the island states asks horrendous rates from foreigners who want to cross the ocean).
Oh - and there is Atlantis, the flying metropolis. It was originally an experiment to put an entire city into a submarine and relocate it to the ocean floor. Just don't ask.
Places to go
Cinderia is the largest continent on Murphy's World, spanning around almost half the planet's diameter. Unfortunately, most of its north is an uninhabitable ice desert, though no one seems to have told the local natives, the Evercold, that it is uninhabitable. The Evercold live on fish, polar bears and, very occasionally, on lost travellers.
Right to the south of the nameless ice desert lie the plains of Musthak, a place which is also cold and barren though not quite as cold and barren as the land to the north. Consequently, a few more people live here, and these people are known as the Barbarian Tribes, though they call themselves Musthakai. All male members of the Musthakai are large, well-built and look a little like unshaven bodybuilders on steroids, all female members of the Musthakai are blonde, curvy and have luscious, sultry lips. Both genders know how to handle huge, blunt, and rusty swords, and both pray to a huge pantheon of gods ranging from relatively normal (like the Lords of Wind and Rain) to absolutely absurd (like Eek, the God of Rodent Tails). Almost every Musthakai, though, reveres Zteel, the God of Chromium, as only He knows how to remain rust-proof.
To the far east of Musthak lies the Empire of Chow Zen, the most densely populated region on the planet. The natives belong to one of two people: the Chow, rather friendly folks living on trade, craftsmanship and dispensing unnecessary wisdom, and the Zen, warlike people with a strong sense of honor, etiquette and cutting-your-enemy-into-thin-slices-with-razor-sharp-sabers. Both follow the leadership of a single Emperor, though there are minor rebellions and civil wars around every two weeks, and more frequently around New Year's Day. Food in Chow Zen is definitely tasty, though the Chow have a reputation for eating anything with legs, except for furniture and the Zen have a reputation for eating anything that swims, except for ships. Both have steam-age technology but haven't started using steam-power for transportation yet.
Finally, along the southern coast of Cinderia, there is the Republic of Communia. Communia is a prosperous land with rich natural resources, wide farmlands and lush forests. All wealth in Communia belongs to everybody, thus, everybody in Communia is as poor as a peasant. Of course, that's not a problem, at least not according to the Party. The Party knows best for Communia. (It knows best for everything, of course, but this paragraph is about Communia, so I'm definitely not a traitor to the people, am I?) In theory, Communia is a modern state with access to all sorts of technology, but strangely, only those in the Party seem to be able to get a hold on them. Communia is currently fighting a Cold War against Regania, and you know, you have to make sacrifices in war, see?
Some would say that Amerita is essentially two continents, North Amerita and South Amerita. But then again, some would also say Murphy's World is flat (which it isn't: it's pumpkin-shaped), so there you go.
North Amerita is, essentially, one single nation currently named the Federal State of Regania, except for its northern tip, which is called Canuckia. The Cannucks are a peaceful bunch of environmentalists in plaid shirts and leather jackets whose main pastimes are the semi-annual Lumberjack Olympics and ice hockey. Expect every good man to own a chainsaw, a pickup truck and a dogsleigh; expect every good woman to own a freshly baked apple pie and a first aid kit the size of a small house. Cannucks have full access to modern technology (sharing a border with the world's most advanced nation) but mostly choose to live in log cabins with no access to electrical power. There is one major city in Canuckia, Toromtom, which looks pretty much like most modern-age capitals, only that the air there is actually breathable.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the nation of Regania, which spans the rest of North Amerita. Its cities are huge, crowded, noisy and neon-yellow Molochs of society where rush hour is 24/7 and the crime rate is so high that the police have stopped monitoring it and started taking the number of people not somehow involved in a criminal act as either perpetrator or victim as a statistical size. Outside the downtowns, huge suburbs span the rest of the country, less crowded, less noisy but still every bit as neon yellow as the metropolitan areas. Reganians are a highly patriotic bunch, just a little bit racist and very proud of their liberal firearms laws which, essentially, make not owning at least a .45 handgun a criminal offense. Of course, in a country as free and liberal as Regania, people tolerate different lifestyles, but only a few would actually go so far as to burn the flag (showing neon yellow stars on a neon yellow background; thus the national anthem of Regania begins with the words "Oh say, can you see them"). And if someone really can't stand living in Regania any longer, chances are he'll just move to Canuckia.
South Amerita consists of a multitude of small nations changing their governments with the turn of the seasons, nations such as Voodoochile, Zebrazil, Argumentine and Pooru. Just south of Regania lies Mojito, a relatively stable nation thriving on the export of tacos, chilli, weird hats and illegal workers. The current government has dangerously close diplomatic relations to Communia and is thus watched by the Reganians with a concerned look. Some say that there may be war, some others say that it has already begun, but it's a war of black ops and secret political manipulation by the Reganian secret service, the CYA.
Newropa is completely stuck somewhere between the early middle ages and the renaissance. There are six major nations that are constantly at war with one another, though none seems to be able to gain an upper hand in the long run, so the situation there is unlikely to change. Travel in Newropa runs either by horse and carriage or by airship - an airship being a perfectly normal sailship that just happens to be able to fly.
A short excourse on airships
Airships, just like sailships, are powered by wind. They are able to float, however, because of the cat-and-butterbread-engine inside, essentially somewhere between fifty and five hundred cats with butterbreads tied to their backs. Falling cats always land on their feet, falling butterbreads always land on the buttered side, and as butterbread-equipped cats can't do either, they just keep floating. The resulting lifting power is used to make an airship float.
One could use magic to make an airship fly, but most magicians aren't willing to endanger the roofs of their sorcery towers.
On an island in the north of Newropa lies the Kingdom of Angilia. Angilia is governed with a strong hand by Queen Olympia the First and is a nation of traders, explorers and wily playwrights. The Angilians have strong ties to many of the small island states in the ocean and access to foreign goods of all sorts, the most prized being tea. You can take everything away from an Angilian gentleman: his cane, his horse (which he would trade his kingdom for otherwise) and his moustache, but take away his tea and you've made him really really mad.
Just a bit to the south lies the warlike Empire of Maleana. Maleana is the nation that is stuck deepest in the Middle Ages and takes great pride in being able to put every living thing into a full plate armor. There are sets of armor for knights with horses, sets of armor for knights without horses, sets of armor that turn knight and horse into a single armored monstrosity, and even sets of armor for just the horse in case the knight develops an allergy to iron. Maleans train wardogs (and also put them into sets of armor, but that's a different story), and if they wanted to, they'd probably be able to conquer all of Newropa, but fortunately, they spend most of their time on religious civil wars. There are Murphyists and Protesters (the latter believing that God does throw dice), and they are constantly at each other's throats.
West of Maleana lies Narmonyde, probably the most advanced nation of Newropa. Its chivalrous musketeers are the stuff of legend, as is the Narmonyans' splendid cooking. Unfortunately, King Francois of Narmonyde is a nutcase, believing himself the sun and Murphy's World revolving around him. He spends the entire annual budget of a small nation on a single lavish party, and he has lavish parties every day. People are already more than a little dissatisfied with him, and, don't you know, talking 'bout a revolution (which, so far, sounds like a whisper). Narmonyde has never been defeated in a war, but a civil war could bring it to its knees.
South of Narmonyde lies Haspinia, motherland of the mighty Airmada, the greatest fleet of airships on the planet. The Airmada exists solely to hunt down air pirates, which, maybe surprisingly are also mostly Haspinians. Threatening international airspace worldwide, their dreaded frigates and galleons flying the Jolly Over flag have given the nation the bad reputation it rightfully deserves. Haspinians are easily enraged, hard to calm down and make a sport of fighting bulls and romancing ladies (some also make a sport of romancing bulls and fighting ladies, but let's not talk about them, shall we?). They also speak with an outrageous "latin lover" accent but only when talking to non-Haspinians. Go figure. Oh - and you shouldn't discuss religion with them. More than one unsuspecting young man got a visit from a Haspinian inquisitor, and nobody expects the Haspinian Inquisition!
On a peninsula to the east of Haspinia lies Thalienus, the nation of the hundred city-states, like Malino, Tiruna, Rovena and Pennales. Each has his own prince (some, like Cenive, even have several princes), and the only authority they recognize is the Pointyhat, the highest priest of Murphism, located in the city of Aroma. Very much like the Haspinians, the people of Thalienus are hot-blooded in love and war alike, though their accents are not nearly as strong. However, they like to talk with their hands a lot, making their company almost as annoying as that of their Haspinian cousins, and when they are not talking with their hands, they're probably just warming up for some singing. Many Thalians enjoy singing loudly while riding, swordfighting, hairstyling or pretty much every other activity including conversations.
The last notable nation on Newropa is Skanskefjørd, a country led by heroic warriors and wise sages, if you believe the Skanskefjørdians - or by savage pirates and boring talespinners, if you believe the Angilians who are in a century-old feud with them. The Skanskefjørdians are the only Newropean nation not to use airships but stick to conventional sea travel instead, and are, unfortunately, very successfully raiding the other coasts this way. Their language is almost impossible to pronounce and absolutely impossible to write down, consisting of almost exclusively illegible letters (ø being only one of them), and even though many of them are fluent in other languages, every single Skanskefjørdian will still use a vowel or consonant from their own tongue when speaking. A surprisingly high number of Skanskefjørdian women are warriors (calling themselves Valkyries), and a surprisingly high number of men among their people are wizards (calling themselves Runelords). Many would say that the sight of a single Skanskefjørdian brings bad luck, as it often heralds the arrival of more Skanskefjørdians.
Friacca, also known as the Dark Continent, is a largely untamed mass of land where extremes collide with one another. Lavish jungles brimming with life share borders with huge deserts where death lurks between bone-dry dunes, bustling cities where unimaginable riches are traded daily share borders with almost stone-age hut villages where the natives own little more than a loincloth and a spear (sometimes even only one of either, and I'll leave it to your imagination which of them).
The north of Friacca is still a rather civilized area, comprised of the city-state of Abdul and the two kingdoms of Dinia and Comorro. All three share a single culture and religion where slavery is legal, magic is commonplace (yet outlawed) and disputes are usually settled by bloody knife-fights, except between merchants, where they are settled by haggling the other guy down until he begs for mercy. Abdul has a Magician-Mogul as leader who frequently tries to conquer the world but is always thwarted by some one-armed, one-legged beggar boy who gets in the way of his plans. Dinia is ruled by the Caliph, essentially some sort of king who is only in charge because nobody else wants to try to govern the sack of fleas that Dinia is, and nobody is really in charge of Comorro (even though they call it a kingdom); the land is in a sort of benevolent anarchy where everything works out somehow, though not always to everybody's satisfaction. Residents in Abdul, Dinia and Comorro don't follow Murphyism but rather the teachings of Finagle, one of Murphy's prophets who practically applied Murphyism to most mundane tasks. The Finaglims, as they call themselves, are usually tolerant of Murphyists, except when they don't seem to take them seriously, in which case they cry havoc and become bloodthirsty dogs with scimitars and crooked knives. Have some sympathy with them, they've had a tough day.
The further to the south of Friacca you get, the less hospitable the land becomes. The deserts get more deserted, the jungles get more... jungled, you get the point. Surprisingly, these jungles are still populated by primitive tribes with rather uncivilized habits like cannibalism and human sacrifice. On the other hand, the jungles are also said to hold untold riches, riches found in the remains of ancient prehistoric cultures who built stone temples out of rocks a thousand people couldn't possibly lift. There are even strange, hexagon-shaped pyramids, and if you can't imagine what a hexagon-shaped pyramid would look like or even consider the mere notion of such a thing impossible, be reminded that nothing is impossible in Friacca. Just ask your local Pulp Archaeologist (4); he can tell you quite a few stories abot them...
If there is a bright center to Murphy's World, Downunder is probably the place that it's farthest from. Wide, grassy and empty plains border at wide, barren and empty deserts that lie in the shadows of wide, rocky and empty mountains overlooking the wide, blue and empty sea. Did I mention that all of Downunder is essentially wide and empty? I did? Good.
Surprisingly, there is still something like a nation on Downunder spanning the entire continent, and even more surprisingly, it's as technologically advanced as Regania or Canuckia. Its residents, the Downies, are cheery people with a big heart and legendarily bad manners, but nobody in Downunder really seems to give a care about manners, so they're all cool with one another. Downies are all outdoor freaks at heart; put one naked in the center of the desert and chance are he'll arrive at your front door later, fully clothed, driving a truck built out of cactea and iguana dung and offering you a jug of beer he brewed on his way to your house. (Don't ask what he made the beer from, though - you won't like the answer.) Most Downies also love high tech knickknacks and tend to fiddle with them until they improve to the max or just break down. Most of the time, they do the latter.
Aside from the "civilized" Downies (and "civilized" is really stretching the limits of the word), there is also a tribe of natives in Downunder, the Omari. The Omari are almost the exact opposite of the Downies in behavior: almost always grouchy, uncaring about the fate of a single living being outside their own tribe and opposed to any sort of innovation that goes beyond the technological marvels of the stone age. They do not tolerate people that look more advanced than them, and from an Omari point of view, even your standard kitchen knife is high tech. Annoy the Omari and chances are they will just throw lots and lots of boomerangs at you until you go away and don't return.
So why go to Downunder at all? Easily answered: Downunder has crystal-clear seas, clean air, beaches of white sand as far as the eye can see and the most amazing collection of wildlife anywhere on Murphy's World. It is the best imaginable place for a vacation, especially since everything there is so wide and empty. People who can't stand the company of other people will fall in love with Downunder, where it's possible to walk in a straight line for a month and not meet anything capable of annoying you. Of course, you have to know which of the spiders you'll meet on the way are poisonous (only a few) and which of them carry a deadly posion (the rest), and you'd better find out quickly which of the cute furry things you meet on the way you can pet and which will bite your arm cleanly off. (Both look exactly the same, by the way, and only the Downies and Omari can tell them apart.) All in all, Downunder isn't the most interesting place on the planet, but it's worth a visit every now and then.
Southpolia is a barren ice desert populated by both penguins and polar bears. The polar bears didn't arrive until a few years ago when Northpolia went down, and the penguins didn't like that. (If you're a black, fat bird incapable of flight, it's only natural not to like the arrival of almost invisible, 800 pound predators with razor-sharp claws and teeth.) Consequently, they have developed a group mind and a community intelligence and are currently fighting a guerilla war against the polar bears.
That's why it's currently a really bad reason to visit Southpolia. If the cold and the polar bears don't get you, chances are you'll run into a penguin ambush and end up getting pecked to death by a thousand beaks that smell of fish. So stay away, will you?
Example characters of Murphy's World
Shelton Dread, "The Jerk of the Seven Winds"
Clichés: Genuinely Nice Guy (4), Shepherd (3), Seasoned Traveller (2), Air Pirate (1)
Tools: Nice Big Smile, Shepherd's Staff, The Big Book of Sea Travel ("Sea" crossed out; "Air" written above it),
The title "Jerk of the Seven Winds" is maybe a little unfair. Shelton Dread isn't as big a jerk as it implies. He is only the wrong man for his station. All he ever wanted to be was a shepherd. But you don't become a shepherd when your father is Chuck "Bloodfinger" Dread, the world's most notorious air pirate.
Shelton could have refused following him in the footsteps of a pirate captain. He could have also collected his liver from the bottom of the sea if he had done that. However, he isn't a brave man, or even an ambitious man. All Shelton ever hoped for was to make his father happy, and when he died (heroically in combat and not from slipping on a wet rag his son forgot on the stairs one day as some wannabe historians would say), Shelton continued his quest to live up to his father's legacy. Of course, being a first-class Genuinely Nice Guy gets a little in the way of that quest.
Cro of Magnon's Tribe
Clichés: Musthaki Barbarian (4), Dumb As Mud (3), Girl Magnet (3)
Tools: Rusty Barbarian Greatsword, Blank Stare, Revealing Loincloth
Ever since he left his tribe, Cro has been travelling the world without understanding a single thing he has seen or experienced there. That's because he is, undoubtedly, on of the dumbest human beings ever to walk the surface of Murphy's world. He speaks no languages but his own native tongue, and even that one badly. The only word he ever says if he talks is "Ztaal", though "talk" is a matter of definition; most other people would call it "roar". Strangely, he always seems to get the girls, even though he never actively does anything. They just happen to somehow fall into his arms, sighing and tickling his huge muscled chest, to which he responds with "Ztaal", which makes them sigh even more loudly. Go figure.
Krimhild von Hammerheim, Martyr-In-Training
Clichés: Warrior Maiden (3), Religious Fanatic (3), Curvaceous Babe (2), Snotty Noble (2)
Tools: Elegant Broadsword, The Book of Murphy's Law, Really Tight Leather Corset, Impressive Coat-of-Arms
A member of the Sacred Order of the Blessed Sword of Holy Saint Martus of Divinetown (SOBSHSMD for short), Krimhild's life is eternally devoted to throwing it away for the cause of Good. Unfortunately, situations that are worth throwing your life away for are really hard to find if you are still a martyr-in-training, and that is pretty much Krimhild's quest right now. Unfortunately, only a few warrior women exist who could guide her on that path, and most men she has met so far seemed to be interested in other things than helping her to end her life honorably. Dying for a good cause is harder than it looks if you're a rich hot babe.
Tom deCruz, Movie Celebrity-Has-Been
Clichés: Womanizer (4), Action Hero (3), Party Animal (2), Serious Dramatic Actor (1)
Tools: A Single Red Rose, Friggin' Big Fake Revolver, Bag o'Munchies, Self-Written Rejected Screenplay
All Tom ever wanted was acknowledgment. All Tom ever got was a paycheck. Granted, it was always a pretty good paycheck, and then there were the babes, and the booze, and the fame, and all the other good things that come from being a movie celebrity. But Tom felt that he was never taken seriously, especially not as an actor. That's why he hasn't made any movies for a few years now (though he could get back into the business with "Die Already IX" anytime he wanted to). But maybe he won't. Maybe it's time to put on the old neon yellow sunglasses again. Maybe there's something more in life. Something special. Something where he can finally find what he has been looking for. Maybe it's just around the corner...
Fernando Francesco Domenico Alvarez y Aquila, Haspinian Duelist
Clichés: Grumpy Midget (4), Haspinian Swordsman (3), Latin Lover (3)
Tools: Stepladder, Razor-Sharp Rapier, Hair Wax
Fernando Francesco Domenico Alvarez y Aquila (and don't you dare leaving even a single of these names out when addressing him) would be the quintessential Haspinian swashbuckler: passionate, skilled, daring and chivalrous. If he weren't only four feet tall. Due to a cruel twist of fate, the best swordsman of the decade (at least that's what he thinks he is) only grew to a full four feet of height, and the thought of how great he could have been with just a little more hasn't made him a happy man. In fact, he is willing to let the world pay for being bigger than him, and he is still good enough a swordsman to make it a pretty high bill. The only comfort he finds is in the arms of the ladies: he knows how to make his dark moods appear him mysterious and desirable, even though he needs a stepladder to deliver a proper kiss.
How to GM Murphy's World
It can actually be pretty tough to be the story-telling guy in a world where anything that can go wrong, will. Adventures are unlikely to entertain a group of roleplaying people if nothing they are trying to do actually works. So here's a few hints on how to properly give your players the "Murphy feeling" without losing their interest in the setting.
Apply real-world annoyances to fantasy-world scenarios
Got a Pirate Airship Captain (4) on your party? Give his Mighty Flying Air Galleon (6) a parking ticket every damn time he leaves it. When he finally finds a Galleon Parking Lot, have someone with an Air Dinghy make a nice scratch into the paint of his figurehead. Give him every damn annoyance someone who is proud of his car today would have to face.
Or maybe there's a Chivalrous Musketeer (3) among your players? Have him run into the same Militant Feminist (4) every damn time he is trying to rescue that Damsel-in-Distress (5) and get a pamphlet about how him rescuing women robs them of finally liberating themselves from the patriarchical oppressive system. Worse, let him be rescued by that same Militant Feminist (4) - only to find out that she actually likes men who show their softer side and wouldn't be opposed to dating our Chivalrous Musketeer (3), especially because she finds his Narmonyde accent so sweet and charming...
In other words, never make the big things your players are planning a complete and utter failure. Rather, hit them with the same small annoyances that plague you and them day-by-day: bureaucracy, advertisments, televangelists, weird regulations and rush hour traffic. Let them feel that their characters are dealing with the same kind of troubles they are accustomed to, only worse.
On the other hand, show them that these problems apply to everybody in the world. Have their Cackling Evil Genius Madman (5) nemesis develop the perfect plan for world domination, then let it fail due to the pizza delivery boy not finding the address of his Secret Hideout (3). Have that Comminian Superspy (6) capture them in one of his hightech radio-operated traps, then have a local pirate radio station hijack the very frequency his traps are controlled over and totally ruin everything to the sound of "Yo ho ho a pirate's life for me". Remember, even though the dice God throws are loaded, he throws them for everybody, and even loaded dice will generate surprising results every now and then.
The Best Laid Plans Are Thwarted The Easiest
The Risus game mechanics already give each player a strong lever to apply a little Murphism to the world: the Inappropriate Cliche rule. If a Thalienian Hairdresser (4) can totally own a Prize Boxer (3) in the ring by practical application of hairwax and curlers, it's not a case of the Hairdresser succeeding: it's a case of the Boxer's plan (to give that Thalienian annoyance a good spanking) failing. And that's just how Murphy's World should be presented: The competent are on the losing side when matched against the incompetent.
On the other hand, the incompetent are on the losing side when matched with the troubles of life. I believe everyone above the age of 18 has experienced this at least once: the TV picture consists of nothing but greens, you call a repairman, and once the repairman turns the thing on - everything in beautiful colors, better than the day you bought it. The repairman looks at you with his "broken, uh huh" look, opens the box, removes some dust, closes it up and charges you $150. And that's because he is a TV Repairman (3) and you are not.
So even though even the heroes of the world can (and should) be defeated even though all the odds are in their favor, they should still easily succeed in the tasks that come with their Clichés, unless they are opposed by someone obviously incompetent. And in the presence of someone who knows how to do the job, all those who don't should fail spectacularly in his job. That guarantees that someone who actually took the TV Repairman (3) Cliché to feel like a proper TV Repairman (3), especially in the presence of theSuperhero With A Secret Identity (4). Ever tried to fix a faulty cathode tube with... heat vision? Thought so.
Remember that Murphism is a religion
In Murphy's World, people actually believe in Murphy's teachings - the most important, of course, being that God doesn't throw dice. But they also expect everything to go wrong (if it can in any way) and are thus rarely surprised when disaster strikes. After all, it rarely strikes in a totally devastating way, and most of the time, you can arrange with the many misfortunes life brings.
Actually, if the player want to be believers of Murphism, encourage them to see the good sides of the bad things that happen to them. More than one motivated Murphyist took the lemons life had thrown at him (or rather, at his feet during ice skating) and made lemonade of them. Murphy's World is full of cunning salesmen who have made a business of their own misfortune. If you've read Life, the Universe and Everything Else by Douglas Adams, you might remember the truck driver who has never seen anything but rain in his whole life - in fact, rain follows him wherever he goes or drives. You know what he does in the end? He has travel agencies pay him for not going on vacation in holiday regions. That's just the sort of business model that would work in Murphy's World as well.
Oh - and Murphism being a religion has other fun uses. Of course, Murphism isn't the only religion, and aside from the many strange barbaric cults of Musthak and Friacca, there are many offshoots of Murphism. You've already heard about Finaglism, and that is hardly the only variation. There are Orthodox Murphyists who believe that every instance of something going wrong is a direct Act of God, there are Protesting Murphyists, who strongly believe that God does throw dice and are trying to figure outwho God got the loaded dice from, there are the Canonist Murphyists, who believe that the world was created on the exact same day that Murphy published his most important revelation to the world (and are always trying to scientifically "prove" that everything that hints at the world being older is only misunderstood), and of course there are those people who don't believe in Murphy or God or anything and just call everything bad luck.
Just make sure that in your world, every player can live by his own philosophy. It'll make them happy.
The "Real" Murphy's World
Frankly, I don't believe you really need that section. In my opinion, a GM should make Murphy's World exactly the place he's comfortable with. However, I realize that some GMs may want a little more solid information on how the world scenario is done "right". That's fine with me, too. Parody means you're making fun of something, and you'd better know what you're making fun of if you want to do it right. So here are my inspirations for what makes Murphy's World.
I shamelessly stole Robert E. Howard's Cimmeria name, made fun of his barbarian world and then added everything I saw fit for an Asian continent. That's Cinderia in a nutshell.
The Evercold are, really, only there for the sake of completeness, so that you have something if you really really need the players to make contact with some sort of Eskimo tribe. The real fun starts with Musthak, which is every cliché you can find in barbarian movies thrown together. Conan the Barbarian is a good start if you need some inspiration, but there are literally hundreds of other flicks (the cheaper the better) you can use to rip adventure plots from.
Chow Zen is 19th century China and 17th century Japan after a few minutes inside a very large blender. I intentionally didn't want to use too many kung fu clichés (though it certainly would be fun to include the traditional "Flying Monkey Style vs. Prancing Hippo Style" conflict every now and then) and focused more on the cultural oddities of both countries. Reading a little about Zen koans (these unsolvable riddles like "What is the sound of one hand clapping") and watching movies like The Last Emperor help a lot getting into the mood. Strange old men that call everybody "tiny grasshopper" make great Chow, and if you want to instantly make players understand the Zen, have one answer a casual "Hello" with "Never have my ancestors been so insulted in my whole life! Only your blood can avenge this slight to my honor!" That'll make sure they will want to understand the basic rules of their complicated etiquette system.
Finally, Communia. The Soviet Union George Orwell was mocking in Animal Farm. Use every cliché you can find in cold war flicks and combine it with the usual prejudice about Russians - vodka drinking, balalaika playing, the emotive singing, the bearskin hats - and you have the same picture in mind that I had. Make it a parody of an extremely oppressed society where it's treason to feel oppressed. Naturally, give it the most unrelenting bureaucracy imaginable, have them fill Document X34-GHB on the green paper to get a Customs Registration 67 on mauve cardboard to finally get some shoelaces and then not get the shoelaces because the mandatory stamp from the Head Office of the Family Minister is missing. And just for the fun of it, have the players thrown into a gulag prison just on the border to Musthak to find out that the prison is still lacking walls because the local governor hasn't been able to find the right document to transport bricks from the brick factory three miles away to the prison site.
I really shouldn't have to say much on Canuckia. Make the experience of visiting the country a rather pleasant one, at least as far as the people there are concerned. There shouldn't be a single Cannuck the players don't like. However, feel free to make the entire rest of the country cold, unpleasant and governed by wild bears if you want to give them a challenge. Of course, the country is unpleasant only to those that are not Cannucks.
Regania is the 80s U.S. of A. Only a little more neon yellow than you might remember it. Capitalist clichés work wonders here; think how stock brokers were idolized in the movie Wall Street, for instance, and you have a good start. Parodying Hollywood celebrities is a cakewalk, so that's what you always should do in a Regania adventure session. As for politics, go for a few Cold War clichés; maybe some McCarthyisms, but try to avoid the 9/11 issue. I know it's tempting, but too many people have strong feelings about it, so rather speak of a "Communian threat" instead of a "terrorist threat". The Commies aren't our enemies any longer, so it's easier to laugh about the times when they still were. And while you're at it, definitely try at least one "secret agent" adventure where you get the players to meet the CYA (and yes, their abbreviation means "cover your a$$"). Unfortunately, there won't be a James Bond spoof (the Angilians don't have this sort of spy yet), but if you want something else, try The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for some inspiration.
As for South Amerita, you only need to check the recent news on South America and you will find plenty of great ideas for parodies. Sometimes, life is even funnier than anything even good writers can think up (stuff like Venezuela's president ordering the whole country into a new time zone which is not a full hour but half an hour shifted from all others), so just make sure not to approach the idea too seriously. Just make sure politics down there are downright crazy. Mojito should be a little different: it's Mexico and Cuba all rolled into one, so here's where you can get crazy with the clichés on spicy food, expensive cigars, cattle barons and 90-year-old men making chart-breaking music.
All of Newropa is your generic sword-and-sorcery setting in a pseudo-historic medieval/renaissance environment, meaning it'll host anything from Pirates of the Caribbean over The Three Musketeers to The Knights of the Round Table. Plus, you get flying sailships, so what's not to like?
Angilia is Elizabethan England, with the Queen's name being Olympia. Use all your Shakespearan education and you'll easily whip up a few adventures by copying from the Poet. Just make sure you depict the Angilians like the modern cliché of an Englishman: snobby, crazy for tea, with a stiff upper lip, always gentleman-like, and don't forget that it always rains in Angilia. I've intentionally left out the Scottish and the Irish, but if you want to, feel free to indulge in William Wallace and Leprechaun clichés. They are not too far from the Newropean setting.
Maleana is medieval Germany, though the Malean Emperor has far greater power than the real German emperors ever had. Essentially, all nobles bow to him while at the same time constantly warring among one another. Maleans, thus, are always seen in heavy plate mail, the Knight In Shining Armor being a common cliché among them. In fact, the sight of someone from Maleana not wearing at least a solid steel breastplate should make the PCs suspicious about his identity. Krimhild von Hammerheim from the sample characters up the page, for instance, has a perfectly good explanation for not wearing armor: she's a martyr-in-training, and heavy armor would prevent her from dying heroically, wouldn't it? That's the spirit you should have in mind when depicting the Maleans.
Then there's Narmonyde: pre-revolutionary France with all modern clichés about French food, French romance and, of course, French military incompetence. Narmonyde has never been conquered by force, but that doesn't mean they were able to win even a single battle. Rather, their opponents always ran into the most basic principle of Murphy's world: that the competent always lose to the incompetent. This has given the Narmonydians quite some national pride, pride recently diminished, however, by their mad king. Again, take Louis XIV and everything you ever heard about Versailles politics and you have a good start for depicting the Narmonydian nobility. Just make sure there's some very very small man somewhere in the military who always has a hand tucked into his shirt and looks as though he is willing to take on the whole world... or did you think there would be a spoof of France without some fun about Napoleon?