A Risus setting built upon nothing at all, barely created by Dan Suptic ©2011
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 Scratch. 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 Scratch.
Starting from Scratch
There is a lot of information out there on coming up with a character on the fly, while playing a game. There are also a lot of good tools for GMs who wish to make campaigns up quickly, and become more improvisational while running them. Scratch aims to make a truly sandbox experience, giving players nothing to start with except a blank piece of paper, and giving GMs nothing but a page with the following paragraph on it to start.
(read to players)
You all awake abruptly to find yourselves in a dimly lit, long and somewhat spacious container. You have a small but persistent headache, blurred vision that is slowly clearing and absolutely no idea who you are or what’s going on. Your inner ear tells you that you’re in motion, confirmed by the occasional bump and jostle to the container you’re in. Looking around tells you nothing too useful – aside from the mundane walls there’s a half dozen boxes laying unfettered on the floor, sliding a bit when the ride gets rough. Eyes still adjusting to the dim light, you look at everyone else and feel a strong sense of familiarity – at least you seem to be amongst friends. What do you do?
Or alternatively, if you only have 1 player along for the ride,
(read to player)
You awake abruptly to find yourself in a dimly lit, long and somewhat spacious container. You have a small but persistent headache, blurred vision that is slowly clearing and absolutely no idea who you are or what’s going on. Your inner ear tells you that you’re in motion, confirmed by the occasional bump and jostle to the container you’re in. Looking around tells you nothing too useful – aside from the mundane walls there’s a half dozen boxes laying unfettered on the floor, sliding a bit when the ride gets rough. Eyes still adjusting to the dim light, you see that you’re alone – for now at least. What do you do?
And they’re off!
That’s it, once you’ve given your players the intro paragraph, you’re ready to start cooperatively creating the world. It’s already got a great hook – mystery, and a likely adversary somewhere too. Your players will quickly set about exploring the place, and your answers will swiftly mold the world. They ask “What are the walls made from?” Pick the first thing that comes to mind – Metal, wood, plastic, tinted glass, whatever. They’ll look at and into the boxes – both the materials of the box and what’s inside will fill in even more details. If a player asks what another player looks like, ask the player in question yourself, “Yeah, what DO you look like?” All these little bits you make up will slowly start to form a cohesive setting.
Characters are built on 10 dice total, and advanced options may be used at GM and Player discretion. The players should remember (aka make up) clichés slowly, and their first cliché should probably be figured out before escape from their container. Whenever things get slow, or the GM is stuck for something new, or it’s just a good resting spot, have a player or 2 remember another cliché. Eventually, the GM will have a good idea of what to do with the world, and the PCs will be fully clichéd, and you’ll have either a great campaign seed or a crazy one shot game session.
This type of improv definitely isn’t for everyone, but it can be a great time for GMs and Players stuck in a gaming rut. The idea of having literally nothing prepared can be scary for some GMs, even those who love improvisation and spontaneity. The effort is well worth it though, and a similar humble paragraph that I used turned into an epic tale of a psychic soldier’s fight against the socialist government’s betrayal of him set in the Deutschlandic States of America. And even if your efforts turn out nothing but a ridiculous one-shot, I bet it will still be interesting. If something great (or even something ridiculous) comes from this, let me know at email@example.com – constructive criticism of any type always welcome.