Some Suggestions for Random Character Creation in Risus & Interrupt Dice

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Summary: These are some basic rules on how to make character creation in Risus from just a wee bit to a whole lot more random. It also describes a few ideas about 'character interrupt dice' and how they can be used to make the game a bit more collaborative.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

(12:11:46 CST)

Some Suggestions for Random Character Creation in Risus & Interrupt Dice

Risus, the anything goes RPG, is about taking a character and expressing him or her in a series of cliches. These cliches are the standard sort of fantasy, speculative fiction, action movie style handles that we saddle people with: gunfighter, college athlete, ex-nerd, shark hunter, starship janitor, etc. While the game allows a fairly free character creation, I thought it might be interesting to try and graft a random character set of character creation rules unto it.

My Original Concept

Get a bowl, some Tupperware, a hat, a paper bag. Write from 5 to 6 cliches [Doug's Note: This page assumes you have a basic understanding of Risus terminology. If not, then it won't do you much good...maybe. Though some of these rules and ideas could be adapted.] per character and put them in it. Have players draw out four each, probably one per "round" go around four times. Then, players build characters by assigning 10 points total to the four cliches (adjust per setting, but 10 is the standard). To add a wrinkle, force players to use one each of 4 points, 3 points, 2 points, and 1 point so that one of the cliches is the primary, one the secondary, and so forth.

If there is some sort of cliche that is needed by the game to make sense to the campaign (say in a high school setting, the GM might need one jock, one nerd, one cheerleader, and one goth) then use two sets of cliches. Have the players draw these primary cliches either first or last. If you do not want the players to know which set are primary, then you can either make several piles (in this case, only make 4 cliches per character) or you, as GM, can do the drawing for the players and then insert the primary one in. This latter case will let them know that one cliche is more important than others, but not which one.

The Hook and Tale

Namely, the GM might give the players about five minutes to come up with a hook and tale for the characters. The character with the best hook, and the character with the best tale (keep these separate), each get one additional interrupt dice. Any character can call for GM's choice, and then the GM will fill it in. These characters are ineligible for the extra dice.

More Random Concepts

Then I began thinking about how to make it more random.

First off, you can have values of cliches assigned at the beginning. This means that one player may get more points than the others (or less). If you want to temper it, then you can have players draw up until they exceed 10 points and then stop. Or, using the multiple pile system, above, you can have one pile of 4s, one pile of 3s, and so on.

Or, you can have players roll dice to see their value. d4s have the proper range, but at an average of 2.5 per dice might lead to weaker characters. Larger dice, and you probably want to stop at d6, can give better characters, but lead to greater-than-4 values for cliche.

You can allow players to draw one or two additional cliches and then only keep the four they want. In this case, any primary cliches would have to be acknowledged outright.

You can allow players to add a modifier phrase to their cliches, which can give some more flavor. In this case, the base cliches would be simpler, probably no more than one or two words. That way a player who gets "nerd" could change it to "[chemistry] nerd" and a player who gets "starship janitor" could change it to "starship janitor [in charge of soup nozzles]". Nothing not session specific need be allowed, and you might want to limit this to only one or two cliches. However, if used, any in-character nod towards the brackets should result in some bonus: extra dice, bonus interrupt dice, or rounds of applause.

Speaking of Interrupt Dice

Let each player start with 3 tokens. If you have some sort of dice that is distinguishable, then that might work right off. If not, then poker chips or something works. At any time in the session, a player may cash in one token to get one extra dice. Players get tokens (up to 6, total) for playing through their cliches in a way that MacGuyver's the random combination. "Starship janitor, gunfighter, ex-[chemistry] nerd, and shark hunter" might be a weird combination to play, but when the player strings together underwater diving, basic knowledge of cleaning supplies at three atmosphers of pressure, and squirts the solution dead on target; well, give them a token. If you allow them to personalize their cliches, then continued (not just a single) use of role-playing that highlights that personalization should get a token. Also, tokens should be handed out after major events. One or two, anyhow.

Other Uses for Interrupt Dice

Players can spend 1 token to intervene on behalf of another character, or 2 to intervene if that intervention should have somehow been unlikely, or 3 if it should have been impossible. Intervention is jumping in front of a character to take a bullet, or grabbing someone's hand as they are about to fall off of a cliff, etc. The GM might require a resolution to see how effective the intervention really is ("Oh, the bullet only grazed him, so it still mostly shot you!"), but should not not be too big a prick about it. This is Risus after all. The intervenee can give up to the amount of tokens used to the intervener, as gratitude. Or, can offer to take a bullet later. Bake a cake. That kind of thing.

Players can spend 3 tokens to influence the outcome of an event. "I open the door, and find medical supplies behind it." The GM reserves the right to veto any interruption in this case. If the GM does veto something, though, the player should get a bonus token back. Once a veto has been acknowledged, no further interrupts can be called on that scene or at least in that particular way. Just to clarify, a veto is when the GM says "No, the medical supplies are not behind that door, they must be somewhere else", not when a player says something ridiculous like "I find the exit to the dungeon behind the door!". In that case, the GM can specify "This is not a veto" and penalize the player 1 token. If the player is out of tokens, look angrily at his or her cliches and click your tongue, letting him or her know that next time you will go for them instead.

Players can spend 2 tokens to heal a cliche by 1.

Players can spend a cliche's value plus 1 in tokens to reveal that a cliche wasn't what it appeared, and actually is...dun dun dunnn. This can even be in the middle of combat or a tense scene. "But I am not an ex-nerd, I am actually a current medical genius!"

That about wraps it up. The only other thing I can think to add is The Swap. Similar to the "this cliche is not the cliche you think it is" rule, above; the Swap is invoked with the GM informs a player that their character's cliche is not the one they thought. The GM can name a cliche in mind, or, better, draw another one from the initial hat/bowl/etc. Since this game is all about players only have a fair grasp of their characters, this mimics movies where character reversals show up later (some good, some bad). GMs can do this as often or as little as they want, but should keep it for moments of maximum fun. Or, well, maybe consider this an optional rule to bring out sometimes for comedic sake. Some possible times to bring it up include (a) right after a character loses combat, (b) right after a character watches a comrade lose combat, or (c) right after a player violates one of the original cliches.

Hope this helps you in your one shots and such.

Si Vales, Valeo


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