The Heroes of Oblend! Fantasy Mod for Risus
The Heroes of Oblend! is a short fantasy mod for Risus: The Anything Goes RPG by S. John Ross. It was conceived one afternoon (April 23, 2008) when I was trying to think how to get some long-term D&D players into Risus while at the same time getting some new-to-the-hobby players into RPGs altogether. Risus was good for the latter, but possibly poor for the former. The new Dungeons & Dragons is especially bad at promoting a mechanics rich powergamer over a more subtle roleplayer. Risus, with its simple character creation and open-ended character actions, would possibly be too big of a temptation for the powergamer to resist. While it is not hard for a Game Master (GM) to reel in a Player Character (PC) gone awry, it could also be unfun for everyone. Sure, the specific group that this game was written for would not be likely to be jerks about it, but it is conceivable that the next group I tried it on would have a prime example.
Risus is available free at the link above. Most of the rest of this will assume you have read the rule book. I will only be talking about the rules and how they are modified. The rule book is only six-pages or so, so it is not a difficult, drawn out read. I promise.
Rules Not Used
There are no Hooks, no Tales, and no Double-pumps.
The New Dice Roll
Rather that roll one die per rank, players roll one die period and then multiply it by the rank. This makes some odd little changes to chance and probability, but also stops the fact that a 4 rank cliche is more likely to roll its average total of 14 than a 2 rank cliche is likely to roll its average of 7. This way, a 2 rank cliche can be either 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 and a 4 rank can be 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, or 24 with each value having an equal chance.
Modified Character Creation
Every character gets five cliches. Possibly more, but I will get to that. The cliches are these five things: description, race, occupation, region, and hero pool. It will be in the general format of: [Name], the [description] [race] [occupation] of [region]. This format is not set in stone, but fits the genre. Hero pool is a special one. They five types of cliches will be described below:
Description: this is an adjective that will describe the character's chief reputation. It can be words like "mighty", "fearless", "fearsome", "cowardly", "apathetic", "pious", "devout", "mystic", or "flatulent". Or just about any other fantasy appropriate adjective you can think of.
Race: this is the fantasy race of the character: "human", "elf", "dwarf", "orc", "half-elf", "wolfen", "pixie", "monkey", whatever. If you come from a fantasy RPG background, meaning that you-the-player have a history of playing FRPGs, then feel free to port over whatever race would be appropriate and a couple that would not be appropriate.
Occupation: the job of the character. Includes occupations ("blacksmith", "animal handler", "guard", "cartographer", etc), character classes (or, adventurer occupations: "fighter", "ranger", "wizard", "shaman", "socereror", "rogue", "bard"), or just general ways you spend your time ("gambler", "trickster", "street urchin").
Region: this can be a country, a type of terrain your character comes out of, a general region, or a lifestyle of the character. "The North", "The Streets", "The Palace", "Timburton", "The Eastern River", and so on.
Hero Pool: the Hero Pool starts out at 2. It can be reduced to 1 or expanded up to 4. Its uses will be talked about in the next section.
With those five cliches in mind, you pick one of each for the first four for your character. Your character might be the Well-traveled elf bard of the deep forest or maybe a Salty human pirate of the South Sea or maybe a Confused kobold blacksmith from Kobold-city or even a Drunken half-elf beggar from the streets. Each of the four is going to need a rank, between 1 and 4. You have 10 total ranks to spend, and any combination of values is allowed. The higher the rank for a section, the more important that aspect of your character is to your character.
Using two examples from above, we could have the Salty (2) human (1) pirate (4) of the South Sea (3) or the Drunken (3) half-elf (1), beggar (3) from the streets (3).
You can either take 1 rank from the Hero Pool, or add up 2 ranks to it. This will count against your 10 total ranks. If you take a rank from the Hero Pool, you get 11 ranks to spend on your attributes. If you give 1 or 2 ranks to your Hero Pool, then you will have only 9 or 8 ranks to spend.
In this way, the Confused (2) Kobold (3) blacksmith(3) from Kobold-city(1) has a Hero Pool of 3 while the Well-traveled (3) elf (4) bard (2) of the deep forest (2) has a Hero Pool of 1.
As said, you may want to split some of your cliches up. Maybe you have two jobs, or maybe you have two good adjectives that describe you, or maybe you have two regions you hale from. This is ok. You can divide them up but you do not get any more ranks to spend on them, and the maximum and minimum is still the same. Race, mind you, does not need to be split up. If you are a half-orc half-elf, then just say that.
Since cliches come from fantasy terminology and there are many versions of each, then the players need to talk about what each cliche means to them before starting the game. The GM will be the ultimate decider if the cliche can hold as much weight as the players attempt. If two players play the same race, it is highly recommend that they come to a conclusion of what that race means, or append some sort of "modifier" (say, "dark elf" and "high elf" or "true goblin" versus "red goblin") to explain the differences.
Using the Hero Pool
There are three uses for the Hero Pool:
Healing: the Hero Pool can be spent on a point for point basis to restore cliches.
Saving Throw: the Hero Pool can be utterly emptied to retain exactly one cliche rank after something horrible happens to the character, including getting beaten in combat.
Heroism: the Hero Pool can be spent directly to pump a cliche. This is technically the same as pumping the cliche and then spending the Hero Pool to heal it back up, but oh well.The Hero Pool restores itself at every sunset. Fully. In this way, it marks the line of how much characters can heal on a given basis, or how heroic they can be.
Note: the term caster is used below. Technically, a caster can be just about anyone. Some good cliches for casters would include the descriptions "mystic", "magical", "arcane"; the occupations "wizard", "shaman", "sorcerer", "necromancer"; the regions "Magical Forest", "Timburton the City of Dark Magic"; and the races "elf", "fairy", "gnome".
Magic in The Heroes of Oblend! is a mash-up of my own task rolls in Ghostlight and combat in Risus. The spell attempted is assigned from 1 to 7 dice, depending on the size and difficulty of the spell. Different GMs will want different levels of magic in their campaign, but a good range is 1 die for simple spells that could have been done by hand, 2 dice for spells that require a small amount of concentration, 3 dice for spells that the caster would have some trouble casting, 4 dice for spells that are definitely tricky, all the way up to 7 dice for spells that the caster isn't likely to pull off.
If this is the first time that the caster has ever tried to cast a spell like this, then the spell gets +1 die. If the caster has the spell written down and/or definitely knows the specific spell, then spell is reduced by one die for each. This means that a spell the caster has never cast but has written down is at +/-0 (-1 die for written down, +1 die for being new). In order to know a spell, you need to cast it the square of the required dice to cast. A moderate spell (say a 3) would require at least 9 castings before the Caster has learned it. Or you can wing it and play it by ear.
A caster can have as many ranks of spells written down or regularly known as equal to his or her total ranks in magical cliches, squared, and times two. This means that a Arcane(3) fairy(2) mage(4) of Timburton(1) would have the ability to retain 200 ranks of spells.
Each caster can only call on one cliche at a time to cast a spell. Usually, if the caster has different types of spells that are more appropriate to each cliche.
You can buy a familiar at Character Creation. A familiar will stick with you, and will take some basic commands. It is treated essentially like an NPC, but one with your character's best interest in mind (as in, the GM plays the familiar, but doesn't do jerk things with it). For every cliche you give to your familiar, your familiar gets two cliches to spend. Up to a total of four. If the GM allows larger familiars, he or she can set the max to either 6 or 8 (this would be along the lines of magical familiars or bound demons, maybe). The familiar is built out of cliches, generally just having one cliche equal to whatever species it is. In other words, a dog can be bought at Jack, the Husky (4). Whenever Jack does Husky things, he gets to roll his Husky dice. Familiars get a Hero Pool of 1, which can be doubled up to 2 by spending a cliche point (from the familiar's pool, not your own).
If the more powerful familiar option is taken, familiars might have magical cliches. They will also face the same "cliche of 4" limit that everyone else does at start.
Character advancement works slightly different. After each significant adventure, the player will choose one of the cliches (not Hero Pool) that they used and will roll a number of dice equal to the rank of that cliche. If any die rolled shows a value of "6", then the cliche is not advanced. In any other case, it is.
Every time a cliche goes up, Hero Pool will get a check. At the end of each adventure in which Hero Pool has four checks, then Hero Pool can be chosen as the possible advancement. Whether or not it advances, then it will be reset to zero checks.
The sort of rules here can work fairly well for other standard table-top genres. Examples would include:
Space: Gutsy Leewakian Pilot for Leewak.
Horror (since most horror games only use humans, race can be substituded with an extra regional word, or an extra description): Curious American professor from Alabama.
Dark Fantasy: Angry Vampire DJ from the West Coast.
Western (see note on horror, above): Thoughtful, old reporter from Dodge City.
Cyberpunk (again, see Horror, but this time add in affliation as the race cliche): Lucky street-gang hacker from Chi-town.
"The hidden is greater than the seen."