Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Risus: The Anything RPG

 Risus: The Anything RPG is the wonderful little game created by S. John Ross. Risus is free, so there is that, but it also has a devoted following producing many fun (and free) adventures and game worlds. I am among them.

Get your load of Risus at

I always feel like I need to defend Risus because although the game appears as a simple 'beer and pretzels' type of RPG, it is capable of far more than that. It is able to run any serious gaming you might want, and often do it better than your hard back tomes of rules.

Risus is generally my go-to game, where all the my game worlds get their first breaths.

Risus is a game of beauty. Sublime. It was built for comedy, but serves just as well for serious gaming. Ah, but therein lays a nasty issue, the so-called, problem. Built for comedy, it plays to its strengths. Take it out of its natural niche, and it requires some effort from the players familiar with more, dare I say, traditional RPGs. It becomes a horrific hybrid of old school gaming and indie narrative style that can be a shock to the system, unless you have a penchant for horrific hybrids. Lemme’ explain.

If I were to play D&D (as but an example), I would dare say that nearly every situation imaginable has some kind of rule that attempts to address it. I could reference stats versus rules, and tables; take into account listed advantages and disadvantages; situational modifiers and more…perhaps even spread over multiple books. By God, by the time you roll the dice you know exactly what the result means, and can apply the various stats, rules, tables, advantages, disadvantages, modifiers and more as appropriate. I’ve nothing against D&D, it’s a style of play some prefer, but here’s the point…it’s all spelled out to leave nothing to ambiguity or vagueness.

Risus on the other hand challenges the players and the GM to essentially generate all those rules D&D has, on the fly, in our heads, hand waving what you don’t have time to contemplate or is really unimportant, and then rolling a some dice where even the results are not hard or fast, but vague and unknown. In Risus, you could lose for winning, and vice-versa. It requires players to think not of rules, but of situation, and scene, and implied capabilities. The dice results are not end conditions but rather variables that guide: 
My character lost a die in combat. Was he wounded, or just pushed into a corner? What if he was pushed into a corner, but now another character has distracted the enemy allowing my character to get free of the corner. Does he get the lost die back?
Risus is not black and white, but rather many shades of gr…er…purple.

Risus demands more from its players than most games (oh yeah, I said it!), and that’s the “problem” with getting new people to play who are familiar with lots and lots of rule books. For such a simple comedy game, it requires intelligence, thoughtfulness, and awareness. I know people who cannot play Risus simply because they cannot grasp that those dice can mean nearly anything.

For most of the Risus converted though, it’s not a problem… it’s a challenge, and opportunity, to explore 
some really fun ideas without limits.

Coat of Arms for the International Order of Risus

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