Friday, April 01, 2011

A is for Actors

I love Risus. One of the hallmarks of Risus is the ability to distill a character down to its essence using a handful of concise cliche phrases.  It's like poetry. As a player, it makes it a snap to throw complete characters together on the spot for for a last-minute game. For a GM, it makes it easy to create hordes of interesting and diverse NPCs with very little prep time. The Risus way is so useful that I typically adopt this technique when creating NPCs for games using other systems.

One type of cliche that is mentioned in the rules is the William Shatner cliche.  The idea is that William Shatner is so iconic that just saying a character has skill in being like William Shatner conveys a world of information (presumably like being able to recite Sarah Palin tweats in beat poet style or fighting guys in rubber suits on an alien sound stage while shirtless).

Along those lines, I often want a way to characterize an NPC's appearance, personality, or motives without having to resort to several pages of Gygaxian tables (see the first edition DMG for some of those). The obvious Risus approach would be to have a single table of famous actors who, like Shatner, would communicate everything you need to know about a given character (other than Hit Dice). Ok, you'd need two tables unless you wanted to make actors and actresses completely interchangeable.

Now, this could get pretty silly (especially on April 1st). But I'm totally serious. I've put together two d30 tables to sort of prime the pump for a possible PocketMod along the lines of DungeonWords. This is only a first cut and I haven't completely chosen the perfect mix of personages. Please, if you can think of any other actors that need to be on the list, please suggest some in the comments section.

30 Iconic Actors
  1. William Shatner
  2. Russel Crowe
  3. Charlie Sheen
  4. Allan Rickman
  5. Daniel Craig
  6. Michael Gambon
  7. Rutger Hauer
  8. Arnold Schwarzenegger
  9. Jeremy Irons
  10. John Rhys-Davies
  11. Sean Bean
  12. Morgan Freeman
  13. Djimon Hounsou
  14. Ian McShane
  15. Wil Wheaton
  16. Christopher Lee
  17. Mickey Rourke
  18. Harold Ramis
  19. Peter Dinklage
  20. Ray Stevenson
  21. Chevy Chase
  22. Vin Diesel
  23. Cheech Marin
  24. Brad Dourif
  25. Jet Li
  26. Brendan Gleeson
  27. Brian Blessed
  28. Peter Cushing
  29. Ron Perlman
  30. John Wayne
30 Iconic Actresses
  1. Felicia Day
  2. Paris Hilton
  3. Jewel Staite
  4. Polly Walker
  5. Angela Basset
  6. Joan Cusak
  7. Susan Sarandon
  8. Milla Jovovich
  9. Lucy Lawless
  10. Katee Sackhoff
  11. Mary MacDonald
  12. Helen Mirren
  13. Jeannette Goldstein
  14. Lena Olin
  15. Angelica Houston
  16. Caroline Munro
  17. Tilda Swinton
  18. Cate Blanchet
  19. Sigourney Weaver
  20. America Ferar
  21. Rebecca Pigeon
  22. Michelle Rodriguez
  23. Carla Gugino
  24. Christina Ricci
  25. Miranda Otto
  26. Juliet Landeau
  27. Miranda Richardson
  28. Glenn Close
  29. Lucy Liu
  30. Gina Torres


NetherWerks said...

Interesting idea. Risus sounds like a lot of fun, but we haven't had any luck getting a group together to try it out yet. Maybe we can try to get something going for one of the local conventions down the road.

Trey said...

I like this idea. I often use "he's looks sorta of like [x]" shorthand for description to player's though I've usually meant that just for appearance, nut globally.

Jamie Albrecht said...

Where's Christopher Walken? After Shatner, that's the first Actor-type cliche I could think of.

pavo6503 said...

I guess I should know many of these actors, but I find I know less than a third of the men and even fewer women. A great idea, but it's lost on me.

Risus Monkey said...

@Netherwerks: I'd be happy to run it for you some time.

@Trey: I use it as a sort of short-hand. It can inspire appearance, motivation, or personality (or even skills/talents). But it doesn't have to be all of the above.

@Jamie: Totally! How could I forget? That's why I posed the question.

@pavo6503: The female list is obscure because I had a hard time coming up with interesting actresses that didn't all look too pretty. Also wanted some diversity. Suggestions would be welcome.

Holly Jahangiri said...

How about Vivien Leigh?

Dudley Moore?

Interesting idea...

ze bulette said...

* Crispin Glover, a la Ruben and Ed, freak.

* Humphrey Bogart, classy tuff guy

* Jimmy Stuart, everyman

* Curly, stooge

* Shirley Temple, precocious brat

* Katharine Hepburn, strong but vulnerable woman

Top of my head - fun and useful exercise!

Risus Monkey said...

Great suggestion, Holly and ze bulette! I'm filing these away for the master list.

Nero said...

I'm reminded of Peter O'Toole's line in My Favorite Year:

"I'm not a actor - I'm a movie star!"

What would a Charlie Sheen Cliche be good for? Doing Drugs (6) and Beating Hookers (6)?

NetherWerks said...
but we haven't had any luck getting a group together to try it out yet.

I feel your pain. My third egroup this year just unceremoniously folded.

Nero said...

Just a passing thought.

Shouldn't the actor cliche be modified by an "in"?

Bruce Willis in Die Hard
Tough as Nails
Crack Shot
Black Belt in Wise Ass

Charlie Sheen in Navy Seals
Hard Charger
Not Too Bright Second Banana
Is Going To Get Someone Killed

Guy Hoyle said...

We have a Gorn PC in my RisusTrek "campaign" (just one self-contained episode so far, but more on the way).

The next episode is an homage to "Night of the Lepus". Instead of giant, carnib=vorous rabbits, though, think of giant, carnivorous tribbles...

Nero said...

Blogger Guy Hoyle said...
The next episode is an homage to "Night of the Lepus". Instead of giant, carnib=vorous rabbits, though, think of giant, carnivorous tribbles...

At least they'd be easy to skin.

Speaking of Giant Bunnies:

Jamie Albrecht said...

Oh man, and James Cromwell too!

Risus Monkey said...

@Nero: What would a Charlie Sheen Cliche be good for?
A: Crazed ranting, destroying hotel rooms...

Mostly, I can see rolling "Charlie Sheen" as an inspiration for an NPC and making him an irresponsible, self-destructive rogue who has seen better days.

Shouldn't the actor cliche be modified by an "in"?

Yeah, absolutely. But then the list gets really huge. Leaving the role out of it means you have a little more freedom to choose when you need it. If I rolled Bruce Willis (another great name for the list), I could go to Moonlighting, 12 Monkeys, Fifth Element, or Red and take the character in very different places. Of course, they will all sort of look and act like Bruce Willis...

@Guy: That sounds awesome. Sounds like a very, very Risus version of Star Trek. :)

@Jamie: James Cromwell is another inspired choice. For serious use, a list of mostly famous character actors is best... people who can be popped in as supporting characters or villains as a the need arises.

Elbuagnin said...

I came into this kinda late, but here is a suggestion. Why don't you take a look at some classic Hollywood actresses to round out the list?

How about Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, Doris Day, Cloris Leachman, just to name a few. Oh, and you got to get Cary Grant in there.

Risus Monkey said...

@Elbuagnin: Great choices all!