Saturday, May 07, 2011

On Dice and Cards (Risus Falkenstein Part II)

Wherein Tom Olam continues to describe his thoughts on how to adapt Castle Falkenstein to Risus: The Anything RPG. Once I've posted the remaining installments, I'll edit things down into nicely formatted PDF (a PocketMod if I can manage).


Like most roleplaying systems, Risus uses dice to inject an element of chance into the game. I am comfortable with that and on the other side of the Faerie Vale, I don't think it would have occured to me to do anything different. But here in New Europa, gentlemen don't play dice! Ladies especially don't play dice. Period!

The purpose of this letter is to help you play Risus in the style of Castle Falkenstein, so I'd be remiss if I didn't at least attempt to convince you to use playing cards for certain game situations.

An ordinary deck of playing cards (including Jokers) can be used in lieu of dice. For every die that a player would normally roll, a single draw from a common deck of cards (henceforth called the Fortune Deck) can be made instead. Use the card's actual value, with face cards rated at Jack [11], Queen [12], King [13], Ace [14], and Joker [15]. Since this gives a much greater spread than a standard d6, Target Numbers should be at least at doubled.
Example: A Gentleman Thief (3) tries to scale a castle wall for a discrete assignation. In regular Risus, the GM thinks the Target Number would be about 7. Using Fortune Cards, the GM bumps the Target Number up to 15. The character draws a 3, 8, and a King for a total of 24, for a rousing success.
Other than being acceptable in polite company, cards offer another advantage. They possess suit, which can be used to help interpret successful or failed actions as well as the effects of a round of combat.

In Risus Falkenstein, all Target Number "rolls" or contest/combat actions are assigned one or the four standard suits accordingly:

♥ Hearts: Emotion, Romance, Courage, Spirit

♦ Diamonds: Intellect, Knowledge, Perception

♣ Clubs: Physical Endeavors

♠ Spades: Social Status, Wealth, Connections

For Target Number "rolls" (renamed to Target Number "draws") and standard combat or single-action contests,  suit can be used to help describe how something succeeded or failed. On a success, choose the suit of the highest card and use it to identify what was the deciding factor. Alternatively, name some additional side-benefit associated with the suit. Similarly, take the suit of the lowest card to help exlain a failure or describe the consequences. If there are multiple cards of the same value, the GM can select a single card or apply multiple effects. Jokers can be interpreted as any suit and the most interesting or surprising result should be used.
Example: Succeeding on his roll, the Gentleman Thief (3) in the previous example had a King of Hearts that put him over the top. Obviously, the character is being driven by romantic obsession and easily vaults up the wall without considering the danger. The character will make a dramatic entrance through the window and his romantic interest will swoon over his manly competence.
When the rules for Teams are used (outside of Deadly combat), team members only contribute Face Cards of the appropriate suit to the results. Jokers are always considered to be of the appropriate suit.

Finally, the Deadly Combat rules (from the Risus Companion) are especially well suited to using Fortune Cards. Instead of adding values, characters compare their highest cards. A card of an appropriate suit to the task at hand always beat other cards of similar value even before the Goliath Rule* is taken into effect.
* The Goliath rule states that the character with the lowest number of dice (cards in this case) wins in case of a tie. 
If Risus doesn't seem like Risus without rolling dice, then some of the feel of Falkenstein can be achieved by assigning suits to the dice that are rolled. This can be achieved by rolling an additional reference die of a different shape or color. The position of the other dice around the reference die determine their suits.

In addition to supplying narrative color to regular rolls, suits can now break ties in Deadly Combat (as for Fortune Cards).


In the next installment: Falkenstein-style Sorcery


surpriseround said...

By golly, I think you're on to something smashing here!

Risus Monkey said...

Thanks! Sorcery rules will appear in a few days.