Friday, May 06, 2011

Risus Falkenstein (Part I)

During the A to Z Challenge, I professed my love of R. Talsorian's 1995 masterpiece, Castle Falkenstein. While I detailed my own personal history with the game and many of the reasons why I found it so appealing, I ran out of time before I could describe my thoughts on running Falkenstein adventures using using Risus. I have a lot of thoughts on the matter, so I'm going to break this down into a series of posts (which I'll assemble a single PDF when I'm done). Here's the first installment... 


Dear Tim,

I'm not dead!

I apologize if my correspondences across the Faerie Vale have been few and far between these days. My responsibilities as an agent in the Royal Secret Service have me constantly on the move. But as I find myself with a few rare moments of peace here at the Castle, I thought I'd take a lazy afternoon to detail my own thoughts on using Risus to simulate fantastic steam-age adventures. That is your system of choice these days, is it not? A fine system, if I may say so, even if the whole dice thing would get me thrown out of the better salons and clubs of New Europa.

Tom Olam
Castle Falkenstein, Bayern
March 5th, 1885


The original Castle Falkenstein rules and supplements can suggest numerous types of characters that you can play, but any heroic archetype from adventure fiction would be appropriate. Victorian and Edwardian literature is particularly helpful for coming up with suitable concepts, though perhaps more contemporary "steampunk" movies, TV shows, and adventure stories would be more accessible to modern sensibilities. Western and pulp resources should definitely be considered as well.


I would recommend all of the advanced options in the Risus rules except Funky Dice, which don't seem necessary given that even Dragons are rated on the same scale as human characters in the original game. The various options from the Risus Companion can also be used, though possession of the Companion is no way required (as stipulated in the IOR Charter).

I'll detail additional rules options to help capture the Falkenstein feel below.


The following list of dramatic characters from the original rules is provided to give players examples of cliches that are especially suitable for the setting. Players are encouraged to customize these or invent new ones of their own. Note that many of these cliches can be combined and I refer you to the "Anatomy of a cliche" section of the Companion [excerpted here] for additional advice/inspiration.
  • Adventuress (fencing, shooting, performing feats of “derring-do”, being charismatic, flouting social conventions)
  • Anarchist (Ranting against authority, inciting riots, writing inflammatory screeds, pontification on the finer points of political theory, throwing bombs, blowing up buildings, assassinating public figures)
  • Brownie (Performing great works of household labor; shooting elfshot; being twelve inches tall and hard to hit and notice; playing riddle games; having faerie powers of glamour and etherealness) (Includes Faerie vulnerabilities as a built-in hook)
  • Calculation Engineer (Solving mathematical problems; programming punch-cards; building and repairing calculation engines; being the smartest person in the room; being socially akward; being obsessed by pop-culture trivia)
  • Consulting Detective (Noticing clues; solving crimes with the power of deduction; knowing obscure facts; defending against criminals with fisticuffs, pistols, or fencing)
  • Dashing Hussar (Performing feats of “derring-do”; riding warhorses; fighting with gun and sword, on foot or on horseback; looking good in uniform; commanding others in battle)
  • Demimondaine (Being beautiful, being charming, getting other people to buy you things; knowing just the right person)
  • Diplomat (Being familiar with other cultures; being a master of etiquette; having government connections; successfully navigating complex negotiations; reading faces; speaking French)
  • Dragon Lord (Being inhumanly long-lived; having a vast and specialized collection; having a cool and calculating intellect; transforming between human and dragon forms; being fantastically strong; having an instictual command of sorcery; breathing fire)
  • Dwarf Craftsman (Creating amazing inventions; building and repairing machines; possessing an ability to shape metal into any form; being a scrappy fighter; being strong and tough; being completely immune to fire; being highly resistant to Magick in all forms)
  • Explorer (Finding one's way, chatting up natives, surviving in the outdoors, not taking a bath; being ruggedly athletic; speaking many languages)
  • Faerie Lord/Lady (Being beautiful, being the center of attention; fighting with silver swords; bending the wills of mortals; having faerie powers of glamour and etherealness) (Includes Faerie vulnerabilities as a built-in hook)
  • Gentleman Thief (Being suave and sophisticated; being athletic; having uncommonly good taste; high-stakes breaking and enterring; detecting and avoiding or disabling security; making off with the best loot)
  • Gentleman/Woman (Associating with the right kind of people; knowing proper etiquette; being well-dressed and well-equipped; riding and shooting under controlled circumstances; duelling; not having to work for a living)
  • Inventor (Creating amazing inventions that are either anachronistic or that strain the laws physics; understanding and repairing machines of all kinds, often with inappropriate parts; always having just the right gadget handy)
  • Journalist (Having a list of useful sources, gaining people's trust, conducting interviews, observing from a distance, having an eye for details, embellishing facts)
  • Mad Scientist (Creating diabolical inventions that blatantly violate the laws physics; being extraordinarily well educated; being a master of Science!)
  • Mastermind (Creating extraordinary Infernal Devices, being extremely well educated, having a fortified secret lair, megalomaniacal ranting, recruiting minions)
  • Nobleman/Woman (Being famous throughout the land; having vast holdings and almost limitless resources; knowing proper etiquette; setting fashion trends; riding and shooting; avoiding scandal; being related to other members of the aristocracy)
  • Performer (Being famous; captivating others through your art; having legions of adoring and sometimes useful fans; setting fashion trends; being wealthy; avoiding stalkers)
  • Physician (Being a well-educated professional, performing surgery, diagnosing illness; prescribing restorative therapies)
  • Pixie (Frolicking in idyllic sylvan venues; harassing mortals with tiny weapons and practical jokes; shooting elfshot; being twelve inches tall and hard to hit and notice; "assisting" young lovers; instilling passion with faerie love charms; having faerie powers of glamour and etherealness) (Includes Faerie vulnerabilities as a built-in hook)
  • Rogue (Being charming; having all sorts of useful and often seedy connections; gambling; cheating; seducing the innocent; talking people out of money; posing as someone above your station; getting out of scrapes; shooting a hold-out pistol; running away)
  • Scientist (Being extraordinarily well educated; being a master of Science! in all its forms; being the foremost expert in your field; being famous among a very small number of people; teaching others; winning research grants; getting published in prestigious journals)
  • Secret Agent (Inventing and maintaining a cover identity; shooting; brawling; fencing; participating in cinematic chases; being equipped with just the right gadget; assassinating enemy agents; sneaking around after dark)
  • Soldier of Fortune (Fighting with fisticuffs, firearms, and various melee weapons; negotiating contracts; getting out of trouble when a job goes bad; being strong, stern, and one tough hombre)
  • Steam Engineer (Creating amazing inventions using the power of Steam; coaxing more power out of engines that "can't take it anymore"; fixing just about anything mechanical in nature; working in smokey, uncomforable environment; getting dirty)
  • Wizard (Knowing occult lore; reading and speaking arcane languages; dueling other wizards; percieving and manipulating magickal forces; being a member of a Sorcerous Order and casting the spells in associated Lorebooks) (See the rules on Sorcery below)
  • Writer (Writing stirring tales; having interesting and varied life experiences; people watching; being well educated; being a charming conversationlist; getting into dangerous situaions and living to tell the tale)

In the next installment: On Dice and Cards!


thwaak said...

Did I read that correctly... a .pdf? :-)

I can't wait for the final product!

GeneD5 said...

Argh! This makes me want to play in your "Arth" game or run my "Gaslight Grimoire!" Your post is timely, since I'll be attending a steampunk festival this weekend. I'm definitely interested in a PDF when you're done!

Dr Rotwang! said...


Trey said...

Cool. The more I see of Risus, the more I like it.

Risus Monkey said...

FYI, these blog posts will be about getting my thoughts out there. I hope to work out the kinks before posting the PDF. And I'd *love* to squeeze everything on a PocketMod, though I haven't done the sorcery section yet, so I don't know if that's feasible.