Friday, May 04, 2012

Stress & Consequences in Risus

Though I've only played one game of FATE, I've been a fan since the seeds of FATE began appearing in Fudge Factor. I've long assumed the Aspects of FATE borrowed heavily from Risus cliches (and Over the Edge traits before that). But after seeing a post by Steve Kenson about incorporating a FATE-like stress track (and consequences!) into ICONS, I began to wonder if such a thing couldn't be done for Risus. FATE could then give back something pretty cool to the little purple Anything RPG.

First off, why?

Short answer: the death spiral.

Slightly longer answer: because I have a few players in my group who like elements of Risus but for various reasons (death spirial being one of them), they are decidedly not fans. This means that Risus guy that I am, I only get to play the game at cons or for the rare online chat game. This rule might help.

In standard Risus, when a character loses a round of combat, they lose one die from the cliche that they were using. As combat progresses, their pool of dice gets smaller. They can switch cliches (which is totally part of the fun) but when a cliche goes to zero, they are at the mercy of their foe.

Dice lost in combat do not always (or even usually) equal physical damage. It can be loss of moral, tactical position, magical energy, consumable resources, pride, etc. The point is, a loss of a die means a significant set back, thus precipating the dreaded death spirial.

What if, instead, characters record their cliches as follows:

Grolfnar Vainsson the Viking
Viking (4) [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Womanzier (2) [ ] [ ]  
Gambler (3) [ ] [ ] [ ]
Poet (1) [ ]

Those "boxes" (I'm in hurry, so pardon the lack of graphics) represent a seperate stress track for each cliche. "Damage" suffered while using said cliche (not to mention pumping) is applied to the stress track at the level of the damage received (1 by default), rolling up if a given box is crossed off. When the highest box in a track is checked off, the character is taken out.

On the surface, this looks just like the standard "lose a die from your cliche when you lose a round" of combat. But to mitigate the death spiral, characters could operate at full capability until they are taken out.

Ah, but how to represent disadvantages that are incurred such as injury or los of gear? The consequences of a combat, if you will. Well, FATE has a mechanic for that as well. Instead of marking a box off a given track, a character can instead take a consequence. The first consequence in a track is mild, the second is moderate, and the final consequence is severe.

Lacking FATE points or the notion of compelling these consequences, Risus would need a mechanical effect to represent them. Hopefully an effect that doesn't just reinstitute the death spiral. Without a terrible amount of thought, here is what I propose:

Mild Consequence: Minor effects on the order of a 1 die penalty to combat rolls. The TN of Target Number rolls would also be adjusted to account for the narrative explanation of the effect (+5 suggested).

Moderate Consequence: For a moderate consequence, effects on the order of losing your proper tools would be about right. This could obviously mean a loss of gear or resources. But it could also mean a more significant injury that removes some of the character's natural "tools" for tasks that fall under this cliche. Half-dice penalty to all rolls until the consequence is removed (not cumulative with Mild Consequences).

Severe Consequnce: While not taken out, the character's ability to perform when acting as this cliche is so impaired that the rules for "When Somebody Can't Participate" must be invoked for combat rolls. In Target Number rolls, the TN would be increased dramtically (+15 to +20 seems about right in most cases depending on the narrative explanation).

Finally, the system really sings when you aren't just taking a point of damage each turn. To get anything more than that, you'd need another house rule. Depending on the combat system in effect, I suggest the following...

Standard Rules: Damage is equal to the margin of victory divided by 5 and rounded down (minimum of 1).

Deadly Combat: Damage is equal to the number of dice that are higher than the opponent's highest die (minimum of 1 in case of a tie that is settled by the Goliath rule).

As per FATE, the damage is not the number of boxes checked off, but instead the *box number* that is checked off (counting from the left). If a box is already filled or non-existant the the character must take a consequence.

Finally, characters have the option of offering concession in lieue of taking a consequence. In other words, they are surrendering in the hope of getting some say in the manner of their loss. If they are taken out without doing this then victor can have their way with them, as is typical of Risus.

Oh, and a word on healing...

I imagine that the stress tracks could be cleared out fairly easily between combats. Rest should be enough to do it, as well as a simple Target Number roll for healer/healing types.

Consequences are another matter. Since the narrative explanation for the consequence is recorded, the requirements for removing them can be adjudicated fairly easily. I imagine that minor consequences would be easy to clear and that severe consequences would be quite difficult).


Trey said...

Interesting...I'm not familiar enough with either game to say more than that. :)

Lowell Francis said...

Neat- that's a smart adaptation of those mechanics.

JeffStormer said...

Another suggestion for consequence mechanics might be to take a cue from Marvel Heroic, and allow characters to add consequence dice to their action. Or, if that increases power too much, you could use the same rule, and treat it as assisting the hero, so only sixes count.

matt jackson said...

Interesting ideas, I used some of your ideas and melded them with some thoughts I had earlier this week (weird that we both were thinking about it!) and posted them over at my blog.

Glad to see you have Risus on the mind lately. :)

Tim Shorts said...

I'm trying to learn more about Risus. I was over on Matt Jackson's blog that rifted off this one and asked him if he had any suggestions where I should read up on it.

Risus Monkey said...

@Trey: Heh. Methinks I need to help with that. I still intend to do some Weird Adventures stuff with Risus and now that I'm back on the wagon, I hope to do so soon.

@Lowell: FATE is the gift that keeps on giving. FATE rules can be adapted to all osrts of systems.

@JeffStormer: You mean the consequence dice of their opponent. Hmmm, I have a bunch of ideas about mating Risus with the ideas I like from Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, but I hadn't thought about that. Must think on that...

@Matt: Cool. I'm heading over to lapsus calumni after I post this response.

@Tim: First, the rules, which are freely available at The Risus Companion ($10 from the same site) made all the difference for me in finally understanding how Risus worked. But that's not strictly neccessary, as there are many free resources. I've posted articles on combat, sidekicks, gear, and what not. And many good folks (notably Matt and Brent Wolke at Engine of Thwaak) have put out top notch settings. But if you have the $10, the Risus Companion is one of the best RPG supplements I've ever bought for generally useful advice, in addition to providing me with a mental key to Risus.

(You could also start with my Silverlode and Dragonspire settings that are linked in the top-left sidebar of this blog... lots of examples there)

MadMadMad said...

Funny you should pick up on the consequence rules for FATE, as well. I'll be discussing how they work into my house rules in a couple posts.

F. A. said...

It can be easier.

First, add a "Risus Point" pool as FP. Using one of those you could use your cliché as an aspect (for example, using "pulp writer" to casually have readed something related to the scene).

When you take damage, you can lose one die from the cliche OR take a consequence as a new cliché: Minor = 1d, mild = 2d and severe = 3d, but you cannot have more than one of each kind.

Anytime, anyone can pay a Risus Point to get as many bonus dice as the negative cliche (and you get a Risus Point then). The first tag is free, as always.

So if i'm fighting with Gambler (3) and I take a damage, I lose one die from Gambler (2) OR keep playing with Gambler (3) AND Take a consequence: "That's suspicious (1)". The next consequence could be "Cheater! (2)" and the third one, for example, "We don't like cheaters in this town (3)".

Sorry for the grammar, english is not my mother language.

matt jackson said...

@F.A. How does this work in play? Do the players then roll the consequence cliche instead of their regular cliche?

Guy Hoyle said...

I've always assumed "Boxcars and Breakthroughs" would mitigate the Death Spiral somewhat, but I've never really examined the mathematics of it. I wonder how your method compares to it? I'll have to take a look at both in more detail, when I haven't been awake for 36 hours.

Risus Monkey said...

@MadMadMad: look forward to seeing it. Your FATE/D6 hybrid has be very intrigued.

@F.A.: ah, there is a whole continuum of Risus-FATE hybrids. I figure I'd stick closer to vanilla Risus for the purposes of this thought experiment, but there is certainly plenty of room for adding more FATE mechanics. Fate Points and compelling negative aspects of the cliche would be a logical next step. For myself, I think I'd hold off on going that route unless I had a known issue to solve.

@Guy: I almost always use Boxcars and I've found that they are fun for fun's sake and so add much to the death spiral debate. Deadly Combat is another matter and I'm eager to try out those rules in play.