Friday, March 7, 2014

World War Risus: Part 1

This was inspired by the artwork in Risus.
Impressed? You should be.
I've had NO formal art training!

I thought about buying Crossfire, or A Leader of Men, or Blitzkrieg Commander but then thought, hey wait a minute, I can just write my own game. Of course, I still might buy one or all of them when all is said and done, but it never hurts to try. 

Actually, that's not true, it can hurt a lot, but not in this particular situation.

My goal is to be able to play a platoon or company level game, but not at a 1:1 ratio - something more abstract, be it 1:3, 1:5, or 1:10, and something more about leadership, morale and training than about weapon types, armor thickness, etc.

I've long had a fascination with Risus: The Anything RPG, although I've used it rarely. Risus Skirmish has also interested me, although, that, too, has seen little use on my part. I figured now was as good a time as any to rectify the situation and the concepts from which these guidelines spring can be found in Risus.

Unlike any other system I've seen, Risus explicitly states that you can create stats for a city, a planet, a ship, a gang, a person, all using the same system. It inherently supports the idea that a character does not correspond to an individual person, which will work perfectly well with assigning stats to a section/squad of infantry or to the crews of a unit of vehicles.

The Basics:

Ground Scale: What?
Time Scale: Seriously?
Figure Scale: Whatever you want. 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4, up to 1:10/12 i guess (which covers most nations, in terms of max strength of a squad/section).
Basing: Whatever makes you happy. FYI, my figures are all individually based.

The focus here is on units. I don't care how you represent them, but they should be thought of and moved as squads/sections.

Again, the idea is that this is a higher level we’re concerned with and not with what Smith is doing, or whether Wesson has the grenade or not, but whether the section is combat effective, if it’s still on the field, whether the leader is getting them to do anything, etc.

Similarly, weapon types only matter in a broad sense.

Defining Your Sections:
Because Risus is generic, and the players generate their own stats (called Cliches in Risus-speak), it accommodates whatever concepts you think define the character. In this case, what I think define a section in terms of the soldiers themselves.

Like Tunnels & Trolls, Risus has the unfortunate reputation for being "not serious", and thus only good for "not serious" things. Both are deeply wronged by that mistaken conclusion.

Still, I enjoy the sometimes goofy multi-word cliches, and so I started with cliches that were in the typical Risus mold to define the unit in game terms. 

For example: 

Veteran US MMG Section Fighting for Mom, Apple pie and Kid Brothers Everwhere(4) [in Risus, the number in parentheses indicates how many d6 are assigned to that cliche]

However, looking at that, you can see that there are multiple concepts rolled into that cliche. And that works in an RPG where you want to justify why you can use this or that cliche to do something. But a wargame, typically, has a far more limited choice of activity a character/section can engage in and situations that might be encountered.

The other issue is, in Risus, damage in combat is removed from a cliche. Taking to heart that 3 dice for a cliche indicates a professional, a single hit (which isn't necessarily a soldier killed) would immediately turn a unit into something less effective in all areas.
And, that might be true often, but it doesn't seem always true, and certainly isn't the kind of game I want to play. I rather like the idea of a shot-up but inspired unit with a strong leader that keeps fighting against impossible odds.

So, naturally, I split the concepts apart to make them more atomic:

Veteran US MMG Section(4)
By the Book NCO (3)
Fighting for Mom, Apple pie and Kid Brothers Everywhere (4)

Now, that's more like it. 

I know about the unit's leader's ability, the unit's motivation/morale and their combat ability (at this point, weapon type is wrapped up in the description of their combat training and ability, just hold your horses).

This looks a lot more like a traditional Risus character with multiple cliches, but, this is clearly more than the usual 10-dice build. I believe that when a concept ceases being useful, discard it, so I immediately dropped that convention.

It also occurred to me that I'd probably spend too much time coming up with cliches every time, so I have the following boring ones to use in a pinch (the descriptors of the dice values comes from A Leader of Men):

  • Combat Effectiveness() where 2=Green, 3 = Average, 4 = Veteran, 5 = Elite, etc. This reflects the units training and combat experience and also the general combat health of the unit, and measures how well the troops can do what they are asked.It makes no mention of weapon types!
  • Leadership() where 2= Poor, 3= Average, 4 = Above Average, 5=Exceptional, etc. This is simply how good the a leader is at motivating units to do something.
  • Morale() where Low Morale(2), Determined(3), Aggressive(4) , Fanatic(5). Essentially this is how willing the troops are to do what they are asked.
I prefer the more light-hearted cliche descriptions, but the three boring descriptions capture what's essential and should form the basis of any wordier concepts.
Next time, I'll look at the game turn and how the cliches come into play.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing how this pans out. I've played Risus solo with the Mythic GME, but using traditional RPG characters. I'm intrigued to see how you'll apply Risus to units, as I can then add in Mythic and expand my range of solo game possibilities.

  3. Also interested to see how this goes. I've looked at RISUS from time to time, but never done anything with it. But I like your idea of units as a set of cliches that cover combat quality/effectiveness, leadership, and morale.

  4. Thanks for the comments! Next post up shortly!