Monday, 22 June 2009


For RISUS go here.

I was reading the free Rogue Trader handout from Free RPG Day 2009. As I blogged before I suspect the game will be too pricey for me to consider picking up - so then the magic word RISUS floated to the foremost parts of the Coop Conscious...

Campaign Premise

You own a ship. It's big and baroque it has guns, lots of cargo space and an imposing name. You hold a Letter of Marque giving you the rights to explore outside of the borders of the Imperium (or maybe inside the less-well explored and outright forgotten about parts), exploiting what you find for personal gain but don't forget to stick a flag in it and claim it for The Imperium. One of you is the Lord-Captain and the Letter of Marque and Deeds To The Ship are in his name so technically he's in charge but so long you let him go on believing that everything will come out OK in the end.

It's like Star Trek without the Prime Directive but with guns, leather, epaulettes, long flappy coats, goth boots, bionic bits and GRIMDARK!


Build characters from 10 Cliches with no more than 4 allocated to any one Cliche. Players can leave Cliche points unallocated at the start and choose to declare them in play when needed if they can justify it to the GM.

Some examples...

Big Gun Fetishist (4), Experienced Looter (4), Unhinged Madwoman (2)

Steampunk Cyborg (3), Sniper(4), Void Survivalist (3)

Effete Eldar Outcast Mercenary (4), Power Sword Duellist (4), Cultural Snob (1), Wizened Scout of the Spacelanes (1)

Snake Oil Salesman (4), Acquisition Expert (4), Blind Luck With Closing Eyes Tightly and Spraying Laspistol Fire Wildly In Supposed Direction of Unfriendlies (2)

The ship and crew will be declared together as 10 cliches. It's big and imposing so the maximum limit of 4 in a Cliche can be wilfully ignored.

Armed Trading Vessel (6), Thieving Crew (4)

Other possible spacecraft cliches include Incredibly Lucky Rustbucket, Fastest Hunk Of Junk In The Galaxy, Planetbuster etc.

A large crew is present (the free scenario 'Forsaken Bounty' states a staggering figure of some 100,000 aboard the Sovereign Venture) so players can always build redshirts from 6 Cliches. Since many of these will be one-dimensional, putting them in all one 6-strong Cliche is OK. There is a virtually infinite pool of labour and Cliches available for away missions if required. Players should create and name the character. If this character is going on an away mission instead of a PC, that player can control him otherwise he becomes an NPC. Surviving redshirts should be filed away and can be re-used in later games.

Typical Redshirts could be...

Ratling Bodge-It Mechanic (4), Pickpocket (2)

Alcoholic Shuttle Pilot(6)

Savage Arco-Flagellant(4), Handy Meat Shield(2)


Three=Zero is a little rule I use if an appropiate Cliche isn't available. I assume that if a character (or spacecraft or planet or whatever) has a stated Cliche it means that they rate as above average in the Cliche. Jestero's Cultural Snob(1) doesn't sound impressive but it does note him as being 1 rank more Culturally Snobbish than the average man in the street.

If the GM needs to add a Cliche to a character (or spacecraft or planet or whatever) then set it as 3 but allow those with a relevant Cliche to temporarily add 3 to their Cliche to keep the differential. If arguing with the Fussy Butler-Servitor(4) as to which wine should be served at the Captain's table to accompany the devilled Gyrinx liver, Jestero is up against it with his 1 against the Butler-Servitors 4. If he is trying to convince the man in the street that the port should be passed to the left (man in the street not having a relevant Cliche noted but probably being average in such) then he can temporarily go up to Cultural Snob(4) against the man in the street's Cultural Knowledge(3).

Another good example would be Mustaro using his Snake Oil Salesman(4) to convince the chief of a feral tribe (with no concept of money or indeed private property) that exchanging mining rights to an entire continent for a handful of beads and devotional pictures of the Emperor is a Really Good Idea. In this case, you might well assume that the Chief has even less of a clue than the average man and rule that One=Zero allowing him a single dice in a suitable Cliche and temporarily offsetting Musato's Cliche to 5.

Needing Three=Zero is actually quite rare as most NPCs will be even more sketchily described than PCs with quite wide-ranging Cliches such as Bored Starport Guard(2) which, TWERPS-style, covers just about anything the Bored Starport Guard might ever need to do.


Pumping Cliches must be justified. Spacecraft can redline engines and divert all power to main weapons in Alpha Strikes. Characters can take combat drugs, adjust bionic limbs to work faster and strike harder, weapons put onto full automatic and entire clips emptied into the enemy etc.


Any action described with sufficient flare and vim should earn a temporary 1 point (dice) bonus.Like in Exalted.


To get a better handle upon the concept of 40k's Rogue Trader idea, check out Inquisitor, the original Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader or indeed Fantasy Flight Games' upcoming RPG called Rogue Trader. If you can acquire it(*), the Free RPG Day 2008 pamphlet sampler of Rogue Trader includes a short scenario with three player characters.


RISUS was designed as a comedy game, ROGUE TRADER was not. However, all that camp running about in leather with big boots, firing big guns against a backdrop that is damned silly when you look at it - it shouldn't really be taken that seriously. GW never did...

(*) - EDIT - Yes you can as it's now been posted for d/l -

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