Black Days, White Knights
A Fantasy Supplement for
Risus: The Anything RPG

Black Days, White Knights
A Fantasy World Rules supplement for Risus: The Anything RPG

This supplement utilizes rules from the Risus RPG and selected rules, revisions and restatements from several of the supplements available for it on the Internet.

Black Days, White Knights is copyright 2001 by Carl Hewett.

RISUS is handy if you plan to have a good time gaming. If fun is not your priority, choose another system.

GM: This is the Game master. It could be you, or it could be a friend. GMs do all the work.
Player: This is most likely you. Players play "make believe" with the GM.
Character: This is an imaginary person that you guide through the adventures created by the GM.

To create a character you should in some order
1. imagine what sort of character you want to play
2. give the character a name
3. write a brief description of how they look and act
4. list their Key Points (Called Clichés in Risus).


1. careers (for example Thief or Trail Cook)
2. areas of knowledge (Heraldry, Court Intrigue, Fascinated by Ancient Cultures)
3. lifestyle choices (Hermit, Street Rat, Questing Knight, Court Wizard)
4. strong personality traits (Macho, Seductive, Hot Tempered, Cruel)
5. supernatural or paranormal powers (Air Mage, Ether Mage)

Complete packages of two or more of the above (Macho Thief, Seductive Street Rat, Cruel Court Wizard, Ether Mage Fascinated by Ancient Cultures)

The class and level based characters of some RPGs are really just Key Points. You can borrow Key Points like Rogue, Warrior, Investigator, or Diabolist from such games. I suggest you invent your own. Why should the gaming world be deprived of your Wild Horse Racer, Drop Dead Gorgeous Bar Wench, Filthy Rich Aristocrat, Dark Knight, or Effete Swashbuckler.

1. A name (for example Psycho Killer).
2. A number of dice (4).
3. Scope (Butchering people with household objects, inspiring terror, never trip in the woods, supernatural ability to find hidden people).

The name should be as precise as you need it to be to capture the essence of the Key Point. Consider the difference between Mage, Court Mage, and Scheming Court Mage.

The number of dice cannot be less than 1. The GM will set maximums both for dice in a single Key Point and for total Key Point dice. I use three different levels: Standard Fantasy (4 dice per Key Point, 10 dice total), Heroic Fantasy (5 dice per Key Point, 10 dice total) and High Fantasy (6 dice per Key Point, 12 dice total).

Scope describes the sorts of things that the Key Point lets you do. Even if you never write this down you should discuss it with the GM, just in case the two of you have radically different ideas about what the Key Point means.


Erica Evermore the Wild Horse Racer (A.k.a. "Flame")
Description: Short, red head, and smiling. Likes to race wild horses and drink and chase stable-hands and flirt with competitors and throw darts.
Key Points: Wild Horse Racer (4), Flirt (3), Dart Throwing (3)

Green Wraith the Cat Burglar
Description: Small and Wiry. Likes to sneak into places where she shouldn't be and steal things and hang out at the market and look innocent.
Key Points: Cat Burglar (4), Noble's Daughter (3), Market Rat (2), World Traveler (1)

John Hart the Dark Knight
Description: Large, poised, and deadly. Likes to travel the world participating in jousting tournaments. Likes to start and pass along gossip at court.
Key Points: Knight (4), Traveler (3), Gossip (2), Command Squire (1)

King's Chef Albert Boyardee
Description: Short and mustachioed. Usually wears a pained expression and a chef's hat. Enjoys cooking creative cuisine never before seen. Likes the ladies.
Key Points: Chef [5], Ladies Man (2), Outdoors-man (2)

The square brackets [ ] in Albert's Key Points represent a double pump Key Point. See RISUS Advanced Options.



Dwarf: Seeing underground; Wielding axes; Stoneworking; Smithing; Holding your liquor; Underground lore.

Elf: Long lived; Keen senses; Archery; Being artistic; Wilderness lore.

Gnome: Being a practical joker; Creating minor illusions; Inventing strange things.

Hobbit: Looking harmless; Being brave; Carousing; Being sneaky.

Human: Being resourceful, versatile, lucky, & organized.

All characters are considered Human by default; nobody needs to take the 'Human' Key Point to play a Human character, but if a character takes the 'Human' Key Point they can use it for any of the following rolls: charm, luck, carousing, sex appeal, fast talk, etc. I guess taking the Key Point makes them "more Human than Human"... or something.

Some of you out there might be inclined to ask: "But what if we want to play mixed-race characters". Simple: take two Key Points. Really, it's just that simple. You might want to clear it with the GM (or exercise a modicum of common sense) before you go mixing races willy-nilly. Use your best judgment.


Air Mage: Magic involving air, lightning, intelligence, illusions, etc...

Bard: Singing songs & telling stories; Charming people; Talking their way out of trouble.

Cleric: Warding against evil; Healing the injured; Removing curses; Blunt weapon fighting, Religious etiquette.

Crypt Ranger: Fighting the undead; Undead lore; Tracking & hunting the undead.

Druid: Predicting weather; Healing plants & animals.

Earth Mage: Magic involving earth, metal, rocks, plants, physical body, health, etc...

Ether Mage: Magic involving time, magic, divination, summoning, travel, etc...

Fire Mage: Magic involving fire, heat, cold, light, dark, emotion, passion, creativity, etc...

Knight: Upholding the King's law; Protecting the King's subjects; Slaying monsters; Riding; Rescuing maidens in distress.

Paladin: Turning undead; Smiting evil; Riding; Being holy.

Ranger: Wilderness lore; Befriending animals; Tracking & hunting; Fancy archery stunts.

Thief: Sneaking; Picking locks & pockets; Climbing; Finding and undoing traps; Hearing noises; Reading languages.

Warrior: Fighting with what ever weapon comes to hand; Doing strange & dangerous things with weapons
in combat.

Water Mage: Magic involving water, liquids, soul, spirit, etc...

So, what you're telling me is I can take "Fire Mage Fighter (4)" as a Key Point? Well, in a word, yes. But, consider this, "Fire Mage Fighter (4)" is not equal to or better than "Fire Mage (4) and Fighter (4). Why? If the "Fire Mage Fighter (4)" loses 2 Key Point dice in sword combat he can only use 2 dice for Fire Mage activities. Where as the "Fire Mage (4) and Fighter (4)" losing 2 dice in sword combat can still use 4 dice for Fire Mage activities.

So, as the saying goes, "Let the buyer beware."


In order to handle the effects of illnesses, will-sapping environmental effects, and wounds delivered outside of melee combat, a system of Life Points is used. Each character is assumed to begin with 12 Life Points, which represent the reserves of strength and endurance available to the average adult. Each strongly physical Key point allows the player to increase the character's LP total by 2 points per die of cliché during character creation. Should these Key points increase during play (through experience), the LP total rises by 1 point per level or dice type gained. At the GM and player's discretion, certain debilitating Hooks or Key points may also reduce the LP total by 2 points.

Example: Herr Gurney Hollenbeck is a scholar and a gentleman whose Key points are Silver-Tongued Courtier (4), Bookworm [2], and Astronomer (2). His Life Point total is the basic 12 points. His brother Siegfried, however, has Key points which reflect his more hands-on approach: Tavern Brawler (3), Musketeer (3), Unstoppable (3), and Athlete (1). He starts the game with a basic LP total of (12 + 20): 32 Life Points.

Source: Risus: Ironsides

Whenever you want your character to do something, the GM will determine whether or not success is in doubt for any reason. If it is, there are two ways of rolling.

1. When your action isn't actively opposed you roll against a difficulty set by the GM.
2. When your character is actively opposed you use the conflict system.

3 Easy. Could still screw up if you have only a couple of dice. It is the default choice.
7 Typical.
10 Average. This level represents real work for a professional.
13 Difficult.
17 Challenging. Pros can do this, but it requires creativity or superlative effort.
20 Heroic. Only a master in a field has any hope (and not much hope, at that).
25 World Class.
30 Legendary. Unlikely even for the truly gifted.

NOTE: There are only eight ranks on this scale, but GMs can use any number from 3 on up. Most will.


Multiple feats
Work out what the most important feat will be. The GM then increases TN by five for each extra feat.

Ex: Rupert, Nightblade (4), wants to lasso a chandelier, swing across a hall, somersault through a stained glass window, and land in the saddle of his horse, ready to make a getaway. The GM decides that the somersault through the window will be the most important feat; if Rupert muffs this, landing in the saddle of his horse will be moot. The GM decides that somersaulting through a window would normally be challenging (TN 10); adding a lasso throw, a swing, and a saddle landing boosts that to a hefty 25.

Rupert is going to have to pump-or draw on some drama dice (cf.), if the GM allows such-to have any real prospect of success.

Comment: adding five for an extra feat seems like a lot. Perhaps it should be three per feat. I suppose it depends on how heroic your style of play is and how useful you want pumps to be (the more so if you allow double pumps).

Source: adapted from R. Talsorian Games' Castle Falkenstein and Risus: Colored*Skies.


Extended TN rolls
Used for things like running (escaping) from the lair of a disintegrating wizard, researching arcana, or something as mundane as climbing down a burning tree.

The GM sets the TN in the usual manner but also requires a specified number of wins. Ex: Opa-Loka, Chronomancer (4), is studying the Bronze Grimoire for clues to the whereabouts of the lost diamond mine of the King of Ogygia. The GM sets a TN of 20 and requires no less than six wins, where each roll represents the passage of a week.

Source: adapted from WW's Mage: The Ascension and Risus: Colored*Skies.


Drama dice
Are awarded at the end of each session. The GM rates the session on an overall basis, according to the following scale:

Forgettable 0
Noteworthy 1
Favorable 2
Impressive 3
Outstanding 4

Roll as many dice. The result is the number of pips that go into the party's drama pool. In subsequent sessions, party members can draw pips from the drama pool, adding them pre-roll on a 1:1 basis or (if the GM allows) post-roll on a 2:1 basis.

The GM seeds the drama pool at the beginning of any adventure, say with ten pips.

Unused pips at the end of any session carry over to the next session, doubled.

Credit: thanks to S John for his comments about this option, as originally presented and Risus: Colored*Skies.


Using Several Key points at Once
If a character has two Key points that might be considered appropriate to the situation & say, both Bare-Knuckle Pugilist and Village Constable in a tavern brawl & the lower Key point may be used to provide a single bonus die to the higher. The down side of this tactic is that, should the new total be beaten in a contested roll, both Key points drop by one die. Similarly, if the higher Key point is pumped to increase the overall total, both drop in level as a result.

Multiple Key points may be judged appropriate, with each extra Key point providing a bonus dice and submitting the rules above; however, double- and single-pump Key points cannot be combined.

Example: Werner, the notorious Brigand of Bell's Road, is in combat with three dragoons. The GM rules that both his Highwayman (3) and Swordsman (2) Key points are appropriate to the combat, and so Werner may elect to use his Swordsman Key point to boost his Highwayman Key point by one dice, to Highwayman (4). Every time he loses a round, however, both scores drop by one level. If either is reduced to zero, he is out of the fight. If Werner were to pump his newly increased Highwayman (4) to Highwayman (5), in the round that follows his Key points would drop to 2 and 1 respectively.

Source: Risus: Ironsides


People generally take the time to assemble whatever equipment is required to do a job before they start. These tools vary a great deal across genres (Fighters need swords, Seers need crystal balls, and Cooks need pots & pans), but there is always something you need to get the job done. Generally Characters are assumed to have whatever gear they normally use, although some GMs will sadistically demand that you list every piece of this stuff on your "sheet". This is virtually mandatory in the Swords and Sorcery genre. Sorry pal.

There are two approaches to use if the Character is deprived of her normal gear. The first is to raise the difficulty of the task. Alternately, if your Character is ever deprived of its normal gear, the associated Key Point will be rolled with reduced dice. The choice your GM makes will depend on personal taste, but I favor the first option, if only because it offers a finer gradation of difficulty. It also lets the player roll her entire pile of dice. This is something players like to do.

Whichever method you choose, the penalty depends on how vital the gear is. For example, a Blacksmith is using his Forge Armor(4) Key Point to repair his damaged armor. The damage was quite serious, so the GM has set a base difficulty of 10. If he is in his 'blacksmith shop, he gets all 4 of his dice (or has no penalty, so say difficulty 10). Out in the field with a repair kit, he might get 3 dice (Difficulty 13). If he is in some backwater town at a barn then he uses 2 dice (Difficulty 17). With no equipment of any kind, he can't fix anything at all (or set Difficulty 20).

Conversely some special items or state-of-the-art equipment might give you a bonus. If the Blacksmith was using magical equipment on a Dwarven forge, he might get a bonus die. If his armor had an intelligent personality and could assist in repairing itself he might get two bonus dice. If the personality was ornery and stubborn though, he would be on his own. In the case of special equipment I always use more dice rather than reduce difficulty because, as I said, players love to roll dice.

(See the section on Special Equipment for examples.)



Particularly deadly weapons (such as envenomed poniards, razor-sharp scimitars, and firearms) may gain 1-2 Wound Dice. These dice are added to any damage dice assigned as the result of a successful combat round. Aimed attacks made at the head or bowels may also gain a Wound Dice.

Example: Holm's reaction to the wickedness perpetrated on him by the footpad in the example above is to draw 'Quietus' - a two-foot, lead-weighted baton with hobnails driven into the shaft - from his belt. This weapon has previously been judged by the GM to be worthy of an extra Wound Dice. Every time Holm lands a blow on the thug (i.e., wins a combat round by any margin), his attack will cause an extra die of damage.

Weapons which are particularly devastating in terms of impact may have 1-2 Shock Dice. Examples of such weapons are firearms, polearms, weapons used from the back of a charging horse, and weapons of great mass or bulk (such as double-bladed axes). Each Shock Dice causes the loser of a contested roll to lose an extra level from the Calling they employed to make their attack roll.

Example: Lady Caroline is surprised by a shadowy figure at her window one night. Wasting no time, she snatches an ornamental half-pike from her chamber wall and engages the intruder in desperate combat. The Assassin (for he is such) is using his Knifeman Calling of 4 dice in his attack; Lady Caroline is resisting with her Feisty Old Battleaxe Calling of 3 dice. The half-pike gains a Shock Dice as a result of its size and weight; hence, if Lady Caroline manages to land even a glancing blow, she will cause the Assassin to lose 2 levels, not the usual 1, from his Knifeman Calling.

Source: Risus: Ironsides


Ranged combat is rarely conducted as a standard opposed contest. That is to say, combatants do not attempt to wear their opponent down until he or she is at their mercy - instead, missile attacks are applied as once-offs and have their effect on the target's Life Points, instead of their Callings like a melee attack.

The single exception to this rule is when a character who is engaged in melee combat or some other contested task when he or she is shot by a third party outside the contest. In this case, the number of Shock Dice applied to the weapon's damage is subtracted from the active Calling.

The Target Number to hit a human-sized target is equal to the number of yards (or meters, or paces) between the shooter and the target. This TN is then modified as follows:

Weapon is a long or shoulder arm (musket, crossbow, longbow) TN is/2
Weapon is a firearm with a rifled barrel "
Weapon is being fired using a rest, aiming stick or brace "
Shooter spends an entire Combat Round aiming at the target "
Target is twice the size of a human (e.g., a horse) "
- for each doubling in size thereafter "
Target is half the size of a human (e.g., a dog) TN isx2

These modifiers are cumulative, but in an additive sense; in other words, if three conditions for dividing the TN by 2 apply, the TN is divided by 6, not 8. Once the target is hit, the weapon's Wound Dice are applied as damage, with the usual bonus die for each full six points by which the TN was exceeded.

Example: Lady Caroline's steward enters her chamber armed with a blunderbuss. This fearsome weapon gets 1 Bonus Die, 1 Wound Die, and 1 Shock Die. The Assassin is six paces from the Steward, and still engaged in combat with the Lady. The Steward fires immediately; his TN is 6, and he rolls (with the Bonus Die), a total of 19. He thus inflicts 3d6 damage on the Assassin (1 basic, +2 for beating the TN by 13), and the Assassin's Knifeman Calling drops by 1 level from the shock.

Source: Risus: Ironsides


Armor is divided into two categories:
Soft armor - such as a padded leather jerkin - serves mostly to cushion the user against blunt impacts, knife slashes, and the like. The effects of this armor are simple to model; characters wearing such materials may subtract 1-2 points from any Life Point loss sustained in combat or as the result of missile attacks, depending on the thickness of the armor and whether any reinforcements such as studs or plates have been sewn into it.

Hard armor, on the other hand, almost always consists of metal plate - breastplates, lobster-tail helmets, segmented gauntlets, and so on. This armor works differently to Soft armor in that it doesn't subtract from Life Point damage - instead, it contributes to a buffer of dice that are lost instead of Life Points and levels from the Active Calling when a combat round is lost. In other words, the loser erases Armor levels, rather than levels of the Calling he or she is using to fight.

The number of Armor levels a character has is equal to the number of items of hard armor he or she is wearing, as follows: helmet, breastplate or mail shirt, gauntlets, greaves, and shield. Hence, it can be seen that the highest Armor level a character can possess is 5. Although Armor level may rise and fall, its Initial value should always be noted; this value is used to calculate the protection offered against missile attacks. One Armor level is also lost for every die of Life Point damage the blow would have caused. Impacts from weapons with Shock Dice lower the Armor level by as many levels as the wearer would have lost from his or her Active Calling has they been unarmored. Should the wearer not have enough Armor points to soak all the effects of a blow, what points he or she has are first used to negate Life Point loss, and then to negate the loss of levels from the Active Calling.

The loss of Armor levels does not represent a physical deterioration in the armor; rather, it is interpreted as general battering which contributes to the exhaustion and fatigue of the wearer. When enough damage of this sort has been done, the wearer is slowed up and bruised enough that the attackers can begin to place their blows on unarmored areas with greater ease, or that subsequent impacts on the armor are painful enough to make the armor itself redundant. This being said, every time a character's Armor is reduced to zero, one piece of armor has been destroyed or caved in, and must be discarded, leading to a 1-point reduction in the character's Initial Armor level until it is replaced. Armor levels regenerate at the same rate as lost Calling levels - one point every half hour. This can be interpreted as the period it takes to readjust straps, buckles, etc., hammer out dents, and massage bruised body parts back to functionality. The number of points regained per half-hour is increased by 1 for every assistant the wearer has in this respect.

Against missile weapons, Hard armor works differently than it does in melee combat. When an armored character is struck by a projectile, a d6 should be rolled; if this roll is greater than the character's Armor level, the attack has struck an unprotected part of the body and the armor has no effect. If this is not the case, and a part of the body protected by armor plate is struck, Life Point damage is rolled normally, but the total is halved.

Example: Thatcher is battling for his life against a highland warrior armed with a fearsome two-handed sword. The highlander beats Thatcher's defense by six points; in addition, her engraved claymore gains a Wound Die and a Shock Die. Thatcher is wearing a helmet, breastplate, and gauntlets, giving him an Armor level of 3. The fearsome impact of the claymore would have caused him to lose 2 dice from his Active Calling (1 basic, +1 for the Shock Die) as well as 2d6 Life Points (1 for the 6-point margin of success, +1 for the Wound Die) if he was unarmored; as is, his Armor level of 3 soaks up the Life Point loss and one of the lost Calling levels, leaving him battered and reeling but still on his feet. He will gain no further benefit from his armor until he has a chance to regain his wits.

Source: Risus: Ironsides


"Combat" in this game is defined as any contest in which opponents jockey for position, utilize attacks, bring defenses to bear, and try to wear down their foes to achieve victory. Either literally or metaphorically! Some examples of combat include:

ARGUMENTS: People using whatever verbal weapons they have at hand to make their points. Truth is the first casualty.
HORSE-RACING: People on horses running around and around a dirty track, trying to get nowhere first.
ASTRAL/PSYCHIC DUELS: Mystics/psionics looking bored or asleep, but trying to rip one another's egos apart in the Other-world.
WIZARD'S DUELS: Sorcerers using strange magics and trying to outdo the other.
SEDUCTION ATTEMPTS: One (or more) characters trying to score with one (or more) other character(s) who is(are) trying to resist.
ACTUAL PHYSICAL COMBAT: People trying to injure or kill each other.

The GM decides when a combat has begun. At that point, go around the table in rounds, and let each combatant make an attack in turn. What constitutes an "attack" depends on the sort of combat, but it should ALWAYS be role-played (if dialogue is involved) or described in entertaining detail (if it's physical and/or dangerous and/or normally requires contraceptives).

Attacks require rolls against character Key Points. The GM must, at the outset of combat, determine what TYPE of Key Points are appropriate for the fight. In a physical fight, Key Points like Viking, Barbarian, Soldier, and Swashbuckler are appropriate. Key Points like Bar Maid and Effete Fop are not (but may still be used; see next section).

An attack must be directed at a foe. Both parties in the attack (attacker and defender) roll against their chosen Key Point. Low roll loses. Specifically, the low roller loses one of his Key Point dice for the remainder of the fight - he's been weakened, worn down, or otherwise pushed one step towards defeat. In future rounds, he'll be rolling lower numbers.

Eventually, one side will be left standing, and another will be left without dice. At this point, the winners usually decide the fate of the losers. In a physical fight or magical duel, the losers might be killed (or mercifully spared). In a Seduction, the loser gets either a cold shower or a warm evening, depending on who wins.

You needn't use the same Key Point every round. If a Viking/Swashbuckler wants to lop heads one round, and swing on chandeliers the next, that's groovy, too. However, anytime a character has a Key Point worn down to zero dice in combat, he has lost, even if he has other appropriate Key Points left to play with.

Dice lost in combat are regained when the combat ends, at a "healing" rate determined by the GM. If the combat was in vehicles (chariots, wooden sailing ships) then the vehicles themselves are likely damaged, too, and must be repaired.


As stated above, the GM determines what sorts of Key Points are appropriate for any given combat. An Inappropriate Key Point is anything that's left . . . In a physical fight, Wizard is inappropriate. In a Wizard's duel, Barbarian is inappropriate.

Inappropriate Key Points may be used to make attacks, PROVIDED THE PLAYER ROLEPLAYS OR DESCRIBES IT IN A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY ENTERTAINING MANNER. Furthermore, the "attack" must be plausible within the context of the combat, and the genre and tone that the GM has set for the game. This option is more valuable in lighter-hearted games than in dead-serious ones.

All combat rules apply normally, with one exception: If an inappropriate Key Point wins a combat round versus an appropriate one, the "appropriate" player loses THREE dice, rather than one, from his Key Point! The "inappropriate" player takes no such risk, and loses only the normal one die if he loses the round.

Thus, a skilled mage is dangerous when cornered and attacked unfairly by barbarians. Beware.

When in doubt, assume that the aggressor determines the type of combat. If a wizard attacks a barbarian with magic, then it's a Wizard's duel! If the barbarian attacks the mage with his sword, then it's Physical Combat! If the defender can come up with an entertaining use of his skills, then he'll have the edge. It pays in many genres to be the defender!

Note: If the wizard and barbarian both obviously want to fight, then both are aggressors, and it's "Fantasy Combat," where both swords and sorcery have equal footing.


A player-character/entity can choose to take an extra round prepping a nominated key point. They do nothing that round (unless attacked, in which case the preparation is aborted) but next round get a notional extra die added to that key point.

Source: adapted from WEG's Star Wars RPG and Risus: Colored*Skies.


A character may decide to aim for a particular part of his or her adversary in melee combat for a variety of reasons. The foe may be wearing partial armor which the character wishes to circumvent; the character may wish to disarm the foe by striking at their weapon; or, the character may wish to scar the foe's insolent face to goad them into a rage.

The extra effort and attention required for such assaults leave the character open to retaliation, however. The character making the aimed attack must temporarily drop the key point he or she is using by a number of dice to make the attack. These dice are not 'lost' - they re-appear as soon as the character switches back to a more conventional mode of attack.

Attacks aimed at the torso, limbs, or a one-handed weapon require the attacker to operate with a one die penalty; those aimed at the head, chinks in armor, groin (for the tavern brawlers out there), or a two-handed weapon, require two dice to be set aside.

The effects of successful aimed attacks should be adjudicated by the GM. They will cause the foe to lose a level from their active Key point as usual; in addition, they may cause extra Life Point loss, grant a Bonus Die for the next round, flick the foe's weapon out of his or her hand, provoke appreciative applause from onlookers, or whatever the GM deems appropriate. It is important to note that the attack was, after all, a success; the benefits of the stratagem should be worthwhile.

Source: RISUS: Ironsides


A player-character (or GM controlled entity) can attack more than once in a round. Each extra attack reduces the applicable key point by one die for that round only (unless he loses). Ex: Balrog (6) could elect to attack three times in the same round, rolling four dice each time.

When conducting a multiple attack routine, the first miss aborts any remaining attacks.

Source: adapted from WEG's Star Wars RPG and Risus: Colored*Skies.


Compare the attacker's roll with that of the defender. If the attacker's total exceeds the defender's total, the defender loses one key point dice, in the normal manner. For every multiple of the defender's roll the attacker inflicts another key point die loss. Example: the defender rolls 4 and the attacker rolls 8 the defender loses 2 key point dice. 4 vs. 12 the loss is 3 dice, 4 vs. 16 the loss is 4 dice, etc...

Source: adapted from R. Talsorian Games' Castle Falkenstein and Risus: Colored*Skies.


Two or more people or groups with incompatible goals.


Two or more characters may decide to form a TEAM in combat. For the duration of the team (usually the entire combat), they fight as a single unit, and are attacked as a single foe. There are two kinds of teams: Player-Character teams and NPC teams ("Grunt Squads.")

Grunt-Squads: This is just special effect. When you want the heroes to be attacked by a horde of 700 rat-skeletons inside the lair of the Wicked Necromancer(5), but don't feel like keeping track of 700 little skeletal sets of dice, just declare that they're a team, fighting as Skeletal Rat-Horde(7). Mechanically, the Rat-Horde is the same as any other single foe - except it has more dice! Grunt-Squads can have any level of Key Point the GM feels is appropriate. Grunt-Squads stick together as a team until they're defeated, at which point many survivors will scatter (though at least one will always remain to suffer whatever fate the victor decides).

Player-Character Teams: When PCs (or PCs and their NPC allies) form a team, the "Team Leader" is the defined by the highest-ranking Key Point in the team (a title that must be designated if there is a tie). Everybody rolls dice, but the Team Leader's dice all count. Other Team Members contribute only their sixes (if the Funky Dice option is used, Team Members may contribute their single highest die-roll above six, or their sixes, their choice). Team members who roll nothing above five don't contribute anything to the Team Leader's total for that roll.

Key Points joined in a team need not be identical, but they all must be equally appropriate or inappropriate. This means five Vikings could band together in physical fight with no problem. It also means that a Bar Maid, an Effete Fop, and a Town Scribe could team up in a physical fight if they have a REALLY good description of how they'll use their skills in concert to take out the Vikings!

Whenever a team loses a round of combat, a single team-member's dice is reduced by one (or three!) as per the normal combat rules. Any team member may "step forward" and voluntarily take this personal "damage" to his dice. If this happens, the noble volunteer is reduced by twice the normal amount (either two dice or six!), and the team leader gets to roll twice as many dice on his next attack, a temporary boost as the team avenges their heroic comrade. If no volunteer steps forward, then each member must roll against the Key Point they're using as part of the team: Low-roll takes the (undoubled) hit, and there is no "vengeance" bonus.

Disbanding: A team may voluntarily disband at any time between die-rolls. This reduces the Key Point each team-member was using in the team by one, instantly (not a permanent reduction - treat it just like "damage" taken from losing a round of combat). Disbanded team-members may freely form new teams, provided the disbanding "damage" doesn't take them out of the fight. Individuals may also "drop out" of a team, but this reduces them to zero dice immediately as they scamper for the rear. Their fates rest on the mercy of whoever wins the fight!

Lost Leader: If the team leader ever leaves the team for any reason (either by dropping out or by having his personal dice reduced to zero), every member of the team immediately takes one die of "damage" as if the team had disbanded (since, without a leader, they've done exactly that). They may immediately opt to reform as a new team (with a new leader) however, and if the old leader was removed by volunteering for personal damage, the new team leader gets the double-roll vengeance bonus to avenge his predecessor!


The basic RISUS rules assume that teams of combatants are coordinating their attacks, with some providing distraction while one rushes in to land a single blow. This situation may not apply if the attackers are rushing forwards in a mob, each intent on inflicting damage. In this case, each attacker rolls separately, but with a bonus of one dice to each of their rolls. Their target rolls only once. Each attacker roll is compared against the target's single roll as if the two were in single combat, and the damage results applied normally in each case. No 'Vengeance Bonus' is given. It can be seen that in this type of brawl, superior numbers can often overwhelm a foe instantly; but, if the attackers are inferior in skill, they take much more risk of multiple casualties than if they were coordinating their attacks.

Example: During the combat with Werner, the three dragoons each have a total of 3 dice in their attack. They could attack co-operatively, with a total skill of 5 (3 basic, +2 for having three members in the team), gaining the Vengeance Bonus if Werner somehow manages to land a blow on them, but they will only be able to wound Werner once per round. Or, they could try and mob him, each rolling on only 4 dice (3 basic, +1 for mob attack), foregoing the Vengeance Bonus but gaining the ability to wound him up to three times in a round, possibly taking him out of the fight immediately if they all manage to roll higher than he does. (See also: Hordes)

Source: RISUS: Ironsides


Many conflicts that arise in the game cannot be defined as "combat;" they're over too quickly, defined by a single action. A classic pistol-duel isn't combat - the two duelists simply turn and fire, and then it's all over. Two characters diving to grab the same sword from the floor isn't combat. Two cooks preparing chili for a cook-off isn't combat; there's no "wearing down of the foe" and no jockeying for position.

Such "single-action conflicts" are settled with a single roll against appropriate Key Points (or inappropriate Key Points, with good role-playing). High roll wins.


It will often occur that characters will find themselves involved in a Combat or quicker conflict where they simply have no applicable Key Points, even by stretching the imagination. Or maybe ONE character will have an appropriate Key Point, while the others feel left out. An example might be a pie-eating contest. One character was wise (or foolish) enough to take "Disgusting Glutton(2)" as a Key Point. The other characters are Vikings or wizards, neither of which traditionally engorges themselves on pie.

In situations like this, give everybody two free dice to play with, for the duration of the conflict. This INCLUDES characters who already HAVE appropriate Key Points. In the example above, the Vikings and wizards would get Pie-Eating(2), while the Disgusting Glutton would be temporarily increased to Disgusting Glutton(4). The Glutton, naturally, still has the winning edge, but anyone can TRY to eat lots of pie. This "temporary promotion" applies only in opposed conflicts, not in challenges based on Target Numbers.


Standard combat is handled exactly as portrayed in the basic RISUS rules. However, in addition, characters who lose a round of combat may also lose Life Points, to indicate (firstly) that they have received a physical wound, and (secondly) that they may well drop from their injuries before their will and ability to fight (i.e., number of dice they roll with) is gone. Characters lose a dice roll of Life Points for every full 6 points by which their enemy's attack roll exceeded their own. The type of dice rolled is the same as the dice rolled by the opponent for his or her (or its!) attack.

When a character's Life Point total drops below 6, he or she is judged to be Seriously Wounded and must halve, rounding up, the number of dice rolled for any physical task. This penalty remains until his or her LP total rises to at least 6. At the GM's discretion, and in the case where the damage was inflicted in a single blow doing more than 6 points of damage, a Seriously Wounded character may lose an extra Life Point per round of strenuous activity until their wounds are bandaged.

When a character's Life Point total drops to 0, he or she swoons from shock and exhaustion and falls insensate. Any further injuries or blood loss which cause the character to drop to -6 Life Points or below will be fatal.

Example: The ill-fated Holm Durrant is collaring a cutpurse when the ungrateful wretch slides a needle-tipped stiletto between his ribs. The cutpurse's attack roll was a 14; Holm rolled a mere 6. Holm's Key point drops by one dice as usual, but he also loses 1d6 Life Points because the ruffian exceeded his roll by 8. Holm's LP total is a healthy 17, so he is not yet Seriously Wounded and can continue fighting without having to halve his Key point levels.

Source: Risus: Ironsides


* You begin to recover lost Key Point dice as soon as the conflict ends.
The time unit for the recovery of Key point levels lost as the result of contestation is the hour.

Lost levels recover quickest when a character is resting, or otherwise undistracted. If the character is not resting, but traveling or engaged in some other mild exertion, the recovery time is one hour for every die regained. Any strenuous exertion during this time - such as combat, or another contestation using that Key point - negates any recovery which would have taken place at the end of that hour. If the character is resting, the effectiveness of the healing process is doubled; two dice return every hour.

If a character has lost levels in multiple Key points, these levels return simultaneously; the character doesn't have to wait for one to return to its initial level before another begins to recover. Lost Life Points are recovered at the rate of one per day of rest, or one point per two days of mild exertion, with the same provisos as above. The full-time attention of an assistant - be it a nurse, counselor, or drinking partner - doubles the rate of recovery. Each assistant can affect only one Key point at a time.

Characters who have been reduced to 0 in a Key point have an additional hurdle ahead of them; their confidence has been shaken, and they will take longer to recover. Their healing time is doubled for each Key point that has been reduced to 0, and they must rest for 1d6 extra hours before the healing process begins. Similar rules apply to characters whose Life Points have been reduced to less than 6; their healing time is doubled.

These rules are biased towards Key points whose use is instant in nature, such as fighting skills or academic debate. More intricate Key points, whose resolutions are measured in days or weeks - such as the Strategist, Composer, or Sculptor Key points - use these time frames, rather than hours, as their time units for recovery. At the GM's discretion, the rest and exertion conditions might be reversed for certain Key points to reflect situations where getting out and keeping busy is better than sulking indoors.

Example: Freida is a Poet (4) and Object of Adoration (3) whose prestige and self-esteem have suffered as the result of being out maneuvered by a sloe-eyed Iberian hussy - first, professionally, and then in the bed of her lover. The resulting contestations, which have taken place at the rate of one round a day for the last week, have left both of these Key points at zero. The time unit for recovery is the same as the time unit for the contestation: days.

Frieda will thus take 1d6 days to begin recovery of her lost Key points, and will then begin to regain them at the rate of 1 level every day if she stays cooped up in her inn room, pacing and hurling crockery. If her initial roll was 4, she will be her usual self again once 8 days have passed. If she decides to get out of town for a week instead, and rents a cottage on the coast, the time it takes per recovered die will be halved; in other words, she will be penning vitriolic sonnets again in four days, and making village lads trip over their rods by the afternoon of the third day. If her friend and confidante Svensen is around to keep her company and lug her writing desk around, this time will be halved again, but he can only concentrate on getting one of her Key points back to its initial level at a time.

Svensen, as it happens, is recovering from being beaten senseless by his Patron after presenting him with an unflattering portrait. The key point he used as the basis for his defense in this confrontation, Streetwise Gutter Artist (5), would have recovered at the rate of four dice an hour while staying at the cottage under Frieda's care - 2 dice every hour for resting, doubled for the presence of an assistant. As soon as his Life Points are all back, Svensen will be well enough to settle the score with his Patron.

Source: Risus: Ironsides

No standard time or distance scale is provided for Risus; it really depends on what kind of action is happening. However, the GM should try to stay consistent within a single conflict. In a physical fight, each round represents a few seconds. In a long-term fight between married couples, each round might represent an entire Day (Day one: Husband "accidentally" burns wife's favorite dress in the oven, Wife "accidentally" feeds Drano to Husband's prize goldfish, and so on until there is a victor).

(See Front page.)

GM Controlled Characters
For GM controlled characters you may need information to be formatted a little differently. With Player characters you develop an intimate knowledge of how each one performs. With creatures and generic GMCs you want to be able to be consistent between encounters without having to remember just what an Orc(4) is capable of compared to an Ogre(4). So I'm advising the use of the Fight, Move, Think, Search, Charm (FMTSC) system from Outlier: Quest.

In a nutshell, make the creature as much like a character as you want, but then give it separate dice for each of Fight, Move, Think, Search, and Charm. These five columns will cover the majority of interactions with players. For anything else, use the Key Point dice.
Here are a few examples:

Orc Bodyguard(4) =F(4) M(3) T(2) S(3) C(1)
Ogre(4) =F(6) M(4) T(1) S(3) C(1)
Dragon(4) =F(10) M(8) T(4) S(5) C(4)
Jelly Cube(4) =F(6) M(3) T(0) S(6) C(0)

It's as easy as pie, and it lets you create reasonably complete creatures without having to think of a bunch of Key Point names.

Places are People Too! Well No, Not Really...
But that doesn't mean that you can't use the Key Point system to describe cities, dungeons, rivers, or anything else you little gamer's heart desires.

Crystal City, Jewel of the Empire
Description: A bustling metropolis, a city the Never Sleeps, the City on Crystal River. Crystal City is the home of the Queen, has the most merchants, impressive cultural attractions, and very plush inns.
Key Points: Capital of the Empire (4), Crime Ridden (2), Shopping Mecca (3), Dirty (3)

Khaza Dhul, Dwarven City
Description: This is an ancient dwarven city built underground. It is rumored to be haunted, but more-is-the-like it is just a dead city with various scavengers hunting for old dwarven gold and secrets.
Key Points: Haunted City (4), Ancient Traps (3), Secrets (2), Scavengers (4)

Dungeon with Tunnels full of Goblins and Orcs
Description: This forsaken complex is a fantastic mix of crypts, abandoned fortifications and dismal underground lairs.
Key Points: Heavily patrolled (4), Trapped (3), Undead (2), Lots of Hiding Places(1)

How Do I use these Key Points?
There are two uses for the Key Point ratings of places. They can be active or reactive. Any Key Point can be used either way.

Active use is when the GM wants something to happen to the players. With the Dungeon you have Heavily patrolled(4). So when the characters are sneaking around, the GM might roll 4 dice vs. whatever Key Point they are using to be stealthy. If the GM wins, then the characters encounter a group of wandering baddies. With a city the GM might use the dice for Crime Ridden if the PCs try to pull off a heist. Does the local criminal community object to the PCs poaching on their turf? Roll Crime Ridden(2) against a difficulty of 5.

Reactive use is to help guide GMs when the players try to do something in a location. Lets say they want to fence some stolen goods from their heist above. Can they find anyone? Let them add the Crime Ridden(2) to whatever Key Point they are using to make an unsavory connection.

Giant Monsters
Treat Giant Monsters like characters, except that the Referee gets to make and control them and therefore does not suffer from all the limits that apply to characters.

For instance, if the Referee decides to honor the six-dice limitation, remember that he can specify almost any type of die to use for the monster. He could, for instance, create a dragon named Firebrick and invest it with the Key Point Big Flame-Breathing Dragon (6d100). Or course, heroes would tend to remain fairly helpless against such a monster, unless they numbered in the hundreds (which suggests a quick call to the nearest adventurer guild might serve them well).

Referees could also ignore the 6-die rule for giant monsters, giving Firebrick a Key Point like Big Flame-Breathing Dragon (40d6).

However, the Referee should consider precisely how much imbalance he intends to use in the process of inflicting obnoxious and unbeatable monsters against his players. The Referee should justify really horrendous unfairness with comparable entertaining storytelling. For instance, perhaps one really lame mage has a spell he can only cast at the cost of waking up Firebrick (who will wander through the fight, trampling everyone, hero and villain, into a pulp).

The team work rules from Risus don't thoroughly approximate the numbers of worthless expendable baddies an adventurer may have to trash in a given fight. Consider a Horde a body containing a number of 0d6 critters, goblins, ninjas, agents, or whatever, and translate the number constituting the horde into their efficacy this way:
0-3 members in the Horde: 0d6
4-7 members in the Horde: 1d6
8-15 members in the Horde: 2d6
16-31 members in the Horde: 3d6
32-63 members in the Horde: 4d6
64-127 members in the Horde: 5d6
128-255 members in the Horde: 6d6
etc, adding one extra d6 each time the number doubles, with no necessary upper limit.

Remember that this applies to no-die critters only, and use the normal teamwork rules for teams of actual NPCs and PCs! But when a hero has to confront a slavering Horde of Blue Meanies, beggars, orphans, adoring fans, tavern drunks, nuns, tax collectors, pastry chefs, or similar aggregate menaces, use the Horde rule. Remember, when the individual properties of the competent figures do not matter, you probably have a Horde on your hands.

A Horde may appear in various forms, including friendly (willing to do your bidding), hostile (intent upon planting you in a pine box) or neutral (vulnerable to persuasion). A character may attempt to persuade a Horde with a relevant Oratorical skill (or the likes of "Idol to Millions").

If two characters attempt to control a Horde to rival ends, contest their Oratorical Key Points, then give the winner the command of the Horde.

Normally, a character is created using 10 dice. With this Advanced Option, players can bargain for extra beginning dice by giving their character a Hook and/or a Tale.

A Hook is some significant character flaw - an obsession, a weakness, a sworn vow, a permanently crippling injury - that the GM agrees is so juicy that he can use it to make the characters life more interesting (which usually means less pleasant). A character with a Hook gets an extra die to play with.

A Tale is a written "biography" of the character describing his life before the events of the game begin. The Tale needn't be long (two or three pages is usually just fine); it just needs to tell the reader where the character is coming from, what he likes and dislikes, how he became who he is, what his motives are. Some Tales are best written from the player's omniscient perspective; others are more fun if written as excerpts from the character's own diary. A character with a Tale provided before game play begins gets an extra die to play with.

In an emergency, any character may pump his Key Points. If the Thief(3) comes face to face with a Monster(6), it might be necessary.

When a Key Point is pumped, it receives a temporary boost in dice. This boost lasts for a single round of combat, or a single significant roll otherwise. However, after that round or roll is resolved, the character loses a number of dice equal to the number he gave himself in the pump. This is treated like "injury" to the Key Points sustained in combat, and must "heal" in the same fashion.

Example: Rudolph the Thief has come face to face with a Monster, who attacks him. Rudy doesn't have much of a chance against such a powerful foe, so he opts for a tricky tactic: Since the Monster is attacking physically, Rudolph decides his first-round response will use his skills as a Poet(3) - a decidedly Inappropriate choice! He also opts to pump it by two dice up to five . . . He's REALLY putting his all into his poetry for this fight.

So, the first round happens. The Monster rolls six dice, and the Thief (quickly reciting a limerick about a bar maid) rolls five dice.

If the Thief loses, then he is instantly defeated. His Poet Key Point drops by two to Poet(1) just for the pump, plus another die for losing the round. The Monster decides to eat Rudolph for the bad rhyme.

If the Thief WINS, however, the Monster(6) is dropped to Monster(3), and his Poet(3) drops to Poet(1). In Rudolph's responding attack, he'll will switch back to ordinary Thief tactics - and be on equal footing with the laughing Monster!

A risky maneuver, but worth it.

Pumped Key Points are legal in any situation except single-action conflicts.

If this option is used, characters may be created with double-pump Key Points. These Key Points, when pumped, give you TWO dice in the pumped roll for every die you'll lose at the end of it. Thus, a Sorcerer(5) could be a Sorcerer(11) for a single combat round, at a cost of three dice. This option is appropriate for any Key Points based on supernatural powers, such as wizards, giants, and dragons. They're also appropriate for any other Key Points the GM approves them for.

Double-pump Key Points cost twice as many starting dice to buy. Thus, the following would be a legal starting character:

Sinsibilus the Sorcerer
Description: Thin, spindly and mysterious, with a tired
cat on his shoulder. Likes to poke around
where Man Ought Not, turn people in to toads
and the like. Likes the woods.
Key Points: Ether Mage [3], Alchemist (2), Outdoors-man (2)

The hard [square brackets] indicate a double-pump Key Points. Since it costs double, Sinsibilus is effectively a 10-dice character.

If the GM considers any Key Points to be too universally powerful, he may REQUIRE that it be purchased in this way, to insure some sort of balance. Overall, double-pump dice are less useful than ordinary dice at the beginning, but since they improve at the same rate as ordinary dice, they are a good "investment." Double-pump Key Points must be purchased at character creation.

Okay, this is the LAST advanced option.

With the Funky Dice option, we move beyond the standard six-sided cubical dice, and enter the world of the d8, d10, d12, d20 and (heavens preserve us) d30.

These dice allow Risus to represent, say, giants or dragons, without resorting to large numbers of dice. Under this system, characters are given points to create their characters with, and each type of die costs points. Specifically:

d6: 6 points d10: 10 points d20: 20 points
d8: 8 points d12: 12 points d30: 30 points

Normal characters are created with 60 points to spend. Giants and dragons may be created with more (200 is a good number), if the GM wants a high-powered game. Double-pump dice cost double, of course, and 4 dice is still the limit for beginning PCs . . . but they can be 4 big dice. Points not spent when characters are created are lost. Six-sided dice are the smallest permitted, and thirty-sided dice are the largest (and also loopy).

When using this option, a character with Key Point(6) may still roll to improve! If the roll is successful, he drops to (5) dice, but of the NEXT HIGHER TYPE. So, your Adventurer(6) becomes an Adventurer(5d8).

If the GM is allowing Hooks and Tales, either one will increase available starting points by 10 percent (so, normal Risus characters will get six extra points each for a Hook or Tale).

When characters with different kinds of dice form a Team in combat, the Team Leader is still the one with the highest-ranking Key Point: Swordsman(4) "ranks" higher than Swordsman(3d10), for example.

Those are the only rule-changes. Dice are still dice - if a Viking(3) wins a combat round against a Swashbuckler(3d10), the Swashbuckler loses a whole d10. Conversely, at the end of the game, the Swashbuckler has the same odds of adding a d10 to his Key Points as the Viking has of adding a d6 to his.

A sample giant, built on 200 points (4 were left over, and lost):

Thor-Gar the Frost Giant
Description: Thor-Gar lives on the highest peak of the World Mountain.
He hates visitors and normally tries to bury them in snow and ice. But, he does like raising goats and thinking up dirty limericks.
Key Points: Giant [2d10], Boulder Throwing [2d20], Avalanche Making (4d10), Goat Raising (3), Poetry (3)

An expanded Target Number list for funky , compared to feats of physical strength:

30: Throwing a motorcycle.
50: Throwing a tank.
70: Throwing a loaded train.
85: Throwing a pile of 15,000 loaded trains . . .
100: Kicking the Earth five feet out of orbit.
Note the non-linearity! This ain't rocket science.

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Places to inspire your imagination

Risus: The Anything RPG
High Octane
Risus Magic
Microtactix Games
Hero Machine
Dungeon Crafter