Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Risus - putting the fun back into RPGs

I discovered the RPG games (the pen & paper kind) at the end of 1980s. At that time, it was usually defined as "the game those kids in E.T. The Extraterrestrial play". The people I knew have photocopied (very badly) basic Dungeons & Dragons books and played according to the D&D Monster Manual. I wrote "played according to the Monster Manual" because they didn't know English very well, had only a basic grasp of the basic rules and basically only played the game as a series of monster encounters, using the numeric stats from the Monster Manual (not really understanding the text below the stats).

It's only logical that, after this experience, pen & paper RPGs seemed to me like very poor imitations of computer RPGs (which vere already rather well established at that time) and I lost interest in them.

Several years later I had another look at RPG. My friend played Vampire The Masquarade live action games in Prague and although I didn't participate, I got an idea that this could actually be very cool activity but it greatly depends on the Dungeon Master. Concurrently, it occured to me that almost all the RPG rules are superficial and DM only needs good storytelling skills, good improvisation capabilities, flexibility and cool ideas. And RPG sessions can be enjoyed by mature people without having to consult lots of weird tables.

After several more years, I bought the three basic D&D books and read them just for the fun of it. Although I already knew English very well at the time, I didn't quite understand the relationships between all the tables and it sure as hell didn't look like fun. I found out that there are several simple "universal" RPG systems that you can get from the Internet for free! One of them was Risus from Cumberland Games & Diversions. Have a look at it, there is even a Czech version.

Some of the things on Cumberland pages are not free. However, there was so much excellent quality free stuff over there that I bought "The Risus Companion" - again - just for the fun of it. (I also used it as an opportunity to try out PayPal, which can now be used by Czechs at last - at least for sending money.) And I was not disappointed. For $10 ($10, think about it!) you get 64-page PDF file with lots of examples (and answers to questions I thought about after reading the basic rules). And charming illustrations. And lots and lots of cool ideas for ANY KIND of RPG setting and system. Plus, it's written exceptionally well. I actually had so much fun reading it I'd recommend it to anyone remotely interested in the RPG phenomenon. You'll learn more by reading this than by wading throuch hundreds of pages of "Dungeons & Dragons Dugeon Master Manual Handbook Reference Core Rules v3.599" or whatever. And you'll get an idea why RPGs with good GM can be FUN. It really whet my appetite.

Now, where can I get several almost normal mature people to play with? :)


Fifteen said...

in other words these rules (RISUS) rocks :-)

"Ice Cold" Pierre Boulez said...

this blog is interesting. great recommendation by lemuel!