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"Risus: The Anything RPG", designed and illustrated by S. John Ross, is a universal role-playing game system that is (very) rules lite. Seriously. The rules are six pages long. And it's free. Download a free copy from the official page here.

Risus is meant to be a more comedic roleplaying game. As Risus happens to be Latin for "laughter", this should come as no surprise to those Latin professors out there. However, Risus can, indeed, be used for more serious games. The rules are very simple when compared to many other number crunching RPGs, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Rune Quest (the latter of which is even more rules heavy than the former).

Classes and Skills have been replaced with "cliches" which are, well, cliches.[1] Cliches are given ranks in six-sided dice (and, with optional rules, in Funky Dice) from 1 to 6 (displayed in parenthesis next to the cliche). The cliches are broad descriptions of what your character can do in a given situation. So, for instance, a Spikey Haired Blond Wielding a BFS (4) would be a fine example of a character who uses his giant blade and badassery to fight the Big Bad, rescue (or lose) the girl, and save the world. Suitable actions this character may take would include: dispatching enemies with his BFS, looking badass in his costume armor costume, and winning Big Hair contests.

Characters may have any number of cliches, though, as in many other RPGs, you are limited by character creation points and character advancement.

This game provides examples of:

  • Actually Four Mooks: While originally a video game trope the game contains an odd subversion of it: a single group of enemies may represent either a single enemy or an entire group of enemies. This allows for encounters against enemies such as A Pack of Rats (3), A Pride of Lions (5) and even A Thousand Orcs (1).
  • Badass Normal: The game allows a Sous Chef (3) to stand a chance against an Angry Barbarian (4) (and even deal extra damage) in physical combat, as long as the player has an interesting roleplay to go with it. GM discretion.
  • Character Customization: The Cliche system essentially allows you to declare your own character classes. Exactly as powerful as it sounds. More details below.
  • Character Level: Averted. Characters are defined by cliches, which act as a package of skills and traits, so to speak.
  • Class and Level System: Averted. See Character Level above.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The winning side of a combat decides the fate of the losers. Sure, you can kill them, if you want, but it's much more fun to, say, make them dance half naked for your entertainment.
  • Hand Wave: The Risus Companion actually encourages this: if the DM makes a mechanical decision (like, say, not letting the PCs teleport, when they could just fine yesterday), he needs to come up with ridiculous explanations for this. Such as feeling queasy due to eating sausage pizza.
  • Hit Points: Averted. Damage is done to the cliches themselves. When you lose combat, your Cliche's rank decreases by one.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Averted. A Sword Swinging Warrior (4) and a Squishy Sorceress (4) are on equal terms in physical combat.
    • Somewhat depending on the combat type. If the warrior attacks first, it's a swordfight, while if the wizard attacks first, it's a magical fight. The only difference this makes is in terms of Inappropriate cliches - the defender is forced to roleplay in an entertaining manner, but deals 3x damage. If both attack, it's Fantasy Combat, and they're exactly equal.
  • Point Buy: cliches are bought at character creation by spending points.
  • RPGs Equal Combat: Subverted. Although the rules are geared towards lots and lots of combat, said combat doesn't need to equal violence. Risus combat can include repairing spaceships, playing chess, and pretty much anything else the Game Master decides would be fun if portrayed as combat.
  • Saving Christmas: One adventure module has an... interesting variation of this. See the trope page for more.
  • Stick Figure Comic: The main rulebook is full of this.
    • The additional books are full of this
  • Take That: In the main rules, William Shatner is quickly mentioned as an example of a cliche. You have to look in the main text for it.
  • That One Rule: Averted since the rules of Risus are meant to be simple and straightforward.
    • The "cascade" rules in The Risus Companion are very, very confusing after the simplicity of regular combat.
  • Universal System


  1. Although you may feel free to call them Tropes instead.
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