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Free tabletop RPG you can pick up and play in 10 minutes
Dungeons and Dragons is cool, but good luck explaining its complex ruleset to most of your family and friends
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I just love tabletop RPGs. They offer a unique experience, away from technology and instant gratification overloads.
If you are not familiar with the genre, it’s a game where people take turns narrating what their characters do, in a setting decided by a Game Master, and decide the results of their actions using some rules that often involve dice.
Dungeons and Dragons is the most popular format, glorified by the famous Stranger Things TV show.
But in order to play, you need to get yourself at least a couple of very long, very detailed hardcover books. And there are dozens of additional books that you might need on top of the very basic starters.
But as you can probably imagine (or have experienced yourself) organizing a weekly meetup to run lengthy stories with complex rulesets and characters is a pain in the ass.
In fact, despite trying for years, I only managed to do that while in high school. I must admit I wasn’t very busy back then.
I needed something that could be set up quickly and hopefully fast enough for a campaign to be completed in one setting.
Enter Risus 🤓
I opened Google and searched for simplest tabletop RPG. There are some recommendations, but after a few days of reading, I landed on Risus.
Risus’ rules are just 2 pages long. They are free to download at DriveThruRpg.
It’s not meant for serious roleplayers. Risus literally means laugh or something similar in Latin. I know because I’m Italian.
At its core, Risus revolves around Clichés, or stereotypes, that describe a character. Instead of having complex lists of stats, a character that is tagged cook can do everything you expect a cook to be able to do.
To that tag you attach a number from 1 to 6, that describes the proficiency in that stereotype. A character with cook (1) can be assumed to be a really bad cook, btw. While cook (6) will have you orgasm multiple times with what they prepare.
That’s it. A Game Master starts describing a setting, an event, or a situation, and the players in turn narrate their story around their stereotypes.
I won’t dive deeper into the rules and the gameplay. If you are interested, stop reading and go fetch the original rulebook (or rule-pages). It’s free.
I’m assuming you have familiarized yourself with the rules from now on.
So, it turns out Risus is way more popular than I initially thought. People have built an entire universe of side projects, additional rules, and resources that you can use to play and be a better Game Master.
The Risusiverse is a site for fans of Risus: The Anything RPG - the free pen and paper roleplaying system written by S. John Ross and published by Dave LeCompte. While this site might not set the world on fire, it may hopefully become the recognized resource for Risus (and possibly start a flame in your heart).
You can visit the website here. All the resources here are free.
My favorite resource is the Simpler Risus ruleset. Yes, Risus was already simple. This strips it down even more. This is the variation of the game I use.
You just need some paper sheets, a pen, and dice. No dice? You can use a dice roller on your phone. Don’t want a new app? There are websites for it. There are no excuses not to play!
A game can be run at the pub, at home, or at the beach. It can last one hour or for months. It’s a fun way to get away from phones and experience that nerdy stuff they talk about on Stranger Things.
No IRL friends? The easiest way to get your online friends to play over the internet is by setting up a Discord server for them and using one of the two available, community-built bots.
The bots support the traditional ruleset and can be easily adapted to variations. The Risusiverse will help you find additional resources to play the game in a traditional chat group as well.
I made a card template 🃏
Just print it, cut out the cards, and you are ready to go. I also made a version of the cards sheet with a traceable stick figure for you to quickly draw a portrait of your character.
The cards can be used both for playing characters and actors (NPCs) in your story.
I hope I inspired you to organize a game with your nerdy friends. Risus is really fun and I am working on a few side projects involving it.
I am even using the system to play solo and write a short fantasy book with the results. But this is a story for another time!
If you enjoyed this article, I'd really appreciate it if you could forward it to a friend, or colleague who you think might like it too. If they are a creative type, they’ll surely find value in what I have to offer.
You can also help me by sharing this on your social networks. That’s always a big boost for me!
All the best,