Risus Battletech

My gaming group is thinking about restarting our long-slumbering Battletech campaign, in which we play a group of mercenaries known as the Hellfire Aces. In the campaign’s earlier iteration, we didn’t go much deeper than that — we were the Aces, we were for hire, and we blew things up. This time around we’re looking to add a role-playing component to turn it into more than just a a fragfest between giant robots.

The RPG aspect will be limited — negotiations in a bar, gambling in a bar, fights in a bar, etc. Rather than go with a rules-heavy system like d20 Modern, which would be tough to integrate into Battletech and has way, way more information than we need, I’m proposing we go with Risus: The Anything RPG, a rules-light, easy-to-learn (and free!) role-playing game.

We would still use standard Battletech rules on the battlefield, but when it came to role-playing, we’d switch to Risus.

Mechwarrior Cliches

Battletech uses two primary skills to define its mechwarriors – the piloting skill and the gunnery skill, each of which operate on a range of 0-6, with 0 being better and 6 being worse.

The scale is right for RISUS, but the range runs the wrong way. For purposes of RISUS, we’ll buy ranks in the corresponding cliches normally. We’ll invert them on the battle field, subtracting the number of ranks from six. For simplicities’ sake, we’ll list the battlefield stats after the RISUS ranks, separated by a slash.

For a typical mechwarrior, whose usually has a piloting rank of 5 and gunnery rank of 4 this yields:

Mech Pilot (1/5), Mech Gunner (2/4)

Mechwarrior Physical Stats

Mechwarriors traditionally can take five points of damage before being killed on the battlefield. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll keep this rule in battle, but outside of the cockpit combat is resolved using normal RISUS combat rules. We won’t have an in-game mechanic for buffing up a character’s Mechwarrior physical stats using RISUS dice, though perhaps you could have an ad hoc rule giving an extra hit point to Mechwarriors who take intensive physical cliches like “Bodybuilder”.

Sample Mechwarrior PCs

Gunner MacFearson, Reckless Mech Pilot (1/5), Mech Gunner (2/4), Hair-trigger Gunslinger (3), Backroom Brawler (3), Half-assed Gambler (1)

Jake “The Kidd” Toller, Jenner Obsessed Mech Pilot (2/4), Mech Gunner (2/4), Hacker (3), Maker (2), Bad Shot (1)

Derrick Gray, Thoughtful Mech Pilot (1/5), Hotshot Mech Gunner (3/3), Mercenary (3), Criminal Mind (2), Occasional Bounty Hunter (1)

Expanding Your Character

When I posted this proposal to the RisusTalk Yahoo Group, I got some great feedback, including a suggestion by Stefan Shirley who suggested using two of Risus’s optional rules to flesh out characters: hooks and tales. He also provided the examples below.

Hooks are adventure ideas that give the GM something to play with (e.g. “Lost Scion of House Davion”. A tale is a piece of your character’s background (length determined by the GM) that explains some key aspect of his or her past past (e.g. “Saw parent die on Solaris VII and has dedicated life to avoiding familial responsibility and seeking revenge”)

So for example, Derrick could use the Solari VII tale to beef up his “Occasional Bounty Hunter” cliche to two dice instead of one.

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