For Gamers and Collectors
by Colin MacIntyre
Filling out a character's odes is not always easy. What is the anatomy of a good character? As seen in this article by S. John Ross, one of the most straightforward ways to start is by asking questions.
Or, flesh out your PC in another way with questions based on Guy Hoyle's Maximum Risus Fun!
“I just want you to feel you're doing well. I hate for people to die embarrassed.” —Fezzik
Before we get to the dreams, pain and flaws that make up an Ode character, let's take a detour into Ode combat.
Risus, and by extension Ode, are among the few systems that, at a mechanical level, allow for the sort of face-offs film buffs dream about roleplaying. Risus fan h3rne777 gives the example of one of the most legendary swordfights ever to grace the silver screen—the cliff-side encounter between The Masked Man In Black A.K.A. Dread Pirate Roberts (d6) and Inigo Seeking-Revenge-For-the-Death-of-His-Father-at-the-Hand-of-the-Six-fingered-Man Montoya (d6).
As we saw in Rule 3.6.1, here, damage to a character is not necessarily wounds or HP. This is one of the most elegant features of Risus/Ode and quite unlike most traditional “trading-blows” style RPG's. For the GM decides how ode damage affects the story, whilst the players decide what victory entails.
To illustrate, here's the Ode to that battle between the two master swordsmen:
Inigo (d6): You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.
Man In Black (d6): You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.
Inigo (d6): Begin.
Inigo rolls 1d6 = 3. MiB rolls 1d6 = 5. Inigo falls to (d8)
Inigo (d8): You are using Bonetti’s defense against me, uh?
Man In Black (d6): I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain.
Inigo rolls 1d8 = 6. MiB rolls 1d6 = 6. A draw—no effect.
Inigo (d8): Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro.
Man In Black (d6): Naturally, but I find that Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don’t you?
Inigo rolls 1d8 = 2. MiB rolls 1d6 = 3. MiB falls to (d8)
Inigo (d8): Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa, *Jumps after him* which I have!
Inigo rolls 1d8 = 4. MiB rolls 1d8 = 3. Inigo falls to (d10)
Inigo (d10): You are wonderful!
Man In Black (d8): Thank you. I’ve worked hard to become so.
Inigo (d10): I admit it, you are better than I am.
Inigo rolls 1d10 = 5. MiB rolls 1d8 = 2. Inigo falls to (d12)
Man In Black (d10): Then why are you smiling? *Forces Inigo toward the cliff’s edge*
Inigo (d12): Because I know something you don’t know.
Man In Black (d10): And what is that?
Inigo rolls 1d12 = 2. MiB rolls 1d8 = 7. MiB falls to (d10)
Inigo (d12): I am not left-handed. *Switching hands, moves his opponent up the stairs*
Man In Black (d10): You’re amazing!
Inigo (d12): I ought to be after twenty years.
*Begins to force Man in Black toward a balcony. His body moves the rocks*
Inigo rolls 1d12 = 8. MiB rolls 1d10 = 3. Inigo falls to (d14)
Man In Black (d10): There is something I ought to tell you.
Inigo (d14): Tell me.
Man In Black (d10): I’m not left-handed either. *Switches hands, flourishes sword*
Inigo rolls 1d14 = 12. MiB rolls 1d10 = 6. Inigo falls to (d16)
The Man in Black knocks Inigo’s sword from his hand.
Inigo jumps down to retrieve it.
The Man in Black tosses his sword into a patch of grass.
He flips over a beam and lands next to his sword, plucking it from the ground.
Inigo (d16): Who are you?
Man In Black (d10): No one of consequence.
Inigo (d16): I must know.
Man In Black (d10): Get used to disappointment.
Inigo (d16): *Shrugs* Okay.
Inigo rolls 1d16 = 9. MiB rolls 1d10 = 3. Inigo falls to (d18)
They continue to fight until the Man In Black knocks Inigo’s sword from his hands.
Inigo (d18): *Kneeling* Kill me quickly.
Man In Black (d10): *Circling Inigo* I would as soon destroy a stained-glass window as an artist like yourself. However, since I can’t have you following me either...
Inigo rolls 1d18 = 15. MiB rolls 1d10 = 1. Critical hit. Inigo falls 2x to (d0)
Man In Black hits Inigo over the head with the hilt of his sword. He hits the ground, out cold.
Man In Black (d10): Please understand I hold you in the highest respect. *Runs off*
For his next encounter with Fezzik, the Lumbering Giant (d6), the GM might rule that the Man In Black's ode has recovered, since all damage taken was essentially tactical.
“I will never doubt again.”“There will never be a need.”
As introduced in Rule 4.2, a dream is a lifelong goal; a quest that surpasses earthly desires to move directly on a person's soul. Throughout history, heroes and heroines have left behind their past and forsworn the present in order to heed the siren song of their future. Dreams are why people strive to do great things, but are a source of frustration if unacted upon. Over time, dreams will be challenged, and the character will have to make a choice to either stay true to their dream, or to compromise and squander it.
Remember, shaping your PC's dream into ode form gets you 1 extra point at character creation. Come up with your own, choose from the following table, or roll against it to get a dream at random:
“Do you hear? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. The man in black makes it now.” —Inigo Montoya
As mentioned in Rule 4.3, a past left behind has the tendency to ambush one's future. In this sense, a character’s pain has the potential to really spice things up, for it is their unspoken agony; a deep-seated emotional wound from their personal history into which brokenness came. Whereas a dream is something a character wants to achieve in their future, their pain is something they wish could be removed from their past. Pain functions as a negative motivator; to avoid or prevent something similar from happening again. Though tragic, pain is the foundation for true epic storytelling, for when one's Shadow is faced squarely, pain has the potential to become strength, and fear, opportunity.
Remember, shaping your PC's pain into ode form gets you 1 extra point at character creation.
Some examples to choose from here, or roll to get one at random:
“They were great men with huge flaws, and you know what, those flaws almost made them greater.” —Harry Potter
Pain tends to bear inconvenient fruit, which in Ode are called flaws. A flaw can be a vice, a shortcoming, a character defect or other negative trait that diminishes your PC, even in their moments of glory. Though not the disease, flaws are often the visible symptoms of pain.
Examples abound in fiction:
For the purpose of the game, physical abnormalities have also been categorized as flaws. Nevertheless, if played well, flaws can be as much a boon as a hindrance. In one campaign, for example, we realized that though he could not read, our illiterate ex-crusader character had developed an unusally keen memory and also a natural ability to pick up dialects.
Browse the list below for a flaw that would be compelling in your character, then work it into a descriptive ode. Or, roll 1d100 for a random touch.
(Dreams, Pain and Flaws based on The Epic of Dreams by Drew Cochran)
The dozen lists and tables below are essentially all you need to run a game of Ode. Enjoy!
1 . Select an ode (it's now active)
2. Roll 1dx, where x is the ode's level
3. Compare the result with your opponent or target number
4. Damage the loser's ode by one level (if a tie, both sides take damage)
1 . Select an ode
2. Decide the number of dice x you want to pump it by
3. Add x identical dice
4. Roll all the dice together, keeping the lowest result
5. Once the action resolves, “damage” the ode x levels
1 . Declare the team
2. Each team member selects an ode
3. Roll together now!
4. The lowest roll is the team's result
1 . Before play begins, each player rolls the Fortune Die
2. This is the number of Fortune chits available to him or her for that session
1 . Permanently damage the Fortune Die by one level
2. Replenish your Fortune as per H. Roll Today's Fortune
3. Attempt to “reverse” your last roll by re-rolling it
4. The new roll may be pumped or accompanied by feats
1 . Cast the Fortune Die
2. Did you roll a 1?
3. If so, level up the Fortune Die
1 . Select the ode you wish to advance
2. Convert it temporarily to its opposite:
d20⇒d2, d18⇔d4, d16⇔d6, d14⇔d8, d12⇔d10
3. Roll the die against the following table:
And sometimes dragipedes
The pairing of mechanics and story is legit. Hypnotizing. Insidious. These cards are absolutely wicked. Overthrow the Empress—at all costs.
Every day I bridge cultures via teaching, writing and graphic design. I love seeing people enjoy the things I create. Empress: Fight To The Top is a blend of memorable games from my childhood (President, Stratego) with one I discovered while traveling in the Orient (Beat the Landlord). Questions or comments? Send me a PM.