Skip to main content

Enter the Risus Gauntlet

If you don’t already know about Risus, you can find out a ton about it in various places, including my own Introduction to Risus post on this very blog. To put it simply, Risus is a rules-light,versatile, and downright fun “anything” TTRPG. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I’ve been building a setting for this particular system: Risus Arcade, a world in the style of series like ReBoot and Wreck-It-Ralph. This week, I’ll be detailing my builds for the four characters from the arcade classic Gauntlet!

The original Gauntlet is a third-person, top-down, beat-em-up (so many hyphens) game you could play with three other friends at your local arcade. While I visited the arcade plenty of times growing up, I mostly remember playing it on home consoles. It was ported to a number of different systems, so there's a good chance your own experience was similar. The series has evolved and changed over the years, with the latest edition, also entitled simply Gauntlet, appearing on PC and PS4 in 2014. For this week’s build, we’re going to be focusing on the characters from the original 1985 Gauntlet, mainly taking inspiration from the arcade and NES versions of the game, and only drawing from other entries in the series as necessary. The characters are: Thor (a warrior), Merlin (a wizard), Thyra (a Valkyrie), and Questor, (an Elf).

We'll start with the warrior Thor (not to be confused with the god from Norse legend). We're given a lot to work with here. The game describes him as the “strongest in hand-to-hand combat,” he has the classic line “warrior needs food!” and he is red. The first stat/trait/cliche I’m going to give him is Brutishly Strong (4). He's obviously strong (just look at those pixelated muscles), and I think it's fairly obvious what this means in a tabletop game. The second trait we'll give him is Beat 'Em Up Warrior (3). What does this mean? The warrior part means he's good at a few forms of combat. The Beat 'Em Up Hero? Generally, Beat 'Em Up heroes solve their problems by hitting things or smacking themselves into them. For the purposes of Risus Arcade, and this build, that's what it will mean as well. For a third stat, we’ll use the quote about him as inspiration: Need Food! (2). Thor needs food and he knows it. We’re going to say that this means he has knowledge and skills regarding survival, cooking, and eating massive quantities of chicken wings.. To round us off to a full 10 trait points, I’ll add one last trait at 1 point. When doing these for Risus Arcade, I like to give something a little different that makes sense, but may not come directly from the game. For Thor, we’ll give him Oral Historian (1), and say he grew up learning the ways of his warrior tribe and their stories. That gives us:

Thor the Red - Brutishly Strong 4, Beat Em Up Warrior 3, Need food! (survivalist) 2, Oral  Historian 1

The next of our four heroes would be Merlin, a blue wizard. It's hard not to include a little Arthurian legend, but we’ll see what we can make of the history of this wizard in Gauntlet. The NES version notes the character as having the best magic ability, no armor, and poor hand-to-hand fighting abilities. It also includes that he has “powerful shots” and “extra power potions.” That gives us a ton to work with. We’re going to start by giving him a wizard trait. In Gauntlet III, we learn that he is the former apprentice of the wizard Magnus. I think that gives us a good starting stat: Disciple Wizard of Magus the Great (4). In the terms of a TTRPG, he’ll be able to cast some spells, know magic when he sees it, and work with scrolls - essentially everything you might expect from a magic user. The potion bit from his description translates well to Alchemist (3) - giving the character the ability to brew and use potions as power-ups. To round him out, we’ll let a little bit of that Arthurian legend in and give him Soothsayer (1), as well as Programmer (1). If anyone was a programmer in a video game world, it would a wizard. If you’re following along, you’ll notice that only gives Merlin 9 points, when typically we base characters on 10 in Risus. This can change based on NPC usage or more advanced rules, but in this case we are using a Risus feature Lucky Shots.  Lucky Shots are three temporary dice you can add to any other cliche, one roll per session. You could use them all at once or individually, marking each off as it is used. Be forewarned, though, they reset every session. You can read more about Lucky Shots in the Risus Companion guide. The Companion includes many optional rules you can use to to spice up basic Risus, but it's much less portable. Including Merlin’s Powerful Shot lucky dice, that gives us:

Merlin - Disciple Wizard of Magus the Great 4,  Alchemist 3, Soothsayer 1, Programmer 1, Power Shots (lucky shots) [ ] [ ] [ ]

Next up, we have the Valkyrie, or, as many of you may know her, Thyra. Valkyrie is how the character is generally known, and is a direct link to the mythological warrior women. Thyra, however, is how she was originally introduced in the game. For this build, we’ll combine the two and call her Thyra Valkyrie. Like a Norse Valkyrie, Thyra battles in heavy armor, and fights using sword, shield and throwing daggers. The NES version of the game describes her as well-balanced, as well as having the best armor. Despite the chauvinistic way the armor is commonly depicted, we’ll make her first attribute Heavily Armored Warrior (4). This means she can kick butt and take a ton of damage. This leaves us with something of a knowledge hole regarding the rest of the character. We could break down her first cliche and make her Heavily Armored (4) and Warrior (3), then continue on in this fashion with Dagger Expert (2) and Combat Medic (1). However, this seems lazy, an "easy out." If we look to Gauntlet: Legends for inspiration, you’ll find that her "beast within" is a Falconess. Let's use that and give her Falconer (3). That will give her a companion, much like a wizard’s familiar, to play with in the game. Moving down the line, all those daggers she throws must come from somewhere, and she is a Valkyrie, so let's give her Blacksmith (2). It seems fitting, and gives her a job within the game realm. Along with being a Falconer, we’ll add a hobby and give her Meteorologist (1). You should always know the weather before setting a bird to flight. In game terms, it also potentially gives her a bonus in different realms by selecting proper places to fight. That gives our new addition to the roster:

Thyra Valkyrie -  Heavily Armored Warrior 4, Falconer 3, Blacksmith 2, Meteorologist 1

Our last entry for Gauntlet comes down to Questor, or "the Elf" in some versions. Questor probably has the least amount of lore available of the group of heroes. However, there are plenty of tropes about elves, and lots of lore and mystery across many depictions of them. In some versions of the game, the Elf is a female archer. We’ll keep that bit, but name her Questor. The main bit of info is that elves tend to be agile. For the first trait we’ll put: Agile Warrior Elf (4). That would be good for things like walking on snow, dodging attacks, and doing other Elf things (the general fantasy kind, not the winter holiday variety). The second trait should be speed - Questor is known for being fast, and elves in roleplaying games often have additional movement per turn. So, Speedster (3). The next obvious trait, and in line with elves in general, is archery. At least one version of this hero is known for that, so we give them Archer (2) - hit called shots, string a bow, fletcher arrows. That leaves us one last point to spend. We could increase either Speedster or Archer and make it a 4, 4, 2 or a 4, 3, 3 build. Characters in this world should be well rounded though, with some independent interests that still make sense for them. Designer sounds like it may be a good fit. Perhaps Questor designs all the weapons for the group, their traps, or their clothes. Maybe the cliché can be good for just about anything, or limited to a specific kind of item. Part of the fun of Risus is that it's up to the GM and the players. Now we have:

Questor - Agile Warrior Elf 4, Speedster 3, Archer 2, Designer 1

That wraps it up for this entry into the world of Risus Arcade. As a bonus, though, we should include some adversaries, right? Gauntlet is filled with demons, ghosts, ghouls, thieves, etc. You don’t have to do full builds for these. Ghost (2) is perfectly acceptable, and still gives you the things they're good for: attacking our heroes, moving through walls (but not in Gauntlet). I imagine in the world of Risus Arcade they’d hang with the Ghosts from Pac-Man. That, however, is a build for another time. You don’t have to let the fun stop here, there are tons of other video game character builds you can design yourself. Or you can take your Risus fun to another genre. After all, Risus is the Anything RPG!

- A

Popular Posts

The Matt Mercer Effect

Roleplaying games have been around for quite a long time even before the first edition of  Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974. You can go back into the history of Commedia dell’arte (improvisational theatre) in 16th century Europe and see this form of storytelling (and, if you want to read about similar, but more recent, traditions, take a look at our posts on the Maryland Renaissance Festival .) Even before that, there were ancient historical re-enactments and storytelling in many different cultures. Modern tabletop roleplaying games are quite different, even from their 1974 form, but commonality is shared across all these. After all, we’re still just playing playground games with the assistance of rules and dice. In recent years, there's been a boom in roleplaying games due to a number of factors: The internet making it easier to find new players and even run play sessions online. General dissatisfaction with our own realities, shared or personal. One force driving th

Star Trek v. Star Trek: The Starship Enterprise's Fifty-Year Confusion

The question "what was your first Star Trek" carries a very different weight today than it did thirty-five years ago. All the classic (i.e., pre- Discovery ) series are instantly available across multiple streaming services, and the films aren't much harder to find - they were some of the first shows to be made available via streaming, in fact. And even before then, there were both broadcast and cable reruns, along with physical copies for sale and rental. For today's viewers, the question usually means "which show or movie is the one that 'clicked' for you, that made you want more?" And, from there, we can deduce what they like about the franchise - stylistically, thematically, and tonally, since Star Trek can be a lot of things for a a lot of people. But it wasn't always this way. For a while, Star Trek was only available sporadically. Even while the movies were doing well at the box office, prospective viewers were at the mercy of whoever mad

The Mission Will Be Very Safe and Fun for Everyone: Some Thoughtcrimes on Running Paranoia

  I'm sorry citizen, but the question "why hasn't there been a Paranoia post in over fifteen months" cannot be processed. Records indicate that the previous post, " [Backstory Redacted] - Getting Ready to Run Paranoia " was activated in the Year 214 of the Computer, and, as this is currently Year 214 of the Computer, your internal chronometer must be malfunctioning. Rumors that is has always been Year 214 of the Computer are treason. Please report to Internal Security for cerebral re-adjustment. Have a nice daycycle. So, why hasn't there been a post about Paranoia in fifteen months, anyway? The previous two have been quite popular , and, as I'm fond of saying, I've put more thought into this game than nearly anything else in my life, formal education included. As time went on, I found myself procrastinating on the follow-up. I didn't have enough time to work out everything I'd want to cover, I'd tell myself, or that some other top

Fun With Murder: The Narrative Ethics of Assassination Games

It's funny. As someone who views "detective" as an integral part of their personality , I sure have a lot of crime games. Well, crime media in general, especially movies, but games have certain... implications. You're the one committing the crimes , not watching other characters do them or following a protagonist as they piece together criminal events through evidence and investigation. You're right there, doing all the bad stuff yourself. Recently, in the ongoing quest to tackle my massive game backlog, I've been playing the first Tenchu game, released in 1998. I bought it because the creators would later go on to make my beloved Way of the Samurai series, but if one looked at my shelves, they could easily assume I chose it thematically, as Tenchu 's neighbors include numerous Hitman , Assassin's Creed , and Dishonored games - a subgenre we'll call "assassination games." I've seen it remarked that there's an irony that, while