For those who don't know anything about Risus, a brief precis: characters are created with four attributes, ranked 4, 3, 2, and 1. These numbers represent the size of the dice pool (in d6) for the relevant attribute. Attributes can be anything, though usually a noun-phrase is preferred: e.g. "Tough guy", "Poet", "Womanizer", "Slimy courtesan", etc. The beauty of the system is that it models physical and social combat very simply and effectively, before the Burning Wheel or Dogs in the Vineyard guys were twinkles in their respective fathers' eyes. Basically, it boils down to rolling the dice pool for a chosen attribute, with whoever scores highest whittling away the dice pool of their opponent until they have none left, whereupon the winner decides the fate of the loser. (It could be "I blast his face off with a fireball" if it's magical combat, or it could be "I win the argument and convince the King to let me marry his daughter" in a social combat.)
I have two ideas for a Risus-based magic system:
- Characters begin with 4 "schools of magic" attributes, a la Warhammer, Magic: The Gathering, Elements, etc. They can make up their own or choose from a big "I'm the DM and these are the magic schools in my game world" list. So you might start off with Fire 4, Earth 3, Water 2 and Air 1 (say). This is in addition to the standard 4 attributes that a Risus character gets. The DM might set restrictions on what kind of stuff a player can do with that given magical school (green magic is for healing, blue magic is protective, yellow magic is to do with time, that sort of thing) or they might limit it only to player creativity.
- Characters just have one "magic" attribute from among their four, allowing them to do literally anything they choose with their innate magical ability.
The style of campaign it would support is, of course, one in which the characters are already extremely powerful at the beginning - able to smite mere mortals with impunity. The only genuine limit on what they can do is what the players can think of. As with Amber Diceless, the assumption from the start is that PCs can beat an ordinary human, and can only be challenged by mightily powerful opponents. Or each other. Usually, I prefer my campaigns to be more low-level and "gritty". Still, could be a lot of fun for a Very High Fantasy game of adventuring archmages.