We're between campaigns in my other gaming group, Tuesday Night Gaming. Whenever this comes up we will fill a couple of sessions with GM-less games like Fiasco, or other players will run a one or two session game. This time around I was able to run the World Wide Wrestling RPG by Nathan D. Paoletta. I'm not a huge wrestling fan, but I do think it's great. I remember watching Hulk Hogan, Mr. Perfect, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Honkey Tonk Man, and dozens of others that I'm forgetting about back when I was a kid. Throw goofy wrestling in with a game running on Apocalypse World and I was instantly interested in running the game.
Character creation was a blast. Everyone dove right in and started coming up with some interesting characters for their gimmicks. The character creation process that Apocalypse World has is probably my favorite of any system I've played. It's quick and straight forward, and it generates characters that are intertwined with each other in interesting ways.
Cold Snap, played by Troy, was the up and coming wrestler. He had a style very similar to Johnny Hades, and that was rubbing the veteran the wrong way.
Naked Jake, run by Jordan, was a coked up former stripper who was making everyone angry. His behind the scenes substance abuse, and complete lack of desire to do something about it, had gotten management to a point where they wanted him out. He wasn't pleased with Cold Snap, and couldn't even remember his former tag team partner "World Class" Jimmy Buffet.
Johnny Hades, Greg's wrestler, was the veteran on the scene. His style was more dignified and solemn, think Undertaker with lots of fire and brimstone, than what Cold Snap was doing. That dignity is something that would push him to make things worse for himself.
Whatever, Jim's emo anti-hero, was an odd one. He was Johnny Hades mentee, but he wanted out of the relationship. His finisher, The Dark Passenger, was an edgy update to the tameness that wrestling had experienced recently. His desire to get out of his deal with Hades would cause some issues.
"World Class" Jimmy Buffet, Roger's jobber, looked like a washed up fat ass. However, he was probably the most technically proficient wrestler around. Management would put him into matches just to make their pushes look better. He was good at it.
After character creation, I put together the booking for the night. I wanted to start with a quick match, so I had Cold Snap take on Jimmy Buffet. We got warmed up to the system with this one, and things went pretty smoothly. The game progressed pretty well. The tag team match between Black Sabbath, Cold Snap and Whatever's team, and the Asskickers introduced us to some new moves.
Things went insane when Naked Jake was matched against Jimmy Buffet. As Creative, I liked the idea of Naked getting sidelined as one of the major story lines. We had a couple of between match scenes that were designed to make Naked look bad. As the Wasted gimmick, Jordan kept ratcheting up his antics. This became a fun little game as the whole table would give him a thumbs up or down to indicate if his move was sufficiently insane to get his gimmick's bonus on them. Just when things were looking like Naked was going to take Buffet out I let them know Buffet was booked to win. Obviously, Naked hit with his finishing move and overturned the planned booking and won it. It was a great moment.
I was thinking the final match, between Cold Snap and Hades, would be a good setup for a major event that would happen in another session. In that later session, Cold Snap would be back for revenge, ready to bury the old man and take his place. However, Hades had gone to management after Naked's match and pleaded with them to respect the business and wash the coke-head out. The roll was botched, much momentum was spent, but even after all that the booking was changed behind the scenes. Hades was going to lose his match.
The match, however, didn't progress very far. Cold Snap had control of things, and was working Hades when Naked Jake bungee jumped into the ring in order to get back at Cold Snap for running in on him in the previous match. Before I knew it, all of the wrestlers were in the ring yelling and punching each other. The only logical thing to do here was to make it an official Regal Wrangle. The fracas concluded when Whatever pulled a heel move and eliminated Cold Snap to win from out of nowhere.
Overall, I had a ton of fun with this game. Character creation was a blast, and really got everyone into the spirit. Running the matches was a breeze. If necessary, I'd prompt and push the player to narrate to an exciting moment when it would make sense to make a move. Sticking a microphone in someone's hands to take the role of the announcer was hit and miss. Often, the announcer would sit back and let the narration play out, which was just fine. The matches were exciting, and wrapped up pretty well. There is a chance that we might run this game again for a short campaign, and I'm definitely pulling it out for one shots in the future.
One thing that I'm really hoping to see come out of this is more creativity in combat with other games. I'm thinking that this sort of thing could work in a system that grants bonuses for various reasons. How would something like this apply to Shadow of the Demon Lord, which I'm currently running?
GM: The excrement demon starts chanting!
Player 1: I hit it. I rolled a 10 to hit.
GM: That misses.
Without any reason to think creatively why put the effort into it? Sure, there's responsibility on my end to make the encounter dynamic and encourage the players to take advantage of it, but if you're used to just hitting stuff then that's what you'll do.
GM: Dust puffs as the excrement demon rises from the dried up sandy fountain basin. It begins chanting and gesturing.
Player 1: All right, I'm going in after it. As I approach the demon can I try and kick sand up in its face to throw it off as I try to stab it?
GM: Yeah, awesome, add a boon to your attack.
Player 1: I rolled a 10.
GM: That'll miss, the demon isn't distracted by the sand you kicked at it and dodges out of the way.
It's a bit more interesting. The big difference here, as I see it, isn't the player being creative. The big difference for me is the GM handing out an incentive for being creative. Give the player a boon for using the environment, but also give the player the environment to work with.
World Wide Wrestling has got me thinking about my other games, and that's a good thing. I can't wait to bring it to the table again, and I think I'll put together a kit I can pull out at a moment's notice. Gen Con is in just a couple of weeks, so I might as well be prepared.