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From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view. At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a ...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Learning RPG lessons from the world of Pro Wrestling

 First off this post is not about a wrestling RPG.
Nathan D. Paoletta already covered that ground with  World Wide Wrestling the  apocalypse fueled wrestling RPG. In my mind he is the  only  designer who has taken a substantive stab at the  world of wrestling  as far as RPG's go.

A bit of background.
I don't watch wrestling anymore, at least not with any regularity. Every now and again one of my friends will get a PPV and have people over to watch it. We eat wings, watch the  show, it's a good time. That's my extent of current wrestling  knowledge. When I was younger however I devoured it, I watched it all. Not only that I watched from a strange perspective in that when I was very young my father explained to me that the wrestlers are not really trying to hurt each other, they are trying to put on a show, and "If they really did that stuff to hurt each other somebody would get killed."
Even as a youngster I was always trying to watch what made a good story, a good performer, or a good match, over thinking one wrestler is actually trying to beat the other wrestler.
I think because of that it's natural for me to look at matches in terms of pacing, and direction.

(If you like the WWE and have not seen 2015 summer slam there are spoilers ahead)

That brings me to SummerSlam 2015 put on by the Galactus eater of federations the  WWE.
One of my buddies rented the Pay-per-view, and we all got together to have a couple of beers some popcorn and watch the show.

One match in particular has a D&D bent to it. I don't do the internet wrestling dirt sheet thing any more, but i'm sure this was widely talked about. The match was Seth Rollins (who I had never seen wrestle before) and John Cena, the  titular star of the WWE and in my mind grossly underrated in ring performer. Not one but two belts were on the line and the match, wedged into the middle of the set was a big deal.

It was the best match of the night, hands down. Both performers were on their game, the called spots were well executed, I could tell that Rollins and Cena put in the time working together preparing the match.
At the crescendo of a great match, there was a run in, and a dirty finish. The match ended due to outside interference.

This is SCIENCE!
My role playing game master brain exploded...
No. Some one in the back, the person directing the show, the curtain guy, the one in the "Gorilla Position *" should have pulled the plug on the run in, communicated it to the ref, the ref could have passed it along to the performers. (I know that the shows floor manager at a WWE production probably doesn't have the authority to do that...shame.)

Why?
It was going SO good.
The match was great, the crowd was crazy into it.
The run in killed all of that, after such a good match it felt forced, it felt contrived, and worst of all it killed the crowd.

How does this relate to GM-ing?
When we run a game we need to keep our finger on the pulse. If something is not going well, move past it, if the players are not interested in a story line don't force it. Don't railroad your DM's agenda without regard to what the audience (your players) wants to see /do.
At the same time recognize when it is going well, when the players are really into it and enjoying the events unfolding in front of them.

If the  Demon is going to attack the castle, but the players are really into role playing negotiations with the  duke of said castle. Don't interrupt the players until they are done with those negotiations. Don't become a slave to your internal script.
As GM's we have to try not to railroad the players, that's something we have said for years now. We also have to try and avoid railroading ourselves. If you are playing and that "grim portent" you wrote a month ago is due to come to pass, and its passing would squash what the players are enjoying right now. Put it off. I don't care what the rules say. Put it off until the players are done enjoying their current situation. Be flexible.

Dungeon Master or Game-master are a bit misleading. Conductor might be a better term. It's up to us to maintain the volume and pace of our game. Crank up the pace and excitement when things flag, turn up the tension through what ever means we can when the moment calls for it, and most of all let the musicians (in this weak metaphor the players,)  shine.  We have to be in the  gorilla position making calls at the curtain, controlling the  flow of the  show so that everyone has a good experience.

So when we GM's look to other mediums (like wrestling or what ever sucks your bushel) we can look at how they pace things, when it works and when it doesn't.

As always thank you reading
I hope you have a great Labor day
If you don't live in a place that celebrates Labor day Just take a day off, why not?.


*"Gorilla Position:
the staging area just behind the entrance curtain, where wrestlers wait before they come into view of the crowd. Named after Gorilla Monsoon, who established the position's importance and could often be found there."