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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"It’s still real to me damn it!"

Playing World Wide Wrestling the RPG.
OR
It’s still real to me damn  it!


I have said before on this blog (and for the record taken some heat for it,) that I feel Nathan Paoletta's World Wide Wrestling RolePlaying game, is the best stab anyone has taken a the world of pro wrestling in the form of an RPG. I stand by that, at least until I find a game I like better.
That statement is not  meant to demean anyone who has taken previous shots at the genre. I feel Nathan approached the world of Pro wrestling from a unique angle, that of playing both the  wrestlers and the people behind the gimmicks as they are in the real world. I find this approach to be extremely satisfying, I knew I would from the moment I read the  book.

Now that I have had the chance to live in the game for a few sessions I do have one  gripe. I am (As I have stated before) Not a fan of the Apocalypse World (AW) RPG engine. I have never been able to put my finger on exactly why, but for our group dungeon world never quite sat right, and we abandoned it quickly.

In World Wide Wrestling I think Mr. Paoletta has struck on a genre where AW works. In this world the ending of a conflict is out of the competitors hands. Creative is saying who's going to win. Which fits perfectly with pro wrestling. In pro wrestling it's not a wrestler's job to kick the crap out of the opponent. It's the wrestlers job to look good, or make his opponent look good, then win or lose based on creative's decisions. Sure there are some  gimmicks that have moves that can override creative, but they also come with heavy risks, such as injury and disqualification. 
All of this works in the context of a pro wrestling  RPG, because wrestlers don't expect to have complete agency over their day to day victories. WWW uses Apocalypse worlds innate ability to  usurp player and GM agency to simulate the strange dynamics of pro wrestling.
I think it took this particular game to bring into focus why Dungeon World fell so flat with our group. I had originally thought it was because I was trying to use a pre-realized setting, but now I'm not sure that was it.

The level of  competence  exhibited by even a relatively experienced character with some additional "moves" in a normal AW game is still around solid success 50 % of the time. With no bonuses the  chance of rolling  equal to or greater than 10 on 2d6 is something like 16.6 %. (I'm sure someone smarter than I am has the exact  percent chances worked out ... but I'm close.) My point is  most of the time the  characters are going to be dealing with "success at a cost" which will often grant some benefit while complicating the characters immediate situation. While I am a fan of  complicating characters situations I am not a fan of making it a mechanical must. I am also not a fan of watching players spinning their wheels while missing rolls and spectating while their characters situations go from bad to worse.

A Dm can be a horrid persecutor of player mistakes. A Dm can spring hideous traps on the unwary  complacent enough to forget their 10 foot poles. A Dm can stock an encounter with beasts beyond the pale of mortal minds. A Dm can also show some discretion about when and how he or she does such things. A player can  wander about willy nilly never looking for traps or A player can  limit their mistakes by thinking and speaking carefully when it is time to declare an action. A player can have their character avoid, or retreat from overwhelming opposition until he or she is better prepared. Or a player can have their character charge into a death trap, it's up to them.

Sometimes in A.W. games I feel that agency is taken mechanically out of the hands of the players and the GM. There's a possibility I am "Apocolypsing" wrong, and that's ok. We all have tastes and  preferences when it comes to games. Perhaps there is some part of the AW system I have just not wrapped my head around? I can be sort of a moron, so yeah that's a possibility.

Last night while Playing WWW, I had a player roll as badly as I've ever seen someone roll. I couldn't shake the  feeling that the player and I (playing creative) were spectating. Every roll came with some bad consequences, and because of the bad rolls coming so fast and furious the bad stuff just piled on.  By the time this character was being finished by an opportunistic opponent, the  frustration in the player's voice was palatable.  It was not that he was loosing or rolling badly that bothered him. I feel (and he can correct me if I'm wrong) that he was feeling like he had no say in what was happening to his character. There was simply no amount of role-play, thought, or strategy that could have helped him out of the mess his dice got him into. Each time he rolled I did what the  system asked of me, gave out momentum, transferred scene control, and  piled on the character as best I could.  He ended up losing out in the  match and being pinned after never getting a real chance to  use his "moves" to any great advantage. If he were a first time Player I would have bet my bottom dollar he would never have come back to the game.

Was this isolated bad luck?
(yes)

However I also feel that it was another moment of an AW game taking the  choice of whether or not to punish a character out of my hands. A thing that I feel is alright when it happens rarely, such as the  rare roll of a 1 in D&D (5 % chance), but because of the mechanics in AW it seems to happen too often for my tastes.

With all those worlds spilled I need to step back, I still think WW wrestling is a fantastic RPG, the best wrestling game I have played, again because of its perspective on and treatment of the sport of pro wrestling. I am going to continue to run and play it for  quite some time I'm sure. Furthermore I think the  AW system fits wrestling as well as it can fit any genre.

The game has also provided some interesting perspective into why AW might not be right for me. Unless the genre fits.

Mark.
Follow our World Wide Wrestling game progress HERE.