Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Road to the Gauntlet: Running a Full WWW Promotion

Sunday morning we wrapped up a full “promotion season” of World Wide Wrestling. Eight sessions of crazy joy. The game works; it clicks, it hums. I had amazing fun managing the whole thing and WWW blew the doors off. I’m a goofball who only paid attention to pro wrestling starting the middle of last year. I’ve watched with an eye to running WWW, but remained a complete newb.

But that didn’t hurt things. World Wide Wrestling lets you get into goofy stories mixed with real human drama, set against super-fun sequences of improvised and collaborative athletic description. Running a session's like pushing a cart over the crest of a hill. You can only hang on as it picks up speed.

In this week’s episode of the Gauntlet Podcast I talk about World Wide Wrestling and my experience running a rotating cast of characters. We had interesting challenges come out of running for sixteen different players over eight sessions. I had to bend some mechanics for relationships, heat, and other sundries. Not by much and I learned lessons for the next time we play this.

On a related note, Rich Rogers interviewed WWW designer Nathan Paoletta on the +1 Forward Podcast. He talks about PbtA design and runs an amazing short WWW vignette for Rich. It’s a demonstration of skillful GMing. I’ve seen some designers poorly showcase their work in play. Nathan brings it to life and engages the mechanics. He shows off the fun in the game.

I got a ton of joy in building our promotion’s backstory in the campaign. I had lots of ideas for Gauntlet League Wrestling and the mysterious Caestus Group behind it all: conspiracy, backstabbing, over-ambitious artistic pretensions. I had a great time working in references. Many NPW’s (non-player wrestlers) came from other games. I made stupid allusions to other PbtA gamed.

We recorded all eight episodes and I think they hold together as a great story with amazing arcs. Several characters made major transitions throughout play (The Dingo, Jeremy Bleakwood). Some could keep up with the times (Harbinger, Cyborg Destroyer). We also had a weird superfan, the Hooded Luchador, who created a series of reaction videos. They’re a little odd, particularly the last entry. If anyone has information on HL’s current whereabouts, please send those on.

Finally, some of you might be saying “I don’t give a shit about wrestling, back to the elfgames.” I certainly said that before. I got frustrated when comic book blogs I dug spun off to talk about Wrestlemania. But if you’re a roleplayer and you like fun with a capital F, World Wide Wrestling delivers —regardless of your wrestling experience or interest. Exhibit A is my wife Sherri. She rolled her eyes audibly when I first told her about this wrestling rpg. Fine for some people, but not her bag. But she’s a good sport and tried it out. In the end, she came to love her character Sirius Bizness, a Jobber who evolved into an Athlete.

I love all the PCs who appeared on-screen throughout Gauntlet League Wrestling:
The Analyst
Cyborg Destroyer (ret.)
The Dingo
The Executioner
The Gauntlet
Jeffrey Bleakwood
The Padishah of Professional Wrestling
The Pebble
“Revolutionary” Randy Burns
Taz Skolnick
Terry Burns
Walker Beasley
Wolly Winka (Dec.)

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