Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Five or So Questions with Nathan Paoletta on World Wide Wrestling: International Incident

Today I have an interview with Nathan Paoletta! He is releasing his supplement to the fantastic World Wide Wrestling RPG. World Wide Wrestling: International Incident sounds like a great follow-up to WWWRPG, which brought in over double its Kickstarter goal in September 2014. I interviewed Nathan about WWWRPG, and now I'm excited to see all of the info on the new supplement!

Tell me about your upcoming project. What excites you about it?

This project (World Wide Wrestling: International Incident) is the first full-bore supplement to a game I've written. I've done micro-supplements and little settings and stuff like that, but this is going to be a whole complementary volume of background info and new rules that extend what the World Wide Wrestling RPG already offers to cover international iconic wrestling styles, as well as structural rules for some things I decided to leave out of WWWRPG originally. I guess I'm pumped about it because it's a new thing for me to attempt, and also because it means I've been diving deeply into wrestling (particularly Japanese wrestling) to research it and just discovering all kinds of amazing stuff that excites me as a wrestling fan. Since I have the supplement in mind I pay attention to what I watch in a little different way, and I feel like I'm learning a lot more about these traditions than I would if I was "just" watching them, which is very cool. Learning is fun!

What are the biggest challenges you encountered in making a full size supplement for World Wide Wrestling?
Existential ones, for the most part. What "deserves" to be in a supplement, which is to say, what kind of new content is of enough value for players that its worth printing, binding, etc to make a thing? I'm balancing how to add new mechanical material such that it doesn't invalidate extant content, as well as distill the insights of the WWWRPG community over the last year in order to fill some holes that keep on tripping people up. Because the mechanical framework already exists, it's a lot of thinking about how to frame the new content, and a lot less writing of rules that I'm used to. Also, there's 15 official Gimmicks already out for the game, and "balancing" the 6 new ones that are coming such that they don't overlap with the older ones, and can still be played alongside them is a lot of work that I didn't expect. I recently made a big spreadsheet of every Gimmick to compare the hard rules across all of them, because I realized that I was designing power creep into the new ones by accident! I had to zoom out and formally reframe them in context with what's already out there.

What were some of the coolest tidbits of trivia you encountered while doing your research?

Getting introduced to the British wrestling that was broadcast on a show called World of Sport may be the biggest highlight - trivia-wise, the rules for those matches were esoteric by todays standards (much more like boxing), but it means the psychology in the ring could be very, very nuanced. There's a ton of stuff on YouTube but yeah, watching old Marty Jones and Rollerball Rocco matches from the late 70s is just a joy and so different from todays style.

As a single trivia bit, I had no idea that this happened: Ric Flair (widely regarded as the greatest pro wrestler of all time) and Antonio Inoki (legendary founder of New Japan Pro Wrestling and, arguably, the Japanese "Strong Style") wrestled in North Korea in 1995 in front of the largest crowd for a wrestling match EVER, 190,000 people. Muhammad Ali was there too. Here's a great Sports Illustrated story about it.

What are some of the concepts you're exploring mechanics-wise with the supplement?

The wrestling company itself, the promotion, as a character. This is present but pretty abstract in the core game, and in the supplement I'm adding a more structured way to measure the progress and growth of the company that the wrestlers all work for. It really highlights the tension between the performances and the effect that those performances have on everyone's welfare, and I really like how that's coming together. Part of this is a new system for what I'm calling "Mythic Moments," which trigger on certain really good die rolls, and create these rare but memorable moments that can end up defining a character's career. Those two things together give a sense of really building something together, I think.

The other big one is providing some more fine-grained structure for wrestling matches. The basic method of handing them works fine, but I think players who are educated in how pro wrestling works appreciate having some more nuanced mechanical ability to represent that knowledge in the game. I'm working on providing a couple of different methods to "zoom in" on a certain match and play it out by leveraging different aspects of your character to maximum advantage, for players who have mastered the core mechanical cycles of the game.

Finally, one of the surprising (to me) pieces of feedback I've received from the community is that wrestlers advance mechanically more quickly than some groups expect - I think there's a community of players who come from experiences with year-long-campaign style games, and seeing their characters grow session to session feels rushed to them! So I'm adding some optional rules that actually slow advancement and provide more space for playing out extended stories and feuds, to accommodate that playstyle in a way that's not just me saying "uh, play slower?" :)

Do you think this supplement will change gameplay in any significant way, and if so, how?

The goal isn't to change gameplay fundamentally, but extend it to address more and varied aspects of wrestling! I hope that it encourages people to set their games in more diverse promotions and with more varied rosters, for sure. I think the new rules about the promotion growth as well as the Mythic Moments rules have enough obvious play value that people will start using them for long-term games (I hope!). The rest is generally "optional" in the sense of, if it's providing an experience you want, you should use it, but adding it for the sake of adding it isn't going to change much.

That said, my biggest prediction: I expect to see a lot more Luchadores in games at conventions!

With World Wide Wrestling, you have managed to catch a pretty big audience with a lot of passion. As an experienced designer and entrepreneur specifically in the game design industry, what are the things you look for when working on a project to help find your audience and are there ways you tailor the experience to their interests, and did you do that at all with WWW?

I'm a big believer that projects have different "fits" with the overall audience and culture. One of the benefits of experience is being able to discern that fit earlier in the design process, I think. Some work is clearly never going to have a wide appeal, other projects needs a certain pitch or skin or other orientation to make them more accessible that they otherwise would be. Most rarely (again, in my experience), a project just has a spark to it that all you need to do is cultivate. With World Wide Wrestling, I often feel like I'm just stoking the fire on it so that it stays hot, to mix some metaphors. The RPG+pro wrestling overlap audience is out there, and a lot of my job is maintaining awareness and trying to make sure the game remains in the conversation over time! For this supplement in particular, it's a nice alignment of interests. I'm capitalizing on something I'm already interested in (non-US wrestling), reaching out to folks who are especially interested in those styles to maybe look at the game for the first time, and rewarding folks who are already fans with new content that, I think, will be a net positive to their game experiences.

Thanks to Nathan for the great interview! I can't wait to see the final product, and I think World Wide Wrestling: International Incident is going to be a killer product.

This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.