Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Five or So Questions with Nathan Paoletta on World Wide Wrestling

I got to talk with Nathan Paoletta about his new project, World Wide Wrestling!

Tell me a little bit about your project. What is exciting about it?

The project is a professional wrestling RPG built on the Apocalypse World engine, called World Wide Wrestling. I'm a big wrestling fan, and started the game just as an exercise in modeling the kind of wrestling I really enjoy watching the most - character-driven, consequential, with the in-ring action feeding into the development of the characters over time and vice versa. As it turns out, the game really delivers on that experience, and playing it is super fun! The AW engine is a really good chassis for representing the world of wrestling with it's iconic archetypes, ever-evolving storylines and abrupt changes of fortune. I'm running a long-term playtest game right now, and I haven't looked forward to each weeks session so much in a long time. And, best of all, it's making some of my RPG friends more interested in wrestling, and bringing some of my wrestling friends more into the world of RPGs, which is super-great!

What kind of players, aside from wrestling fans, do you think would dig World Wide Wrestling?

I think anyone who's interested in over-the-top action and melodrama can find something to dig. Wrestling is basically the combination of universal storytelling tropes with superhero personae, so there's a lot of potential avenues to get into the right mindset for it. If you have vague memories of being a kid and watching Hulk Hogan and Macho Man bodyslam each other and how awesome that seemed at the time, you have enough context to play the game, I think. I've had a lot of playtesters tell me "I'm not a wrestling fan, but I want to check it out now since I played this game," which is great and tells me that it's "working" on some level. I don't really want to convert anyone or anything silly like that, but there's a lot to love in wrestling and if the game can open up someone's horizons to the good parts, that's a win for me. And it's definitely a low-investment, pick-up and one-shot friendly beer-and-pretzels style game, so it's easy to check out and see if it's really your thing or not.

Did you alter the *World mechanics much for the game? If so, how?

They're pretty significantly altered! It'll be familiar to people who have played other *World games, but I ended up spindling and mutilating a lot of the basics. Some stuff that's the same is the core rolling +Stat and picking results from a list mechanic, having playbooks ("Gimmicks"), and gaining Advances to improve your character. On the player side, the mechanics and Moves are all about gaining Heat (roughly analogous to Hx) with the other wrestlers in order to gain Audience (kind of an inverted Harm track, actually). You're not in physical danger (though you can get injured relatively easily if you have bad rolls), but your popularity is always at risk! On the MC side, a lot has changed. Creative (the GM role) literally books play like a wrestling booker, deciding ahead of time who's going to win what match in order to advance the storylines. Players have the agency you'd expect in any other RPG, though, so they'll throw wrenches into the plans all the time, and there's a structure in place to help Creative make it look like they had it planned that way all along. I'd say that there's actually more similarity on the surface than there is under the hood, so to speak. It's been a really fun process to work through!

Who is your favorite wrestler? You can pick more than one!

Oh man, the hardest question! Well, not really, it's more like the answer is always changing. But my favorite pre-modern era wrestler is definitely Macho Man Randy Savage, may he rest in peace. I will also always love The Undertaker, who is technically still wrestling (once a year at Wrestlemania!). There's an amazing tier of young talent in the WWE right now that I am really, really enjoying watching. Roman Reigns is a warrior prince who deserves all of your tribute, Antonio Cesaro is probably the guy I most love to purely watch wrestle, and Bray Wyatt is the greatest, creepiest character the WWE has had since I've been watching wrestling. On the indy circuit, there's a pretty well known dude named Jimmy Jacobs who I think is great. El Generico was my favorite indy wrestler until he retired to go work with orphans in Mexico, but there's a guy on WWE's developmental show NXT named Sami Zayn who has a lot of the same moves, and I think has a bright future in wrestling.

What else are you working on? What's next for you?

Once WWW is out in the wild, I'm going to be bouncing back to my other game-I've-been-working-on-forever, which is a monster hunting game set in the gothic world of Edgar Allen Poe called The Imp of the Perverse. The mechanics are pretty solid, but I have some period research to finish and a bunch of writing to do for it. That will be in playtest for awhile yet, and it's probably going to be my next big thing after WWW. I'm also working on a second edition of my Vietnam war drama game carry, mostly to update the physical book but also doing a full edit and revision of the text. I have a 2-player fantasy struggle-between-good-and-evil-for-the-fate-of-the-world game that I'd like to get back to soon. There's a couple concepts I have for microgames, and who knows when one of those gels and demands to be finished. And I want to maintain releasing cool stuff supported by my Patreon backers, so I'll have little things coming out every couple months through that venue, hopefully. Lots of stuff, I guess!

Thanks to Nathan for the great interview! You can check out Nathan's Patreon and his website to keep up on his current work!

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