posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Know Your Role! World Wrestling Entertainment Roleplaying Game

There probably isn't a lot of interlap between fans of roleplaying games and fans of professional wrestling. I could be wrong, but based on the fact that there was never any effort by the WWE to advertise its newly created RPG, nor was there any additional material published for the line, I'd say that this assumption is correct. Still, someone at WWE thought that some people would be interested, and noticing that everyone and their mother was releasing a D20 RPG tie-in, Comic Images was contracted to create an RPG so people who like watching pro-wrestling and playing 'Lets-Pretend-with-dice' could create their own Superstars and frame their rivals for fucking the corpse of their dead girlfriend.

Okay, the last part wasn't in the book (though it is a WWE story-arc ). Perhaps the most surprising thing about Know Your Role! is that it's actually a lot more decent than it has any right to be. Despite referring to class abilities and mechanics in wrestling-slang, the rules do a pretty good job in creating a fun beer-and-pretzels RPG. The biggest thing that the book misses is that it never really embraces the fact that the 'Campaign Setting' is no longer limited by money or the laws of reality. Is the Undertaker really undead? If so, why does he have a Con score? Does the Black Scorpion really know magic? What if David Arquette really was World Champion caliber?

Another problem, and it ties into the above, is that the book gives plenty of advice to folks who might be fans of wrestling but never played a roleplaying game, but not RPG fans that weren't into wrestling. This is unfortunate because, again, mechanics-wise the game is really good.

The credits page gives the first indication of wrestling parlance injected into RPG terms. Game Design is now 'Head Booker.' The playtesters are the 'Superstars'. Etc. The next page is a Table of Contents, where the trends continue. All the chapter titles are Wtestling catchphrases: 'Time to Play the Game!' 'Just Bring It!' 'In The Interest of Fairness!' I'll be going through the book chapter by chapter, though I might break up chapter 2 into several parts, as it covers all of Character Creation.

Chapter 1: Time To Play The Game! (aka the Intro Chapter)

Each chapter opens with a WWE superstar or two saying something relevent to the chapter, and usually the quote is written so they can be talking about the book or the show and you wouldn't know (though this one features Jerry Lawler oogling the Divas, which is always the way to go in an RPG).

The first few paragraphs explain that a single night or roleplaying should represent a single show, be it Velocity, RAW, Smackdown, or a Pay-Per-View. It also mentions one of the key differences between Know Your Role! and typical RPGs in that a player should control numerous characters. Also, there is less need for a GM (which in KYR terminology is the General Manager), since player-vs-player combat is the order of the day.

The next session elaborates further on this concept. It explains that the game doesn't simulate each individual blow. Instead, in each round, the contestants choose a primary move that they're going to try to perform, and then they role against each other. The winner then describes how the move playes out, adding a jab here and a toss to the curtain there, but the damage remains the same. In addition, you can create your own moves on the spot. We'll get to that later.

Then an example of play is presented: a fight between a player controlled Kurt Angle and a player controlled Eddie Guerrero. The example is actually good for veteran roleplayers to read, as the objectives of a wrestling match differ from a normal RPG fight. It also shows how "Building Heat" works in-game. For those who care, KYR! is copyrighted 2006. While it's an understatement to say that there was controversy over how WWE handled the death of Eddie Guerrero, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt here that Eddie was included in the book before he died.

Next Time: Character Creation! -4 Str.

Character Creation

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Know Your Role!, Update 2

Chapter 2: Know Your Role! (a.k.a. Character Creation)

The chapter opens with a blurb from Theodore Long. Another thing that you'll quickly notice is that most but not all of the Superstar names are trademarked. It seems rather asanine, as I can't imagine what might happen if they weren't trademarked.

First, it tells you to come up with a Character Concept. It highlights the most critical things for a Superstar - his gimmick, attire, physical appearance, entrance, demeanor, and name. It's probably while reading this part that I realized the most hilarious part of KYR! - you could come up with the dumbest concepts possible and as long as the mechanics are sound the rules will treat him like he's Ric Flair.

Speaking of mechanics, now we get to your standard D20 attributes. KYR! mentions either random generation (4d6-drop lowest, 6 times, assign anywhere) or point allocation (base stat 10, 20 points to allocate). In the description of each ability, we get our first mention of maneuvers. There are six classes of maneuvers, and each is associated with a different ability score. This section also notes other important things each ability does:

-Str modifier is applied to opposed checks to pin an opponent
-Ref saves allow you to avoid full damage when thrown over the rope
-Fort save is for resisting stunning
-Will save is to avoid submitting
-Cha modifiers apply to non-match interactions (opposed and regular), like interviews.

Next is Weight Class. Weight Class works like race in KYR! as you get ability modifiers based on weight. Here, the rules could have benefited from a little bolding, as it's easy to overlook the fact that you have the option to pick your Weight Class when there is a chart for rolling your weight staring right at you. In fact, rolling for weight is pretty fucking stupid, even if you used random generation for determining ability scores. If I was designing an aerial wrestler (relies on Dex for attack and damage modifier), I'd have to roll a 6 or lower to guarantee that I got either a cruiserweight or light cruiserweight class.

Oh, and if you are playing a female superstar and are rolling randomly for weight, then you divide the final weight by two. It doesn't say anything about how this affects choosing your weight, but I guess the spirit of the rules is that you can't have a female super heavyweight or ultra heavyweight. Fat chicks are TNA only .

Not that you'd really want to be in the top two tiers, mind you. Every Superstar has a lift DC (10 + 1 per 25 pounds over 200, or -1 per 25 pounds under 200) which grants an extra layer of defense against maneuvers that require a lift check, and lets them resist knockdown as well. The flip side is that you are vulnerable to Weight Damage. The difference between your lift DC and 15 is applied as extra damage upon a successful lift maneuver or knockdown, or as self-inflicted damage if you miss any maneuver that has "possible stun on self" or "possible stun on self if missed" modifier. Not only that, but you have to spend that same number of points when performing aerial maneuvers or "any action requiring physical exertion." I haven't played KYR!, but I played a lot of WWF No Mercy for the N64, and I tend to be biased against heavy guys because they were total pushovers in that game.

Oh, and if you are Ultra Heavyweight, you only get one starting feat (everyone else gets two). This might have been for balance, but it could also be a nod to the frequency of really big superstars to be complete stinkers. On the otherhand, if a player really wants to be the next Andre, I don't think its fair to penalize him.

Okay, now we're on to Character Level. Things get a little murky here, and that's because the book never openly addresses what side of Kayfabe the game is operating on. You see, level corresponds to where on the card your character is at. For example, at level 1, a Superstar is limited to "Dark Matches," while Superstars level 10 and above could potentially be in the main event for. Now, the rules assume that each match in KYR! is competitive - typically each Superstar is trying to win, but it would be interesting to see how the game changes if you want to go with how the winner of a pro-wrestling match is really determined (if you are a mark, avert your eyes). Personally, it's not the fault of the rules, just my mind wondering about the possibilities.

Enough ! Next we get to KYR!'s version of hit points - Endurance and Trauma. A Superstar's Endurance is there Constitution Score times their level. Endurance is subtracted when you take normal damage, and can also be spent for certain abilities. Trauma is your Constitution Score and remains unchanged over time, and is subtracted when you take damage from a confirmed critical. This reflects more serious injuries.

Then there is a section on BAB, Saving Throws, Skills, Feats, etc. This section also mentions Talents and Training Background, which we'll get to later. The book also mentions your Finishing Maneuver, which you choose at level one. Your finisher does double damage, but can't be modified once you've created it unless you have a feat or special ability.

Next is Attitude, KYR!'s version of alignment. You can pick to be a Face, Heel, or Neutral. In theory, this is supposed to determine which kind of opponent you fight (Faces don't fight other Faces, for example), but from my exposure to wrestling, there's nothing wrong with these sorts of matches - the crowd is pretty adept at picking out a favorite and sticking to it. Attitude also allows for Heat (Action Points) to be spent in specific ways.

Then there is a section on multiclassing, which is pretty much the same as standard D20 except that there is no XP penalty for taking more than two character classes. The back of the book has a sample of Superstars, and most of them have multiclassed pretty heavily.

Next Time: Character Classes!

Character Classes

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Know Your Role! Update 3

Character Classes

There are six classes in KYR!, each one is tied closely to one attribute. They work like the base character classes in D20 Modern, in that they each have a few talent trees with give them special abilities. All classes have proficiency in the maneuvers associated with their class (so a Power Superstar has the Power Maneuver Proficiency Feat).

Here are the classes:

Aerial Superstar - Dex-based.
Power Superstar - Str-based.
Rough Superstar - Con-based.
Savvy Superstar - Cha-based.
Technical Superstar - Int-based.
Manager - Wis-based.

Reading the progression tables elicits a few eyebrow raisers. Power and Technical Superstars, for example, get full BAB progression, Aerial and Savvy Superstars get 3/4 BAB progression, and Rough Superstars have 1/2 BAB progression (!) (Managers are also 1/2, but that's not exactly surprising). Seeing that combat is a centerpiece of the game, giving some classes an advantage in landing hits doesn't seem to be very balanced. This is somewhat aliviated (sp?) because multiclassing is expected. Also, Rough Superstars have some talents that can compensate for the crappy BAB. Still, it's not something I'm totally comfortable with. I'd have to see some playtesting studies before making final judgment.

Managers are interesting. They play a support role to the Superstars. While they have always been a part of the wrestling landscape, they are now more tied to the backstory, politicking with the General Managers (the actual GMs, not the guy with the Screen cover across the table) and Vince. You don't see them hyping up stars like they did in the past. Still, they are pretty useful class-wise. One of their talents enable them to plant an item retroactively, and I'm sure a creative player can come up with lots of ways to play havoc with this ability in and out of matches.

Next is the section on Training Background. You pick one at 1st level, and this gives you some bonus skills and a bonus feat. Next is the section on skills. This is the basic lineup of D20 skills, with a few rules on how they apply to wrestling. Next is feats. There are a couple feats that seem to be Must-haves (Chain Wrestling, Maneuvers Specialization, Tenacious) but overall there don't seem to be any turkeys.

Next Time: Combat Rules. I hope it allows me to recreate the Jackie Glayda Match.


posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Know Your Role! Part I Forgot: I guess I should do a wrap-up

Okay, after the initial "wtf a wrestling RPG" reaction, there's not much that's interesting about KYR!. There's not much that is -inducing, and it's D20, so there's not much head scratching about the mechanics. So rather than go chapter by chapter I'm going to jump right to the interesting bits.

The Core of the combat system are wrestling maneuvers. You can see a lot of similarities between them and 4E Powers. In KYR! you can craft your own maneuvers on the spot. Essentially, you trade off damage and special effects with a to-hit modifier. My one criticism is that they use generic names for some signature maneuvers. So if you want to duplicate a Rock Bottom, you have to read through the entire section to find out that its described under a maneuver called the 'Uranage'.

It was in the section on maneuvers that I noticed that one wrestler was strangely absent from any mention is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It's not a simple matter that he no longer wrestled in 2006, as The Rock is mentioned a bunch (even gets statted out) despite not being involved in wrestling for a while. I have to brush up on my wrestling history to be sure, but my guess was that Austin was in some legal trouble at the time and WWE was doing it's best not to associate with him.

There's lots of information about what you do as a wrestler between matches. On the one hand, it gives a lot of great tips on how to roleplay a vingette. On the other hand, I think the book could have done a better job educating people who liked RPGs but weren't familiar with Pro-Wrestling. Also, There are a bunch of rules about deciding who gets to challenge belt-holders and when are provided. This basically establishes that " It's Still Real To Me Dammit " is the baseline assumption, but it would have been nice to see more details on running a Wrestling RPG that was more in line with how the business is run in reality. But that's just my grog on the subject.

Speaking of Belts, they're the closest you have to magic items-they provide a Reputation Bonus, and once per match or show, you can add your overall Reputation Bonus to any one roll. I'm still waiting for stats on The Undertaker's Urn

The final chapter provides stat blocks for 20 Superstars. Here's my observations:

Well, that's all I got. So if you love 'rasslin and elfgames in equal measures, then WWE Know Your Role! gets an unqualified recommendation.

For my next project, seeing as how oD&D is being written up, I'm temmpted to find the original Tomb of Horrors and disect just how murderous the module really is.