An interesting cat named Charlie Warren runs an even more interesting blog entitled, The Semi-Retired Gamer. As the name implies, Mr. Warren is an old school gamer (and game designer), mainly focusing on tabletop role-playing games. His recent discussions on game design have provoked a lot of thought amongst his followers; myself, included.
One thing his musings have inspired me to do is to finally post this here bloggy bit. I've kept it in dock for several years now simply because it clashed with the disjointed (and low key) concept here.
Tip of the hat, Mr. Warren.
Games have pretty much been in my blood for as long as I can remember.
My father inspired in me a great love of dice and chits and game boards. Countless games were played between us during my more formative years; Stratego, Dogfight, Mille Bornes, Dungeons & Dragons, Brian Blume's Boot Hill, and TSR's Vampyre: Game of the Hunt for Dracula; Frankly, I've forgotten more titles than I can remember.
Another thing the old man gave me was a healthy dose of do-it-yourself creativity.
The first game we created together was a pretty cool six-sided dice and chart game based off of Topps baseball cards that I collected. I'm pretty sure it was 1978, but dates become hazy.
Essentially you would match the batter's previous season batting average against a pitcher's E.R.A., roll a couple of sixers and then consult a chart for the result of the pitch - ball, strike, foul, or hit. On event of a foul ball or a batters count (3-1), a more 'dialed in' chart was used for the next pitch (the curve of the results were more in favor of the batter). On the event of a pitcher's count (1-2, 2-2), a more 'dialed in' chart was used in favor of the pitcher.
On event of a hit, you'd consult another chart based on a hitter's power numbers, roll the dice, and then determine the type of hit (singles to various fields, doubles, triples, or home runs). We also had rules (i.e., charts) for Stealing Bases, Bunting, and random injuries.
Considering we made the game blind (i.e., we never played anything remotely like it as means of guidance), it was pretty cool stuff - and a lot of fun.
It was also my first instance of arguing against core rules. After lengthy debate, I successfully argued that the season averages (both ERA and Batting) should be averaged between the previous two seasons. After all, one guy might have rocked in 1977, but bottomed out in 1978 because of injury.
Not bad for a 9 year old wisp of a nerd.
Anyway, I played that game like a mad man - even after the old man lost interest.
Eventually my obsession turned to another subject, Professional Wrestling. Once I discovered TBS 'rasslin out of Georgia in 1983, even the mighty Milwaukee Brewers (my favorite team at the time) could not stand a chance.
Comic book-like goons beating the crap out of each other? Sign me the hell up.
And because I was game obsessed, I shortly created what I ever-so-smartly called, 'The Wrestling Game'.
Each wrestler had a strength rating (which represented the ability to lift people, plus added damage modifiers to moves pulled off), a weight (which also had damage modifiers), and various body part 'health points' listed (head, shoulders, both arms, both legs, body and back).
Every move I knew about (and it was a good 20-30 pages of notebook paper) was statted out to reflect how many turns the move took to complete, how much damage the move did, the part(s) of body it effected, how many stun points the move dished out, whether or not a move was illegal (3 warnings and your wrestler got disqualified), and whether or not a (percentile based) Strength Vs. Weight chart was needed to be consulted for 'opponent lifting' moves (body slams, pile drivers and the like).
The matches were broken down into 5 second segments or turns, with each person rolling 1 ten-sided dice in order to establish initiative for that particular segment. The wrestler with initiative would do whatever the heck they wanted in that 5 second segment within 'logical reason'.
Some moves, such as punches and kicks, would result not only in damage - but also in Stun Points dished out to the opponent. At the end of each turn, both wrestlers deducted a Stun Point from their total and then repeated the process the following turn. Once a wrestler went over 10 Stun Points, they were considered 'dazed on their feet', which made them unable to roll for initiative the next turn. This allowed the aggressor to have free reign to do whatever; beat up on the opponent so as to pile on more and more Stun Points, work over a body part for the purpose of submissions, whatever.
The goal was to stun the opponent long enough so that they were unable to kick out of pin-fall attempts, or to damage a body part to the point where they either submitted on their own or risked an injury due to stubbornness (which ended the match by means of a medical disqualification).
While it sounds like Doom City for the stunned, one must remember the ballet of pro wrestling. Each action takes one whole turn. If I was to set you up for a brutal clothesline, it would take one turn to grab your arm and back you into the ropes, another turn to irish whip you into the opposite ropes, then - finally, a third turn for you to bounce back at me while I propelled myself at you with an arm extended. Had your stunned wrestler gotten back to 10 or under Stun Points within that span, we would roll for initiative to say who dictated the following segment. Perhaps I win and nail you with the clothesline. Perhaps you win and roll under the blow, hurdling yourself back into the ropes in an attempt to turn the tables.
In addition, each Wrestler had 3 'Desperation Points' going in to any match. These could be spent by the player in various ways, such as gaining a 'second wind' in order to remove 10 Stun Points from their totals - or to make a desperate kick out of a sure-fire pinfall attempt - or even to call out to the dressing rooms for one of your buddies.
On and on it went until someone won by pin, submission, or disqualification.
The action was fast, furious, and just as gonzo as professional wrestling itself. Most importantly, it was a ton of fun. Various groups of friends and I would play that sucker for years. Literally. From 1983 until I stopped caring for wrestling in 1987, I had two groups of buddies that must have played that game hundreds upon hundreds of times.
And to be honest, the majority of the better gaming memories I have buried came about while playing that thing.
While we typically played as our favorite wrestlers, I once created a guy called 'The Executioner'. He wrestled in an executioner's mask and was the most blood-thirsty guy in our federation. Such was his love of violence, the Executioner once broke Tommy Rich's neck after applying three straight Brainbusters on the concrete floor. Afterwards, the masked monster grabbed a microphone and claimed that while he might have lost the match (he obviously got DQ'ed), he single-handedly put the peroxide industry out of business.
Tom Long, my good friend at the time, was not amused. He spent the rest of the summer bringing in more and more bruisers in an attempt to get his revenge. Something he would do one September day after school when his Bruiser Brody not only broke the Executioner's leg, but also unmasked him as 'Montgomery Van, daily accountant'.
The mystique was gone. The Executioner soon retired from the sport.
Or the time Kevin Sullivan ran around hypnotizing as many opponents as he possibly could. Win, lose, or draw, if the pseudo-satanic Sullivan could make his opponent cluck like a chicken, he could hold his head high.
Not long after, I grew up and out of professional wrestling. I'd never look down on those that continued following the He-Man carnival - but, at the same time, I'd also never look up at them; Wrestling, for me, was a teenage thing.
A good game, though... that's ageless.
And it doesn't hurt that I feed out of Nostalgia's trough.
I attempted to update the game (now called: The Death of the Territories*) a couple of years ago, using a Boot Hill-like role-playing system base - but I'm not too sure of the results. My own circle of gaming friends has shrunk to the point of me sitting here on this computer typing this nonsense.
I added wrestler Prime Attributes (Strength, Agility, Technical, Rumble, Cheating, and Intangibles), Secondary Attributes (Awareness, Will, and Authority; mainly for refs and managers) and Traits, restructured the action system so that it was a 'attribute based roll to hit/avoid the move' deal, and expanded the roles of managers and referees. As my old stuff was percentile-based, I easily brought over the majority of charts; injuries, blood loss, strength vs. weight... heck, even the hypnosis chart!
Newer Game Play:
1) Each player rolls a d10 for initiative
2) The winner declares his wrestler’s actions for that turn
3) The Moves Chart is consulted to determine Move (attribute) Bases for the player’s action
4) The Skills Chart is consulted to determine Success or Failure rolls
5) The Attacker or Defender rolls a d100 to determine Success or Failure of the player’s action
6) Physical and/or Stun State damage for a successful action is deducted from the ‘victim’s’ affected body part and/or added to their Stun State Total. Non-Successful dice rolls result in the opponent blocking the action.
7) Repeat Steps 1-6 until one of the wrestlers is too stunned to roll initiative (11 Stun Points)
8) Continue in this manner until one of the wrestlers expends all Desperation Points and loses the match - or someone gets disqualified.
* Note: The 'Death of the Territories' name is taken from a set of modifications (mods) I made for Adam Ryland's wrestling series of text-based games out of Grey Dog Software. They were set during the early 1980s and generally well received. Go, me!