Sunday, February 5, 2012

Death of the Territories, aka 'The Wrestling Game'

Prologue:

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.


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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.

When has this guy ever not rocked?

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'.

The Dreaded Heart Punch

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.

The Great... Kabooooooki!

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Epilogue:

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!

12 comments:

  1. Tip of the hat indeed, kind Sir! Thanks for the shout out in your post above. That was an interesting walk down your memory lane.

    I especially enjoyed the reminiscing about wrestling and the Death of the Territories game you created. That hits home because I was there, man. I used to watch World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) out of the Dallas Sportatorium in the 1980s. I'll flip over to WWE/TNA occasionally these days but nothing will ever beat the Von Erichs, Chris Adams, the Fabulous Freebirds, Iceman King Parsons, and everyone else on that old roster! Can I get a Von Erich Iron Claw? How about one applied by good old Fritz himself?! Awesome times & an awesome post!

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  2. Thank you for the comment! It means a lot.

    What a small world, Mr. Warren.

    We moved to El Assho... er, Paso during the first week of 1986. While I was somewhat bummed to be leaving my childhood friends, I was excited to finally catch the World Class show in all of its glory.

    At the time, Gino Hernandez was one of my favorites - and I was really looking forward to following him.

    2 weeks after uprooting there, the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up real good (just like Scanners!). The following week, Hernandez was found dead.

    "Two great tragedies have befallen World Class Championship Wrestling this past week: Chris Adams has been blinded and is returning to England to recover... and Gino Hernandez is dead."

    Um, what??

    Needless to say, it was a bad start to a thoroughly unsuccessful move.

    But I am jealous. Depending on how far back you were watching World Class, you not only got to see the True Master of the Iron Claw, The Spoiler (Don Jardine) during his heyday - but you also witnessed the entire Freebirds vs. Von Erichs war.

    It's funny to think about nowadays, but that feud was pretty much THE FEUD of the 80s. Piper vs Hogan may have seen more mainstream attention, but the Freebirds vs Von Erichs was the first that I remember that caught the attention of all of wrestling.

    Well, maybe Tommy Rich vs Buzz Sawyer in Georgia. As intense as that one was, though, I believe it only lasted a couple of years.

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  3. Oh man, how could I forget Gino Hernandez? Him and Chris Adams were a great tag team and had the all time best manager ever with Gary Hart!

    I can not recall if I saw Don Jardine but I did see the entire Freebird & Von Erich feud; from the beginning as friends and everything. IIRC, there was even a 6 man vs. 6 man match in a cage after they were enemies with the twist that they were ON THE SAME SIDE. Not only were they fighting the other team but they were fighting each other.

    I believe you are correct in your estimation of that feud being THE FEUD of the 80's. I loved WCCW so much that I barely noticed WWF or NWA at the time. All I needed to get my wrestling fix were the boys in Dallas.

    I have a DVD that you may be interested in; it's also on Netflix if you have that. It's called THE TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY OF WORLD CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING. It explains the rise & fall of WCCW, the Von Erich deaths, Gino Hernandez, Freebirds, etc. It's very interesting to watch.

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  4. Ah, sure. I've rented that particular DVD from Netflix, myself; good stuff.

    Did your area happen to pick up Joe Blanchard's promotion out of San Antonio, Southwest Championship?

    Hernandez had a version of the Dynamic Duo there with Tully Blanchard. And I still say that was one of the greatest tag teams I've ever seen.

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  5. Hmmm....not sure if I was able to watch Southwest Championship or not. I was pretty young during that time so I pretty much just lumped it all together as "Wrestling" instead of separate territories...lol. Of course, that would all become clear later.

    I can imagine a team with Hernandez and Blanchard being a great duo. That is one area that I think modern pro wrestling is sorely lacking - quality tag teams and tag team matches.

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  6. Wow! Actually, two wows!

    First, I'm running a version of your D.O.T.T. mod adapted for TEW 2010 right now. Your work was the reason I bought TEW.

    Second, I grew up in Dallas in the 80s. I got into WCCW after David died, so I missed the peak and got to see the decline instead. I was a huge mark for the heels, especially Terry Gordy. Gary Hart was, in my opinion, the best manager ever.

    I was such a mark that, for a while, I was convinced that World Class was "real" and WWF was fake.

    I was so naive that I had a teacher by the name of Octavio Solis who told me his brother Merced wrestled for WWF and I didn't believe him.

    His brother was Tito Santana.

    Anyway, World Class shaped (some would say warped) my view of reality.

    I would love to find out more about your wrestling game.

    I made one myself back in the 80s. If memory serves, moves were grouped into 7 categories and wrestlers were rated for Power, Agility, Skill & Brawling. A Ring Awareness rating governed counters and a stamina number determined how much damage a wrestler could take.

    I rated about 75 guys from WCCW, AWA, Crockett & WWF.

    Good times...

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  7. Thanks for taking the time to pass along the kind words, Mr. Rankin; it is always appreciated.

    I had a lot of fun working on the Death of the Territories mods, but the last Ryland game I modded for was TEW07, I do believe. The TEW08 & 10 versions of D.O.T.T. were done by fans; all credit goes their way.

    After Wrestling Spirit 2, I got burnt out by the entire process. I was on Adam's creative team for that one, plus I spent a Godly amount of time on D.O.T.T. as a one-man show.

    I still think that WS2 version was the best of the D.O.T.T. mods, as it (imho) exceeded even what Adam intended for that game. The sheer amount of era specific moves (role-playing or otherwise) enhanced the match engine to the point that when you fought someone like the Sheik or Abdullah the Butcher, it actually felt like you were fighting them - which is very rare in video games (text-based or not).


    One of the greatest squashes ever:


    Southwest Championship Wrestling, 2 vs 2

    The Dynamic Duo vs. Santo Negro & Terry Daniels


    The Heel Handshake Sneak Attack was countered into a Side Headlock Punch to Face.
    Gino Hernandez easily rolled through the Arm Wringer.
    Hernandez rakes his fingers across the eyes of Negro...
    Hernandez with a Full Arm Drag and Twist...
    Gino Hernandez tags out to Tully Blanchard.
    Negro is getting the stuffing pounded out of him out there by The Dynamic Duo!
    Tully Blanchard hit the Seated Back Kick
    Tully Blanchard tags out to Gino Hernandez.
    The Dynamic Duo hit the Tag Double Elbow Drop
    Gino Hernandez tags out to Tully Blanchard.
    Negro is getting stomped on without mercy by The Dynamic Duo!
    Tully Blanchard begins to wail away on Negro with a flurry of right hands...
    The referee warns that that was illegal.
    Tully Blanchard picks up Santo Negro.
    Tully Blanchard hits the Jab Punch
    Tully Blanchard tags out to Gino Hernandez.
    The Dynamic Duo hit the Tag Forward Suplex Gut Buster
    The referee begins the count...
    1!
    2!
    This Could Be It!
    The referee's hand starts coming down...
    3!


    The fans start a chant of 'That Match Sucked'.

    I'm telling you, it was the greatest 2 minutes and 40 seconds of territorial squash wrestling anyone has ever seen! Heh.

    -------------------

    One of these days I should write about Wrestling Spirit 2, as the game has strengths not many people are aware of. And the weaknesses (mainly the booking engine) were smoothed over by a fantastic Excel sheet a friend of mine created that did all the match-making for your own self-contained promotion.

    Whew. Did I mention I like to ramble?

    -----------------

    Actually, a series on non-button mashing wrestling games might be pretty cool.

    Might be a good venue to discuss doing something that us old-timers can enjoy.

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  8. I have a family now, but I still tinker with different design ideas for a wrestling game.

    Do you think there would be any interest in a tabletop game played from the promoter's perspective?

    What I have in mind would be a game set in the territorial era where the player would acquire, develop and promote talent. Wrestlers would be rated for their backstage behaviour as well as their abilities in the ring and in front of the cameras.

    Does this idea have any appeal?

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  9. That's a very good question.

    In essence, TEW for the tabletop.

    I do not know of all the wrestling games on the market - but those I am aware of do not focus solely on the backstage stuff.

    Something like The Squared Circle Wrestling RPG adds elements of the backstage, but focuses mainly on the career of a wrestler.


    If nothing else, it is certainly an idea I would like to hear more about.

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  10. As much as I like TEW, the micro-management, at times, drives me crazy.

    For a tabletop simulation, I would want to focus on the top 5 or 6 stars in a company and use a "bench" rating of sorts for the rest of the roster.

    Also, I would want an elegant method for having the wrestlers develop, peak and decline.

    It would almost have to be solitaire, as I cannot conceive of ever finding 3 or 4 friends who would actually play this with me. Kind of a shame, because the strategy of alliances and betrayals works really well with the subject and time period.

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  11. I agree with you concerning TEW. It is a good game, but sometimes feels too 'spreadsheet' to me.

    Concerning a lighter, tabletop version of a 'promotion simulator', one of the bigger questions would be how to gauge how well a particular show went, or even how a wrestler is perceived.

    TEW, for example, uses a combination of demographics (the types of fans in particular areas) - and then worker & promotion popularity to gauge interest in your promotional booking.

    Your idea has inspired me to look more closely at the tabletop wrestling games I own. If you want to email me (boonsghost-AT-yahoo.com), I can hook you up with a couple of them so that you might grab some ideas.

    Actually ...

    After rereading the Squared Circle RPG 80s supplement, the author does have an optional setup much like one you are suggesting; set up a promotion (renting buildings, negotiating television time, etc.), track your company's Top Draws, crowd reactions, wrestling industry health... there's a ton of TEW-type of info that you might enjoy.

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