In a dramatic departure from our usual sword and sorcery fare, my group just concluded our first World Wide Wrestling campaign. If you’re not familiar with WWW, it’s one of those Powered by the Apocalypse games that all the hip narrative gaming kids like to talk about. That meant it came complete with playbooks and 2d6 resolutions mechanics and high degrees of narrative agency for players. It even had a novel mechanic called “Break Kayfabe” where you could expose the legit truth on camera (as opposed to approved storylines from “Creative”). It was, in short, an interesting experience. But even if the the weirdness of playing a character who’s playing a character deserves its own journal article, my biggest takeaway wasn’t in the mechanics. It was the flavor text.

I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve seen a pro wrestling match, but it had been a good few years for yours truly. I remembered “power bomb” and “choke slam” from my middle school days, back when Hulk Hogan and the NWO were wrecking house and Ray Mysterio Jr. was flying high. Phrases like “from the top rope” and “give him the chair” had also lingered in my pop culture vocabulary, but that was about it. When I first sat down to roll up my WWW superstar, I didn’t know an Irish whip from a camel clutch. They were nothing but evocative phrases without a mental image attached. Fortunately the game came with some handy visual aids to assuage my ignorance.

At the back of the WWW playtest PDF, there’s a nice set of illustration depicting wrestling moves. These sequences are all about five steps long, and show examples of maneuvers that build into a “big spot.” I had great fun stringing these ridiculous techniques together, working into progressively more elaborate combinations as I became more familiar with the names. It was a bit awkward at first, and we stumbled over our descriptions in the “umm…and then…I guess I could” kind of way. But by the time we fought our climatic battle at Spookgasm: October Slam 2021, we were rattling off moves fast and furious, throwing a lockup into shoot-the-ropes into leapfrog into a moonsault.

If you’ve ever narrated a fight scene as a GM, you may begin to see the utility. In the same way that those fun adjective cheat sheets can help GMs pepper their combats with more interesting descriptions, pulling inspiration from established combat styles can expand a table’s collective imaginary. Pro wrestling is just one example (and one that I’ve often seen employed at D&D sessions). Proper fencing terminology can apply just as easily (“I parried in quarte and riposted, then we locked together corps-a-corps”). So can jiu jitsu moves. So can MMA fighting, or HEMA manuals, or whatever the crap it is they do in DBZ. So long as the other players at the table are familiar, all of these can help a group understand exactly what you’re imagining when you say, “I attack with my sword.” And more to the point, this brand of description can be a lot more interesting than, “I hit it for 19 slashing.”

Question of the day then! What IRL combat techniques do you draw on in your combat descriptions? Do you have any handy visual aids to share with the rest of us? Post ’em if you’ve got ’em! With any luck, we can expand our collective combat vocabulary down in today’s comments.


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