Im Gespräch mit Nathan D. Paoletta (World Wide Wrestling)

Letztlich lief beim System Matters Verlag die Vorbestellaktion zu World Wide Wrestling. In diesem Zusammenhang hatte ich die Möglichkeit ein Interview mit Nathan zu führen. Dann kamen aber die Faktoren Zeit und andere Dinge hinzu. Aber ich möchte Euch das Interview nicht vorenthalten. Viel Spaß!

Hi Nathan,
thank you for taking the time for this interview. Please introduce yourself briefly.

Thanks so much for having me! I am Nathan D. Paoletta, an independent publisher, game designer and graphic artist. I put them in that order because that’s roughly how important I feel each of those is to what I do – I make things for others to enjoy (the publishing), most of them are games (game design), and I also help people turn their vision into reality with my graphic design and layout experience (graphic artist). I’ve been making games since the early 2000s and am very lucky to be able to do this full-time. I also podcast, make zines, and all kinds of other stuff as I learn and grow.

How did you get into roleplaying and development?
I’ve been playing RPGs ever since I convinced my parents to buy me the box with a dragon on it at Toys’R’Us as a kid – that turned out to be the „black box“ D&D beginner set (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dungeons_%26_Dragons_Basic_Set#1991_revision), and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it but I knew I liked it. I picked up AD&D as I got older, then was the perfect age for the early White Wolf games to really enthrall me, starting with Vampire: the Masquerade. As many of us who get into the hobby do, I had ideas for my own games, and developed a real classic fantasy heartbreaker as a project for my final year of high school (age 18 or so here in the states, my last year before going to university). In college I started looking for resources on the internet for game design, and came across The Forge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php). And that put me on the path to where I am today – I learned that I could make my own games, there was an audience for this stuff, and I found a community of like-minded folks that challenged and encouraged me. I continued making games on the side as I pursued „real“ jobs, but was fortunate enough to go full-time as a self-employed creator in 2014 or so. And here we are!  

Currently System Matters is running a pre-order campaign for the German edition of World Wide Wrestling. What is WWW and what do you have to do with it?
World Wide Wrestling is a role-playing game where you play pro wrestlers going through all of the drama and challenges of a televised wrestling promotion. You put storylines and feuds on screen for the imaginary viewing audience, while also navigating creative and personality clashes off-screen, where it may or may not turn into the kind of rumor and speculation your fans will then expect to see brought into the on-screen product. I designed, wrote, crowdfunded and publish it!

Why a wrestling roleplaying game?
Because I love the art of professional wrestling! While I cycle in and out of active viewership, the mechanics of how wrestling works in relation to having a live audience fascinate me, and it maps extremely well to roleplaying. They’re both live, improvisational artforms. Wrestling has an athletic component, of course, and exists in a commercial context, while roleplaying (generally) is a narrative form in an informal, interpersonal relationship context. But I find so much similarity in the rhythm of reading the room, tweaking your ideas to best suit the moment, and building on what others give you in order to achieve moments that would have been impossible if scripted ahead of time. Plus, wrestling is fun!

WWW is based on PbtA. How did this decision come about?
It started as a set of bad puns, where I was watching wrestling and labeling the wrestling moves as if they were Apocalypse World moves – that guy totally nailed his Finishing Move, must have rolled a 10+! Then I thought about it and realized that the set of discrete narrative moments that wrestlers execute over and over are actually really well captured by the Move structure in AW. Everyone can Cut a Promo like how everyone can Read a Sitch, performing a Feat of Strength is risky similar to Go Aggro, and so on. Once I started really working with the tools in the AW toolkit, the metaphors continued to work for me so I decided to pursue it as a real idea. A few rough playtests later, I could see the fun, and decided to really focus on it as a standalone project. And, I’m happy to say, I think it’s worked out well!

What did you have to do with wrestling before WWW?
Nothing, other than being a fan. I actually got into wrestling while in college, so later than a lot of fans my age, and as I mentioned I’ve gone in and out of actively watching current stuff. But yeah, other than playing the game with people in or adjacent to the business occasionally, I have no connection to real wrestling.

What was the coolest action in a WWW game for you?
I love the weird Feats of Strength that come up that I never would have thought of. I have a default vision for what a lot of the Moves look like in play, but they’re deliberately open-ended to capture whatever idea players come up with, of course. I ran a game where a wrestler performed a Feat of Strength to eat 100 hot dogs in 5 minutes, or something wild like that. It was hilarious, and he aced it, so the fallout from it really catapulted the character to the top of the card! I also love the stipulations players come up with for big matches. One of my favorites of those was a „Border Match“ where the ring was placed on the US-Mexico border, half on one side and half on the other, and wherever the loser was pinned would be the country they’d have to stay in. It was playing on some real-life issues about immigration and how frought the border crossing is (with buy-in from everyone involved), but it was also a great dramatic device because the wrestlers really cared about where that pinfall was going to happen!

Which wrestling do you consume at the moment (stream, TV, …)?
I watch some AEW when I can, but I’m actually mostly watching older stuff. I have a zine about John Cena matches that I’m doing research for, so I’m watching Ruthless Aggression-era WWE for that. I recently moved, so I’m looking forward to checking out some of the local indie companies when I feel like it’s safe to be in a crowd again. My appetite for watching wrestling is slowly coming back, but I burned out pretty hard on it a few years ago, so I’m not pushing myself too much. When I’m ready, it’ll be there.

© System Matters

How did you get in contact with Markus?
Markus invited me to be a guest on 2W6 to talk about the game and about wrestling (which was a great time). Then, to my best recollection, reached out again to ask whether I’d be interested in having the game translated. Markus has driven the whole project, really.

What was your first reaction, when the idea of a German version of WWW was suggested to you?
I love it! I love having translations available.

What do you know about the german roleplaying and nerd scene?
Not very much. My position was (and remains) that Design Matters knows their market better than I do, so if they think there’s an audience for this game, I’m happy to do what I can to support the effort. I do know that wrestling has a rich history in Germany, so it seems like something worth trying out. But other than the little I know from following Markus and seeing who’s on the 2w6 podcast, I don’t really have much exposure to the RPG scene in Germany.

Last week Markus played a WWW round with wXw wrestlers on Twitch. What did you think about this action?
I’m always super nervous to play with actual wrestlers, so I’m delighted that Markus made it happen! It sounds like everyone had fun, which is all I can really ask.

If I want to play WWW, what should I pay attention to?
I generally tell people not to overthink it. Do what sounds most fun or dramatic, and let the feuds build out of the basic Babyface/Heel dynamics as you settle into your characters. Once you are comfortable with the rules, you can do some strategic things with your Momentum management. That’s a resource that adds bonuses to your die rolls, and some Moves don’t have stats added to them, so you can only use Momentum to improve those. You can angle towards big character moments by strategizing when to accumulate and when to spend your Momentum. Also, don’t sleep on Injuries! When a wrestler is Injured, a special condition kicks in, and sometimes those are actually really to your advantage if you want to play into them.

Let’s move on to some quick questions about wrestling in general:
What is your favorite :
…Wrestler? (Face an Heel)

Katsuyori Shibata is my favorite wrestler of all time, and I guess he was kind of a face generally? His peak era in New Japan Pro Wrestling didn’t really have him aligned with any factions, so he was basically whatever he needed to be for his title chases.
Macho Man Randy Savage is another favorite, he’s such a perfect balance of the elements of pro wrestling. The pageantry, the technical skill, the psychology, the character work, and the blend of real-life and in-ring issues, he’s got it all.

…Promotion?
NJPW is probably the most emotionally invested I’ve been in a promotion, though (again) I haven’t been watching much recently. 80s to pre-Nitro 90s WCW is my all-around favorite, again because it contains a great balance of all the things I most like about wrestling.

…Finisher?
I love the Razor’s Edge.

…Entrance?
Full Undertaker entrances, with all the druids and smoke and everything. Nothing else like it.

…Match?
I don’t have a great memory for individual matches, so I’ll cheat with a short list of ones that I can remember! Shinsuke Nakamura’s NXT debut vs Sami Zane, I remember getting chills during that one, and it really felt important. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at their big Brooklyn NXT blowoff match, that was great. The Tanahashi/Okada trilogy in NJPW, for storytelling over multiple years, really great stuff if you’d been following their careers.

Thank you for your time. The last words are yours.
Thank you so much! All I’ll say is support independent creators, whether that’s in wrestling or games! It means a lot. Now get out of here, you pencil-necked geeks!

L I N K S

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