Kayfabe RPG Sessions

Robot ThingyYesterday I talked about what RPGs could learn from Pro Wrestling and how wrestling went from a sport that took too long to win so was only sometimes entertaining enough to an entertainment that looked like sport focused on pleasing fans. It did this by kayfabe or ‘keeping it fake’, fixing fights and enhancing the action with moves that make no sense as far as real wrestling is concerned but are exciting to watch.

So how do we use that to make RPGs an easier hobby to take up and make them more fun in the process? At first the idea of kayfabe making the game more fake sounds awful but so does turning a sport into a pseudosport. The fact is though that Pro Wrestling is a bigger money maker now than it was. The concept when executed properly is successful.

What we have to remember is that the players are not the audience. They are the contestants and the contestants are in on the fakery. In fact, they act out the fakery which is core to making this work.

Lets back up though for a moment and look at the goal of our faking. One is to make the game shorter. Two it’s to amplify the excitement of the game. To get to the good part right away. What is “the good part?” That could change from game to game but I’m going to start with the example of a the final conflict with the Big Bad that comes at the end of the game.

Just skipping to the Big Bad would be unsatisfying. There is no discovery, no ramp up, less challenge to the PCs. We don’t want to just skip to the end. This is where the players being in on the kayfabe comes into play. They generate how they got to this point. The GM presents them with the big exciting finale and then asks them “How did you get here?” and the players describe why they took on a job offered to them by a old man in the village. It doesn’t matter what they come up with as long as it fits the description of them getting to the finale.

You might be thinking “But they don’t have to fight their way through the Big Bad’s hordes to get to this point, they’re fresh as daisies. This won’t be as interesting.” Lets fix that then.

The point of all that build up is partly for the story of a struggle to get to this point and partly to wear down the PCs resources. Let’s have the players generate both. The GM can offer a set of deals. Take 2 hit points of damage and get the “Brave and Heroic” experience bonus. Take off half your ammo and get extra cash. Take 30 points of stress of any kind and you get to pick from this list of equipment. Nothing says they have to take any deals so they have to be tempting enough that the players will bite and make a more interesting story.

Now as well as “How did you get here?” the players also have to integrate the deals they chose into their story.

This whole process should take 15-20 minutes. The finale could then take 40 minutes and you have a game in one hour that included everything you normally put in your games.

There are story advantages to this process also. Because the players can describe their own story, they will likely tell one that is more interesting to them. The GM may learn more about the specific interests of the players and be able to really tune into what they like and want out of a game.

The players can throw in crazy things that they would never accept from a GM. Things like “The guy that gave us the job turned out to be my long-lost father!” because it’s safe from consequence. They have control of it and more or less know what the GM has in store in the finale. Yes there’s some room for surprises but the players have a reasonable expectation of what’s to come.

Mixing it up

What if the real draw to your game isn’t the Big Bad? What if it’s the puzzle, or the mystery that you worked so hard on? Then we reverse the process. The deals happen after the puzzle is solved. So that take off two hit points happens only after the puzzle is done. What if the PC has lost most of their hit points while solving the puzzle and then goes into the finale with only two? Well they die in the battle. Kayfabe it and make up the heroic battle and how they die saving their friends.

Try it, see if you like it. No doubt it will be a bit different from what you’re used to but remember the point is to enhance the entertainment and make the game quicker and easier to take up. This will be an odd sell to a lot of players but would be a lot of fun if embraced. The main question is can players fake it so well that it feels authentic to them, like they really went through all those things.

Let us know what you think. Will you try a kayfabe session?


Filed under Experimental Mechanics, GM Advice

What RPGs Could Learn From Pro Wrestling

In the 19th century wrestling was a big deal. People loved watching a good match. Towns would have their local champions and these champions would battle for the best in the region.

But wrestling had a big problem. Sometimes a match would take hours to finish, maybe even days. This meant that people would eventually lose interest in a match and stop paying to see the next match.

The guys that organized these matches didn’t like that. Even if you have a wrestling fan, you don’t know if they’ll show to see the next match. You don’t know if they’ll keep paying you.

RPGs have a similar problem. They usually take a long time to play. Even if someone likes RPGs, they may not have time to invest in reading a new game. They may not have the time to sit down and play through a session. They may find parts of the game fun but would like to get to the good stuff.

So what did wrestling do? They made the matches shorter. They encouraged wrestlers to use the moves that really got spectators attention.

How did they make the matches shorter? Well, that’s where this gets weird. They lied, they fixed the matches, they even have a word for it. Kayfabe, meaning keep it fake. It’s why the WWF changed to the WWE. It isn’t about a match to see who’s the best wrestler and hope that it entertains spectators. It’s about a match that pretends to see who’s the best, to make sure that spectators are entertained.

In some ways that’s a much more technical endeavor. You have to know what people want and give them more of it. You have to pretend you’re doing one thing (combat) and while you’re doing another (acting out a story).

So how can RPGs do that? I’ll write about that tomorrow.


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The Raid


Report by: Warrant Officer Robert Smith

Position: Field Scientist, Juliet Company

Assigned Objective: Tactics and cultural observation of a Scimrahn raid

Purpose of Mission: Provide documentation and improve tactical awareness of Kelrath targets.

Progress Report: The raid went well but the tribes involved did sustain relatively heavy losses. I’m assured that this is to be expected. The Scimrahn seem unconcerned about the situation.

Video and sensor telemetry documentation of the raid will be delivered via teleporter.

On January 3rd approximately 18:00, a gathering of four raider tribe enforcers was co-ordinated by local Scimrahn scouts. There was indications that a Kelrath plantation was getting ready to deliver a huge amount of food to a city deep underground. There was no anticipated escort as this was only a food transport and it was being loaded outside of any normal Scimrahn activity.

The raid was risky. It would take four tribes working together to have enough force to overwhelm the freighter. It was so far away that the Deltas would not have the fuel to return home which is probably why the Kelrath did not expect Scimrahn involvement.

The raid commenced on January 18th at 12:56 with 120 Deltas and four Assault Transports. Only four E-suits in the tribes were fast enough to keep up with the Assault Transport and take part in the raid.

Almost immediately the deck lasers of the Kelrath Freighter and the Rall4’s on the freighter caused the loss of a third of the available Deltas in their first pass. Only two of the Rall4s remained after the first attack.

The Assault Transports moved in and targeted the freighter’s bridge and engines. At first this tactic did not seem to have much effect. It is an attempt to disable the vessel with less damage to the vessel and it’s cargo.

On the Delta’s second pass, some of the Freighter’s deck lasers were now tracking the Assault Transports, reducing the losses significantly. Only eighteen of the Deltas were downed and the rear shields of the freighter were down. The pass destroyed the remaining Ralls and one of the pilots was able to take out the control bridge.

The Assault Transports dropped their troops and deltas dropped men on the deck which put more than two hundred and fifty armed men against the freighter’s one hundred and thirty.

Several Delta’s landed on the captured freighter at a time and refueled from the vessel’s immense fuel supply and the tribe engineers got to work rigging a control system for the freighter.

Negotiations with the Kaloord tha owned the vessel will begin tomorrow via a free trader because none of the tribes have ever dealt with this Kelrath before. They will negotiate the return of the freighter in return for a pact of non-hostility. There’s nothing to guarantee the Kelrath will follow the pact but some Kelrath actually agree to it.

If not accepted, the freighter may be used to attack a Chezbah target.

The food taken in the raid is an enormous supply. The matriarchs say that it will be more than enough to resupply the loss of equipment and manpower the tribes lost.

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Banner Stone

Banner Stone
Expedition Report: Baojia Koeh
Entering the territory of Hessik Rantaa’ of Grinchk. Discovered perimeter of banner stones yesterday. The stones have not been cared for in very long time. The Scimrahn say this means Hessik is weak and cannot protect his borders. We are now scouting the area for recent activity.

This will make an excellent location for a colony. We will occupy this territory and force this Rantaa’ to keep up the appearance he is still in power. This will keep other Kelrath out of the area until we have fully established the colony.

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Dear Seth,

It’s been two months since we’ve set up Hope, the new colony after our last camp was pushed out by the Chezbah. The last few months have been difficult and they’re only going to get harder.

Two weeks ago, a small group of Chezbah came to the colony and demanded that we become part of a town twelve hundred kilometers from here and take up the Chezbah way of life. The colony garrison refused and the Chezbah left, but not for good. They saw how big the garrison was and now knew what we had to defend ourselves.

Two days ago, came back and destroyed most of the garrison. Just as they were ready to surrender, a Scimrahn E-suit attacked the Chezbah from behind. It was amazing, it gave the garrison the chance to mount a defense.

The Scimrahn’s name is Neah Cornar, she is some kind of ace pilot because she took out half a dozen Chezbah E-Suits and sent them running.

Unfortunately this means that we’ll have to move again. Neah says they’ll be back with reinforcements. She’s promised to help us find a good place to settle for our next camp. Unfortunately this means we won’t see anything that we’ve planted here.

I’ll write again when we find a new camp.



Scimrahn E-Suit

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Crazy Scimrahn

I’m not complaining about the job, it seems like this one will pay well, it’s this Scimrahn you hooked us up with. Dude calls himself “Ub” and he’s great at a party but he just does not turn off.

He flipped out and smashed the coffee maker because it was making a noise that “sounds wrong” to him.

Kevin was taking a shower and the guy pulled him out of the tent and put a knife to his neck. The guy blinks and says “You not Chezbah?” and drops him on the ground. Kevin still won’t go within ten meters of him.

Not only that but I had a small bottle of whiskey that I brought from earth, it’s basically worth five hundred thousand yen after being teleported. I was saving it for something special but Ub found it and downed it all.

I’m just asking, can we screen these guys somehow?

Ub the berserk

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Survival Challenges May Change Slightly

I’ve tossed around the idea that the Challenge Points for a Survival Challenge might be better tracked if the group worked to reduce the pool of points instead of each player chipping away at their own allotment of points.

This makes teamwork between PCs in a survival challenge intrinsic to the system. I don’t mind sending that message with the mechanics but it might not be what the players actually want to do. As they are, a PC could leave the rest of the party behind if they wanted to. It’s actually slightly hard to help another character as things are.

It makes the GM’s job of handling random hazards a little more intuitive which I like. All the PCs are together and so experience the same hazards. I have ways of explaining why characters might experience different hazards but that’s not explained in the text of the rules, mainly because explaining my thought process on that would be cumbersome to the text and I’m already worried that there’s too much in the book.

It makes the system a little more of an approximation than a simulation. I’m okay with that. I’ve striven for simulation in years past and found the results satisfying but the effort required to support the simulation slowed things down. Approximation often has it’s own emergent properties that can be highly enjoyable.

It might require an adjustment in the number of CP in a challenge, but that shouldn’t be a massive problem.

That’s my thoughts on the matter. What do you think?

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I-CA Scout WebPatrol Report: Chun Gwok

The missing girl disappeared sixteen hours ago. Her parents report that she had the habit of venturing out into the forest around the colony with some of the local Scimrahn children.

I’ve tracked her path through the woods. At first her path was straight, she knew where she was going but now it has become curving and looping. She may be lost or ill.

Something big has picked up her trail before I did, something predatory. I don’t recognize the track.

I’m sending up a drone to see ahead and cover ground quickly. There may not be much time left for her.

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Stupid Driver

Desert Web
Voice recognition – Starting

Sound Database – Starting

Sound – Transport Engine Noise 75 db 72%

Robert Mason 96% – Stupid driver didn’t let us know he lost the convoy while we were sleeping. It’s June 30th, we’re trying to find the rest of the convoy but we’re running out of fuel. I figure we have another two hours of driving before we’re sunk.

We’re running along their last known heading but it isn’t looking good, we can’t find tracks that the convoy should have left. We’re zig zagging a bit to see if we can run across any trail the convoy might have left.

Recording – Paused

Recording – Start

Sound – Transport Engine Noise 75 db 71%

Robert Mason 93% – This is bad, Chuck gave us the wrong heading. We’ve been going in the wrong direction for an hour. We’re going to guess where we think the convoy is and head to that point.  If they noticed we’re missing, they may have stopped and we can overtake them. Otherwise, we can only hope they come back for us.

Recording – Paused

Recording – Start

Robert Mason 98% – Well, that’s it, we’re out of fuel and we still didn’t find any sign of the convoy. All we can do is make as much noise as we can on the radio and wait. Colin piped his headphones into the comm system and is broadcasting.

Recording – Paused

No input 15 minutes – shutting down

Voice recognition – Starting

Sound Database – Starting

Robert Mason 85% – It’s July 2nd and there’s been no sign of the convoy. Up ’till now there’s been more food than we can carry in the transport. We were lucky with that. It doesn’t look like they’re coming for us so we’ve decided to start walking. The temperature is only about five degrees out and there’s a strong wind blowing through the hexes. Chuck says if we follow the wind we’ll run into a warmer. . . ‘er weather, whatever, near a plasma conduit. There’s a chance there could be someone living near a conduit. It’s a long shot though that we’d actually run into anyone.

The other choice is to try and make it to our original destination which is still 800 Km away. With the food we have, I’d guess we can make it 250 Km on the food we have. I’ve talked to the men and this is the option we’ve voted for.

Shutdown command given

Voice recognition – Starting

Sound Database – Starting

Sound – Wind 95 db 54%

Robert Mason 67% – It’s July 11th and we’re out of food. It’s cold. Chuck, Colin and Aiden aren’t keeping up anymore. This wind just does not stop.

There’s not much more to say.

Shutdown command given

Voice recognition – Starting

Sound Database – Starting

Robert Mason 51% – Lost half the men. Only hope, is, get to base, send men back. It’s July um, I think the 20th.

Timestamp Command July 24th 2087

Or the 24th, kind of lost track down here. Can’t walk for more than a hex without having to sleep. Might not make it much further, my feet are numb, it’s bad.

Shutdown command given

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Stolen Engine

Stolen Engine


Report by: Warrant Officer Jacob Boxer

Position: Field Engineer, Juliet Company

Assigned Objective: Restore mobility to one of the company’s E-Suits

Purpose of Mission: Protection of allied forces near the surface

Progress Report: The Company’s resources are severely depleted while we wait for a new teleporter from a remote ops station. After losing a number of the Company’s assets in action, one of our E-suit’s engines was damaged beyond repair. My orders were to find a way to restore function to the vehicle by any means.

With no other viable options I was able to extract a Chezbah Zero Point Engine with the help of some of the medics and preserve it’s power generation. It has been reported that once the engine goes cold it cannot be reactivated so we needed to take great care to prevent an accidental discharge.

It does appear that the engine is slowly degrading once removed from it’s host but the process may take several weeks to fail. We have speculated that the engine is repaired by the host’s nanotech systems but that it slowly degrades from the extreme charges that build up in it.

Charge in the engine builds exponentially so great care must be taken to keep them level. Early on I was forced to short the engine out because of a run away reaction. This nearly fully discharged the engine which would have rendered it useless.

Once the power is balanced with the vehicle’s power demands, most of this exponential reaction should be manageable but will require the pilot to be mindful of not fully discharging the engine nor letting it build a charge past the level the vehicle can use. We are proposing to have a grounding system automatically trip if this happens and avoid an overload situation.

Testing in the E-Suit begins tomorrow.

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