Thursday, September 22, 2016

Unorthodox Inspiration: The Undisputed Halflingweight Champion

(Based off of a conversation in the pro wrestling subreddit. Props to the r/squaredcircle community for a cool idea prompt.)

Hello! It's been a while since my last blog entry - as it turns out, writing for games takes up a bit of my daily allotted brainspace for writing about games - but let's enjoy our time together while I've got a break in assignments, yes?

I'm not tired! Just look at all of these words!

Spoiler Alert: this isn't gonna be the most serious post

While chatting with some fine folks on Reddit, the idea of incorporating some storylines from professional wrestling into a fantasy RPG came up. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you're probably aware of my deep and abiding love for borrowing inspiration from other media, as well as my unrelenting fascination with what Pro Grapplers can teach us about RPGs, so I was on-board from the start.

While discussing this, an idea popped into my mind: in a fantasy game with magic items, you could tell an awful lot of stories about different competitors vying to acquire belts, could you not? As it turns out, we weren't the first to have this idea, but the opportunities for long-term storytelling were interesting to me, so I ran with it.

Let's run a little more.

Belts of +4 Awesomeness

A particular class of semi-intelligent magic item has been making an increasingly large impact in adventuring culture. Competition over these potent - but finite - artifacts has seen a robust subculture spring up around the pursuit of, and competition for, these particular treasures.

These titled belts - created when a particularly competitive spirit is willingly bound to the item - grant enormous advantages to their wielders, but there's a caveat to each: for the items to function, a specific suite of circumstances must be met; otherwise, they're just awkward jewelry1. Each spirit has its own requirements - some will only function for women, whereas the Halflingweight Championship only functions for small creatures, others still only work when paired up with their twin - the requirements are as varied, as they are precise. Whether because of malice or benevolence, these spirits want to see competition for their gifts.

But acquiring a belt is only the beginning.
Technically, you could try and hold multiple belts at once;
even Dragons have a hard time pulling this off.

Possession of a belt grants enormous powers - usually a standard deviation higher than comparable magic items in the setting2 - but it also comes with a geas: if challenged to a duel for possession of the belt, the owner is compelled to accept. Many champions use every trick, excuse or loophole available to dodge challengers, but in the end, the geas always wins. Interestingly enough, a geas duel is under its own enchantments; competitors cannot die in the course of the conflict, and if the agreed-upon terms are violated, the enchantment won't transfer to the rule-breaker, even if they're victorious.

Live, on pay-per-view!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the spirits who consent to these agreements have a desire to interact with the larger world. As such, it didn't take long for mages to figure out how to attune a scrying pool to their essence: after all, the spirits want increased competition. They want to be seen. Thus has remote viewing become an increasingly popular hobby amongst alchemists, wizards, and any tavern that can afford their services. Holding a title - or even having a competitive or entertaining duel - can lead to unexpected advantages due to the competitor's fame.

Of course, infamy works much the same way.

If you want some... then come get some.

So! These belts exist; and everybody wants them. More interestingly - to me anyway - a belt challenge isn't the end. Long-term rivalries, tenuous alliances; storylines involving recurring antagonists are bloody murder to pull off in fantasy games. Usually because they end in bloody murder at first contact. But with these belts, you can have an entire subplot of adventurers vying for these prizes, and even if your PCs stay out of the title picture, it's a part of the setting that can keep its inertia even without player involvement, and a way to believably power up (or down) enemies or allies at a moment's notice.

Also, if this idea is appealing in the slightest, there's a glorious opportunity to incorporate characters and plotlines from one medium to another. As always, when blatantly stealing borrowing ideas from other mediums, you want the serial numbers very thoroughly filed off - any references should be subtle nods, easter eggs, if you will - the point is not to seem clever, or make a joke, but to enhance the experience for everyone. Even in a comedic game, "lol it's the Undertaker" isn't going to get you as much mileage as the legend of the Dead Man, Markus Calloway.

I know! Subtlety and wrestling in the same sentence. I believe in you, though.


Just for kicks, here's a couple translated storylines and characters.

Human Bard/Rogue
A storied performer - at least in his own mind - Miguel came by the Wayfarer's title through dubious means, and defends it as little as possible. Considered a coward by many - notably, several former champions - he'll do everything in his power to skirt challenges, and plays extremely dirty when he can't, but don't be fooled; he's deceptively fierce when cornered.

Werewolf Barbarian
The self-proclaimed "Big Dog" rose to prominence alongside Jonathan Moxey and Set Black in the adventuring company, Aegis. Reman fancies himself a champion of the people - never mind that said people are often unnerved by the idea - but every time he's gotten his hands on a belt, authorities of the Hunter's Guild have found a way to screw him out of it right quick.

Human Alchemist/Fighter
"Plucky Knucks" gained fame as one of the legendary Four Horsewomen - adventurers who toppled the reign of the Devas - though she's struggled to find her own way since then, only recently claiming her first belt.

Far too trusting for her own good, the number of times she's been (literally) stabbed in the back by her companions has become something of a running joke: no word as to whether or not she's in on it.

Halfling Monk
Nestled in the southern mountains lies a secluded monastery, home to an order of Halfling warrior-monks with a curious tradition: that one of their order forgoes their name to take on the mantle of the Sacred Mask. Leaving behind any remnants of their old life, these masked warriors wander the land, doing what good they can. Don't let their diminutive size fool you - whether by virtue of their training, or some power inherent in the mask itself, these diminutive dynamos strike like a thunderstorm.

Human Lich Antipaladin/Blackguard
A former undertaker, Calloway is a peculiar phenomenon; by all accounts a lich, yet possessing very little - if any - magic of his own. Some say he was simply too mean to stay dead, while others attribute his condition to a higher - or lower - power. Others whisper of Moody William, a decrepit necromancer who once accompanied the Dead Man, and the urn that he carried. Rumored to be Calloway's phylactery, the urn certainly held some kind of power over him.

However, no one's seen William or the urn for quite some time.
A Brick (Earth Elemental, if you must know)
Brick was put on this planet for one reason, and one reason only: to hurt people. He held a belt for a while, but frankly got bored with it - the enhancements made his fights too easy, robbing him of his one joy in life - so he's ignored competitions for some time.

Gods have mercy on everyone if he meets an adversary that genuinely gives him trouble, and he needs the belt again.

That's all the time we have, folks!

Anyway, that's my silly idea. Hopefully, if you haven't found anything useful for your own games, you at least got a chuckle out of it. Thanks, as always, for reading!


1 - Seriously! They're not even that great as actual belts; it's not like they keep your pants up. *shakes head*

2 - D&D tends to like increments of 2, so go with that. If Belts of Giant's Strength give +2, +4 and +6 bonuses, than the Heavyweight Belt should give out +8. If you want to introduce them earlier, then just have them scale with characters as they level, but they should always be the best available. Otherwise, why compete for them?