For the past few months, I’ve been playing a game every other Monday on IRC. Yeah, you know, IRC – where all the cool kids hang out these days! Anyway, now that I feel like an old man I’ll tell you what I think about Luchador: Way of the Mask.
Honestly, I don’t think too highly of it. I like the people I’m playing the game with, and the story is fun, so I keep showing up every week. But I have to say that I don’t care much for the mechanics of the game. To be fair, I haven’t read the rules personally so I may not have the greatest grasp on things, but in our games it seems quite difficult to pull off things like a headlock, or an arm bar, or a suplex – or just about anything you think would be the sort of thing a luchador would be doing all the time. The system is a d20 roll versus a target number sort of system, and the luchadores have skills like Strike, Grab, Throw, and Slam. There is a mechanic where you can take “Risk,” making your rolls more difficult but allowing you to do more damage and/or gain “Heat,” which you can spend to do more impressive things or shrug off fatigue.
The problem I run in to is that it takes multiple rolls to accomplish most of the aforementioned wrestling maneuvers, and you often either have stiff penalties to the rolls or need to impose them yourself by taking Risk in order to have any real impact. So it it pretty much always seems more beneficial to just use your “Strike” ability and try to punch someone rather than try to do a suplex or anything like that, since this involves successfully rolling to grapple your opponent, then lift your opponent, and then throw your opponent to the ground. And you know, having been in a few fights myself, I know that it is easier to just take a swing at someone than to try and pull off something like a suplex. But this isn’t a game about me getting into ill-advised bar fights at 2 in the morning – it’s a game about luchadores, and it should be ALL ABOUT cool wrestling moves. Instead it feels like a game that really wants to take those awesome third edition Dungeons and Dragons grappling rules to the next level.
Like I said earlier, I don’t actually own these rules and I haven’t read them. I’m just going off of what’s been explained to me in an IRC channel, which probably isn’t the greatest medium for explaining such things. However, I don’t feel like I’m way off base here. I feel like the mechanics of this game fall short for system that is suppose to be all about heroic luchadores. It’s like they are there just to get in your way when you want to pull of a cool wrestling maneuver. Personally, I’d rather fight the bad guys rather than the game mechanics.
In fact, I don’t think a game about luchadores needs a specialized set of mechanics at all. “Luchador” is a thematic element, not a mechanical one. A generic system like Savage Worlds would do an excellent job at handling the action, and everything else you need comes from setting, story, and characterization. The story and characterization in our game is by far the best thing about it – it’s the only part of the game that is completely independent of the rules we’re using and it’s the only reason I keep coming back week after week.