Off the Top Rope – All-Star Wrestling: The Wrestling Role-Playing Game

All-Star Wrestling

The Wrestling Role-Playing Game

Author: Paul Schulze
Publisher: Afterthought Images
Page Count: 96
Year published: 1991
Available Formats: Out of Print

Oh yeah, brother! To all those Hulk-a-maniacs, The Nature Boy Ric Flair (woo!), and current fans of past and present wrestlers, this game is for you. That’s right. You’re no longer behind the barriers cheering or booing your favorite wrestler–you’re the wrestler. Don your unitard, get into character, and cue your entrance theme music as we get ready to smack down with All-Star Wrestling.

The Champions of the ’90s. Who will they be?” emblazoned on the front cover. The answer is you. All-Star Wrestling places players’ characters on the mat, center stage, wrestling for a shot at winning a title belt and for adoring fans. Published in 1991, it was one of three roleplaying games at the time to cover the sport. The first wrestling roleplaying game I found through my research was a self-published 22-page booklet called Wrestling Warriors, published in 1990. The second and/or third was The T.V. Wrestling Game published the same year as All-Star Wrestling by Black Unicorn Publishing, weighing in at 38 pages. All-Star Wrestling body slams them both in page count at 96 pages. But how does it play? Before we get into how it plays, we need to examine how to build a character first.

Character Creation — Let’s get ready to rumble!

All-Star Wrestling uses a point-buy system to build its characters. Points are spent on physical attributes, wrestling maneuvers, and skills. Wrestlers have five physical attributes. They begin with Power—one’s physical strength, Agility—the number of moves per minute, Quickness—how quickly they act, Technical Ability—the knowledge to properly execute wrestling moves, and Endurance—a wrestler’s stamina. Physical attributes receive bonuses or negatives depending on the attribute’s value.

Before players distributed points, they need to decide what type of wrestler to build. The book describes four types of wrestlers, Scientific Technicians, Powerhouses, Brawlers, and Aerialists. Scientific Technicians are technical masters of holds. They perform technical and difficult holds like the figure-four leg lock. Powerhouses are strong individuals that throw their opponents around the ring like rag dolls. Brawlers can take a lot of abuse and aren’t afraid to give it back. Aerialists fly through the air showcasing their acrobatic prowess. Each wrestling type has its strengths and weakness. Players may follow a particular type to the letter or blend several together. Whichever combination the players choose, the guide will aid them in placing their points in the proper place for the type of character they want to play.

It is time to allocate points. The number of points players receive is up to a random roll; 10d10+200. All these points are for physical attributes only. Maneuvers and skills get their own pool of points to spend. Once the points are distributed per the rules, their values are used to calculate derived Secondary Attributes. Damage bonus for holds and strikes, damage points to endure headlocks and body slams, recovery to gain back health and endurance, the amount of abuse a wrestler’s body can sustain, attack and defense values, and the number of actions within a phase.

Next, players set their character’s age and create their wrestler’s professional background. Wrestlers’ starting ages range from 16 to 28 and may go higher if they opt to start their wrestling careers in a regionally federation before joining the ASWF, the All-Star Wrestling Federation; the game’s default wrestling organization. There are ten fictional regional federations with rich descriptions and background histories for players to choose from. For every two years in a regional federation, wrestlers have a chance of holding a title belt in that federation. There are four regional title belts, each awarding fame points, which adds extra points to spend on maneuvers and skills in the next step.

Wrestlers begin with 150 points to spend on maneuvers and skills. If they need more, they may opt to give their wrestlers drawbacks. Drawbacks work against wrestlers in-game but award extra points to spend in character creation. There are four types of drawbacks at varying intensities: Egotist, Glass Jaw, Old Injury, and Stupid Moves. The more extreme the drawback, the more points gained. Each drawback has its own in-game mechanical trigger.

With no more points to be gained, players are free to pick maneuvers and skills for their wrestlers. There are 36 holds and 78 strikes to choose from. Descriptions of each are listed at the back of the book in the appendix. Guideline instructions are provided for players wishing to customize or create their own maneuvers. Players may choose as many holds or strikes as they wish as long as they can afford its cost and meet requirements; some holds have Technical Ability minimum requirements, as do select strikes with Power. Players may increase their ability in maneuvers by purchase levels. The total amount of maneuvers known equals the level that may be obtained in each. The more maneuvers a wrestler has, the higher skill level they can attain in all their maneuvers.

Skills in All-Star Wrestling are referred to as Special Skills, and they don’t inflict damage when used. They are used to break out of holds, distract the referee, escape a pin, dodge, send an opponent into the ropes, Charm, or change partners in tag team matches. These Special Skills add to a character Attack Value (AV) and Defense Value (DV) where applicable. The number of levels players may raise them to is based on a character’s Technical Ability score.

Combat – Ding! Ding! Ding!

In All-Star Wrestling, all the action occurs on the mat in phases. There are ten 6-second phases in one minute, and matches can last as long as the players wish. Regular wrestling matches usually last 10 to 15 minutes if not ended earlier with a pin or disqualification. Wrestlers take action on each of their phases. The number of phases a wrestler gets is dictated by their Agility score.

A wrestler may perform a maneuver, special skill, or recover endurance or Damage Points on their turn. When performing a hold or strike, an endurance spend is required no matter the outcome of the challenge. For conflict resolutions, attackers take their base Attack Value (AV) modified by the maneuver’s level and subtract it from their opponent’s Defense Value (DV) plus any skills applicable like Dodge. Next, a d20 is rolled, and its result must match the sum of the previous calculation or lower for the attack to be successful. Rolls of one count as critical hits no matter if the sum is a negative and a 20 is a fumble. Holds and strikes have their own crit tables, while the fumble works for them both.

When a wrestler successfully applies a hold, the hold is maintained for each successive phase if not broken or disengaged. The wrestler applies the hold’s damage on each phase it’s held. A wrestler may disengage their hold to use a strike or an Irish Whip, propelling their opponent into the ropes to set up another attack on the next phase. Using Irish Whips in this way is risky if your opponent gets to attack first in the next phase.

Strikes are straightforward—any strikes connecting deals the appropriate damage. An Irish Whip and a strike may be used in one phase to form a combo. Both moves require successful dice rolls to work. The combo deals more damage at the cost of Endurance for the strike and Irish Whip.

A wrestler may throw their opponents out of the ring with a “Throw Out of The Ring” strike. Wresters who find themselves outside of the ring may choose to stay there and make a recovery. They do so at the risk of being counted out and disqualified after their first phase of recovery. If the wrestler chooses to go straight back in after getting tossed, it uses up their whole action and leaves them open for attack if their opponent goes first in the next phase.

When a wrestler takes damage, it is first absorbed by their Body. Any damage exceeding that subtracts from their Damage Points. Once the Damage Points are depleted, the remaining damage is subtracted from a wrestler’s Endurance. As a wrestler reaches zero on their Damage points or zero or below in Endurance, they start to incur negative modifiers to their dice rolls until they are back into positive numbers. Wrestlers can recover in any phase as their action at their recovery rates.

Going for the Win

To end a match, a wrestler needs to pin their opponent’s shoulders to the mat and hold them there for a three count. A pin can only occur after the attacker has successfully struck their opponent. The attacker’s AV is subtracted from the opponent’s total DV plus their current Damage Points, adding any modifiers applicable. A wrestler may also win a match by placing their opponent in a submission hold. They must first successfully apply the hold and use their AV minus opponents’ DV and current Endurance and any other applicable modifiers.

Matches can also end in disqualifications from illegal moves or exceeding the time limit one can spend outside of the ring if tossed out. There are several illegal maneuvers and skills which are available to Villian wrestlers. When a villain uses an illegal maneuver or skill, they gain an advantage over their opponent but may get caught by the referee. A referee roll is required, and the result is cross-referenced on the Referee Chart. Not all referees have the same keen eyesight or are judicious with their rulings. At the beginning of each match, a referee’s level of attention is determined by rolling a d10 and further modified by the importance of the type of match; title belt, World Championship, etc.

Tag Teams

All-Star Wrestling allows players to compete in tag team competitions. Wrestlers have the same actions available to them as in single matches. Wrestlers use the tag team skill to tag their partners in. If their partners act on the same phase and have similar agility scores, they may combine their attacks on their opponent. It’s a good maneuver if your opponent is weak enough for a pin. A villain wrestler can jump in and save their partner from getting pinned with the illegal Pin Interference skill or use Distract the Referee skill to allow their partner to get in extra hits. Once a wrestler tags out, they may recover on each phase they remain outside of the ring.

Titles and Ranking

With each completed match, wrestlers gain Wrestler Points as long as they are not disqualified. Wrestling Points are used to increase the wrestlers’ abilities, maneuvers, skills, or levels. Bouts involving title belts gain wrestlers’ fame points which may be spent like Wrestler Points.

Wrestlers and tag teams are evaluated monthly based on their win-loss record to determine who gets a shot at title belts. A rating chart must be maintained by the players for each match they compete in. After a game month elapses, their rankings are calculated. Those with the highest rankings have a chance at competing for title belts. Wrestlers’ rankings don’t roll over from month to month. They begin at zero each month, but those who ranked previously gain a rank bonus in the next month’s ranking. Also, those who hold titles are always placed in the top ranks until they lose their belts. It is worthy to note that wrestlers with title belts may opt for disqualification rulings if they are losing their matches. They will not receive any points for improvement, but title belts do not transfer due to disqualification. If wrestlers use this tactic too often, they risk being put into title matches without disqualifying rules.

Final Thought

The author knows his material well and is very good at presenting it. After each chapter, a detailed example of rules or game mechanics is presented to alleviate any misunderstandings. Also sprinkled throughout are essays covering aspects of professional wrestling. These add flavor and ideas for players to use in-game. On a humorous side note, the author uses very similar-sounding names for his regional organizations and wrestling personalities. So similar, I wasn’t sure if they were real or not. I had to reach out to wrestling savants to confirm what I was reading was fiction, and it was.

You might have noticed I made no mention of a Gamemaster above. All-Star Wrestling doesn’t require one. Dice rolls and a chart play the role of the referee. The game only requires two people to play as it’s just a simulation of combat. Players can drop in or drop out of games when needed. All-Star Wrestling makes for a great last-minute game with no prep other than creating a character. A collection of pre-generated wrestlers is at hand to pit against players or use in a pinch if one wishes. Each wrestler is fully stated out with a detailed history and title holdings.

What All-Star Wrestling fails to do is give the players a wider wrestling roleplaying experience. There is no audience interaction, manager interference, pre-fight roleplaying, or use of foreign objects as weapons. Also, those familiar with Champions: The Superhero Roleplaying Game will notice All-Star Wrestling uses similar mechanics, combat commencing in phases, holds and strikes cost Endurance, and attackers and defenders use Attack Values (AV) and Defense Value (DV) similarly. The complexity might deter some players.

The complexity of All-Star Wrestling mechanics is sure to turn off some, while those familiar with these types will be less averted. I think All-Star Wrestling has a good base to expand on. I think the author does a wonderful job of simulating the wrestling experience on the mat. If you are seeking to purchase All-Star Wrestling, you’ll have a hard time tracking it down. I’m aware of no official PDF for sale, and the publication rarely makes it to market; last in stock at Noble Knight 5/22/2014. I was lucky enough to acquire a copy through RPGgeeks’ Chain of Generosity. Its rareness could mean it had a very small print run, or very few still exist. It could also be that it’s such a loved game that no one wants to part with it. I, for one, will be holding on to my copy indefinitely. Even with its shortcomings is a great simulation of on the mat wrestling.

~Stephen Pennisi

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