Strangely enough, the GM’s role is strikingly similar to that of a professional wrestling promoter, especially the person responsible for booking the matches.
You want to see the Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg “the Hammer” Valentine take on the Hart Foundation of Bret “the Hitman” Hart, Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and their manager, the man on the megaphone, Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart?
(I believe I have just dated myself with this reference …. Uhm, shall we continue?)
Well, the booker makes that happen, along with the creative team that crafts a storyline that builds the rivalry toward the big tag-team extravaganza.
In many ways, the role of the DM is very similar. Want to see how a bugbear with a flaming sword stands up to the PCs? Well, as the DM, you make that happen.
So, if you’ve hit the wall trying to stage engaging, interesting encounters, just grab your list of monsters, imagine it’s your stable of wrestling talent – and see which matchups excite you the most.
Think about the adventuring party’s strengths and weaknesses, and what kind of match you want this to be. Do you want the PCs to squash their opponents, pick accordingly. Do you want an even matchup? Look for monsters of the equivalent power level. Do you want to send the PCs packin’? Nothing like a dragon to bring the house down.
Thinking about the four or five encounters like a wrestling show can be constructive. Gimmick matches are nothing more than rooms with lethal traps. Run-ins — where a wrestler tries to interfere in another match — are great ways to add a monster in the middle of a combat sequence. And a handicap match — that’s just like when the terrain favors one of the combatants almost unfairly.
And if you insist on throwing some divas into your GMing Stew — well, there’s always a lamia, medusa or harpy in the grab bag.
Take a moment to plot your night’s adventure as if it were the lineup for a wrestling show – and you just might find out if your party is worthy of claiming that championship belt.
Wait, you used all of those nicknames but skipped calling him Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake? =) Yeah, you’re not the only one who remembers that.
Anyways, good post. I’m throwing a harpy at my party this weekend to mix things up.
For years I’ve been claiming that everything I learned about GMing I got from pro wrestling. I’m glad someone else agrees.
I’d like to add to it a bit though. The pro wrestling analogy isn’t just helpful for designing fun encounters, but it helps you build up potential encounters. This is especially useful when you need to establish a boss or villain. The simplest way to do this is with an ally NPC who betrays the party. You get to show off the ally’s abilities, so the PCs know he’s more powerful than they are (but don’t overdo it – one showing is enough, kinda like when you played with Sephiroth for 5 minutes in FF7). Then when he turns on the party (either with an unexpected steel folding chair to the face or a “sweet chin music” through the barbershop window) not only do they already fear his skills, they hate him on a personal level. Establishing villains leads to far more effective villains. Show the PCs why he’s powerful (usually by putting him over something else they know is powerful) and then make it personal. That’s what wrestling and GMing both come down to.
@ruined – The barber thing came later for ol’ “Bru-Tai”.
@valadil – Great point about building up heavies.
This is one of the few articles I’ve read that made me ever regret not watching much wrestling.
So much of a good match is the lead up– how do you get the players excited about their upcoming match with the monster of the week? Is it always a surprise, or do you have some announcer who talk smack about this week’s opponent? Or challenging trash talk around the table: Oh, man, the dragon’s going to waste you guys. Hope you have a lot of healing potions!
@Scott Martin –
You can give the players clues as to what’s coming. In my upcoming campaign, I’m going to put out a “recent events in the area” page that will tell the PCs what some of the critters they will face if they take up that quest.
Let’s face it, that happens a lot. The PCs generally have some idea what’s coming. For example, in H1 for 4e, the PCs pretty much know they’ll be tracking down kobolds in the second encounter. Most published adventures have some sort of led-in that the DM/GM reads to the players that tells them what to expect, at least partially.
As heroes (or even villains who practice enlightened self-interest), the PCs are going to catch a lot of rumors that say “monster X has been behaving badly in area Y.” That’s all most PCs need to get drug into a cage match. 🙂