I’m a wrestling fan. Life has mostly moved me away from the world of Sports Entertainment, but I nevertheless remain a fan of the art and science of professional wrestling. I’ve even had the good fortune to photograph more than a few World Champions in action, after, during, and before, their reigns. But outside those who have brought their talent and masks north of Mexico, my first-hand knowledge of Lucha Libre is quite limited. So it was with great excitement that I cracked the cover of Luchador: Way of the Mask.
The tone of Luchador: Way of the Mask is self-described as being “lighthearted but not comedic. Somewhere between ’70s action films and ’80s television series.” and if you’re too young for that description to resonate, they give a few great examples for homework. In fact, as I write this, I have Santo and the Blue Demon vs the Monsters playing in the background.
The roll-under mechanics of the DEG system is fairly simple to learn, in fact, the entire rulebook only sits around 50 pages. The statistics and skills are designed to cover a broad range of actions, and the world it builds is loosely defined. I adore how everything is taken from the starting point of a wrestling match. How much of the game takes place in or out of the ring is entirely up to the GM, but it both allows and encourages a full spectrum of possibilities.
The four character classes, Aerialist, Technico, Gimmico, and Bruiser, are all based around the various archetypes you would see at most local wrestling events, or on television. They each have their own starting statistics that players will adjust to their own individual character, simplifying the character creation process, without taking away the enjoyment of building exactly who a player wants to be. Although, just like in the real world, who a player wants to be is likely not where they get to start. Characters start at the bottom of the business, and grow as they gain experience.
One of the many uncommon things to the game is that while characters do gain experience through their actions, they don’t gain “levels”. How they choose to apply their experience can vary widely, and the progression of every character is unique. Even if two players, playing the same scenario, started with the same pre-generated character, they would be very different after just one session and grow further apart in similarity the more they were played.
There isn’t a ton of “world building” in this rulebook, but there doesn’t need to be. The game exists in a slightly pulpier version of our own, where a random wrestler in a mask can walk around without a second glance. Well, without a second glance until their fame grows and they become superstars. There is a distinct code of honour for a Luchador, and there are actions that even a villain would be unlikely to take in that context. Rules for sharp weapons exist but are less common, and a player using firearms would be nearly unheard of.
I wasn’t until I had finished going through the book that I realized exactly how streamlined it was. the actual character building and rules only take up roughly half the book, and a great selection of NPC and villain templates make up the majority of what is left over. I would have loved to see a handful of pages added to include an introductory adventure, but alas, for that you’ll need to pick up one of the later supplementary books.
The game, the rule system, and the visual layout of the book, are all kept very minimalistic. With that chosen approach in mind, there’s a ton of opportunity between those pages. Don’t underestimate this one, or you could find yourself on the wrong end of a three-count.