Luchador (Painted Honor)

The supplements for Luchador: Way of the Mask are written in a highly linear manner. They reference each other extensively and expand on the rules presented in the previous books. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that method. In fact, the casual way this game is written is one of the things I enjoy about it. I skipped ahead to Disciples of the North, and now I’m going back to the proper order, with Painted Honor.

Painted Honor is the first supplement to Luchador: Way of the Mask. With it, they take the wrestling action overseas to Japan. It expands and adds to the general rules of Luchador, and brings in many elements of Japan’s rich wrestling history. What this book is not, is a detailed guild to Japan or Japanese culture. Painted Honor, it notes, takes place in the Japan of television and films.

The main part of the book starts with a page of errata for the Way of the Mask core rulebook, before moving into some amendments to the combat rules to allow them to be applied to a broader number of situations. That follows up with sections on new special traits and signature moves, and an expansion of several other rules, before a big section on taking the action back to where it started. In the wrestling ring.

The wrestling section, Rules of the Ring, quantifies the details of actually wrestling. In the core rulebook, running an actual wrestling match for Luchador relied heavily on narrative, mixed with the combat rules. So where the first part of the book expands outward into bigger combat, this section deflates it down into the relatively confined space of the wrestling ring. In the real world, wrestling rings come can be different sizes (and for a few years a different shape). In Luchador, the ring dimensions are rooted in the convenience of the rules, not reality. Like everything in Luchador, this isn’t real life. Accept that and play on. This section also walks through the third man in the ring, the referee. Some very basic stats, and suggestions, was included in the NPC section of the core rules, and that is expanded to include a new statistic, Patience. Every time a wrestler breaks a rule or needs to be warned about their conduct, the GM makes an ever-increasing difficulty check against the ref’s Patience. If the check fails, that wrestler is disqualified from the match. There are, obviously, actions that result in an automatic disqualification, but this is a great mechanic for allowing players to push their luck in the ring. The same mechanic could easily be adapted to fit any number of situations.

Every good adventure story needs an evil organization working in the shadows. GI Joe has Cobra. Inspector Gadget has M.A.D.D. Maxwell Smart had KAOS. The adventurers in Luchador have The Umbral Accord. Before this, all GMs were really presented with was a variety of UA bad guys. Painted Honor gives a great section on the organization itself.

The NPC section, In The Corner, is a bit unusual. Some of the characters are directly related to the included adventure, this makes perfect sense. Some are generic types that players could encounter in their own Japanese adventures, this also makes sense. There are also a bunch of characters that belong to the adventure, Con of the Dead, which was referenced in the earlier Errata section. As near as I can tell from the title, it was an adventure written for convention demos, but that doesn’t seem to be otherwise currently available. There’s nothing at all wrong with including them here, but they don’t particularly fit in.

The book closes out with Ninja Deathmatch, the first published Luchador adventure (see above comment on Con of the Dead). The adventure starts off with an introductory glimpse into the writing style of creator Gabe Ivan, and why his adventures are written in such a loose style. The adventure itself is a fun time, and can easily be played as a single adventure, or easily broken into two separate ones. If you are one of those people who enjoy free reading RPG adventures as you might read a book, the loose style is delightful. If you’re a player, the writing doesn’t matter. What matters is how you GM runs the adventure. I don’t consider myself a strong GM, and appreciate more structure when running an adventure. But I know many wonderful GMs who thrive when they can fill in the blanks for the players at their table.

If you’ve already picked up Luchador: Way of the Mask, and are looking for more, this is a great addition. If you’re considering picking it up, and the option to also get Painted Honor is available, take it. As a standalone product, Painted Honor is just ok. As a continuation of the core rules, it’s a giant leap forward for the game. As part of a complete set of Luchador books, it’s both important and enjoyable.

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