Sunday, May 3, 2020

Aberrant: XWF

This is another one of those incidental pamphlets, only 24 pages long, so I'm going to try and make this short. Aberrant: XWF is a supplement about professional wrestling in the Aberrant universe. It borrows a lot from real-world professional wrestling (so much so that Ric Flair is league CEO, though sadly, he doesn't get stats), and, well . . .

Professional wrestling is kind of ridiculous . . . so this is kind of ridiculous. But also, professional wrestling is kind of awesome . . . so this is kind of awesome. It does that thing where it uses a lot of the wrestling lingo like "work," "shoot," "heel," etc and I'm guessing that for the year 2000, it felt really clued-in and niche, but for 2020, it just reads like an ordinary internet conversation.

Nonetheless, the sheer depth of its pop-cultural nerdery makes it feel contemporary in a way that old rpg supplements often don't. It was dorky in its original context and it's dorky now. I kind of like it.

What doesn't feel contemporary and what I didn't like about this book was its casual homophobia. I get that it was meant to depict a macho subculture, but two separate characters dropping the f-word in the space of a couple of pages . . . it annoyed me. One of them did get a dressing-down from the boss for it, but it was in that insincere corporate speak ("The XWF does not tolerate slurs directed at ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation, and as a representative of this company, you will damn well remember that") that makes me think that it was more about covering the XWF's ass than an actual desire for tolerance.

Minor black mark aside, this book is mostly pretty great. There's a sly Spider Man shout-out with La AraƱa being the champion of the Silver League, and Lance "Stone Badass" Stryker makes an appearance, though mostly to indicate that he is not involved in pro wrestling. The characters who aren't blatant pop culture references are pretty decent. I mean, I'm not normally into blood sport, but I might be tempted to watch a guy named Superbeast.

Overall, a decent enough pitch for a campaign, though like Expose Aberrants before it, it's not quite meaty enough to work as a full-on campaign guide. And while some decent thought was given to things like tiered leagues and the consequences of running a superhero fighting ring with real fights (unlike wrestling, only the storylines are scripted), Aberrant's system isn't nearly robust enough for that to translate to the table. But then, I could say that about nearly any potential Aberrant campaign.

So, um, good luck.

Ukss Contribution: This all boils down to who is my favorite wrestler. Tempted to pick Ric Flair, because that would be the truest homage to what this book is trying to do, but I would be at a complete loss as to how that would even work, and Aberrant XWF is too small a book to break the world over.

My personal favorite was a guy who called himself Raja Ravana, mostly because I liked how the name rolled off the tongue, but I'm wary of using Hindu iconography I don't understand.

Third choice it is, then. Melinda Guzman, the only person to win the XWF's "Triple Crown" (there are three leagues of increasing lethality, when you win the championship in one, you gain the right to challenge the next highest champion to a single match - if you win, you become the champion, if you lose, you're bumped back down to the bottom of the ladder). She is known as "The Upset Queen" and if her suggested stats are anything to go by, it was her maxed-out Luck power that made it happen. That might be an interesting idea for a minor goddess.

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