Well, I’ll tell you. A perfect genre book should be comprehensive; nobody who loves that genre should feel slighted by it. (This makes loose or enormous genres, like steampunk or fantasy, nearly impossible to do perfectly. Fortunately, they can still be done very well indeed, say by Bill Stoddard.) A perfect genre book should also be welcoming; nobody who doesn’t know that genre should feel mystified. (Ideally, even an utter genre newbie should have an idea for the game she’d like to play after reading it.) Both of these conditions argue for a certain narrowness of view: you may not be able to make any kind of usable genre book out of “road stories,” but Midnight Roads made a pretty good one out of “modern American haunted road stories.” But a useful genre book has to offer more than one story; ideally, the whole narrative cosmos should unfold out of its genre treatment like a fractal flower. And finally, the perfect genre book should be for a game system ideally suited to telling its sort of stories. A genre centered on long, dramatic, wild and wonderful fights should have rules for them.
Also, there should be awesome monsters.
All these considerations are on display in Lucha Libre HERO (263 black-and-white pages, $29.99), which is comprehensively compiled by two maniacal lucha fans, Darren Watts and Jason Walters, and seductively astonishing to an almost-complete lucha ignoramus (me). Mexico’s masked wrestling films (now you know) are part detective story, part horror, part martial arts adventure, part social commentary, part SF, and part smacking Aztec mummies around. Like a good Puebla mole, it is the blending of these disparate, even psychotronic, ingredients that makes the dish sublime. Not merely mad doctors and Aztec mummies, but Ape People, Blonde Martians, and lady vampires festoon this book, along with patented wrestling moves like “Freightliner,” “Extended Fight Scene,” and “No! Not My Laboratory!” Plus a history of Mexican wrestling, a full filmography, and a guide to Backlot Mexico City. And midgets. All lovingly (even slaveringly) detailed for HERO 5th Edition — a completely playable version of which, tuned for the squared circle, is included in the back. If ever there was a game system designed for brutal, knock-down, drag-out fights driving narrative turns and clinches, it’s HERO. (And but me no buts about HERO 6th Edition. If you’re able to play HERO, you’re able to swap the stats in this book out if you want.) In short, genre perfection, slam-bang fights, and Aztec mummies. All in One Book. Todos En Libro Uno.
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