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The tabletop cards-and-dice wrestling game

Headlock is a tabletop wrestling game designed to be playable with nothing more than a standard deck of playing cards and a standard set of tabletop dice (a d20, d12, d8, and d6). The game is easy to understand and easily customizable beyond the base game.

The rules

Headlock is designed to be played by 2 players using a d6, d8, d12, d20, and a standard deck of cards. You'll also want some paper and writing utensils for designing characters and keeping track of matches.

Character creation

In Headlock, characters have 5 primary stats:

All stats are determined by dice rolls. ATK, DEF, and SPD are deteremined using a d20, STA is determined with a d12, and RES is determined by a d6. The purpose of these stats will be explained during the gameplay section of the rulebook.

Characters also have 8 moves and a special. Four of the characters moves are strikes, while the other four are grapples. All four of each are paired into 1, 3, 5, and 7 power moves. Additionally, grapples can be either normal grapples or submission moves. A special can be a strike, grapple or submission. The names you give to your fighter's moves aren't important in gameplay, but may be of interest to you.

Additionally, you may wish to include other facts about your character, such as their name, appearance, style, record, or their last win and loss. Though these have no effect on gameplay, the inclusion of them make for a more interesting character and experience playing Headlock.


When starting, each character starts with a set amount of HP. This amount is equal to 10 times the character's STA. For instance, a character with a STA of 11 would start with 110 HP, while a character with a STA of 8 would start with 80 HP.

Each player is given half of a shuffled deck of cards. Each turn, both players will take the top card from their deck, select a move based off the card they've drawn, then reveal the card and their move to the other player.

Each move has a set power that subtracts from the value of the card. For instance, a 5 power move subtracts 5 from the value of the card. Consequently, you can only use a move with a power less than or equal to the value of the card you've drawn. So, for example, if you've drawn a 5, you can't use a 7 power move.

The value of the card after subtracting the power of a move is then added to a character's speed stat. Whichever character has the higher total then gets to attack. So, if one player has a SPD of 15, draws a 7 and uses a 5 power move, while the other has a SPD of 12, draws an 8, and uses a 1 power move, the latter player would get to attack due to having a total of 19 compared to the other player's 17.

To attack, add the value of the card and the power of the selected move to your character's ATK. This determines your character's attack power. The defending fighter would add the value of their card to their DEF to get their defense. That defense is then subtracted from the attacker's attack power to determine how much damage is dealt by the attack. If the defender's defense is greater than or equal to the attacker's attack power, then the attacker's move does no damage.

Special moves are done when a face card is drawn. Note that in Headlock, an Ace is not a face card and is equal to 10. When a face card is drawn, a fighter will automatically perform their special move. The special move adds an attack power of 20 onto a fighter's ATK. If both fighters draw specials on the same turn, suit advantage is first considered, as below. If the suits are equal, the fighter with the higher card gets to perform their special. The other fighter gets no defense bonus and only gets their normal DEF for defense.

Headlock also has a rock-paper-scissors style trump cycle. So, hearts beat spades, spades beat diamonds, diamonds beat clubs, and clubs beat hearts. If one fighter has a suit advantage over the other, they gain an additional 5 speed, but no additional damage. A suit advantage can also provide a fighter a counter to a special move. If a fighter draws a number with a suit advantage over their opponent's special, the opponent is unable to perform their special and gets no defense bonus. Additionally, suit advantage is also important for determining when a fighter can go for a pin or submission.

If a fighter goes for a submission move, they can hold the submission if the suit of their card is equal to or trumps the suit of their opponent. (If the suit is lesser, they merely do damage then move on.) If a fighter holds a submission, the defending fighter has 5 rolls to break out of the submission. To do so, the must roll under a certain number on a dice. The number and dice is determined by multiple factors. First of all, the dice is determined by how much HP the defender has and whether the submission is a special move or not. If the defender has more than 0 HP and the submission is not a special, then they roll a d8. If they have no HP and the submission is a special, they roll a d20. Otherwise, they roll a d12. The number is then determined by a combination of how much health the fighter has (if more than 0) and their RES. If a fighter has more than 1/4th of their HP remaining, they get +5 onto their RES and must roll under that to break out of the submission. Under 1/4th HP, they gain +1 for each 1/5th of their HP under 1/4th. For instance, if 1/4th of a character's HP is 30, then they gain +1 for each 6 HP they have remaining. So, if they have a RES of 3, they'd need a 4 or lower if they had 7 HP, while they'd need a 7 or lower if they had 27 HP. Note that this means a 6 RES character can break out of non-special submissions automatically as long as they have at least 12 HP. The number obtained is rolled on the dice. If the defender can't roll lower than or equal to that number in 5 rolls, they're forced to tap out. If the defender breaks out, they still take damage as defined above.

For choke submissions, you may wish to add on an additional rule if the character is on roll 4. Under this rule, an attacker can roll a dice on roll 4 to determine if the defender gets choked out. To make the chacter pass out, the attacker would need to roll at least X-(6-R), where X is the maximum on the dice they're rolling and R is the defender's resilience. The dice go in the opposite order from the defender's dice. So, if the defender is rolling a d8, the attacker would roll a d20 and vice versa. If the defender successfully rolls to break out, the attacker's roll is discarded, but, if the defender doesn't break out, the attacker must roll at least the number determined previously to see if they choke out their opponent. So, say, for instance, a fighter pulls off a special choke submission to a fighter with a RES of 3. The defender would first roll to break out. Should they fail 4 times, the attacker rolls a d12 to determine if they choke their opponent out. In this case, they'd need at least a 9 to make their opponent go unconscious.

Pins work similarly to submissions, but, instead of getting 5 rolls, the defender only gets three. However, pins can only be done off of a suit advantage and only once a fighter is under 1/4th of their original health, unlike submissions, which can be done over 1/4th of a fighter's health and from an equal suit.

Additional rules and play styles


For a knockout bout, characters get 10 rolls to get up from moves once they hit 0 HP. Note that only strikes and normal grapples can cause a knockdown. Submissions will not initiate a knockout roll.

In order to get up from a knockdown, the character must roll higher than 6-RES on a d12. So, a 6 RES character gets one free knockdown, while a 1 RES character must roll higher than 5 to get up. For each knockdown past the first, add 1 to the number that needed to be rolled the previous time. So, for their second knockdown, a 6 RES character would need higher than 1. This caps the maximum number of knockdowns to 13 for a 6 RES character and 8 for a 1 RES character.

Note that this can be adjusted for longer or shorter matches. For instance, you may only want 3 rolls to get up, or you may want rolls to occur on a d8. Or, you may want rolls to happen on a d20 for longer matches. You could also play with how RES factors into getting up, as well as STA, DEF, and how much damage was taken.

Tag team

For tag team play, you can either use multiple decks of cards, each feeding into their own pool (a team pool, for instance), or you could further divide a single deck. So, for instance, 2-on-2 could be done with 2 decks, one for each team, where the deck can either be split or shared between the two fighters, or it could be done with a single deck divided into 4. It could also be done with a single deck divided into 2 team pools, where tag outs don't affect how the cards are drawn.

To tag out, a character must win the speed contest. However, instead of attacking, they can opt to tag their partner in instead. Their partner would then come out and their opponent wouldn't be attacked.

Solo play

For solo play, play as you would against a normal opponent, but your opponent will automatically use the highest power move they can. You may also restrict the highest power moves they have available, only allowing them a 1 and 3 power move, for instance. So, if your opponent draws a 4, they'd used their 3 power move.

Sample Characters

Some example characters. Feel free to use them for your own matches!

The Amethyst Assassin
Back elbow-1Pull-back clothesline
Big boot-3DDT
Dropkick-5Back suplex
Top-rope elbow drop-7Neckbreaker

Special: Spider suplex → Top-rope meteora

A glass cannon brawler, The Amethyst Assassin focuses on hitting and hitting hard. She's not the fastest wrestler out there, but when she hits, her opponents definitely feel the pain. Her style is largely based around hitting her opponents enough and hard enough to keep their shoulders down for the 3-count. She reaches her strongest from the top rope, with a special that carries a full 38 attack power. However, she's gotta work quick, because though she maybe be able to make quick work of her opponents, her opponents, if they're quick enough, can also make quick work of her, with her 12 DEF, 8 STA and 3 RES.

The Rhino
Gut kick-1Facebreaker
Big boot-7Power bomb

Special: Chokeslam

If there's one word to describe The Rhino, it's big. She's pretty slow, and often has trouble getting normal moves off against opponents, but she hits hard and is difficult to take down and keep down. Against faster opponents, she can only get off the weakest of moves in the best of scenarios, but even those can send 'em realing, and her specials can be absolutely devastating. Add on how long it can take to even get her down, and you've got a hell of a fight on your hands.

My characters

These characters are mine, and I reserve all rights to them, but they might be helpful in building your characters or as opponents (or fighters) to help you get to grips. Wanna fight 'em for real? Contact me!

The Vulpine Nightmare
Punch-1Hip toss
Gut Kick-3DDT
Flying Knee-5Power Bomb
Top-rope dropkick-7Dragon Sleeper

Special: Top-rope meteora

The Vulpine Nightmare isn't the toughest wrestler out there. With a DEF of 8 and a STA of 9, she's actually gotta watch out. But, what she lacks in toughness, she more than makes up for in strength, speed, and heart. Her SPD of 17 means she'll be the one attacking most of the time against all but the quickest of opponents, and her 14 ATK means that all but the toughest are in for a sizable dose of pain. And though she might be easy to take down, her RES of 6 means it'll be hard to keep her down. Overall, if you've got the speed to beat her to the punch, she might be an easy opponent, but that's a big if, and if you don't, you'll see why they call her the nightmare.

The Emerald Blaze
Low Kick-3Hip Toss
High Kick-5Armbar
Enzuigiri-7Sleeper Hold

Special: Rope-assisted sleeper

The Emerald Blaze may not hit the hardest, but she knows how to wear her opponents down. With her 17 SPD, she'll be the one doing most of the attacking, and with three submissions in her arsenal, it's more than enough to slowly drain the will to continue from even the most ardent of opponents. If you can wear her down, she may stay down, but you'll need to be quick to do so and be tough enough to withstand the blaze.

La Loba Luchanda
Head kick-1DDT
Spinning kick-5Dragon Suplex

Special: Rear naked choke

La Loba Luchanda ("The Fighting Wolf") is a luchadora skilled in putting out opponents. With her 18 SPD and 18 ATK, she's hard to hit and hits hard. She might not be the toughest, with only 9 DEF and 8 STA, but you'll need to be fast if you want to even hope to hit her, and you'll need to be persistent to keep her down. And with multiple submissions in her arsenal, you'll need to watch yourself lest you find yourself giving in to her might. You'll need to be tough and strong if you hope to avoid getting mauled by la loba.

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