Monday, August 14, 2017

Champions talk

SYSTEM: HERO (Champions)

Because Champions 4th edition is Sean's pick of the day over at RPGNow/One Bookshelf, and because the news over the weekend makes me sad and angry, I speak today about Champions.

I had roleplayed before being introduced to Champions, but I hadn't really taken to it. A friend (Jim Gardner; you probably know him, if you do, as the award-winning and award-nominated author James Alan Gardner) had gotten a copy of Champions (probably second edition, and while we were on a weekend away with a theatre group we were both in, we played it. Totally misunderstood some rules, but that's always the way.

It changed me from being meh about roleplaying games to loving them. Most important: I could create the character I wanted instead of being at the mercy of the dice. Nowadays, I'm okay with random character generation, but you'll note that even in ICONS, there's an awful lot of player input. There is a limit that lets you add a power as an extra and then ignore the power you rolled (Extra only). (Of course, as a GM, I get to design almost all of my characters.)

If I had a story in my head, I could build a part of it, the character part. And I could describe some of the disadvantages.

Since I wanted to be a writer, yes, I usually had a story in my head.

There were bad habits, too, ones that I developed and that Champions didn't curb...that same story-telling urge made me a terrible railroader, for instance. I made up disadvantages that were just a different flavour of the other three disadvantages, and tried really hard to come up with limitations that didn't really limit me. If your hunted came up in the session, by Good they were going to appear somehow, even if it was just a postcard from the local supermax prison.

Hero Games was pretty much my sole system for a decade or more. I played Espionage!, Fantasy Hero, Danger International, Star Hero, and weird things that had no actual game attached to them but we knew Hero so well that we knew how to twist it to what we wanted.

I loved Aaron Allston's work. I ran the vampire adventure out of...was it The Circle and METE? I swiped and renamed Dr. McQuark. I think I even used Affrighter, but I'm not sure. I ran some flavour of The Coriolis Effect.

I ate up second and third editions, and loved them despite their flaws. We house-ruled various things.

At first I was pleased with the changes that came in fourth edition to make it a generic system, because we used it as a generic system. (Okay, we had tried other systems.) But I started to get dissatisfied because the loose feeling that had been in the first couple of editions was gone. At first I was pleased that everything had been put into order, but to have sixteen skills, you had to up the point value of the characters, and that inflation kept going. Much though I loved much of Dark Champions, it was also the one where I started to go, "What?" Blue Moon Killer seemed more like a gun-toting Batman of an infinite number of points. (Jim actually played a heroic Joker as his foe in the Hudson City campaign I ran.)

So I was ripe for something else. That didn't come along, but another friend (hi, Vik) was much more into the wider world of gaming than I was, and introduced me to DC Heroes and CORPS and Mutants and Masterminds, and Jim wanted to try Capes at one point, and James Nicoll ran a playtest for Silver Age Sentinels...

I didn't really enjoy the brief campaign of fifth edition Hero we played, and I never saw sixth edition, though Rod Currie assures me it's out there.

I've grown to like games such as ICONS and Supers! and BASH, and I've read through Prowlers and Paragons and others. I guess in a way I'm more into superhero or comic book RPGs than I am Hero, these days.

And I've made my peace with Hero...I'd play fourth edition if someone wanted to.

So it's not really a dead game to me; it's one that I associate with hours of fun and my attitude that games should be toolkits, rather than spoon-feeders of splatbooks. I've just taken a few decades off playing it.