Friday, January 11, 2019
Superhero role-playing is a new sub-genre for me...or is it? In White Box a fighting man starts not much better than an average person, but progresses in power. A fighting man of 4th level experience is referred to as a "hero" and at 8th level as a "superhero". reflecting their increased ability and reputation. Starting with 3rd Edition certain PCs feel more "super" than merely heroic. Certainly in Pathfinder and 5e beginning characters have powers that place them well above the curve in comparison with White Box or 1e characters. They have more spells, more hit points and a better chance to slaughter monsters than starting characters in the older versions of the game. In effect, I may have been playing with "superheros" for quite some time.
Champions (first designed and released in 1981) is often credited as being the first point-buy character generation system. Everything about the Champions character is purchased using Character Points (CP) - stats, powers, even equipment. This is an attempt to ensure starting characters are roughly equivalent (balanced) in game effectiveness, especially with regard to combat which takes a central role in the game's mechanics. The powers and abilities in Champions (and the related Hero system) all focus on "effect" and rely on the players to add "color". In other words, one purchases a damage power and can flavor it as fire or lightning or whatever. In this way it is possible to create almost any character one can imagine, provided you have enough CP to spend.
So what kind of game does Champions support? Obviously the system is aimed at comic book superheros such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and the Marvel Universe heroes. But those are not the comics I read growing up. I recall pouring over Hercules, Conan, Sgt. Rock and Weird War comics (and Thor because of his Norse connection). Champions purports to be usable for any comic superhero, Doctor Strange, Jonah Hex, Magnus Robot Fighter, and Conan the Barbarian.
I am thinking about the Haunted Tank, is that possible with Champions? I think the answer is, "yes". What about John Carter of Mars? Again, "yes".
So how much fun is Champions Complete to play? I don't know, I have not brought it to the table yet, but it does seem to cover superheros in all their ilk. Although Champions Complete appears able to handle just about any hero I might want to create, it has limits. Being a generic superhero game, there is no detailed setting, but it is implied that characters are human (or human-like), and live in a modern world much like our present, except for superpowers, of course. There are no monsters in Champions Complete, other than a few lines on creating villains, no bestiary, no alien races, no spirits, haunts or deities. All those things seem possible within the parameters of the rules (and many may exist in other Hero system books). Champions Complete is "complete" in the sense that it gives me everything needed to play, everything except a setting. I will have to do the world building for myself...and that is where much of the fun exists!