Friday, March 14, 2014

Things I Learned From Champions: Preamble

Champions and the HERO System get a bum rap for a clustered set of criticisms. Most of them center around concerns about complexity, math, and emphasis on combat.

Perhaps it was just the people I played with, or the rulebooks that I started with, but I could never really agree 100% with the naysayers.

True, there was a certain complexity in the game system, but:
  1. I actually found it quite simple and elegant in comparison to the tables and charts and multiple rulebooks from AD&D 2nd Edition onwards;
  2. Given the challenge of addressing the breadth of super-heroic powers and environmental concerns that might regularly crop up in superheroic campaigns, I felt that the rulesets were remarkably consistent;
  3. Genre physics emulation rule systems -- very different from the narrative-driven rule systems that also emerged some time after my beginning Champions -- are very much different in terms of character creation and gameplay strategies.
As for the math, it was never an issue. I actually became better at the fundamental arithmetic involved (no quadratic equations or powers or radicals, just plain addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), and often scratched my head at the complaints. Perhaps it was just a cultural distaste / gaming preference against math, or having calculators in a game -- but my fellow players and GMs loved trying to figure out how much casual strength would be needed to deflect the moon, so there was no fear of calculators at our table. Especially since we regularly played on the fly, making rough estimates of the mass of a given car, the energy output of a given cyclotron, etc.

And combat? Well, that's the criticism leveled at almost all iterations of D&D, and quite a few other RPGs out there. Superhero combat is a staple of the genre, and is often found in the catalog of defining elements of many a superhero storyline. But our gaming table was also fond of roleplaying, and fully fleshing out characters by purchasing both the Professional Skill and Knowledge Skill for certain core elements of our characters, seen by some ensuring that we could talk the talk AND walk the walk. And for entire games that dealt with backstory, or character development, the dice rarely hit the table.

So, in the future I'll be posting on aspects of my experience and views of this system, and maybe bring back a little bit of the magic that seems so distant these days.


Based on older posts, some of the topics will include:
  • Teamwork
  • Variety
  • Well-rounded characters (attack, defense, movement, and factor X)
  • Science and the rubber it's made from
  • Generalization, Specialization, and the trap of the Swiss Army Knife

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