Sunday, May 3, 2015

Plot Points takes on Champions

I listened to a Plot Points podcast on a Champions adventure -- an old one -- titled Day of the Destroyer. I was surprised that I had so many reactions to something so old and that I'd written about so often.

Here's the link to the podcast. And the link to the podcast on iTunes.

And here are my reactions (which I e-mailed to them, of course):

Response to Plot Points (Champions - Genre Podcast)

I listen to your podcast selectively; because of the review format of the show, there are certain things I'm not really curious about and therefore skip. The rest, I do listen to -- but the recent episodes about the adventure module "Day of the Destroyer" and a discussion about Champions (and the Hero System) spurred to write to you.

Short background: I've been interested in RPGs since the early 80s but only really started playing regularly in 1986. During my time in the U.S. (I'm back in my homeland of the Philippines now), I was based in the San Francisco Bay Area and played a fair amount of Champions there back in the day. I've been interested in it ever since, even though time and availability of interested gamers has waned.

The podcast was entertaining, though I found it odd that sometimes there were some instances of "talking over" one another, which kind of confuses or disrupts the flow of your discussion (sometimes with Sarah, other times with Torii). Is this a matter of the delay in transmission of the online chat / telecon?

It was also very engaging, as I found myself shouting responses to some of the topics or questions answered. This, as you might have guessed, is the reason I'm writing you.

For ease of reading / skipping over, I've put Topic Headings for your convenience. And I swear, I won't tell you about my Champions character.

Champions Gives A Lot Of Power To The Players

I felt that this wasn't quite tackled or explained as clearly as Torii clearly wanted to. Okay, let's be honest: it wasn't explained as clearly as I wanted it to be. So here's a stab at it --

Champions (and the HERO System) allows your to create exactly the character that you want. Any Champions player worth his salt will be nodding up & down at that last phrase: "exactly the character you want".

While almost any RPG allows you to create your own character, few out there allow you to create "exactly the character you want". There's a level of customization in the Hero System that allows to realize your character concept to a great degree, restricted only by the point limit.

In fact, one of the great pastimes of Hero System afficionados is to find a way (preferrably more than one) to create characters that are hard to build in other systems without some hand-waving.

I suspect that this is partially because Champions is early enough in the RPG history that it was in some ways a reaction against the "GM is a God" and the "adversarial GM and Player" dynamic. It may have even been necessary, given the nature of the genre: a slugfest is a very regular occurence -- sometimes between fellow heroes. But I digress.

Okay, so how does it give a lot of power to the players?

Well, first off: the player gets to set the special effect of his / her character's powers. Also known as: Game effects cost points, special effects are free.

What does this mean? My favorite example of this is a power called Instant Change.

Game Effect: your hero can change into his super-hero form (or back to his normal form) without expending an "action". Cost: 10 points.

Possible Special Effects:
(a) there's a flash of light, and you're now in your supersuit;
(b) you change at superspeed, and you're now in your superset;
(c) the planets align, a bolt of pure etheric energy streams from the heart of the Milky Way galaxy into our solar system, and shatters each one of the planets from within, and triggers the Sun to go supernova, destroying everything around it for light years -- then it all reverses, everything goes back to normal just before the planets aligned, and now you're in your supersuit. Cost: FREE.

Sure, the GM still has to allow it into the game (as with any game), but this uncoupling of the game effect from the special effect allowed many a player to break out of any pre-existing classes or templates of the time.

But the uncoupling had a other ramifications, such as being able to craft different ways of achieving the same special effect.

Special Effect: I run so fast, I can run up the sides of buildings OR across the surface of water.

Game Effect:
(a) Buy Running + Clinging (with limitation: only when running); Buy swimming (with limitation: only on the surface of water)
(b) Buy Flight (with Limitation: only to move on surfaces)

These examples, and many more, show how -- as a player, you're granted more options in character creation than most other RPGs.

All Math Is Frontloaded

Well, to some extent it is; the rest of it isn't. But the act of building your character makes you familiar enough with the system that the rest of the math is usually easy enough.

If, that is, you're obsessive when building the character I suppose.

If You Don't Have A Skill, You Can't Do It

Technically true, though the concept of Everyman Skills was introduced into the campaign. And occasionally, the GM can grant a rare bending of the rules based on background or special effect.

Other super-hero games

If you want an exhaustive list of Super-Hero RPGs, go to Lowell Francis's blog:

He has multiple blog posts on the many RPGs released in this genre across the years.

And I hope that puts things at rest.

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That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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