Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time Consuming But Necessary

While Gamma World seems to be the theme for many a game blogger this month, I think I'll be sticking to Champions for the time being. I really want to run this bad boy again but I got to thinking...why did I ever stop?

The answer, somewhat indirectly is Mutants & Masterminds but it goes a bit deeper than that.

First, Champions is a lot of work. While each player must go through the process of character creation one (or in many of our games a few times to create
alts), the GM has to continuously create multiple characters, villains and fellow heroes that populate the campaign's universe. That takes up a lot of time, especially if you're like me and 'numerically challenged'. Punching numbers into a calculator makes it right and easy but it doesn't make it much faster.

Sure, I could use the NPCs and villains provided in Champions products but to be honest, the majority of them are gawd awful. Seriously. I have no idea how the people who created the Hero System, the one game capable of doing virtually anything and everything in any genre, could give us such boring, uninspired villains. It boggles the mind.

I imagine Rembrandt or Michelangelo requesting his patron give him an art studio filled with the best and varied array of paints, sculpting materials, brushes, etc. and than holing themselves up in that studio for a month, only to emerge with a drawing of a stick figure on a book sized canvas.

The Champions themselves, the main superhero team as depicted in 4th edition, are equally tragically uninteresting. They miss all the ques needed to make them visually iconic or part of a history the way M&M's Freedom League are. So disappointing.

Anyway, what it all means is Champions takes time and I don't have tons so I was looking for a game that could basically do what Champions did but was quicker, easy and required less math. Mutants & Masterminds is just that and hence my favorite Supers game. So why look back?

Champions handles certain things better than M&M. Superspeed and what you can do with it is much cooler in Champions. The way Advantages and Disadvantages work with both the character concept and their powers is a bit more in depth. Combat is easier for those who've traditionally played games with random damage determination and hit points to comprehend. And I do have fond memories of that game and that counts for quite a bit (OSR anyone?).

So I need a way to make the character generation process faster.

One idea is to get ahold of Hero Lab. I'm not sure it's still available for 4th Edition but I'll check.

Another, and one I've used many times in many Superhero RPGs, is to find someone on the 'net whose created stats for known Marvel or DC characters and reskin them. Use Blue Beetle's stats, draw a new pic and call him 'Bug Out, The Insect Avenger' or something.

Finally, I'll see if I can find any notes from my old campaigns but unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. I have no idea where my old Champions notes are.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for speeding up the Champions character creation process please feel free to comment and let me know. I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Barking Alien


  1. I feel your pain. I love HERO System, but it is time consuming to run and coordinate. I currently run two games of the current edition (SIXTH) and I do not know what I would do without Hero Designer. That program is a godsend in terms of time spent in game prep.

  2. Question inspired no by this post but by something you said to Christian--you said you don;t really care about the rules.

    Not hostile, just curious:

    Ok, cool. But then why do you use such rules-heavy systems? It looks like if you are kind of going this route, the M&M and Champions rules would make chargen seem pointlessley complicated (i.e. you're moving digits and numbers around in ways that won't affect the game, the way you run it).

    I would think if you were kind of GMing on the Whatever-Works-Best-For-Right-Now philosophy you'd use a system like FASERIP or something.

  3. @Zak S - An excellent question Zak with a two part answer.

    First, I don't care but my current players do. They are looking for their Supers to come with a bit more crunch. I will still handwave and elaborate a bit here and there but I've come to discover that one of the groups I am GMing for are less comfortable unless there are solid mechanics underlying what is going on. I am will go a bit more complex to make them feel more comfortable.

    Second, as much as I love simple systems for a great many genres, Superheroes needs a bit more detail. Why? Mainly because it is the one genre with multi-genre built right in. If you don't have concise, flexible rules it can easily devolve into chaos.

    For example, ICONS by Adamant Entertainment is largely inspired by FASERIP. It lacks diversity in its levels of power. There are only 10 power ranks and to me that is not enough. Is Robin only nine power ranks less powerful than Superman or the Silver Surfer. Always struck me as odd. Also, its unclear which powers encompass special attacks that for other powers would require you to perform a power stunt. I like the idea of power stunts but a little more clarity as to when and where they should be included would be helpful.

    Champions and M&M not only give you clearer cut abilities but tweaking and modifying them gives you an endless array of variation.

    I actually did an experiment once with Fantasy Hero where each of three players made a Wizard with a Fireball spell and then had a fight. Same stats for each PC wizard. What I ended up with was three completely different Fireballs and I found that fascinating and awesome.

    So basically I'm looking for diversity and completeness largely because the genre and my players prefer it that way. I'll get my chance to run light and easy at RECESS with my Muppet Show game and the next time I play with my New Jersey group.

  4. @GopherDave - Hero Designer you say? Is that different from Hero Lab?

  5. Hero Designer is the official character generation software for the HERO System. It's been around a long time, since at least the early 2000s for 5th Edition (before that, there was the DOS-based HeroMaker for 4th Edition).

    The program is pretty danged indespensible if you're going to run a HERO game. And they're great with updates.

  6. Hero Designer is HERO Games own character creation software, and you can get it from their site. It supports 5th and 6th edition rules only though. It's Java-based, so it should run on Mac's and PC's with equal functionality. It costs $25 for a two-year license that lets you update for free and gives you access to the fan-generated character and template databases. Once the license expires, you can still use it, you just cannot update it at all.

    Hero Lab is a character design package by a third party (Lone Wolf Developement) that isn't bad. I don't know if they support HERO (any version) or not, though they do support Mutants & Masterminds (2nd and 3rd editions), as well as Savage Worlds, World of Darkness, D20 (3.5 and 4), Cortex, and some others. It costs $30 and comes with one game system database included. If you want more game system templates, they cost something like $20 each.

    Heromaker is yet a third piece of software that was done by HERO Games during the last run of 4th edition, and it used to come with later printings of the big, blue book. It worked (on PC only), but it was VERY buggy and the printouts were usually wonky.

    I use Hero Designer, and I love it for HERO games.

    I very recently purchased Hero Lab, so I'm still playing with it. It's got some unintutive interface issues, but nothing that can't be figured out.

    I haven't seen a copy of Heromaker in over a decade, but I haven't missed it. After trying to use it to make characters a handful of times, I just found it easier to use pencil and paper.

    Hope this helps...