Wow, that's actually right. O.O
I was up for the challenge and eager to help but I confessed to not liking Champions, even though I had yet to play it. The rule complexity combined with my mindset of 'Math = Unholy Evil' prevented me from trying it in the past. Will understood and said he would do all the hard work and make up the character if I gave him a description of one.
We agreed to take Champions out for a 'test drive' and create my favorite Villains & Vigilantes character, my own Excelsior. Will looked over my V&V sheet and built Excelsior noting that he was not incredibly familiar with V&V but it should be basically the same.
It wasn't. In under 10 minutes I got my butt handed to me by some ninja dude. Excelsior?! A Ninja?! That's like a single Hand ninja taking out Wildfire from the Legion of Superheroes. For those of you less familiar with the 'Big Two' comic book companies, it's akin to a 5th level Thief taking out a 12th level Fighter/Magic User.
As you can imagine I was not impressed. I didn't understand how all that complexity could result in a character so unable to do the same thing he could do in a simpler game (though as the years went on I would feel that the simpler the game the more it could do over all but that's another discussion).
Will was also disappointed I could tell. He turned to me and said, "Tell me about Excelsior." I was a bit confused as I thought I already had but what will wanted to know was his origin, the way I explained his powers outside of a game and "all the things about him that matter and aren't stats."
After about half an hour or so of him listening to me talk about the various ideas, stories, goals, hopes and dreams I had for Excelsior and Excelsior had as a character, Will asked if we could try it one more time. I agreed to give it one more shot. Will spent two days working on Excelsior and when next we played I not only demolished the ninja, I had to fight a moral quandry when I sort of hurt him really, really bad and Excelsior has a bit of a code against causing that much harm.
"That's a disadvantage," Will explained, "as is Excelsior's inability to pull his punch or directly feel physical contact. He won't know exactly how hard to hit an opponent when he first meets them." Disadvantages to your character give you points in Champions (as many of you know) and these points can be used to up your abilities. Once this was explained to me I looked at the many disadvantages Excelsior had and a light went on. Champions does that to you when you first play it if you've been playing non-point buy games up to that point. To this day I tend to do disads first when making up a Champions character.
Next, Will explained the all important, 'figure out the effect you're going for and then build the power to do that' element of Champions that blew my mind back then. For example, Excelsior's Anti-Matter Streams are Disintergration Ray in V&V and Will initially built them as energy based 'Ranged Killing Attacks'. When he discovered that in my mind they were really based after the Star Trek phaser 'Disintergrate' setting, practically erasing matter, he altered their construction to a ranged Transformation Attack. Basically, a Transformation Attack is one that transforms the target into something else, like a Witch turning someone into a Frog or Firestorm changing a goon's power armor into smoke. What Will did for Excelsior was stipulate, 'Transforms to Ash', enabling me to literally vaporize objects or even people (something Excelsior would never do).
With a little time to ask questions and think on a character I agreed to join the campaign as StarGuard, leader of an alien superhero team inspired by the Legion of Superheroes and the Justice League. StarGuard greatly resembled Gladiator of Marvel Comics, who he was largely influenced by. His starting story was that he had come to Earth to investigate rumors that the long lost prince of his people's greatest stellar rival was alive and dwelling on this out of the way, backwater planet (Omni, who was believed to have died along with the rest of the royal family decades ago).
The troublesome player was a very fine fellow but his character and mine took an instant dislike to each other. I represented another faction threatening the Earth in his mad alien conspiracy theory while he represented the greatest danger to the lost prince and therefore any chance of peace between Omni's people and mine.
I tried to work with the character and showed no outward signs of being there to be his enemy. Sure, I was a ringer, an inside man but I fully intended to play the character and enjoy someone else GMing for a while. And boy did I. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Will running Champions has no equal. As a matter of fact I'd say he was/is the greatest GM of anything I've ever met. The NPCs were awesome, interesting and in many cases extremely deadly. Plots were thick, detailed and full of twists and turns. The group sometimes included 15 some odd players playing at the same time, splitting the party, using alternate characters and getting involved in crazy battles with dozens and dozens of NPC heroes and villains and Will never missed a turn or skipped a beat.
It wasn't long before the anti-alien hero showed his true colors and on no less then four or five occasions we (his character and StarGuard) came to blows. We battled in the streets of New York and on the Moon. I destroyed him in one battle only to discover it was a robot double. His original body had been refitted and enhanced with cybernetics and it too was destroyed. He consciousness was transferred into a virtually indestructible robot body only to have it destructed by StarGuard and my pal Pete Hernandez's character, Arctic Fox (aka The White Wolf). At one point he created a state of galactic war between the major interstellar powers and I had to travel back in time to undo the mess he'd made. Eventually, after escaping from body to body some many times, we (the entire Super group) finally managed to figure out his transfer system network and after a final brutal battle, Omni used his vast telepathic abilities to prevent the villain/hero's disembodied mind from ever being 'embodied' again.
I fell in love with Champions and I still didn't really know the rules. It wasn't until I had played the game for nearly 2 years that I first saw my character sheet and had any idea what the mechanics of the darn thing was. I continued to play for another year or two but was determined to run it myself someday. Not long after that, Champions came out with its 4th Edition.
George Perez cover. Freakin' George Perez! Massive book (at the time one of the largest single books for an RPG I'd ever seen, if not the largest), very complete and easy to read in my opinion (one of the advantages over previous editions for me was the cleaner and clearer text and layout).
Soon after purchasing 4th Edition I started running a campaign of my own and I will tell you more about that sometime soon. In the meantime, what is all of this pointing toward, eh? A new campaign to be sure, possibly New York based and using Champions 4th Edition. Just once I want my players to experience what I experienced in high school and beyond.
More thoughts to come...