Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ultimate Nullifier

I'm kind of disappointed that my last post hasn't received more attention. It's not ground breaking or earth shattering but I thought it was good. Oh well.

I have a number of things I want to post about, and soon, particularly the final recap of our awesome first session of Star Trek and a recap/review  of our somewhat lackluster second episode. It was not terrible but not wonderful. It was only OK, and I'd love to tell you why and what I've learned about my style, my players and running Star Trek for the Voyager/Enterprise generation.

But right now...I have Superheroes on the brain. Again. Or is it still? Do I ever not have Supers on the brain?

Trying to post in a 'Timely' fashion.*

Some weeks back, my new favorite source for things-that-make-me-think-about-how-I-game, the Play on Target podcast, dedicated an episode to Superhero RPGs. Ever since I listened to it (three times now), I've wanted to comment on it but I'm not certain what exactly I want to say or perhaps where I want to begin.

I was given a shout out in that episode in regards to my feeling that the basic mechanics and crunch of Champions are really not all that complex.

I've said before several times that my love of Champions makes no damn sense. I despise math and really don't like games with a lot of complicated rules. This would seem counter to a love of the Hero System that powers Champions. At the same time, I was taught Champions by an absolute master of the games who knew the system like the back of his hand and than some.

What he taught me was not the entirety of the rules as written, but rather the rules as played. In other words, the Champions 4th Edition 'Blue Book' has the game rules the way they were designed. My friend William showed me the rules the way they actually work and work best, for our style of play.

Gone are the hexes, grids and miniatures and all such elements that, IMHO, are wonderful for war games and absolute anathema for Supers. To drag out play or slow down Supers with cumbersome mechanics is to induce boredom, the ultimate nullifier. No way Lightray.

When  Will and I run Champions, most everything is simplified. Range is determined by figuring out how big a hex was supposed to be in measurements of real distances. It was no longer a question of how many hexes away an opponent is but rather, here's a crazy thought, how far away in normal person talk.

Overload: "I'm taking a pot shot at Road Rage with my rail gun. Can I hit him from here."

GM: "Not sure...his vehicle just took off but it's already about (looks at sheet where distance is written in feet) 300 ft. away."

Overload: "No problem. I transfer the kinetic energy I absorbed last phase to my gun. (Looks at sheet where range is written in feet) I reach him easy."

It has been my philosophy for many years now that most RPGs are overdeveloped. In the belief that we need a modifier for any and every contingency, from targeting an opponent through heavy fog to running with a stubbed toe and a mild head cold, game designers weigh otherwise awesome games down with unnecessary rule baggage. Shift through the less useful elements, weed out the impurities and you are left with gaming gold.

This is surely true for Champions.

"But Adam", I here you say, "doesn't that change the fundamental nature of the game? Are you still truly playing Champions?".

Good question. My good answer is both yes and who cares.

Is 4th Edition Champions any more or less Champions than 6th or 2nd for that matter? Call what I do Champions Lite or Champions Plus is you wish but it's still Champions. Character creation doesn't change, neither does the attack and defense mechanics really and all the combat moves remain the same. It is most assuredly Champions, just faster.

The possibility of more Supers coming up soon - the kids at the learning center and I are trying to come up with a new regular game after numerous holiday season one-shots.

Barking Alien

*Timely Heroes By artist Anthony  Castrillo


  1. It's funny you posted this. Recently I've been looking at the Blue Book Champions again, mostly because I loved the game so damn much when I played it in college.

    1. Yeah, the Superhero bug has me again and as I reached for my copy of Champions Complete (6th Edition), I noticed the 4th Edition Blue Book right next to it and thought, "Why am I even bothering?".

      I know for a fact that if I am in the mood for Champions I am in the mood for the Big Blue Book.

  2. Never used hexes or miniatures or rulers for Champions...just eyeball distances and decide short, medium, long range...just apply modifiers that seem right for the situation...main problem I have with Champions is everyone I meet who is willing to play it DOES want all those junk rules that make throwing a punch and shooting a laser take 15 minutes of real time.

  3. Big Blue I have at least 3 copies of it! Great stuff. Really have no need for anything else for Champions...I have 5th and "Complete" but my eyes glaze over when I try to parse them. 4-page character sheets = forget it!