Champions. You remember Champions, right?

In the Early Times, before the Way Back When, my people discovered point-buy based game systems in the traditional way – when a copy of Champions 2nd Edition appeared in our local gaming store. Ever since then, setting-neutral, broadly generic systems that eschewed classes and levels in favor of meta-mechanics used to design effects have held the strongest sway with me.

Champions got a make-over as Hero System in 4th Edition to formally divorce it from being seen as strictly a super hero role playing game, and it has maintained that separation for the two subsequent editions, with Champions becoming instead a line of supplemental materials that provided the necessary back-bone for taking the game back to something akin to its roots.

The game grew in complexity, arithmetically in reality and exponentially in the minds of gamers everywhere, as time went on. 5th Edition was so thick you could easily mistake it for a college physics textbook, and 6th Edition gave in and split the rules into two books, lest anyone sue for back injuries from lifting the darned thing. The rules hadn’t really gotten all that much more complex, honestly, but the presentation sure had. Ideas that had been cooked up over years of gaming were given space in the books, so that others could leverage the same methods for their own games. Hero suffered from Example Bloat instead of simple Rules Bloat.

Less than stellar sales of the new edition (for a number of reasons) led the design team in a different, lighter direction. The material from the Champions sourcebooks was reunited with the rules from 6th Edition. Had they stopped there, this would result in a book that was in excess of a thousand pages, but the next step was to make liberal use of an editor. Huge swaths of optional rule, alternate build and worked examples were stricken from the new presentation, and only the most rudimentary of setting materials was left in place. The game was pared down to only those things that the author thought appropriate to a super hero role playing game – Champions Complete.

We’d come full circle.

This new approach, where the company worries less about forcing their biggest fans to “buy the same rules twice” and focuses instead on making a one-book game seems to me to be a smart one. Yes, the whole of the system is out there for the hard-core amongst us, and I will continue to use it, but having read through Champions Complete I can see the merits of a simpler game. Where Hero System has to compete with everyone in the world, Champions Complete can compete on even ground with Mutants and Masterminds (to name just the biggest competitor) and all of the other modern editions of super heroic roleplaying, without the baggage of trying to be everything to everyone.

So, lured back to a system from my youth, and with a desire to do a deep dive into a single system for a while rather than playing around on the fringes of dozens of them at the same time, I think I’ll be taking Champions Complete out for a spin, first reading the rules from cover to cover to make sure I’ve not missed anything, building some characters, and then getting a game going come hell or high water.


And of course I’ll bring you lot along for laughs.

Comments

  1. I first met Champions in the hands of a point-optimiser, which didn't endear it to me. It's always seemed to me that it shows its superhero roots even in other genres (e.g. the way you can safely knock someone out without any risk of long-term injury, the cheapness of skills compared with attributes). And once I'd found GURPS, since I'm not even slightly a superheroes fan, I never felt the need to look back.

    But that's me. Interested to see what you make of it.

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  2. I met and fell in love with Champions before I met my first point-optimizer. A guy in my high school, always two steps ahead of us all in math classes (even those of us who were in the high group) sat down and figured out the ways to break characteristic system in that older version (buy CON, sell END, STUN and ED - net cost becomes negative!). Thankfully it's been removed as an option from the latest edition.

    That didn't keep me from defecting to GURPS when GURPS 2e came along, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Hero. And supers is the one area where I immediately go with Hero over GURPS.

    I will definitely be covering the lethality of combat in future posts, as I tend to like a realistic game as well as a supers game, so I hope you'll find that interesting. Suffice to say, it's not a clear cut situation.

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