CHAMPIONS Question and Answer
CHAMPIONS (1st Ed.)
So, you're wondering what the heck would I know about CHAMPIONS? I've been playing and running it since 1981. I recall when the core rules were typed out on a typewriter and had its iconic cover in black and white. I hand-copied those rules, memorizing them in the process. When the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe came out, I began translating those characters to CHAMPIONS. For fun. I don't know how many game sessions I've run over the years, or how many characters, but I can tell you this: I've mastered the game.
Now it's time to offer the next generation of superheroes the wisdom of the ages. So, comment below and let's get started!
My History of Champions
As I've stated, I started playing CHAMPIONS at very nearly the beginning. I was playing AD&D before then -- and hating it. I could never create a character I wanted to play. I didn't care if my characters died because I didn't want them anyway. The "roll up a character" system failed me. So when my friend Rodney showed me this new game, where you build characters using points, I was hooked. I dropped AD&D like a bad habit.
This was, I suppose, Version Zero of CHAMPIONS. It wasn't pretty, that I can tell you. They used an old typewriter. The art was primarily line drawings, and were really small. The cover would become one of the most recognizable in RPG history -- but at the time, it was black-and-white. The First Edition we all know and love was, I believe, produced in 1983. By that time, I had already created over two dozen characters and played in nearly twice as many games.
The point-based character creation system was a game-changer. No pun intended, of course. CHAMPIONS had hit the nail on the head. Players wanted to create characters, not game mechanics designed to goose-step through campaigns. The "kill 'em all" mentality of Dungeon Masters was getting very old, very quickly. And, I should add, this was the beginning of comicdom's shining moments during the Eighties. The Phoenix saga. The Dark Knight Returns. The Wolverine limited series. This was the best time to introduce a superhero RPG, and CHAMPIONS was the best thing out there. V&V players from that time might disagree, but they were still into random character creation in the first place.
We created the heroes we wanted and played in comic book universes. What could be better?
CHAMPIONS wasn't done with us just yet. The first edition changed a number of things that just didn't make sense in "zero" edition. Swinging flip-flopped from Power to Skill. Martial Arts were expanded as a Skill. Creating the characters we saw in comic books cost a lot of points -- 800+ for a decent Wolverine? They got the message, as they always do, and not only gave us the first edition, but CHAMPIONS II.
CHAMPIONS II is all over the current version, by the way. It expanded the creation process and background information. Whenever you buy a Science or Professional Skill, thank C-II. Combat movement was redesigned to make more sense. Mental combat was likewise re-tooled to closer resemble the comics. The guys were hard at work. Shortly thereafter, we got CHAMPIONS III. New Powers such as Multiform and Duplication were added. The expansion birthed the Variable Power Pool. Combined, these three books gave us the best chance of creating the characters we loved.
Then, the worst happened.
The Dark Times
CHAMPIONS dominated the superhero RPG scene for nearly two decades. Something had to give, eventually.
I was running games before and after school. We had an RPG Club, where I first served as VP and finally President. It's been calculated that, in terms of 8-hour sessions, we played 31 years worth of games. I'm not sure about all that, but we did play a whole helluva lot. Even after graduating high school, we started meeting daily over the summer and eventually on weekends.
CHAMPIONS came out with the Fourth Edition, combining 1-3 into an all-inclusive book. Wonderful. But then they decided to come out with CHAMPIONS: New Millennium. Not so wonderful.
The concept should have worked. Combine the two most successful systems - R. Talsorian's Interlok system and the HERO system (as it was now being called) and start counting the millions. It was a disaster. It set us players back nearly twenty years. Character creation was devastated by the change. And, as I've mentioned often right here, that was the best part of the system. CHAMPIONS died that day. But, like all good comic book characters, it wouldn't stay dead.
There were so many different HERO games produced one's head would swim trying to count them. The system was refined, and became highly specialized and custom-tailored for each new genre. What astonishes me is that the rules were still, for the most part, interchangeable. You could, for example, play a space hero in a fantasy campaign with virtually zero changes required to either the character or the game.
So, obviously, HERO slammed all of these genre-specific tweaks together and created HERO. One RPG to rule them all, as it were. And CHAMPIONS came back swinging. By this time, I had run thousands of hours of games and created hundreds of characters. Due to some necessary changes to the system, many of the characters were rendered obsolete.
Well, good. It meant I could get back to creating characters again. And now, with HERO's Sixth Edition, I'm that kid again. I'm back in 1981, poring over the rules and making my ideas as real as those rules would let me. So, that's my story. What's yours? Let's hear it! Share it with us below.