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Discussion of Hero System's "Health" on rpg.net


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#1 phoenix240

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 04:43 PM

I thought this thread might be of interest to board members. Its a discussion of how vital and active, how "Healthy" Hero System currently is in the rpg industry. Given the location there's allot of less throwing dirt on Hero's coffin and smug grave dancing than you might expect and some good points have been raised. 

 

https://forum.rpg.ne...-current-health

 

Any thoughts or observations? 



#2 bluesguy

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 06:43 PM

Kind of a rehash of the same things that have been said here over the years since I came back.


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#3 zslane

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 07:50 PM

It is the same chain of discussion that happens here every year. It starts with someone asking why the 6e1/6e2 volumes aren't available, and ends in everyone solemnly acknowledging that today's RPGers aren't interested in a game system as complex as the Hero System anymore. And no matter how you strip it down or repackage it, the game system as we know it is very complex compared to the norm today, and that doesn't really change just because you hide the character creation rules in a different volume, or make the Speed Chart optional, etc.

The problem, IMO, isn't that the Hero System lacks an intro product, or lacks a Hero System Basic Complete (an oxymoron if there ever was one). It is that once new players realize that playing the real system takes work, they inevitably turn elsewhere. Or, more commonly, they hear the conventional wisdom that the Hero System is more complex than they would want, and avoid it from the start. The only way to convince them otherwise, IMO, is to turn the Hero System into something that is no longer the Hero System, and then market the hell out of it with resources Hero Games simply does not have.
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#4 Surrealone

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 09:34 PM

The only way to convince them otherwise, IMO, is to turn the Hero System into something that is no longer the Hero System, and then market the hell out of it with resources Hero Games simply does not have.

 

I dunno.  The "build it EXACTLY how you want it -- using only 1-2 books, not a crate of them" aspect of Hero System is its core strength.  I've found few games match it.  The tradeoff, though, is that you have to learn and understand a gaming operating system.

Sadly, the game has seldom been promoted based on the core strength I just mentioned...


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#5 phoenix240

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 10:52 PM

I dunno.  The "build it EXACTLY how you want it -- using only 1-2 books, not a crate of them" aspect of Hero System is its core strength.  I've found few games match it.  The tradeoff, though, is that you have to learn and understand a gaming operating system.

Sadly, the game has seldom been promoted based on the core strength I just mentioned...

 

Something that really stands out in comparison to GURPS the closest (IMO) game to Hero System in general philosophy. But you do need quite a few books to get the "Entire" GURPS system. Speaking personally, its one of the reasons I prefer Hero System in general. 

 

GURPS came up in the other thread too. Frankly, it seems to be doing better for all the insistence that so called complicated system are no longer viable. in the modern market. GURPS doesn't appear to be dying though its not dominating the market either or as big a deal as it has been but not many games aside from D and D can't be accused of being diminished over the last couple of decades. 

 

There often seems to be a strange eagerness in these discussions (on rpg.net in particular) to see Hero System buried. Like someone mentioned its been repeated numerous times almost every time a new supers system came out. 



#6 Nolgroth

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 11:26 PM

I dunno.  The "build it EXACTLY how you want it -- using only 1-2 books, not a crate of them" aspect of Hero System is its core strength.  I've found few games match it.  The tradeoff, though, is that you have to learn and understand a gaming operating system.

Sadly, the game has seldom been promoted based on the core strength I just mentioned...

 

Actually I think it was touted for that exact purpose. It was marketed as the ultimate gamers' toolkit. Your comparison to an operating system is falls short though. It is an OS (combat and resolution rules) and a scripting language (character & campaign creation) all wrapped up into one package. You are right that it is both the core strength of Hero System but also the biggest trade-off. In a world where our smartphones have relatively complex games, not to mention the console and PC games out there, tabletop RPGs have a lot of competition. Add to that a society wide sense of impatience and demand for instant gratification and it isn't a stretch to see why Hero isn't doing so well. Tabletop gaming has always been a niche market. Hero is a very small niche within that niche market.

 

Insofar as GURPS doing okay, I have my own theories about that. Hero basically put all of its eggs into the Champions basket. GURPS pursued multiple genres with much more fervor than Hero did. As a consequence, Hero and Champions are essentially the same thing in most of the general gaming publics' minds. Steve Jackson has published some very good GURPS supplements that span a wide breadth of the gaming spectrum. Just a thought and no real way to prove it one way or the other. Could be that more stores carry GURPS or it has a better reputation in the gaming community at large. Maybe there are enough resources being brought in to have some sort of advertising budget over at RPGNow or DriverThruRPG.

 

Now, as in all previous threads on this matter that I've participated in, we can all start dropping our suggestions. Would they help? Damned if I know. I do know that I'd like to see Hero System and Hero Games succeed. It just seems kind of hard when it's on life support.



#7 Surrealone

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Posted 26 February 2016 - 11:58 PM

Suggestions? 

 

Well, it'd be nice to, you know, be able to actually buy the books from the store.  Especially since folks on these very forums and even Steve, himself, refer(s) to things in 6e1 pg# format -- references that mean nothing if you can't actually buy the books to which they refer.

 

PDF's are useful, but most gamers I know still tend to like the feel of paper, the throw of actual dice (as opposed to using phone or computer-based RNG's) ... and most I know still mark up their character sheets and take notes with GPADS (Graphite Particle Application Devices) ... despite how archaic that all may seem.


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#8 Nolgroth

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 12:09 AM

I think Hero would almost have to run a Kickstarter to generate the funds to publish a run of the 6E1/6E2 books these days. I do not have accurate information about the financial state of Hero Games, but a print run is expensive. I doubt that Hero has enough operating capital otherwise. Hence the "life support" comment above.

 

I did notice that both Champions Complete and Fantasy Hero Complete have physical copies. That may be the only hope of having hard copy rules left for those newly coming into Hero Games. 

 

I wouldn't know about the rest. It's been the better part of two decades since I actively gamed at a real tabletop. :)



#9 Ninja-Bear

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 07:33 AM

The two Hobby stores that carry new stuff in Harrisburg, I haven't seen either GURPS or the new DnD. I see a lot of Pathfinder. I think I seen the newest DnD at Books a MiLlion. Not sure about GURPS but I see Munchkin everywhere.

The last time when I seen a Hero product in a store was when I bought Fifthe revised when I lived in Erie. Thats was maybe four months before talk of sixth edition coming out. The store owner then complained how nobody was buying Hero system and he had a nice selection of fifth titles.
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#10 bigdamnhero

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 10:31 AM

I dunno.  The "build it EXACTLY how you want it -- using only 1-2 books, not a crate of them" aspect of Hero System is its core strength.  I've found few games match it.

I agree that's exactly what I love about Hero. But it appears the number of gamers that appeals to is... [looks around] basically already here. What the majority of gamers seem to want it 1) a simple rules system and 2) a really cool setting/adventure they don't have to spend hours creating from scratch. That's pretty much the opposite of what Hero offers. (D&D is allowed to be complex because it's D&D, and because they're good at #2.) When I ask people their impression of Hero, the biggest thing that puts people off is the size of the text books: 5er was bad enough, but 6ed went even further.

 

I'd hate to see them turn Hero into something it's not so it would sell better. Tho I still think if they'd launched 6ed with something along the lines of CC or FHC, used some of that Cryptic cash to market the &%$# out of it, and then later published the textbooks as the "Advanced Grognards Edition" or whatever, they could've picked up quite a few new players. Now it may be too late; none of my local game stores are even aware CC & FHC exist, and probably wouldn't risk money on them if they did because they still have shelves full of unsold 5ed & 6ed stuff.

 

Oh well. Maybe in another 10 years people will be burned out on Savage Worlds and Fate. Or we'll be retired and have plenty of time on our hands to create stuff from scratch for the games we run at the nursing home...


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#11 GM Joe

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 11:13 AM

Yeah, quick and easy is what people want these days. Even D&D bowed to it with 5e, in terms of simplifying several of the mechanics. And that's fine. I enjoy that type of game sometimes.

 

I'm glad Hero survives and I hope someday it becomes popular again. But for now, I'm satisfied with what I have (which is shelves full of stuff).

 

Hero stuff from any edition is easy enough to get these days, and with just a few exceptions it's relatively cheap. No, it's not stocked at FLGSes, but then very little beyond D&D and its variants is. You can go to eBay or Amazon and pick up used copies of anything from Champions 1e on if you're patient (and, in a few cases, have money to burn). 6e PDFs are pretty cheap and easily available.

 

Maybe it would help to have some sort of simplified version out there, but honestly I doubt it. People who are open to Hero have CC available to them. CC isn't huge and intimidating, yet it is a complete version of Hero System. I doubt simplifying it beyond that would convince many of the folks who want quick and easy to try it, and it almost certainly wouldn't bring in the neophiles who are always looking for the next awesome thing. Hero's old, and its warts (real and imagined) are known.

 

Hero System is in an interesting position in the market. The current version is relatively large, but there never was a simple version of it that the OSR people could latch onto. 1e's chargen is pretty much the same as 6e's when it comes to complexity. That's the thing: Hero System has been remarkably stable for its entire life. An amazing feat that speaks well of the game's design. Sure, we can talk about various changes, but to an outsider that stuff's minutia.

 

It's also in-between the pick-from-an-enormous-list chargen model most closely associated with GURPS, and the keep-it-simple model of OD&D and many newer games, where just a few things define your character and you basically wing it from there. Hero System's method of defining every aspect of your character by creatively combining a relatively few elements is different, and can be daunting to those not used to thinking that way. Whereas in some games  writing little more than "I am Superman" on the character sheet is enough to define the character, in Hero you have to think about each of Superman's abilities, decide which Power most closely resembles them, decide where to place each on Hero System's infinite power scale, decide what advantages and limitations apply, and then figure out what each costs. That's a lot of work to most people. Some just get discouraged and decide to play something easier.

 

That's just the way it is. Not everyone is willing and able to do those things, nor have they ever been. I wish it were otherwise, but I've resigned myself to it.

 

Thankfully, I can still delight my friends with great gaming experiences using my Hero System library and my creativity. :)


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#12 zslane

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 11:21 AM

The real issue, wrt 6e1/6e2 as I see it, is that when people say they want hard copies of those two volumes they almost always mean they want the original full-color hardcover editions. It seems that the moment one points out that softcover POD copies (with B&W interior pages, like all the other core system books) can be made cheaply, they backpedal and turn their noses up at the idea. Those 6e hardcovers are impressive, to be sure, but it is possible to get that all-important game material in printed form for relatively little money if one is willing to forego the Super Deluxe Hardcover With Full Color Glossy Heavyweight Pages format.
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#13 phoenix240

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 11:34 AM

Yeah, quick and easy is what people want these days. 

 

With some incredible exceptions like Exalted 3rd edition. I'm actually iffy on the whole "Simple is what everyone wants". For one thing simple is highly subjective. For me and some others I know M and M isn't any "simpler" than Hero just has its complexity in different places, place that might click better with some than others. 

 

Hero has long had this stigma attached to that is the Calculus of RPGs while system that are arguably at least as dense have gotten a general pass or at least less static about it. 


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#14 zslane

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 11:59 AM

With some incredible exceptions like Exalted 3rd edition. I'm actually iffy on the whole "Simple is what everyone wants". For one thing simple is highly subjective. For me and some others I know M and M isn't any "simpler" than Hero just has its complexity in different places, place that might click better with some than others. 
 
Hero has long had this stigma attached to that is the Calculus of RPGs while system that are arguably at least as dense have gotten a general pass or at least less static about it.


I agree completely, at least when it comes to Mutants and Masterminds. All it takes is one visit to an M&M forum and look at all the rules questions and character design debates that come up and you quickly realize that M&M is actually not any less complex than Champions even though it set out to be when it was first designed.

However, I do think there are simpler, faster-playing systems out there that offer superhero roleplaying as a genre. Savage Worlds comes to mind. I'm not saying it is better for supers than Champions (I wouldn't say that about any system), but it does deliver on its promise of being quicker to pick up and play, and it does have a supers genre supplement and an enthusiastic community of devoted players. Add to that its clever campaign system (the Plot Point system) and I'd say it serves as a pretty good model of how to do "simpler" without sacrificing too much detail. Whereas I feel FATE is too simple and abstract, I think Savage Worlds pretty much hits the sweet spot overall.

But I do not think that Champions needs to become, or should become diluted in any way to become like Savage Worlds. I think the Hero System should remain crunchy and complex and detailed and not lose its identity. I just think it desperately needs high quality game worlds for new players to pick up and run in, with lots of pre-built stuff to get them started. In that regard, I think the Plot Point concept from Savage Worlds is worth emulating.
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#15 ghost-angel

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 01:24 PM

I've heard "quick and simple is what people want these days" going on nearly 3 decades.

 

I don't think that's true. At all.

 

I do think that, compared to several other types of fan groups I've had the pleasure and displeasure of hanging out with, Gamers are vastly more pessimistic about their own hobby.

 

Have no idea why, but they spend an inordinate amount of energy telling you what not to try/do/play ... telling you how hard or crappy one system is over another. Even when they're trying to espouse something in a constructive manner the language is negative. It's weird. It's why I withdrew from gaming communities for a while, and have no desire to attend gaming conventions anymore.

 

I think if Hero concentrated more on New Material when launching 6E instead of 'upgrading' existing material they might have cast a slightly wider net. Dunno. All water over the damn and under the bridge at this point.


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#16 GM Joe

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 01:34 PM

The real issue, wrt 6e1/6e2 as I see it, is that when people say they want hard copies of those two volumes they almost always mean they want the original full-color hardcover editions. It seems that the moment one points out that softcover POD copies (with B&W interior pages, like all the other core system books) can be made cheaply, they backpedal and turn their noses up at the idea. Those 6e hardcovers are impressive, to be sure, but it is possible to get that all-important game material in printed form for relatively little money if one is willing to forego the Super Deluxe Hardcover With Full Color Glossy Heavyweight Pages format.

 

That's a good point. The FLGS issue is puzzling to me as well. "I can't get Hero System at my FLGS."  Well, no. But what current RPGs can you get there? One? Two? Both off in some dusty corner on a single small shelf, far from the action, no doubt.

 

Sometimes I wish Hero offered the 6e1 and 6e2 PDFs with cover and spine images in Lulu format so people could POD their own copies. Other times I think it would only matter to those of us who would POD them just to have them because we want all things Hero.

 

 

With some incredible exceptions like Exalted 3rd edition. I'm actually iffy on the whole "Simple is what everyone wants". For one thing simple is highly subjective. For me and some others I know M and M isn't any "simpler" than Hero just has its complexity in different places, place that might click better with some than others. 

 

Hero has long had this stigma attached to that is the Calculus of RPGs while system that are arguably at least as dense have gotten a general pass or at least less static about it. 

 

I'm not terribly familiar with Exalted 3rd and M&M. I've looked into them and neither seemed particularly compelling to me (I am careful about getting into new systems; I have a select group of systems I absolutely love, and I want any new RPG to fit into a significant niche left unclaimed by those favorite systems -- otherwise it's not worth spending the time and money on it). When I did looked into M&M, it seemed like a system that would be disappointing and frustrating to me as a Hero fanatic, sort of like unknowingly spending the evening with your spouse's twin.

 

 

However, I do think there are simpler, faster-playing systems out there that offer superhero roleplaying as a genre. Savage Worlds comes to mind. I'm not saying it is better for supers than Champions (I wouldn't say that about any system), but it does deliver on its promise of being quicker to pick up and play, and it does have a supers genre supplement and an enthusiastic community of devoted players. Add to that its clever campaign system (the Plot Point system) and I'd say it serves as a pretty good model of how to do "simpler" without sacrificing too much detail. Whereas I feel FATE is too simple and abstract, I think Savage Worlds pretty much hits the sweet spot overall.

 

Yeah, Savage Worlds is pretty darned popular. It's got a cheap entry point ($10, IIRC), you can read the core rules in a few hours, character generation is quick and easy, and it has some really fantastically fun subsystems. They do have the an issue with combat stun that they've worked on, and character differentiation can be an issue, but overall it's a decent, light-weight system with great support. (As for FATE...well...it's free and well supported, and it is narratively strong enough to satisfy those who want mechanical support for that...uh...aspect. But, yeah, it's not everyone's cup of tea (including me)).

 

In my Savage Worlds phase I tried out the superhero genre supplement, and I agree it's probably good enough for most. Many people seem to love the Necessary Evil campaign world as well. These days, I go for SUPERS! Revised when it comes to quick-n-dirty superhero gaming. It doesn't get as much respect as its competitors, unfortunately. But we've had wild fun using it for one-offs and short story-arcs.

 

 

But I do not think that Champions needs to become, or should become diluted in any way to become like Savage Worlds. I think the Hero System should remain crunchy and complex and detailed and not lose its identity. I just think it desperately needs high quality game worlds for new players to pick up and run in, with lots of pre-built stuff to get them started. In that regard, I think the Plot Point concept from Savage Worlds is worth emulating.

 

I agree. There's probably only room for one Savage Worlds. And the world needs something richer, like Hero System.

 

I sometimes wonder if the "Hero's hard" meme could be fought with a counter-meme. If a popular blogger picked it up and wrote compellingly about the game and how fun it was to create a character, how great the combat system is, how well the game handles any genre, how simple it is in non-combat play, and how flexible it is in emulating what we see and read in genre media of all sorts. How you could do Game of Thrones or Star Wars or Jessica Jones or any number of other popular stories with it. I wonder if that would have any significant impact.

 

Because to me, the fact is that you don't have to squeeze every point for maximum benefit in character generation if that's not your idea of fun. And if you're in a group of adults, it shouldn't be necessary at all. ("Damn, Bob got twice the kick-ass out of his 250 points. I'm doomed to lameness for the next six months. I hate this game" should have been left behind with the pimples and sexual frustration of the early teen years IMO.) Character generation should be a creative, fun activity that players look forward to, and combats should be either incredibly fun or incredibly rare, depending on your tastes.


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#17 zslane

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 02:04 PM

I think Hero's ability to cover any genre can be discovered organically once players get some table time with the system. The key is luring them in in the first place. By offering a compelling game world for a particularly popular genre, players will try the system just to play in that world. And along the way they will realize how adaptable the Hero System is and naturally begin to apply it to other genres and campaign worlds after that.

The selling point must be a fully fleshed out and compelling campaign setting that makes good use of the system. From that will flow all sorts of marketplace success and a newly devoted following. But just extolling the virtues of a system nobody wants to try for fear of its bad reputation (for being really hard to learn) isn't going to get it very far, IMO.

#18 GM Joe

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 02:50 PM

True. You can fight the negative memes all you want, but in the end people need a positive reason to play something. And a uniquely interesting and fun game world is a great way to provide that.

 

Unfortunately, other than licensed properties, it's hard to come up with a compelling world and get it noticed.

 

I know for money reasons it would never happen, but it's fun to think that since Hero System is no longer tied to Champions, it would be reasonable for there to be Marvel Hero and/or DC Hero product lines. "The Marvel Cinematic Universe Role-Playing Game, powered by Hero System" sounds good to me. Lots of licensed photos from the movies and TV shows, a big tome with the overall view, a book for each TV show or movie, perhaps with PDF updates after each season or sequel.
 

Heck, I'd buy iZombie Hero in a heartbeat.

 

Realistically, though, it'd have to be something like the Western Shores Campaign, only more hip 'n' happenin', like Necessary Evil did for the supers RPG genre (not that similar stories hadn't been done before; this one just hit it right, right now).


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#19 zslane

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 03:30 PM

Vampire: the Masquerade virtually conquered the RPG market when it came out, and it was based on a new, unfamiliar set of mechanics that couldn't be counted upon to attract players on its own. It had to succeed entirely on its concept and the strength of the World of Darkness as an interesting place to roleplay. People started playing that game because they wanted to play vampires in that world, not because the Storyteller system's mechanics promised unparalleled gaming satisfaction. The World of Darkness is ample proof that coming up with a compelling campaign world full of rich roleplaying/adventuring potential is quite doable. The blueprint for doing so has been generously provided by White Wolf Games.

The challenge is finding a pool of interested, dedicated, knowledgable (of the Hero System) and talented writers who can put together a similarly rich and alluring campaign setting that can serve as the foundation for an entire product line, and put out a relatively steady stream of quality products with little to no promise of financial gain. A Kickstarter campaign would probably be the only way to fund something like this nowadays, and even Kickstarter is a non-starter for most Hero System hobbyists who don't have the time or inclination to get mired in Kickstarter and try to attract the kind of attention necessary for the project to succeed.

It could be a grass-roots project like the Champions Intro project, but collaborative projects like that usually only have enough steam to put out one substantial product. Kicking off an entire product line based on a rich campaign setting is, I suspect, beyond the scope of amateur collectives. And I think it's clear that Hero Games is not really an RPG publisher in the traditional sense anymore, so it won't be coming from them.

#20 Ninja-Bear

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Posted 27 February 2016 - 03:30 PM

I'll say it again. Hero can be as complex as you want it to be. How about show people that you can have fun with core no fuss builds and how you can also if wanted to hsve more complex builds. For example Shrinker from 4th is a realitivly straight forward build. Shrinker in 5th from CKC uses some very neat builds to support the special effect. Is either build correct? As we know, no its what the GM/builder wants. So show them the possibilities and various styles.
The main object of the game is for the players and the GM to have fun. Champions 3rd ed. Pg 130