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I've been roped into running Champions...


Arcanuum
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So here are my questions. 

1. Do you need to use a tactical map and minis/tokens?

2. Is there a cheat sheet for Champions for both referees and players?

3. Do you have any tips for running Champions?

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1. Theater of the mind is perfectly fine for Champions.  Some people really want to measure things out and try to place their area effect powers so that they hit in the optimal position, but combats can already be time-intensive, and extra detail can be a huge fun killer.

 

2.  There is a quick start guide available on this site.

 

3. If you look at the Champions GM screen, you'll see a huuuge section devoted to Presence Attacks.  Read up on them, use them.  Few things equal the fun of your hulk wannabe character smashing a car and stunning everyone into a momentary paralysis.

 

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Best tips I can give for running Champions are these:

 

1) The purpose of playing a game is entertainment; don't let rules or your story get in the way of fun

2) Try to make the game feel as much like the source material your players are used to as possible -- movies, comics, animated etc, whatever.

3) Ham it up, be over the top, role play and be goofy and bring the NPCs to life

 

If you and the payers are new to the system, try the Champions Begins rough draft as a tutorial!  So far all the people who offered to playtest it have not followed through yet.  Its tough these days to run an RPG though, I understand the challenges.

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6 hours ago, Arcanuum said:

1. Do you need to use a tactical map and minis/tokens?

 

"Need" is a strong word, and the answer is "it's going to vary from group to group."  Some people just like them for their own sake; some people kind of need them to properly visualize what's going on.  I tend to _prefer_ them, but I don't _need_ them per se.  It's been my experience that a map of _any_ sort, even just a rough sketch, done reasonably to scale (not necessarily "compatible with miniatures" scale, but the various distances and objects on the map roughly to scale with each other) is helpful to pretty much everyone, simply because it gives a clear picture of what is where, what environmental items are where, who is positioned where, what actions are viable in any scenario, etc.  

 

Not only is it helpful for preventing and resolving disagreements about viable combat choices, it helps reinforce the scenario and the story: when the GM describes the wispy tendrils of the vines that curtain the pathway ahead, the Players can see the location of the tree from which they hang and if there is actually a path around them before deciding "I go around them" and the GM stating "there is no way around them" and the Players firing back with "you didn't say that; you said "hanging from a tree; you didn't mention that there is no way around the tree!  Why is there no way around the tree?!" etc, etc, etc.

 

Early on, in my Traveller days (let's just dig back to the seventies here....), our "maps" were "this die is you; that die is you; that die over there is you, Tommy.  These black dice are the spaceport guards, and this jar of French Onion Dip is the comptroller's guardshack.  The eraser on top of it is the communications array.  This handful of chess pieces are crew members from other ships and civilians shopping in the port.  That 8-track over there-- that's the Freetrader C.W. McCall.  That other one is the courier ship Skynyrd.  Over there, guarded by those two batteries, is the luxury liner Stratego....."

 

They slowly evolved from there.  ;)

 

Now as Nekkidcarpenter said, not using a map is perfectly fine.  But again, even that is going to vary from group to group: some people need more help with immersion than do others.

 

 

6 hours ago, Arcanuum said:

2. Is there a cheat sheet for Champions for both referees and players?

 

For what aspects of the game?  the 5e GM screen has a nifty booklet that condenses a lot of things, and there are a lot of options for combat flowcharts.  Character creation is a mixed bag--  Frankly, I find the older characters sheets helpful for the charts of maneuvers and their penalties / bonuses, and I like to have a Speed Chart available-- I have a few index cards with the Speed Chart and I give the players a couple of markers the can use to note their own SPD and what Segment we are on.   What is it that you think a cheat sheet would help with?  If you're not careful, you'll end up with a miniature rulebook you'll be thumbing through, even when you only need a small part of that information: you don't need a lot of Character Creation info in the heat of combat, for example.

 

6 hours ago, Arcanuum said:

3. Do you have any tips for running Champions?

 

 

I know it's a schlep, and it doesn't seem to be terribly applicable at first, but pay attention to the Players and their reactions, etc.  Drop anything that is clearly detracting from their fun or creating a real problem.  Once they grasp the basics, you can work in other stuff and see who it goes then.

 

 

A bit more specifically: don't split the party, at least not until you find out just what Players are cool sitting out for a few minutes.  Make sure every scene has _something_, no matter how minor, for each Player Character to do, and try to incorporate one or two scenes into every session where a particular Character can strut his stuff-- spotlight moments, as it were.  Pay attention to Player reaction during those spotlight moments-- do _not_ ask for feedback on the moments, because the Players will lie to you: "Oh, yeah; that was cool.  I liked that" and they will do it because they like you, and they don't want to GM.  :lol:   Pay attention to their reactions in the moment, and just after.  Just because they _did_ get to shine in the moment and the situation was tailor-built to their specific Character doesn't mean that it's something that the Player himself enjoyed.  

 

A specific example from a game a few months ago from the youth group:

 

Kinetica has a medical doctorate, and has "medicine: General Practitioner" at 15-.  I included an explosive prison break scene that featured several civilian casualties scattered over the area.  This scene was specifically created for her: they were gravely wounded,  but they were spread out and it would be impossible for a non-speedster to access all of them in time; there were sufficient supplies to be located on-site at the prison clinic, which had been conveniently opened via the removal of a wall during the escape.  It also kept her-- a decided non-brick who would have been a liability during the combat in that scene, and likely hurt very badly-- doing something useful and not just sitting one out or being killed (I had to use very powerful villains to pull off the level of destruction required for the scene, I'm afraid).

 

The Player _hated_ it!  Not because it was perfect for her Character, but because she (the Player) had become so deeply invested in the game-- because she had suspended her disbelief to a point that she was totally immersed in the situation, she literally _agonized_ over every die roll, absolutely, and without hyperbole-- shedding literal tears that her dice might run cold and one of these people might die.  No; I am not kidding.  "The perfect scene" that I had planned was absolute torture for the Player.  I don't want to scare you away, but it happens this way sometimes.  :(   Yet when asked about it after the game, "Oh, it was fine.  I mean, it was something that only Kinetica could do, and it had to be done, right....?"

 

I saw her reactions _during_ the scene, however, and it was very clear that it was _not_ fine.  Even all these months later, when the Players do that "ooh!  You remember that thing--?" jabbering, that scene-- the scene where she saved the lives of fourteen critically-injured prison guards and convicts-- _never_ comes up.  It's a bad memory for the Player.  I haven't done anything like that for her since.

 

 

Let's be honest: the list of "tips for GMs" could go on and on and on for pages and pages and _never_ be complete.  So I am going to stick with what I said, and add only one more item:

 

Be prepared ahead of the game.  Make sure you know what the villains are doing, always, and when and how they will do it.  What they will do if they are victorious; what they will do if they lose.  Be prepared for both eventualities in every scenario.  Know who your NPCs are, why they are on scene, and what they know and do.  Know your locations.

 

Drop anything that is negatively impacting the Players.  No: you don't have to make everything nice-nice and ice cream; the more familiar the Players become with your style, the more they will accept challenge and tolerate new and more difficult challenges; I promise.  But from the get-go, if they aren't liking it, find a way to resolve it quickly or drop it completely  ("Okay, this isn't working out like I thought; let's back up to the scene where....") and move on.

 

 

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1.  Have you played a lot of other games, not used maps & tokens, and prefer it that way? Then go ahead.

Otherwise, a hex map & minis are very helpful.

 

2. Depending on the version, character sheets can have a lot of what you need.  As far as actual play it's not particularly complicated.

 

3. Character Building is the more complex part of the game.  So start with sample characters and villains from the books or on-line...

....again, unless you're experienced with other games that have a lot of choice that way....

 

 

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   Others have covered the good and bad points of maps & minis. I’ve always found a blackboard or piece of poster board sized sheet of paper useful. For speed’s sake even have the battleground pre-drawn on a sheet and keep it put away until needed.

   The best piece of advice I have for you is to never be afraid to STEAL.  Comic books, old movies, novels, game manuals from other companies or genres. Whatever may spark an idea, keep yourself open to it. I’ve seen great episodes come from kidnapped GM’s who just said “Let me see that stack of comics and give a minute.”

  Robert A. Heinlein said “If you steal from three or more sources it’s research.” And Aaron Sorkin wrote “ Bad writers borrow ideas, great writers steal outright and say it’s a homage.”

      Good luck, you’re gonna need it.   And if you’re really stuck, send up a flare, we’ve always got old episodes and ideas laying around.

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It's tough to provide much without knowing your group.  Their preferences will decide a lot (e.g. maps) and their familiarity with the system is as important as yours - sounds like it's new for everyone.

 

It may help to have two character sheets.  One is the full-costed abilities sheet used for character design.  The other is for running the character in-game - describe how it works and ignore all the points.

 

Especially if everyone is learning, only learn what's relevant to the PCs and avoid unfamiliar abilities for opponents early on. Unless a PC has adjustment powers, sensory powers or mental powers, neither do the early bad guys.  You can learn those abilities later, when you're comfortable with the basics.

 

Nothing wrong with letting players revise their characters, or with a revision if you make a mistake early on (including "turns out that ability is unbalancing") either.

 

For sure, take player feedback.  But remember they asked you to run - if they don't appreciate the efforts, one of them could always run a game!

 

Actually, if you can tell us what about Champions appealed to the group, I suspect many here could offer some suggestions to better emulate those elements, and de-emphasize elements that may be less helpful, or even counterproductive.

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16 hours ago, Arcanuum said:

So here are my questions. 

1. Do you need to use a tactical map and minis/tokens?

2. Is there a cheat sheet for Champions for both referees and players?

3. Do you have any tips for running Champions?

Curious as to what edition you are running?

How many players do you have?

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11 hours ago, Arcanuum said:

I have 3 players and the edition I'm using is Champions Complete.

Start with something very simple. 

 

  1. Remember character creation in Hero is based on a character concept first and then you build the character to that concept.  Champions Complete has some 'template' characters I would suggest using them as a starting point for the players. 
  2. My groups tend to like maps and tokens/miniatures for games.  If you have them then use them if the players are a 'tactical bunch of folks'.
  3. Create a simple speed chart with each of the phases and which phase each player will act in.  Use some kind of token to track the phase.
  4. Create a simple story for the initial game
    1. How do the characters meet?
    2. Why would they work together (if they just meeting for the 1st time)
    3. How do they find out that their help is needed.
    4. Provide a simple conflict that allows everyone to learn how combat works.  If the superheroes are street level supers (i.e. Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist) then a simple bank robbery with a bunch of well armed thugs (guns and some kind of clubs).  If they are more at the Avengers level, trade out the thugs for a bunch of agents and one supervillain.

 

 

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17 hours ago, Arcanuum said:

I have 3 players and the edition I'm using is Champions Complete.

Cool. If you never played Champions before, the 400 pt starting level can be a bit overwhelming. So a quick introductory scenario to get the feel for the system might be to have your players use agents taking down a Supervillain. CC doesn’t have agents per se and that’s fine. Use competent normals and use the sample weapons and armor too.  The scenario could be a simple stop the villain whose broke into a warehouse. I think the best villain for this is Arrowhead but feel free to swipe and rename a hero if you want. This should get you some feel of the system. 

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Also I wanted to add that if your players want to build characters fine! That’s great! I would say that coming out of the gate though restrict them to 300 pts. Now in some books this is listed as “Low-Powered”, IOW, each character may not have a Power as high as “Standard”. Hogwash, allow them to be powerful enough to compete with the sample villains/heroes in CC. I’m just using the 300 pts to limit on how many capabilities each character can have starting out.  Then as your group gets more comfortable, give out experience points at a higher rate than is suggested so players can add and change as desired easier, until you get to 400 pts.

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Holy Alzheimer’s, Batman!   I almost forgot the most important piece of advice for any new GM.  
                   !!!!!!!!GET A COPY OF STRIKE FORCE!!!!!!!!

Aaron Allston wrote the best manual for GMing ever done. Using his original campaign for an example he shows how to avoid most of the common problems you’re going to face.  I’ve written over and over on this site my love and regard for this book (And I never got a stinking dime for it!) and it’s usefulness. There’s a new edition for sale here on this site or you can check your local game stores for a new or used copy.  It will repay your investment many times over and help you keep from killing some of your players.  

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@Arcanuum, I did also forget to ask, has anyone played Champions before? Or any RPG before?

 

Another tip for character sheets. Have one for the players and one separate for yourself. Then let the players write on their copy any information that they personally need or modify as they see fit. For example my daughter boxed all the Value for characteristics to show herself that those number were important not the cost. If I use an ability that may not be familiar to a GM, I write down the book and page number for easy reference. 

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The best advice I can give for running a Champions game is this...

1. Read superhero comic books, watch superhero movies, watch superhero cartoons. If you're not a fan of the genre, it can be a bit daunting to run. Find a style that you and the players like and stick with it. Are you teens fighting gangs and crime in the big city? Are you the #1 superhero team in the country/city/planet? Are you galactic guardians bent on protecting the universe? Style is important, and it's important to stick with it at least in the beginning.

2. Have a day unlike any other. More often than not, teams form because of necessity. There is some catalyst that brings heroes together. Is it an alien attack that causes the heroes work together? Or maybe they're part of the same subspecies or family? Or, perhaps they know some dark secret that bonds them together? Lean into the catalyst and create memorable moments in the game, no matter how long it is.

3. Bring on the Bad Guys. Villains should be characters in and of themselves. Sure MagnoPath is a powerful character, but his greatest weakness is that he has a thing for InvisoMarina, the team's leader. Or what about Dr. Foom who wants the conquer the worlds of Fandom and won't let anyone get in his way? Be creative with your villains, and give them some life when dealing with your characters. I mean, how many times does Viper Agent 989 escape death until he becomes a Nest Leader, or worse, a supervillain?

4. Listen to your players. Talk to them about the game, listen to feedback, and work with them to create a game that's both fun and exciting. If one has a problem with the game, discuss it with them or with the group.  But don't feel the need to be locked into anything either. Remember, everyone should be having fun, no matter your role. 

5. Grab a copy of HeroDesigner. You won't regret it. 

Welcome to the Hero System, Arcanuum. We're all here to help. 

 

2 hours ago, Tjack said:

Holy Alzheimer’s, Batman!   I almost forgot the most important piece of advice for any new GM.  
                   !!!!!!!!GET A COPY OF STRIKE FORCE!!!!!!!!

Aaron Alston wrote the best manual for GMing ever done. Using his original campaign for an example he shows how to avoid most of the common problems you’re going to face.  I’ve written over and over on this site my love and regard for this book (And I never got a stinking dime for it!) and it’s usefulness. There’s a new edition for sale here on this site or you can check your local game stores for a new or used copy.  It will repay your investment many times over and help you keep from killing some of your players.  

 

Strike Force is a great book! I prefer the original version over the newer one, but that, in part, has to do with the layout of the books. Both are filled with some great advice, and fun characters. 

 

23 hours ago, Greywind said:

It's a villainous deathtrap! Make sure you have the appropriate necessary skills to get yourself free!

 

Now you tell me! Where were you in the mid-80s with this info, huh?! ;)

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My $0.02: Pick four random villains from an enemies sourcebook. You take one and pass the others to your players. Pick teams at random and fight. Test drive the system using rented rides, so when you break something, you don't feel any regrets. It's also a good way to find out if you like this kind of character or not. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have always found the "How do the characters meet, and why do they join up?" question to be an issue.  I've been running / playing RPGs for ~40+ years now.  Back in the day, it almost always started with "the PCs are all in an inn & tavern" and then there is a fight...  It always felt artificial to me, and rushed.  Everyone at the table knows their characters are going to join up, because they are the players of a party...

 

So, I stole from Dragon Age Origins (the PC game).  I run a small scenario for each PC solo, to give a brief "origins story" to that character, and let the player ease into their PCs personality, as well as see how they play, before the "game starts" - in case they need to modify something, or even create a new character entirely (if it turns out they didn't enjoy the type of character they thought they would).

 

Then, I have a scenario that brings the PCs together, that is story driven, with a plot driven reason the characters join together as a team.  There is a gazillion reasons why, and if done in the tone of the campaign, it only adds to the story.

 

That "characters meet" game is the "game start", and because of the origin play through, the players generally have a much better grasp on their characters when the intro game is played.

 

I have used this process for all my various games now for years, and it has worked out very well, regardless of the genre.

 

I have even just skipped the "characters meet" game, and after the origins solo games, just tell them how they came to be a team, and then start the first game as the new team - this has worked well also.

 

As for the rest; everyone here has given some great advice, and more details of your players and your experience and RPG knowledge and types of games played in the past, will help us tailor the advice for you more.  There is a big difference between "My players and I have played RPGs forever; I usually GM, but this is my first GMing experience with Champions" vs. "We're all novice TTRPGers, but we've all been playing WOW together for years, and none of us have ever played a superhero game" vs. "We're a bunch of miniature based war gamers, who decided to try Champions", etc....

 

Lastly, I will mention a pet peeve of mine; especially if you're a fairly new GM, or novice TTRPGer period.  Make sure the players characters all "fit together".  For a seasoned (read old) group, it can be fun to have a "Punisher" type in a group of "Capt. America/Superman" types, for the party dynamics - but, for novices, having players playing characters that would as likely fight each other as the "bad guys" can be tough.  Talk about it as a group ahead of time - are we going to be hard-as-nails anti-heroes?  Or goody-two-shoe boy scouts?  A little diversity is fine, but too much can be too much to handle.  It will also inform the type of game you're going to run.

 

Just some thoughts.

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