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Michael Hopcroft

So... is it good?

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I don't know what to make of this book. I bought the PDF, I read the PDF. I have yet to construct a character. Even after reading the book, I'm not sure how.

 

And so much time is spent deconstructing the history of superhero comics, especially commercially, that it's hard to know where treatise ends and game begins.

 

So I find myself wondering if it's a good book, and is the game presented within it a good game?

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I take your point about the ratio of text to game. Ron justifies it as "teaching text". A more sarcastic take would be that the book is basically a set of designer's notes with a game attached.

 

If my printer was working at the moment (my whole computer system is due for replacement soon), I would extract the actual rules from amongst the fluff text in order to create a reference document for use in play.

 

So obviously I think there is an issue there.

 

Now, the game itself...

 

Yes, I think it's good. There are a couple of things that I don't really like/agree with/feel are necessary, but that's just my opinion and thus irrelevant.

 

The game does what it is supposed to do quite well, and, as far as the actual rules go, quite concisely.

 

How to create characters? Well, you can plow through Ron's ideal way of doing it or you can just get stuck in.

 

Characters consist of Situations (Disadvantages, kind of), Characteristics, Powers and Skills. Nothing radical there. Are they explained adequately for new players? Mmm, well, the relevant section is about 60 pages into the book...

Ouch, looking at it again reminds me that I was going to wait until I got the hard copy before I went through it with a fine toothed comb. Obviously that has gone out the window because of COVID-19.

 

OK, so once the campaign setting stuff (the "two statements") has been presented to you, you decide what character you want to play within that context, as normal.

 

You can then ignore the "three corner" stuff as you see fit. That's just a sop to "deep immersion" GMs. You might have to fill it in retrospectively if they insist, or you can take it seriously the first time.

 

Apart from that, the first formal step in character design is deciding on your character's situations. That can be a bit tricky in the absence of any guidance. If you've been doing it for a while you probably will develop a collection of sets of situations that you can tailor for a particular campaign. So pick one of those and write it down. Oh wait, you don't have that yet.

 

Well, actually it doesn't matter much what you write down at this stage. Your situations will change over time, and you can therefore fix any decisions you make at this time that you decide you don't like later.

 

So unless you have a really strong idea of who the character is, go for the standard set - Secret ID, some Psych situations (I suggest at least two), a Hunted or two, maybe a DNPC (but note how they work now!) and perhaps some other more specific weakness. If you are starting on 200 points, that should fill things up well enough.

Take time to get clever later - sit around and play with possible combinations, to see what kind of characters you can come up with. Try eliminating one or more of the categories I listed in that "standard" set. Use types of situations I left out. And so on.

 

But a quick ill-informed choice is fine the first time.

 

Then characteristics. Personally, I allocate about 100 points to characteristics. Often, this excludes Strength and Defence. Sometimes it includes these, or even some Skills. But it's generally pretty easy to assign 100 points here.

 

There are no wrong answers here. I personally think there are some interesting trade offs between Dex, Spd and Body, but the "by the book" suggestions give a range that should work for most games.

 

That usually leaves about 100 points for Powers, Skills, and the remaining characteristics. The text suggests you shouldn't worry about assigning points to attack powers, defense powers, movement powers and so on. Take that as seriously as you wish.

 

Skills are potentially a big investment. You can get away with none, one or two, and possibly launder the points under your characteristic budget, but if you want to be a real skill monster it's coming off your powers.

 

Muck about as you see fit, but again there aren't any real wrong answers. Except, of course, that you need to  keep an eye on your Endurance use.

 

Personally, I like the power set that is described in the PS238 universe as FISS (Flight, Invulnerability, Strength, Speed). Remember when I mentioned the "interesting trade offs between Dex, Spd and Body"? That's how you build a FISS, and you juggle their Endurance use appropriately.

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This May help: Most (not all) of the actual mechanics are in chapters 6, 10, 11, and 15. Some important rules that are elsewhere concern the ratio (of point total without limitations to point total counting limitations).

 

I prefer designers notes to tacking on a lackluster setting. 

 

For whatever reason, this game got me excited enough to write up a page of house rules for it. That doesn't happen much anymore.

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46 minutes ago, ideasmith said:

This May help: Most (not all) of the actual mechanics are in chapters 6, 10, 11, and 15. Some important rules that are elsewhere concern the ratio (of point total without limitations to point total counting limitations).

Now that's a concept I don't quite grok yet. What is the ratio, what does it measure, and what in-game purpose does it serve?

 

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12 minutes ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

Now that's a concept I don't quite grok yet. What is the ratio, what does it measure, and what in-game purpose does it serve?

 

It's intended to keep players from applying Limitations when they should be applying special effects. For example, few of any player characters should have a Focus, but it's fine for a power to be based on a shield, or suit of armor, or whatever. 

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20 minutes ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

Now that's a concept I don't quite grok yet. What is the ratio, what does it measure, and what in-game purpose does it serve?

 

 

3 minutes ago, ideasmith said:

It's intended to keep players from applying Limitations when they should be applying special effects. For example, few of any player characters should have a Focus, but it's fine for a power to be based on a shield, or suit of armor, or whatever. 

But if your special effect is a shield, and someone takes away that shield and you can;t use the power unless you get it back, how is that not a Focus?

 

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9 minutes ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

Now that's a concept I don't quite grok yet. What is the ratio, what does it measure, and what in-game purpose does it serve?

 

 

While ideasmith has already answered this, I'll have a stab at it too, if only because it will highlight my own misconceptions. (And I've already got it mostly written.)

The ratio is a balancing mechanism. It measures the difference between Active Points and Real Points, and puts a constraint on that difference. As a result, a character can't, in theory, be excessively powerful for their particular point total.

 

In addition, it helps to keep character builds simpler than they are in other versions of Champions, by discouraging the needless use of Limitations. (This is also addressed through considerations of Character Concept and a bunch of other things.)

 

It's perfectly fine for a character to have a ratio of 100. They won't necessarily be under powered compared to a character with a ratio of 119, especially since no characters are invulnerable. On the other hand, a character with a higher ratio can fill out out their character concept a bit more compared to one forced to leave things out.

 

Conceptually: how much of a problem is it that your character needs to shout "Shazam!" before using their powers, rather than just turning up having already done that? It can be the same character. The difference can be the one between the character operating solo, and them working as part of a team.

 

The 119 figure seems a bit arbitrary, but meh.

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16 minutes ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

 

But if your special effect is a shield, and someone takes away that shield and you can;t use the power unless you get it back, how is that not a Focus?

 

How often does Captain America's shield get taken away? IIRC, almost never. If that's how often it gets taken away, than it is not getting taken away enough to count as a Focus. Of course, special effects are supposed to more or less balance out. So this sometimes getting taken away should be balancing out benefits that the character is getting from the special effects.

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7 hours ago, assault said:

You can then ignore the "three corner" stuff as you see fit. That's just a sop to "deep immersion" GMs. ....

 

Apart from that, the first formal step in character design is deciding on your character's situations. That can be a bit tricky in the absence of any guidance.

 

First, I'll say I am by no means an 'immersive GM" so I don't need sops.

 

Like the two statements, the three corners approach provides the guidance one needs to create an exciting character. In my experience with the game over the past two years, trying to brainstorm the three corners one at a time in advance doesn't work well -- instead it's a set of categories to be aware off. Think of one element inspired by the two statements and/or the location and put that tentatively in one of the corners. Maybe scribble down which situation or power that suggests, then look around the three corners again and see what else pops from the creative impulse. It doesn't have to be executed before you start playing with points, instead it's valuable to jump between them as inspiration. 

 

Also, choosing situations is not a "I just need points so I'll throw this on there" -- situations define what you will be playing with, so choose things that interest you. As Assault said, it doesn't have to be clever, you don't have to sweat blood, just choose what seems interesting given what you've already come up with and the two statements. 

 

It's okay to leave holes in a character's capabilities too. It can force players into thinking of teamwork so one character compensates for the weakness of another. And if the hole makes the character vulnerable to defeat, you get to find a way to return from defeat. The game is not going to remove your character from play permanently unless you decide that. 

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15 hours ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

I don't know what to make of this book. I bought the PDF, I read the PDF. I have yet to construct a character. Even after reading the book, I'm not sure how.

 

I feel like you've kind of answered your own question here. If a role-playing game doesn't clearly teach you about itself, it's not a good game.

 

There are clearly people here who enjoy it. My own experience is that it's an extremely opinionated game, and you will enjoy it to the extent you agree with those opinions. I personally don't, but that's me. :)

 

Hopefully it will gel a little more for you after more reading.

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I'm making my way through it for the second time. It helps a bit having seen everything once already, and therefore having some idea where Ron is (eventually) going with some of the stuff.

 

I feel like most of the mechanical stuff needed to build a character is covered in chapters 6 (Structural Mechanics) and 11 (Fighting Words). Chapter 7 (Villain Making) also looks to be helpful for building villains...if you consider it a different process than building heroes. I never have before, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

 

I feel like the book could really benefit from an Index. The organization is fairly internally consistent, but it is neither intuitive not immediately obvious just from the chapter titles in the Table of Contents.

 

I also feel like some kind of aftermarket document--maybe just a couple of pages--explaining the significant mechanical differences between Champions Now and previous iterations would be helpful.

 

Just a few observations on my part. I feel like it has potential...or would have, if I had a gaming group.

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The lack of an index is the most obvious flaw.

 

Yes, it is opinionated, but the main thing to remember about it is that is a DIY game - you don't get a setting or a play style handed to you. You decide that.

 

Once you buy it, it stops becoming Champions Ron, and becomes Champions You.

 

I was snarky about bits of it earlier, and suggested ignoring some things - but that was precisely me making it Champions Me.

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OK, I might create a character in Real Time, just to show how it works.

 

However, I'll do the Two Statements before I go on the clock, because usually they'll be handed to you by the GM. I'll also use a bit of "here's one I prepared earlier", because I've been mucking about with this game for a couple of years.

 

1. Australia's superheroes don't just protect Australia, but much of the Southern Hemisphere too.

 

2. Globe-spanning adventures start at the Hall of Champions, Toowoomba.

 

OK, by my computer it's 8:45. I'll open the PDF now.

 

The character will be called Southern Cross. He's a star-crossed lover.

 

Situations:

30 The Lover: DNPC. Lydia Weaver, Journalist.

Her situations:

(15 Hunted (Dr Nefarious, One Person, Includes Superpowers, Manipulative))

(10 Psych: Loves Dr Nefarious. (Happens sometimes, Irrational))

(5 Psych: Loves Southern Cross. (Happens sometimes))

 

15 Secret ID: Dr Alex Bruhl, Archeologist.

20 Psych: Needs to be a Big Damn Hero. (Happens a lot, Irrational)

15 Psych: Loves Lydia. (Happens a lot, Visible Expression)

20 Hunted: The Red Herring (One Person, Includes Superpowers, Ruinous)

 

100 points of situations. Some awkward choices had to be made. Keep a record of it for creating future characters.

 

Currently 9:02 by my computer.

 

Characteristics: I'll do this in two passes.

100 points on everything but Strength and Defense.

 

10 Presence 4d6

0 Body 10

 

Derived:

Recovery 10

Stunned 10

Knockout 20

Endurance 30

 

50 Speed 6

30 Dexterity 14-

0 Int 11-

0 Ego 11-

 

(90 points so far.)

 

Skills (from Char budget)

5 Detective Work 11-

 

(95 points so far)

 

Powers (Including Strength, Defense, Martial Arts)

30 Strength 8d6

10 Martial Attacks (11d6 Martial Punch, 14d6 Martial Kick)

(Endurance management hint: no need to use full Strength with attacks.)

 

Multiform (Maybe Telekinesis, "Star Powers" or something equally nonsensical)

20 Pool

4 1. Flight 10"

3 2. Long Distance Flight 5", Planetary

 

(67 for "powers" so far. 162 total.)

 

13 Defense 23

25 Resistant Defense 5

 

200 points total.

 

It's now 9:20 by my computer. It's taken 35 minutes to get this far, including regular referral to the PDF and thinking time. Transcribing him onto a character sheet would add a bit more time, plus he needs a picture.

 

Is the character perfect? No. Interesting? Potentially. He's a Big Damn Hero who can operate across much of the planet, but still can't get it together with the person he loves.

 

In combat he's pretty tough, but can be taken down by any number of unconventional attacks.

 

Oh yes, his ratio is 100.

 

I might have made some mistakes, but a GM will check for them anyway.

 

I only referred to Chapter 6 in the book.

 

 

 

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I see a sort of first-season Lois and Clark vibe here.

 

Lois Lane is, of course, being romantically pursued by Clark Kent, who is also Superman on whom Lois is fixated, while Lois's attention is also sought by billionaire Lex Luthor, (with hair!) who also happens to be interested in finding a way to kill Superman. Yes, it gets a little bit confusing...

 

But I'm wondering if you can take Lydia as a Situation twice. As a GM, that would raide a red flag with me. But I'm not yet familiar enough with the new game to make that judgment.

 

 

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57 minutes ago, Michael Hopcroft said:

But I'm wondering if you can take Lydia as a Situation twice. As a GM, that would raide a red flag with me. But I'm not yet familiar enough with the new game to make that judgment.

 

It could be swapped for a bit of a wants to live a normal life kind of thing. In other words, have a relationship, settle down, etc. Just coincidentally involving Lydia...

 

The point is the tension between motivations. He wants to do this, but he has to do that incompatible thing. That's why I think it's a good idea to use Psych situations in at least pairs.

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It seems to be kind of a "postmodern" version based on 3rd edition.  The stats are presented in terms of what they do first.  The rules focus first on the genre, the conventions, character conception and using disads(situations) first to define the character.  If I had to venture any constructive criticism, it would be that there aren't enough writeups included for it to feel fully fleshed out, and that from the standpoint of "playing right away out of the box", it's less than straightforward.  Of course, I'm biased as a longtime Champions player, going back to the early-mid 80s.  I'll have to read it some more and mull it over some more to have a more fleshed out review of it.

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3 hours ago, megaplayboy said:

It seems to be kind of a "postmodern" version based on 3rd edition.  The stats are presented in terms of what they do first.  The rules focus first on the genre, the conventions, character conception and using disads(situations) first to define the character.  If I had to venture any constructive criticism, it would be that there aren't enough writeups included for it to feel fully fleshed out, and that from the standpoint of "playing right away out of the box", it's less than straightforward.  Of course, I'm biased as a longtime Champions player, going back to the early-mid 80s.  I'll have to read it some more and mull it over some more to have a more fleshed out review of it.

I suspect Edwards wanted to make the campaigns he inspires so unique that there's no point to a villain book -- the GM will send in customized adversaries as they need them. All a villain book would do is be a time-saver for the GM who needs a "filler episode", which is something players may not have time for as they proactively go about attempting to reach their campaign goals. Ruby Red, for example, has an agenda she wants to address. She won't be stopping random robberies on the streets of Hartford or doing nightly "patrols" looking for trouble to stop. Those would be just wastes of her time. But she'll stop what she's doing and come running if a teammate needs her help, knowing that teammate would do the same for her if she was in trouble.

 

 

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I do note that CN drops some of the clunkier aspects of HS3E, such as END batteries, diminishing returns for multiple disads of the same type, differential costing for stats, figureds, etc.  Longtime hero players will recognize the mechanics but will also notice a lot of stuff has been streamlined or just plain dropped.  

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On 4/23/2020 at 9:27 AM, assault said:

OK, I might create a character in Real Time, just to show how it works.

...

OK, by my computer it's 8:45. I'll open the PDF now.

...

Currently 9:02 by my computer.

...

It's now 9:20 by my computer. It's taken 35 minutes to get this far, including regular referral to the PDF and thinking time. Transcribing him onto a character sheet would add a bit more time, plus he needs a picture.

 

Looking back at this, I spent roughly half the time it took me to create the character picking his Situations, and about the same time to create the rest of the character.

 

A more complex build might have shifted that proportion in favour of the second bit, but I could equally have spent more time sucking my thumb over the situations.

 

The proportions seem about right.

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I'm coming around to it. There are decisions that are different than I would have made, but made for reasons I understand. In a lot of ways the character creation leads me back to Champions 4 as I first experienced it: while for a lot of people, Champions is rooted in nuts-and-bolts mechanics, what originally drew me in was the concept of "Energy Blast, 5 points per 1d6 of Damage," which was so simple and elegant compared to DC Heroes with its charts or Marvel with its Monstrous Energy Blasts and such. And although CN dispenses with brownie points and fate points and whatnot, it has a lot in common with DC Heroes and Marvel Super Heroes in terms of being a brawly, fast-paced game where heroes can and do hit the dirt from time to time.

Some of the no-shenanigas polices ("no limitations on powers in Multiform") seem overly broad (What if one of my slots would seem cooler with Shutdown?). But that's okay, every edition of Champions has some of those rules, every RPG has some of those rules.

 

As to being a book, it's a good book, to me. But not for all purposes. I feel like there could be a capsule version of CN to introduce it to new players.

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I think Ron Edwards had a purpose in mind. The similar thing that comes to mind is Silver Age Sentinels with less powerful characters and less complex mechanics. He is clearly trying to find that "sweet spot" in which superheroes are most interesting.

 

He hardly touches upon the current state of the industry, but when he does he finds it creatively dismal.

 

 

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Honestly I haven't bought any comics in ten years except DCAU adaptations, and a few indie books like Invincible and Astro City. I've glanced through some recent JL stuff and it's okay. I wouldn't claim to know the current state of the industry, but if there's a lot of good stuff happening in mainstream books out there I don't know what it is.

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As reference for Champions Now, it's really worthwhile to buy access to the Marvel Comics online and read the 60s through early 70s of Spider-Man and the FF and whatever else takes your fancy. You can also get anthologies from most libraries. Ron sees the original Champions as inspired by this era and that is indeed what he's trying to capture.

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