As many of you already know, Hero Games currently has a project running on Kickstarter. With six days remaining it (at last count) has 430 backers and is 74% funded. Thus we are tantalizingly close but not over the finish line just yet. So obviously I want all of you to back this project. Equally obviously, a sizable minority of you object to this project, and have strongly voiced those objections on various forums, including the Facebook Hero System fan group. So I thought it might be a good idea for state why I personally, as a publisher, would like to see Champions Now come to fruition, and what the long term benefits of its existence might be.
Let me start by explaining how this project came into existence. Originally, Ron Edwards came to Steve Long and proposed the idea of Hero Games publishing his own version of Champions, based in the roots of the game from the 1980s but updated with more modern storytelling techniques. Steve then brought the idea to me and, after discussing it with the company director, we decided this would not only be an interesting little project, but might work well for the other half of our business: the rpg small press distributor Indie Press Revolution. (More on that later.)
That’s it. It’s not a profound statement of anything else. I just thought it would be neat. Ron Edwards is an important figure in the early history of self-published, independently produced roleplaying games. The Forge – the website he helped to create – was and remains incredibly influential on subsequent game design. Two of the games which came out of that school of designers – My Life With Master and Dogs In The Vineyard – permanently changed the way I look at rpgs. He’s also a profound thinker about the nature and experience of roleplaying games. I personally found his GNS theory of how roleplaying games work to be both helpful and inspirational in my own work.
Also, I personally like Ron. He has interesting things to say about roleplaying games and comic books. Like a lot of the storytelling crowd, his writing technique is brash, personal, informal, and even confrontational: very different from what Hero Games has typically published throughout its long existence. And that’s part of the point. In my time as the publisher of Hero Games I’ve focused my energies on four things. One, get out a Hero System book about once year – even if it meant publishing it myself for various reasons. Two, encourage third party designers and publishers to release Hero System material. Three, preserve the history of Hero Games by getting older products released in PDF format, and newer ones made available through print-on-demand when their print runs sell through. And, finally, four: get new players to try the Hero System, and old ones who have moved on to other games to come back and try it again.
This last part is the important one to Champions Now: I wanted to publish a product that would simultaneously interest some older players, while encouraging the generally younger fans who purchase books from Indie Press Revolution to give a form of Champions a try. These are typically players who are much more interested in immediacy and narrative, but much less interested in constructing beautifully conceived characters out of math and rules. Ron knows both fan groups well, because he’s been a part of both since their beginnings. So he seems like the man for the job to me.
If we succeed and, over the course of a year of playtesting, create something unique and special that catches the imagination of the small press fans and game designers, who knows where it might lead? In my capacity as general manager of IPR, I’ve seen dozens of games spin off from systems pioneered in products like Apocalypse World and Spirit of the Century. It would be nice to see something like that happen for Champions, even if its in a form that some of you might not find to completely to your tastes. That would be a nice legacy for Hero Games to have, as well as for me to personally leave behind.
So, for those of you who have voiced your opposition to this project, please consider reconsidering. I’m attempting to do something creative and productive here as a publisher, not invalidate your many years of enjoying the fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of the Hero System. Give it a try and see what happens. Who knows? Maybe by participating you’ll help to create something you can be enthusiastic about after all.
Jason Walters, Publisher