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  • Why Now Champions Now?

    Jason S.Walters

    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

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    To start off, I have backed this project, purely out of my interest in game design, and the desire to support innovation and those trying to make a living in this impossible business. That being said, I'm also wondering about whether the retro post-system version of Champions will go far enough, since it seems to still have the point buy core concept. Your comment on immediacy and narrative doesn't just apply young people. I've been playing Champions since First Edition and I'd desperately love to have a version that focused more mechanics on enhancing actual game play, than on the deconstructive notion of mathematically engineering some perfectly codified simulated character. 


    I also think it would be interesting to discuss the differentiation between "Champions" and "Hero System" that seems clearly at the core of Ron's approach. Hero System allows for (with a LOT of work) creating a unified "physics" for building a game world, where you can position nearly any kind of action-adventure character types in clear, enumerated comparison with each other. "Champions" seems to be about something much more in the vein of simulating a feel/aesthetic of bronze age super-heroes in particular, allowing player expansion of these ideas. This to me is the core of modern, indie game design... rules designed to evoke a very particular feel/aesthetic/game experience focused on narrative outcomes generated "in play." The art not the engineering.


    Here's hoping this gets funded.

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    I'm also a backer.  I'll admit that part of it is my compulsive need to have every iteration of the game, but there's also a belief that more is better.  Let's say I buy it and decide it isn't my cup of tea.  You know... the other versions are still there.  I've still got those and I can pick one and run with it.  But I fervently hope this is something special and worthy of a place on my game shelf.

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    Stylistically, I hope that the final product will one of solid quality in not only game design, but also in art and print quality. I've seen and owned previous print on demand games and some have been extremely sharp in art and print quality from cover to cover like Prowlers & Paragons as a soft-cover book, while others have left fans like myself disappointed (e.g. Living Legends, Blood of Heroes).  I know that I wasn't alone when some of the fans I met expressed disappointment in the art featured in Champions Complete when compared to the art featured in the Champions campaign book for 5th Edition.

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