Sunday, February 3, 2019

Thoughts on Champions, after umpteen years


I've just joined a Champions campaign and tonight we had our first session. Please don't take what I'm about to write as critical of the GM or the other players; this is what I felt throughout the session. I mention these things here because I'm pretty sure that I have inflicted all of these on players at one time or another, and I think they're specific to the game system, or encouraged by the game. They are part of the reason why I stopped running Champions years ago.

A Brief Digression

I just want to say that I think that Champions and the Hero System have many virtues. For the simulation of the physics of a particular fictional reality or specifying a power, there is nothing better, I think. If you want a left-handed werewolf with cybernetic implants who fights with a katana and a taser, and who has spells that only work on the Thursday after a full moon, there is nothing better.

The only thing I've ever tried to play that comes near it in terms of that specificity is Wild Talents because it added the utility category for custom powers.

So if what you want is the ability to say exactly what your power is, Hero System is your jam. If you want to be able to build the world in game terms and have it be consistent, Hero System is the way to go. Hero System ought to be the first step in simulating any fictional reality; its fingerprints are all over Jim Gardner's Spark Vs. Dark books, even though I've tried to convert them to ICONS.

There are some things, good things, that Hero System does that no other game does.

End digression.

Back to My Point

That ability to create very specific worlds? Often means you do.

Which in turn creates really lengthy histories and games that are in media res except the media is a history lesson. That's not the fault of the game system (which has nothing to do with the history of your campaign world) but I think it's a symptom.

And combat is slow.

Look, tonight we had one—onemdash;combat. It was, admittedly, a difficult one: six players and something like twenty (maybe thirty) GM characters. A lot. We had less time than usual, mostly because I arrived late. (Last in, first out: maybe that's my mantra. I didn't mean for it to happen that way, but I had stuff before and after the session.) My character is speed six. I acted twice.

Now, to some extent, roleplaying is about the journey and not the destination. Fun with the gang, references to Firefly, D&D, previous games/campaigns/whatever. But in combat, in Champions, when combat is happening, you are not doing anything when it's not your turn. If you whiff (as I did, rolling a 17 on one to-hit roll), you do nothing.

In previous campaigns, I was speed 6 and I acted more often than anyone else (usually). Another PC is speed 8, and the villains are as bad. Is that a fault of the GM or the game system? I dunno; I go back to Theron Bretz's contention that SPD in Champions is spotlight time. The higher your speed, the more likely you are to get time in the spotlight. IOne character, a GM character, was speed 4 (I presume; he acted in segment 3). Since he had been mind-controlled to untie me (yes, I was tied up with wire at the start of the combat), I was rather interested in him acting, but he did not, not for most of the combat (and someone else had moved e out of range by the time he acted).

Right now, that's really the thing that I put at the system: the combat. Slow. That's kinda my overwhelming impression of Champions combat right now. And I've been trying to figure out why that bothers me so much. Am I that glory-hungry?

<;p>Wheel, maybe I am. I like to GM, after all. But I also saw a lot of stuff tonight that was, well, me as a GM, and that's what makes me think that maybe the game system encourages them.

Anyway, somewhere along the line I got the idea that fights have a point.

  • The heroes are outclassed by the villains in this city.
  • The Heroes are bad-asses who put down regular thugs.
  • This particular villain is difficult to deal with.
The point varies depending on where we are in the adventure or who is involved. (I originally wrote "in the story" but that's wrong: I have grown to believe that RPG adventures are situations and the story grows out of what they do. Still, beginning/middle/end are useful emarcations in terms what the point is.)

But: Slow. Slow. Slow.

There's also the fantabulous point inflation. I have on my character sheet that I know the supervillain population. Villains also have reputations. We rolled on reputations; I suspect that I could have rolled on my skill roll (whichever as higher), on the theory that "reputations" are meant for the general populace, not somebody who really cares about this stuff. Sorry, distracted: the point is, that I have a knowledge skill for the rituals of the cult I used to belong to, and one for its members, and one for ... Actually, I have four knowledge skills that relate to that particular cult and parts of it. I have a separate k=skill for analyzing the behaviour of cults.

On the one hand, I totally see that those are separate things. On the other hand, I think, "Are those the pointof the game?"

End of Rambling

Look, I'll be back for the next game, when we play some more of the combat. I had a good enough time that I don't want to quit. However, by the same token, I'm not blind to the flaws of my childhood crush.

No game does everything perfectly. The best you can hope for is a good fit for you and not to be sucky when it doesn't fit someone else as well.