Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Old School Champions - Adventurers Club #3


"Hi, I'm the Slug, and I'm called that because I wear a s50's space helmet and carry an ankh (Which makes about as much sense as a lot of actual comic book characters if you think about it)
Another Tuesday, another review of an Adventurer's Club - this time it's #3 from the spring of 1984.

  • Up front we have some news type articles - Champions III and Justice Inc. are the main topics
  • Foxbat's letters column is still somewhat entertaining even decades later
  • First big article: The Art of the DNPC - this is a nice 4-page article on handling DNPC's in a campaign covering Types, Disadvantages, Skills, and Powers. There's an interesting point of view here that DNPC disads should be viewed from their impact on the player character, not the DNPC itself, and it did have some wheels turning in my head. Another funny thing is that nowadays this article is probably as long as a typical blog post, but 4 pages out of a 50 page magazine had to have been a pretty big deal back then. 
  • Covert Action this month is about mission panning, DNPC's, and the Private Investigator package deal. 
  • Teamwork is a 2-page article on how to get heroes to work more as a team than a collection of individuals and has notes on two approaches: the near-invincible supermenace that forces a team-up and the villain team that uses code words and coordinated attacks to beat down the heroes. This is another Aaron Allston article and some specific maneuvers and code words show up in the Strike Force supplement that came along a few years later.
I believe that's "The Monster" and a DNPC...
  • The middle 12 pages of the book is "Terror in the Treasures" which is a lot like some of the Action Scenes adventures for ICONS by Vigilance Press in that it's an adventure situation rather than a full-blown adventure with clues and a plot. Basically a group of villains from the Enemies books is going to try and steal some artifacts from a museum and presumably the heroes will try to stop them. Where it shines is not so much in the plot (simple) or characters (off the shelf) but in the details on the museum itself. Freed of the need to describe the opposition the writer spends a couple of pages detailing the layout and the physical stats of the museum and the objects inside, and you get nice hexmaps of both the main building and the surrounding area. The other innovation here is that museum artifacts are not especially sturdy, and given the amount of collateral damage that super battles tend to inflict, there's is opportunity here to reign in some of the reckless abandon of combat, forcing the players to think a little more about what they are doing. The main object of the robbery could be interesting too, so there is enough difference from a generic "stop the robbery" evening here to keep it fun.
As much map as any DM really needs for this kind of thing
  • There is an article on some different types of agents, from ninjas to zombies, along with stats - useful
  • Rules Questions are answered - this was always a popular feature in gaming magazines and appears to be so here as well.
  • The villain-of-the-quarter is the "Hexmaster M.A.D. Mk I" - it's interesting enough for a separate post, look for that later.
  • Another multi-page article is the Combat Rating System, which attempts to measure offensive, defensive, and mobility powers with a series of calculations to help GM's better balance their combat encounters. Look it's CR and EL 16 years before 3rd Edition D&D! Part of me thinks this is either somewhat redundant in a point-based system or it's an indication that balance remains elusive, even in the most comprehensive point-based system of all. It' written by George Mac Donald so it probably works and at the time it might have been a big deal but looking back I think "It's Supers" and just want to move on.
  • Finally there are reviews of Stormhaven for MS&PE (it's good!) and something called Supergame which sounds like an early attempt at a universal system (it's not!).
Speaking of Smurfs I have to say that Hank Azaria in that live action movie was just about the most spot-on translation of a cartoon character to live action that I can recall
 The big attraction here is clearly the adventure, and that seems to be the theme with each issue, but there is other worthwhile material here, at least for the time. Even now it's interesting to read the thinking of the designers and writers in these early years of the system as they explore the possibilities of the game.

3 comments:

Justin S. Davis said...

Please keep these coming. I had the full run a long time ago, and it's fun revisiting them.

Barking Alien said...

These are great! Very interesting flashbacks to Champions' own Golden and Silver Ages.

I can't believe they didn't see the potential in SMURF Champions. Their loss. That's why I made my own. ;)

Jay Murphy said...

I had this issue. The adventure club was about the only thing I could afford as a high school freshman. Read this issue over and over. GM'ed the adventure and had a great time doing it. Really enjoyed playing Champions back in the day!