Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Old School Champions - Adventurers Club #5

Well we have our first non-Champions cover, though it certainly could be a Champions cover. There's some good stuff in this one:

  • Editorial: this is Aaron Allston's first full issue as editor
  • News: Enemies III is out, the 3rd edition boxed set is coming out (it is not called 3rd edition at this point though, just "the new boxed set"), Super-Agents and Lands of Mystery are coming soon, and PRIMUS and DEMON and a ref screen are in layout
  • The Name Fantasy Hero Something Else contest, held in advance of the release of Fantasy Hero, has ended and the winner was "Adventure Eternal" - hmmm. Glad they didn't use that. Runners up were "Gateway to Adventure (sounds more like a campaign set than the game itself) and Epic Adventure (generic!). 
  • Letter-writers are still talking smack to Foxbat and it's still a little funny to read them 3 decades later.

The first big article this time is "Refereeing Champions Disadvantages" and it's a very solid article, even today. One thing I've noticed in games that have been around awhile (from Champions to 40K) is that a lot of "how to" articles assume the reader knows The Basics and a whole lot of Generally Accepted Truths that guide one on how the game should be played. The problem is that outside of D&D and Pathfinder, not a lot of games spend time explaining this in an easily understood way (i.e. not a wall of text and not in a separate rulebook) so these things may not be as easy to pick up as they ought to be. This article covers the main disadvantages in Hero System in a great way from a DM's perspective. It spends a lot of time on killing attacks and codes and how to handle the interaction of those things in the game. It's a solid article and I think it's worth reading today.

Next up is a short article on the military in Hero terms. This includes stats for soldiers, weapons, and vehicles like the Abrams and Bradley - and the Sgt. York air defense gun, which in the Champions universe might have been wildly successful but in the real world was not. It also covers the "Modern Jeep" which you may know as the Humvee. It's always fun to run across little things like this. 

There's a short article on Impossible Crimes which is really aimed more at modern or espionage type games. This is not really my thing so I'll just mention it and move on.

Then we get to The Hawkes Phantom, the cover-mentioned adventure for Justice Inc. by Aaron Allston. For those of you wondering about that name (I know I was) Hawkes is a city and the Phantom is a masked criminal. As you might expect form Mr. Allston, it's a very complete adventure - a decently sized list of characters with notes on each, some good maps, a newspaper operation written up in some detail, and a villain's plot spelled out so that your players can discover and attempt to thwart it. There's even the potential for a train chase, which is not something you see in many adventures. I am not really a 20's-30's gangbusters type guy, but with some upscaling this could be turned into a Champions adventure pretty easily I think. Another plus: there are no aliens, or known supervillains, or mutated animals involved - just a good old cape-wearing human.

As you can see, the picture above is "Fire Goat"

The flaming goat actually has an interesting backstory, sort of a cross between TMNT and Hellboy, before either of those two things were around. He's a genetics experiment that is the object of a devil-worshipping cult's magical ritual. The no talking thing could make for an interesting player challenge outside of the normal mechanics of the game. I have mixed feelings on it - in the right mood I can see trying to mimic a grunting goat superhero as being a lot of fun for the DM, in another mood it could be annoying and frustrating and get in the way of the rest of the game. His multipower is basically "magic spells" so he's pretty flexible. I see this character as the core of a nice little arc where the heroes encounter/find/rescue him, try to figure out what he is, and then help fend off the attacks of his hunteds and maybe help him find some peace. Mechanically he's not all that tough or powerful but he could be fun to run story-wise. Also, Incapable of Speech means you don't have to listen to his Obsession with Environmentalism.

Wrapping up we have reviews of The Armory (it did exist!) and Marvel Super Heroes (kinda funny to read now) some notes on infiltration in Espionage, then we get the somewhat-famous conversion guide for converting MSH characters to Champions.

Now this is very much a loose guide, though it does involve numbers, but there are few games as different in approach mechanically as MSH and Hero, so a lot of the Champions stuff is interpolated from MSH numbers. There are multiple disclaimers, and the author (George Mac Donald himself) notes that you're getting a picture of a character filtered thru Marvel Universe, MSH, and Champions -to me it makes a lot more sense to just sit down and work it out yourself but in the 80's a lot of us were very concerned with getting those numbers "correct", so if you could point to a system that you used to quantify the unquantifiable you were far more legit than someone who was just winging it. If you are contemplating doing this sort of thing it might be worth a look to see how this one worked, but I don't know if it's any less work than doing it yourself. Plus if you want a baseline there are many many writeups of Marvel characters in pretty much every Supers RPG system online now and these have the double virtues of a) having been reviewed by other obsessive fans and b) giving you someone else to blame if the character sucks or the mechanics are bad. I'd call that a win.

So there's issue 5, a solid, solid issue for Champions fans - then and now. 


cologeek said...

I just found your page, and as a long time Champions gamer (I still have my first edition in a box somewhere) I'm enjoying your retrospectives. The Hawkes Phantom is one of my all time favorites, I love the old pulps and Justic Inc. has been a long time part of my GM rotation. I've run the adventer several times with different groups, and it's always been fun.
And as an added bonus, when the film The Rocketeer came out I went to see it with one of my gaming buddies. When Lothar appeared on the screen my friend cried out, "Oh my god, IT"S FRANG!"
Looking forward reading more of your blog.

Blacksteel said...

Thanks and I do need to get back to these. I have several gaps in my AC collection and I need to fill them in to keep this going. Maybe I'll just go ahead and do the ones I have and come back to the others later.