Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Old School Champions Returns! - Adventurers Club #7

Not their strongest cover

We're back with AC #7 from the summer of 1986! Oddly enough #6 was winter of 1984 so there's a bit of a gap in there - even longer than the gap in my posts on these magazines! I let this go for a while because I hit a gap in my collection but I do like digging back into the older era of Champions. Besides, there have been some good comments in the past and there's not a ton of stuff online about them so let's fire them back up again.

Some RPG context for 1986: Champions is a big deal but Marvel Super Heroes came out in 1984 and DC Heroes came out in 1985 and are also big players. V&V is still seeing new adventures. TMNT and Heroes Unlimited are around and locally at least TMNT was briefly popular. In other games, AD&D is in the 1st edition but post-Unearthed Arcana phase, Runequest 3rd Edition is another big player, Traveller is still in its original edition, Twilight 2000 is still a newish thing. Mechwarrior, Traveller 2300, and Ghostbusters are all either out or coming out this same year.

Remember these? Whoa ... three ... pages of written material each month. That sounds like a tremendous beating to run if he ever had more than 3 players.
(Googled - nothing about it online that I can find)

Up Front: We get some discussion of the reasons behind the delays which is pretty frank: lack of funding and resources. Compare this with the obfuscation and carefully worded press releases we see so much of today even from smaller companies and it's pretty refreshing. This leads into the announcement of the partnership with Iron Crown, which means we're going to get content wasted on devoted to Middle Earth Role Playing as well. Oh boy.

Letters: One notable item we get some complaining about "lack of quality control" noting that there have been 3 revisions of the Champions book, 2 of Champions II, and that Champions III was full of typos and missing tables, all in a period of 3.5 years. Yes kids, this stuff went on well before the internet. In some ways it is better nowadays but I still see stuff like this even in modern products. I suspect the ease of electronic publishing is a double-edged sword. There's also a letter discussing heroes and killing citing Wolverine as one example with the response citing Captain America as a counter-example - again, it was going on before the Great Internet Debates.

Also notable: No trash-talking Foxbat letters this month. Perhaps we are now too big for those. There's a lot less silliness in general in this issue, from the ads to the articles to this. I kind of miss it.

That is an awesome back cover. I really like it.
The Meat:

  • There's a nice article on Presence that uses Captain America as a pretty strong example and adds some new wrinkles for using PRE in positive ways. One example is to buff allies against an enemy's presence attack. It's good stuff.
  • Errata for Lands of Mystery - I wonder if this is online anywhere? google - look, it's on Aaron Allston's page!
  • A couple of WW2 Axis-themed villains for Champions, Packmaster and Aslan - more on them later
  • Gadgets: The Phase Door for Champions and the Mercy Gun for Justice Inc.
  • Mr. Allston has a really nice little article on making Justice Inc. adventures more cinematic
  • There's an article for Danger International on acquiring equipment in the field. This seems to be the least-loved child of this era as even in the magazine there is limited support
  • Grand Tactical Champions - this is a rules-tinkering article by George MacDonald that I don't recall seeing in later rules updates. It attempts to make it easier to run bigger scale combats by modifying the normal Hero system using everything from scale changes to grouping NPC's into combined units to simplifying the damage into more of a scale of damage steps that is a little like M&M's damage system!
  • No reviews this issue!
Ah, old school maps

The big item this issue is "Raid on Blackgulch" - a Champions adventure by Andrew Robinson. Blackgulch is a chemical weapons testing and storage facility for the U.S. Army. The primary villain of the adventure, Phosgene, is a victim of an army weapons experiment. I think you can see where this is going. Aided by fellow villains Mercuria and Dr. Magnus (stats are provided for all three) he intends to steal the chemical weapons and use them against the army as his revenge. As noted in the adventure, this isn't a mystery to be solved. Instead "it's a chance for mayhem in an unpredictable environment."

This is a solid setup: there are hooks, background on the facility and program, maps of the facility, and a run-through of the villain's plan. The detailed map is keyed like a dungeon with notes on the purpose of each room, contents, stats for doors and walls, and any other defenses present.


The distinguishing characteristic of this facility is the chemical contents of some of the rooms and labs. There is a simple random system for determining the type of chemical that is "discovered" - likely through weapons fire - and how strong it is, how it affects characters, and the likelihood and size of possible explosions and fires if these things are violently impacted. This also includes things like nerve agents, welding torches, and fire extinguishers. If you have a character with a vulnerability or susceptibility to chemicals they are going to hate you for running this. Heh. The approach is similar to the Food Fight introductory scenario for Shadowrun, only more dangerous.

"Well surely my cautious and well-prepared players will take every step not to accidentally release some nerve gas or set themselves on fire. What could possibly go wrong?" Well Phosgene has an interesting power:

Yep, if he takes any body from fire then he explodes for 20d6. Note the vulnerability right next to it too. Now it looks like it only happens once per day but that's a pretty severe explosion and in the wrong room calculating the secondary explosions that result from this could take a lot of time, to the point I think I'd just go with "the Brick gets to make a Con check everyone else is unconscious" approach and go from there.

Dr. Magnus is an armored magnetic controller, ensuring someone can throw some of those metal containers (or fire extinguishers) at your heroes - or fling your battlesuit guy into them.

Mercuria is a fairly tough energy projector (35 Con!) who also happens to have a 6d6 NND explosion - that should be fun in close quarters.

Anyway, there's the rundown for Issue 7!

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