Saturday, September 1, 2012

Old School Champions - Links!

Just a few:
  • A nice bio on Mark Williams here.
  • A blog with some cool old-school Champions memories
  • Another blog that looks like they made an attempt to run old-school Champions more recently

Friday, August 31, 2012

End of a Very Good Run

I don't know what to say just yet. There's nothing good about this.

Easy-Way-Out Friday - Bookshelves

Awhile back commenter "Mick" had asked for some "bookshelf porn" after the move. I've been involved in some interesting things before but that was a new request. Anyway, I hope this is what he meant:

Those are the D&D 40K, and Shadowrun shelves. The one thing I haven't found a home for yet is the magazine collection. I do have some room left but they take up a lot of space and I tend to refer to the Dragon Archive CD for the older stuff and for 4E they're all digital anyway, leaving just the 3E versions where the hard copies are the go-to resource.

The Battletech shelf - books & binders only for now, the mini's are still TBD as far as a permanent home. Also some of my older boxes are out on the table as we've been using them to learn how to play. The simpler 3025 era is much like Basic D&D - not as many options but it's where we started and it's still a lot of fun to play. Note: The drill is not typically part of our Batteltech game - that was just a convenient open flat spot.

The Deadlands/Gamma World/Savage Worlds/Lords of Creation/Feng Shui shelf. Man those Deadlands book shelves are visible for quite a distance. Lady Blacksteel (hi dear) specifically asked me not to put those on the tall shelf on the end that's visible from downstairs - those colors really draw the eye. Yes, those are Battletech mini's on top of the non-battletech shelf - don't try to figure out my system, it works for me. Besides, there's a drill in the way on that other shelf. I've been thinking about letting the Apprentices try out Lords of Creation so it's in a more prominent place than it has been in the past. Of course, so is a lot of the test of this stuff, as in "not in the garage".

...and then these 3 shelves are pretty much the rest of it. The near shelf is Every Major Superhero RPG Ever Printed I Think (on the top 4 shelves) plus Star Trek (on the bottom). The next one has some boardgames & wargames plus all my Star Wars RPG stuff. The far shelf has WFRP, Twilight 2000, Traveller, Rifts, and some other games.

You may notice that I have "multiple copy disease" - I don't necessarily need two copies of "Keep on the Borderlands" or "Denial of Destiny" but I do like having two or three copies of the main rulebook and sometimes major supplements too, like the magic book or cyberware book for Shadowrun. Anyway, I have enough space now to handle that a little easier.

Things not included: as I mentioned above a lot of my game magazines are not on a shelf yet. Most of my miniatures are not on a shelf yet and some of the miniature rules & supplements aren't either. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them but it's a problem I can live with.

There's also a TV with the videogames hooked up and a computer desk with a PC for the kids too. It's a nice open area with plenty of room, so we can put up a folding table and play something and still have room for other people to do other things. Hey, they called it a "game room" - I'm putting as much game in the game room as is legally allowed.

I expect that a year from now this arrangement may look quite a bit different but for a month I'm pretty happy with it. My next quest is to find a better place for the big box games on top of the shelves then purge the remaining moving boxes from the house and make it look like we actually live here.

EDIT: I missed a shelf when I put this one up - I also have one more with the "spaceship game" rules on it. It's mostly Star Fleet Battles/Federation Commander with some B5/Battlefleet Gothic/Full Thrust as well. Yes, there's more unorganized miniatures and junk on top of it too - this is still a work in progress.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Old School Champions: Strike Force!

Among the recent acquisitions is one of the most highly regarded of the early Champions books: Aaron Allston's Strike Force. If you've been around Champions for very long then you've probably heard it mentioned with some fondness/reverence. I have been hearing about it since it was published in 1988 but I've never laid hands on a copy of it until now. I know for at least part of that time I thought it was a 3rd party book like those AutoAdventures for Car Wars. The late 3rd Edition stuff for Champions in the late 80's was a big blind spot for me as I had the 2E stuff and used it until the Big Blue 4th Edition came out and fired things up again.  I eventually started working through this blind spot and after hearing it discussed again recently on an episode of the Vigilance Press podcast I decided it was high time I owned this legendary supplement.

After acquiring it and reading it I will say that it is one of the most useful books I have seen, for Champions especially and for people-who-run-RPG-campaigns in general, particularly Supers campaigns. There is a lot of discussion of the practical elements of actually running a campaign - not so much about designing plots and villains but about keeping players happy, pacing a campaign, and some ideas like "blue-booking" which deal with the practice of running a campaign - not the theory.

Besides the advice sections this also effectively a sourcebook on one man's superhero campaign run over a period of about 7 years. He talks about how the first few sessions went, talks about the types of players, which characters they created and ran, provides a history of the campaign world, includes Champions character data for most of the heroes, the major villains, the bases, and the vehicles used in the game, plus maps of the major hero bases and notes on the organizations and other hero groups around the world. The fact that most of it developed in play makes it a little more complex and a little more messy than a setting created out of nothing for a game system, but it also reads much more like a history of the X-Men or the Avengers from a comic book. Crazy things happen and relationships get complicated and viewed as a whole some of it looks a little strange but I'm betting at the time these guys were having a blast.

I'm pretty sure some of the advice sections made it into later Champions material, but taken as a whole this is a very solid work and I think it holds up well today. I think a lot of DM's Guide type books nowadays are plagued with lengthy, wordy advice sections that go on and on but say very little that's truly useful ("you need a table and some friends and some snacks" - really?). This book is all about the practical and is much more useful as a result, even for someone who's been at it as long as I have. If you're interested, it's worth a little time and effort to track it down.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer Slowdown

We had a pretty good run for June & July but as we close out August things have been pretty light in the gaming department around here. I haven't run anything in about a month and I am feeling it.

  • I downloaded the latest D&D Next playtest pack and I haven't even opened it. Just not feeling it right now.
  • Picked up Civil War for MHR right before the move and I have yet to finish it. I can't seem to sustain my focus on it and while it's a pretty lengthy document it's one I was waiting for! Hard to say what's up here.
  • I picked up High Space for Savage Worlds which looks pretty promising but it's kind of been lost in the shuffle here.
I've mostly been reading old school Champions and old school DC Heroes which are unlikely to be the basis for a sustained campaign anytime soon but they are pulling in my interest so that's where I've been spending my time. BA's August of Star Trek has had me cracking open the old ship manuals and other books too, which isn't helping.

The only thing we've played is Battletech and it appears to be a hit with two of the Apprentices - I'll call that a win but it doesn't scratch the RPG itch. They are asking about playing the RPG version so I've dusted off Mechwarrior 3rd edition and skimmed it and as much as I liked it 10+ years ago I'm thinking Savage Worlds, Traveller, or even GURPS would be more to my taste now. It's looking like a research project for the near future. 

Not running the 4E game for over a month and the release of what is likely the final book for 4th Edition (Menzoberranzan) has me fighting some apathy there too. I don't normally care a great deal about whether a game  is "dead" or not but I'm feeling it a little bit this time. The new house combined with the start of a new school year has me feeling the urge to cut ties with the old and start something new which is a good way to annoy the players - I'm fighting it guys, let's not panic just yet. I'm not feeling the whole fantasy thing right now so Pathfinder and old school D&D and Next are all gathering dust too. It's more of a genre thing than an edition thing.

A lot of this is the move - most of the boxes have been emptied, but not all, and that has taken up a lot of time. As we move into more of a routine then I expect things will start to get back to normal. This weekend we should have time to play a few things, especially with the holiday on Monday so I'm going to let the Apprentices pick what they want to do. More to come.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Old School Champions: 1st Edition, 2nd Edition, and the Island of Doctor Destroyer

Among the variety of Champions material I've picked up recently I've made a few discoveries that were new to me and I thought I would share.

First off - and this is probably not new to those of you who really care - for some reason I always assumed the color-cover version of the old Champions rulebook was a reprint of the 2E book. Apparently I was wrong. I knew the grayscale cover was the second edition of the game and that's the one I started with, but who knew that the first edition had a color cover? It also has more art on the back, unlike the gray one which has the speed chart instead. It's only 56 pages long and is organized somewhat differently than the gray-cover second edition which is 80 pages long. So I learned something I didn't even realize that I didn't know! It's a little embarrassing considering how long I've been around this game but there it is. I will say after looking through 1E that I am glad I started with 2E - it's just better in every way - organization, completeness, and even the art is at least consistent - it's almost all Mark Williams in the 2E book.

Also, there are at least two different printings of The Island of Doctor Destroyer. One version I have is staple-bound and has a blank inside cover. The other version I have has slightly different coloring, the cover is separate (like an AD&D module) and has a large hexmap of the island printed on the inside of the cover. That's a pretty noticeable difference having just read through what I presume is the older no-map version, only to have the nice shiny big-map version arrive in the mail.

Even Heroic Worlds - a handy resource when you're digging into older games like I am - doesn't mention two separate versions. Since all of the older Champs adventures are in this staple-bound format maybe the separate one is a later reprint? My copy of that version is certainly in much better condition though that's no guarantee. I poked around the net a bit and didn't see anything about it so maybe someday someone will shed light on it with a comment here.