Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big Game Wednesday - We Are the Champions

So as I said last week, there were two main new gamemasters I was playing with a lot after moving beyond D&D. I talked about Brian last week. The other was Gary.

Gary was a skinny nerd who was not nearly as cool as our old core group, but I actually turned out to have more in common with him than with some of the other guys, because he collected comics, and so was about the only guy in the group I could really talk comics to.

Somehow he had gotten into the Air Force ROTC program, although there was nothing about him, from his slight frame to his geeky snort-laugh, that said "military." In a bit of game to real-life irony, he had played through my Hammersmith nuclear missile base V&V scenario and scoffed loudly at how unrealistic it was; a few years later, he graduated, became an officer and was assigned to a real-life nuclear missile base. He was one of the guys who would have pushed the button had any button been pushed, and looking back, I can't think of anyone I would rather have had with that job. Gary was trustworthy.

So one day, he says he wants to run Champions.

We were a little bit doubtful. Number one, none of us had any experience with the game, but I'd looked at it in the store, and it looked cheap and complicated. The production design on the game sucked. The typesetting was in this sad san serif font that looked almost typewritten, and the illustrations by Mark Williams were stiff and clunky, not nearly as cool as the Jeff Dee and Bill Willingham art that had graced the Villians and Vigilantes products.

Adding to my dubiousness was just the idea of Gary as GM. He didn't seem to have the imagination it would take to keep the game fun.

But Gary asked us to please trust that the system really worked well. It wasn't as complicated as it looked, and it was really fun once you started playing. So we gave in and picked up our dice to roll characters.

But no. You don't roll characters in Champions. You build them from points. This way, Gary said, you could have exactly the character you wanted, with no randomly rolled powers to shoehorn into your concept.

So we spent probably two hours or more building characters, and it was a pain in the ass. I thought I would maybe play a Human Torch-type character, but I couldn't find Flame Powers.

Gary said that the powers weren't categorized that way. You defined what effect you wanted your powers to have, then bought the powers that did those things, then assigned "special effects" to them. So if I wanted to blast flame, I would buy Energy Blast and call it "Fire."

I ended up designing a male version of Starfire from the Teen Titans whom I named Blaze, with medium high strength, flight, force field and energy blast. I also bought him Martial Arts (not knowing that Martial Arts was usually reserved for low-strength characters).

Gary had told us to keep our characters at around 8-10 dice for attacks. Blaze came in on the low end of that, with 8 dice of strength and an 8d6 Energy Blast (which, still not really twigging to the "special effects" concept, I defined as a blast of "energy" - okay, "solar energy"). It didn't take long to come up with the basic outline of the powers I wanted, but getting everything bought and paid for with disadvantages, along with the advantages and limitations on powers which forced you to consult tables like this...

Was a real time sink and made my head hurt. Just for further illustration, here's the Champions character sheet and the Villians and Vigilantes character sheet.

See how much more open the V&V sheet is? How much whiter? Although the one really cool thing that the Champions character sheets had going for them were those character silhouettes, so you didn't have to be an artist to design your character's costume. Just draw in some boots, gloves, belt and mask, and you're ready to go.

You know, after 2-3 hours of math.

So we finally got our characters built and the next thing we knew, we were winging off to this island to confront somebody named Doctor Destroyer. We ended up fighting some robot guardians, who were virtually impervious to my weak energy blasts. So I flew up to one and used my Martial Arts to kick him, which doubled the dice of damage. Gary nearly spit Coke all over the table when he realized I had bought Martial Arts on a 40 STR, so was going to do 16 dice of damage.

I pulverized the one robot, but the other characters were dropping one by one, and then I ran out of Endurance, my Force Field dropped, and I was easy prey. Game over.

Man, I thought, Champions sucks. I'm never playing that again.


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