Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Big Game Wednesday - Champions, Season 2

Short update this week, recounting Digger's origins as a character in a Champions campaign. The Champions home city of San Francisco had been obliterated by a nuclear bomb in the final adventure before summer vacation. Returning the next fall, Digger and the other Champions experienced strange dreams and other signs that maybe not everything was as it seemed. They soon learned that the detonation and subsequent fallout had been, in fact, a mental illusion set up by their arch-enemies in Eurostar (I think) to break up the group and remove them as a threat to Eurostar's plans.

The next few adventures were nothing tremendously exciting. The revived campaign, since it felt like a big retcon designed to absolve us of the consequences of our massive failure, felt like we had all discovered Bobby Ewing in the shower, and not in a good way. Still, we persevered, because we liked the system, we liked the way Gary ran things (mostly) and I personally liked Digger.


I was mulling over the idea of a "radiation accident," an idea put forth in the Champions 2 supplement that proposed saving a big bunch of unspent experience and then having the GM run an adventure that would basically allow you to rewrite your character from scratch to match a new character conception. In comics terms, think of that period when DC decided to change Superman from a vanilla strongman to an electric-type hero. It didn't strictly have to be radiation, mind you. If I'd still had the spell book, for instance, I could have gone on some fantasy-type adventure which would have left Digger without the Drillers, but with a newfound magical aptitude, learning the spells in the book as his new powers.

In the case of Digger, I had set things up from the beginning to allow for this. I had put forth the idea that the metal used in what would later be called the Driller Beam Generators was a special type of "living" metal (hence their original name, "Bio-Blasters"). I think the exact pseudo-scientific phrasing I used was that the ionic structure of the metal matched the pattern of Digger's own DNA, which was what allowed the metal to bond with flesh without infection or rejection.

So my concept was that at some point, exposure to a massive amount of radiation or other energy would activate the metal somehow, causing it to grow, consuming Digger's flesh and replacing it. He would end up a metallic being, but not smooth and regal like the Silver Surfer. He would be more like a chrome Skeletor, with exposed musculature made of steel cables and a skull-like face.

His powers would not be tremendously different from before, except that he could reflect energy attacks back upon the attacker and also attack at range without the huge power costs he currently suffered. Although Digger's main attack was at zero range, meaning he had to punch someone to blast them, I defined the Drillers as being able to change the focal point of the beam, with associated energy costs. The optimal focus was tunnelling range, a couple of meters in front of him; he could dig tunnels with no endurance cost. Attacking at zero range (and therefore diffusing the beam to make it non-lethal) cost him a minimal amount of endurance (3 pts per attack), but shifting focus to blast someone at longer ranges required him to pump a lot of energy into the attack (15 pts of endurance per shot).

In the end, I didn't go through with it. Because Digger had been built so cheaply, there were just lots of weak areas he had to shore up to get him closer to my original conception before I worried about changing him in a fundamental way. And several weeks into the new school year, Gary announced he wanted to put Champions on hold anyway.

We had started the school year also playing a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign in the evenings. The Dungeon Master was my friend Chuck, another Air Force ROTC guy who ended up being a navigator on cargo planes. But it didn't last very long. There were personality conflicts among the characters, and my character in particular, an elven thief named Stim, turned paranoid and chaotic. Even though we had some fresh blood in the group (including a woman named Denise whom I would briefly date), the game dissolved within a few weeks, leaving us without a major D&D campaign for the first time since I had joined the club.

So Gary announced that he wanted to put Champions on hold and instead start up a D&D campaign. Moreover, in a stark change from all the previous campaigns I had played in so far, he wanted to play the game straight from the rulebooks, without extensive house rules, which would allow him to use TSR modules for the adventures.

So one week a short time later, the sorceress NPC who had previously summoned us to the Savage Lands reappeared in our headquarters, asking us to help with another problem. When we agreed to help, she told us there was one complication: we would have to travel to an alternate dimension where things worked differently, and we might not make the trip unaltered. We passed through the gate and turned into monsters.

Gary's basic idea was that this would be our last Champions adventure for a while, and that he would use it to transition into D&D. We passed through the dimensional gate as Champions superheroes in a world that ran on Champions rules and came out the other side in a world that ran by D&D rules, transformed into D&D monsters that approximated our major superpowers. Digger, for instance, emerged from the dimensional gate as an Ankheg, a gigantic burrowing insect.

Almost immediately, we encountered a group of human fighters who attacked us. We fought back, but it was a slaughter. Our minds were still in Champions mode, a system which was very rarely lethal. While this simulated comics well, it didn't encourage smart tactical play. We all ended up being killed, and that was the end of Champions.

At least for a while.

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