I know that the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstarter Kit has been available since late August. I only recently picked it up though. Well ok that’s not completely true. I got it about a month and a half ago but between work, life, gaming on many Sundays, and personal stuff I just have not gotten to it until now.
As you may remember from other posts I am a long time fan of R Talsorian‘s Cyberpunk games… well all except for Cyberpunk 3. And it is best if we never talk about Cyberpunk 3.
For those who are interested in knowing, according to the FAQ for Cyberpunk Red the official timeline for the game goes as follows…
- Cyberpunk (2013)
- Cyberpunk 2020 (2020)
- Cybergeneration’s Carbon Plague (2027 but did not have the results that created the Cybergeneration setting)
- Cyberpunk Red (2045)
- Cyberpunk 2077 (2077)
Personally I find this a very interesting move on everyone’s part. This means that anyone interested in playing a table top version of 2077 will have to homebrew a fair bit of stuff. But from a product standpoint it is going to establish a much more defined timeline and make each product unique and supportable on its own. In the end it will mean a lot more work for everyone involved in order to maintain the unique elements in each product. So I for one applaud the effort they are going to be putting into place for this.
Now then for the Jumpstart kit itself. As with any intro box that comes out these days you have incomplete rules. Incomplete settings. Sample characters. And gimmicks to entice gamers. Lets take a look at what we got…
- Rule Book – An abbreviated look at the Interlock system that R Talsorian produced in the way back, with a few updated elements for the current edition. There is a short version of the classic Lifepath setup to give you a background. But not as much material as I hope they have in the full version. Also when it comes to Role related skills only the one for Netrunners gets detailed to any real degree. Lastly the combat system that was Friday Night Fire Fight has been slimmed down a little into Thursday Night Throwdown. Anyone familiar with FNFF will see what has changed immediately and my be just as appreciative as I was.
- World Book – While this does have a lot of flavor material in it, I was sort of surprised and how limited the background material was for the world. That is mostly covered in a timeline format that leaves a lot of room to play with. The main focus of the book is on how the cyberpunk world feels. And that to me is very cool. When the full version of the game is published I hope they keep all this work in there, because that is an element that many games leave out. Lastly there is a pre-generated adventure in the book that should give you a look at how things can run in a cyberpunk game.
- Pre-generated characters – Now then in most games you will get three to six characters. In this box you technically get thirty six. Now before you blow your stack let me explain. There are six character sheets. But each one has six sets of stats and you are supposed to roll to see which one you get when you play. You also get to use the Rule Book to roll up a lifepath for any one you use. So in theory you could say the number of characters are… well… huge. I am not going to count them out. Or you could say the characters are not pre-generated and they only provide a framework for six characters.
- Cardboard punchouts and stands – The six characters, some thugs and a couple of cars so you can use them on the maps provided and really get a nice visual.
- Maps – Encounter maps. Two double sided maps that are about 11×16. Easy to box and basic so you can help players establish where they are in a scene.
- Custom dice – 4d6 and 2d10 that are styled up for Cyberpunk. With the classic CP logo for the 6 and the 0 respectively. Nice dice with a good look to them.
- The box itself is covered with new color art and carries both the new R Talsorian Games logo and CD Project Red’s logo.
The only real thing that gives me any pause here is the way R Talsorian and CD Project Red are getting tied more and more tightly together. I have bad flashbacks of the Hero Games allied with Cyber Games / DOJ / Cryptic Studios era. Which did not have the most positive impact on Hero Games, but it kept them up and running. But going into depth on that will have to wait for another time.
If I was going to review this Jumpstart box by my usual game review standards I would have to give it the following numbers…
- Overall Fluff – 4 – There is some good material and art here. It could be better, and it almost feels like something is missing without the old black and white art the older versions came with.
- Overall Crunch – 2 – The rules are incomplete but you are warned about that up front. The parts missing though are kinda important.
- Overall Mod – 3 – It is painfully easy to mix in older rules and run with it. Unfortunately to play anything more than the boxed adventure, you have to.
- Overall Fun – 3 – This one is a swing for me because I am seriously jonesing for the whole thing, but I can have fun with what has been offered so far.
- Total score – 12/20 – I have no doubt that given my love of the work that R Talsorian puts out that I will have to give a huge score for the complete game. However given that this is a teaser box this score is not bad. And lets face it, this is a tease. A dirty dirty tease that wants to whet our appetites for both the complete version (still no specific distribution date) and Cyberpunk 2077 (April 2020 last I checked).
Should you buy this product? Well that is up to you. If you are a long term fan like me it would give you a great look at where the game is going. If you are just waiting for CP2077 then it can give you a little insight as to what the game may include. If you like a complete game it may just piss you off. So there is a lot to consider. And you are the only one that can make that choice.
I hope you enjoyed this look at the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstarter Box.
Have fun out there and keep gaming.
Now gimme the dice… I need to see if the rules for Vehicle Zen still work to do extreme maneuvers.
Ok so last week I posted about martial arts in games. And I have to admit that I have been thinking about it since.
So I threw together something that is partly based on the Martial Arts styles in AD&D to cobble together something that might work for overall combat styles in RPGs. To be totally honest, this is currently an untested mashup of a few ideas that may or may not work at all. But I thought it was kind of a cool idea so I figured I would share it with my readers while I see if I can figure out how to really make it work.
To get it up and running let me lay out for you how the table works. Every fighting style has a Core. This is what the character would rely on most in combat. Next comes a Drive. This is what a character would look to do with their fighting. Next would come their Focus. This is what a character puts most of their effort into learning when developing how they fight. Lastly comes a Secondary Focus. This is the “Well my main is not working so whats my backup plan?” part of their fighting style.
Each one of these comes with a potential for a bonus to Defense, Offense, Movement, and then either a bonus to unarmed damage or maybe weapon damage or a spell slot. Now then just for added explanation, any time you see ‘Per Spell’ that could be replace with ‘Per Psi Ability’ or ‘Per Super Power’ or any number of other things.
So here is the base table that I set up…
Now then to show you how it would sort out with some of the classic Fantasy character types…
So this kind of breakout in my opinion is something that you could use to establish a lot of differences in how fighting would work. It is based on a point value structure that should make every combat style technically equal at the ground level. But also allow for customizing so you could build the archtype you wanted to see.
I would envision each of the areas coming with a skill or two as well that in a system like Pathfinder or many of the D&D variants. Additionally in a level based system you would have a choice at every level to add to defense, offense movement or damage but not to the degree that you would be taking a full secondary element again.
I dont really know. Maybe this is the start of a new game engine. Its been a while since I put one together. Maybe its an alt for D&D or Pathfinder. Not really sure where this is going to head, if anywhere.
Anyway I hope this raises some interesting ideas and questions for you all.
Now gimme the dice… I need to see how many strange ideas I can have before Christmas… hmmm, may need more dice than that…
Keep gaming and keep having fun all 🙂
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that has read this blog for a while, or to anyone that knows me personally, that I enjoy martial arts. The vast and varied forms of personal combat that have been created around the world since humans have thought that deeply personal question, “How do I do a better job of smacking that dip $#!t over there upside the head?”
Now in the real world martial arts cover everything from bare handed styles, weapon based styles, exercise styles, and meditative styles. However in western fiction and in games, martial arts are most heavily focused on bare handed arts. As time marches forward the use of weapons styles has seen more growth in western fiction, but by and large they are usually still seen mostly in Asian mediums. Another thing that is common is the benefit of having unusual, and somewhat mystical powers that can vary from simply being able to stun an opponent to being able to cut through a spaceship.
Instead of diving into all of the details about martial arts themselves, I wanted to discuss a few of the game systems that have incorporated bare handed martial arts and a little bit about the mechanics of how they have done so. Now then not every game engine includes bare handed martial arts. And in many cases that is because the setting is not seen as appropriate for them. For example, Victoriana has the skill of Fisticuffs. That skill is intended to simulate bare knuckle brawling that would eventually become boxing. Given the setting and the intended flavor of the game adding more martial arts skills would not really fit the feel of the setting. While the sword and fencing skills in the game are by definition martial arts, they are not called out as martial arts as that combination of words has, for many, taken on the meaning of bare handed fighting.
So what are some examples of how martial arts have been built into games?
In Champions (Hero System) there have been two versions of martial arts. As the game engine is point based I will describe it that way. Originally you would take a look at your characters Strength score. That score would tell you the base cost for your martial arts. For that you would get added multiples to your base damage and access to the martial dodge maneuver. By spending more points you could add more multiples to your damage. For example if your character has a strength of 20 (base damage is 4d6), it would cost you 20 points to get base martial arts. For that cost you could now do 1.5x (6d6) your base damage with a punch, and 2x (8d6) your base damage with a kick. By spending an added 10 points you could now do 2x (8d6) damage with a punch and 2.5x 10d6) damage with a kick. Later they would use an alternate Hero System mechanic that would allow you to buy individual maneuvers and then added damage levels for any maneuver you purchased. For example if you spent 4 points on a strike (you get to say if it is a punch, kick, elbow or whatever) that gives you +2 to defense, and adds 2 dice to your base damage (lets stick with the Strength 20 from above) you are now doing 6d6 damage with that punch. For every 4 added points you spend, every martial maneuver you know gets to add levels to their effect. So if we spent that same 30 total points here that we did in the initial system we could either have a bunch of maneuvers or fewer maneuvers with more effect. If we just had that one punch, spending an additional 12 points (closest you can get to 30 without going over) on added levels it would now be adding a total of 6d6 to your base 4d6 damage so you could do 10d6 and get a +2 to your defense. The later system has been a lot more popular with the players and has stayed in place since the BBB (4th) edition. With that fourth edition they added lists of maneuvers that would replicate specific styles. And you even had the ability to create your own.
In Cyberpunk 2020 a martial arts style is represented by a single skill. This skill would likely cost more to purchase and raise up than other skills as each skill has bonus’ to maneuvers and effects. So for example Karate costs 2x what a regular skill would cost. And for that cost you get to add +2 for your attack and damage when doing a strike or a kick and you add +2 to your rolls to block attacks. So if you have a character with a 6 Body and a 6 Reflexes and a 6 Karate skill, you would be able to roll your d10 +6 (Reflexes) +6 (Karate) +2 (Karate bonus) to hit with a punch and rolls a d6/2 +6 (Karate) +0 (Strength bonus) +2 (Karate bonus) to damage. If you just had brawling you would get a d10 + Reflexes + Brawling to hit, and a d6/2 +Strength bonus for damage. The rules for what bonus’ stacked together to equal what kind of cost multiple are a little vague. So it is kinda hard to create your own style, but it can be a lot of fun too.
In Palladium’s Ninjas & Superspies martial arts are something everyone has. Some are more useful than others, and some are crazy powerful. However all of them are something that is chosen at character generation and then they level up with the character. So you start out with some basics, like attacks per round and a list of strikes and maybe a special ability or two. But all of that creeps up as you gain in levels. The most basic of these martial arts are seen in every Palladium game there is, and if you have a GM that is comfortable with it you can actually transplant the more stylistic and specific arts to the other games as well. The fact that Palladium created their Rifts world to allow characters from every one of their games to exist there at the same time meant that when they added Ninjas & Superspies the first time they actually had to go back and revise some of the arts because they ended up making characters that were far too powerful in Rifts. Some characters can actually have more than one martial art in the game, and in the original version of the game one character class could actually start out with three. But you have to track all your abilities separately, and can only chance from style to style at the start of any combat round. So if you are in a situation where a single ability in one art can save you, but you cannot use it until you change styles, your character risks dying because you cannot change over.
In the classic Rolemaster game martial arts are designed with a collection of skills. Just like anything else in the game, from tracking to magic, martial skills of any kind are based off of the level of skill you have developed. Primarily the martial skills are divided into two categories, strikes and throws. But when you add in other skills like Adrenal Moves (for more than human effort in physical tasks) and some of the movement spells you can create movie style martial arts. That will take very high skill levels to accomplish but it can be done. And working to get a character to that level can be really rewarding. The biggest challenge with the system is that they have divided the two basic skills into four separate categories. And you have to level up all four to get the best effects. If you look at strikes, if you have 30% in category one you can get about 15% in category two and nothing in three or four. So if you are going to make a dedicated martial artist you need to invest a ton of skill levels in just these eight skills and it will severely limit your ability to level up anything else in the game. In the end it is kind of like saying… welllllll we dont want to say not to martial arts, buuuuuut they really dont fit here so lets make it hard as #ell to get them.
In the Street Fighter Story Telling Game the mechanics are similar to other White Wolf games, but with a slight twist. Instead of having a martial arts, brawling, dodge or other such skills you have a category of abilities called Techniques that cover punching, blocking, focus and others. On top of that you will have Special Maneuvers that can give you specific attacks, dodges or other special abilities. What you do in the game is select a specific martial art first, and that will set your characters basic Willpower and Chi, and then give discounts on specific Special Maneuvers. The fun thing here is that just because you have a specific style with specific discounts on things, you do not have to just take those abilities unless something is described as exclusive. And to the best of my knowledge there are only a few, like six of the special abilities that are exclusive to any one art. What is really cool is that it is not hard at all to create new special maneuvers. And you can simulate just about anything you like with them. In terms of compatibility with other White Wolf products Street Fighter characters are kinda like Wizards in D&D products. Starting characters are pretty easy to slaughter, but when they get up there in experience you have to get really lucky to touch them with anything less than one of their own.
With the 3rd edition of D&D martial arts (unless you were a Monk) became a mater of matching up the right Feats. But I had a lot more fun with the old AD&D Oriental Adventures version. Now then with AD&D before Oriental Adventures empty hand combat was the provenance of the Monk and the Monk alone. But when they added Oriental Adventures they added a system for martial arts that you can move into any of the AD&D games of that generation. Any character of any class can spend a proficiency slot to get a basic martial art. That martial art is built with three factors. A form, a principal method, and special skills. The form and principal method are the basis of the form and you get those for the spending of the first proficiency slot. Now then normally a proficiency slot could be spent for a single weapon skill, or a non weapon skill that you would then get a bonus to like tracking or cooking. However that single slot gets you a lot with a martial art. It gets you attacks per round, an AC bonus when you have no armor on, base damage, and the primary maneuver type. Every special maneuver can be purchased with a single proficiency slot there after. And since they are all ranked you need to get all the rank 1 abilities before you get any rank 2. Funny thing is you could build as many base styles as you wanted and take all the bases you wanted. And since the ‘Barbarian’ class had the most proficiency initially you could start out with a barbarian that starts the game with a ridiculous level of skill while the more civilized classes were much more limited. A combination that I still find incredibly amusing.
Ok so that is a little bit, about a few ways that bare handed martial arts are set up in role playing games. This is by no means an exhaustive list of how things are done in RPGs when it comes to martial arts. They are all over the place and in soooo many methods of application that it is sort of intimidating to think about all of them.
Tell you what, how about you all tell me about the systems you like and that you hate so we can compare notes?
Till then, gimme the dice, I need to get my N&S Thai Kickboxer back out and see if he can still kick a dragon to death in Rifts…
Peace out, keep gaming, and think for yourself.
So dear readers, I know not how many of you may remember back in the day, but in 1979 Bantam Books started publishing Choose Your Own Adventure books (CYOA). Similar to an RPG but without the dice or other random resolution features. You reached a point in the story and made a choice to go in one of possibly several different ways.
While the first few books were based directly off of their classic Dungeons and Dragons line of role playing games. It did not take long before they decided to make a few that were in support of their other wholly original games like Top Secret, Star Frontiers, and Gamma World.
Then in 1984 CYOA books got a bit of an upgrade when the Lone Wolf adventure books started getting published where you added an actual character sheet, and a few random elements into the CYOA method and made them even more like an RPG.
Well TSR was not to be outdone and so they started publishing their own adventure game books under the Super Endless Quest blazon.
When they started doing the Super Endless Quest… later just called the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Gamebooks… they also got the ok to do one of their biggest licensed products Marvel Super Heroes. They had been doing licensed books already with Conan. But the big surprise came when they teamed up with Steve Jackson Games and published adventure books for Car Wars.
Now then being a bit of a collector when it comes to these things, and being a bit of a nostalgia freak I was thrilled a few years ago to see that the original CYOA books were coming back into publication. So I was wondering what would happen with the Endless Quest series. So far what has come out in 2018 and 2019 has been a total of six books that I know of that are similar to the originals, but in my opinion since they are trying to make things 5th edition specific and supportive, it makes it a little more challenging to have fun with. On another note the original creators of the Lone Wolf series have released an app for your smart devices that you can play out the original ten books of that series. It actually has a character tracker, random roller and everything.
Now then these books, and I know I am focusing on TSR products here, were all over the place. And I did not even touch on the Adventure Hearts materials that TSR published, or the fact that there were books published in the UK and Europe that never made it into the states, for an assortment of reasons. And to be quite honest I don’t have the time or the resources to go into every variation of CYOA or Adventure Game Book that is out there. But I dont have to.
If you are interested in checking out more titles or if you have some of the old Adventure Books but do not have the character sheets then I want to suggest you check out Demain’s Gamebooks page. The owner of that page has put a ton of resources together to set up a pretty much global database regarding these books and you really should take advantage of it.
In thinking about doing a review for these books I found out that I really could only rate them in some of my usual categories, and since there are variations on how they are made and how they play out, with or without character sheets, and other concerns, that the only rating that really maters in the end, is Fun…
So in rating this game medium I have to give it a 5/5 for fun. I know professional book reviewers back in the day gave them 3/10 to 6/10. But to be honest those folks were usually comparing CYOA books to fantasy and sci-fi novels by their most revered authors. So comparatively speaking yeah they may suck as a literary masterpiece. But that was never what they were meant to be. They were meant to be fun. They were meant to take you on a little adventure. They were meant for the little ones. In the flesh and inside us. And to be honest they were meant to help folks learn to take the consequences of their choices… unless they cheat… ahem… hummrmmm… yeah… yeah don’t cheat…
Anyway I am really hoping that in whatever format publishers choose, be it digital or print, or even both, that these ideas make a comeback. CYOA books are fun, and really can be a great way to help little ones learn about choices. They can also be a great way to introduce them into the idea of gaming.
Ok then. We end up here with a high score, something fun, and a bit of a prayer that they come back in force.
Hope you all have a great week. Keep gaming, and keep making up your own mind. Don’t take my word for it, figure out what you think is fun and run with it.
Now gimme the dice, I need to see if I need to go to page 33 or 97 next.
Been a while since I did one of these.
So for the last few months my wife and a friend of ours have been playing Shadowrun. I tweaked the timeline a little so that I could set up a few things for some in game shenanigans. Little did I expect though that the two of them would be successful in pulling off the stunts they did.
To be quite honest I had set up three occasions on which there could be a TPK in one night unless they were very lucky or chose to avoid the situation entirely. A dark luck was with them.
As many players of Shadowrun know, unless you are set up in advance big risk may not always equal big reward. And usually when you get the big reward someone is waiting to take it away from you. Well these two actually managed to not only get the big reward, but then built on it by selling things to interested parties. So yeah this is building up quite nicely to get a TPK just from their own actions… So what do they do to really escalate things …
They bought a tank.
Lets say that again… slowly.
They. Bought. A. Tank.
Then they bought a way to transport it.
Now then folks who play in my games know that I have a reward style that is usually along the lines of “Yeah you can get that… here let me make a few notes about everyone who would find out about that and want to mess you up for it…”
And then for giggles they had street kids paint it up with … with… seriously this is messed up… Hello Kitty… They covered a tank in images and the standard colors of Hello Kitty.
Oh it gets worse.
As they are not a corporate or military power, I had put a timeline into place that would mean they were getting raided and having all these toys taken away from them. I wanted to build up the drama. However they decided to leave the Seattle Metroplex. They were using a refitted… well the best way to call it out would be a zeppelin.
There are other story bits about them evading detection and using multiple flight plans and spoofing transponder codes, but eventually they get to their target. Chicago. In the timeline we are running Chicago is Bug City and its nasty inside the walls.
Do you see where this is going?
They para-drop the tank, and some supplies and fuel… into Chicago. They told me their flight plan and how they wanted to fake out the military watching over Chicago. They succeeded. The thing is, from their flight plan I had come up with a couple of places they could drop the tank. Then I let the dice handle it.
They made Chicago worse… Read things about Bug City, and the Universal Brotherhood in Shadowrun reviews and history sites. And you will see how hard that little statement is to fathom. They made… Chicago… worse…
Ok so I know what you may be thinking. That I could have put a GM Fiat in place at any time. I could have shut this down and taken away toys. I let it go and now I am paying the price.
To a certain degree, that is true. But I have a lot of fun racking all this sort of stuff up and then springing something epic out that will give them a run and they can feel it is all worth the build up even if it does kill everyone.
Ok so gimme the dice… I need to roll up some consequences….
Ok so for several years now I have been asking you to Gimme the Dice, but rarely have I talked about the dice…
Now then my friend over at Dan on Games has a natural grip for the math behind the probability of coming up with just about any roll. Me however I need some help.
The first thing I would like to do is to give you a link that actually talks about calculating probability in relation to dice. According to that page the basics come down to “Probability = Number of desired outcomes ÷ Number of possible outcomes”. So that rolling a 1 on a d6 means that you divide 1 by 6 to see how likely it is. So 1 ÷ 6 = 0.167 or 16.7%. When you add more dice the values get more complex. And instead of doing the math on that myself I would rather point you to a website that can actually graph it all out for you. Any Dice. Now then on that site you need to insert a formula like “output 1d6” or “output [highest 3 of 4d6]” (I will get back to that one later) and then hit the Calculate button. Then you can view it as a table that will tell you the percent chance of a specific total. So if you want to get an idea of the odds of making a really bad roll in Shadowrun you could look at values for something like say 8d6. A total of say 10 would equal rolling seven ones and a three. Since the graph page rounds to two decimal places it thinks getting a total of ten on eight dice is about 0%. However if you look on the Export page you can see it is actually 0.214334705075%. Pretty slim odds. And yet my wife has done it. And if I remember correctly, if you look at the odds for getting any specific role on 8d6 you can calculate that the same way you could for the probability of getting all ones… or a total of 8 rolling 8d6. And that shows up as 0.00595374180765%. Now I may be wrong on that because it has been a long time since I have done probability work. But I think its correct.
One of the reasons I like to chat about dice and probability is because of rolling character stats. Not the rolls in the rest of the game, but when it comes to creating your character. See back when I started playing D&D I would get frustrated by the fact that my supposedly heroic character had stats that were so… average. So I started playing with other options. Like rolling 4d6 and tossing out the lowest. And when the Dark Sun setting came out there was an option to roll 5d4. Which of course led to the idea of rolling six and tossing out the lowest. To give you a sample of the probabilities you can get out of these four options I put together a link to Any Dice that has all four of those options in one space. In order they are 3d6, 4d6 toss the lowest, 5d4, and 6d4 toss the lowest.
To give you sort of a TLDR on that page it goes like this… when you roll 3d6 your highest probability is a 10 or 11. When you roll 4d6 and toss out the lowest your highest probability is 13. When you roll 5d4 your highest probability is 12 or 13. When you roll 6d4 and toss the lowest your highest probability is 14. So you get a little more heroic when you skew the odds a bit. Not an unreasonable thing to think about. When you look at things like the Chaosium system which has stats that do things like 2d6+6 you can get even more interesting skew by adding that one extra die. That model takes most likely to 13 versus 15.
Now then I have not figured out how to put in a ‘reroll ones’ function into Any Dice but I hope I can figure it out because that is going to skew averages even further.
It looks like the conclusion of that part is that if you want really stacked characters in D&D 3d6 gets you fairly average characters, and 3d6+6 toss lowest and reroll ones would get something top of the line every time.
Question needs to be then how heroic, how powerful, does your game master want to run their game? And what sort of odds do you want.
Now just for fun a quick rundown on your percentages of getting any one number on a single die.
- 1d4 – 25%
- 1d6 – 16.7%
- 1d8 – 12.5%
- 1d10 – 10%
- 1d12 – 8.3%
- 1d20 – 5%
- 1d30 – 3.3%
- 1d100 – 1%
So in the end, have fun with your dice, but know the odds. And know that sort of like Vegas, unless you cheat the odds are likely never in your favor. 😉
Keep having fun out there and remember to think for yourself. Its the only real way to have fun.
Now gimme the dice, I need to come up with a new way to roll up characters. Hmmm maybe an 8d2+2…
Exhaustion has claimed me and I will not be posting this week.
Keep gaming, keep having fun and keep thinking for yourselves.
Now gimme the dice I need to see if I can roll the clock back further without breaking causality.
Hello Readers. Welcome to one of my all time favorite games. Champions. While this review will focus heavily on the Big Blue Book edition also known as fourth edition by most, fifth by math purists and contrarians, I will be hitting on the history of the game, talking about some of the differences in editions and making a comment that will make the blank space in the collage make sense.
Ok so just what is Champions? Champions is a superhero role playing game that first showed up in 1981 published directly by Hero Games. A very detailed point based game system that allows you to build just about any concept you could imagine. As the game engine has evolved over time point values for specific things have changed. And with those changes there has come an evolution in what the base points you have for a starting character, and how many points in disadvantages/complications/flaws you can take to add more kick. Back with the very first printing it was recommended that you use 75 – 150 base points with 75-150 points in complications. With the standard in fourth edition being 100 base and 150 disadvantage points. The standard in sixth edition is 400 base points and 75 disadvantages. And while there is an element of power creep in there, there have also been changes in values on powers and abilities, reductions in values for disadvantages, and changes in calculated abilities that mean when you make a comparison a base character in first edition (100 + 100 points) is roughly equal to a base in sixth edition of 300 + 50). The other element that works into the power creep that is seen across editions is that in first edition you were looking at characters like the 80’s version of the Teen Titans or New Mutants as a starting character. However in sixth edition you are looking at character builds more like Xmen #1 from the 90’s.
Here is a sample of the first ed character sheet. I really loved the fact that they put in a space with a body outline so you could create your own costume and really show off your hero. In later editions they used multiple poses and genders to give more inclusion, and even offered ones with a blank space so you could use your own art entirely. Unfortunately this practice dropped off in fifth edition and beyond.
Even though the game engine did spawn alternate genre books like Justice Inc., Fantasy Hero, Robot Gladiators, and Space Hero, it was not until 4th edition (the Big Blue Book) that Hero Games pulled the system together officially and called it the Hero System. Between Champions and the Hero System there have been so many books published to date that I wont even try to start a list in a presentation like this. However there is one in Wiki that is thorough, but I have spotted a few things missing so I am trying to send an update in on that.
Over the years there have also been a few times that Champions has strayed from its base game engine. Such as the Champions New Millennium era where Hero Games was working with R Talsorian Games to create the Fuzion game engine that used elements from both the Hero System and the Interlock System to create something new. In one of those rare instances when two tastes really do taste great together in gaming. And even back in first edition there was a collaboration with Steve Jackson Games to create Champions Autoduel, which actually helped Hero Games clarify their rules for vehicles when the published them in Champions II. There are a number of other crossovers that Hero Games has done with other publishers, mostly in regards to translating characters and effects from one game engine to another. Mutants and Masterminds, Super World, others have all had this treatment. They even went so far as to have a Champions Online MMO set up which was tied very heavily into 5th edition.
However my favorite crossover was when they took their characters and actually made them into a comic book series. The comic series actually got them in trouble with Marvel comics for a little while since Marvel had a series called The Champions in 1975, but the courts decided that Marvel had abandoned their trademark on the name and so Hero Games comics could go forward with it.
While they are not currently printing new books directly for Champions (at least nothing that I can find in any distributors catalogs) you can still get the products online in PDF or Print on Demand format, and Hero Games still runs a web site with community pages so that you can contribute on your own.
One of the interesting aspects of the game setting is that while it has evolved over time it has not (save for the New Millennium era) really changed its overall composure. In every setting there is a group of heroes called the Champions. The ones from first through third editions appeared in the comic books but never got an official write up. In fourth edition on there has been an official Champions team, but the line up has been a bit fluid. There has always been a criminal organization known as Viper. But being comedic or a serious threat has varied. There has always been a Dr. Destroyer, the one character that really could conquer the world. There has always been a mystical villain organization called DEMON, seriousness varies. There are a lot more characters that show up all the time too. Strangely some of the original Champions in the comics, and in the art for the game, have their names show up in backgrounds of other characters or as the founders of organizations and support groups in fourth edition and beyond.
The best aspect of the game engine is its scale-ability. You can create anything from a man on the street to a galaxy ending villain just by sliding the scale bar. To give you an example in fourth edition it is recommended that if you are playing in a basic fantasy setting with mid to low magic you use 50+50 for your base and disadvantages. And that you do not make basic gear like weapons and armor cost points. If you are playing basic scifi without psychic powers its about the same. Super hero settings get a base of 100+150. But villains like Dr Destroyer have a total of 1500+150 on the low end. And one of the supporting books that gave you an inter-dimensional world beater that has a spread of 3000+150 for its highest power avatars. And they even have a few characters without point values because you will never beat them if you want to have a fight. The only real question with this engine is how big do you want to go?
Powers and spells and psychic abilities can all be sculpted with whatever advantages and limitations you can imagine. So if you can dream it up you can make it happen. You can create skill sets and attribute combinations with limitations and advantages. I am quite serious that if you can dream it up you can make it. For many the big limitation on this system is the math. Yeah you have to do a little multiplication and division with fractions during character building. There are calculation tables to get you past most of it though. So you dont even have to do much math really. It just looks intimidating.
Now then there are a TON of super hero game out there. There are a TON of point based games out there. So why does this one stand out to me?
In the end it comes down to that scale-ability factor. If you take a look at a game like GURPS, it is point based and scale-able. However when you get into the supers settings you end up getting nerfed by Unusual Background costs and an ever increasing cost for strength that makes a Hulk style character impossible. If you are looking at Heroes Unlimited you are being blocked at about early Xmen levels for power and skill. Super World works best at the low end to, and actually shines on the high end, but the mid range is so messy its not really worth trying. Marvel Super Heroes RPG using the FASERIP system is scale-able on the powers but it has no skill system to really allow you to get away with anything other than power use. DC Heroes system with its logarithmic development scale jumps from mid tier to high end so fast it hurts. d6 Powers, it can work, but you need to have split development pools for power, stats, and skills to cover what you are developing. Here is the thing. NONE of those systems (save for GURPS) is a bad system in my mind. They are not. They are not as good as Champions at what they do. Or they are really targeted to do one thing well and trying to cover the same gamut of power and detail that Champions does is just not a real possibility.
Ok so I have rambled, and made a point of my overall thoughts, so lets see how I break it down by the numbers. This part is solidly on 4th edition.
Overall Fluff 4/5 – In the core rules there is enough about the world, some basic villains and even a couple of encounters that you can run anything. The art is very 1980s indy comic publisher and RPG game. Very little of it has relevance to the world, but the character sketching is very good. While there is not a ton of material, what they do give is a good quality for a game book of the time period.
Overall Crunch 5/5 – I freakin love these rules. I can build anything.
Overall Mod 4/5 – As shown by the number of crossovers with other games, and work at hybridizing with other games there are a ton of ways to mod this material. And even thought the rules have changed over the years there are a lot of ways to migrate any character or vehicle from one edition to another.
Overall Fun 5/5 – I love this game. I love playing this game and characters like Foxbat make it all the more fun.
Total Score 18/20 – A great game engine for a fun world. I think everyone should give it a try.
Ok so thats it for today. I hope everyone out there keeps gaming and having a great time.
So gimme the dice, I need to see how many d6 I can fit in my hand.
Oh and that bit about the blank spot. Hero Games did a Purposefully Blank page in three supplements that I know of. And if you contacted them about any of them they would send you the missing page. I only ever found out about characters being missing. Have fun with that thought 😉
So todays post if brought to you by… Questions from readers… flash backs to a good friends posts… and the number four.
In regards to the questions from readers that has been mostly around “Dude if you play so many games do you have a favorite/top ten?” In regards to the good friends posts, Dan over at Dan on Games did a series of Pick 6 posts a while back, and I have to say I was always impressed by the fact that he did not bow to the masses and go top five or top ten, but picked six of his favorites to talk about. In regards to the number four, well I am going to be duplicating my friends style a little bit, and doing come best of work but I am going to use the number four as my driver.
My plan is to post four lists of top fours and maybe come back to them again at some point in time and do additional four fours… four… fore!!!!!… four score and seven sodas ago our fridge was full… ahem… anyway…
So lets five… ahem… dive… into four top four lists…
Classes / Professions / Roles
You may wonder why I did this combination. And well that is because not every game uses classes. Some use templates, some use roles or professions to define skill sets, some just say the heck with it and let you do whatever you want. So I am trying to cheat and blend it a bit.
- Rouge – Sneaking in and getting things done without anyone being the wiser. Also being the trickster. Pick Pocket and Put Pocket skills galore along with breaking into places no one wants you to be. There are versions of this in every game system, and I love almost all of them.
- Brawler – I have made so many versions of this class by multiclassing, or just sort of building it in points. But Pathfinder actually put it together and did it well by mixing their Monk and Fighter classes together. Basically a bare knuckle fighter, who has a very fluid fighting style. Much like a Monk but without the alignment restrictions and the set special abilities. You can do the same in supers games by making a light brick with martial arts.
- Investigator – Much like a Rouge, but this is also the brainy character like Holmes and other detectives. This is the guy who can sneak a little, fight a little, and is likely five steps ahead of everyone else when the story comes into play. Also they have a tendency to notice things that no one else would find.
- Transmuter – Now then in D&D and in Pathfinder this is a specialty school of Wizard. However there are other classes and professions that have a similar set up. The general idea is that you are making one thing into something else. If its Alchemy or magic or even psi, somehow you can make things into other things. You also frequently are a master/mistress/alternate gender in charge entity who can buff team members like no other… well save for maybe a cleric.
In many games there are races other than human that you can play. And in many cases you can even play races that have traditionally been seen as monsters. In other games your race and your class are the same thing. Without going to that path of character types, races that I enjoy playing most would top out with…
- Mutant – I had only thought about mutants in supers and scifi for a long time until Windriders on the Jagged Cliffs was published for Dark Sun in AD&D 2nd Edition and then suddenly the idea of mutants in Fantasy was something I could not get enough of. So I dont care what the base race is… lets see if we can get a mutant version of it.
- Goblin – It was hard not to put Goblins at #1. But then I remembered that there are mutant goblins too and so I had to give in to putting Mutants up top. There are so many DMs, players, and fiction writers who see goblins as nothing more than cannon fodder that it frustrates me. Maybe its my nature in taking joy in supporting the underdog. But I find goblins really cool. And Pathfinders use of them has really only bolstered my opinion of them.
- Half Dragon – Half Dragon Half Goblin mutants… oh yeah we are getting there now. But seriously, dragon bloodlines in other species says a lot to me about how romantic dragons can really be. Or at the very least they are like one night stand folks… or Zeus… hmmm… But as to the race itself I really enjoy the blend of raw power, perceived nobility of a dragon and the fragility of the non-draconic side.
- Human – Yeah I am serious here. There are so many times in so many games that players and game masters just kinda go… hmmm humans… yeah lets skip that. I think its from the fact that most of us play humans in the real world and so they want to get outside of that. But that is part of what makes them so fascinating to me in gaming. I can play something totally alien to the rest of my party by just being human.
When it comes to facing off against monsters there are so many options out there that you have to have a few favorites to fight. It may be the glory, it may be therapy, it may be oh so many things. But you have them none the less. My top four favorites to face off against are…
- Dragons – If this needs an explanation then we should not be talking.
- Kaiju – I have loved ‘Zilla and his kine since the 70’s. Adding them into games started for me with the Tarrasque, then in mecha games as organic mechs… sorta. Recently Pathfinder even put them in to their main game materials as a species. The giant beasts with vast power that you will likely never beat in a straight up fight, but you have to out think them or make them beat themselves. Or just get out of the way.
- Gnomes – Yup I still hate gnomes. I derive great pleasure from making them extinct in any game world I show up in. #$%^ing gnomes…
- Super Villain Thugs – Ok so not really sure if this counts as a monster, or a minion, or something else with an M to it. But seriously when I am in the thick of a supers game and the boss bads thugs come calling…. mmmmmmm thug bustin’. Gotta love it.
I know this one limits things in regards to types of games but in games where magic abounds you can usually cast spells. And some spells are just so fun to cast, and you can use them so creatively that, well I am pretty sure that everyone has a few favorites they like to cast themselves, or see what others can come up with when they use them in game…
- Polymorph Other – D&D 3rd Edition- Ok so this spell was cheap and fun. I have literally turned enemies into toast and let another player eat said toast. OP and so many strange things you can do with it. I never got to try my darkest idea of turning a Vampire into a miniature sun… but hopefully some day.
- Grease – AD&D 1st edition- Ok so why did I call out fist ed AD&D for this one… well in that version first printing, the spell created not only a slick surface, but it was actually grease and it was flammable. And the area you could coat with it was huge. So yeah, you figure out where the fun is in this one.
- Mystic Fulcrum – Rifts Ultimate Edition – So this one may seem strange, but this is a buff spell that allows the recipient to lift 50% more than you usually could. It also stacks. It is also pretty cheap. It is also at a low level. Palladium rules, if you can lift it you can throw it. It also does not mater when you are lifting if you should be able to lift it. You can stand in quicksand and lift a tank. It is a sweet little bit of a reality bend.
- Call / Dismiss Deity – Call of Cthulhu 6th edition – Ok so… This is actually a modification that came from earlier editions of a collection of spells that can call up specific deity level entities. And they call out that sure there are other entities that can fit into this mold other than the specific ones listed and that you can go ahead and create more spells as needed. But seriously, this is the “I am not screwing around” level of spell that no other game really would offer up. I mean why cast a fire ball or summon a demon. Thats right I am calling up a god and then if I have enough sanity left I am sending the SOB home.
Ok so that is four top fours. I hope you have enjoyed and if you feel like commenting bring up some of your own, or tell me why I am crazy for the ones I have listed… or if you are feeling generous in your compliments go ahead and tell me that I have captured your favorites too and that I am genius.
Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many top fours I can roll up… hmmmm, maybe a top four dice…
Have fun, play safe, and keep thinking for yourselves.
So this post is going to be a little short, but, it could be a very fun one.
Earlier this week I was asked by someone for the umpteenth time how I am able to process all the games that I know how to play, have played, and likely will play in the future.
To be totally honest, I have no freaking clue.
I have friends that have played their entire lives in a single game engine. I have others who have played a few different engines or stick with a single publisher and run through everything they create while watching game engines evolve or as they create new ones to make new products. I know of a few others like myself who seem to devour everything that comes out and play whatever suits them and the folks they are playing with at any given time.
I know that in my physical library there are over thirty game engines that are represented in, well more games than that. In my PDF library there is even more. And that does not include the games that I have played that are not currently in either collection due to any number of reasons.
As to why, well, for me it is fun and I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing how all the different mechanics make different kinds of stories possible. I love seeing how far I can stretch and bend rules so that I can try and make them do things they never intended to do. I an fascinated by the players of different games and what makes them stick to a single game or branch out into many many games.
It is also awesome to me that there is no RIGHT way to game. There is no one REAL set of rules that need to be used to have a good time. There is only one real rule to all of gaming and that is to have fun. Mash things up the way you want, ignore the rules you dont like in a game engine and add the ones that make things work better for you and your gaming group. There is no reason to play multiple games, or use multiple game engines if you dont want to.
There is a concept my wife talks about a lot when she is writing for the Snarky Witches site called Gatekeepers. The people who will stand there and say “Well if you are not doing it XXXXX way you are not really doing it.” The same kind of people exist in gaming. “If you are not playing XXX using version XXX you are not really gaming.” And ya know what, they can go #$%^ themselves. Fortunately, in my experience, they are few and far between.
I wanted you all to hear that so that you know with what I am about to ask there is no intent to judge. There is no desire to mock or ridicule. That these questions are being asked because I am really interested, and I sort of hope that you may bring something up I have not considered and even if you bring up a game I have not thought well of before, maybe you can give me a new perspective.
I want to know what games are in your personal library. Right now what do you have on file or on your shelves? And what games would you love to have there that you do not?
And if you feel like it, tell me why. What is it about that game or those games that you love?
I would love to hear from you all.
Ok so time to go, getting ready to do some Shadowrun. Keep gaming and keep having fun folks. 🙂
So gimme the dice, I need to see how many games can fit on the head of a pin.