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Champs 3 vs Champs 4

Started by jrients, October 28, 2002, 04:41:46 PM

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From Ron's "GNS and other matters" article

QuoteChampions, through its 3rd edition, exemplified a mix of Gamist and Narrativist & "driftable" design, but with its 4th edition in the very late 1980s, the system lost all Metagame content

Could someone tell me what happened to Champions?  In the mid nineties Champions 4th edition was the big game in my group.  The grognards had been playing earlier versions of Champs for years and they seemed to see a straightforward apostolic succession from earlier versions.  So what's the diff between the 3rd and 4th editions?  How did Champs lose the "Metagame content"?
Jeff Rients

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Here's the list:

1) In 3rd and earlier editions, characters were considered to have any and all skills and contacts that made sense for their stated profession. If your character was a cook, why, that meant any number of things during play. No points were spent either to define the profession or to express the skills involved; it was completely Drama-driven.

Champs 4th, to be replaced by a very GURPS-like skill list (including a family-tree of languages to indicate how many points a given language cost a character, based on his or her native language).

2) No canonical setting was given; play was explicitly considered a way to write your own comic book, just as if you were a comics publisher. Various author-characters were used as examples, but their presentation and usage differed greatly from what we now see as canonical-heroes in canonical setting. They were presented, in my opinion, as what one set of Champions players, who only happened to be the game authors, came up with.

It's hard to explain without holding the two books open at once, but the characters presented in the 4th edition present the latter-day approach, that these characters "exist" in the "game world."

3) One of the finest and most important elements in pre-4th-edition Champs was the 0-time monologue. That's right: at any point during play (and most significantly, during a fight), a character's spoken words took no time whatsoever.

People had fun spoofing this - I recall one fellow who had an invading alien army break into a kick-line and do a full rendition of some show tune (which he played on the tape-deck), right in the middle of combat, taking no time - but in common usage, it was perfect for the game. Most especially, it encourage revelations and interactions among characters during combat, which is one of the most important superhero staples.

[I'll actually have to check on this one - it could be that the 0-time monologue vanished later in Champions Millenium, but was preserved in 4th.]

I suggest that most people who adopted Champs 4th with "no pain" were those who were already minimizing points #1-3 above anyway, perhaps Drifting with their own skill lists (which were available in the Hero System already via Super Agents).

Also, at the time, many Champions players felt threatened by GURPS and clung to Champions in a very combative Pepsi/Coke way; to some extent, 4th edition could have been an utterly retooled game with utterly horrible mechanics, and as long as it was in spiffy hard-cover and thus "refuted" GURPS, it would have been OK by them.


Mike Holmes

Zero time monologues were Simmed up in 4th. That is, I think that there is a comment like "one can only say a coupole of sentences; whatever could be said in the middle of a combat" or something like that. It still was written to encourage the use, however, as a generally heroic thing to do.

Hmm. I should check for specifics.

As for the "Champions" it did seem that they were sorta canonical, but in a "these are the sample characters from the sample universe, which you don't ever have to use" sort of way. We discarded them immediately in all our games in order to start anew with making our own canonical worlds.

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Christoffer Lernö

An irrelevant note: I always got annoyed at the fact that there was a limit to the amount of disadvantages a starting character could have in 4. I always thought up a lot more disadvantages then I could get points for and more powers than I could afford.

I guess that's why I started bumming the rules for point like the "buy up con, buy down rec & stun" techniques and such.
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Thanks for the info!  Now I'm tempted to track down a copy of Champions III.  The locals already think I'm crazy for preferring the 1981 D&D Basic/Expert rules to the crunchier editions, this ought to just give them more fuel for the fire.
Jeff Rients

Ron Edwards


Actually, here's the package you neeeeed, Champions-wise.

A) Champs 3rd edition. Standard-size perfect bound, awfully goony-looking superhero with 70s hair on the cover with equally goony pals.

B) Champions II, which was the supplement for the second edition, and Champions III, which was the supplement released after the third edition but still managed to be "after" the first supplement ... oh, never mind. These two supplements.

C) The adventure scenario The Coriolis Effect, one of the finest modules ever published - a total ripoff of the X-Men Phoenix storyline, but chock-full of GMing and player concepts.

D) The sourcebook Strike Force, one of the finest documentations of a "campaign" ever; includes a player-classification scheme which became part of the text of the fourth edition.

E) Any issues of The Adventurer's Club, the Hero Games magazine, especially during its first year when it was all about Champions.

F) Any issues of the old APA zine The Clobberin' Times, which are probably impossible to find. It ran bi-monthly for at least five years.



Thanks again, Ron.  I've got Strike Force. (Or more accurately I had it until I loaned it to my bud Pat. Grrr.)  When I first read the thing a great light shone down from heaven and I could hear angels singing.  I was convinced for months that Aaron Allston was Jesus.  ;)
Jeff Rients