Role Playing Game (1981). Hero Games (HG). Designed by George MacDonald, Steve Peterson.
The first edition of Champions popularized the use of a point-based method for character creation, an idea previously seen in Superhero 2044 (1977) and The Fantasy Trip (1977-1980 Metagaming Concepts) designed by Steve Jackson. All characters begin the game with a set number of points which they can use to buy skills and Superpowers, a process intended to ensure that players can create their preferred character concepts, and that the resulting characters will all be approximately as powerful as each other. Players can buy additional points to spend on their characters' abilities by accepting "disadvantages", such as a pathological fear or a dangerous vulnerability; Champions appears to have been the first game to make use of this concept. Superpowers are built using a generic system based on their effects rather than their causes, allowing for considerable flexibility. Similar approaches have been used in most subsequent Superhero games, as well as in generic systems such as GURPS (1986).
Thematically, Champions is very much a reflection of the "four colour" world of 1960s Comics. Of the predesigned settings available, the most successful are perhaps the UK based Kingdom of Champions (1990 HG) designed by Phil Masters and the strikingly detailed San Angelo: City of Heroes (1998 Gold Rush Games) designed by Patrick Sweeney, set in a fictional city modelled after the Metropolis of DC Comics and the New York of Marvel Comics. From its inception, Champions' core mechanics have been notably generic; arguably this is almost a requirement for any system which attempts to model the characters and narratives of the remarkably all-encompassing Superhero genre. Different versions of the design were used throughout the 1980s for various other games, including Justice, Inc (1984). While the first, second (1982) and third (1984) editions use versions of the original mechanics, the somewhat more complicated fourth edition of 1989 is based on a truly generic system similar in concept to the rather more grittily realistic GURPS. This design, which evolved from the original Champions rules, is known as the HERO System; it is also used in the fifth edition of 2002, published as Champions: Superpowered Roleplaying designed by Aaron Allston. A different system (FUZION) combines the HERO mechanics with those used by R Talsorian for such games as Cyberpunk 2020 (see Cyberpunk), with the intention of creating a simpler set of rules which are easier to use. This design was used for Champions: New Millenium (1997 R Talsorian Games; rev 2000) designed by Bruce Harlick, a much darker version of the game in which almost all of the world's Superheroes have been wiped out in a millennial apocalypse, and the players' characters must take their places.
In 2007 the Videogame developer Cryptic Studios sold City of Heroes (2004) and its companion game City of Villains (see City of Heroes) to NCSoft before beginning work on a new Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game based on the Marvel Comics universe. However, artistic differences between Cryptic Studios and Marvel led to the termination of the license before the game was released, after which Cryptic bought the intellectual property for Champions from Hero Games. It seems likely that Cryptic's main motivation was the desire to acquire a ready made and highly detailed universe suitable for use in an MMORPG, rather than an interest in the Champions mechanics or its existing players (who were not very numerous by the standards of modern Online Worlds). The resulting game was launched as Champions Online (2009 Cryptic Studios, Win). Hero Games has continued to publish the RPG, now under license from Cryptic; a sixth edition appeared in 2010 as Champions: The Super Roleplaying Game designed by Aaron Allston, a supplement to the sixth edition of the HERO System. Both the MMORPG and the Role Playing Game are set in the milieu described in Champions Universe (2002 HG; rev 2010) designed by Steve Long, Darren Watts, an evolved version of the minimal background presented in the original version of Champions. The effect of this setting is that of the simple, action packed stories which inspired the creators of the game's earliest edition, but presented in a knowing way reminiscent of Kurt Busiek's rather more sophisticated Astro City (1995-current).
Related works: Autoduel Champions (1983 Steve Jackson Games) is a crossover book between Champions and Car Wars (1982), featuring rules for combining superpowers with autoduelling. Champions: Wildstrike (1998 HG) designed by Steve Peterson is a Board Game of Superhero combat, set in a dueling arena.
There have been a number of Comics series based on the characters created by the players in the designers' original game. These began with Champions (1986-1987), published by Eclipse Comics, and continued with Champions (1987-1988), League of Champions (1990-1993), and Flare (1992-1993), variously published by Hero Comics and Hero Graphics. Disagreements over how the characters should be portrayed between the players who created them and Dennis Mallonee, who wrote the comics, eventually led to a split in which the individuals featured in the comics and in the Champions game setting became formally distinct. Currently, issues of Flare Adventures and Champions Adventures are appearing from Heroic Publishing. [NT]
see also: Golden Heroes.
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