Hero Games and The Hero System RPGs
Champions is one of the oldest superhero roleplaying game still in print, and it has influenced the gaming world ever since its debut in 1981. Any kind of superhero can be created using their flexible system, allowing starting characters to have weaknesses, a supporting cast, and even enemies before the first scenario takes place. Its enduring success has led to dozens of supplements, comic book adaptation, and a popular MMORPG.
The first edition of Champions was only 64 pages in length, but it still managed to be the most complete superhero game released at that time. A boxed edition followed in 1982, with the rulebook expanded to 80 pages.
Between 1981 and 1987, three editions were released for Champions. In 1987, Hero Games and ICE teamed up to offer a new version of Champions, and this was followed by Champions: The New Millennium, a release that failed to impress longtime fans of the game.
The fifth edition of Champions was released in 2001, and this was followed by the massive 592-page revised version in 2004. The sixth edition of Champions (now called The Hero System)hit shelves in 2009, with the rules being released in two volumes.
Champions RPG Books
A wide array of products for the Champions game have been published since the initial 1981 release. Whether you’re just getting started on a Champions campaign or looking to beef up your role-playing library, the following have proven to be some of the most popular supplements:
Escape from Stronghold – The second Champions adventure ever written, this 24-page scenario profiles Stronghold, the prison where defeated super villains get sent. A number of inmates are included, as well as tips for building cells to contain the bad guys (at least until they decide to escape).
The Great Super Villain Contest – Another classic Champions adventure, The Great Super Villain Contest revolves around the Crimson Claw’s efforts to pit the most powerful super-powered criminals against one another for the right to possess the Emerald Eye of Azog.
Conquerors, Killers and Crooks – Almost 100 new villains are included for your Champions campaign, ranging from low-powered to master villains. Plot seeds are included for each potential foe, as well as a summary chart that allows you to find the right enemy with minimal effort.
Champions Battlegrounds – Five adventures are included, each featuring a location that can be used repeatedly. Locations range from a park and mall to an amusement park, skyscraper, and underground caverns.
Dark Champions – If you want to run a gritty Champions campaign that focuses on cops, vigilantes and spies, this supplement will help you achieve your goals. Includes detailed chapters on forensic science, equipment, firearms, and creating your own gear. Power packages are also included, as well as skills, perks, and super-skills. 256 pages.
These are just a small sampling of all the Champions books released over the decades. There are more than 100 to choose from, so players will never want for new material for their superhero campaign.
The Hero System
One of the best aspects of the Champions rules system is their turn based combat system. In many games, initiative is determined almost at random, but Champions divides a turn into 12 segments (with each segment corresponding to one second).
Each character has a speed attribute that denotes how many segments a character gets to act during a turn. For example, a character with a speed of 6 would get to act on 6 segments per turn.
Taking an action on a segment costs a certain number of phases, from 0 phases to 1/4 a phase to 1 full phase. Most combat actions take 1/2 of a phase. Various combat maneuvers are available, and the effects on combat are very specific.
Champions uses d6s to the exclusion of other polyhedral dice. Rolls of 3d6–plus and minus modifiers–determine success or failure, and damage is handled by rolling a certain number of d6s. Some powerful characters get to roll a LOT of dice, which is another fun aspect of the game. If you’re a player who prefers not to roll lots of dice, you might prefer Mutants and Masterminds.
Champions RPG Character Creation
Champions characters are created using a points-based system. In 1981, when Champions was first released, this was an innovative way to approach character design. At the time, most roleplaying games used a random method to generate characters.
Champions characters use their character points to buy characteristics, skills, talents, and powers. They can also take disadvantages which increase the number of starting points for the character. Most powers are bought with modifiers which further define what the power can do.
Unlike most superhero role-playing games where powers are specifically described, Champions offers generic powers with certain effects. This allows the players to customize the look and effect of the power. For example, one character might buy an energy blast power to simulate being able to throw fireballs, while another character might also take energy blast and use it to project ice or sonic attacks.
Champions allows players to create any kind of character they wish, although most end up resembling some kind of popular archetype. Readers of comic books or fans of superhero RPGs should be familiar with many of the archetypes, such as Brick, Martial Artist, Mystic, Patriot, Speedster, and Power Armor.
The Champions RPG PDF
You’ll have no problem finding PDF products for Champions. Due to its success, all the major online gaming stores carry some form of the product, and PDF role-playing games continue to grow in demand.
If you would prefer to go straight to the source, the official site for Hero Games also offers PDF downloads for Champions. You can search by edition or release date, and several items are available in bundle packs to allow you to save money. When I visited their site, a total of 109 nine products were available as either physical copies or PDF downloads.
Champions RPG Character Generator
Given the large amount of math required to make a hero for the game, numerous character generators for Champions have appeared on the Internet. Heromaker is an MS-DOS program that came with some versions of Champions, and the fifth and sixth editions of the game are supported by Hero Designer.
If pen-and-paper superhero games aren’t what you had hoped for, you might consider giving Champions Online a try. This massively multiplayer online role-playing game is set in the Champions universe and uses rules loosely based on the HERO System. Players can join the game for free, although a monthly subscription allows you access to more adventures and a greater range of character archetypes and powers. At level 25, you can even create your own custom arch-enemy.
Fans of the Champions role-playing game will also be delighted at the presence of numerous locales and characters from the Champions universe. Journey to Slither Beach, Millennium City, Stronghold, or Force Station Steelhead and interact with the likes of Defender, Doctor Destroyer, Ironclad and Foxbat.
Numerous online debates and flame wars have been brought about by Champions reviews in recent years. Supporters of the game point to the flexibility of character creation, the use of only six-sided dice, and the balance between characters of equal power. Meanwhile, critics of the game complain about too much math, too many dice, and the overall length of combat.