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A bit of a mind flip, into a time-slip

This session of our Champions 3rd edition game concerns our two heroes, ARC and Agent One, in their roles as soldiers from a future war. The former is a deserter who's decided he likes modern (our) life, and the latter is on a mission but with malfunctioning "chip" and whatnot so he doesn't really know what the mission is. They operate as a super-duo aiding the troubled police department of St. Louis, MO, as one of its leaders pushes for radical reform of police policy.

The first session was mainly seeing them against a show-up, get-out supervillain named Tendril without much social context except for winning their police contact, the formidable Captain Laura Roberts, some traction in her otherwise thankless ambitions to make the police actually good. The second and second-ish concerned The Good Guys, a very dangerous super-group with delusions of heroism in a number of different and literal ways, which focused strongly on what police are "for" and what "good guys" even mean relative to ordinary people.

In this one, I decided it was time to make use of the players' interesting character concepts and related sheet-features like "Hunted by Mother Necessity." Interestingly, Mark and Jay had independently decided to make their characters soldiers from a future-war; crucially, we had decided that they were from opposite sides. Well, someone from ARC's side comes to see why he's screwing up the time-stream by being here at all; and someone from Agent One's side comes to see why he's not performing his mission. Simultaneously. Coincidentally. Because in a superhero comic book with time travel in both characters' origins, what else could it be?

The session unfortuntely illustrates a lot of my technical troubles hitting bottom about a month ago. You'll see us trying appear.in, then Skype, then Roll20, none of which work very well. It even cuts out on the last word ("AWOL") which is sorta significant. We've also had session meeting troubles including getting slammed by the time-change, which is one week apart between our locations. We barely manage to initate the outset of hostilities, and so far haven't managed to schedule a follow-up, although I'm really jonesing for it and hoping Discord will save us all.

Anyway, there's a lot of good things going on with the game when we manage to get to it. I'm really playing and building hard to showcase interesting things you can do with this rules-set which I maintain were not sustained in the 4th edition (1989). I've attached the character specs for the Timekeeper and for Mother Necessity, who are very interesting antagonists full of momentary emergent properties. Unlike my posts about The Good Guys, I did not include the point-cost breakdowns as they're not relevant to my point - here I want to talk about how the powers, personalities, and social identities work for these two characters. Please feel free to ask any questions about the builds, even (or especially) if they make no sense to you at all.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Champions
Attachments: 
PDF icon time villains.pdf

Comments

Ross's picture

I'm interested in the only after recovering from a stun limitation on Mother Necessity's vpp. And also a similar feature in Miasma on the comics blog. Is that sought of thing modelled / encouraged in 3rd edition Champions or is it an emergent feature from your background in the play culture?

In champions 6th edition (the only one I have the vaguest familiarity with) I haven't seen any similar builds although I don't think it would be explicitly rules out. (Unlike ankylo's endurance destruction - there's a big warning explanation mark about non-standard damage types). 

Ron Edwards's picture

The available builds and rationales for first-generation Champions are so diverse and from so many different authors and gaming groups, that I don't think that question can be answered easily. I had a pretty broad range of contact with "folk Champions," i.e. real people at real tables, exceptionally wide-ranging by 80s standards, and  here's my call. That if you drew a scatter plot with "even understands the rules" on one axis and some metric for justifying Limitations on the other, the points would be distributed such that the whole chart space would be rendered an evenly-stippled grey.

Since the publications, especially villains books and adventures, were almost all grassroots efforts, they displayed a wide variety too. Many of them were filtered through a combat-centric lens, tending either toward highly-disadvantageous limitations which could be exploited to beat an otherwise extremely dangerous foe (I think of this as the DC model), or toward relatively simple high-point-count builds for powers but incredibly well-constructed disadvantages (I think of this as the Marvel model; see Flower). Funky limitations weren't that common, although maybe I'd find some given some page-thumbing.

The rules, you see, were explicit: it was called Limited Power, period, and you made it up. There were a few examples, but the only real rule was, "if it doesn't limit the power in play, it's not worth points." So you can bet things got pretty idiosyncratic in the wild.

 

Ross's picture

I've been meaning to come back to this conversation for a while, if only to apologise for the series of typos in my first comment. Having fallen in with champions grognards at a recently opened games cafe I have been trying to build a hero in 6th edition and sheer number of adders, advantages and limitations somewht intimidating. I definitely get a sense that there must be a right way to construct a power given the codification of options available, and the limited power limitation rather sinks into obscurity. Also there are really not a lot of example heroes or villains in the champions complete book, and the ones there are seem a bit pedestrian.

This is a bit of a silly response as the GM I'm playing with is certainly open to all sorts of inventive uses of the rules. A bit over generous if anything - they suggested a does not work under water limitation which had better mean we end up battling in and around U-boats!

Anyway, what looks most interesting about the limitations I mentioned in my first comment was how they interact with and emphasise character personality through how they use their powers, leaning on various rules which, like being stunned, at first only seem tangentially related to personality mechanics. This probably says something about why fights are important in superhero narratives but I'm struggling to articulate it. It probably also links in to how you were using presence attacks in the police policy meeting, which the latest edition would use skills to resolve, I suspect for the worse. 

Ron Edwards's picture

Since I'm diving really hard into first-generation Champions text and play-experience, it's hard for me to emerge and try to cope with, or engage in dialogue about the later versions. I think sixth edition goes a long way toward correcting, or re-orienting, a lot of the emergent weirdness and clunkiness that had developed, but its starting point is pretty much fourth edition, and that edition's take on the earlier material. I'm dialing things back to a point which is, probably, not even thought of as "Champions" or "what it's like," or even "what it's about" in system terms.

I'm treating powers and points as a matter of effort in the moment, very conflict-based, rather treating the system as an accounting device for modeling. Most skills, social status, connections, and wealth just drop out of the point-scheme; similarly, anything you buy with points becomes - for lack of a better word - valuable in effect, as well as costly in terms of use. That's why Endurance and Pushing become central features of play.

Anyway, it's time to get this particular game back in action, as it fell prey to massive scheduling and technical problems which our D&D game seems to have skirted. It's also time to get another, parallel 3rd-ish Champions game under way.

Ross's picture

Yes, sorry, I'll shut up about 6th Edition.

Anyway I've been enjoying following these sessions, especially the politics, and I'm looking forward to you guys picking it up again.

Ron Edwards's picture

Not quite the message I intended to convey. Please feel free to describe how 6th is going for you, either here for comparison or as an Actual Play post of its own (which would be great). I may not be really good at analyzing/responding at this point, but what you say won't be ignored.

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