A Look at the Champions RPG and Champions Online (Part 1)

Coming of the Champions (Part 1)

What Champions Online Will Bring to Gaming

By Darkgolem

When I share my excitement about Champions Online, I have
been getting a lot of confused looks from my gamer
friends these last few days.  Champions Online (CO) has
announced for release in 2009 by Cryptic Studios, the same company
which created the unique MMOG, City
of Heroes
and the follow up sister game, style="font-style: italic;">City of Villains.  Now I will
tell you, I got really disturbingly hyped up about this when I read
about it last week.  I proceeded to tell my gamer friends, both
pen and paper RPG and console / PC gamers.  A couple knew what I
was talking about, but quite a few gave me that blank look when I
seemed so excited about it.  I weep for the lack of nostalgia
gamers these days.  Every time I get that look, somewhere an angel
loses its wings.

onclick="launch_popup(28721, 640, 388); return false;" target="_blank"> src="/image/view/28721/thumbnail"
alt="destroyer1.jpg: An early look at combat in Champions Online"
title="destroyer1.jpg: An early look at combat in Champions Online"
class="image thumbnail" height="61" width="100">
class="caption" style="width: 98px;">An early look at combat in
Champions Online

Let me be the first to tell you: Champions
is going to be one
of the best games of 2009.  I should add some caveats. 
Release could
be delayed, or many of the features now envisioned by the development
may not make it to release.  But
keeping in mind the quality products that Cryptic Studios has put out,
and the very smooth releases they have had, I have a lot of faith in
the quality that Champions Online
will have when it is released next year.

An excellent history of quality releases and a pedigree of relatively
smooth game launches does not ensure a product will be great.  In
the case of CO, my faith in the future quality of this product is
derived upon the quality of the game it is based upon.

What Champions Online Is and Is Not

Champions, using the Hero
System rules from Hero Games, is a super heroic role-playing pen and
paper game that first was published in 1981.   The greatest
thing about Champions is the
character development system.  In this game, you have a set amount
of points, based upon how powerful your heroic character should be in
your game master's campaign.  You had enormous versatility with
making a character in Champions,
basically being able to simulate any ability you want by purchasing a
basic power, and then modifying the powers cost by following a set of
rules making it
more or less expensive, depending upon whether the modification you
made caused the power to be more or less useful.

does not appear
to have a rules system that is the same as the style="font-style: italic;">Champions pen and paper game. 
According to a quote drawn from the href="http://www.herogames.com/aboutChampions.htm" target="_blank">HERO
Games web page:

"Another thing to remember is that the style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online MMOG is
not a
'HERO System MMOG.' It doesn't use the HERO System rules, and the full
rights to those rules are still owned by DOJ, Inc.  Players of the
MMOG won't be able to use the HERO System rules to design their
characters, for example. But once the MMOG is available we'll publish a
book that shows how to build Champions
powers and abilities in HERO System terms so you can
easily re-create your MMOG character for your tabletop RPG game if you

In other words, it appears the point-buy system of the style="font-style: italic;">Champions RPG will not carry over
to Champions Online,
nor are
some of the other features going to carry over in the same way.

The question you should be asking me now is:  If the HERO System
won't translate over to CO, why am I predicting style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online is going
to be so
big?  Because the feel of Champions
should translate over to Champions
even if the exact game design
cannot. But what's so compelling about Champions?

A Game With a Lot of Character

onclick="launch_popup(28723, 640, 499); return false;" target="_blank"> src="/image/view/28723/thumbnail"
alt="hero1.jpg: Characters in Champions Online have a much different look"
title="hero1.jpg: Characters in Champions Online have a much different look"
class="image thumbnail" height="78" width="100">
class="caption" style="width: 98px;">Characters in Champions Online
have a much different look

First and foremost, character creation in CO seems to be destined to
be great.  While Champions
will not have the exact same system as the Hero
System for making characters, Champions
’s designers have committed themselves to making as
much versatility as possible for
character creation. 

If Cryptic Studios says that they are committing to versatility and
customization, and they are talking about CO, then we are talking about
the most fun, versatile and customizable system for character design
you could ever want.  That sort of statement is similar to Cthulhu
being said to be "a little grumpy when he first wakes up".

Cryptic’s last endeavor, the City of
and City of Villains
games had the best character appearances I have ever seen from a
versatility standpoint.  Making a character for these games were
so much fun that it was almost a game itself, because of the vast
combination of choices you could make.  I know people who
complained that they had so much fun making characters that they had a
hard time getting to higher levels, because they kept remaking out of
pure enjoyment.

Now add in the commitment that Cryptic has made toward versatility and
customization.  As mentioned in the quote from HERO Games, there
are plans for you to be able to translate a character from CO to the
original pen and paper rpg.  This implies that a some of the
abilities (while administered “under the hood” in a different way) are
going to be the same, and admits that some abilities may be lost. 
This is actually understandable, for example, certain abilities (such
as time travel) just cannot be abjucated by a MMOG in a free-form
basis.  However, the sheer number of non-special abilities (that
don't require a live GM) imply that, if even a fraction carry over to
CO, then there will be many, many abilities available.

Comments from the developers of Champions
talk about this in more detail.  While necessarily
hedging (since the game isn’t close to finished), they say that all
powers will be available to all characters.  Within the old pen
and paper system, there were archetypes, similar to classes. 
These archetypes were predictable, energy projector, brick, martial
artist and so on.  However, like the stated plans for character
development in CO, in Champions
you could have any power for any character.  You could have all
sorts of fascinating characters, combinations of melee fighters, energy
projectors, mentalists, and so on.

In CO, they intend to allow anyone to have these same abilities. 
That is, you may have an archetype, such as a brick, but you also will
be able to choose to have a mental ability, or a martial art attack, or
ability drain, or any of the many abilities which are going to be part
of Champions Online
These will be more powerful for the archetype that traditionally has
this ability (i.e. energy blast for energy projectors), but you still
can have these fun and versatile combinations.

Overall, with Cryptic Studio’s history of beautiful and almost
unlimited character appearances, with their commitment to character
versatility, and with the level of versatility being carried over from
the HERO System to Champions
, the different characters you can make should be
absolutely amazing.  In all honesty, I
almost regret the game being announced now.  I have a year to wait!

But you won't have to wait long for Part 2 of Darkgolem's look at
the game behind the game, where he'll discuss the innovative
organizations and nemesis system proposed for Champions Online,
how cell shading will define the next generation of the comic book
MMORPG, and much more.

In the meantime, href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?p=215221">discuss Champions
in the Ten Ton Hammer Forums!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Champions Online Game Page.

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