A Tabletop Roleplaying Games Blog
Est. 2009 by Jonathan Hicks. I spend my time on this blog interviewing tabletop celebrities, reviewing products and generally having an opinion on all things gaming. It's all good fun.
Let me introduce you to Lisa, my wonderful wife. Lisa has been reading graphic novels of all kinds of genres for as long as she could read, and her love of Batman is unsurpassed. She has recently read and digested the excellent graphic novel 'Spooks' from Cinebook, and below are her thoughts. This review can also be found on her own website The BatHobbit.
Spooks – Published by Cinebook. Script by Xavier Dorison & Fabian Nury. Drawing and colour work by Chrsitian Rossi, French to English translation by Jerome Saincantin.
For those who are not aware of Cinebook I envy you this opportunity of experiencing their foreign delights for the first time. It’s like finding there is nothing left in this world that you have not sampled and your graphic novel pallet has long run dry. You continue in the same fashion collecting your sets but falling into the cracks of the same old artists and writers. You yourself become a stereotypical fan and long to fall from the inked path you are travelling. That all changed the day I came across Cinebook. My husband Jonathan (Farsight Blogger) left an edition of one of their prints on my bedside table knowing that I had long been searching for something to sink my teeth into and low and behold I think I've found it...
Since the end of 2005, Cinebook has worked to become the premier publisher of the Franco-Belgian Ninth Art in English in markets dominated by American superhero comics and Japanese manga. French and Belgian graphic work on our shores were mainly known for Tin Tin, Asterix or as when I was younger Lucky Luke and co. But the edition I am about to review falls far from these and in my humble opinion stronger than many shorts I have seen before now. Spooks 1. The fall of Babylon is a short Graphic Novel set in the East Coast of America in 1895. The first installment introduces us to a band of five men and one woman who will accompany us on this journey. The writers waste no time and on page one you are given a brief introduction to what lies in wait for you. If like me you are a total character junkie then this short ‘heads up’ if you will is brilliant. I won’t give too much away but before the story has even begun you are thrown into what you should expect from your main characters. You have a British gent knowledgeable in all areas of detective occult, Mr Morton Chapel (what a brilliant name!) introduces himself to us in superb fashion as the head of this Rag tag band of Specialists in the Odd and Occult (favorably nicknamed Spooks by Ulysses S Grant and that in itself tells you how high and deep their past has been you can only wonder at what they had done together before this story!) You then have a brutal sharp-shooter, Mr Joey Bishop. You are given a hint to how brutal this hired hand for murder is but a soft blow is provided with the simple tag ‘he fears only one thing, his feelings for Kathryn Lennox’ which opens all kinds of questions, he is later described as chubby but in certain shots he displays an unexpected bout of manners to what he feels is right for a ladies eyes to see. His enforcer companion is always a Mr. Bart Trumble and you are shown that he is an old hand at the Occult where Mr Bishop on the other hand is as green-horned as they come. My favorite is Angel Salvaje, a Native American Exorcist who is rescued from the Gallows for what the laymen call Murder. You then have the shadowy Mr Richard Clayton, fired from his job for asking too many questions on his countries safety he takes matters into his own hands and enlists the help of Chapel and his crew. Which lead them to the Lennox family... of which I will say less! The story begins with the demise of the East Coast elite and the appearance of a strange symbol that vanishes as soon as it arrives. People of normal social ranking committing acts of evil and murder are becoming far too rife in the social circles of the Senate. Richard Clayton wants answers immediately and the only man he can trust is Morton Chapel. Together they pin each clue together and follow the dangerous trail through murky alleys and opium dens. You have the feeling that all of them apart from Bishop and Ms Lennox know what waits for them and there is no question at any point that whatever they are hunting is unholy and the plan when they find it is uncertain. However! They never question that they will and even those who wade into the unknown do so with a bravery and valor that you want to be explained further.
I have read many graphic novels and indeed books that have had a stab at the occult and whilst I grant that there is not that much to research as you can indeed just ‘make it up’ it is not done so with any wit or expertise. It has become a raging trend to butch up vampires and humanize werewolves and it is refreshing to see a company tackle the trend with intelligence and 18th century finesse. In a time when nothing would have been known about Witchcraft or Satanism other than what the puritans left behind and what your grandmother had told you to get you to eat your greens, you feel that each character given to us by Dorison and Nury are tomes on an Arcane shelf being brushed off and made ready for use again and for that I am grateful. I am about to sink my teeth into the second installment ‘The century Club’ and exited does not cover it after the cliff-hanger reveal that ‘The fall of Babylon’ gave us. Christian Rossi's artwork is exemplary and refreshingly citrus in feel, the colors of the east coast dust waft over each page at times and the stark black and white scenes are harsh in reflection as the atmosphere seems to carry in the sometimes brutal and brave dialogue. This has quickly become a favorite of mine and I hope for it or the crew to carry on forward. If you are looking for something new, well written and beautifully presented in the styles of old then look no further you will not be disappointed.
Cinebook retail this beauty at £6.99 and I cannot think of anything that would dazzle in your fine collection then this.
Aldebaran: The Catastrophe is the first volume of Leo’s
science fiction epic.
From the Cinebook website:
‘In Aldebaran’s Worlds, you’ll live one of the most
fantastic sagas ever written by man. The author tells the story of humanity’s
first attempts to colonise distant planets. In their travels, Kim and her
companions will encounter strange creatures and face the dangers of unknown
worlds. They’ll witness the destruction caused by the madness of mankind. In the
first album, Kim meets Mark, another teenager who has survived the annihilation
of their village. Together they set out to find explanations for this terrible
catastrophe... This two-volume book includes “The Blonde.”’
Aldebaran: The Catastrophe is set in the year 2184, and
the colony on the planet Aldebaran has been cut off from Earth for a hundred
years. The colonists struggled to survive but have now come to terms with the
wild and strange flora and fauna of the world and their government has become a
quite brutal military/religious dictatorship. Although the blurb on the book
seems to concentrate on the character Kim, a wily and headstrong thirteen year
old girl, the narrator and main character in this volume seems top be the
young, socially confused and brash Mark. I assume that the following volumes -
of which there are five, another two on Aldebaran and three on Betelgeuse -
will concentrate on the Kim character. She still gets a lot of page time in
Leo’s artwork is very functional and brightly coloured
which reflects the seemingly tropical nature of the planet. The vistas are
impressive but I can’t help but feel that the characters are illustrated as if
models were posing for the images; there isn’t much dynamism to the drawings,
no real sense of movement or action. Each character is well detailed and easily
identifiable, and the world they live in has a character of it’s own as far as
the landscape and strange vegetation is concerned but the alien creatures are a
little flat; they seem to have human features, for the most part, and that
doesn’t spark the imagination very much. There’s a lack of a real science
fiction atmosphere to the art, as in there’s no crazy machinery, spaceships or
equipment. The fashion seems to be a general late 20th century look,
with technology at a very simple early 20th century stage. With the
inclusion of modern-style weapons, old-style airships and Napoleonic-style
tallships, it’s really a mismatch of eras that reflects what the settlers had
to do with the tools and knowledge at their disposal and makes the world a very
dynamic and interesting place even though sometimes you forget you’re on
another world. It’s all very well rendered.
The writing is very detailed and there’s plenty of it – it
really is the kind of graphic novel in which you invest a lot of reading time,
but the story is very interesting and goes on at a nice clip. There’s a lot of
issues with relationships, especially the unrequited romance between the
smitten Mark and Kim’s sister Nelly, but it really doesn’t go anywhere and
doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the overall story. It sets up Mark’s
nervousness and somewhat clumsy social skills well, but it doesn’t blossom into
anything and feels like a waste of time. Mark’s narration certainly helps and
explains a lot about him and the world around him and helps to carry the story
so that the reader doesn’t get lost. There's a great section in the back of the book detailing the timeline up to the loss of the colony, a map of the world of Aldebaran itself and it's place in the heavens - a few great details just to add to the flavour. On the whole it’s very well written.
Aldebaran: The Catastrophe does feel like the first half
of a TV series pilot – the characters are introduced, the basics of the world
is established and the general premise of the story is set up. What is the
strange sea creature that destroyed the village? Who is the stranger who warned
them, and why do the government want him so badly? They really are interesting
questions and the strange abilities of the creature only serve to heighten the
With characters you care about on a mysterious world you’d
like to visit I see good things ahead for the Aldebaran story. I’m very much
looking forward to the next two volumes about this world.
Back in the 1980s I used to watch a television show called ‘Robin of Sherwood’. I’d been playing RPGs, primarily the red box Basic Dungeons and Dragons game, for about a year and I had been subjected to a lot of fantasy literature via Tolkien and Howard, so here was a show that I enjoyed immensely – the Robin Hood legend given a historical look and a fantastical, low-magic edge to it. There were sorcerers, witches and a demon even popped his head up in one episode, but mostly it was about Robin, his friends and their battles against the Sheriff of Nottingham. A lot of the episodes didn’t even touch on the fantasy and concentrated on historical figures, places and adventures. This was my kind of fantasy. It had a historical feel to it so it was identifiable and even recognisable and there was also a dollop of adventure and mystery.
I could never truly find an RPG that emulated this. The closest I ever got was Middle-Earth Roleplay (MERP), and even this was only because we dropped the Tolkien setting and made it a fantasy version of Europe. The MERP rulebook, however, didn’t give us any atmosphere or hints on how to run such a pseudo-historical game so the GM I was playing with had to pretty much develop it himself. I thought I’d never find a game that could emulate my favourite TV show from when I was a kid.
Then I came into the possession of the Dragon Warriors game.
Dragon Warriors was originally published as a series of six paperback books in the 1980s and they completely passed me by. I was into Basic D&D and the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks at the time so Dragon Warriors, which was an actual full RPG in novel size and not a choose-your-own-adventure style book at all, got missed. I never even glanced inside to see what it was all about and, of course, we didn’t have the handy Internet for me to read up on what it was like. I had enough money for my current games and any others were not a consideration. Now that Dragon Warriors has a new home and is now available once again, I’m more than happy to report that it is an excellent, excellent game.
The hardback book is a 262-page combination of the original six books with all the tools you’ll need to run a game. It’s crisp and very pretty, with clear and concise explanations and examples, and has plenty of atmospheric illustrations. I like the sense that the author is talking to you about how the game works rather than a bland lecture-type writing style that makes many games dull and uninspiring. My gripe is that the rules seem to be scattered throughout the book, with many early paragraphs telling you about a skill and then asking you to turn to page ‘x’ to read about it. It’s not a flaw, just a bit of an annoyance when you just want to read through without page-flipping.
What is most impressive about the book is that it oozes atmosphere – in between the illustrations and the writing an aspiring GM can’t fail to be inspired.
Dragon Warriors is a very simple system. You will need all of the standard dice, from D4 to D20, and they all have their uses. Stats are decided by rolling 3D6 - D&D style, I know, but this game was originally conceived as the UK rival to Dungeons and Dragons, after all. Straightforward successes are rolled using 2D10 whilst combat is decided with the D20, in both cases you have to roll equal to or less than a target score for success. There’s a neat Armour rule that works well, which is that each weapon has a two-code description; a dice type and a number. The dice type is the ‘Armour Bypass’ code and this ranges from D4 to D10. The roll made with this dice has to be higher than the number that represents the armour your opponent is wearing. So, if they are wearing Mail armour it has an Armour Factor of 4 – you will have to roll more than 4 on your weapon’s die code to get through the armour, and then the second number is the amount of damage done if you’re successful. Most games deal with the amount of damage rolled by the weapon used, whereas this game is more concerned with getting through the armour in the first place! It’s neat and easy and it makes you think twice before attacking an armoured foe in full plate armour with nought but a dagger.
Dragon Warriors has no skill list. There are certain skills that the main character careers are capable of and these affect rolls but there is no long skill list to choose from. This is not a bad thing as it tends to stop pigeonholing characters and enables them to do many, heroic things no matter what profession they have chosen.
Talking about careers, this is my second gripe – There are only seven professions to choose from and four of them are magic users; Assassins, Barbarians, Elementalists, Knights, Mystics, Sorcerers and Warlocks. It seems a little constrictive but each one is open to interpretation depending on the game you want to play. It would be nice, however, to see other professions included in future books.
Magic is vast, with a plethora of spells at a magic user’s fingertips as they grow. Magic points is the tried and tested order of the day with three of the professions – cast a spell and your pool of points dries up until you’re out of energy – but Mystics have a unique ability that means they do not have a magic point pool, but every time they cast a spell there’s a chance they suffer from Psychic Fatigue and are unable to cast any more spells that day. Whether this fatigue takes hold is decided by a dice roll. It makes them unpredictable and fun to play, as you never know what’s going to happen in an encounter.
Characters can level up in Ranks (all characters start at Rank 1) and they do so via gaining experience points from defeated foes and the game itself. Advancing in rank enables skills to increase and spells to be learned.
All in all the rules are simple, effective and extremely user friendly. I’ve run through two games and it only took half the first session to create characters and get the rules straight. They’re simple without being dull and have enough depth so that you can get your teeth into a decent character that you can develop as the games go on.
Now we get to some serious meat – the wonderful setting of the Dragon Warriors game.
The Lands of Legend is a pseudo-historical setting based heavily on Europe from the 10th to the 14th centuries. This gives you versions of some of the best eras of the periods – Vikings, Crusaders, Saracens, Knights, Kings, Barons, Lords, Saxons, Mongols, Feudal Japanese and Chinese Empires. They all have their own versions in the setting and they are direct interpretations of their historical counterparts.
The setting gives you detailed information of the primary location of the game, that of the lands of Ellesland (a fantasy version of Great Britain) and then details of other areas covering the neighbouring kingdoms and the south (basically Europe and the Middle East). It even gives you some details on the far east, should you want your players to go there. There’s only a few pages of this information to give you a basic feel as to what is going on but the wonderful thing is that the details are already there for you – actual history fills in the gaps. There can’t be a single fantasy GM reading the book who can’t help but be inspired by the descriptions and know straight away what the land being described is like.
Dragon Warriors isn’t limited to the setting in the book. You can use the rules for any fantasy setting of your choosing, either an established one or one of your own design.
OTHER MATERIAL IN THE BOOK
Inside the book you’ll also find: A section on GMing a game, a very large bestiary that’ll keep you in encounters for dozens of games, an introductory adventure ‘The Darkness Before dawn’, details on other aspects of the setting including travel, hazards and even madness and diseases, some legends and myths from the Legend setting to help inspire you, information about the historical theme such as laws and languages, magical items, hints and tips on world building for your own setting designs, and variants on the rules for a more detailed experience.
The book is certainly concise and detailed and has everything you’ll need to run a fantasy RPG of any description. I do feel the chapters are sometimes in the wrong place and you have to do some searching for a particular section, but the book is not that big and once you know your way around it it’s not that hard.
I’m finding it a tad difficult not to gush about this book because it’s what I’ve been looking for in a fantasy RPG for quite a while. I’ve spent years playing MERP and WFRP and I liked them both but this game has come along at just the right time for me – I was looking for a game that wasn’t as complicated as the games I just mentioned but had enough meat for me to create a detailed game, and I was getting nostalgic for my old games from the 1980s, the games where I was trying to emulate Robin of Sherwood. Well, here is the game I’ve been looking for. In this book I have that historical context and I have those rules that won’t weigh me down with numbers and charts and tables but will give me enough detail to make my games grow. I have my gripes with the book, notably the rules layout and the constant page-flipping I had to do, but once you get past this what you have is a wonderful game with a rich, deep setting that allows you to create pretty much any kind of fantasy game you want.
To be fair, I didn't really miss out on this game - I just used it for a different purpose. I'm a huge 2000AD fan and I've got two decades worth of comics, graphic novels, Casebooks, Best Ofs, Megazines and specials. And a signed issue from John Wagner, Alan Grant, Simon Bisley and Colin MacNeil. So, yeah, I'm pretty much into it.
The Judge Dredd RPG was released by Games Workshop in the 1980s and, as far as I can tell, did quite well. The system wasn't anything to write home about. In fact, it wasn't that good, being a basic roll-under-percentile-score system in which starting PCs had stupidly low scores. But, it was functional and could be modified quite easily (changing the Combat Skill score to the two scores Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill a la WFRP solved many issues, and giving the player about fifty extra percentiles to divide up between the scores made them much more competent). I had the hardback book, not the boxset, and I used it quite a lot... for Strontium Dog games. My mates didn't really want to be Judges and with the mutation tables in the back it was perfect for a Stront game, and my mate Andy's Ralph the Goblinoid hunter had several months of fun.
The reason I missed out on this game is because I never used it for it's intended purpose, roleplaying as a Judge. I had great plans for playing Brit-Cit judges, and even had ideas involving the Apocalypse War and Necropolis. But these ideas never came about because we were having too much fun playing S/D agents.
I'd like to get hold of a copy of this game again, just the hardback rulebook. It was wonderfully atmospheric and captured the feel of 2000AD of the time really well. I'd love to have a proper go at it.
Alien Breed: Impact For PC, used with Microsoft X-Box game controller Team 17
So, this is how I imagine this game was created. A bunch of guys got together and said:
'Let's make a game that's like the 'Aliens' movie!'
'Sure, but we'll have to change the details a bit and make it our own, you know, add new ideas into the mix.'
There's a few seconds of contemplation before someone says, 'Screw that - let's make a game like the Aliens movie!'
I had the original Alien Breed on my old Amiga way back in the very early 1990s - it was a top-down shooter, and what you had to do was walk around a spaceship, find keycards to get you through the many doors and blast aliens, that actually looked like Geiger's alien. It was fast, fun and sometimes frustrating.
Team 17 took the Unreal Engine and made the game 3D, but still with that top-down feel to it (see video above for gameplay details). I played it on my two-year old PC with very few problems, although I did have disable the dynamic shadows and effects to improve the gameplay. There's five levels to the game, each asking you to put in about an hour for each level, so if you blast through the game you could have it done in about four and half hours. That's not bad, considering the low price of the game for you to download. Personally, I bought the physical disc with all three Alien Breed games on it - Impact, Assault and Descent - because I'm awkward that way. I've just completed Impact at the moment and I'm working my way through Assault. That's up to 15 hours of gameplay for all three games. I found the game much easier to play using the X-Box controller as I found the mouse/AWSD controls a little fiddly.
So, what's the game like? Well, there's no messing about, for a start. The game gets stuck in with a simple comic strip-style intro, gives the hero Conrad a very brief introduction, and then slams the spaceship he's on, the Leopold, into a huge ghost ship. Stuck together and overrun with alien creatures, Conrad has to fix systems, make his way through an annoyingly exploding starship, and blast aliens. The gameplay is a fast and fun arcade-style shoot-em-up. The action is cool and the aliens get blasted to smithereens in a very satisfying way with assault rifles, shotguns, flamethrowers, laser guns and ion blasters. There's a pistol in there too, but I never used that much - I just upgraded the damage of the assault rifle and made sure the ammo was topped up.
There are plenty of save points where you can buy and sell stuff and upgrade your equipment. The main idea of the game is to fix systems, find keycards (yay!) and use consoles to be able to progress. The maps are relatively large but the route is quite linear, with some backtracking and going over old ground, but it's all very well rendered and very atmospheric.
The systems you fix have animations showing the machines firing up (or exploding) and, even though some of the tasks can be a little monotonous and the animations feel like they're taking too much time, it's still a good game. It can get annoying when you're used to looking at the map at a certain angle (you can adjust the top-down view by circling the camera) and the animation of your efforts turns it all around, but you can get past that. I also think that the Leopold is probably the worst designed vessel in science fiction existence; the systems are all over the place, the corridors and rooms are placed in crazy places and activating one system seems to blow up another. This is a small gripe - the layout aids the gameplay and the odd 'I'm lost!' moment aside it's functional and very atmospheric.
All in all a great game, and for less than three British pounds as a download it's more than worth it. It only gets better in Alien Breed: Assault, but I'm still playing that so that's a review for another time. If you're looking for a deep, immersive story and detailed intricate gameplay then you're out of luck, but if you just want to run around blasting aliens for a couple of hours then it's more than worth it. The online co-op option only serves to increase the fun.
Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Steve Turner of Britannia Game Designs Ltd!
Welcome to Farsight Blogger. Perhaps you'd
like to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well I'm nearer 50 than I would like, as well as running
Britannia Game Designs Ltd I have my own Business services company that helps
to pay the bills of real life.
Tell us about your RPG history - what got
you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?
I started out wargaming, moving from Napoleonics through WW2
to Ancients. It was while creating a mythological world to run ancient
style campaigns I was introduced to the newly released AD&D in 1979.
From there thr group I was with spread their wings to play Gamma World,
Traveller, Boot Hill and then Space Opera and Chivalry & Sorcery (the game
BGD now owns and designs).
What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that
attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?
Originally it was the joy of bringing life to your own
imaginary worlds which is still true today, but nowadays I enjoy the social
aspect as much, as with family life it is important to make time and it allows
me to meet up regularly with friends.
What's your favourite game? What games
that are out there at the moment float your boat?
There are many games I truly like, I have to say C&S
obviously, I've always been a fan of any form of Cthulhu, at the moment I am
getting a big kick out of running Leagues of Adventure and playing in Savage
Worlds games. I also enjoy Classic Traveller and Harnmaster.
Do you still get time to play? What are you
playing at the moment?
I am running Leagues of Adventure for a small group, mainly
teenagers, and play most Fridays. I also play Warhammer 40k (miniatures)
on a fortnightly basis, just cant escape that wargamers background.
The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been
through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is
always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games
and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though –
what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do
you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?
The hobby will continue to survive while the generation that
kicked off the hobby (ie 40 to 50+ yr olds) are still getting together and
gaming. There will be more and more digital copies of games available,
but at the end of the day holding a nice shiny hardback is still better than
looking at a screen. The future of the hobby (and to some extents all
hobbies) always has been and always will be the gaining of new blood into the
hobby. Games Workshop is very good at this with nice shiny figures to
buy. TSR UK used to run a schools competition and promoted the hobby into
schools, but there is nobody doing this now. Without exposure to the 14
to 18 age group and including them in games where are we going to get the next
generation? The only gamers I see today in this age bracket are
offspring of gamers or their close friends. This has to be a key factor
in what happens to the hobby, without new gamers we don't expand the hobby,
without the expansion of players we have a restrictive market place. As a
business we need to see an expanding customer base but to promote in schools
needs funding and no one company can do it alone.
Out of all your projects, what are you most
The project I am most proud of at the moment has got to be
C&S The Rebirth although our latest C&S Essence comes a close second.
We are currently working on the 5th edition of C&S as well as a whole
raft of supplements that we have had on the back burner for a few years as well
as expansions for C&S Essence. You’ve no doubt mixed with other great names
in the roleplaying community – do you have any stories or anecdotes to share?
Any horror stories? Be as frank as you like!
None that I want to share at the moment - lol
What are you working on at the moment?
are currently working on the 5th edition of C&S as well as a whole raft of
supplements that we have had on the back burner for a few years as well as
expansions for C&S Essence.
I’ve had some great experiences with superhero role-playing
games. The ones I’ve played have been fun and exciting and I’ve had good times with
KAPOW! style action, with capes flapping and fists flying, and I’ve had bleaker
games, with moody heroes and dark happenings. Superhero roleplaying can be a
lot of fun.
Champions Complete, using the Sixth Edition Hero System,
appears to lean much more towards the KAPOW! style of superheroic roleplaying.
The rulebook is a 240-page softback with full colour covers
and black-and-white interior. The type is no-nonsense double columns with
normal fonts and the art, which is suitably comic-book style, is black and
white line drawings. The interior is lacking in flavour in the vein that
there’s nothing particularly inspiring or attention-grabbing; it’s all very
Champions Complete tries to do two things – it tries to be
both a superhero roleplaying game and a core set of adaptable rules that you
can use for any genre. It accomplishes this quite well, using a table of
Character Types ranging from low-level ‘Normals’ to high-level ‘Superheroic’,
and the options you are given for these levels decide on the type of game
you’re playing, and at the back of the book there are hints and tips on how to
use the rules for other genres, such as fantasy, science fiction and
contemporary. That in itself makes the book a good purchase as you can use it
for pretty much anything you want to.
The game system is relatively simple – roll 3D6 and roll
under the skill level to succeed. It’s quick and fluid and a pretty good little
Roughly, the first 130 pages are given over to character
creation. This may sound like a lot – and it is – but the character creation
rules include a huge myriad of powers for superhero characters. The amount of
options is both impressive and overwhelming, and on almost every page there’s
a table. The first table is on page 9 and they barely stop coming. Characters
are given a number of Character Points to spend on their PC, for
characteristics, skills and powers. This brings us back to tables – the
majority of them are simply detailing the Character Point cost for certain
abilities, but the number of them makes character creation a long-winded
affair. If this were a first-time group game, an entire evening would be taken
up by character creation alone. My first character took just shy of an hour to
fully complete as I made my way through the options, mostly making adjustments
when I found another table with other options that I preferred. I’m sure, once
you’re used to the system, character creation would be much simpler but for
first timers to the system it can be somewhat overwhelming. For example, the
Language skill has an accompanying table that allows forms of communication
depending on how similar they are to each other, and it goes on to list each
language, box them in certain shapes, and the similarity of the shapes
determines the reduction or increase of the Character Point cost for that
language – all that just seems incredibly unnecessary and adds complication.
The blurb on the back of the book states that Champions Complete is ‘An
excellent purchase for first time players…’, so I’m assuming they mean first time players of the Hero System and not roleplaying games in
general, because this book really isn’t new-to-the-hobby friendly.
Once you’re past all that and you get into the game
properly, the system is actually really very good. The lower-the-better 3D6 roll
is nice and easy and plays well.
There’s an excellent section ‘Champions – Superhero
Roleplaying’ that details the kind of comic-book game that Champions is trying
to emulate and how to game in that genre. It talks about codes of conduct,
secret identities, costumes and villains. It then goes on to talk about
character origins, motivations and running campaigns. Backed up with examples
and appendices, there’s plenty to keep the playing group going. It’s a helpful section and has some good
One thing this book does miss is an introductory scenario.
It would have been a good way to show GMs how the games hang together and how
some of the rules could be implemented.
Champions Complete is a nice, easy game wrapped up in
complication and options. Once you’re through character creation the system is
really quite good, but it’s getting there that’s the hard part. Constant use
resulting in familiarity with the game will no doubt make things a lot easier
in time and many GMs will no doubt drop certain parts of the book to suit the
game – in fact, the introduction of the book positively encourages you to do
that and is in favour of creative freedom.
The 3D6 system is really very good and the different levels
of character creation - which decides how ‘normal or ‘heroic’ your character is
- is a good way to differentiate between the capabilities of characters. The
fact that you can carry this over to different genres is a bonus and is an
excellent idea. Although this book is geared towards superheroes, the system is
robust enough to handle any genre, and in fact the back of the book explains
how to use this rulebook for different genres. This makes Champions Completer
almost a generic system core rulebook for the Hero Sixth Edition. Sure, there’d
be some work involved to convert it to another genre – the book even offers
some hints on what to leave out to emulate specific genres - but the basics are there. You could get this
rulebook and play anywhere and anywhen you wanted. That’s a bonus, and I like
that in a game, the ability to use it for genres other than the intended one.
Where I feel Champions Complete lets me down is the sheer
number of options available and even though it’d be easy to say ‘I won’t use
that in my game’ the amount in character creation alone might make players
think they’re being restricted and missing out on their perfect character if
they’re told they can’t have certain things. The number of tables is daunting,
there’s one on almost every page, and the handy index and the tables in the
appendices make that easier but there seems to be a level of unnecessary complication
attached to such a simple, easy gaming system. It says in the introduction that
this is a lean, streamlined version of the Hero System Sixth Edition; that kind
of surprises me, given the level of detail here. It makes me wonder just how
comprehensive the Hero System Sixth Edition actually is.
All told, Champions Complete is a good book, and the fact
that you can use it as a set of core rules for any game you want, at any power
level, is a great idea. Players of the Hero System Sixth Edition will
definitely find this a great companion for their games. The simple presentation and the possibly overbearing amount of options available isn’t my
kind of thing but it’s a solid game nonetheless.