Champions: Mythic Heroes
This is a collection of notes for the Champions roleplaying
game (RPG). Champions is a narrative superhero RPG (aka
table-top, paper-and-pencil) published by HERO games. The primary
game focusses on the genre of mainstream superhero comics, such as
the X-Men, Spiderman, etc. This site is focussed on the genre of
alternative superhero comics, especially those of a mythic/mystical
bent, inspired by comics such as Swamp Thing, Sandman,
Astro City, Hellblazer, Mage, and The Books of
The world does resemble mainstream comics a fair extent: there are
costumed heroes and villians, and there have been throughout history.
There are superhero groups and menacing conspiracies: they are an
established part of the world. The notable absences from comic book
reality are no super-tech and no aliens.
A past "Mythic Heroes" campaign about a group of private
investigators in Evanston specializing in the supernatural.
A past "Mythic Heroes" campaign, about a superhero group in
Boston, dubbed the Crusaders, who lived at a mystic nexus known
as Hawthorne House
In general, there are five sorts of breaks from "normal people"...
- "Heroes": are people who have supernormal abilities, but nothing
clearly supernatural. These are heroes like Batman (minus some
of the more far-out gadgets), the Question, and so forth. In
this campaign, they are also modelled after various mythic heroes,
like Odysseus, Hercules, etc.
- "Supers": are people with clearly supernatural powers. These are
powerful talents which they draw on - typical would be
Blindside's ability to open matching portals in space within 20
meters, or his sister Coriolis' ability to increase or decrease
the weight of objects up to 10x.
- "Mages": are trained practitioners of magic. These vary greatly
in their abilities. Some are just above parlor tricks, while some
may rise to world-threatening status.
- "Shape-shifter": these are monsters, pure and simple (modelled
after my character Herkal in the Immortal Tales game). Somehow
through strange events, a monster forms inside of a person. Each
monster is unique - but they always represent a facet of Evil.
- "Spirits": are creatures from other-worldly planes. I'm not sure
how involved in all this we may get, but certainly any of the
places mentioned in _Sandman_ or _The Books of Magic_ might get
touched on (the Astral Plane, Faerie, etc.).
The history of the world is not diverged in major ways, but some
fictional or legendary people and events are quite real and accepted.
Mystic powers have been around since the dawn of civilization, or
perhaps even earlier. In history, the exploits of various superheroes
have had a noticable, but rather limited effect.
The population as a whole has accepted these figures as a fact of
life. Many do idolize them, but the more level-headed people realize
that they are not nearly as important as they claim. The world is not
threatened by destruction, and the main menaces they oppose are only
those criminals dumb enough to wear bright costumes which point out
Less well known is the various phenomena which do not fall into
this catchall of 'superpowers'. The recent string of 'vampire' murders
in New York, unconfirmed sightings of the an airborne city in Alaska,
and so on. These are generally explained away as hoaxes or the
influence of certain superpowers.
The player characters, in general, are more aware of the true force
which shape the world: magic. There are real mages in the
world, from all cultures and walks of life. Each of them has different
answers as to why magic works, but they agree upon some of its
- Magic is an innate quality - the ultimate source of power is
yourself. Factors might make your task easier, but ultimately it
depends on you. There are some mages who try to coerce or trick
other powers into doing what they want, but that is a road to
- To succeed, you must believe in your power, you must
will the act to happen, and you must express your
Belief is what differentiates mage - not only in how they
operate and what they do, but also in how strong they are. A
mage's strength depends upon his faith in himself.
Will is equally vital. You must want an act to happen
strongly enough, or your spells will never accomplish it. Some
mage's have driving goals which empower them; others are simply
willful enough to want even their commonplace desires very
strongly. Even an experienced mage must take care to cultivate
his desires, to not get distracted from his goals. It is easy to
become lost in intellectual studies and lose the will to
Expression is a matter of subtlety and control. While
skill in it is useful, it is not altogether vital. A bard may
craft skillful charms using strains of voice and harp, but a
cabalist may unleash more potent (but less controlled) magics
with only a single word.
- There is a spirit world, whose geography is vague at best, with
many shifting layers. The spirits that live there and the places
do resemble many cultures' ideas of the supernatural, but they
are also mysterious and alien. Attempts to describe and
categorize all the inhabitants inevitably fail, but it is
possible to learn about limited areas and groups.
- The mages refer to "supers" as "adepts". They have a natural gift
with certain magical powers, and develop them without the
distractions of theory or understanding. At times, though, this
seems hard to believe, given the vast difference between the
superpowers some have and all known traditions of magery.
Of course, there is plenty more to know about magic, but that
generally relates to one specific 'path' of magery - a specific
esthetic and cultural tradition. Some traditions will be more
represented than others - external alchemy and astrology are largely
misguided, as are various facets of demonology and other attempts to
catalog the Otherworld and its inhabitants.
John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sat Jan 8 01:37:02 2000