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 Magic.

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.


Character Types

In general, there are five sorts of breaks from "normal people"...

  1. "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.
  2. "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.
  3. "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.
  4. "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.
  5. "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 their identity.

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.


Magic

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 principles:

  1. 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 failure.
  2. To succeed, you must believe in your power, you must will the act to happen, and you must express your desire.
    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 do.
    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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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