Ron Edwards is doing a kickstarter for a new version one of the earliest superhero games: Champions. He released a playtest draft of this new version (link below). I’ve been reading through it, and I’ll going to drop a few notes into the comments of this post as I have time over the next few days.

I particularly want to talk about:
• The setting advice
• Character generation (which has really inspired me)
• The combat mechanics (which still seem daunting, particularly all the situational bonuses)

This version of Champions encourages you and your group to design your own setting, rather than memorise and play in someone else’s. There’s a great bit of creative advice to encourage you to do this:

”As far as the bunch of you are concerned, this is the superhero comic you most want to be into right now…”

Going into the game, the rules suggest:

Whoever’s organizing this group for play, have these two things at the ready, no more and no less.
• One solid bit of content about superheroes and/or villains
• One solid bit of genre specification, implying a fictional style and specific types of problems, including the location of play

Examples of the first point include “You’re all average humans who’ve suddenly been transformed. So, until yesterday, superheroes only existed in comics” or “Superpowers are hereditary, and have existed for centuries. But each generation is slightly more powerful than the one before.”

Examples of the second point would be “Gritty street level conflicts in Chicago” or “Superheroes are glamorous celebrities with agents, based in our home-city.”
The playtest rules also suggests you base your game in “a real location that someone in the group knows really well.”

After coming up with your two statements and a real-world location, you list out all the NPCs (normal, heroic and villainous), organisations (ditto) and personal histories the players come up with during characters creation.

All of these things become the starting point for your group’s situation.

Ron used a variation on this method in Sorcerer and Sword (a supplement to create pulp fantasy situations and adventures). When I’ve run games using this it led to great results.

Given that Champions inspired Ron’s thoughts on as-you-go setting design, I have no doubt it’ll work here … and it makes me excited to try it out.