Ok, so I was supposed to post this last night and it’s a little bit late. You get in at midnight and see if you really want to post after a really long day.
Yesterday while sitting having lunch at Chick-Fil-A and realizing that come July I’ll have been a Champion’s/Hero gamer for 25 years. Yep, I started it in 1983.
A little background and I know I’ve said this before here and elsewhere. I got into gaming while my dad was stationed in Italy. Small base (I’ll ahve to post a picture of the place sometime) and not much to do. While looking through the BX catalog I ran across the first edition AD&D and the red & blue box sets for D&D. Yeah back then there was a difference between the two. Ok, so I muffed a little bit by only ordering the AD&D Player’s Handbook and the Red boxed set. Thankfully they had the same basic rules set. After going to Naples (and man was their BX huge) I found other games like Top Secret and Gamma World, along with a little magazine called Dragon (also put out by TSR).
After awhile I started playing with the G.I.s…why not, after all they’re games made more sense to me. Yeah, I took the books to class and carried the dice around in my pocket, not ashamed of it then or now. Well In 1983 right before we moved back to the states one of the guys taught us a game he had brought over with him, had 3 parts (supers, sci-fi and fantasy). We sat down with the first few issues of Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, rolled die, spent points and came up with some characters. Next day I was told we were moving back to the states. With everything going on I didn’t get to play the game at all. After moving to San Antonio, Texas I found heaven. A comic/game shop called the Dungeon. If I thought Naples was the bomb this was an atomic explosion. Back issues of comics, games all along the back wall. Stuff I read about in Dragon and never thought I’d ever see.
And oh the games too…Traveler, Villains & Vigilantes, RuneQuest, Different Worlds Magazine…and a game called Champion’s. Sounded like the game we were going to play. Spend points for characters, roll dice for damage and combat. Build the character you want to play! And I got deep into Hero Games. I dropped Top Secret for Espionage! when it came out. Later on I found out I was wrong, it wasn’t Champion’s, it was an earlier version of SuperWorld. Too late, I was hooked.
For awhile the Hero stuff dried up. Then while walking with my girlfriend (later my wife and much later my ex-wife) I found out that Hero Games had come out with a Fourth Edition. Elation! I went and found what books I could, spent money I probably shouldn’t have (hey it was my money, she had her little stockpile over there). Found a good comic/game shop (Einstein’s in Rowlett) whose owner played and kept the store well stocked with books. I was in heaven again (ok, except for the wife part). And in 1998 came Fuzion! And a little after that Hero 5th Edition.
Ok, so I’ve gone on and on about the background. For those who are still awake here’s what’s going on. Hero Games has announced a 6th Edition. While some are seeing this as a good thing others are seeing it as bad. Personally I see it as bad, yet like when I go to the movies, I’m willing to give it a fair shake. I mean hell, I liked Fuzion when most people didn’t. Maybe I’m strange though. I got what they were trying to do with the game even if they went about it the wrong way.
Ok. To me you can follow the time line of Hero similar the way you can to comics. Good and Bad. The dates and stuff may be a little off but this is a general impression, not set in stone.
First through third edition really reminded me of the Golden and Silver ages. Look back at comics then. Comics had short stories (or long ones spread over multiple issues), lots of combat, very little personal life. Sure we’ll see Lois, 90% of the time though it had to do with the story, not her on her balcony pining for Superman. Champion’s was the same way, giving mainly combat, a few skills and adding stuff in through Champion’s II and III. Look at any Marvel comic when Lee and Kirby started doing the 60’s stuff and you’ll see what I mean.
Fourth edition was late silver, early iron age. People had private lives, non-combat skills. Pick up an issue of X-Men while Clairemount and Smith was doing it and you’ll see what I mean. It became more than just combat, it became personal. And Fourth edition made that jump to it. Long lists of skills, more powers than you can shake a book at. And oh, like Marvel & DC were doing it was starting to become more cohesivie. One rules for multiple Genres. Gone was Espionage! and it’s cousins. All you needed was this rulebook and your imagination.
Fuzion (i.e. 5.huh)…the bastard child of Hero and R.Talsorian that should honestly get more credit than it does. Ok, not the greatest piece of work either. It tried to streamline the game into something that ever beginner could understand. Preset powers, smaller values for characteristics. The problem with Champion’s:New Millennium is that they had a little “vol 5” up in the corner and everyone started yelling “This is 5th? What kind of [beeeeeeeep] is this! I look at Fuzion this way. If 4th was “The Marvel Age,” than Fuzion was “Image.” The art, the universe. It all looked like it spilled out of Jim Lee’s or Rob Liefeld’s pen & art board. If you can find C:NM or it’s books in a used bin I really suggest picking them up and looking at them that way.
Hero 5th Edition. The Big Black Book, the one they shot at, the one you can mug people with. No, I’m not kidding. Mr. Long and others of DOJ brought the company and came out with the book that Hero’s former owners had talked about for years. Every little rule nit-picked down so that there could be no arguments (and yet we found some anyways). combining all the things that was learned from 4th Edition and before. If 5th was a comic it would be the Modern Age. Or would it be what I call silver plated?1 Regardless it came out and it was good. Hero had a cohesive universe and the books melded with each other. All was good.
Now Hero has released new of 6th Edition. A companion piece to the online game (Champion’s Online). Things will be changed, stuff dropped, other things added. Momma always told me, if it works don’t f**k with it. I’m a fan of John Byrne and I’m not ashamed to admit it. One of his “beefs” with current comic books is that idea of fans-turned-pro. After they get to a book they want to do the story the way they wanted to see it as a fan. Allegedly this explains why we’ve seen Jean Grey/Phoenix come back so many times over the years. That or that some writers just can’t let a character go. I’m afraid this is what 6th Edition will be. Long and his group has had control of Hero long enough that now they can do whatever they want with the game. For years now they’ve been bringing out books that they seem to have a personal interest in without really listening to the fans. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not coming down on the game, just the people running it.
I will wait and see what happens with the game, I just don’t have high hopes for it. I had similar feelings when I heard that they were coming out with a Fantastic Four movie. OH GREAT!…then I heard that Jessica Alba was playing the part. to some degrees color-blind casting is great, in others though you wonder wtf were they thinking?”
And I realize not everyone is going to agree with and on some of it I could honestly be wrong. Sitting from outside of the “ol’ boys hero club” it’s what I see. I still love the game, still play it and still want to see it survive.
1 – I call the current modern age at DC “silver plated.” Geoff Johns is a wonderful writer and I’m loving his work on various books. He was raised and weened on the silver age and slowly at DC you can see it coming back in the stories they’re telling. They’re pulling out villains we haven’t seen in years and wiping away a lot of the Iron age traits that characters have had. Look at Batman now compared to 5-10 years ago. All the books are still Iron Age, a lot of the stories are still Iron Age, they have a veneer of Silver over them though. Just my thoughts.