Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where have all the Heroes gone?


The thing with Role Playing Games (RPGs) - especially Fantasy Role Playing Games (FRPGs) is that they focus on slaying monsters or monster-like creatures and discovering and capturing treasure both of monetary value or tactical value. It has been very typical of many of the mainstream games I have seen and played over the decades.

I started in the 70's when the hobby was still pretty young - all right, in its infancy - and it started with really one game in particular, a three booklet set of digest sized rule books for FRP (Fantasy Role Playing - if you haven't figured it out.) That was the original set of rules from TSR for the then new Dungeons & Dragons - No Advanced; no first edition; no basic set; no expert set; no second edition; nor D20 - it was the original to which two or three... or four?... more digest sized booklets were added - "Greyhawk", "Blackmore", "Eldritch Wizardry" (I think?), and "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes".

Some include a similar booklet with, I believe plastic coil binding, but the same digest size called "Chain Mail" however in fact it preceded D&D, I believe and D&D was an offshoot of the rules for fantasy combat included in the otherwise medieval miniature lead figure combat rules. (Toy soldiers of the Middle Ages persuasion.)

Anyway it focused on slaying beasts, getting treasure, and gaining experience for what were called "Adventurers". Often the adventurers were just freebooters wandering the land looking for gain. There were exceptions with some people wanting to play out the "Sir Galahads" and "Sir Lancelots" of fantasy, or perhaps the "Gandalfs" or "Frodos" or "Legalas".

Later as gaming grew a bit other companies matured and grew and other genres than the dungeon and armour and magic ones. Some were built around horror, and others around science fiction. Many were rather fond of a couple based on slightly humourous takes like "Bunnies & Burrows" or "Tunnels & Trolls". Later came the totally slapstick "Toon".

If the early days were the Golden age, the Silver age came with slightly more sophistication... but in reality I wasn't intending on doing up a history. My memory is far too poor with names and dates. But what came during the time that I consider the Silver Age was a game called "Champions".

Champions was a game about "Superheros". The game itself was nearly in a format like a comic, though a touch bigger and the cover and pages more robust. It was rustic by todays standards with courier type and black and white inked artwork. I don't believe the columns were even justified. But the rules let you design superheros and if you were creative and were good at working things out, you could create what you wanted in a workable fashion - especially if the person running things had an idea for "the story" and fun.

It was easiest if for your first goes, the GM (Game Master, a take on the traditional DM or Dungeon Master of the old D&D games.) created your hero. He could do it from your desires and perhaps it would only nearly be what you wanted. But it would let you get started.

The really neat thing to me was that you weren't out to gain treasure, you were out their to rescue people and stop crime! You were playing characters who were doing quite positive things. They often had to face moral dilemmas but that was an important part of comic books and indeed real life.

I played and ran games of "Champions" for over 10 years, I think.

Those years, were years that I played Heroes... of course I also was the sort to play Heroes even in D&D games.

Later I played other games with friends and even the different editions of D&D and AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons).

After Champions and the Superhero games (There were a few others including Marvel and DC comics offerings.) my next favourite RPG was a D20 game based on "Star Wars"! I guess you can guess that I played a Jedi Knight in the game. I just love playing Hero.

BTW D20 is a system that a large number of games are now based on which use a standardized skeleton of rules which have additional rules to allow them to cover a genre or story world... like Star Wars... or Star Gate.

So ramble, ramble, ramble.... what got me thinking... well I used Stumble Upon and found an intersting page which allows you to create comic books style artwork for characters. It is called "heromachine" and looks like it could be on a Marvel Comic site? "" It is fun to play with, and apparently you can print out your hero directly to a printer. I don't have a working one currently but they give an alternate for saving your Hero and that is to do a screen capture and save the capture on your hard drive. I did so for a fw attempts at my first Superhero, "Comet". I have a thumbnail copy of the picture I created right here. It sure would have been fun to have this software and a printer back then when I was running games. Visual aids brought games to life for players. In later games I actually could do some. But at that time in gaming, the photocopier was king. You found images and photo reduced them using a copier until they were the size you wanted.

Anyhow, I preferred to play heroes to adventurers. Other people always thought the bad guys had more fun. I disagree.

~ Later

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