Dark Champions Pregen Characters #1 – The Crimefighter

This is the first in a short series of pregenerated characters for my Dark Champions Campaign.  Most of the work has already been done, and some points have been reserved for a player to modify and add the final design.

Character Notes:  This character has 50 unspent character points for you to use for customization.  The character also needs 20 more points of Complications to become complete   

Val            Char               Cost    Roll     Notes

15              STR                 5         12-       Lift 200.0kg; 3d6 [END Cost: 1]

15              DEX                10        12-       OCV:  5/ DCV:  5

15              CON                 5          12-

15              BODY              5

15              INT                   5          12-       PER Roll 12-

13              EGO                3          12-       OMCV: 3/ DMCV: 5

18              PRE                 8          13-       PRE Attack:  3 1/2d6


8                PD                   6                      Total:  8/13 PD (0/5 rPD)

               ED                   2                      Total:  4/7 ED (0/3 rED)

4                SPD                 20                    Phases:  3, 6, 9, 12

               REC                4

36              END                4

35              STUN              8

Total Characteristic Cost:  118


Movement:                 Combat          Non-Combat

Running:                     16m                 32m

Leaping:                      8m                  16m

Swimming:                  8m                   16m

Swinging:                    20m                 40m


Martial Arts

Leopard style Kung Fu

Cost    Maneuver                               OCV   DCV   Notes

4          Leopard Punch                      +0        +2     5d6 Strike

5          Leopard Leaping Kick            +1        -2      7d6 Strike

4          Leopard Dodge                       —        +5     Dodge, Affects All Attacks, Abort

4          Leopard Block                        +2        +2     Block, Abort



Cost                                                                                        Roll

2          Contact:  Crime Beat Reporter                        11-

2          Contact:  Street Snitch                                        11-



Cost                                                                                        Roll

6          +2 with Leopard Kung Fu

Notes:  The first two combat levels with Leopard Kung Fu are normally applied to OCV

3          CK: Hudson City                                                        12-

5          Defense Maneuver I-II

Notes:  I- No attacker is considered to be attacking “from behind”

II- Eliminates Multiple Attacker Bonuses for all attackers the character can perceive

3          KS: Hudson City Law Enforcement                   12-

3          KS: Hudson City Underworld                              12-

3          Shadowing                                                                   12-

3          Stealth                                                                          12-

3          Streetwise                                                                  13-

Cost    Powers

14        Armored Costume:                  Resistant Protection (5 PD/3 ED/5 Flash Defense:  Sight Group) (21 Active Points); OIF (-1/2)

23        Utility Belt:                              Multipower, 35-point reserve,  (35 Active Points); OIF (-1/2)

1f               Advanced Lockpick Set+2 with Lockpicking (4 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Billy Club:                         Hand-To-Hand Attack +3d6, Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) (22 Active Points); OAF (-1), Hand-To-Hand Attack (-1/4)

1f               Binocular Lenses:             +6 versus Range Modifier for Sight Group (9 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Bomb-Defusing Kit:           +2 with Demolitions (4 Active Points); Limited Power Only to Diffuse Bombs (-1/2)

1f               Boomerang:                      Blast 4d6, Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) (30 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Calculator:                        Lightning Calculator (3 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Crime-Scene Kit:               +2 with Ciminology, Forensic Medicine, or Tracking (only at the Crime Scene) (6 Active Points); OAF (-1), 8 Charges (Must return to Base or Crime Lab to recover charges; -1)

1f               Flash Pellets:                    Sight Group Flash 4d6 (standard effect: 4 Segments) (20 Active Points); OAF (-1), 6 Charges (-3/4), Range Based On Strength (-1/4)

1f               Flashlight:                         Sight Group Images, +/-4 to PER Rolls, Area Of Effect (2m Radius; +1/4) (33 Active Points); OAF (-1), Limited Power Only to create light (-1), Limited Range (20 Meters; -1/4), 1 Continuing Fuel Charge lasting 4 Hours (+1/4)

1f               Mini Camera                     Eidetic Memory (5 Active Points); OAF (-1), Limited Power Only to Record Video Images (-1/2)

1f               Mini Laser Torch:             Killing Attack – Ranged 1 point, Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2), Penetrating (x2; +1) (12 Active Points); OAF (-1), No Range (-1/2)

1f               Mini Recorder:                  Eidetic Memory (5 Active Points); OAF (-1), Limited Power; Only to Record Audio Images (-1/2)

1f               Mini-Parabolic Mic:          +6 versus Range Modifier for Hearing Group (9 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Miniature Climbing Rig:   +2 with Climbing (4 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Nightvision Lenses:           Nightvision (5 Active Points); OAF (-1), 1 Continuing Fuel Charge lasting 20 Minutes (-1/4)

1f               Rebreather:                       Life Support: Underwater Breathing (5 Active Points); OAF (-1), 1 Continuing Fuel Charge lasting 1 Hour (-0)

1f               Security Analyzer:             +2 with Security Systems (4 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Smoke Pellets:                   Darkness to Sight Group; 5m radius (25 Active Points); OAF (-1), Range Based On Strength (-1/4), 8 Continuing Charges lasting 1 Turn each (-0) Notes:  Dispelled by High Winds or Rain

1f               Swingline:                         Swinging 20m, Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2) (15 Active Points); OAF (-1)

1f               Trauma Kit:                      +2 with Paramedics (4 Active Points); 4 Charges (Must return to Base, Hospital, or Care Center to recover charges; -1 1/2), OAF (-1)

Martial Arts, Perks, Talents, Skills and Powers Cost:  108

Total Cost:  225



15        Social Complication:  Secret Identity Frequently, Major

15        Hunted:  HCPD Vigilante Task Force Infrequently (Mo Pow; Harshly Punish)

Complication Points: 30


Signature Guns and Throw Away Pistols

Dark Champions as a setting allows heroes to use both devices (powers) and equipment.  Devices cost character points for characters to possess and equipment just costs money.  The difference between the two however is that Devices can be relatively permanent additions to the hero’s character sheet whereas Equipment can be lost, stolen, taken, or even acquired during an adventure.

For example, Dirty Harry Callahan has the device .44 Magnum Pistol.  In every movie (adventure) Harry is in, he begins and ends with his signature .44 even if, during the course of the adventure, if Harry manages to lose or have his Magnum stolen from him, as soon as he arrives at a plausible location, he reacquires it.  There is no cut-scene where he buys a new gun, or heads to the armory and is issued a new one.  Somehow, some-way Harry finishes the adventure with Magnum in hand, often to use it to dispatch the antagonist with a growling one-liner.  The Magnum is listed on Harry’s character sheet as a device, and he paid character points for it.

On the other hand John McLane also has a gun, his service pistol.  Though he begins every movie (adventure) John is in, there is no guarantee he’ll end it with the same gun, the same model of gun, or any gun at all.  John can lose his pistol, have it taken from him, and get it destroyed.  Once it’s gone, it’s *GONE* with no guarantee that John can get another.  Of course John usually does, often off one of the legions of goons he has to face, and thus he’ll switch from weapon to weapon throughout the adventure, but if he doesn’t make active efforts to get a new gun, he won’t show up with it in the next scene.  The Pistol listed on John’s character sheet is Equipment, John didn’t spend character points for it, only resources (money, time, etc..)

Devices and Equipment can be combined in the same character.  Like with Deathstroke the Terminator or Deadpool.  Both characters have signature devices that they always seem to have on their person during an adventure (such as Deathstroke’s sword and Deadpool’s katanas) and a host of equipment that sometimes only shows up long enough to use and be thrown away in the same panel.

Finally, even though the examples describe devices and equipment as weapons, it should be noted that Devices and Equipment in Dark Champions cover pretty much any external source of power and abilities; offensive, defensive, movement, almost anything.  Parachutes, motorcycles, body armor.. the list goes on.  The difference between Device and Equipment remains how permanent they are on a character’s inventory, and that permanence is paid for by character points.

Dark Champions and Street Knights

After the last local Convention, my son Tristan expressed a desire to run a RPG event at ConQuest Avalon in November.  To say I’m proud of him is a bit of an understatement.  Thus, for the past week I’ve been designing a street level Superhero campaign in Champions, specifically Dark Champions.  The game helps to showcase the flexibility of the HERO System, and helps me to make use of my recent consumption of seasons of Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, and Person of Interest.

First, I would like to introduce the Archetypes I gravitate toward in a Hudson City (the featured DC campaign) Setting. As a little game, I will avoid making reference to a particular popular vigilante with a flying mammal motif.  But I’m sure you can recognize him in most of the following Archetypes.

The Crimefighter – the Crimefighter is the “default” vigilante, a sort of Jack-of-all-Trades sort of Hero,
the Crimefighter uses a blend of investigative deduction, martial skill, devices, and contacts to wage their War on Crime.
Examples; Nightwing, Moon Knight

The Detective – The Detective is more of an Investigative sort.  Using intuition and science to gather evidence that can be used to convict those who can be considered “above the Law” or, if the local Justice System is too corrupt, ensure that the correct offender faces their personal brand of Justice.
Examples; The Question, Daredevil

The Martial Artist – The Martial Artist uses their years of training ans skill to defend the underclasses of their community.  Sometimes this skill gives them abilities which border on the Superhuman, and powers that cross into the Mystic or Supernatural.
Examples; Cassandra Cain (Batgirl), Iron Fist

The Marksman – The Marksman specializes in a particular ranged weapon, often a Bow or a Gun, to administer justice in their city.  Often these weapons are ultra-advanced, utilizing cutting edge technology such as miniaturized explosives, super durable bindings or grappled.  Other times the weapon is a mundane example but wielded with seemingly Superhuman Skill.
Examples; Green Arrow, Hawkeye

The Paranormal Investigator – Like the Detective, the Paranormal Investigator searches for evidence as their primary weapon against evil.  However, instead of Science, the Paranormal Investigator uses Magic to follow leads, gather clues and solve mysteries.
Examples; John Constantine, Harry Dresden

The Crusader – Like the Crimefighter, the Crusader doesn’t specialize in any particular technique to wage war on Crime.  Instead, the Crusader focuses their effort and energy on one or two specific aspects of Crime such as Syndicates, the illegal Drug Trade, or Human Trafficking.  The Crusader’s war can often be very personal, focusing on one organization, or even on one specific individual at the top of a criminal organization.
  Examples; The Huntress, The Punisher

The Mystic Knight – The Mystic Knight gains their abilities almost entirely from the Supernatural.  Whether it is a weapon or relic of legend, or a supernatural heritage the Mystic Knight stalks predators and occult threats that often overlap the criminal underworld more mundane vigilantes engage with from night to night.  The abilities boasted by the Mystic Knight are among the most “Super” of powers and abilities found in a street level setting.
Examples; The Spectre (Golden Age), Blade

The Technophile – The Technophile  relies on advanced or cutting edge technology to fight crime.  They have an arsenal of devices and gadgets that enhance or even replace the specialized skills of other vigilantes.  Often, the Technophile is a genius in their own right, using their gift of intellect to design and invent technological wonders they use in their War on Crime.
Examples; Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), Night Thrasher

Of course, the examples listed aren’t the only representatives of vigilantes in popular culture.  And the Archetypes themselves are seldom expressed as one dimensional as I have here. But, this is merely a stepping stone to help some of my players who may not have a lifetime of Superheroes running around in their head get inspired to create their own Defenders of Justice and step onto the midnight streets of Hudson City to… dare I say it?

Be a HERO!

Tuala Morn and the 6th Edition of Fantasy HERO

A few months ago, Randy asked me to develop a fantasy campaign to run at the store.  The purpose of this campaign would be to offer something a little “different” from the already successful Pathfinder Society games being run.  We’ve noticed that there is a segment of the PFS crowd that are starting to look for something new for their fantasy games, a way to take a break from the now familiar combination of the rules of Pathfiinder and the settings in Golarion.  For me, the system I would use is pretty clear, being Fantasy HERO from HERO Games.  The setting was a bit more of a consideration.  I didn’t want to use a classic High-Fantasy setting that would end up being an easy comparison to Golarion, or the Forgotten Realms.  Even though I feel that Fantasy HERO is equally as rich as Pathfinder, I realized that even the excellent Turakian Age setting would not diverge far enough from the environment that Pathfinder Society is already providing our community.  I though briefly about Valdorian Age, but the real gem that called to me out of my library was Tuala Morn.

Tuala Morn is a rich and deep Celtic Fantasy Setting.  As to be expected from Steve Long, it’s detailed and thorough, and incorporates all sorts of mythology and lore particular to mythic Ireland and pre-Christian England.  The environment is familiar to most fantasy gamers, with enchanted forests, standing stones, druids, wizards, kings castles and monsters, but does diverge from the generic “Europe in the 14th and 15th century” feel of most fantasy campaigns.  Tuala Morn is a land where the rulers share mystic ties with the realms they rule.  It is a land where Druids stand in place of both court wizards and High Priests.  It is a land where a Bard can change the political landscape with a song or tale.  And where a bold Hero wanders the land with a warband, sans armor and carries a Hero’s Spear rather than wearing a suit of armor and bearing a flashing sword.  I was able to read into this magical land a clear sense of Mystery and Romance which I would be able to relate to my community of players, as well as offer them the opportunity to really explore a new realm of fantasy.

I’ve spent the weeks and months that followed converting a great deal of Tuala Morn from it’s 5th edition HERO roots to the current 6th edition of the game, mostly using an adaptation of Champions Complete and filling in any gaps with Fantasy HERO 6th and the two-volume toolkit of HERO 6th edition.  This work, with the help of HERO Designer is pretty much done now.  I ran a Tuala Morn event this weekend at Conquest Sacramento and was very pleased with how the adaptation of the rules and the setting translated into practical game play.  I’m ready to take the next step and launch a campaign when the new store opens.

A Horror Role Playing Primer

It’s late September, and that means October is right around the corner.  Or, in other

words, it’s the perfect time to begin preparing those give-your-players-nightmares

games on Halloween Night.  Horror RPGs are filled with.. well.. horror stories of how

the whole thing went wrong.  Players feel railroaded into the plot.  Characters die or

become unplayably insane far too easily, or the opposite occurs and the characters blow

through the horrors of the scenario and never feel any sense of danger.  Of all the

various genres of roleplaying, Horror is one of the most tricky to master.  Today, I’ll

share a few of the techniques I’ve learned over the years and hopefully help you give

your player’s sleepless nights jumping at shadows.

I like to use a cinematic approach to horror roleplaying.  That is, I study scary

movies.  What’s more, I’ve tried to study *why* these movies are scary.  Players, like

the audience in a dark theatre will experience the story (and thus, the terror) through

the characters they are invested in. And that becomes my first point.

#1 – Invest Your Players in the Game
This one is a simple goal, and often easily overlooked.  Whether it is in a Role-

Playing-Game, Novel, or Movie, if your audience doesn’t connect with the characters,

then they could very easily dismiss the events around them, and could end up very bored

over the course of the evening.  So, make sure everyone involved with the game is in

agreement as to the type of game being presented.  Establish that this is a horror

game, and more importantly, what style of horror is being presented.  Creating Colonial

Space Marines for an Aliens Scenario takes a different mindset than creating a team of

investigators snooping around a decaying New England town or a troupe of Vampire

Hunters stalking a centuries-old horror.  It’s ok at this point to reveal the setting,

if not the plot.  But the important thing here is to work with the players in creating

characters they want to play, and characters that the players will care about, even if

everyone understands that these characters could very well be doomed.

#2 – It’s all about the journey, not the destination
Which is a fancy way of saying that the fun of a horror role-playing game is not

necessarily succeeding, but the fun lies in experiencing the story.  This requires some

preparation work on the GM’s part.  Actually, it requires a LOT of preparation on the

GM’s part.  Antagonists in Horror stories are often so overpowering that they could

snuff the life out of the protagonists without much effort.  But that makes for a short

and very unsatisfying story.  As GM it’s your job to draw the characters in.  Lead them

along a path of mystery until the characters are in way over their heads, but won’t

realize it until it’s too late.    The pacing of the game is critical.  Build the

dramatic tension, raise the stakes continually.  Give the characters early challenges

that they can overcome before giving them a humbling encounter.  Leave clues, tease the

players with glimpses of the prize they could earn should they succeed, as well as the

consequences which await failure.

#3 – Isolation
This is very important to increasing the dramatic tension in the game.  The characters

have to be separated from their support network as well as be forced to rely only on

each other.  This can be accomplished in various ways, but my favorites are Physical

and Social Isolation.  With Physical Isolation, the characters are physically removed

from any help they can ask for.  Maybe they’re on a distant world, light-years from

anyone, except for the terrors creeping up on them.  Or maybe they’re all trapped in a

mansion, and the bridge is washed out.  Physical Isolation provides two very powerful

fear effects; being helpless, and being trapped.  Social Isolation can be much more

subtle.  In this case the characters are isolated because they are “outsiders”.  Maybe

they don’t speak the language, maybe they’re shunned because the locals don’t trust or

like people different from themselves.  Social Isolation can really stir up feelings of

alienation and ultimately paranoia, especially if it is perceived that the entire

community could possibly be working with the antagonist(s), or worse.. turn out to BE

the antagonists themselves.  Social Isolation also caters to an excellent technique of

presenting a single NPC as sympathetic.  This NPC is someone the characters can quickly

come to care about, and feel responsible for.  And ultimately, become someone the GM

can threaten, kill, or turn to increase the tension in the game.

#4 – Play to your characters’ weaknesses
Be careful interpreting this point.  Players don’t often enjoy feeling like their

characters are useless, or worse hopeless.  In this case, GMs need to avoid allowing

the characters strengths to dominate the story.  Or most importantly, GMs must avoid

allowing a single character’s strength to dominate the story.  The characters’

strengths shoud take them only so far.  At some point the characters will have to rely

on and overcome their weaknesses to survive.  Which builds dramatic tension as the

players understand that their character’s fate is unsure at best.

#5 – Mise en Scène
It’s a theatre term!  It’s French!  Including French theatre terms makes the blog look

classy!  Simply put, Mise en Scène describes all of the elements placed in the

character’s perception.  When setting a scene for your players, think about evertything

they can perceive.  The environment, lighting, sights, sounds and smells.  Extend this

to NPCs, and how they look, smell and sound.  Describe it all in detail.  A trick I

like to use is to describe a scene with audio and visual descriptors last.  Leading off

a scene description with smell, or taste, or feel gets your players’ imaginations

running, and the ability of people to scare themselves is far more effective than any

outside stimulus.

#6 Don’t tell them everything at first
Leave a lot of mystery in your descriptions.  Let the players’ own imagination fill in

the details.  It’s never “the Necronomicon”, it’s “an ancient stack of crumbling

papers, bound in rough leather, bearing dark stains and smelling of decay and mold”.

The first description tells too much (because even if the players don’t know what a

Necronomicon is, they have a name for it and that breeds a comforting familiarity), the

second description invites the players to examine the item further, drawing their

characters in to the mystery.  Don’t describe monsters by their common names.  Describe

the monster, let the players “see” it in their minds, rather than think about an entry

in a Bestiary.

There are other tricks and tips, of course.  But these six should help get an aspiring

GM started on running excursions into the Weird and Mysterious.  As of today (September

21, 2012) Summer is ending, and Autumn is starting.  The nights will grow longer, and

shadows grow deeper.  Now, grab some dice, turn down the lights and scare someone at

the game table!

Areas to focus on moving forward in D&D Next

The second iteration of the playtest rules have given the opportunity to run the playtest as more of a free-form campaign.  So far, the experience has been more-or-less smooth.  The two things that I’d like to see changed in the immediate future are the Armor Chart (which should be a simple fix) and the experience values of monsters (which should be slightly more complex).  Both of these areas read as if they’re afterthoughts to the design process at this point.  Almost place-holders awaiting proper design and development.

My issue with the armor tables is that it’s too exotic, and especially at the higher values, too expensive for the Armor values they provide.  Armors like Displacer Beast Hide and Dragon Scale Armor are either simply too rare for inclusion in a list of generally available mundane equipment, or they imply that such fantastic creatures (and rare ores like Mithril) are common enough to have suits of armor available for general purchase.  The varieties of armor types should be made even throughout the categories provided, and internally consistent in pricing and mechanics-value.

Experience values of monsters is a far more concerning issue.  Some creatures, like the Giant Centipede have XP values consistent for it’s Encounter Building statistics; in this case Level 1 and 70 XP.  But further in the Bestiary we have a Goblin, with similar statistics (indeed the same Armor and Hit Points, with an XP value of 120.  Furthermore, a Hobgoblin, who still poses at best a moderate challenge one-on-one with a 1st level player character, is considered a 3rd level monster and worth a whopping 320 XP (!)  this means a single Hobgoblin is worth more experience than a Medusa at 300 XP, and she is considered a Level 4 “elite” creature.

As it stands currently, the character creation, spells, and general adventuring sections of the playtest are working well.  I’m a bit disappointed that advantage and disadvantage has been scaled back in the design of the monster challenges.  Advantage and Disadvantage is the mechanic that makes this version of Dungeons and Dragons distinctive from the others (and is the mechanic most easily house-ruled into previous editions), and because of that quailty, should be utilized more thoroughly.

First Impressions on the D&D Next Update

Last night at Mage’s Realm, we explored our first Playtest game since the August 13 Update to the D&D Next Playtest.  Overall,it was a very positive experience.  I had been running the Playtest weekly since the first week in June, and by the time last week rolled around, we had pretty thoroughly tested the initial rules release, and frankly, wanted to go a bit deeper into really testing the new edition properly, which means characters and campaigns.

The new update gives me most of what I need for the latter and all I need for the former.  So on first blush, I am very pleased.  I had 10 (!) players at my table, and we managed to make characters in just about three hours passing copies of the rules (and an iPad with the PDF) between us all.  Every player was able to create a character they wanted to make.  One player in particular managed to make a Fighter build very evocative of the classic Ranger.  Another created a Rogue (Thug) with some minor magic ability, and yet another player created a Cleric of the Sun Domain with the Magic-User specialty, giving her character a very pleasing selection of magic to utilize.  Most of character creation went very smoothly.

There are a couple of snags in the system however.  Firstly, under the Religion and Arcane Lore features of Clerics and Wizards (respectively), both feature are worded as “You gain training in a skill of your choice: (List of Lore-based skills follow).  You must choose a skill in which you lack training.”  By this wording it is unclear whether or not a character gains one trained skill, or all of the skills save the one where they lack training, or one trained skill, one skill with which they are not familiar, and the balance being untrained.  It is a area that needs clarification.

Likewise, one of my players who made a High-Elf Cleric of War with the Necromancer Specialty, noted that there is no mention in the rules of whether or not a spellcaster needs a free hand to actually cast a spell.  Studying the spell lists, we have discovered no mention of verbal or somatic components to spells in the rules.  My experience in playing Dungeons and Dragons is such that all spells have at least a verbal or somatic component, and often both (and often including a material component as well).  As it stands, a bound and muted spellcaster can still manage to cast her spells without restriction.

The omissions and bugs aside (we all understand that the playtest rules remain a work in progress) our first impression of the new rules is very positive and we are looking forward to venturing into the campaign environment next Wednesday.   Our current roster of player characters are as follows:

Strom – Human Fighter (Sharpshooter) – Commoner (Woodsman) – Archer – NG

Ivellios – Wood Elf Fighter – Soldier – Guardian – LG

Dolemite – High Elf Cleric (War) – Sage – Necromancer – N

Vieler Crom – Mountain Dwarf Rogue (Thug) – Bounty Hunter – Magic User – N

Al-uk – Human Wizard – Sage – Necromancer – N

Ashura Miri – Human Rogue (Thief) – Charlatan – Lurker – CN

Thanatos – Human Cleric (War) – Commoner (Innkeeper) – Guardian – N

Brotor of Klarg Baldurk – Hill Dwarf Fighter – Bounty Hunter – Survivor – CG

Wort-Hollow – Lightfoot Halfling – Fighter – Bounty Hunter – Lurker – CN

Alice – Human Cleric (Sun) – Bounty Hunter – Magic User – CG