Champions!, first published in 1981 was the first roleplaying game in which character generation was accomplished by way of a point-buy system instead of random dice rolls. The player himself decides what kind of character he wants to play and designs it using "character points". The limited number of points generally defines how powerful the character will be. Points can be used to increase the character's characteristic scores (such as his Strength or Intelligence), to buy skills such as martial arts or computer programming, or to build superpowers like flight or telepathy. In additon, the player can take weaknesses and vulnerabilities to gain additional character points.

This design approach tends to make all facets of the Champions! character balanced in relation to the others regardless of the specific abilities and features used by any specific character. Players can design custom superpowers using the Champions! rules system. Rather than offering a menu of specific powers, Champions! powers are defined by their effects (an energy blast is the same power whether it represents a laser beam, an ice bolt, or a mystical spell, for example). The Champions! rulebook includes rules governing many different types of generic powers, which can then be modified to fit the player's concept.

Characters are rewarded with more character points after each adventure, which are then used to buy more abilities or to eliminate disadvantages.