An Icons Two-in-One Bundle!

It’s an exciting opportunity for Icons Superpowered Roleplaying! Over at Bundle of Holding, you can get the revival of the 2016 Icons bundle, including the all-new Icons Adversaries and an updated version of the adventure The Skeletron Key. Plus, you can get an all-new Icons bundle, featuring eleven titles added since the 2016 offer, such as Icons Presents, Rogues, and Menagerie, along with a half-dozen more adventures.

Whether you’re looking to round-out your Icons collection or start one, don’t miss out on this opportunity! A portion of proceeds from the Icons bundles goes to support the Transgender Law Center, where heroes are made. Both Icons bundles are available for 21 days, until May 31st, so don’t wait to claim yours!

Marvel’s Next Generation of Heroes

Now entering Phase 4 with the release of Disney+ series like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and films like Black Widow, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also looking well past its current huge slate of movies and television series. Longtime Marvel readers are seeing a number of pieces moving into place suggesting Marvel is setting up for the “next generation” of heroes, and some familiar names and personalities have already cropped up. Here’s a look at who’s who and what might be coming.

The Next Generation

When we talk about the “next generation” heroes, we’re basically talking about the teenagers (and maybe twentysomethings?) who are members of the Young Avengers, the Champions, and maybe the Runaways. The latter were already the subject of a television series, but it remains unclear if that series is MCU canon (probably not) or if anything from it will be incorporated into the MCU. Given what we know about the Young Avengers and Champions characters, what signs of their appearance have we seen?

Ms. Marvel

The definite next-generation hero we know to expect is Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American teen from New Jersey who is a shape-shifting Inhuman and a big fan of Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel). Kamala gets her own Disney+ series and is supposed to appear in The Marvels (Captain Marvel 2).

Stature

Cassie Lang, Ant-Man’s daughter, uses some stolen Pym particle tech to adopt the size-changing identity of Stature in Young Avengers. Cassie has already appeared in the Ant-Man films and, thanks to the Blip, is now a teenager. Her set-up might be in the forthcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Interesting intersection: The time-traveling Kang the Conqueror is the announced antagonist for Quantumania, and Stature and a teenaged variant of Kang dated in Young Avengers!

Wiccan & Speed

Two of the Young Avengers, Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) and Tommy Shepherd (Speed) are long-lost twin brothers with the powers of probability-altering magic and super-speed. They later discover they are the time-lost twins of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. Viewers of WandaVision already know about Billy and Tommy, their potential powers, and that they may still exist somewhere out in the multiverse. The ending of WandaVision makes it likely Billy and Tommy’s future may come up in the forthcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Of big interest to fans is that, in the comics, Billy is gay and Tommy is bisexual and both of them are currently in relationships with men: Wiccan is married to fellow Young Avenger Hulkling (Teddy Altman) and Speed is dating mutant and X-Factor member Prodigy, who was briefly a Young Avenger, although Tommy and Kate Bishop (see Hawkeye) were also an item for like a hot minute. Given how Marvel Studios and Disney have shied away from LGBTQ representation in their media, it will be interesting to see how they handle a generation of out-and-proud new heroes.

America Chavez

Speaking of The Multiverse of Madness, we know from casting that America Chavez, another Young Avenger, appears in the film. America is the daughter of two prominent heroes from another timeline in the multiverse, and her mothers send her to the mainline Marvel Universe to save America from the destruction of her home timeline. Miss America is a super-strong Latina lesbian who can literally kick holes in reality, another big addition to the diversity of the next-generation heroes.

Ironheart

Young inventor Riri Williams develops an Iron Man-style suit of armor to become Ironheart, later a member of the Champions. Marvel Studios has already announced an Ironheart series for Disney+. Riri joins the ranks of young black women of genius in the MCU along with Princess Shuri of Wakanda. Chances are good she might also be involved in the forthcoming Armor Wars series on Disney+ involving the legacy of Tony Stark’s technology.

Hawkeye

Kate Bishop is cast to appear as Clint Barton’s protege in the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+ and will likely take over the Hawkeye mantle from him. Kate is a founding member of the Young Avengers and notable for being one of its only members without any super-powers, along with…

Patriot

Eli Bradley, the grandson of super-soldier Isaiah Bradley, joins the Young Avengers as Patriot. Eli and Isaiah have already appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and his grandfather’s legacy and Sam Wilson becoming Captain America may well inspire Eli to adopt his own heroic identity. In the comics, Eli doesn’t have any powers, and takes to using strength-enhancing drugs for a time to fake being a super-soldier (which causes him some problems). We don’t yet know the future of the MCU version of Eli.

Waiting in the Wings?

So who haven’t we seen from the next generation of Marvel heroes to be on the lookout for?

The big missing hero is Teddy Altman, Hulkling, Wiccan’s future boyfriend and husband. Despite his name, Hulkling isn’t related to the Hulk, apart from being green and muscled. Instead, he is a Kree-Skrull hybrid. In the comics, he is the son of Mar-Vell (the original Captain Marvel) and the Skrull Princess Anelle. In the MCU, Mar-Vell is a woman, Carol Danvers’ Kree mentor. Captain Marvel established the Skrulls have had contact with Earth long enough for a half-Skrull foundling to have been raised here for the last 16-20 years. The forthcoming Secret Invasion series on Disney+ is likely to focus on the Skrulls, and it and The Marvels (Captain Marvel 2) might set up Teddy’s backstory.

Related to the Kree is Noh-Varr, Marvel Boy, a “Utopian Kree” from another timeline. Marvel Boy has access to advanced Kree technology and is gene-spliced with insectoid DNA, giving him certain enhanced powers. There’s no indication of plans for him to show up as yet, but he is a member of the Young Avengers for a time, before going on to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Speaking of alternate timelines, there was a young alternate timeline Kid Loki who belonged to the Young Avengers for a time. With the new Loki series on Disney+ exploring alternate timelines, it’s possible Loki might meet up with a younger variant of himself who could end up in the mainline MCU.

We could speculate further about other Champions characters like Viv Vision, the Vision’s synthezoid daughter (created along with other “family” members to try and recapture idyllic suburban life), Nova, Snowguard, or Brawn. Of all of them, the only hints we have are that Xandar (the home of the Nova Corps) appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Helen Cho (sister of Amadeus Cho, alias Brawn) appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Whichever phase brings us the next generation of Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes, it’s clear we have a lot to look forward to!

Icons Assembler v.1.2 update

Inkwell Ideas, the producers of the Icons Assembler character creation and management app, have announced a version 1.2 update of the software, available from DriveThruRPG. Purchasers of Icons Assembler can download the updated files for free from their DriveThruRPG account.

The 1.2 update includes bug fixes and the addition of options from the popular Icons Origins sourcebook, including additional specialties and the option of creating a form-fillable space on the character sheet for adding knacks, an option introduced in Icons A to Z and expanded upon in Origins.

Icons Assembler steps the user through an automated version of random hero creation in Icons and also offers the means to manually create and save characters and tools for character management during play. For more, visit Icons Assembler on DriveThruRPG.

GridShock 20XX

Icons Superpowered Roleplaying is published under the Open Game License and, as you may know, offers its own Icons Compatibility license. This has allowed third-party publishers like Fainting Goat Games and Rogue Genius Games to produce—to name two examples—to produce some great third-party content for Icons.

Now Paul Vermeren, academic librarian and amateur game designer, has joined their ranks, launching a Kickstarter for GridShock 20XX, “a superhero world where something went very wrong in 1986. Reality was warped, civilization collapsed, and the world as we knew it was turned upside down. Now the bad guys are in charge of what’s left – but a new breed of superhumans called Vectors strive to restore freedom to their ravaged world. Like the heroes of the past, Vectors use their powers to address injustice directly, and with style: by punching it in the face, or blasting it with laser eyes. And with a totalitarian state called the Supremacy in control, there are a whole lot of things in need of punching and blasting.”

Paul plans to present the GridShock setting in a set of four 32-page ‘zines for ZineQuest. You can find out more, and support the project, at its Kickstarter page!

Ask the Icons Oracle!

In talking with Icons Superpowered Roleplaying players on the Icons Facebook Group and my own Icons Patreon, it was clear there were questions, about the game, its rules, and how it plays, so I wanted to make a point of addressing them more regularly. So I have created an Ask the Icons Oracle document of questions and answers, which you can download here as a PDF, as well as from the Facebook group and the Patreon.

As other questions come along and get answered, I’ll add to and update this document and continue making it available. If you have questions, please feel free to drop them in either of the venues above, or to email me about them and I’ll do my best to get you answers!

Announcing: The Icons Patreon!

Today I’m launching a new Icons Superpowered Roleplaying Patreon. It will provide a venue for the creation of various content for Icons, from short rules and designer’s notes essays to character write-ups, adventure concepts, optional rules, and possibly the serialization of longer projects, including updating “classic” first edition Icons products and materials or serialized sourcebooks or adventures.

Best of all you, the Icons Patron, get a say in what gets produced! Patrons at the Hero ($5) and Super ($10) levels get to vote on the priorities of the Patreon and various possible projects, and will generally be my “beta-test” audience for possible ideas. There may be more rewards and opportunities as things progress; I’m still feeling-out how Icons will interact with Patreon going forward in our brave new world of online content production.

One immediate goal I can share with Patrons and potential Patrons going forward is, if the Patreon begins generating enough income, I want to bring Icons line artist Dan House on-board to illustrate our various offerings. Dan has been a tireless and patient partner in all things Icons and I’d love to be able to collaborate with him here as well!

So, if you’re interested in the future of Icons, from offering your financial support to being involved in the process, check out the Patreon!

Stone of Shaitan

The Mysterious Ship, the Mist-Shrouded City

The cargo ship Stone of Shaitan may be involved in smuggling illegal goods—and something far more sinister. When heroes investigate the disappearance of the ship’s crew, they discover clues to a mysterious cult, occult secrets, a being known only as “The Old Fellow,” and a scheme to loose eldritch horrors upon the world!

Stone of Shaitan stands on its own or can be a “sequel” of sorts to the classic Icons adventure Danger in Dunsmouth. It is also the next chapter in Dan’s Fall of the Phalanx series, but can be played as a stand-alone adventure.

Available now on DriveThruRPG!

D&D: The Spent Condition

In my blog “Acting to Exhaustion” I played around with the idea of using levels of exhaustion in Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition as an additional resource for limited-use abilities, those that reset following a short or long rest. That got me thinking about about resource management in relationship to rests, and a character’s condition being “spent” in terms of those resources, differentiated from mere exhaustion. Essentially:

Spent

  • A spent creature has no use of abilities that recover following a short or long rest.
  • The condition ends if the creature completes a long rest.

Spent is a condition that can be achieved simply by using up all of a character’s limited use abilities, but it may also be imposed by some conditions or effects. Other effects may also lead characters to becoming spent if they deny them the benefits of completing a rest. Without the opportunity to rest, characters eventually use up their abilities and are spent.

The spent condition strips characters down to their essential at-will or constant abilities. It definitely places them under duress, but can be used to reflect characters who have been imprisoned, tortured, or otherwise debilitated to the point where they are spent and need time to recover in order to use their abilities.

For example, in the drow prison of Velkynvelve in Out of the Abyss, characters might be spent as a result of their treatment at the hands of their captors, who prevent them from completing a long rest so they cannot remove the condition. They have to rely largely on their wits and most basic abilities in order to escape. The same might be true of a crew of characters who survive a shipwreck or other disaster: Initially, they are spent, and their challenge is finding the time and opportunity to complete the long rest needed to eliminate that condition.

Note that spent differs from exhaustion and characters can have either condition separately or both together. A spent character might still be perfectly capable otherwise (no exhaustion) but they just don’t have the resources (physical, mental, or mystical) for some of their abilities. An exhausted character may likewise still be able to draw upon their limited use abilities, if they are not spent.

This condition combines in interesting ways with the Acting to Exhaustion option: A spent character’s only means of using their limited-use abilities is by taking levels of exhaustion, giving them a small pool of uses at a cost. In this case, the DM may want to consider adding “with no more than 1 level of exhaustion” to the recovery requirement for spent, meaning characters trade-off extending their spent state (by taking on more exhaustion) for immediate additional uses of certain abilities.

Invigoration

The notion of a spent condition also suggests the possibility of “invigoration” effects that grant characters the benefits of a short or long rest without the need to actually rest. They can range from miraculous blessings and magical charms to a burst of determination or a surge of success. They offer Dungeon Masters a useful tool in managing the pacing and dramatic tension of an adventure: There might, for example, be a series of challenging encounters leading up to a climatic fight, and it’s less interesting if the characters camp-out for a good night’s rest on the villain’s doorstep, but also a less interesting encounter if they come to it nearly spent in terms of their various abilities. So the DM might “invigorate” the characters at the start of the final encounter, either providing a resource that does so, or just telling the players that their characters feel a rush of power and determination as they confront their final foe, letting them recover some or all of their limited use abilities.

D&D: Acting to Exhaustion

The fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons breaks abilities down into those usable at-will and those which recover their uses after a short or long rest. Naturally, the more powerful the ability, the less frequently characters can use it. A part of game-play is resources management: Should you use your big long rest ability now or wait until a more opportune moment? Do you know when the next opportunity for a short rest will come, or is the next encounter arriving on the heels of the current one, without a break in between?

Ordinarily, if a character is out of uses of an ability that’s it. It is no longer available to them until they have completed the necessary rest. However, there are times when it may be dramatically appropriate for characters to push their abilities beyond their normal limits, when they really need the use of an ability they’ve already expended. Fortunately, the fifth edition system offers a useful resource in that regard: Exhaustion.

Detailed in appendix A: Conditions of the Player’s Handbook, exhaustion is a condition that measures increasing levels of fatigue as characters expend their physical and mental resources. Each level of exhaustion imposes increasing penalties on the character, and finishing a long rest reduces a character’s exhaustion level by 1, conveniently making a level of exhaustion roughly equal to a long rest in “value.” This sets up the potential for the following variant:

Exertion. You draw on inner reserves of strength and determination to accomplish something. As a bonus action, gain 1 level of exhaustion, and choose from either gaining advantage on your next ability check, attack test, or saving throw, or regaining one use of an ability regained by completing a short or long rest. You do not gain any of the other benefits of rest from exertion.

One use of exertion is largely “free” as the character will remove the level of exhaustion after completing their next long rest, although they’ll have to deal with disadvantage on ability checks until then. Uses beyond the first have diminishing returns, since the exhaustion will take multiple long rests to recover. By level 5 exhaustion, the character is spent, speed reduced to 0 and unable to do much more than collapse against something and rest. Exertion past that point to level 6 means death, although the GM should consider delaying that penalty until the end of the character’s turn, allowing them one last glorious effort.

Exertion and Spell Slots. Exertion specifies “one use” of an ability that recovers after resting. This is incompatible with the recovery of spell slots, all of which recover from a long rest. On the other hand, recovering just one spell slot seems a poor trade-off for a level of exhaustion, so it’s recommended that spellcasters be allowed to recover up to half their class level (rounded down) in spell slots from exertion, with no spell slot greater than 6th level, or recover a single spell slot of 7th level or greater at a cost of 1 level of exhaustion for a 7th-level slot, 2 levels for an 8th-level slot, and 3 levels for a 9th-level slot. This is a version of the Natural Recovery and Arcane Recovery abilities of druids and wizards, respectively, but available to any spell-casting character through exertion (whereas wizards and circle of the land druids can still use it simply by taking a short rest).

Game Masters can fine-tune the requirements of exertion to suit the game, possibly increasing its cost to 2 levels of exhaustion per use, rather than 1, effectively limiting it to two uses (since a third would be 6 levels of exhaustion and death) and eliminating the “free” aspect of one use, since it would take a minimum of two long rests to fully recover from a use of exertion. An even more limited version would require the character to have inspiration in order to use exertion: They expend their inspiration and immediately regain one use of an ability that recovers after a short or long rest. In this case, the GM may or may not also require that the character gain a level of exhaustion. See Acting on Inspiration for more on this notion.