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.

Icons AE out-of-stock at Green Ronin

Icons Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition is currently out-of-stock and unavailable from greenroninstore.com. Interested parties can still get the Assembled Edition book, and all other Icons products, from DriveThruRPG, as usual. The Assembled Edition is available there in both softcover and hardcover editions, and comes with a free pdf edition, character sheet, short sample adventure (“Grudge Match”), blank character figure silhouettes, and an add-on index.

Re: Animated • Avengers Retrospective

 

Ten years ago today, the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series premiered. It was just the start of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, but “EMH” (for short) packed a lot into its two seasons, before the Marvel/Disney juggernaut took plans for animated series and content in a different direction.

A little less than ten years ago, I also started reviewing episodes of Avengers with an eye towards superhero roleplaying games and game design. In recognition of the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite animated series, I wanted to share those reviews of the complete first season of Re: Animated • Avengers. I hope you enjoy and … Avengers Assemble!