ICONS: Marvelous Numbers

It’s no secret that the Marvel Super-Heroes RPG was a big inspiration for my own ICONS: Superpowered Roleplaying. I still consider MSH one of the high-water marks of RPG design, especially superhero RPG design (indeed, I said so in my essay in Hobby Games: The 100 Best).

Still, I didn’t necessarily want ICONS to just be a MSH clone, especially when it has already been done. I was looking to implement some other concepts in the system, notably elements I liked from FATE and a different sort of “hero point” economy with the Determination system.

One area where Icons might benefit from being more like MSH, however, is in terms of numbers. Like Marvel, Icons has a 1–10 scale for most abilities. (MSH also has the “infrared” of Shift 0 and the “ultraviolet” of Shift X, Y, Z, and Class 1000, 3000, and 5000, but let’s stick to the “visible” spectra for the moment.) Unlike MSH, Icons’ 1–10 scale is a literal scale with numerical values from 1 to 10. Marvel’s scale assigns numerical values from 2 to 100, and staggers them with some interesting effects:

  • Low-End Resolution: Icons’ average and below levels are 1–3. Marvel’s are Feeble (2), Poor (4), and Typical (6). You don’t even get to a “round” value until Good (10), which is above average. For Icons to have equivalent values, they would have to be fractions (0.6, 0.4, and 0.2) – not a lot of fun to deal with in game play.
  • High-End Resolution: Marvel’s traits are linear and similar to Icons from Good (10) to Amazing (50), just ten times more. The upper two ranks, however, show a marked jump from increasing by 10s to 25, for Monstrous (75) and Unearthly (10). By contrast, Icons has a linear progression all the way through. The different between any two adjacent levels is always 1.

I think it would be an interesting experiment to try Icons using the existing rules as written, but Marvel values for determining things like Stamina, damage, and damage resistance. I haven’t run all of the numbers yet but, if it pans out, then maybe it’s something for the Icons Wiki.