Icons Assembled – What’s Different?


As production is wrapping up on the Assembled Edition of Icons, folks are wondering: what is different or “assembled” about it? Here’s a quick overview that might not cover everything, but hits on the highlights:

  • Adjectives (from Weak to Supreme) see a bit more use in talking about abilities on the scale.
  • Actions characters can perform during their panel are better defined. Supplemental actions are gone; as feedback indicated they were confusing and folks tended not to use them or the associated modifiers. Instead, characters get an Action, a Move, and a number of opportunities to React and Interact.
  • The Benchmarks Table from Great Power is included.
  • The term “Determination Points” (DP) is used to differentiate the resource players spend from the Determination ability level.
  • The default die rolling method is: Effort (Acting Ability + d6) – Difficulty (Opposing Ability/Level + d6) = Outcome. The math is the same, it just equalizes the die-rolling equation so there isn’t a need to “reverse” all the action formulae when its GM characters acting rather than heroes, or vice versa. The original d6-d6 method (along with a couple of others) are optional rules.
  • There is a marginal degree of success, allowing for one of seven degrees of outcome: Massive, Major, and Moderate Failure, and Marginal, Moderate, Major, and Massive Success.
  • The Combined Effort rules are more broadly applied for “stacking” instances.
  • Pyramid Tests (which first appeared in Sidereal Schemes of Dr. Zodiac) are in the Basics chapter, along with all the Pyramid Test modifiers and variations from Team-Up.
  • Challenges are consolidated into qualities, and the baseline number of qualities is reduced to three to start. Qualities are activated both to create advantage and to cause trouble for characters.
  • The Qualities section has expanded information on creating and learning qualities, removing temporary qualities, and activating qualities through maneuvers and tactics as well as spending Determination Points.
  • Determined Effort is replaced by a simpler Improved Effort that is just a flat +2 bonus, dropping the various requirements that no one really used anyway. Focused Effort is folded in the stunt mechanics (substituting one level for another in a test or effect), a Push Ability option is added.
  • Trouble caused by activating qualities includes Challenge, Compulsion, Disability, Increased Difficulty, and Lost Panel. I may write at some point about the notion of “Editorial Interference” as trouble, but that concept didn’t make the cut (too meta and, frankly, rooted in comics fan cynicism).
  • The Stunts section has expanded to include using superhuman (level 7+) abilities and Master Specialties for stunts, as well as powers.
  • The Damage section include options for minions, more lethal damage, lasting injuries, and different damage effects (from the standard Slam, Stun, and Kill effects).
  • There are two expanded examples of play, one in the Basics chapter and one in the Taking Action chapter.
  • The random Power Type table is tweaked slightly to change the probabilities of generating certain powers (mainly making Movement Powers more common than Mental Powers).
  • There is an optional table for randomly rolling Specialties (if you want, otherwise you just choose them as before).
  • Powers have generally been brought in-line with the material in Great Power and make more reference to qualities for modifiers. The focus is on the “core” powers, with condensed descriptions, leaving the more detailed descriptions, extra and limit lists, and “reskinned” powers for Great Power to cover.
  • Extras and limits from Great Power are included.
  • Power descriptions are now all listed in alphabetical order, for easier reference.
  • A condensed version of the Devices from Great Power is included, with lots of sample equipment.
  • A simple initiative system is included (Coordination test, highest outcome goes first).
  • Actions are broken out by different types (Movement, Action, Reaction, Interaction) and more clearly detailed.
  • An option for Interludes (narrative based scenes that activate qualities and award DP, which can be saved or spent immediately for insight, retcons, or recovery) is in the Game Mastering chapter.
  • Some expanded and cleaned-up Game Master advice.
  • A system of Achievements & Changes for character development.
  • The villain creation system from Villainomicon is included.
  • A slightly updated version of the Universe Creation system from Team-Up is included.
  • Nine sample heroes and nine sample villains are included. There is no sample adventure (as I’m not a big fan of sample adventures in the core rulebook itself). I might look at revising the four-page Wages of Sin from the original Icons book as a free downloadable sample adventure.
  • A glossary of terms is included at the end.
  • And, of course, the Assembled Edition benefits from new art and new layout by Dan Houser and Daniel Solis, very much in the style of Great Power.

Those are the high points. It is a lot in terms of small tweaks, changes, tune-ups, and such, but the core of the system remains unchanged. Apart from potentially wanting to consolidate some of their qualities (or not, there really isn’t an absolute limit to how many there can be) and matching the power updates in Great Power, previously published Icons characters can be used pretty much as-is.

22 thoughts on “Icons Assembled – What’s Different?

  1. Really great! The change in the rolling method is really awesome. That change plus the ones on the Improved effort and on the qualities really help to streamline the system. That covers most of the major flaws of the system discovered by my players.

    Now, I hope Knacks would have a spot on the book as an optional system. They really help to flesh out heroes and are nearly esential to build good heroes of the trained origin.

  2. These changes and improvements sound fantastic. But I’m dying to know: when can we expect the .pdf of Icons Assembled to become available? Might we see it before Origins? Or Gen Con? (Please don’t say “next week.” Because, you know.)

    • I can’t provide a definite date because details are still being worked out with Green Ronin, but the book is wrapping up in production, so seeing the PDF release (and pre-orders of the printed book) before Origins in early June is very likely.

  3. I really love the swapping to a +d6 mechanic. This allows you to introduce an alternative to a +/- 1 addition to effort, ie best/worst of 2d6 roll, where the range doesn’t change but the average does.

    A couple of questions
    1) Is there an index (I’m assuming, ‘yes’ but would love to have this confirmed)?
    2) Do you have a preferred plan for release of pdf and printed version? I understand some publishers have benefitted from a pdf release first, where the extra proofreading has allowed for fewer errors in the print version.

  4. We will likely release the PDF concurrent with the book becoming available for pre-order, allowing time for reader feedback before the print run, but that’s still being coordinated with Green Ronin.

  5. Very psyched to see this moving along. ICONS has become my new go-to system for rolling up random superheroes (and villains), and it will really be nice to have all the rules in one book. If I ever get around to having a regular gaming group again, this is the system I want to run!

  6. I’ve just noticed that Great Power uses references to Icons in the text. As Icons revised will have different page locations and Great Power as to be a source book for revised, I assume that Great Power will updated at some stage to include references to the new text?

    Eagerly awaiting any more news…

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  9. The Assembled Edition reads like an improved second draft. The improvements, such as smoother mechanics, better layout, and fewer typos, are welcome, but the game still needs a bit of polishing and work before it’s ready.

    In many of the powers, basics such as range, duration, or cost are missing. There is a vague mention of the idea of GMs and players working together to determine these things, and there is the excellent touch of a ‘benchmarks’ table, but no real explanation as to when or whether these are to be used. A simple, clear mention, perhaps at the beginning, would be very useful.

    The PDF version itself also has no clickable links, making it feel unfinished.

    There are excellent ideas here, and this edition is much improved, but the game itself needs further development before it can truly be called a finished product.

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  12. Sorry for the late reply (Almost a full year!) but I do have a question:
    Are the new rules/revisions part of the open game license as well? Or only the old Icons rules fall under that umbrella? Thank you and sorry for bothering.

  13. Hello Steve, my name is Rodolfo and I was confused about the extra and their cost. How much do they cost? A point if i use the point system? Or they always replace another power?
    Thanks for your time!

  14. This is said about Determination on p.67 in the book:

    Subtract the hero’s total number of powers from 6 to get the hero’s
    Determination level, with a minimum of 1, keeping in mind that each attribute
    above level 6 counts as a power and extras and limits can modify the amount
    of Determination a power “costs.”

    What I wonder is, when does an extra modify the amount of Determination a power cost? Does all Extra add to the cost of a Power by 1 unless they are bought from taking a Limit?

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