Icons: Heroes by the Numbers

I’ll be honest: I’m not a fan of the point-based hero creation option in Icons (p. 68 of the Assembled Edition). “Rolled-up” heroes is one of the reasons I wrote the game, and the point-buy option runs counter to that, plus I already designed a much more comprehensive point-buy system for superheroes (this lil’ RPG called Mutants & Masterminds). Still, it’s something playtesters all but demanded, both when the game was originally written, and when I put together the Assembled Edition so, it’s in there as an option.

Naturally, the most oft-asked question about the newly released Assembled Edition? About point-based hero creation … naturally. That being:

How many points do extras cost?

The Point-Based Hero Creation sidebar in Assembled Edition says: “Apply power extra and limits to powers normally.”

Since an extra substitutes for a rolled power, with the point-based approach, an extra instead increases the power’s cost per level by 1. In essence, the extra costs points equal to the power’s level.

Example: Creating Miss Tikal (Icons, p. 215) with the point-buy option, her Incredible Magic (level 7) costs 7 points. She has three instances of the Mastery extra (three powers she can call upon without a test or preparation). Each of those extras also costs 7 points, so her Magic costs a total of (7 + 7 + 7 + 7) or 28 points. With 24 points in abilities and two Expert specialties (2 points each), Miss Tikal is a 56-point character.

In place of the third benefit listed on p. 84 of Assembled Edition, a limit can reduce a power’s cost per level by 1 (to a minimum of 1 point per level). In essence, a limit can allow an extra to be added to the power “for free”. The increase to rolled level benefit doesn’t apply, since powers have no rolled levels in the point-based option.

16 thoughts on “Icons: Heroes by the Numbers

  1. I like Assembled for what it can do, but having the option in made me pretty happy as well. I have players who will rage quit if they roll too badly and this supplies them with the option to tailor while the rest of us have more fun.

  2. I’m curious–why the dislike? I’m about to run my first game of Icons, so the system is new, but it seems like you could end up with some really unbalanced stuff.

    • One of the reasons I wrote Icons is the fun of random hero creation, and the point-spending system takes away from that. The one in Icons is deliberately fast-and-loose so as to take up the minimum of space. If I want to do point-spending hero design, I use Mutants & Masterminds, which was designed for that sort of thing. If a random-rolled Icons character looks like a serious problem for the game I’m about to run, I’d ask the play to roll up another one, although I have to say that hasn’t happened yet: The most “unbalanced” characters actually come from players looking to min-max the point system, in my experience.

      • Thanks for the speedy reply! Let me ask a different question–can point buy and random play side by side in Icons, or should I push everyone in one direction?

      • In the one-shot of Icons I played, I ended up with a weak randomly generated character: an out-of-his-original-time-period pulp hero with a lightning gun. Pew-pew! My friend rolled up a character with some sort of multiple-attack, high damage, etc, combo pretty much right out the gate, no min-maxing necessary. It was appalling; I’d come in, weakly zap a target, and then she’d destroy any foe on her turn. So my experience is just about the inverse of yours. 🙂

        As I’m now considering spinning up a campaign where I’m the GM, I’m on the lookout to make sure I maximize the fun for my players and I don’t think random rolling is the way to get that. It’s BIG fun for screwing around and creating characters, but I think the naturally emergent disparities in the results would leave a number of players feeling inadequate, as I did in my prior play experience.

        So I’m looking closely at the point-buy option for that game, tho I’m not convinced that 1 level in every power is of sufficiently equivalent value. I’ll have to put some of the powers under the microscope to see if that gut feeling is correct!

        Relatedly, I asked this question in the product comments on DriveThruRPG a few months ago but I haven’t seen a reply to it yet: how does the With Great Power supplement interrelate with Icons Assembled Edition? I *think* the answer is that it still has use b/c it still expands the set of powers available in Icons Assembled, but I’m hoping for confirmation. 🙂

      • You’re correct. The power-set in Assembled Edition is essentially a condensed version of Great Power, so it is quite useful (IMHO) in terms of detail, more extras and limits, and examples of “re-skinned” powers for particular concepts.

  3. I never could understand Mutants and Masterminds 2e – specifically combat and character creation (which is pretty much the whole game). I read where combat was still a bit muddy in 3e (the rules being spread out across the book), so with much regret I avoided DC Adventures.

    So, M&M is not an option for me if I want a point-buy option. I just purchased Icons: Assembled and hope I can understand it better than M&M, and I hope I can recreate characters that exist in other source material.

      • Let me assure you it wasn’t a matter of not liking M&M! I just couldn’t understand how to build characters (esp. some concept that let you take away from Attack and add to Defense and vise versa), and I never could rebuild the sample characters using the rules (I would do that to test my understanding of the system).
        I so wanted to understand it, and envy the people who did and get to enjoy it.
        Thanks for the reply and your material!

  4. I know this is rather necrothready, but how do you handle applying a Limit to a power without an Extra? Interface 6 (L: close range) would cost what?

    Thanks, Steve!

    • Technically, a Limited added to a power without an extra offers two other options (Icons AE, p. 84): Reducing the power’s value in figuring Determination level by 1 (including to 0) or adding +2 to the power’s level. So, in your example, either the Interface 6 power costs 6 points (and doesn’t count as a power for Determination level) or it costs 4 (for the effective +2 level) and does count towards Determination.

  5. Two things:
    1: Thank you for writing this article. It’s very useful to know.
    2: Thank you for including point-buy creation. Random roll heroes is, in my opinion, an deal-breakingly bad idea. That one addition takes ICONS from 1/10 “horrid and unusable” to 10/10 “best superhero RPG on the market”.

    • Very glad you’re enjoying it. I’m working on some expanded hero creation options (including “by the numbers”) for an upcoming Icons product, so keep an eye on the blog!

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