Icons Questions

A few Icons related questions from the Yahoo group mailing list, which I’ve edited only for brevity:

1) Has anyone done conversion guidelines for M&M 3e to Icons?

I haven’t, and I’ll tell you why: In my experience, such mechanical or mathematical conversion systems are less effective overall than looking to capture the style or essence of the character in the new system. Especially in a relatively free-form system like Icons, you’re better off, in my opinion to just assign whatever abilities suit the character’s concept from scratch rather than trying to model or simulate specific traits from other game systems.

That said, there are certainly some conversion guidelines out there, including from Champions and Mutants & Masterminds.

2) In long-term play, do you use advancement? Is the advancement scheme in Assembled any good? It seems a little fast.

Depends a lot on the definition of “long-term” really. The suggested achievement system is a major achievement every 8 or so issues (game sessions). If you’re looking at a series expected to last more than say 24 issues, you might want to slow that down a bit, but that’s a pretty long game series by modern standards. All that said, I’ve played 12+ issue series of Icons with no advancement at all; so long as players are fairly happy with their characters to start, and maybe get some of the options like changing their qualities from time to time, they’re often pretty happy with focusing on game-play rather than advancement.

3) How do you handle minions in Icons?

I use the optional rule that a successful attack just takes out a minion for simplicity’s sake. I’m also careful about making combined effort (Icons AE, p. 23) a relative rarity for minions. Most gangs, mobs, and so forth aren’t that coordinated, making it a significant thing when it does happen, and a real advantage for those minions. You can even handle overcoming a vast horde of minions as a costly pyramid test, where failures result in Stamina loss for the heroes (representing attacks of the minions that get through), such that some heroes are battered and a little bruised by the end of it.

Heroes looking to take out hordes of minions can use Burst extra attacks or the benefits of counterattacks (see Icons AE, p. 139) to help do so most easily.

4) How do you construct a solo villain in Icons who can hold his or her own against a team of heroes?

Well, most such solo villains have high levels of Damage Resistance, abilities used to oppose attack tests, or both: it could be a Supreme Force Field or Fantastic Damage Resistance from invulnerable metal skin, for example, or high-level Super-Speed, Prowess, or Danger Sense, allowing the villain to easily evade most attacks (and, in the case of Prowess, deliver devastating counterattacks, see Icons AE, p. 139).

High DR villains tend to fall into two categories: wear ’em down, and find their weakness. The wear ’em down types have enough DR that the heroes can do some damage, even if it’s just 1 point, with successful attacks, so it’s a matter of how much Stamina the villain has and how long it takes the heroes to finally wear them down. You can adjust by bumping up the villain’s Strength and Willpower, or even giving the villain levels of Regeneration, making the wearing-down process a race to reduce the bad guy’s Stamina faster than it replenishes.

The find their weakness types are basically invulnerable to heroes unless or until they can find something to overcome the villain’s defenses. This is often a stunt or clever application of advantage through activating qualities, or it may be a pyramid test to defeat the villain in a manner other than direct combat, from fulfilling an ancient mystical ritual to undermining the villain’s confidence in his own abilities enough so they stop working.

Some master villains have minions which the heroes have to fight through in order to confront the villain. I sometimes use the rule that a villain can avoid a successful attack by sacrificing a minion instead, a variation of the interpose reaction. This makes a minions a kind of “ablative” additional pool of Stamina for the villain.

In addition to the counter-attack option mentioned previously, it can be useful for a combat-oriented master villain to have levels of Fast Attack to provide the option to act multiple times in relation to the heroes’ actions. If thematically appropriate, you can limit the Fast Attack to only certain powers; e.g. the villain’s Fast Attack only works in conjunction with her Energy Control or Mental Blast, for example. Attacks and powers with the Burst extra are also good for master villains confronted by groups of heroes, especially if the villain isn’t concerned about allies or collateral damage or the like.

Similarly, an Aura allows a villain to affect some attackers without taking up the villain’s own action, useful for things like a villain able to electrify his body in response to being grabbed or the like.

Lastly, remember that causing trouble for the heroes (Icons AE, p. 34) is the equivalent of the villain’s “Determination Points” as non-player characters don’t have any of their own. You can also give villains advantage through maneuvers, the same as for any other characters.