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.
This is an expansion/modification of the Innate Invulnerability damage variant on the ICONS Wiki. In essence, all characters get Damage Resistance equal to half their Strength level (rounded down) but that resistance applies only to bashing and blasting damage, slashing and shooting damage is unaffected. This reflects the greater resistance sheer Strength grants when it comes to taking a beating, without necessarily making the character more physically impervious to harm. Regular Damage Resistance, granted by powers, protects against all types of attacks, unless the power has a specific Limit, and the higher of the two levels applies.
Example: The Mighty Saguaro has Strength 9 but no Damage Resistance power. He still gets Damage Resistance 4 (9 divided by 2 = 4.5, rounded down to 4) against bashing and blasting damage, but slashing and shooting attacks do their full damage against him. His only benefit from Strength there is his higher Stamina total. On the other hand, All-Star has Strength 10 and Damage Resistance 8, so he gets no extra benefit; his powers grant him more Damage Resistance than half his Strength level. If, for some reason, his Damage Resistance was nullified, but not his Strength, All-Star would still have Damage Resistance 5 (half of 10) against bashing and blasting damage.
In the ICONS rules, starting Determination value is figured from a base of 6, minus 1 per power the character has, with abilities above level 6 counting as powers. So a hero with three powers and an ability of 8 (for example), has a starting Determination of 2. This is intended to benefit those heroes who have fewer powers and superhuman abilities, giving them the options inherent in more starting Determination.
In this variant, rather than paying “up-front” for the value of powers and high-level abilities, all characters start each story with the same amount of Determination—the base 6 points—which they can spend as desired, but players have to spend a point of Determination the first time they use a particular power or ability with a level higher than 6 in each story. This Determination has no benefit other than “activating” that ability and making it accessible. Thus the characters “pay” for the capabilities they use, but are not “charged” for the ones that they do not. This may encourage players to be more conservative about their heroes’ powers, which can suit a “secret powers” series, for example.
In a Super-Teen series, the characters are all high schoolers who keep their amazing powers secret for various reasons. The GM institutes the “pay-to-play” rule for Determination, meaning all of the heroes have the same starting Determination, but they have to pay 1 point for the first use of each power or super-level ability in each adventure. So when Gwen uses her Super-Speed or Tommy teleports for the first time, that costs a point of Determination. Gwen’s Coordination 5 and Acrobatics Expert, however, doesn’t cost Determination because it’s not a power and her ability level is not above 6. If the young heroes choose not to exercise their powers, they have more Determination on-hand for other things.
This addition to the Fudge Action Resolution section offers some ideas on taking a variety of different factors for success into account when determining the outcome of any given action. It also provides a common framework and vocabulary for describing Fudge actions in simple and straightforward terms.
3.31 Action Factors
A number of things factor into determining the outcome of any given action. By applying all of the appropriate factors for a given action you can quickly determine the outcome of the character’s attempt. Plus, by taking all the factors into account, you can quickly and easily determine outcomes, often without needed to roll dice at all!
The factors involved in any given action are: the character’s capability of performing that action, the conditions under which the action is performed, the amount of time and effort put into the action, and, lastly, a measure of luck. Continue reading
Knacks are a new type of trait for ICONS, neither ability, specialty, nor power. A knack can have one of the following effects, chosen when the knack is created and acquired:
- Substitutes one ability level for another in relation to a specific kind of test or usage. Examples include swapping Strength for Willpower for intimidating (“My might is intimidating!”) or Intellect for Coordination for Dodging (“Totally saw that one coming.”).
- Provides a +2 bonus for a specific type of test in the form: “Because I [something unique about the character] I get a bonus when I [particular situation or test].” For example, “Because I once belonged to the criminal underworld, I get a bonus when I interact with criminals on their own terms.”
- Provides the effects of a power at a level equal to a “linked” ability. Note that this does not count as the “Ability-Linked” limit for powers that feature it (see the Great Power sourcebook for details).
- Provides a declared benefit the player can bring into play based on a specific Specialty, reflecting the character’s knowledge, experience, or resources. For example, “As a Business Expert, I know a lot of people in this field. One of them should be able to help us out.” This follows the same guidelines as a retcon (ICONS, p. 80).
Like comic book superhereos, ICONS characters may change and grow over time. If you plan a long-running series, consider the following options for hero improvement.
Adjust the costs as you see fit, increasing them to make improvement slower and more difficult, or lowering them (or providing more for the same cost) to encourage improvement. You can also control the frequency of particular milestones as suits the heroes and the series.
The opportunity to review the forthcoming ICONS Team-Up from Adamant Entertainment got me thinking about different variants and options again, so here’s another.
As Great Power established with its benchmark table, the various scale levels in ICONS translate into different, often nonlinear, real world terms: Average weight (level 3) is a heavy sack while Supreme (level 10) is a mountain, Fair speed (level 4) is a race car while Amazing speed (level 9) is escape velocity. Why should damage and resistance to the same be any different?
Aspects are an important element of the Determination system of ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying—both tagging qualities in order to spend Determination and compelling challenges in order to earn more Determination—but how much does the system (and the game) really rely on having aspects or, at least, predefined ones?
A common question about ICONS is its lack of an initiative system although, technically, it does have one:
“Typically, the conflict starts off with the panels of whichever side initiates: if a villain launches an attack, start with the villain’s panel. If the heroes spring into action, begin with their panels. Once one side’s actions are resolved, go to the other side, then back and forth until the conflict ends.”
— Conflict, ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying, page 55
So, there’s no system for it other than “Whoever goes first, goes first.” Usually, that will be fairly obvious. In situations where it is not, or if a group prefers a more detailed or mechanical initiative system, here are some options:
Here’s a variant for handling damage and contests via Pyramid Tests for ICONS that ties in Determination:
Increase starting Determination to 10 minus the number of the hero’s powers (and abilities above level 6) with a minimum starting Determination of 4. Use the guidelines from the Different Damage article, except that the degree of success by the attacker subtracts from the hero’s Determination, as follows: 1 for a moderate outcome, 2 for a major outcome, and 4 for a massive outcome. If Determination drops below 0, the hero is defeated. Non-heroes (without Determination) follow the usual success guidelines from the Different Damage article. Heroes can use Consequences to negate the Determination loss due to damage.
This adds a “give-and-take” element to Determination, making it both the fuel of a hero’s success, but also the thing that keeps heroes going. Players will need to balance spending Determination to succeed and conserving it to deal with damage (and possibly other kinds of stress) in conflicts. It reflects the idea that “pushing” to succeed is draining, and fits the genre element of heroes giving all they have to pull off some massive stunt before losing consciousness.
This variant makes it more imperative than ever for the Game Master to award Determination (and create challenges) liberally, otherwise, even with the initial bonus “bump” players will run out of it fast. It also means heroes with fewer powers (and more starting Determination) can absorb more “punishment” than their more powerful counterparts: the dark detective or super-soldier type has more “hit points” than the superhuman powerhouse or cosmic herald!
If you give this option a try in your own Icons game, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email about how it works out!