ICONS: Initiative

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:

Continue reading

ICONS: Operation: Shatterstone!

OScover300pxJust in time for your own “Independence Day” gaming — Operation: Shatterstone! the latest adventure for ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying by Dain Lybarger (with art by ICONS artist Dan “The Man” Houser) is now available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

The fate of the world hangs in the balance! Astronomers have discovered a massive asteroid on a collison course with the Earth, and only an experimental space ship can carry a band of brave heroes on a desperate mission to save the world – but there is more to this threat than there appears. Can the heroes deal with the dangers behind it?

Operation: Shatterstone is an adventure featuring a race into space, the experimental space ship Icarus, and an extraterrestrial threat to Earth. Do your heroes have “the right stuff” to save the world? As a bonus, the adventure features an optional “series kick-off” section on how to use Operation: Shatterstone as the start of a new ICONS series and origin for your heroes!

Re: Animated • Justice League “Fury” – Part 1

jl16This blog takes a look at episodes from the Justice League animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.

“Fury” – Part 1

The Injustice Gang is back with a couple of new members, and making short work of the security at a Gotham biotech company. In fact, most of this introductory segment could be called “short work.” The villains take out guards left and right: Copperhead by ambush, Sakuri deflecting gunfire with her blades and taking down guards with her martial arts prowess and Shade … well, making things dark for no apparent reason, other than demonstrating his power. Likewise, once Batman is on the scene, he begins taking down the Injustice Gangers quickly: Shade and Copperhead with a single surprise attack, Star Sapphire with a reflected energy bolt, and Grundy with an electro batarang. Sakuri poses more of a challenge: she initially knocks Bats for a loop, they trade blows for a bit, then she seems to get the upper hand, but Batman sends her flying into a wall, leaving her stunned. It’s the Gang’s mysterious new blonde-haired leader who proves to be a surprise.

Continue reading

ICONS Indexes

Thanks to the work of indexer Lori Ann Curley, I’m now able to offer indexes of The Icons rulebook and Great Power! The indexes have been added, as separate PDF files, to the downloads for Icons, Great Power, and the Icons GM Screen package: buyers of those products can simply access their account library to download the new files, or you can grab them from here:

Stay tuned this week for the release of the latest adventure for Icons, Dain Lybarger’s Operation: Shatterstone!

Re: Animated • Justice League “The Brave and the Bold” – Part 2

jl15This blog takes a look at episodes from the Justice League animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.

“The Brave and the Bold” – Part 2

Following the dramatic disappearance of Central City in Part 1 of “The Brave and the Bold” the rest of the Justice League takes notice when a midwestern U.S. city up and vanishes! Interesting to note that, although the dome started expanding from the lab on the shoreline (riverfront, most likely) it appears centered in the middle of the city, rather than on its outskirts.

Continue reading

Re: Animated • Justice League “The Brave and the Bold” – Part 1

jl14This blog takes a look at episodes from the Justice League animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.

“The Brave and the Bold” – Part 1

Long-time DC editor Julie Schwartz, in his autobiography “Man of Two Worlds,” describes the pedigree of gorillas in comics. So profound was the effect of having an ape on the cover on the sales of a comic book that DC editorial had to institute a limit on the number of gorillas appearing in any given month to stop everyone from doing it! So it’s no surprise that ape characters are a comic book staple. As the staff at Green Ronin Publishing is fond of saying, “Everything is better with monkeys!”

Continue reading

ICONS: Second Edition?

In the wake of the Great Power sourcebook getting out there in print to Kickstarter backers and buyers, the question has been raised: Why didn’t I just do a second edition of Icons, and when will there be one?

The primary reason Great Power happened before a new edition of the game is that Great Power was largely written when I parted company with Adamant Entertainment. Rather than start the lengthy process of developing a new edition of the game, I wanted to move ahead with putting out the book I already had; Icons fans had endured enough delays and waiting.

I also had very little information to base a decision regarding a new edition upon. I wanted to see what sales looked like, figure out about print runs, existing stock, and sell throughs, and try out Kickstarter with something a bit less substantial than a new edition. Great Power fit that bill nicely.

Great Power also offered the opportunity for some “1.5” style revisions or updates to powers and hero creation, with some optional rule sidebars, making it a step forward, but an incremental one.

All that said, I’d say a new edition of Icons is fairly inevitable: The game’s initial print run will sell through. Once it does, I would want to keep the rulebook in-print-on-demand like Great Power, which necessitates revising it anyway. As long as I’m doing that, I might as well revise, update, and make whatever changes are needed along the way. Of course, I’d want to take the time to do it right, so it would be a solid foundation for the game for the foreseeable future.

There are lots of questions concerning production and playtesting to consider as well, like the length of time, open or closed playtests, free or paid access, Kickstarter or not (I’m actually leaning towards not, but that’s a different article), and the degree and importance of backwards compatibility with both the first edition rules and Great Power, which limits the scope of some revisions.

I will say that anyone hoping for all of Great Power to be folded into a new core book will be disappointed. Great Power was intended as an expanded powers book and has more detail than I think the core Icons rules need. Plus it seems unfair to come out with a sourcebook and then immediately follow it with a book that includes all that content and more! I’d like to see a new Icons that is a fairly slim volume (even in the smaller 6 x 9 in. format), with just the essential rules needed to play the game.

Right now, however, this is all just theory. I’ve got some other things to work on before turning my attention to the work of revising Icons for the future. If you have thoughts on the future of the game and what you’d like to see for it, feel free to add a comment or send me an email about it!

ICONS: Determination Damage

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!

Re: Animated • Justice League “War World” – Part 2

jl13This blog takes a look at episodes from the Justice League animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.

“War World” – Part 2

J’onn’s quick thinking helps to save Superman from another (potentially lethal) volley from Mongul’s robot soldiers, rallying the crowd’s support to keep the alien dictator from executing the defiant Kryptonian on the spot, and demonstrating once again that many victories are won through means other than direct conflict.

Continue reading

Re: Animated • Justice League “War World” – Part 1

jl12This blog takes a look at episodes from the Justice League animated series from a tabletop roleplaying game perspective, both in terms of game design and game play.

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing the events of the episode in the post. If, for some reason, you’re interested in the show and this blog and have not seen the show, go and do that first. The blog will make much more sense, and you won’t have your enjoyment of the show spoiled. You Have Been Warned.

“War World” – Part 1

An accident in space leaves Superman and J’onn at the mercy of alien slavers, who sell them to Mongul, the ringmaster of an interstellar bread-and-circuses show called “War World.”

The “teaser” section of this episode could easily be a lead-in to a superhero adventure: an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It’s a bit of a “bait and switch” scenario: Superman and J’onn think they’re dealing with one crisis, but end up in quite a different one! The asteroid’s unexpected detonation—and the heroes capture by the slavers—is clearly a case of GM fiat to get the ball rolling.

Continue reading