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?
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!
In Icons, while the players spend Determination to give their heroes various advantages, the Game Master technically does not have or spend Determination at all. Instead, the GM uses compels of the heroes’ Qualities and Challenges and the creation of temporary Challenges, both of which award Determination to the players. Some of these uses may be essentially identical to player Determination use (giving a villain or other Game Master character an advantage, for example) but do not draw upon a fixed pool of Determination points, like the players; the GM may compel or create challenges at will, as often as desired.
Some find this difficult to conceptualize, or simply unfair, and prefer to idea of the Game Master also working off a pre-determined and fixed amount of points. For those who prefer such a variant, there is the Trouble Pool.