As a young roleplayer in the 80’s, super hero RPGs featured heavily in my gaming. The main games back then were the wonderful Golden Heroes and TSR’s Marvel Superhero Roleplaying Game (‘FASERIP’). Since I returned to the hobby 7 or so years ago, I haven’t managed to get a supers game going for an extended period but have enjoyed adventures/sessions of Capes, Marvel Heroic, and Mutants and Masterminds. Also, I bought and read BASH! Ultimate Edition and ICONS, but sadly have’t had a chance to play either. However, I was delighted to hear of ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying The Assembled Edition forthcoming release, particularly when I read how Steve Kenson had updated it and what is different in the new edition
Hence, once the PDF was out on Drivethru I picked it up and have been reading it as, if I were to run supers it would be ICONS or BASH I’d turn to I think and certainly is a fun system my son would enjoy.
One of the distinctive features of ICONS is that the preferred mode of character creation is through rolling 2d6 on a series of random tables, with some element of choice along the way. So let’s give it a whirl.
Phase 1 Origins. This first table tells you how your hero gained their powers, and include things like ‘trained’ ‘transformed’ or ‘unearthly’. I rolled an 8 so my hero’s origin is ‘gimmick’ – all his powers come from devices, and I get a +2 on one mental ability. Pretty happy with that – thinking of an Iron Man power suit hero.
Phase 2 Abilities – I now make 6 rolls on the ‘level determination’ table and this gives me:
Prowess 5 Good
Coordination 5 Good
Strength 7 Incredible
Intellect 6 Great
Awareness 4 Fair
Willpower 5 Good
A nice feature is the adjective that goes along with the level, reminiscent of the ranks in FASERIP. ICONS allows you to swap one ability score with another, and I have the +2 to a mental ability due to the gifted origin, but I’ll hold off doing these until I find out my powers and have a clearer idea of my hero. The ability rolls were pretty good – 6 is the upper limit for humans so we can see that he is a pretty superior individual, with strength in the superhuman range, presumably due to some device such as cybernetic limbs or a power suit.
Phase 3 Powers. First step is to roll for the number of powers, again with 2d6. I rolled a 9 which gives me 4 powers. Each of these can be used for a power or to unlock an ‘extra’ for a power (here is one step where you have some choice if you roll a power with extras – for example, if have element control can take flight, or aura). I roll for the 4 powers and get mental, movement, alteration, and sensory. Rolling on each of the subtables and for level I get:
Mind Control 6
Transformation (human) 5
Danger Sense 2
Initially, I’m a little disappointed at not getting a Defensive Power and building my powers around a set of armour. But, as I think about Transformation, the supervillain Mystique comes to mind and the powers click together. Someone who could impersonate others would be a great infiltrator as a covert operative, and this coupled with Mind Control and Danger Sense means he is less likely to be surprised if caught out and can control any who discover him. Given that all his powers have to be in devices, I’m thinking of some kind of advanced fibre that can mirror exactly the appearance of another,with some slight changes in size, and in addition grant the wearer enhanced strength (his 7 strength is at superhuman level and counts as a power) and the ability to fly into potential areas to infiltrate. Sounds like the kind of high-tech gear that secret services may have developed for counter-terrorism. For Danger Sense and Mental Control, I’m envisaging a cybernetic implant that allows him to be aware of events around him at unconsciously fast speeds, and also allow him to read and modify EEG and fMRI signals, and hence control people’s minds. We could say that he has two devices – the infiltrator suit and the neuromodulator chip, the former has the powers Transformation, Flight, and his Strength and the latter Danger Sense and Mind Control.
Phase 4 Specialities. These are, in essence, broad skill groups such as Science, Performance, Military. At the basic level, having the speciality grants a +1, and can be bought multiple times, granting expert and master levels (+2 and +3 respectively). Here we have some choice. Given the powers and the conception of the hero, I’m drawn away from a Tony Stark and investing in Science and Technology and am now thinking more ex-secret service. I roll an 8 and get 3 specialities – for my ex-agent, I’m thinking Stealth, Martial Arts and Prestidigitation (as includes lock-picking).
I think also I’m clear about his abilities now and he doesn’t need to be a super brain. Hence, I’ll add my +2 to Awareness and swap Intellect and Prowess. Thus,
Prowess 6 Great
Coordination 5 Good
Strength 7 Incredible
Intellect 5 Great
Awareness 6 Great
Willpower 5 Good
Phase 5 Description. Richard Denver was a CIA Agent who specialised in infiltrating, in deep cover, Terrorist Groups across the world. He was chosen to test out the Doppleganger program – an advanced infiltration suit, and cyber implant allowing the wearer to not only fly into enemy territory but to transform themselves into anyone they met. The suit also enhanced the wearer’s strength and the implant allowed Richard to detect threat and control people’s emotions and actions. Whilst on the trial mission, Richard’s infiltrated a group in the middle east but whilst there, found that the CIA had itself been infiltrated by some sinister force (in Marvel, this could be SHIELD and Hydra!) and was trying to take over the democracy of the US. Richard returned to the US, and managed to destroy the files detailing the Doppleganger program and, leaving the service, took the last suit to fight for justice. The suit is a high tech mirrored fibre, that completely encases Richard, covering his head in a mask only he can see through. When he wishes, the suit can take on the appearance of another to the finest detail, manipulating his body, and expanding if required, to match changes in weight and height.
Phase 6 Qualities. These are rather like Fate’s Aspects and can be used to gain advantages or to cause trouble for the hero. Like Fate, there is no list to choose from but one needs to come up with brief snappy narrative sentences. Given the background, I’ll go for ‘Ex-CIA Agent’, ‘Trust No One’, and ‘Brings Conspiracies Into The Light’.
Determination Level – these are points that can be used to trigger qualities, remove negative qualities, to make a determined effort, and to use a stunt with a power. Determination is 6 – number of powers. For my hero, he has 5 powers – 4 Powers and his Super Strength. Hence, Determination Level of 1 and will start with 1 DP.
Stamina is Strength + Willpower, so here 12.
And that’s it. We have a new hero – Doppleganger. An infiltrator with strength and flight, who can pack a punch in combat. The character creation is quick and the random element allows a concept to appear as the rolls are made, and hopefully a coherent idea emerges. The book is great fun to read and very well written. Looking forward to trying it out further.
Has been a great week or so for RPG releases – D&D and 13 True Ways, as well as me having picked up Star Wars Age of Rebellion in addition to ICONS. Next post, will be some thoughts on the L5R supplement, Sword and Fan.