In order to get around the ubiquitous D&D Adventurer League events hogging up space at public gaming venues, I've been considering offering to run a superhero game at a neighborhood comic shop. But which system? Superhero gaming is sort of my white whale; a genre I very much enjoy with incredible potential for tabletop play, but I'd yet to find rules that properly clicked. And I've been looking all the way back since Villains & Vigilantes.
A few years ago I had good success with Supers!, but have since found parts of it at odds with my preferences. I took a chance on FASERIP (a retroclone of the 1980's Marvel Superheroes game) and had some fun rolling up characters, but ultimately decided it lacked proper GM support systems. Commentary indicated that Icons was the spiritual successor to Marvel Superheroes so I finally abandoned my resistance* to it and tracked down a copy.
|I've got the Green Ronin printing of this ... which has some noticeable typos and editing mistakes. I may get the Ad Infinitum POD just to see if they were corrected.|
*Why did I resist Icons for so long? Possibly out of a bizarre notion that Icons was competing for the same niche as Supers! and I had an existing loyalty to Simon Washbourne's work.
On an initial read-through, it looks like Icons is exactly what I've been looking for, a fast and breezy system unhindered by detailed modeling but with strong support for tone and genre tropes, and prompts to encourge creativity rather than procedures that contain it.
As my first glimmer of actual-play, let's see what I get when I roll up character's for the first time (character portraits are snagged off-the-cuff from GIS with no attempt made at attribution):
Prowess: 2 (Poor)
Coordination: 4 (Fair)
Strength: 2 (Poor)
Intellect: 6 (Great)
Awareness: 4 (Fair)
Willpower: 6 (Great)
Shrinking: 6 (1" tall, Limit: max only)
Duplication: 4 (Limit: only when shrunk)
Fast Attack: 6 (Limit: only when shrunk)
Leaping: 4 (about a city block, Limit: only when shrunk)
"Always on the case"
"Lack of funding keeps me clever"
"Never truly know where I am"
A brilliant and dedicated but unassuming forensic lab scientist, Phoebe Boson was ambushed in her lab one night by criminals out to destroy damning evidence she'd uncovered in their case. Locking her in an experimental quantum-scanning device to create an "accident," the rays of the machine instead imbued her with the ability to express quantum characteristics. After foiling her attackers, Phoebe now serves as the mysterious special agent Quantum Cop.
This was a pleasing result for my first try at the char-gen system. Definitely a concept I didn't have in mind going in and was happily surprised to end up with. I confess, to get the final result to match the crystallized image, I freely tweaked the results, trading in some attribute and power levels and adding the "only when shrunk" limit to buy the Leaping power, which isn't actually how the char-gen system works RaW. I'd allow (even encourage) such trading in a game I ran, but other referees may not be so flexible.
R.E.C.O.N. (Robotic Extreme Combat Operations Nocturnal)
Prowess: 2 (Poor)
Coordination: 5 (Good)
Strength: 5 (Good)
Intellect: 6 (Great)
Awareness: 7 (Incredible)
Willpower: 5 (Good)
Detection: 3 (Heat)
Life Support: 5 (No need to breath, eat, drink, sleep and immune to disease)
"Mission objectives ... targeted"
"A two-hundred million dollar asset"
"Just because it's war doesn't mean we can't be civil"
An android built to survey and survive even the most extreme of battlefield conditions, with secondary roles as sniper and ambusher (often serving with counterpart units A.R.M.O.R. and S.T.R.I.K.E.). After several years of experience, R.E.C.O.N. has developed a professional pride in its performance and a unexpectedly personable demeanor (it enjoys trivia contests and collecting knock-knock jokes).
I like this one as well, but it took a bit more effort to get it to solidify. Again, I freely tweaked on the fly to bring things together. Particularly, I trashed a couple rolls that gave power ratings of 1 (I don't even see why that's a possible result, since there's no compensation) and swapped the +2 Strength bonus that comes with the Artificial origin for +2 Awareness in line with the reconnaissance role. In the end, though I ended up with an interesting character, R.E.C.O.N. works better as a NPC or antagonist than a player-hero.
Prowess: 5 (Good)
Coordination: 6 (Great)
Strength: 5 (Good)
Intellect: 5 (Good)
Awareness: 5 (Good)
Willpower: 4 (Fair)
Binding: 4 (Device: confetti cane; Extra: Burst)
Swinging: 4 (Device: confetti cane)
Sleight of Hand
"Wealth and fame I do Not ignore"
"Always looks good doing it"
"Knows who to know in theater"
Diana Karat was a multi-talented performer too good for the hack magician she was stuck serving as assistant to. When she learned his show was just cover for lucrative heists, she leapt into action (with full stage costume and props) to personally thwart his scheme (and not incidentally use the resulting arrest to break her contract). Flattered by the stunning front-page photos her exploit earned, she decided to pursue the crime-fighting gig full-time.
After ending up with a police officer and soldier, I began this character aiming for something decidedly non-institutional, so I deemed they'd be an artist before even touching the dice. Unsurprisingly I went with a dancer (it's a bit hard to justify an action-adventure sculptor). I like this flashy and well-rounded character who is much more of a broadly capable "adventurer" than the previous two. I don't recall nudging anything in char-gen, but the "gimmick" origin revealed I'd prefer a bit more explicit consequences and trade-offs for device-based powers. I suppose it could be argued that the vulnerabilities that come with a device are offset by versatility (Dame Diamond can just loan her Confetti Cane to anyone who needs it) so it's not really the issue I perceive it as; too much min-maxing instinct in me.