Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tweaking Character Generation for ICONS

I didn't get to run ICONS (or anything else) this weekend like I had hoped* but  I did have some time to think about character generation some more. I wasn't totally happy with it and I realized it was mainly because of one chart  - the random power allocation chart.

A quick refresher in 2d6 probability (most of you probably know this already but for the sake of completeness here it is) :

2 - 1 in 36
3 - 2 in 36
4 - 3 in 36
5 - 4 in 36
6 - 5 in 36
7 - 6 in 36
8 - 5 in 36
9 - 4 in 36
10 -3 in 36
11 -2 in 36
12 -1 in 36

Now the current ICONS power table:

2-3 - Alteration
4-5 - Control
6   - Defense
7   - Mental
8  -  Movement
9-10 - Offense
11-12 - Sensory

Given the probabilities noted above I just do not like the way this allocates powers. "Control" and "Offense" being the most most likely result is fine but "Mental" coming in right behind them is out of whack to me - I just dont think that based on comic books, movies, cartoons, and even past experience in non-random superhero games that this should be the case. Someone once noted that in essence all powers in Champions could be boiled down to Attack, Defense, Sense, and Move and power modifiers could be used to bring out the details and differences that made things unique. I think that's  a good way to focus in on the essence of powers. Also note that super abilities like strength are not really covered by powers in ICONS - they are rolled for randomly in a separate process. Given those, I'm going to rebuild the table to make it more the way I want it.

2-3 (3/36) I'm bumping Mental down to here, maiing 1 in 12 powers rolled of the mental variety, instead of 1 in 6. I just think this fits better with my expectations and preferences.

4-5 (7/36) I'm leaving Control here - there are a lot of very genre-common powers under control, including the big one "Elemental Control" that defines a whole lot of comic-book characters.

6 - (5/36) Defense is just fine at this level. It should be fairly common, maybe just a bit less common than Offense. so this is perfect

7 - (6/36) Offense is now promoted to this position. Blast, Strike, Affliction - these are core superpowers for many heroes and should be pretty common

 8 - (5/36) Movement is fine here - many supers have some kind of travel powers so it should be fairly common

 9-10 - (7/36) Alteration is moved to here as the powers listed under that table are to me much more common in the source material than others.

11-12 - (3/36) Sensory remains here, mainly because I don't have a better place to put it. It should probably be more common, and I would consider making "2" a sensory result, bumping Mental down to a 2/36 chance, but a) it makes the table messy and b) most sensory powers are not all that "flashy", as in no one gets all that excited at having "Postcognition" compared to being able to set people on fire with a wave of their hand or bounce bullets off of their chest. So for now I'm leaving it alone. So the new table is:

2-3 - Mental
4-5 - Control
6    - Defense
7    - Offense
8    - Movement
9-10 - Alteration
11-12 - Sensory

Most characters are going to have 3 or 4 powers. Our most likely results are Alteration or Control, then Offense, then Defense or Movement,  then Mental or Sensory. I like that distribution better. Say you roll up a 5 character team, that's going to average out to 17.5 powers, let's call it 18 and that's when changing the odds on this table really stands out.

Plus, many powers (especially things like elemental control) have bonus powers listed that allow a player to swap out a rolled power for a bonus power (which is more strongly related to one of the other rolled powers) as desired. This gives back some control over the pure randomness of character creation and lets a player with a concept tailor their creation to better fit that concept. This should work even better now with a distribution of powers that I think is better for my group anyway.

I like the way the rest of the rules work for a lighter supers game, and now this one simple change makes me happier with the whole thing.

*Instead I got whipped by Apprentice Blaster in 1 game of C&C Ancients and 2 games of Memoir '44 and he was feeling pretty pleased with himself by the end.


Neil Ford said...

I like your revised table. I am going to give it a workout and see how it does. Thanks for sharing.

- Neil.

bliss_infinte said...

Those were good points that you brought up in your earlier post. I like these chart revisions - a good improvement to the game. I'll give it a run-through.

Barking Alien said...

Definitely helps if you're going to go the random way. I'll probably do a few test characters myself to check it out.

I sort of ran into the same odd power distribution dynamic the first time I tried running ICONS. I blamed it more on my personal dislike of random generation (i.e. figured it was just me).

Blacksteel said...

I've played around with it and I do like it better. Thanks for the comments guys. It's not so much with one roll-up that you notice it, but over several of them the flavor does change.

@BA - I won't claim that it's suddenly going to make you like random chargen but if someone twists your arm it might make it less painful