Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Inspirations for ICONS

Icons: Now here we already have the Determination mechanic so it's debatable whether we need another hero-point type of system but let's experiment. Some thoughts...

Determination is gained through Qualities and Challenges and is pretty flexible. To me the highest and best use of Determination is for Focused Effort, Power Stunts and Retcons - things outside the mechanical framework of the game, or the "do cool stuff" points. To encourage more of this, I'd like to offload many of the straight mechancial effects onto Inspirations, making a clear separation in the minds of the players and the DM.

One of the rationales for Determination is that it represents how Batman can keep up with Superman when the going gets tough. The problem is that "Batmen" can get sidetracked and end up burning their Determination on bonuses to die rolls trying to keep up with Supes' damage output instead of retconing some holy water, sleeping gas, or shark-repellent out of the lab next door or happening to personally know the world's foremost expert on Black Holes  or power-stunting into Intellect 7 to convince the lethal computer it is flawed and imperfect and should therefore self-destruct (instead of trying to punch  its armored CPU with Strength 4). I see Determination as a sort of wild card option that in some ways works outside the mechanical framework of the game, but mechanics can be fun too so we need an option for that too - hence, Inspirations!

Inspirations are gained during encounters regardless of the character's abilities and grants a specific, limited bonus. Also, I'd like to get away from the strictly mathmatical concept and and the three levels and go instead with a result shifting approach. I'm fine with defining them by mechanical effect, I just don't want a bunch of +1 to this or +2 to this.

 Insight (Accuracy) - This would shift the result of any one attack up by one level - turn a miss into a hit, turn a normal hit into a possible slam or a possible slam into a possible stun

 Enrage (Damage) - For one attack the power or attribute counts as having a rating of 10

 Luck (Defense) - +2 to any one attribute check

 Back in the Fight (Endurance) Endurance is not used in ICONS so we could leave this one out but why not make it a free Stun avoider? Play it when hit with an attack that requires a Slam/Stun/Kill check and the character automatically passes the check

 Resurgence (Healing) - Regain the higher of Strength or Willpower

 Sturdy (Resist Damage) - Ignore all but one point of damage from one attack

 Break Free (Resist Effects) - Remove any one condition such as restrained or immobilized or blinded or deafened

 Awaken (Resurrection) - Remove the Unconscious/Stunned/Dead condition. After use the hero is fully conscious and at 1/2 Stamina

I would begin by limiting each character to 3 Inspirations at a time - it allows us to give them some impact, as outlined above, and it forces players to make interesting choices as to which ones to keep ready. Do you go all-offensive and keep an Accuracy, a Damage, and a Luck? Or do you go defensive, and keep a Heal, A Break Free, and a Resist Damage? Maybe a mix? As a reward for some particularly inspiring mission one could up the capacity to 4 or 5 at once, but I would definitely limit it to 5 or you may end up playing a completely different game where the dice have much less impact. Plus, not being able to keep one of everything reigns in the hoarders. I would not tie it into each character's starting determination because that means a lot of them are going to be running around with only 1 or 2 inspirations and these are supposed to be the same for every character regardless of powers, attributes, or levels.

Awarding Inspirations: In general, I would make sure each character had a chance for at least one new inspiration per "Encounter" by which I mean a fight or some kind of threateneing challenge. Inspiration effects are mostly combat oriented so that's mostly where they should be earned. Note that one Chapter might contain several fights or challenges, so one per Chapter means the heroes run out quickly or hoard them for the Big Fight. Don't do that - hand 'em out for each fight and watch them get used. How should you decide which ones to award? Random rolls!

1- (1-3 Awaken, 4-6 Break Free)
2 - Insight
3 - Luck
4 - Resurgence
5 - Sturdy
6 - (1-3  Enrage, 4-6 Back in the Fight)

...or you could just draw them out of a cup, but that's tomorrow's post.

I considered revising the system to tie one type of inspiration to each of the Attributes in ICONS but it devolves into a boring "+2 to any Prowess check" and "+2 to any Intellect" check kind of thing and that's not what I want to do in an ICONS game. We can cover the generic bonus in one type of Inspiration and have some fun with the rest. It's not hard to figure out if that floats your boat.

I can see some utility here in con games or any run with pregenerated characters. If you know the scenario and you know the capabilities of the characters in advance, then you could "pre-load" them with certain inspirations to try and help them through some of the tough spots. You could also go the opposite route and let the players pick three themselves based on their own take on the character. To complete the triangle of versatility, you could also have the players roll randomly at the beginning which would especially fit if you're making them roll up random PC's in the first place.

One interesting question - should players be able to trade inspirations? They aren't technically gear, in fact they aren't really physical at all, but it could make things interesting and it certainly would promote some player interation. I would say "try it" and see how it works in your game.

Finally, should NPC's have Inspirations? No. If you start awarding bonuses to your bad guys, all you're doing is negating the player bonuses and you end up back in the same place you were without Inspirations but with this little subsystem added to your game and that seems pointless. Leave it as a heroes-only kind of thing and assume that they're probably going to win most of the time. If you want to let your villains get away with something then award determination instead.

I'm going to try these out in my next ICONS adventure and I'll let y'all know how it goes.


Theron said...

I'll be interested in seeing how this goes.

Out of curiosity, do you have The Villainomicon? It's got some nice alternate rules for Determination use.

Blacksteel said...

Hi Theron - We're in the middle of an adventure right now but on the next one I plan to try it out. I don't have the villainomicon yet but it's on the list.