Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vehicles in ICONS - Part 2 - Justice Wheels

I downloaded the first "Justice Wheels" from Fainting Goat a while back but at the time it only had the vehicle and the character inside. Recently they updated their supplements to add a few pages covering the Vehicle power and a set of chase rules. Seeing this I downloaded the updated version and looked it over after digging through the Marvel rules. Some thoughts:

Vehicle Rules:

  • I still don't like Prowess as an automatic part of every vehicle. Would a Corvette have a higher or lower prowess than a Smart Car? What about a cement truck? Then you get into aircraft and it gets even stranger. I just don't have a way to gauge a vehicle's natural hand-to-hand combat ability and I think it should just be rolled into a driving test when a driver wants to sideswipe or ram something.
  • Speed, Strength and Stamina make sense for pretty much any vehicle - that's pretty much the same trio of abilities that we get in MSH, less Type and Protection. 
  • Then we get Coordination as an innate ability, basically the handling ability of the vehicle. This makes some sense as Coordination is used as the relevant ability for things like driving and piloting tests, modified by any applicable specialties. With these rules, the vehicles Coordination is used instead of the character's, although it is still modified by applicable specialties. Then we are informed that this should also be used for attacking with any vehicle mounted weapons. Presumably the focus here is ranged weapons, and I can kind of see that, but it's a little messy. You would think that ramming something would be even more dependent on vehicle handling than firing a hood-mounted bazooka, but instead this is supposed to use a vehicle's Prowess - that's just messy to me. For myself, I'd drop Prowess and just give them all a Coordination stat and use that for all handling type tests and for any shooting that comes up and for any attempts to smack anything with the vehicle itself. I'd also add in the rule from Marvel that those kinds of tests would use the lower of either the driver's or the vehicle's Coordination.
  • As a power I do like it. To encourage their use I think that vehicle rules in superhero games should give back more points than they cost, with the consideration that the vehicle is not always present and can be lost or destroyed. These rules do that, giving some baseline options just for taking the power and then also including some notes on adding powers to the vehicle.

Chase Rules:

  • The simpler approach given is to use a Pyramid test with some of the optional rules added in. That works but it's not anything particularly innovative. My biggest beef is that it would be over in one or two rounds most likely and seems like a fairly mundane approach to what should be a memorable part of an adventure - a dramatic chase!
  • The more complex approach uses a custom set of chase rules which remind me a bit of some of the Savage Worlds chase rules and also a set of custom chase rules I ran across for Star Wars Saga Edition. Now when I say "complex" please realize that this is one page of rules - one page! - and is likely to be much more satisfying in play than "roll 4 successes and win". Pyramids are fine for handling some situations but for a dramatic chase sequence these are much much better. I'll be trying them out in play soon to verify my opinion and I'll cover them in my notes. 
So, is the search over? I think it might be! I'm willing to give up the separate Body/Protection ratings used in MSH to keep things a little simpler, and I'm going to drop Prowess too. I may keep Type though as it does help clarify things a bit when looking at some custom super-vehicle. Even with these changes I think the Marvel vehicle list will translate over just fine and that's where my personal campaign list will start. I think a front and back sheet with the chase rules on one side and a list of stock vehicles on the other is quite worthy as an addition to the campaign. 


Barking Alien said...

I'm glad you've finally came up with a set of mechanics you like.

Not as intimately familiar with any of the parts going into the sum(not a fan of MSH or ICONS), it's hard for me to judge how the end result will play out but you seem to have thought it through very thoroughly.

I've always loved chase scenes in my games but I'll be honest, I only rarely see them in an sort of Superhero game.

My current Champions game (coming to a close in about 3 more sessions) opened with a chase and we've had a few more in the earlier parts of the game but once people fly and teleport everywhere, vehicles get the shaft.

Blacksteel said...

The interesting thing about these chase rules is that they aren't just limited to vehicles - they cover all of the super-movement powers too, and give mechanical bonuses for things like when the pursuer has Flight but the runner has Swinging or Leaping or no power at all. It's in one neat little table that color-coded to show who gets the bonus and for how much so it should be easy to use in play. You could have a wall-crawler chasing a burrower and no one's brain should melt with modifiers or mechanics.

I've run campaigns where it wasn't a big deal but a lot of the Batman movies have big chase sequences. Iron Man gets involved in them sometimes too. It would be nice to put a little structure around an aerial pursuit through the skyscrapers downtown or a teleport chase through the city. I think it may work with other games like M&M too, but I'm going to toss it into ICONS first.

jaerdaph said...

Hi Blacksteel - it's really nice to find another blog that features ICONS regularly. I've been enjoying reading through your thoughts and experiences with the game. :)

I've been using the Justice Wheels Vehicle and Chase Rules a lot lately too, in my game, on my ICONS blog (Just Add Heroes) and I'm also the author of Justice Wheels #8 Galaxy Warden (which features a spaceship as the character's signature vehicle). Another thing I've noticed about Prowess for vehicles is that I tend to use it as a "dump stat" and pull points away from it to add to other stats or powers when customizing my own vehicle builds. So in a way it's kind of nice to have the points if you need them elsewhere.

Anyhow, I'm glad I found your blog, and I look forward to seeing more of your thoughts on ICONS! :)