Thursday, May 2, 2013

Revelations From a Month of Character Building - ICONS

After building all of those characters I thought I would share some of the things I found along the way. Those of you who play it a lot already probably know this stuff but for others who do not:

  • Challenges are the "intake" - they are how you gain Determination. In fact, they are the only really reliable way to do it as different GM's will handle the other methods somewhat differently.
  • Qualities are the "outflow" - they open up the opportunity to spend that Determination. There are a few ways to use it without tagging a quality (like healing) but most of the fun stuff requires you to tag to spend it.

So one consideration when creating a character is to keep some kind of balance between them. You don't want to have a bunch of Challenges and then not have any Qualities you can use to spend all of that D. Looking at the Qualities:

  • Catchphrases and Epithets - These are versatile, easy ways to open up some Determination. You can work them in to almost any situation, from combat to a dinner banquet. If you have a solid concept it's fairly easy to come up with one of them at least. 
  • Connections and Identity - these are likely to apply more in social situations than a brawl  -no one cares what you like or who your friends are when the punches start flying. It's good to have some non-combat options though. If a connection is taken hostage then you do have a combat use for them!
  • Motivations - also fairly versatile and also fairly common - try to think of one if possible. These are also fairly easy to tie in to a Challenge, say a personal behavior issue,  to give a nice matched pair of ways to earn Determination and ways to spend it.
With Challenges, it helps to think about how and when they will be used as well,
  • Bad Luck - this is largely GM driven but it is versatile. I suspect it will come up the most often in combat or action scenes and can be unpleasant when it does.
  • Enemy - this is handy but it means they will be showing up a lot over a campaign. If you can make it an enemy group then your GM will have a little more variety when dropping ninjas on your head. Again I see this one leading into combat most of the time.
  • Personal - this is one where a player has a little more control over the circumstances where it will matter. In Champions these would be physical and psychological limitations and would vary wildly from character to character, from Honor Codes to Berserker Rage, to missing an arm. There are a lot of ways to use these kinds of things in social and action situations. Also, if you can link some kind of obsession or honor code back to a Motivation, then you have a really nice setup for generating and then spending your Determination.
  • Social - funny looks, bad attitudes, a bad smell, weird beliefs - these tend to be the non-combat things that come up. Maybe you can link them back to a Connection or an Epithet or Catchphrase.
  • Weakness - usually a combat-based Challenge but if you go broad and pick something like an allergy to sunlight then you should have all kinds of opportunities to gain Determination. Like Bad Luck, I'd be careful with this one. 

Ideally I would want a mix of combat and noncombat Aspects without crippling the character. This is an area where you can personalize and bring a concept together even on a randomly generated hero:
  •  Extra Limbs? Spines? Body of Flame? Surely there's an easy Social Challenge there
  • Lots of offensive powers? Maybe your hero is vengeful, bloodthirsty, or goes berserk? Going the other direction, maybe he fights only when attacked or has a code of honor?
  • No offensive powers? Maybe he's afraid of melee combat or has a Weakness tied to punches or edged weapons.
  • Powers that make no sense? Maybe you're a lab accident or failed experiment. That leads to an obvious Enemy in your creator and maybe a personal issue of "can't remember own origin story".
  • "Trained" origins seem like good candidates for personal challenges, particularly psychological ones. 

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