Friday, July 20, 2012

One Year of ICONS - and some Rules Tweaks

We've been playing some ICONS here in addition to the Great Pathfinder Experiment and some M&M chargen. Modern, WW2, 3 or 4 different sets of characters - we've covered a lot of ground. After our first year of ICONS I'm considering the following three rules tweaks:

"Heroic Toughness" - All heroes start with Invulnerability 2. This is to give the guys who roll no defense a little more durability against mooks with guns. With most mook/agent types having a Strength of 3 or 4 and with pistols coming in at a 3 or 4 this makes a big difference to the hero but it means that the group of normals is still a measurable threat. For a Mighty game I might even push this to a 3 and make handguns and normal strength pretty much a non-threat to the heroes but I'm going to start with 2 and see how it goes. NOTE: This is not a "+2" it's a "2", as in if you roll Invulnerabilty 8 as a power then you have Invulnerability 8 - not 10.

"Heroic Determination" - More determination gives the players more options, but I'm seeing a lot of characters that start with 1 and only a few that start with 2. I want them to have enough powers and abilities to feel "super" and the lack theoretically gives them an incentive to play up Qualities and Challenges, but it also promotes a stinginess as "I only have 1". I think starting with more Determination will break this barrier and encourage the spending of it, and in turn make them more interested in "getting it back" through the means already in the game. So, the new experimental rule is that starting determination is 10 - # of powers. This should ensure everyone starts with at least 3-4 points ready to go before the reporter girlfriends and the enemies start showing up.

"Heroic Versatility" - This is specific to one use of Determination - the power stunt. In the rules a player must tag something, spend a point of determination to stunt, then they have to roll to see if they can pull it off, THEN they might have to roll again to use the new power if it's some kind of attack or other contested effect. I'm dropping the roll to pull it off - if you can  tag and have a point to spend (and can justify it) then you can stunt into another power and you only have to roll if there's opposition or some way to fail when you use the new power, like an attack. I'm doing this because anytime there's a die roll there's a chance of failure, and if the Apprentices think of something cool I don't want them to fail before they even get to try the cool thing - if they fail at the action that's one thing, but they at least had the chance to pull it off. Plus, there are ways to increase one's chances to succeed too, if it's important enough.

Now the toughness and versatility changes are not something I alone invented - they are tweaks that have been discussed in many quarters but I wanted to get in more playing time before implementing them.

I haven't seen as much discussion of a change to starting determination but I'm sure I'm not the first to try it. I'm not worried about it being overpowered - this is a superhero game after all - but I do want to see if my theory proves true. I am also going to start using physical tokens - in this case glass beads - to represent Determination. I think having only a single glass bead out on the table would just emphasize the "gotta hang onto it" mentality but that having 4 or 5 of them in a little pile will encourage the spending of them even more, Call it a multiplier effect. I think it will enhance the change.

The Apprentices don't return until Sunday but I think our first try-out of these rules will be that  night, probably with "Day of the Swarm" from Fainting Goat which looks like a lot of fun. "Outside Atomic City, danger stirs beneath the earth ..."


MIK said...

I've been sitting on the book for some time now we just haven't played it yet. We want to though, it looks great, and these tweaks will come in handy. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I think more Determination is not the fix you are looking for. I have found when running or playing games with similar mechanics - Savage Worlds, M&M, FATE, even WoD - that the thing to do is remind the players what they can do to add to their totals and get the ones they've spent, back. I always get a hoarder. Nature of the beast I think, but once one player gets it, the others tend to follow suit pretty quick.

The most important thing is the physical marker (glass bead, poker chip, what have you). Although, I could see adding 1 or 2, just so no one starts with only 1.

Unknown said...

Another option just occurred to me. Don't count "bonus powers" towards the total. This might help, too.

Blacksteel said...

Mik - it's a great game - good luck!

CR - Well in Savage Worlds everyone starts with 3 Bennies, typically, and it works pretty well - that's part of what is making me want to up the number from our usual 1-2 in ICONS. Starting at 1 means a player has to work just to be able to try more than 1 thing right from the start. I'm hoping that having a pile to begin with encourages them to use them early and then realize that they want to get some back to do more cool things. If it turns out to be too much I will scale it back. With 1 I get a lot of "save it for a big fight" when spending one here or one there along the way could make things easier or at least more interesting. The tokens make a big difference in SW so I'm going to be using them here and with Marvel HR too.