Thursday, April 22, 2021

ICONS Menagerie


I admit I haven't run ICONS in a while but I still follow the game and figure I will probably run it in the not too distant future. A while back I decided to catch up on the steady stream of supplements that Ad Infinitum has been releasing and now I have a stack of books for ICONS sitting on the desk. As I work my way through them I will share my thoughts here. 

From the beginning ICONS was a nicely complete system. The original book managed to pack in some stock characters, animals, and supervillains on top of a complete superhero RPG. This made it easy to run right out of that first book. The Assembled Edition had even more of this kind of support built in. Additionally the game has never lacked hero and villain options with multiple books of those - a supers RPG staple - showing up in the first year ... which was 2010?! How has it been more than ten years since this game came out?  

Menagerie is dated 2020 so strong support continues into the now. If books of supervillains are the monster manual of superhero games then this is ... a lot like a monster manual for -other- games. A strong point - this is not just a bunch of statblocks. 

  • The first ten pages discuss how animals were designed for ICONS and their role in a superhero campaign
  • Then we get twenty pages of regular, real-world animals grouped by type. stats, powers, qualities, and a general description for each animal entry.
  • After this we have 5 pages of animal powers, including specific coverage of Animal Mimicry where a character's powers are based on directly duplicating the powers of an animal. This is a common enough thing that it's worth covering here especially. It's sort of a power framework or array (to steal terms form other supers games) that lets you turn that first part of the book into your own personal power catalog. Handy!
  • Next we have about ten pages of Prehistoric Creatures that hits all the expected notes and briefly discusses ways these things could end up in your modern day superhero game ... because with any decent GM you know they will.

  • Getting towards the back of the book we have Fantastic Creatures - this is your actual D&D Monster Manual section. Angels, Demons, Dragons, Elementals, Fairies, Undead - this is a solid representation of "normal" fantasy monsters and there are multiple entries for most of those categories. Much like dinosaurs a GM worth his salt is going to drop these in at some point. 
  • The last section, about 5 pages, is pretty much your typical sci-fi movie monster set - androids, robots, giant bugs, blobs ... all reasonable things to drop into a superhero campaign.

So it's a solid book and I think it's an excellent purchase for anyone running an ICONS game or thinking about running an ICONS game - because it will help spawn some new ideas. As always Dan Houser's art is perfect for this game and has only gotten better over the (ten!) years.