Tuesday, 29 November 2016

ICONS Stats for Ash Williams


Prowess 5
Coordination 6
Strength 4
Intellect 2
Awareness 4
Willpower 6


Boomstick (Blast Shooting Device) Level 5 (Limit: Burnout)

Chainsaw Arm (Strike Device) Level 5 (Limits: Burnout, Preparation)


Leadership, Occult, Technology (Master), Weapons: Blades (Expert), Weapons: Guns (Expert)


Promised One/El Jefe
This is my Boomstick!!!
Chainsaw for a Hand

ICONS Stats for Darth Vader


Prowess 8
Coordination 8
Strength 4
Intellect 5
Awareness 4
Willpower 4


The Force (Cosmic Power) Level 7: Absorption, Binding, Blast, Danger Sense, Detection (Emotion, Life, The Force), Extrasensory Perception, Leaping, Precognition, Telekinesis, Telepathy.

Lightsaber (Strike Device) Level 10 (Extra - Reflection)

Armor (Damage Resistance Device) Level 4 (Extra: Life Support - Vacuum)


Military (Expert), Occult (Master), Pilot (Master), Power: The Force (Master), Technology (Expert), Weapons: Blades (Master)


More Machine Than Man
Chosen One
Dark Lord of the Sith

Dread LARP

  Here's a fun idea for a horror LARP; Using the Dread RPG rules, which make use of a Jenga tower instead of dice.

  You see, the rules of Dread are all about players pulling blocks out of the tower when they attempt things, so imagine an in-doors LARP with a Jenga tower in every room available to players. When someone needs to attempt an action or at the behest of a GM, they do as they would normally do in Dread. (All block pulling should be done in front of a GM.) Different rooms could have different levels of difficulty too. For example, a room could have a tower with many blocks already removed to indicate it's a creepy place, while a place that is safe has a full tower with no blocks removed yet at the beginning of the game.

  Example: Two players in a haunted house scenario walk in and see a tower that has many blocks removed. One of them says "We should go... This place feels unnaturally cold."

  In other words, instead of trying to avoid meta-gaming regarding the state of the towers, make the fact that players can see the them part of the experience. ("I have a bad feeling about this!")

  As a fun side-note, it can actually explain why in a horror story the party is split so often! Players won't want to all start pulling from the same tower because the odds of it falling down will increase faster, but they won't have any back-up if things go wrong afterwards either!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

ICONS Requests

  I got two requests to follow-up on some ideas explored in ICONS-centric posts I made, one about using the system for Warcraft RP and the other regarding an example of the system in play in my final ICONS review. Let's do this.

  Here are three Class Skills for the requested classes and how I'd translate them into ICONS.


Hamstring: 'Strike' with 'Binding' as a Mastered Stunt  In the MMORPG it slows the target down, but in this case it would be a little more efficient since it can fully stop an opponent.

Intimidating Shout: Emotion Control (Limit: Fear Only. Extra: Burst)

Bladestorm: 'Aura' with an appropriate Limit so it doesn't become a main form of attack and remains a special attack sort of thing. Limits that make sense for this are 'Burnout', 'Degrades' or 'Tiring'.


Healing Surge: Healing (Extra: Ranged)

Ghost Wolf: Energy Form (Extra: Super-Speed, Limit: No Flight)

Water Walking: Super-Speed (Extras: Surface Speed -water only-, Affects Others, Limits: Extras Only.) This one got weird, so let me explain it. The only place where I saw the ability to walk on water was with Surface Speed, an Extra to Super-Speed. By taking the Extra Only Limit, I nullify the super speed and remain only with the ability to walk on water. Except Water Walking can also Affect Others, so I add that, except it's now two effects, which kind of abuses the 'Extra Only' Limit... So we remove walls from the Surface Speed extra, basically we put a Limit on the Extra to balance things out, which also works thematically since Water Walking should not allow people to walk up walls too. Ta-daaa.


  And now for another example of interpreting a comic-book scene using ICONS rules!

  Oh yeah, I'm going there!!! Batman vs Hulk!!! And believe it or not, under ICONS rules, it's actually a pretty fair fight! Let's work this out.

  At first, Batman has used his Gadgets power to replicate Stunning, rolling vs the Hulk's Strength... And the Caped Crusader gets a Moderate Success!!!

  "But Hulk has a Strength of 10 for sure!" I hear theoretical nay-sayers exclaim. And he sure does, but Batman's Gadgets power is also up there. And the dice rolls probably were on Batman's side. Now, you'll notice that story-wise Hulk seems to simply have resisted it, but notice also how he doesn't do anything else during that page? The narration is going with what makes sense story-wise and explains it that way, but in fact per the rules, Hulk is stunned for one page and that's why he's just standing there holding his breath and not attacking Batman or doing anything else.

  So while Hulk just stands there stunned per the rules and holding his breath per the story, Batman decides to do a Stunt. I'm giving him a Prowess of 7, but even if someone would claim that Batman shouldn't go over the human limit, we can all agree he has the Martial Arts Specialty at Master level anyway, so he can Stunt away no matter what his Prowess is. And his Stunt of choice is replicating Stunning again.

  Batman justifies to the GM that since the gas from his Gadgets use would still be in the air, he tries to kick the Hulk in a way that won't physically hurt him but will force him to draw in air and thus breathe in the sleeping gas. He also uses Improved Effort because he has to roll against Hulk's Strength. Batman actually has the advantage here. Hulk has a Strength of 10, but if you add up Batman's Prowess (+7), Martial Arts Specialty (+3) and Improved Effort (+2) you get a 12!

  The rolls go in Batman's favor again and Batman gets a Massive Success, incapacitating Hulk for the Chapter!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

'ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition' Final Review

  This one's really good. I want to start with that right away because my impression after the first game I ran was actually negative.

  I ran more ICONS games since then, and I gotta say that once you know how to use its narrative-driven rules, it works VERY well.

  So the short review is: If you want a superhero RPG that feels just like the comics do, get this one.

  And now for a more complete review:

  This is the one superhero game I know of where characters of different power levels can play together and it still works. I'm not saying it's always perfect, but of all the superhero systems I have played, this is the one that can actually make it happen. (I'm not claiming that it's the only superhero system that accomplishes this as I haven't tried them all.)

  During my initial negative first impression I complained about the apparent fragility of heroes without physical powers. I didn't realize at the time that the system allows every character to narratively replicate such powers via the Stunt system. (A character hiding behind a tree, for example, replicates having armor, etc.) So this system actually makes it possible for Batman to single-handedly stop the White Martians...

In this example, Batman took a Page of preparation and used his Gadgets power (Simple Gas and matches in this case) to replicate the Nullification power, taking away the powers of the White Martians. Story-wise Batman's player uses the White Martians' weakness to fire to accomplish this, since all of their powers have the 'Blocked by Fire' Limit. One could argue he used two Pages to also replicate Binding so the White Martians couldn't go anywhere, as they are surrounded by the fire. As for how he deduced their weakness, he probably used his 'World's Greatest Detective' Quality. 

While also leaving the possibility of a normal human knocking him out. And it all works with the same rules.

Here, a criminal knocks out Batman with the butt of his gun. Either he managed to attack Batman by surprise and so the Dark Knight couldn't react and took the hit like a normal human (his cowl was not armored back in those days) or the GM actually informs him he's been knocked out by surprise without any dice-rolling and gives the player a point of Determination to use later if Batman's player accepts the Trouble.

  So already just in that regard, this is very comic-book-like. I love it, now that I understand it. 

  I'll just throw two disclaimers though; 

1. Any players who struggle with what to do on their turn in games where the options are pretty simple, and/or who need to have a specific and complete list of what they can and cannot actually do, might actually have trouble using this system to its fullest. To be blunt, that will be more of a player problem than a system problem, but it's still relevant to point out. 
2. It is a PAIN to find rules in this book. Looking for how to do something will send you back and forth through the book because many rules are used in unison. There are no specific pages given for where to find rules either, just whole chapters. The good thing is that once you know them you don't need to look up in the book that often because the rules are not difficult per se, but for the first few games where you simply don't remember all the details, expect a few pauses in the game to look up how something works, and to be looking for it longer than you would have with a more complicated system. I find that ironic.

  GMs, you know your group. I think most players will love the fact that they can come up with new ways the use their powers on the spot, or argue about how their story-centric Qualities might affect the narrative and/or give them a bonus in certain situations. It also encourages the players to accept setbacks and you'll even have occasions where players themselves point out flaws their characetrs have and suggest how it could work against them because they will be rewarded for it with Determination points. (Which they can use to their advantage later on.) 

  I think most GMs will love that coming up with NPC stats is ridiculously quick. I can, no joke, create a bad guy NPC with really complex super-powers in maybe 5 minutes, and that's including the time it takes to write down the stats and such.

  ICONS is now my go-to game for superhero RP. I don't feel bad about my initial first impression because I do think it's a mistake in the book's editing, where it didn't make things easy to find, but nevertheless now that I am familiar with it I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Monday, 19 September 2016

I Got a Scary-Looking Dragon

Not actual gameplay, I just wanted to check out what the dragon would look like at the gaming table!

 So I got myself a badass dragon miniature the other day. It's actually a toy and not a RPG miniature but it's perfectly sized for my needs.

  I like to use 3rd edition sizes as reference and this dragon is Huge. So an adult dragon then. (A friend pointed out that since the wings were not separate from the front limbs it was actually a wyvern, but whatever, wyverns are a dragon type anyway and I can come up with my own dragons if I want to! *Grumbles*)

  The purist in me told me that although I could use this guy as a red dragon, that's not what it really was. So it got me to thinking about what cool special attacks it could have, and about how this dude looks scary and I want him to do creepy stuff, not just have a breath weapon that does lots of damage. Breath Weapons are a great classic, don't get me wrong, but I want my players to feel like they're going up against a MONSTER in the creepiest sense of the word. Or I guess you could say I'm trying to give the good ol' dragon a Lamentations of the Flame Princess sort of Weird Fantasy spin.

Anyway, here's a quick brainstorm of scary stuff my dragon could do. Not sure what I'll end up keeping, if anything. Feedback is appreciated.

Scary Dragon Special Attacks (Draft)

  • If this attack is chosen, the dragon is female and can swallow one medium oponent, as per the Swallow Whole special attack. If the victim dies in there, the dragon lays an egg and the victim comes out of the egg, fully revived and transformed into a draconic humanoid of the same alignment as the dragon and loyal to it. (This special ability would almost certainly come with a story hook of the dragon creating an army of draconic humanoid servants.) In a way it gives the dragon a Xenomorph kind of vibe, which could be an interesting way to go.
  • The dragon has spikes on his tail... On a successful tail strike, the first Medium creature hit must make a saving throw or be impaled on the spikes and stuck to the tail! Every tail attack that follows would equally hurt the one stuck and the new target of the tail swing.
  • When killed, this dragon vomits out its acidic entrails on whoever's facing him in a last attempt to take one or more adventurers with him.
  • This dragon has a special attack that's extremely similar to Mummy Rot but with scales growing on the victim's skin. (They don't make the victim's AC any better though, the scales are not hard enough.)

  As an addendum, the 3.5 Draconomicon stated somewhere that dragons are more similar to cats than reptiles. Cats are often kind of sadistic, playing with their prey. One thing is seeing a dragon fly over some people and fry them with his breath weapon. Another is to see the dragon flick gutted victims with his talons for fun, like a cat with a mouse.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

World of Warcraft: ICONS - The Tauren

  O.k, since my last post about using ICONS for a tabletop RPG set in the World of Warcraft was basically just me saying "Hey, this system would work pretty well for this!", here's an actual example of how I would apply it. It's very simple.

  Here are the Tauren's racial traits, taken from WoWWiki:

  • War Stomp: Grab the 'Stunning' power with the 'Burst' Extra. 
  • Endurance: I would say Taurens should be allowed to take Strength up to 7, which is Low Superhuman. Since in ICONS the Stamina stat is partially derived from Strength, I don't think it's required to take Endurance as a power, their toughness in combat is already taken care of there. (I don't think any Tauren character should take a Strength below 4.)
  • Cultivation: ICONS states that the Science Specialty can optionally be divided into separate Specialties for individual Sciences. It seems like a fitting rule for Warcraft. This one would become 'Science: Herbalism'. I wouldn't really bother with the fact that Tauren are supposedly better than other races at this. If a Tauren player feels it's really important, they can always take the Specialty, but honestly in WoW there's plenty of Tauren players who don't pick up Herbalism. Optionally, players could take their Race and Class as Qualities and apply their 'Tauren' Quality to use their Herbalism better and faster than others.
  • Nature Resistance: We use the 'Resistance' power to create 'Resistance: Nature'. The Game Master can use common sense regarding what would apply as a 'Nature' attack or not.

  Simple as that! I'd basically tell players to take their Racial Traits first, and then they can choose their 'Class' powers. I wouldn't feel a strict need for players to replicate a starting character in WoW, since the needs of the MMORPG don't reflect exactly how things work in the lore. For example, if someone wants to make a Goblin Engineer, I wouldn't demand that they also choose a Class from the game. Plus players can always replicate Class Skills they might not have access to yet via Stunts.


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

World of Warcraft using ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying

  Just a quick idea here, but it occurs to me that ICONS is well-suited to replicate something like a high-powered Fantasy MMORPG at the table in a storytelling-focused way instead of mechanically. <Insert 4th Edition D&D jokes here.>

  The way I see it is that ICONS already has everything to replicate all the racial traits, abilities, skills and powers you could find in the game.

  You want to make a Draenei Warrior with the Gift of the Naaru? No problem. A Goblin Engineer with outlandish gadgets? Easy as pie. Magic objects and weapons would obviously be devices too.

  Honestly I don't even see the need to come up with house rules here. I would simply say, use the optional point-buy system in this case, refer to the Warcraft games and/or lore when creating characters, and you should be fine. (For example, yes you can make a Tauren with a Strength of 7, but not a Gnome with that same Strength, or at least not without the right device/explanation.)

P.S: Yes, I know there was an OGL game for Warcraft/World of Warcraft but it's out-of-print and many things are not up to date with the game as we know it now, even by the time Burning Crusade came out.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

ICONS Cease-Fire

  I was super harsh on ICONS in my last post. While I feel that my complaints about how hard it is to find the rules within the book cannot be denied, many comments that readers left me (some from Steve Kenson, the game's author) have made me realize that my players and I might not have been using the system to its full potential.

  I believe I should have waited one more game or two before announcing such a strong opinion, but if anything that post is still good as a 'first impression', or as a warning of what can happen if you go into the game without thoroughly knowing all of its tools. (I'd even go further and say that this is a game where the players better know the rules just as much as the GM!)

  To be honest, seeing the author reply also made me realize that it has to suck to work on something you're passionate about for many hours, only to see someone trash it online after a single game. Don't get me wrong, if I try a game and it just doesn't work I won't shy away from saying so, but this was really a case where I hadn't done my homework enough, so to speak. (Although even then I was very open to be proven wrong, because I love the general idea of how the narrative system works.)

  Does that mean all of my negative points are invalidated? I'll wait a bit before replying to that one. I was too quick in the first place to trash the game without giving it some time to see the whole picture, and the comments I read coming to its defense made a lot of sense to me, but I'll actually try them out first before jumping to more conclusions.

  In my defense regarding my initial impression, searching through the rules was a frustrating experience that didn't help matters. For the next print/rules revision, I beg the author and/or editor to include actual page numbers, not just whole chapters. If there's one thing that I still feel strongly about, is that the way it's organized now doesn't help new players enjoy the game when they have to spend many minutes looking for how one thing works and the book throws them around like a ping pong ball. Just adding page numbers would make it a much more newbie-friendly product. But that has nothing to do with the rules themselves. (And again, I want to specify that the rules are mostly easy to understand, they're just hard to find.)

  So I owe it to myself and to everyone who read and replied to my post to take my time, to get the rules right and run a few more games before I come up with a final opinion. (Or as final as opinions can be in social games!) I'll admit I'm now leaning towards a positive impression after reading the comments and then reading certain rules again, but I'd rather not go there just yet.

  Anyway, in the spirit of good fun, I made these:

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

So I Finally Tried the ICONS RPG...

Yes, that is a graph calculator and an elements table next to the ICONS book and a character sheet. One of my players got Transmutation powers and she happens to study science. She took it very seriously to portray her powers in a scientifically accurate way... :p

  I have been waiting a long time to finally run an ICONS game. I love the random character creation and the story-centric rules that are in the game, so I wish that I could come back with a glowing review; It seems to be the norm whenever I search for reviews and comments regarding this game. Sadly, the experience me and my players had was very mixed.

  Before I talk about the game itself, I just want to get something out of the way: Finding rules in this book was the worst thing ever. Nothing ever gives you a page number to find a rule in, just the chapter you'll find it in, and you'll often find yourself flipping through the book in utter frustration. When you think you found your answer, you realize that the part of the book you're in discusses one aspect of whatever you were looking for, then refers you to another part of the book for the rest of the rules. And don't forget that when it refers you to another part of the book, it'll of course just give you the chapter it's in, not a page number. 
  To be blunt, if you're gonna get this game, don't buy a physical copy, buy the PDF. Or buy a physical copy that comes with a PDF. My friends were so eager to play the game that they got a PDF copy ahead of time and thankfully they could search for words on their tablet, which helped. (But some words come up often enough in the book where we'd often be searching for a rule all at the same time. Me on the book, one of my players on their tablet and the other on their computer!) 
  To be fair, the rules aren't hard to understand, especially once you accept that a lot of them are GM biased (which is entirely normal for a story-centric rules system) but I would be doing a disservice to the reader if I didn't point out they are hard to find.

  Okay, with that aside. Wanna know what I've been wanting to include in a superhero game ever since I decided I wanted to run one at some point?: Ninjas.

Lots and lots of ninjas.

  It's a trope that just looks cool to me for some reason, heroes fighting lots of ninjas. And it led to perhaps the most frustrating moment I had as a GM running that game. 
  You see, none of the two players have powers related to damage resistance or super healing or anything like that. But that's fine, right? I mean, Daredevil doesn't have those either but in ICONS terms he'd have good Prowess, Coordination and Willpower scores and a few Determination points for if things go wrong, so he'd be fine. Right? Wrong. (Actually he'd be even more screwed since his powers, none of them related to fighting, would take -much needed for survival- Determination Points away from him.) It is my opinion that if you were to stat out Daredevil for ICONS and had him fight five ninjas, he wouldn't make it out alive. One of my players had just that, good Prowess, Coordination and Willpower. Around 5 or 6 in each, by the book's descriptions of the stats he was a martial arts master. (I don't remember the exact stats but he should have mopped the floor with five ninjas if the game played like a comic-book story.) And before anyone familiar with the game asks, yes I was using the Minions optional rule where lesser bad guys go down with only one hit. Even then, a fight with five non-powered ninjas almost got two superheroes killed
  For the female player, who had a character with a low Prowess score and an average Coordination score, I could have accepted it. Her strength was in her powers, not in her fighting skills. (Which was already moving away from the comic-book heroics I was expecting from the game and oddly entering 'realistic and gritty' territory regarding fights.) But for the other player, his stats as described in the ICONS book had fooled me into thinking I could treat him like a great martial artist should be treated like in a superhero comic-book. That fight was stressful when it should have been a scene where the heroes mop the floor with the minions before facing the real threat. 
  (Funny/Sad side-note: At first there were ten ninjas for that fight. After one of them got a character with his sword once, I decided there were only five of them after all.)
  I am already thinking of ways to possibly fix that, because my players and I want to give the game a fair shot and we're willing to try another session. Right now the house rules I'm thinking of are making non-important NPCs roll d4s instead of d6s and maybe doubling the Stamina score for all PCs and important characters. I'm still pondering it. I honestly wonder if there is a rule or two I have missed that is the reason why the game didn't feel right regarding that. I guess I could be even more generous with Determination Points (Which I was already!) but then if everyone gets plenty of DPs without fear of running out, characters with less powers have nothing going for them compared to the others.

  So why does it get such good reviews then? Because for the things it does wrong (Again, unless I've missed important aspects of the rules which would change everything!) it also does other things very right. The fight with the final boss was really fun and did feel like a comic-book scene. No one just traded blows, we all did interesting things during the fight. That bit was great. It's the reason why we want to give it another shot, even if perhaps a seriously house-ruled one.

  And that's what I suspect happened there. People who played/ran the game probably had fights that were more often than not superheroes vs super-villains. So if a hero struggled against a super-villain, it felt right. And everyone got to go crazy with the use of powers, which is the best part of the game. I suspect none of them really bothered or even felt like putting their heroes up against regular people to realize how squishy the heroes could actually be unless they had powers that properly addressed resisting damage. I guess I could let players use the option to choose their own powers in the future for this game, but it seems to me like part of the fun in a game like this is randomly rolling your powers, plus the fact that you couldn't do someone like Daredevil justice doesn't seem right to me.

  I don't mean to trash on the game, I really want to make it work at my table and I'm actually hoping someone will point me to a rule I could have gotten wrong or something. (Since things are hard to find in the book, that could be the case.) I appreciate input from anyone who has advice for running an ICONS game if they see I might have missed something here.