First off, there’s three house rules I’m incorporating that are already on the System Overview page. The first is a kind of nominations award players can give other players, the second is incorporating Consequences from core FATE, and the third is the standard FATE use for Determination/points.
Other than that, a lot of the powers listed in the ICONS rules are badly balanced. Duplication, for example, is from the Latin meaning “bend the game over the table,” while Chameleon as-written is a lamer form of Invisibility that, while interesting, nobody would bother to take in point-buy. Many of them are variants on ones found on messageboards and the ICONs wiki (such as here).
As an addition, each player will have one Determination that can only be given out to another player as a nomination, as a reward for doing something impressive, excellent roleplaying, humor, etc. It’s both a way to make up for players doing things that the GM didn’t notice or forgot to reward, and to get more Determination flowing in dramatic moments. Let’s face it, the GM has a lot to keep track of and doesn’t always catch everything in a fast-paced game, and there are some things you might find more reward-worthy that others might not. Here’s your chance to rectify that.
The nomination has to be rewarded around the time it occurs; you can’t give Bob a nomination for that hilarious moment he tricked a guard last session, or that time when he chose character-based choices over sensible ones an hour ago, just so he has a few extra determination at a critical moment now. Also, rewarding yourself is just bad form. That kind of takes away the point of nominating others, doesn’t it?
are complications, temporary aspects representing long-term damage you’ve taken. Instead of taking Stamina damage, you can take a Consequence to represent the situational ailments (or what have you) that crop up during combat. A character may take a Consequence to soak some damage and label it “Fatigued” or “Flash Burns.” Higher-level Consequences require more extreme names (and ailments), such as “Broken Leg” or “Crippled.” You can have up to 3 Consequences at any time. They’re more interesting than checking off Stamina, they can be tagged as Aspects, and they prevent you from being Taken Out.
At any time you accept a Consequence, you may make Concessions, which ends the conflict immediately. The downside is that you’re immediately Taken Out; the bright side is that you decide how and why you’re Taken Out, and you don’t have to keep fighting an impossible battle.
Determination: Flat-Rate Bonus
By Invoking your of your character’s Qualities and spending Determination, you can add a +2 bonus to any roll. This can even be applied after the dice have been rolled, but before the GM has indicated the result succeed or failed.
In essence, this reverse-engineers the standard FATE benefit from spending FATE points into ICONS. Spend a point, invoke a related Aspect, gain a +2 bonus.
One of the most irritating things about ICONS is that it doesn’t have rules for Initiative; yeah, I know, awkward. We’ll be adapting how the new Marvel Heroic RPG handles initiative because it’s cool.
Rather than having a set formula or variable to determine who goes first, initiative is based on consensus and description of what’s happening in the scene—either the GM chooses based on what people were doing/wanted to do, or initiative is left to group consensus. Maybe the fastest hero goes first, or the group leader, or whoever speaks up first, or even the enemy if they prepared an ambush that the players didn’t see coming. The GM can spend Determination to force a specific NPC go first, overriding group consensus; the Deter. point goes into the Team Determination Pool.
Whoever goes first decides who gets initiative after they do, and so on and suchwise, with the caveat that whoever goes last automatically goes first in the next round. Thus it’s not always a great idea for the players to all go first and put all the bad guys at the end, since they’ll effectively get two turns back to back… which might be a problem if they have something planned that the group would otherwise rather respond to.
Relevant powers may play into this; any of the following Powers might give someone priority, depending on the GM/group’s consensus: Danger Sense, Fast Attack (only the base power, not any of its bonus powers), Precognition, Super-Senses (only from levels applied to Enhanced Senses), Super Speed.
Time Control itself is not factored, but if Super-Speed or Fast Attack are taken via Time Control, they are both added.
Never Surrender! Never Say Die!
As written, there are a lot of save-or-suck powers in the core rules. As in, “get hit by Power X, get taken out of fight.” Thinking of things like Mind Control, Dream Control, and Power Theft: you’ve got one chance to make your Willpower save, otherwise you’re somebody else’s minion or back to average joe, respectively.
So, a lot of the powers have been tweaked so that they offer secondary saves, or less-brutal effects if the original success wasn’t too impressive.
Skillful + Gadgeteers: Playing Normal Humans
I’ve noticed that a lot of supers games make it hard on uber-trained and gadget-based characters (e.g., Batman and Iron Man). ICONS is sadly little different. Those kinds of characters are awesome. Here, they get a leg up.
So, to clarify the rules. Under Origin – Trained, it says “Powers” come from superior training or gadgets, and under Origin – Gimmick, it says they all come from devices of some kind. Meanwhile, in the first pages of the Powers section, the rules indicate Powers can only come from devices from Trained and Gimmick characters. I’m going to allow some limited Powers for trained or Gimmick heroes that can be inherent, e.g., innate and not device-based, and thus things you can purchase/upgrade over time. (In parenthesis are point-buy/XP costs for these.)
Ability Boost (1)
Danger Sense (7)
Fast Attack (7)
Mind Shield (3)
Super-Senses (4) [Enhanced Only]
Second to Initiative in the realm of “under-developed ICONS rules” is Blocking. Here is an alternative, meant to beef up any “bricks” in the party.
Blocking can be used as a regular Focused Effort, with characters using their Strength in place of Coordination and Prowess. Any character with at least a 7 Strength is allowed to use this alternate Blocking without invoking a Quality first (though a point of Determination must still be spent).
I personally find it odd that Slashing damage is separated so far from Bashing, not only because it creates extra work, but because emphasizing it makes Slashing easier due to its quicker path to a KO. (I guess Wolverine fan-service over Hulk fan-service?)
To simplify, use the Bashing Major and Massive results for all attacks. The only difference is that, now, being KO’d via Slashing means you’re in the Dying mode (per the rules).
Specific Ability Notes:
To provide a general idea of what your Attributes can do.
Strength Lifting Table
1 – 50lbs
2 – 100 lbs
3 – 200 lbs
4 – 400 lbs
5 – 800 lbs
6 – 1 ton
7 – 10 tons
8 – 50 tons
9 – 80 tons
10 – 100 tons +
Specific Specialty Tweaks:
A few modifications to existing Specialties, giving them a little more oomph in the long-term.
Athletics: The bonus adds to Strength for the purpose of determining when a character dies. For example, a character with a Strength of 6 and Athletics Expertise (+2) won’t die until reaching -8. As well, Athletics is added to any relevant Strength tests, including Blocking (see above).
Martial Arts: In addition to the listed effects, Martial Arts also adds to Prowess for the Evade maneuver.
Military: The bonus is added to Initiative in battles that involve leading minions (GM’s call). It is also applied to the use of anything considered a heavy weapon.
Science: For any character with an Intelligence of 7 or higher, the Science Specialty becomes “Science!” This means the bonus applies to any scientific situation, including inventing things.
In addition, where non-combat Specialties are concerned, the GM can allow more than one Specialty to be applied to a test.
Specific Power Tweaks:
In undertaking the “Never Give Up!” above, and trying to diversify the powers that have no distinguishing values between levels 1 and 10, here are a number of modified powers. First, one note:
Power Groups vs Powers: I think it’s important to point out that, despite how they may appear similar, Power Groups are not Powers (or “power effects,” as the rules will sometimes reference them). As such, they can’t be used to replace a Power. Thus, Time Control cannot be taken as a “bonus power,” nor can Elemental Control be chosen as a Wizardry power.
Ability Boost: The level of this power is applied to the Attribute, in lieu of the +2 bonus. The maximum this can raise an Attribute to is 10; any amount of leftover/overflow can be applied to one other Attribute in the same area (Mental or Physical).
Ability Increase: This raises the specific Attribute to 6, or it adds +2 to the Ability, depending on whichever provides the higher result.
Alteration Ray: With a Moderate success, the victim gains a free Willpower test (vs the Power Level) to break free of the power every Page. With a Major Success, they are stuck for a number of pages equal to the Level. With a Massive Success, they are stuck until something can be done (per the GM’s determination). The “Never Give Up” protocol above also applies.
Alternate Form bonus powers: You can take Bonus Powers as appropriate to the form.
Animation: The number of objects you can animate at a time is equal to your Power Level.
Chameleon bonus power: Transformation. This allows you (and you alone) to change your form, allowing you to look and sound like any person you can imagine, regardless of size, gender, etc.
Detection: You can use Detection target enemies that act as a strong source of the Type being detected (e.g., if detecting Energy – Radiation, you could detect an enemy with Radiation Control. Also, you can make an Intellect test (GM sets the target) to analyze the source for further detailed information.
Elemental Control: This is a popular and common Power Group, one that grants an amazing amount of versatility and depth to characters. In order to balance this a bit, any character with an Elemental Control can have no Powers or Abilities above Level 8 (not counting specialties); this makes it versatile, but more focused characters can shine a bit by having greater potential. Also note that you’re not constrained by the elements listed in the book; I’ll accept alternates.
Emotion Control: When using this Power, if you only get a Moderate Success, the victim gets a free test every page, using Willpower, to break free. With a Major Success, the effect lasts for a number of pages equal to the Power Level before another test can be attempted. With a Massive Success, your control is more complete and lasting. The “Never Give Up” protocol above also applies. Additionally, note that you’re not constrained by the emotions listed in the book; I’ll accept alternates.
Force Field bonus power: Defense Bubble. Force Field can be increased to cover an area with a radius equal to Power Level x 20 ft.
Force Field bonus power: Protect Ally. Force Field can be projected to cover someone else within visual range.
Immortality: As written, there’s nothing to differentiate power level 1 from power level 10. As a quick and dirty solution, subtract your character’s power level from 10; that determines how long it takes your character to fully regenerate/regain consciousness. See the Immortality Time Increments chart to determine how long this takes for each power level.
Immortality Time Increments
1 – A month
2 – A few weeks
3 – A week
4 – A few days
5 – A day
6 – A few hours
7 – An hour
8 – Half an hour
9 – 15 minutes
10 – A few minutes
Interface: This can work like Mind Control against AIs, robots, and other intelligent mechanical devices. If used against another person’s gear (such as a Battlesuit), the test will be against the users’ Intellect.
Life Drain: On top of the test to hit the target, the target also gets a Strength test against the level of the Life Drain before it takes effect.
Life Support bonus powers: Additional needs or conditions can be chosen, only limited by your imagination.
Mind Control: With a Moderate Success, the victim gains a free Willpower test each page to shake free of the control. With a Major Success, the effect lasts for a number of pages equal to the Power Level before another test can be attempted. With a Massive Success, however, the control is for much longer (at the GM’s discretion). The “Never Give Up” protocol above also applies.
Paralysis: On a Massive Success, the Paralysis lasts for a number of days equal to the Power Level; the “Never Give Up” Protocol applies here.
Plant Control: You can use your Plant Control power level in place of Coordination and/or Prowess avoid being hit.
Posession: See Mind Control.
Power Theft: First, you are required to hit your target in order to attain their power, either with a successful Prowess (touch) or Coordination (ranged) check. Success indicates the target must make a Willpower check against your power level. A moderate success indicates they gain a free Willpower check (again, against the Power Theft level) to regain their power each Page. With a Major Success, the duration is as stated in the book.
Probability Control: In addition to the as-read options, you can use the Determination to invoke Flat Rate Bonus (as above). You can choose to do so after discovering the results. For Bad Luck, simply invert it by giving the enemy a -2.
Regeneration: This Power provides you with a pool of Determination points that can only be used for Recovery actions, but these points can be used throughout combat (instead of only one per scene). The size of the pool is equal to your Regeneration’s power level. They refresh after the end of a combat scene.
Resistance: Additional resistances can be chosen, only limited by your imagination.
Strike: Like Bashing, Slashing Strikes now do either their Level or Strength+1, whichever is greater.
Telekinesis: If you want to attack without gaining the Attacking Bonus Power, consider it a Supplemental Action (-1 to your die roll) to pick something up to hit the target with, or to pick the target up and slam him into something.
Telepathy: As written, there’s nothing to differentiate power level 1 from power level 10. As a quick and dirty solution, see the Telepathy Range Increments chart to determine the maximum effective distance for each power level.
Telepathy Range Increments
1 – 100 ft.
2 – 1000 ft.
3 – 1 mile
4 – 5 miles
5 – 20 miles
6 – 200 miles
7 – 2,000 miles (a continent)
8 – 20,000 miles (anywhere on Earth)
9 – 200,000 miles (to the Moon)
10 – 200,000,000 miles (halfway to Mars)
Additionally. You can read the mind of any character with a Willpower level lower than your Telepathy level or Willpower, whichever is greater. Minds with greater Willpower are closed to you unless you first tag one of their aspects (see Tagging and Compelling under Aspects). Roll a Telepathy test against the subject’s Willpower to read their thoughts.
You are automatically aware when someone attempts to read your mind and may attempt to block the attempt; both telepaths roll power tests and the greater effort wins.
Telepathy bonus power: Mind Link. A willing subject may merge their mind with yours, allowing for two-way mental communication between you and the subject. Mind Link, however, only allows you to read the surface thoughts of the subject which is sufficient for having a mental conversation just as you would a verbal spoken one. You may add additional subjects to a Mind Link mental conversation at the cost of one Determination point per additional subject, but the Determination may be spent from your pool, the subject’s pool or a Team Determination pool you share with the subject.
Teleportation bonus power: Mass Teleport. You may choose up to your power level in additional subjects to teleport with you; they are subject to the same effects you are.
Wall Crawling: You can make a test against damage done to resist Slamming results. You can also test against Strength or Telekinesis levels to resist being moved by either force
Wizardry: Like Elemental Control, the sheer power of this… power is intimidating. The same rule applies; those with this Power Group are limited to Level 8 (not counting specialties) in all ratings so that more focused characters can revel in a bit more power potential.
And the ones from the Villainomicon:
Offensive power bonus power: Any offensive power can gain the Affects Incorporeal bonus power. An attacker considers incorporeal targets (including those with Phasing) as solid for purposes of hitting them.
Dream Control: Same as for Mind Control.
Mind Switch: If the switch is voluntary, ignore the following, it’s only for attempts to forcibly enter someone’s consciousness. With a Moderate Success, the victim gains a free Willpower test each page to shake free of the control. With a Major Success, the effect lasts for a number of pages equal to the Power Level before another test can be attempted. With a Massive Success, however, the control is for much longer (at the GM’s discretion). The “Never Give Up” protocol above also applies.
Sleep: With a Moderate Success, the victim gains a free Willpower test each page to wake up. With a Major Success, the effect lasts for a number of pages equal to the Power Level before another test can be attempted. With a Massive Success, however, the control is for much longer (at the GM’s discretion). The “Never Give Up” protocol above also applies.
And some new additions:
Blast and Strike bonus power: Piercing. This effect reduces the value of a target’s Invulnerability (or Armor, or the like) by 2. Piercing does not affect Force Field (or any defensive effect that acts like one, such as a gadget, or a base’s containment field). The GM determines what counts as Invulnerability and what counts as a Force Field.
Conjuration (Control Power): You can conjure an existing object from someplace in the world to wherever you are.
Mind Tap (Mental Power): You can tap into the mind of someone you can see, allowing you to use their knowledge and experiences yourself.