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ICONS

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So, I went ahead and bought ICONS, which arrived in post yesterday, I spent a few hours devouring the rules and rolling a few characters. I cant say I have digested it 100%, but its rule light and I got most of it in the cranium.

For those of you who don't know, its Kensons other Superhero RPG. It is quite different from M&M in many ways, but you can definitely feel the hand of M&M permeating right through the rules set - its the offspring of M&M.

I thought I would just post my first impressions of it, and of course if anyone else has it, or experience playing it please comment. As we all love Superhero RPGs, and this is a cousin of RPG.

Ok, so first of, this is a system that is much more rules light that M&M. Much less crunch. Overall, I cautiously think that's a good thing. It lets you get on and play rather than rule, and its more accessible to people. The problem comes when you can't simulate what you want to simulate.

Its based on the FUDGE/FATE mechanics. No, it isn't FUDGE/FATE, but it uses a similar philosophy, of your statistic +1d6 - 1d6 for your end effort.

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, only the player ever makes a roll - there are no opposed rolls. This seems really good to me.

Now, the biggie. You roll your heroes randomly. There are rules for designing your hero, but the default is random roll up. I balked at this at first, but it kind of grew on me. There is some scope, you can fiddle around a bit with your base attributes, and some powers lead on to others (by a "bonus power" mechanic) but its fundamentally all in the roll of the dice.

I can see this being highly unattractive to many people, and I'm not a huge fan of it myself. But it does have a curious charm, and perhaps indicates the style of ICONS.

The biggest advantages of this method I think are a) That anyone new to the system can quickly roll up a hero and B) It virtually eliminates the min-max, munchkinism that I am sorry to say has a tendency to creep into M&M and requires GM intervention.

Having said that, it seems (and I haven't play tested) that the rolled heroes can be quite different in combat effectiveness (And perhaps other effectiveness?) - not drastically so however. ICONS will certainly not appeal to people who are going to yell "its not fair!", or a playing a superhero game in order to be "the most powerful".

As for the powers and heroes themselves, you can certainly see the hand of Kenson and M&M. Its basically a reel off from the Core M&M Power rules, stripped of all feats, extras, flaws, and drawbacks - all of which are considered to be part of the description and are just, well fudged and cause for complications. Personally, I quite like this, but again, if you want accurate simulation, its not for you.

Icons has determination, a very similar mechanic to Hero Points (or the equivalent in many modern RPGs). I don't have a lot to say about this. Stunting is allowed. Superhero complications are thrown to the foreground. It all looks good.

Finally, and I am speculating a little as I haven't play tested it, I get the sense that ICONS is moving away from combat to conflict based role playing. There is no talk of power level combat caps. What I mean by this is that you don't have to be a superhero by using your fists or blasting, but by simply being fast, using your invisibility ray, or remote interfacing with a computer. Conflict and victory does not have to be about violence and Knock out - just by being a superhero (and the two are different!) This feels a positive philosophy - one that can be adopted by M&M and one that in retrospect (thinking about some of core books) I wonder should be more predominant.

So, overall:

PRO's:

1. Rules light and fast, easy to pick up.

2. No munchkins, or min/maxing. Your knowledge of rules has virtually no effect on your effectiveness.

3. Pretty good at capturing the essence of superheroes.

4. Stunting and determination [hero points] remain, perhaps even more prominent.

CONS:

1. Lacks detailed simulation of powers (and everything else). You need to fudge rules a lot.

2. Random character generation will turn a LOT of people off.

3. Characters are not perfectly balanced: do not play for ego boost / wish fulfillment (and yes we all have it a little bit :D ).

4. Not one for tactical / combat lovers (it does it, but your time is best spent elsewhere!)

Overall, I cant see this replacing M&M, but I can see myself loving it just as much. M&M will work better for a group of people who know the rules and want a more long running campaign (although I still prefer 3E!). ICONs however will be great for a break, or just to sit down for some fun, or with people who are unfamiliar with the system.

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