ICONS – The New Centurions #2

Saturday night we had our second ICONS game. More and more, we’re finding that the game is a good starting point, but has some issues that need to be addressed for it to do what we need it to do.

We added another character*, and once again found some difficulty with the random character generation. Beyond the disparity of potential starting characters, and the challenge of coming up with a reasonable framework to explain truly strange groups of powers, it takes far longer than I think it should. The implication I get from reading the character creation section is that it should be fast, to get you playing quickly. I find that it takes about the same amount of time to do up a random character as it does to build one using point-buy, which really undermines any advantage the random method produces.

Now, to be fair, a lot of the time is spent just looking up the powers – again, the book really needs an index, or a reference sheet of some sort – but the extra time one would spend making choices in point-buy is offset by the time you spend in random generation trying to figure out how to fit, say, teleportation, paralyze, and wall-crawling together*.

Another issue that arises in this game that needs careful attention on the part of the GM is the lock-key style of powers. That is, each power* seems to have a very specific application and at least one counter. This means that the GM can easily* build foes that render one or more characters simply ineffective. Now, there are other things that characters can do besides just beat up the villains, but the four-colour style of the game, and the shallowness of the system, really puts the onus for that on the players and GM to come up with pretty much everything except the combats. Which means that making a character ineffective at combat renders a character ineffective at most of what the game tries to do. More support for other things would have been good.

And we’re all pretty fragile characters. Even my robot has no armour or resistance to damage – rolling such a thing on the random table is somewhat difficult. This makes dodging and evading terribly important in combat, because one high-power hit can take out pretty much any of us. Given the prevalence of damage mitigation in the source material, it strikes me as a little odd, not to mention challenging for the characters who didn’t roll high on physical abilities.

One other thing we’re having problems with is the similarity of the game to the FATE system. It’s enough like FATE that we think we understand how it works, but there are a couple of places where it differs enough to really trip us up. For example, using Determination works very differently from using Fate Points, and the flatter probability curve on d6-d6 vs 4dF means that your scores aren’t as reliable in ICONS as they are in FATE*.

That’s an awful lot of complaining, isn’t it? It sounds like I really dislike this game, and that’s not the case at all. I quite like it. But I think it’s important to be reasonable about the strengths and weaknesses of the game.

Anyway, this session had us meet the new character in the sunken ruins of the Century Club NYC headquarters, with six of the Centurions seemingly held in stasis by Dr. Methuselah and his weird math. While investigating the scene and trying to figure out what was going on, we got blindsided by someone else (very shadowy, got the drop on Queen Celeste), who forced us to leave the room for a minute or so. When we came back, he and Dr. Methuselah were both gone, though the Centurions were still stuck there.

Investigating the building, we discovered the archives of the Century Club, talking about their heroics and accomplishments. These archives ended abruptly on September 6, 1933, and since that time, there have been no public superheroes in the world. September 6, 1933, was also the last recorded appearance of Dr. Methuselah.

My (rather naive) robot character then convinced the other two characters that we needed to become the New Centurions, to bring back a sense of hope and empowerment to the embattled citizens of NYC. We agreed, and then went to work reclaiming the Century Club to use as our headquarters.

While we were in the middle of that, another sinkhole appeared along another ley line, and we dashed off to deal with that. Another fight with the stone creatures*, this time with squishy civilians around*. Once we had them on the ropes, a bigger, Kali-esque stone creature rose from the fissure, and asked us why we were invading her realm. She, the Queen of Below, gave us a chance to explain that we had thought she was the one doing the invading, and then she gave us leave to investigate in her realms.

We left it there for the evening, but we’re looking forward to getting together to give it another try. Potentially with another player joining in*!

*And player! Welcome, Fera! Back

*Our solution: gravity manipulation. Back

*With its concurrent sub-system, but that’s another story. Back

*And accidentally! Back

*When you combine these two differences, you can really wind up hosing yourself when using Determined Effort, not achieving the result you wanted and using up all your Determination in the attempt, rather than being able to cut your losses. Back

*And we still didn’t have anyone with the right kinds or strengths of powers to easily deal with them. Back

*One of them had a camera phone, so Queen Celeste’s secret ID may be in jeopardy now. Back

*You in, Tom? Back

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3 Responses to ICONS – The New Centurions #2

  1. I forgot to give Penny a Determination Point for the threat to her secret ID. My bad. I will correct for next session.

    As for the rest. I think the game has a lot of potential, but I am finding myself constantly running up against the same things – lack of index, lack of power use vs. defense master sheet [the lock/key thing that you mention – really needed when you are just getting into the game], and trying to build fun knock down, drag out encounters with characters that are so disparate and all quite fragile.

    My biggest trouble though is entirely my own fault. I initially offered to run this game as a one shot playtest to see how we liked it. I had very little time to get familiar with the rules and get a scenario together. Since the first issue, I have had next to no time to prep for the next, but we all wanted to play, so I went ahead anyway. The end result is that I forgot about something that I had noticed the issue previous. The Rockmen that the PCs were having to fight were nearly impervious to the PCs abilities because they had two really high Stats – Strength and Willpower. Coincidentally, just about all of what this group of PCs are good at in a fight works off of one of those two stats. I should have reworked things between sessions, but I forgot. I should have reworked things during the second issue, but I felt bad about just dialing down the difficult in the middle of the fight [I should have gotten over it and done it anyway].

    This sounds Like I am bitching about the system, but I am not. I think it has a lot going for it. Some of the trouble certainly comes from my unfamiliarity with the game.

  2. mrsleep says:

    trying to figure out how to fit, say, teleportation, paralyze, and wall-crawling together*.

    Huh, I would have gone with someone that was dimensionally displaced and didn’t grasp the rules of our reality. Imagine a guy from a world designed by M.C. Escher.

    As to the rest it sounds equally interesting and frustrating. If you keep playing, keep writing about it. I’d love to know if familiarity takes the edge off the rough spots.

  3. Pingback: What's He On About Now? » New Centurions, Issue #11: Fear in Provence

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