The superhero genre has never been more popular, having spawned billion-dollar movie franchises that stride the world like mighty colossi. Unsurprisingly, this fervor for the genre has also translated to tabletop roleplaying games and with numerous titles available, it has never been easier to create our own caped heroes or power-mad villains. Today, I’d like to talk about one of these titles that managed to slip under my radar until recently: ICONS, Superpowered Roleplaying – The Assembled Edition.
I came upon ICONS by accident. I was watching this video by Puffin Forest on YouTube, a recap of a superhero adventure he ran. In the video, he describes the system that he used – ICONS. I was intrigued, and sought out the book to learn more. A day later and 232 pages down, I was impressed and immediately wanted to take the game for a spin.
ICONS is a twist on third edition Fate (think The Dresden Files RPG). It has several mechanics that will be instantly recognizable to Fate players, even if they don’t bother to check the fine print at the back of the book (I didn’t till I’d read the whole thing and was wondering why it seemed soooo familiar): the Ladder still describes competence or difficult (with a slight tweak to the scale and adjectives used), Fate Points are called Determination Points, Aspects are called Qualities, and the action system is essentially the same. ICONS eschews the use of Fudge Dice however, opting for using d6’s instead. As I’ve ran and played in many sessions of Fate, I felt at home right away with ICONS.
But, where the game really shines is in its various tables for random character generation and its robust suite of powers. Players are encouraged (though not required, there is a point buy system for character creation as well) to roll d6’s against charts covering just about every aspect of their character such as their Origins or what Powers they may have. Combined with the plethora of available powers, this method of character creation ensures a radically different play experience each time you roll up a new character.
Let me spend a few more words on the Powers in ICONS: the Powers in ICONS are awesome and, more importantly, complete. After reading that section of the book, I walked away feeling like I or my players could create any hero or villain they could imagine or draw from superhero fiction. Contrast this with Venture City, the Fate Core offering for superheroes, where – despite loving the implementation of powers in that book – I immediately felt I needed to homebrew new powers to cover commonly seen abilities like time manipulation or magic. Though I prefer Fate Core to Fate 3rd Edition, the breadth of super abilities available catapulted ICONS to my first choice for running a superhero game in the future.
ICONS, like Fate, is an immensely versatile system that’ll let GM’s and players alike to play whatever superhero game they can envision. I highly recommend checking out this twist on the Fate system, especially if you want lots of superpowers to work with. On the Ladder, I’ll give ICONS, Superpowered Roleplaying – The Assembled Edition a Fantastic.