Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Specialties

Mild-Mannered Reporter
Here's my list of proposed new specialties for the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game. I've already used some of these both here at JUST ADD HEROES and in products I've written for ICONS, including the upcoming Stark City Campaign Setting and City Building Toolkit. Fabrício Franco over at EIDOLONS! has already done some work in this regard and proposed some new specialties for ICONS as well. My goal for this mental list has been to add new specialties only where needed and to add to existing specialties and specialty groups first whenever possible. For example, I considered adding Engineering (Electrical, Computer, Genetic, Civil, Mechanical) as a new specialty but decided those would fit better in existing specialty groups. I also considered including Journalism under Investigation, but felt there was enough of a difference and certainly a precedent in the comics to make it a separate specialty. Feel free to discuss in the comments section below. This is partly a mental exercise so this list can grow (or shrink) and be updated as needed. It may even be overkill, but I think it can add to the character description in a tangible way related to game mechanics.

Superheroes are always on the clock!
New Specialties
  • Academia (e.g. Teaching and School Administration)
  • Architecture
  • Aristocracy (e.g. High Society, Nobility, Peerage)
  • Construction (e.g. Carpentry, Ironworking, Civil Engineering)
  • Demolitions
  • Diplomacy
  • Journalism
  • Liberal Arts (e.g. History, Literature, Mathematics, Philosophy)
  • Politics
  • Pop Culture (e.g. Trivia, Music)
  • Religion (e.g. Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Theology)
  • Seduction
  • Streetwise

How many pairs of purple pants does Bruce Banner own?

Additional Specialty Group Listings for ICONS
  • Computers (Computer Engineering)
  • Electronics (Electrical Engineering)
  • Mechanics (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Medicine (Surgery, Epidemiology, Medical Specialty [Dermatology, Pediatrics, Neurology etc.])
  • Science (Bio-Mechanical Engineering, Genetic Engineering, Psychology)

Thanks for reading!

Updated 10/5/2012 based on discussion in the comment section. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Releases: STARK CITY NPCs

Two new ICONS products were released this past week, both tied to the upcoming STARK CITY campaign setting, and to each other. 

Liam Loscann (aka Frogger)
by Jon Gibbons
First up is Justice Wheels #12: Frogger featuring Liam Loscann, a teenage urban vigilante from Geartown who wields a bo staff and patrols the streets in his souped up signature ride, the Leap Buggy (a dune buggy with hydraulic lifts, air bounce bags and a glue-shooting cannon mounted to roof!) Written by yours truly (Joe Bardales) based on amazing "eye-popping" artwork by Jon Gibbons, this PDF contains the ICONS stats, images, and paper miniatures for Frogger and the Leap Buggy along with tips for using him as either a hero or villain in your game. Plus you get the acclaimed ICONS Vehicle and Chase Rules included with every issue of Justice Wheels. PDF on sale now at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG for only $1 buck from Fainting Goat Games.

Reginald Coakley (aka Mr. Mayhem)
by Dan Houser
Next we have another FREE preview of Stark City, Maniacal Incorporated. Written by Walt Robillard and John Post, this free PDF features one of Tesla Industry Park's leading tech firms and its visionary CEO and founder, Reginald Coakley, a former supervillain who turned his life around and now tries to do the same for others (like Liam Loscann, secret identity of Frogger, who has a part-time job after school working in the R&D warehouse of Maniacal Inc.) PDF now available for FREE at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rethinking Powers: Swinging

Now that the STARK CITY Kickstarter has been successfully funded (THANK YOU, everyone!), I've been working this week on generating stats for several NPC characters provided by our generous patrons. In doing so, I came across an ICONS power I haven't seen come up a lot in my own games yet, but certainly one that is common enough to be desirable. Swinging is classified as a movement power because like Super Speed, Flight, Wall Crawling and Leaping, it fits the very basic definition of movement by allowing your character to travel from Point A to Point B.

Reading the power description for Swinging, we learn that the material strength of your swing line is equal to your power level rank in Swinging, which is certainly good information to know. But there aren't any real guidelines for how fast you can travel by swinging, say from building to building across Manhattan - it's got to be faster than rush hour traffic, right? So Swinging probably isn't like gravity-defying Wall Crawling or Aquatic, where your movement is at the same speed as your normal human movement, only you can do it with equal ease in these different "environments".

The first place I usually check for guidelines is Dr. Axiom's Benchmarks over at the ICONS Truth, Justice and Gaming Wiki. This gave me two more options - classify Swinging speed with Leaping and Teleportation (Distance), or classify it with Super Speed and Flight (Speed). So which should it be? There are certainly arguments for both involving real world physics vs. comic book logic. In the end, this argument swayed me to classify Swinging with Super Speed and Flight:

In The Amazing Spider-Man #510, it takes Spider-Man 9 minutes and 50 seconds to cross the entire island of Manhattan which from end to end is 13.4 miles. If he continued that speed for another 50 minutes he would have traveled 80.4 miles in an hour. Meaning, he can travel 80+ miles per hour.

So referring back to Dr. Axiom's Benchmarks for Super Speed and Flight, I would assign Spider-Man a rank of Swinging 4.

So going back to the power description, does a faster Swinging speed necessarily equate to a stronger swing line? I'm not so sure about that. Below is my revised version of Swinging taking all of this into account. Please feel free to discuss and leave suggestions in the comments. Updated Friday 9/21/12 based on discussion in the comments section.

Movement Power
You can swing along on a line or cable to a distance equivalent to Leaping at the same power level in a single swing, or travel at a speed equivalent to Flight at half your level in this power (rounded up) by combining multiple swings; this might be self-generated webbing or lines of force, or a device like a grappling gun or lasso. Substitute your Swinging level for your Coordination, if it is higher, for maneuvers while you are swinging (including avoiding attacks).

You can also use your swing line to catch onto things at a distance equivalent to Leaping at the same power level and pull them to you rather than you to them with a successful Coordination test.

Your swing lines can be made of any material with a Strength no greater than your power level. 

Fast Swing: As a bonus power, you may travel by combining multiple swings at a speed equivalent to Flight at the same power level.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

BAMF! Podcast: Stark City Preview of Tesla Industrial Park

In the latest BAMF! podcast, John Post (author of several ICONS adventures such as No Laughing Matter, Whiteout! and The Other Side) stops by to discuss Tesla Industrial Park, the neighborhood he is working on for the STARK CITY: Setting and City Building Toolkit for ICONS Kickstarter.

At this writing, there are only 38 hours left to sign up for the STARK CITY Kickstarter - and we are just $7 shy of unlocking a third ICONS adventure set in Stark City as a stretch goal. Tomorrow is the last day, so don't miss out!

And thank you again to all of our patrons - we could not have done this without your support!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Quinjet

The next super-vehicle up is the The Avengers' Quinjet. The Quinjet first debuted in The Avengers #61 (February 1969). The Wakanda Design Group headed by Black Panther (T'Challa) designed and built the first Quinjet. Later models were built for the Avengers by Stark Enterprises at Iron Man's (Tony Stark's) request.

Five turbojet engines allow the Quinjet to reach Mach 2.1. In addition to standard flight mode, the Quinjet is capable of operating in space and deep-sea environments. It also has vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability. Several flight-ready Quinjets are stored in the Avengers' Mansion and Stark Tower. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. now have been assigned Quinjets as well. Quinjets also have a reputation in the comics of being destroyed in action shortly after they first appear.

The Quinjet is built using the ICONS Vehicle and Chase rules found in every issue of Justice Wheels from Fainting Goat Games and Dr. Axiom's ICONS Benchmarks.

[Built from Vehicle power at rank 8]
Prowess 8
Coordination 8
Strength 8
Speed 8 (effectively Flight 8)
Stamina 6

Extra Passengers
Vertical Take-Off and Landing
Remote Control
Aquatic 7
Life Support 6 (Cold, Breathing, Heat, Pressure, Radiation, Vacuum) - Deep Sea and Deep Space-ready Cabin
Supersenses 2 (Radar, Sonar)

'The Avengers' and 'Quinjet' are registered trademarks of MARVEL COMICS and are used without permission. No infringement of the trademarks or copyrights of MARVEL COMICS or any other corporation, entity or person is intended by this article. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Release: Transforming Mechs for ICONS!

If you ever wanted to build a character for ICONS with a transforming mech, the latest installment of Justice Wheels from Fainting Goat Games shows you how to do just that using the ICONS Vehicle and Chase Rules found in every issue. Written by Curt Meyer with character and vehicle stats by yours truly (Joe Bardales) and illustrated by ICONS line artist Dan Houser, Justice Wheels #11 features Shar-aa, an ace pilot and her transforming mecha, the Silent Fury. The Silent Fury mech has three modes: Jet Form, Warrior Form and Hybrid Form. This 12-page PDF contains the ICONS stats, images, and paper miniatures for Shar-aa and her signature vehicle along with tips for using her as either a hero or villain in your game. This was also a great opportunity to showcase the Transform extra for vehicle design found in the Vehicle and Chase rules. Justice Wheels #11 Shar-aa: The Screaming Angel is available now for only $1 buck at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG

Monday, September 10, 2012

Free STARK CITY Preview: Platinum Coast Overview

There is still time to pledge your support for the STARK CITY Kickstarter. We've already unlocked and added two STARK CITY adventures as stretch goals, and everyone who contributes will now receive these bonus adventures. With six days to go, there is still time to unlock even more adventures. We've also just released a FREE preview of the Platinum Coast, Stark City's most elite and exclusive neighborhood, written by Walt Robillard. Time is running out, so don't miss out! Stark City needs HEROES - Stark City needs YOU!

Click here to download your FREE copy of Stark City: Platinum Coast Overview from RPGNow!

Thank you to everyone for your support!

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Release: Doctor Warp and His Golden Robots

Fainting Goat Games this week has released the latest installment of Improbable Tales adventures, Doctor Warp and His Golden Robots. Written by Dan Houser and Mike Lafferty with artwork by Dan Houser and Adrian Smith, this 22-page PDF is available now at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG for only $1.50.

This quick adventure is designed to bring your players to the table to face off with a far-out foe from the psychedelic sixties who’s brought himself to our time to complete his plan for world domination. So, strap yourself in for a weird and wild battle against a master of time, space, and groovy golden fembots – Dr. Warp!

Like all Improbable Tales adventures, it includes a full scenario, NPCs and stats, great maps and cut out paper minis of all the characters.
Groovy, baby!

Release Date: September 5, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Fantasti-Car

Now it's time to shine the super-vehicle spotlight on the Fantastic Four's Fantasti-Car. Designed by Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), there have been several versions of this flying car. The MK I was the first model and debuted in Fantastic Four #3 (March 1962). Nicknamed the Flying Bathtub because of its oval shape, it could split apart into four separate sections, each piloted by one of the Fantastic Four team members. When the four compartments were united, the Fantasti-Car could lift up to 1,200 lbs and reach a speed of 60 mph. Each separate section was cable of speeds up to 30 mph on its own.

Eventually the MK I was replaced with a newer model, the MK II, which debuted in Fantastic Four #12 (March 1963). This time, the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) assisted Reed Richards in the design. Constructed from a foamed alloy, vertical take-off and landing is achieved by an electric-powered fan lift and forward horizontal motion by jet turbine thrust. Improvements over the MK I included a transparent bulletproof shield that can cover the entire pod, and two detachable mini-planes that can separate from the main body and operate independently. The Fantasti-Car Mark II is capable of reaching speeds of up to 550 mph, and the twin mini-planes can achieve speeds up to 350 mph and operate up to a service ceiling of 38,000 ft. The Fantasti-Car is built using the ICONS Vehicle and Chase rules found in every issue of Justice Wheels from Fainting Goat Games and Dr. Axiom's ICONS Benchmarks.

Fantasti-Car MK I (Flying Bathtub)
[Built from Vehicle power at rank 4]
Prowess 3
Coordination 6
Strength 6
Speed 3 [1] (effectively Flight 3 [Flight 1 for separated compartments])
Stamina 7 

Extra Passengers
Vertical Take-Off and Landing
Transform (four separate compartments) 

Fantasti-Car MK II
[Built from Vehicle power at rank 6]
Prowess 3
Coordination 6
Strength 7
Speed 6 [5] (effectively Flight 6 [Flight 5 for mini-planes])
Stamina 8

Extra Passengers
Vertical Take-Off and Landing
Transform (twin detachable mini-planes)
Life Support 4 (Cold, Breathing, Heat, Pressure) - mini-planes only
Invulnerability 5 - bulletproof shield

'Fantastic Four' and 'Fantasti-Car' are registered trademarks of MARVEL COMICS and are used without permission. No infringement of the trademarks or copyrights of MARVEL COMICS or any other corporation, entity or person is intended by this article. 

Free STARK CITY Preview: Catacombs Overview

The STARK CITY Kickstarter has just ten days left, and we are less than $100 away from reaching our funding goal. To celebrate, we are releasing a free preview of the Catacombs, Stark City's literal criminal underground. This brief overview is just a small taste of the neighborhood that yours truly (Joe Bardales) has contributed to the Stark City campaign setting.

Click here to download your FREE copy of Stark City: Catacombs Overview from RPGNow!

Thank you to everyone for your support!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

ICONS RPG Now Under New Management

Steve Kenson, creator of the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game, has acquired the rights to ICONS today from Adamant Entertainment through his publishing company, Ad Infinitum Adventures. Here's the press release:


Ad Infinitum Adventures Acquires Icons Superpowered Roleplaying

September 5, 2012 – Ad Infinitum Adventures, a new publisher of tabletop roleplaying (RPG) content announces the acquisition of the Icons Superpowered Roleplaying game from previous publisher Adamant Entertainment.

“ICONS is a phenomenal game, and one that deserves far more focus and attention than Adamant is currently able to devote to it,” says Gareth-Michael Skarka, director of Adamant Entertainment. “With our growing focus on transmedia development for projects like FAR WEST, and the constraints of both the size of our staff and the fact that nobody has yet to invent a time machine allowing us the freedom to do as much as we'd like to, we felt that ICONS would be better served as the main focus of a new venture.”

First published in 2010, Icons is described as “...inspired by fast-playing old-school games and the new generation of narrative role-play...” It has been supported with over a dozen adventures and two sourcebooks—the Villainomicon and Icons Team-Up—as well as a robust third-party publishing program featuring dozens of offerings, from deep space cosmic adventure to the Golden Age comics of World War II. It was nominated for three EN World Awards in 2011: Best Rules, Best Game, and Best New Game.

Ad Infinitium Adventures is owned and operated by Icons designer Steve Kenson, also known for the design of the Mutants & Masterminds and DC Adventures games for Green Ronin Publishing. “Icons is a different sort of superhero game,” Kenson says, “based on the sheer fun of making some die rolls and coming up with a random collection of powers and abilities, and then building a superhero around them. It’s a fast-playing game with an emphasis on character, easy to put something together on the spur of the moment.”

Ad Infinitium plans for a seemless transition of the game line, keeping existing product on-sale and continuing to support Icons with source material, adventures, and third-party licensing, such as the Stark City setting from Fainting Goat Games (for which Mr. Kenson wrote setting creation guidelines for Icons). “As ICONS fans,” Mr. Skarka says, “we eagerly await the new developments from Ad Infinitum Adventures!”


Congratulations to Steve, and many thanks to Gareth for introducing the world to ICONS!

New Release: Hunters, Inc for ICONS

Plain Brown Wrapper Games, the folks who produce the acclaimed Bedlam City setting (for Savage Worlds and Mutants and Masterminds), have just released their first ICONS product, Hunters Inc. Written by Jeffrey Allan Boman with artwork by Andrea Sfiligoi, this is a new version for ICONS of the original and very popular Mutants and Masterminds edition that Mr. Boman released in 2004 with Cracked Mirror Publishing.

Jeffrey Allan Boman writes, "Taking influences from the Suicide Squad comic, Hunters Inc. is a group of super-powered bounty hunters. They go after others with powers. Some of them are heroes, some are crooks, all have their own reasons for being on this team. H-I can be dropped into any supers campaign to give it a different flavor."

Hunters Inc. packs a lot of information into 50 pages. This supplement details the members of Hunters Inc, the non-superpowered support staff who make their work possible, the weapons, vehicles and team tactics they use. It includes a section on how they plan and execute missions, as well as the introductory adventure It Hits the Fan that lets the PCs play either for or against the team.

Additional versions are planned for other systems including BASH!, Savage Worlds and Mutants & Masterminds 3E.

Hunters Inc, ICONS Edition is available for sale now at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.
"Good, bad... we just want a paycheck."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Golden Age Throwbacks: The Woman in Red

It's time once again to revisit the Golden Age of Comic Books and take a look at another female member of the Golden Age Throwbacks now in the public domain, The Woman in Red. According to author, artist and comic book historian Trina Robbins, The Woman is Red was in fact the very first costumed female superhero, predating the better known Wonder Woman and Mary Marvel. That fact is somewhat debatable, as she doesn't have any actual superpowers per se, but nevertheless a worthy candidate for the distinction (after all, Batman doesn't have any superpowers either). The Woman in Red never had a cover spot devoted to her character, but she did have a decent run in both Thrilling Comics and America's Best Comics as a secondary feature from 1940 up until 1945 when she was finally dropped and replaced by Miss Masque (whom we examined earlier).

The Woman in Red was the secret identity of Peggy Allen, a metropolitan policewoman and undercover detective. She would usually work undercover, disguised as a maid or a nurse. When actively investigating a crime or pursuing a lead, she would don the persona of The Woman in Red and dress in a floor-length coat and wear a red mask and hood. This allowed her to work without the legal restrictions and limitations placed on police officers - she effectively became a street vigilante. She knew jiu-jitsu and was a pretty good shot with a gun too. Only the police commissioner (who was never given a name) knew of her dual identity. The stories were usually murder mysteries that followed a similar formula where the reader (and sometimes Peggy Allen herself) was lead to suspect one character only to find out in the end it was someone else responsible for the crime. Memorable villains included Voa and the Black Death. She even had a rival and comic foil, the bumbling Inspector Cavanaugh, who would often muddle up a case that Peggy was working on.

For a time period where male characters dominated the genre, the concept of a female action hero was a refreshing change, and I can only assume her inclusion in Thrilling Comics was an attempt to attract young girl readers to comic books in the age of Rosie the Riveter. Peggy Allen was a police detective - a highly competent woman in a traditionally male cop role in the 1940s. This progressive notion of The Woman in Red was further served by contrasting the crime-fighting female vigilante with her more stereotypical female undercover roles of house maid and nurse. The appeal to a female audience must not have been enough for Nedor Comics because in 1945 The Woman in Red was finally dropped in favor of Miss Masque, another female superhero whose costume was clearly designed to appeal to young adolescent boys (although the two characters were very similar in other ways).
The Woman in Red vs. The Black Death!

Origin: None
Real Name: Peggy Allen
First Appearance: Thrilling Comics #2 [Nedor Comics March 1940] 

Prowess  4
Coordination  6
Strength  4
Intellect  3
Awareness  3
Willpower  3

Stamina  7
Determination  5

Peggy Allen
  • Acrobatics
  • Criminology Expert
  • Investigation Master
  • Deception Expert - Disguise
  • Law (Police Procedure)
  • Martial Arts (Jiu-Jitsu)
  • Stealth Expert
  • Blast 5 (Shooting) - Colt .45 Semi-Automatic Pistol
    Peggy Allen and
    the Police Commissioner
    • Identity: Undercover Police Detective
    • Connections: The Police Commissioner
    • Catchphrase: Two can play at this game!
    • Catchphrase: Talk fast or I'll drill you!

      Inspector Cavanaugh
      • Enemy: The Black Death
      • Enemy: Voa
      • Social: Lady Cop in a Man's World
      • Rival: Inspector Cavanaugh
      Point Total: 40

      The Woman in Red was originally created by writer Richard E. Hughes and artist George Mandel and first appeared in Thrilling Comics #2 (March 1940) published by Nedor (a.k.a. Standard) Comics.

      Monday, September 3, 2012

      Neighborhoods of Stark City

      Artwork by Jon Gibbons
      We are in the final stretch for the Stark City: Setting and City Building Toolkit for ICONS Kickstarter and very close to reaching our funding goal by September 16, 2012 (only $211 left to go at this writing). Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far!

      Here's a list of the neighborhoods that make up Stark City and a little info about them. In the next week or so, we'll be releasing previews of some of these neighborhoods in a little more detail.

      Geartown: Rundown industrial neighborhood by the docks where organized crime has a strong grip. Geartown is the most crime-plagued section of Stark City and the home turf of various street gangs and a handful of beleaguered street-level heroes fighting to clean it up. Aquatic criminals from the breakaway merman colony in Stark Lake have been making inroads into the criminal underground in Geartown, peddling highly addictive drugs on the piers to street criminals eager for the newest product.

      Platinum Coast: Ritzy, upscale area along the shores of Stark Lake where the well-heeled rub shoulders with the politicians, businessmen and the occasional under-the-radar supervillain or vigilante. The headquarters of the Stark City PD is also here and their fleet of observation dirigibles is frequently seen ferrying between their Platinum Coast hangers and the rest of the city. Although the Home Owner's Association hates to discuss it, also in the Platinum Coast neighborhood under the watchful eye of the Stark City PD is the Odyssey Residences Halfway House, home to several paroled supervillains seeking to make a new start. Also here are the radio and TV stations as well as the Stark City Airport.

      Tesla Industry Park: The technology center of Stark City. Here you find pure R&D firms engaged in super-science (such as Paragon Engineering whose work focuses on teleportation and dimensional travel), defense contractors (such as A.R.E.S. Labs who is engaged in body armor and energy weapon research), high-tech startups as well as the various heroic and villainous factions who are attached to each. Stark City University is also based here.

      Silver District: Historic downtown of Stark City - which doubles as the city's financial district. This is the heart of commerce, art and business in the city. The primary train station is here as well as bars, theaters, stadiums and the better restaurants. It is also the home to the city's defenders -- the Sentinel Citadel.

      The Catacombs: Running deep underneath Geartown, Tesla Industry Park and the Silver District is a largely forgotten tunnel network from an ambitious pneumatic subway system project that was abandoned without being completed in the 1930s. Since then, the tunnels have become a literal criminal underground. Despite the best efforts of the Stark City PD, at any given moment a handful of nefarious factions (from street gangs to mafia crews to apocalypse cults to super-science terrorist cells) are likely to have transitory safehouses in the Catacombs.