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. 


  1. Thanks for the mention, Joe.

    I still defend Cryptography as a separate specialty, as we see, in daily life, some people who barely know Maths but are very good at writinga and deciphering codes. Just my $0,10.

    And nice question there, about Banner's purple pants... ;)

  2. Very cool. I took a first draft stab at re-structuring specialities for my own game ( and these look like they might fill some holes in my own list. Thanks.

  3. Thanks, everyone. :)
    Bill - that's a nice regrouping. I think I'll add Academics and High Society to fill in some of the holes in my list.

  4. I also added Diplomacy and Seduction as a way to add bonuses to the Persuading and/or Intimidating Willpower actions.

  5. Having been burned by Hero Games when they got too specific for my own liking, I wonder if all the things you can get a degree in (History, Philosophy, Mathematics) couldn't just be a single specialty group (Academia, maybe?) and then a bunch of possible specialties.

    One of the things I did like in Champions (well, there were lots: I did play it for decades) was the ability to say Knowledge: (topic) which allowed for broad or narrow specializations. Maybe you had Knowledge: Tobacco Ash (enough to write a small monograph on the topic) or Area Knowledge: Campaign City.

    (If you do, I'd offer some kind of break on retcons involving the geography of the campaign city, though I'm not sure what. Maybe certain types of geographic declarations are free rather than costing a Determination Point; haven't thought about that much.)

  6. I've been flirting with the idea of adding Knowledge (or Liberal Arts) as a Specialty Group much as Science is a Specialty Group. History, Literature Mathematics, Philosophy etc. Maybe move Sociology over from Science into Knowledge/Liberal Arts as well. I like the idea of a division between the (Liberal) Arts and Sciences. Maybe keep Academia separate to cover the "profession" of teaching as well as the administrative bureaucracy of institutions of higher learning.

  7. So I went ahead and added Liberal Arts as a new Specialty Group to cover History, Lit, Math etc. I decided to keep Sociology under science, and I also added Psychology (as opposed to the more medical Psychiatry) under Science as well. I agree that it makes more sense to have these all grouped together rather than listed as separate specialties because in general they behave the same way in-game. Well done, everyone! The comments have been extremely helpful.

    I kind of like the idea of a Knowledge catch-all as well, especially as a way to build and define a unique character, but I'm not sure ICONS in its simplicity needs that level of precision. Taking Sherlock Holmes' monograph on identifying tobacco ash as an example, wouldn't that just be the Great Detective's Investigation +3? If it's important, maybe it's a quality he can tag for Investigation or Know rolls - Identity: World's Leading Expert on Tobacco Ash.

    But a Knowledge catch-all is definitely something I'm mentally filing away for games like True20.

    There is an Area (specific location, campaign city etc.) specialty in the Villainomicon. I'd probably treat any character who has lived in a specific location long enough as having Area (home location) +1 by default whether they list it on the character sheet or not.