Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blackthorne: The Original Prestigio

David Winston, a.k.a. The Prestigio
circa 2011 (by Dan Houser)
For those of you who purchased Adamant Entertainment's ICONS: Hero Pack 2, you may be familiar with one of my character contributions to that product, a young magician and newly minted hero named David Winston a.k.a. The Prestigio. The Prestigio is a hereditary title passed down from one magician to another through an ancient magical device known as the Wand of Zoroaster. In exchange for fame, fortune, and the right to call oneself the World's Greatest Magician, the Prestigio must use the gifts of the Wand of Zoroaster to right wrongs, defend the helpless, and bring the guilty to justice. Before David Winston acquired the Wand and the Prestigio title, however, it was held for many years by his elderly mentor, Harry Blackthorne.

Harry Blackthorne, a.k.a. The Prestigio
circa 1975 (by Joe Bardales/HeroMachine)
In 1961, Harry Blackthorne inherited the Prestigio title and the Wand of Zoroaster (along with the associated responsibilities) from the world famous Italian stage magician, The Great Mezzannotti, who was ready to retire after a long, successful career that spanned decades. Shortly after passing on the Wand, Mezzannotti was murdered and Blackthorne vowed to avenge his mentor and friend. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Blackthorne performed his magic act all across the world, encountering many mysteries and solving crimes in dangerous and exotic locales along the way. At first he seemed to stumble into these situations, but as word of his exploits spread, people soon began to seek him out for help, and he never refused anyone in need. He was frequently harassed by his sometimes arch enemy, sometimes lover, the beautiful yet villainous Mistress Zara, who possessed great mental powers. Many years later, he discovered it was Mistress Zara who had murdered The Great Mezzannotti because she felt that she was the rightful heir to the Wand of Zoroaster and was furious when she was passed up for Blackthorne. Overcoming the overwhelming emotions and anger raging through him, Harry Blackthorne was finally able to bring Mistress Zara to justice and a cell in the ward for the criminally insane at Ravenswood Asylum. It is rumored that Harry still visits her there once every week. 

The Prestigio
Origin: Trained
Real Name: Harry Blackthorne

Prowess  4
Coordination  6
Strength  4
Intellect  5
Awareness  4
Willpower  6

Stamina  10
Determination  2

  • Investigation Expert
  • Performance Master (Stage Magic)
  • Sleight of Hand Master
  • Wizardry Device 6 [Magic (Willpower)] - The Wand of Zoroaster:
    • Illusion
    • Animation
    • Teleportation
    • Invisibility
  • Catchphrase : ABRACADABRA!
  • Epithet : The World's Greatest Magician
  • Extremely wealthy
  • Weakness : Loses powers without the Wand of Zoroaster
  • Social : International celebrity recognized everywhere
  • Enemy : Mistress Zara
Using Blackthorne and The Prestigio in Grimm City
After many years of great stage performances and adventure, Harry Blackthorne decided to retire to his home town of Grimm City and set up a small magic shop in Cottage Gardens. The store barely turns a profit, but the retired international celebrity hardly needs the money, and he takes great delight in entertaining the children who come to the store to visit. In 2010, he discovered a talented young street magician performing in Foley Park named David Winston and instantly recognized him as a worthy successor to the Prestigio title. After passing the Wand of Zoroaster on to David, Harry continued to serve as his mentor and conscience guide. Now an international celebrity himself, David Winston maintains a luxury penthouse apartment in Grimm City on Park Avenue, a far cry from his humble roots in working class Northside.

Final Thoughts
Having a mentor is a great plot device when developing your PC hero's origin and background story and linking them to the campaign world in a tangible way, especially if that mentor NPC once held the mantle the PC now holds. For more information, see the entry for the Descendent hero archetype in The Field Guide to Superheroes Volume 2 by Dr. Jason Tondro from Vigilance Press.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Villain: Brides of Orlok

Following up on yesterday's vampire theme, here's an example of how you can adjust the stats in ICONS to create a lesser vampire minion like a vampire lord's bride or a vampire that has only recently been created. Vampires become more powerful with age, and it only makes sense that a younger fledgling would have lower stats and less powers than their ancient masters.

Vampire Minions

Prowess  3
Coordination  3
Strength  5
Intellect  3
Awareness  3
Willpower  2

Stamina  7
Determination  *

  • Deception
  • Stealth Expert
  • Immortality
  • Life Drain 3
  • Life Support 10
  • Mind Control 2
  • Resistance (Physical Damage) 3
  • Wall Crawling 2
  • Alluring Beauty
  • Vampire (Undead)
  • Must drink blood to survive (Stamina only regained through Life Drain)
  • Vampiric Weaknesses: Destroyed by sunlight or beheading (negates Immortality); silver weapons cause normal damage (negates Resistance); repelled by crosses; a stake through the heart causes an automatic Stun result that lasts until the stake is removed

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Villain: Count Orlok

After some discussion at RPGNet and in the Shadow Wolves comment section yesterday about how vampires might look in ICONS, I decided to take a crack at statting one up for myself. For this build, I referenced an existing vampire NPC from the Villainomicon, Drusilla White, and added a couple of things I felt were missing like Animal Control. Based on a comment by on the ICONS Yahoo Group mailing list, I took a look at how a stake through the heart might work as a Challenge to immobilize, but not permanently kill, a vampire. While this vampire build is quite powerful - 87 points powerful according to the ICONS Character Folio - I think the vampiric weaknesses listed under the Challenges balance the scales a bit for any hero attempting to go Van Helsing on this bad boy. Power levels can certainly be adjusted to taste and probably should be lowered a bit for any newly turned vampire brides or children.

Vampire Lord

Prowess  6
Coordination  5
Strength  7
Intellect  5
Awareness  4
Willpower  6

Stamina  13
Determination  *

  • Animals - (bats, rats and wolves)
  • Deception Expert
  • Occult
  • Stealth Master
  • Alternate Form 7 (Gaseous) - Mist
  • Animal Control 2 (Mammals) - bats, rats and wolves
  • Immortality
  • Life Drain 4
  • Life Support 10
  • Mind Control 7
  • Resistance (Physical Damage) 5
  • Wall Crawling 2
  • Vampire (Undead)
  • Must drink blood to survive (Stamina only regained through Life Drain)
  • Social : Hideous appearance
  • Vampiric Weaknesses: Destroyed by sunlight or beheading (negates Immortality); silver weapons cause normal damage (negates Resistance); repelled by crosses; a stake through the heart causes an automatic Stun result that lasts until the stake is removed
Adventure Hook: Using Count Orlok in Grimm City
In 1889, the Russian ship Demeter ran aground on Stormwatch Island (known today as Vigilance Island) with all hands lost save for the captain whose bloodless corpse was found lashed to the helm. Unbeknownst to the residents of Grimm City, the ship had been transporting a dangerous and ancient vampire, the Transylvanian Count Orlok, to America. Orlok unleashed a reign of terror on Grimm City along the docks and within the slums of Southside, and city officials feared they had another Jack the Ripper (who had terrorized the city of London just one year earlier) on their hands. Heroes of the day finally succeeded in putting an end to Count Orlok's bloody reign (referred to as The Five Points Murders in the newspapers of the day) by driving a stake through his heart, and the incident slowly faded from memory and into urban legend. Recently, several bodies have been found in the side streets and alleyways of the Docks district of Grimm City completely drained of blood. Heroes who do their research will recognize the similarities to an incident that occurred in the late 19th century in the same part of the City. Is it merely a coincidence or has something dark and terrible returned? Those who dig deeper will perhaps realize in time that a stake through the heart might not be enough to kill a vampire...

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Supernatural Creature: Shadow Wolves

Shadow wolves are malign spirits created whenever ancient sites held sacred by indigenous nature-worshiping cultures are destroyed, or when a murdered shaman or medicine man invokes a powerful curse of vengeance with his last dying breath. They are composed of elements from both the Ethereal Plane and the Plane of Shadow, appearing to be formed from the very fabric of darkness itself. As a result of this duality in their composition, shadow wolves are only partially incorporeal and thus susceptible to damage from non-magical silver weapons, which normally don’t affect incorporeal creatures. Otherwise, they have all the other characteristics and weaknesses of undead incorporeal creatures.

Shadow wolves are nocturnal hunters and hate all living creatures. Their eyes flash with a crimson red fire when prey is sighted. Shadow wolves can pass through solid objects at will, and appear to blink in and out of reality. Shadow wolves prefer to attack from ambush, using the shadows and darkness to their advantage. When prey wanders nearby, a shadow wolf leaps to the attack. A shadow wolf pack leads its prey into an ambush and then strikes when opponents are completely unaware. Shadow wolves always move silently and have a keen sense of smell, even in undeath. Shadow wolves are usually encountered alone, as a pair, or in a pack (5-12).

Prowess  3
Coordination  4
Strength  5
Intellect  2
Awareness  3
Willpower  3

Stamina  8
Determination  *

  • Stealth Expert
  • Nature Master - (Track Scent)
  • Strike 4 (Slashing) - Bite
  • Life Drain 3 
  • Phasing 7  - Semi-Incorporeal
  • Teleportation 5  - Semi-Incorporeal
  • Undead
  • Weakness : Light
  • Weakness : Silver Weapons (negates Phasing)
Adventure Hook: Shadow Wolves in Grimm City
Officials from Old Ivy University request the heroes' assistance when members of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology vanish without a trace. The missing faculty and students were working at an archaeological dig in a recently discovered natural cavern far below the streets of Grimm City prior to their disappearance. The cavern is in fact the burial place of a powerful Native American Wohakwen medicine man that died centuries ago. Residents in the area report hearing an eerie howling late at night. Perhaps it's something more than just another stray dog...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grimm City Update: Detailed Street Level Map Progress

I've begun work on the more detailed "street level" map of Grimm City in Campaign Cartographer 3 based on the overview map I shared earlier. Here's a sample of the work in progress (click on the map below to see a larger version of this image):
Click on the map above to view a larger version of this image.
I'm starting with the areas that have that standard city grid layout and next up will be the less "planned" streets in the older areas of the city that had their paths determined by the local geography and necessity.

Random Fun Grimm City Fact
The Harper Island Ferry provides passenger service between the southern shore of Harper Island and the terminal near Fort Triton Park in Downtown Grimm City and has been in continuous operation since 1820. A one way trip in either direction takes about 27 minutes. The fare is 75 cents one way or $1 dollar for a round trip pass for a pedestrian passenger, and $3 dollars one way or $5 dollars round trip per vehicle regardless of the number of passengers. The round trip ride is also a popular tourist attraction which helps to keep operating costs down for the residents who use the service. The ferry also seems to be a popular destination for super-villains and their nefarious plans over the years as well...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Suped-Up Super Vehicles: The Silver Arrow

The engineers at Thrill Tech in Grimm City have taken a 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss and modified it with some high tech enhancements specifically with the crime-fighting superhero in mind: Two rocket-propelled grenade launchers (front), four machine guns (two front, two back), ceramic armor that is both damage and heat resistant, and a jet turbine engine capable of 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds and speeds of up to 330 mph with rocket booster. Nicknamed the Silver Arrow, this latest concept car from Thrill Tech features a full luxury interior with the latest in on-board navigation and computer systems. Why not give it a test drive? You know you want to!
Silver Arrow Blueprint
Silver Arrow Concept Design

Monday, January 16, 2012

Making Your Own ICONS Standees

The original Desert Storm by Joe Bardales (left) and Hero Pack 1 Desert Storm by Dan Houser (right)
One of the coolest added bonuses you can get in an ICONS product are cut-out "standees" - paper minis that you can use in your game to represent your character and the villains they must bring to justice. The first set of standees were given as a bonus incentive to anyone who pre-ordered the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying game from Adamant Entertainment, and additional sets were included with the Hero Pack I and Hero Pack II supplements. Even third party publishers that support ICONS are getting in on the act - Rhinotaur has a free set of paper minis featuring their Hero Happy Hour heroes and villains, and Vigilance Press has started including them in their products as well (Action Scenes: Museum Mayhem and most recently Devilish Duos: Smoke and Mirrors). All you have to do is print them out on card stock from a color printer, grab a pair of scissors and start assembling.

I grew up loving action figures (especially anything for Star Trek or Planet of the Apes from Mego), and some of the first ones I owned (after GI Joe) were the superheroes from DC and Marvel that Mego made in the 1970s. Action figures played such an important part in my childhood that they are one of my fondest memories of being a kid. For me, it's that sense of nostalgia that adds to the appeal of using ICONS standees in a game session, beyond their practical in-game use.

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I decided to start making some of my own ICONS standees for my games.

I started with a very easy to use page layout program, Serif PagePlus, and created a single blank standee on a single page using the shape and line drawing tools. The entire standee was 120 mm long and 30 mm wide. The front and back portions each measured 40 mm in length, and each half of the base took up 20 mm length. I based my measurements on the standees I had from published ICONS products. Once I had my prototype standee, I copied it and pasted multiple instances of it on the page - I was able to arrange two rows of five standees each on a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper.

The Dynamic Duo
I grabbed images of the supers I wanted from various sources online* (Google image search as well as heroes I designed myself in online programs like Hero Machine and Fábrica de Heróis). I opened them in GIMP (a free alternative to PhotoShop) and cleaned them up and scaled them to the sizes I needed. I then took those images and created a black silhouette to use on the flip side of the standee (I also "flip" the black silhouette on the vertical axis). I went back into the PagePlus file with my blank standee templates and added the color images and the matching silhouette image to the standee. Once I filled up all ten slots, I created a PDF file from PagePlus, and then used this PDF to print out my standees on cardstock on my color inkjet printer.

And on the flip side...
It's a fun little project that isn't too difficult to master, and the kids especially enjoy making their own standees. If you've done something similar, I'd love to hear about it - what software you used, any tips for constructing and storing standees, etc. Please feel free to comment below and share your tips. And if folks think the PagePlus blank standee template might be something useful, let me know and I'll try to find a place to upload it for sharing.

Thanks for reading!

*It's important to respect the rights of artists and their ownership of their work. For this reason, I won't be sharing any standee PDFs containing images that I do not have the rights to use or the artist's permission to use.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fainting Goat Games Launches Kickstarter for Improbable Tales

Mike Lafferty of Fainting Goat Games announced today that the Improbable Tales ICONS adventures Kickstarter has gone live.

Mike says: "Fainting Goat Games just launched a Kickstarter to fund a series of 5 frantic, fun mini-adventures for ICONS.

The scenarios will have art by Adrian Smith of Mesozoic Press and Dan Houser, Line Artist for ICONS. 

They will be written by Mike Lafferty (who did the Battlescenes Adventures for Vigilance Press) and Chris McGroarty (who wrote the recent Gangbusters adventure for ICONS from Adamant)

For a basic donation of $3 you can reserve one of the pdfs of your choice and help us reach our goal.

For just a little more ($12) you can reserve a copy of all 5 pdfs.

After the initial modest goal of $400 is met, we will unlock a new adventure - the concept of which will be submitted from and voted on by everyone who donates $12 or more. Another new adventure will 'unlock' for every $150 over the initial goal.

If you like ICONS, and you're interested in continuing vigorous 3rd party support for ICONS, this is a great way to make that message heard."

Improbable Tales by Mike Lafferty at Kickstarter

FYI: My ICONS Clarification Notes Updated to Version 2.1

I've updated my ICONS Clarification Notes to a new version (Version 2.1 released 1/12/2012). If this is your first time seeing these, it includes a collection of ICONS rules clarification questions with answers from Steve Kenson et al. culled from various sources such as RPGNet and the ICONS Yahoo Group mailing list. Inside you will find clarification on topics related to powers, determination, aspects (qualities and challenges), tagging and compelling, villains and determination, point-buy character creation option, blindness and more.

I hope this continues to be useful to my fellow ICONS players. The scope of this document is clarifications to the core rules from the designers and publisher. Any suggestions for future updates including layout and suggestions for inclusion are always welcome.

Please note: this is not an official ICONS publication and is not endorsed by Adamant Entertainment. It is just one anal retentive with obsessive-compulsive disorder fan's attempt to collect all the clarifications for this amazing Supers roleplaying game in one place!

The ICONS Clarification Notes can be found in the JUST ADD HEROES Downloads section.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Brief Tour of Grimm City

Yesterday I published the completed Grimm City overview map and today I'd like to briefly describe each of the highlighted districts and neighborhoods and some of the other points of interest.

Welcome to Grimm City, a fictional metropolis located somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard between Baltimore and Boston.

  • DOWNTOWN: The area known today as Downtown is in fact the oldest section of Grimm City (Jeremiah Grimm founded the original settlement here in the 17th century) with major business and financial districts in the north, and more residential neighborhoods in the south (Little Sicily, Chinatown and Cottage Gardens - Grimm City's equivalent to New York's Greenwich Village). It is also the center of local government and City Hall, Police Headquarters, and federal, state and local courthouses are all located here as well. Historic Fort Triton Park, built during the Revolutionary War to guard the entrance to the Triton River along with its sister Fort Charles across the river in Edgebrook, is located on the northern shore.
  • MIDTOWN TRIANGLE: This area consists of mostly office towers and a few highrise residence buildings, as well as the Fashion District, Silicon Alley and lots of shopping and high-end department stores. The Grimm Tower building, built in 1930 and at one time the world's largest skyscraper, is located here.
  • UPTOWN: Uptown is mostly a residential district, the home to many apartment buildings and a few brownstone neighborhoods as well. The wealthiest residents of Uptown tend to live close by to Foley Park.
  • SOUTHSIDE: Southside is home to some of the poorest inhabitants of Grimm City. Often referred to as "The Slums" by the rest of Grimm City, it is made up of many government housing projects and has a very high crime rate. It is a very dangerous place to be at night, and even in the daytime if you aren't a resident. Still, there are a lot of good people living there who are doing the best they can in their circumstances to turn the area around.
  • RIVERSIDE: Riverside is one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in all of Grimm City. There are many luxurious townhouses and brownstones in the area, as well as the city's best private schools. Colwick Mansion (the Mayor's residence) is located here as well as prestigious Old Ivy University and the sylvan oasis that is Riverside Park.
  • THE DOCKS AND WAREHOUSE DISTRICT: Situated along Gull Harbor, this area is a bustling center of activity by day and becomes a deserted, dangerous and seedy destination by night. Still, there are a few dive bars, nightclubs and after hours venues in the area for the more daring...
  • EDGEBROOK: Visitors have often compared Edgebrook to the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. It is mostly composed of neighborhoods of young professionals and hipsters, many of whom aren't originally from Grimm City, as well as the small businesses that cater to them. Many of the older neighborhoods that were centered around common immigrant ethnicities are now shadows of their former selves, absorbed by the gentrification of modern urban living. 
  • NORTHSIDE: If Edgebrook is the Brooklyn of Grimm City, then Northside is its Queens. It includes many working class blue collar neighborhoods, factories and auto dealerships, and a few ultra-hipsters looking for the next Edgebrook.
  • CLIFFSIDE HEIGHTS: Like Riverside, Cliffside Heights is a very exclusive well-to-do neighborhood. In contrast to the closely packed townhouses of Riverside, here you will find stoic mansions and stately manors on spacious grounds, including that lonely old estate on the edge of a cliff where that mad super-villain scientist always seems to live...
  • VIGILANCE ISLAND: Mostly vacant, there is a small monument park to the site where the Adamant first set ground in 1682 located here. Formerly known as Stormwatch Island, it was renamed to Vigilance Island after Hurricane Olga devastated Grimm City in the summer of 1928 in honor of the city's renewed commitment to readiness and preparedness in the face of adversity. 
  • STOCKADE ISLAND: Stockade Island has historically always been used as a prison garrison during wars and peacetime. Today it is home to the City's Department of Corrections prison facilities and the southern portion of the island serves as the city dump.
  • RAVENSWOOD ISLAND: Reachable only by subway, this island is home to the Ravenswood Asylum, a mental health facility built over 100 years ago.
  • POWER ISLAND: Originally called Warlock Island, it was renamed to Power Island in 1977 when a nuclear power plant was completed on its northern tip. Power Island supplies Grimm City with all its energy needs.
  • HARPER ISLAND: Reachable only by the famous ferry that bears its name, Harper Island is a small, isolated community that is really just a part of Grimm City in name only. While some residents do work in the City proper, most of the insular residents are simple fishermen as their fathers before them were for generations.
  • HARBOR BRIDGE: Built in 1889 in the same style and era as the Brooklyn Bridge, Harbor Bridge has connected generations of Grimm City residents going to and from Downtown and Edgebrook. It provides service to vehicle, subway train and pedestrian traffic.
  • NORTH RIVER BRIDGE: Built in 1955 as part of the Interstate 76 federal infrastructure construction project, North River Bridge connects Uptown to Northside. As the population and traffic have increased exponentially since then, a second  neighboring span is currently in the planning stages to provide some traffic congestion relief.
  • FOLEY PARK: Located in the heart of Grimm City between Uptown and the Midtown Triangle, Foley Park is as beautiful as it is spacious. Park Avenue on the west side of Foley Park is home to some of the wealthiest residents in Grimm City who enjoy apartments and penthouses with spectacular views of the park below. East Avenue on the other side of the park is home to many museums, theaters and other arts and cultural organizations. Many five star hotels and restaurants line the south end of the park, and brownstone buildings and a medical hospital sit across from the northern border.
I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Grimm City. In the coming weeks, I'll be detailing these areas more and populating them with some dynamic people and organizations to bring it all to life. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grimm City Overview Map

I'm happy to report that I have finally finished drawing my Grimm City overview map. As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of this map is to provide a general frame of reference for everyone when I share new content about the people, places, and things that make up Grimm City. Eventually I plan on expanding this into a detailed street level map, but for now, I think this will help me get started with what I want to accomplish.

And now, without further ado, I present to you the Grimm City Overview Map:
Grimm City Overview Map (Screen Version) - Click on image to expand.
A much larger (4800 x 3600) poster size version of the Grimm City Overview map is available here.

Random Fun Grimm City Fact
Cotham Yards (E-10 on the map) is the home of the Cosmos (short for 'Cosmopolitans'), Grimm City's major league baseball franchise.

Coming up next - A Brief Tour of Grimm City, so stay tuned...
And thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Grimm City History: Early History and The Troubled Time

Early History
The Adamant
Grimm City was founded in 1682 by Jeremiah Grimm at the mouth of the Triton River on the Atlantic seaboard. Grimm left England with a group of followers and sailed for the Americas aboard the Adamant in order to create a community built around the idea of religious and social tolerance. Also accompanying Grimm were his wife Prudence and his two young sons, Myles and Ebeneezer. Unlike the earlier Pilgrims that landed in the New World at Plymouth Rock and settled in Massachusetts, the passengers aboard the Adamant were a more diverse, multidenominational group of men, women and a few children hailing from not just from England but other European nations as well. After several rough months at sea, the Adamant set ground at Vigilance Island on September 7th, 1682. 

On their arrival, Grimm's party of settlers were greeted by Native American scouts from the local Wohakwen tribe. Jeremiah Grimm personally met with their leader, Chief Sekegwaseh, and a pact of friendship and mutual protection was made. The Wohakwen tribe were instrumental to the colony's early survival the first few years, and Grimm never forgot their early friendship or his word. When a Wohakwen village to the north was attacked by another tribe in 1690, Jeremiah Grimm personally led a party of his own men to come to their aid and liberated the settlement. 

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the early colonists, combined with the strategic location at the mouth of the Triton River and their Native American allies, the settlement that would one day be known as Grimm City flourished and grew, and trade was established with England and other European nations. Most early settlers became successful farmers and fishermen, and a few turned to crafts like woodworking and metalsmithing. As word of the colony's success spread through trade, and lured by tales of great wealth to be made, of open acceptance and tolerance for all people, and of a land where miracles and magic were not only possible but the norm, more settlers found their way from England and other European countries to Jeremiah Grimm's visionary community. 

The Troubled Time
Just as it seemed that nothing could possibly go wrong for Jeremiah Grimm or the utopian settlement that was his lifelong dream, a mysterious stranger arrived who would change everything. On Walpurgis Night (April 30th) in 1699, a strange man dressed entirely in black and carrying only a Bible showed up at the meeting house and announced to Grimm and the other elders that he would be setting up a house of worship in the community. Known only as “The Reverend”, he claimed to have traveled from the Massachusetts Colony to find his calling and set up his ministry. Wary but not willing to compromise his ideals of tolerance, Grimm allowed him to choose a spot to build his new church. A good number of the colonists soon flocked to the Reverend’s Sunday sermons, and the larger his congregation grew, the darker things soon became.

It wasn't long before the Reverend had the community divided, and accusations of witchcraft and commerce with the Devil began to flow in the settlement. Spearheading the charge was the Reverend, who began to make more and more demands of Grimm and the other elders on the leadership council as his power base grew. Soon the environment became so intolerable that Jeremiah Grimm demanded that the Reverend leave the settlement, but because his power had grown so quickly in so short a time, his demand was met with laughter and mockery from the Reverend and his followers. In retaliation, the Reverend accused Jeremiah's wife Prudence Grimm of witchcraft and demanded she be burned at the stake. To make matters worse, Jeremiah's son Ebeneezer had completely fallen under the Reverend’s spell and turned his own mother over to him. Always a dark and strange lad, the complete opposite of his handsome, upstanding brother Myles, it was clear Ebeneezer was now lost to him forever. 

Jeremiah Grimm, his son Myles and a few of his close friends and other loyalists staged a rescue mission to reclaim Prudence Grimm from the Reverend’s clutches on All Hallows Eve (October 31st, 1699). In the ensuing battle at the church with the Reverend and his cultist following (which included Grimm's own son Ebeneezer), Jeremiah Grimm was violently killed by the Reverend himself while trying to free his beloved wife. Myles Grimm quickly stepped up to rally the troops around his fallen father and finally succeeded in killing the Reverend and freeing his mother. Afterward, the elders appointed Myles Grimm to replace his father as the settlement's leader, and he quickly acted to reunite the colonists and restore order. Unfortunately his own family was not as lucky. Myles first official act was to ban his brother Ebeneezer from ever setting foot in the settlement again under penalty of death, and his mother Prudence, strained by her harrowing ordeal and the death of her husband, never fully recovered her sanity. Myles Grimm eventually found some happiness though, and married his childhood sweetheart Katherine Trevor in 1701 and the couple had one son, Jonah Grimm, born in 1705.

Secret History (GM Only)
While he often wrote of his desire to sail to the New World and create a community of religious and social tolerance, Jeremiah Grimm and his followers aboard the Adamant all possessed superhuman powers that were often equated with witchcraft and the dark arts in the 17th century and were really looking to escape persecution and the eyes of the Inquisition in Europe. They had seen far too many of their friends and relatives tortured and sentenced to death on the gallows or burning at the stake because of fear and ignorance. Jeremiah possessed superhuman strength (Ability Increase and Strike) and his wife Prudence possessed extraordinary powers of the mind (Telepathy, Mind Shield, Mental Blast). Their son Myles Grimm was an athletic speedster (Super Speed, Fast Attack and Leaping) and his powers were evident from a very young age. Their younger son Ebeneezer, on the other hand, showed no signs of having any innate superhuman abilities, and he greatly resented this fact and became very jealous of his older brother. Ebeneezer decided to compensate for what he considered a great weakness by turning to the study of magic and eventually the dark arts (Wizardry [Magic]). Roger Bingham, Jeremiah Grimm's best friend who accompanied him to the New World, carried a dreadful secret with him to the day he died and only shared with one other person – Jeremiah: Bingham's ability to create and control flame (Elemental Control [Fire]) caused him to accidentally start the Great Fire of London in 1666. Many native Wohakwen also had super powers, including Chief Sekegwaseh himself who could transform into a bear (Transformation), and this is why he understood what Grimm was trying to accomplish and decided to befriend him. 

The Troubled Time of 1699 was secretly a battle between those with superhuman powers vs. those without. Ebeneezer Grimm, who did not possess any innate powers, sided with the mysterious preacher known as “The Reverend” who was in fact an infernal being from another realm looking to spread chaos and suffering in the world, and the young man studied the ways of dark magic from his new mentor. Ebeneezer soon discovered that the Reverend was in fact a demon in disguise and decided to play a dangerous game of blackmail with the fiend in exchange for access to more powerful magic. Prudence Grimm was able to determine the Reverend’s true, demonic nature after touching its mind, but not in time to warn her husband of the danger. That contact with the demon's vile mind greatly contributed to her permanent loss of sanity as well. In the aftermath of the tragic battle at the Reverend's church, Myles Grimm recovered the fallen Reverend's Bible from the rubble and was shocked to discover when he opened it that all the pages were completely blank inside! Nobody knows where that tome may be today, or what powers and dangers it might still possess. History has no record of what became of Ebeneezer Grimm after his brother banished him from the settlement either, but old wives' tales and children's rhymes through the years speak of him as an evil old warlock that still haunts the region to this day. One thing is certain though: when Ebeneezer Grimm left the settlement, he was in possession of some of the most powerful magics ever known...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Grimm City Update: City Overview Map Progress

As I mentioned previously, I've been working on an overview map of Grimm City that will show the major neighborhoods and districts and provide a general feel for the layout of the city. Later on I will expand the overview map to include all major streets and locations by neighborhood or district as they are developed. Once the overview map is completed (hopefully in the next couple of days), I'm going to start providing some Grimm City ICONS content, but I want to complete the overview map first as a frame of reference. 

Here's a sample section of the overview map:
A sample section of the Grimm City Overview Map

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the EN World community members who provided me will some valuable insight and feedback in this map development thread.

As always, comments, suggestions and criticisms are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

ICONS News: New ICONS Publisher Fainting Goat Games

Mike Lafferty (of Vigilance Press and the BAMF Podcast fame) has started a new publishing company called Fainting Goat Games that will be producing ICONS products featuring art from well-know ICONS artists Dan Houser and Jon Gibbons as well as Adrian Smith (artist for Mesozoic Press)

Mike says: "Wanted to announce that my new company (Fainting Goat Games) just now was approved by Kickstarter to run a campaign to fund a series of 5 short adventures for ICONS. If you're an ICONS fan and you'd like to see some more adventure support, this is your chance to have your voice be heard.
You can find out more details and see some art previews here:


We're still firming up the details - feedback and suggestions are welcomed and

Congratulations Mike et al. and I wish you every success! I look forward to seeing what you all come up with in the way of ICONS adventures. When the Kickstarter goes live, I'll be sure to post a link here at Just Add Heroes!

Monday, January 2, 2012

What is Grimm City?

Short answer? Grimm City is a fictional metropolis located somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard between Baltimore and Boston, and the campaign setting for my ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying campaign.
Long answer? Grimm City is a project of mine that I want to spotlight on this blog. And while this project won't be the only focus of the Just Add Heroes blog, I am going to try and link my other offerings here to Grimm City whenever I can. Right now, Grimm City consists of loose notes and map sketches (in and on everything from OpenOffice documents, FreeMind mind maps, index cards, sticky notes and thoughts roaming unsupervised in my cluttered mind) that I hope to organize, refine and develop into a fully-detailed, urban campaign setting for supers gaming. Over the coming weeks, I hope to present the places, people and organizations that make up Grimm City and breathe life into a dynamic home for my ICONS creations. Ultimately, I want to build a fictional  urban campaign setting where, once again, all you have to do is JUST ADD HEROES!

As a kid, I grew up loving Batman's Gotham City and Superman's Metropolis. And while I also greatly enjoyed stories about Spider-Man set in MARVEL's fictionalized New York City, there was something special about DC Comic's Gotham City and Metropolis - these were places that didn't really exist in our world (although both are heavily based on real world cities) but rather grew out of the imaginations of the writers and in turn their readers and viewers as well. That's the kind of feeling I want to evoke with the Grimm City project. There have been some wonderful fictional urban settings for supers RPGs over the years - Freedom City (Mutants & Masterminds), Millennium City (Champions) and Hudson City (Dark Champions) come to mind - as well as licensed sourcebooks for Gotham City and Metropolis as well. I  hope to learn from all these earlier products and use them as a sort of road map for the development of Grimm City.

Speaking of road maps, as part of this project I intend to create a fully-developed street level map of Grimm City using one of my favorite RPG mapping programs, Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3). Initially, I will be developing a simple overview map showing the major neighborhoods and districts to provide a general feel for the city layout and then later expand that to include all major streets and locations as they are developed. Specifically, I will be using the Modern Road Map templates from the 2011 Cartographer's Annual Volume 5 for CC3. An example of that mapping style follows below:
If this interests you, please feel free to follow along and maybe subscribe. I hope to hear from you with any comments or suggestions you have too!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Release Roundup: December 2011

After a bit of a drought in new ICONS releases (the adventure GANGBUSTERS! from Adamant Entertainment in early October was the last time we saw anything new), the last month of 2011 brought some much needed relief for ICONS fans.

First up we have The RetConQuest, a new ICONS adventure from Ad Infinitium Adventures. While Ad Infinitium Adventures may be a new publisher, you will instantly recognize the names behind this venture: ICONS creator Steve Kenson and "iconic" ICONS artist Dan Houser! The RetConQuest is a 20 page PDF adventure for ICONS written by Steve Kenson and featuring art by Dan Houser and sells for $3.95.

After a short hiatus as ownership and management changed hands, Vigilance Press is back with two new ICONS releases in December 2011 as well. Recently, former Vigilance Press front man Chuck Rice (creator of the amazing USHER Dossiers) stepped down and handed his company over to James Dawsey. Under James's new leadership, Vigilance Press has released not one but two new ICONS products this past month.

First up from Vigilance Press is the ICONS edition of Watchguard: Teen Force 5. Produced in cooperation with Mutants and Masterminds favorite third party publisher Xion Studios, Watchguard: Teen Force 5 is a 26 page PDF collection of team hero and villain write-ups for the Watchguard setting by Charlie McElvy and sells for $10.99.

Next, Vigilance Press gives us Devilish Duos: Smoke and Mirrors, a pair of NPC villains with a supernatural twist. Devilish Duos looks like a promising new product line - I know I can't wait to see more! Smoke and Mirrors is a 10 page PDF written by Jack Norris and James Dawsey with artwork by James as well and sells for just $0.99 cents.I wish James the best of luck with his new venture and from the looks of things, ICONS fan favorite Vigilance Press is back and as good as ever!

Welcome to Just Add Heroes!

Welcome to Just Add Heroes, a blog about the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying game. My name is Joe Bardales (you may know me as jaerdaph around the RPG online community), and this blog is going to be my attempt to keep one of my New Year's resolutions: start blogging regularly about one of my favorite roleplaying games. I chose ICONS because it is an amazing supers game that I have been very passionate about and spent a lot of time playing over the last year and a half. ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying is published by Adamant Entertainment and created by a well known and very talented living RPG legend, Steve Kenson. 

My goals for this blog are simple: 1) share my original ICONS content and creations with other fans, 2) publicly develop my original ICONS supers setting, Grimm City, and 3) provide ICONS-related news and features and highlight new ICONS publication releases from Adamant Entertainment and other third party RPG publishers. The idea here is that all you will need to do is JUST ADD HEROES!

I hope you enjoy what I have planned for the coming year. Please feel free to subscribe, and comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy New Year!