Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Release Roundup: May 2012

As May 2012 comes to a close, I thought I'd finish up the month by highlighting the latest release for the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game from Fainting Goat Games, Justice Wheels #2: Auguste Anarch. This is the second offering in the Justice Wheels PDF series and features The Auguste Anarch - a street level clown-themed criminal along with his customized vehicle. Inside you will find full ICONS stats for the Auguste Anarch and his signature ride, as well as suggestions for using him instead as a hero. The PDF also includes standees of the Auguste Anarch and his vehicle for use in your ICONS games.

What really makes this product stand out as a must-have accessory are two value-added bonuses: a new power (Vehicle) and a comprehensive yet straightforward set of Chase Rules for the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game. The Vehicle power gives you your own super-vehicle (which can be land, water or air-based, or more than one of these) and includes complete instructions on how to build and customize your ride based on your power level. Vehicle combat and team vehicles are also discussed. The Chase Rules really add something exciting to the game and work off of the ICONS Success Pyramid rules presented in the Villainomicon. Additional crunchier options for chases are also given as well as suggestions for characters without a vehicle but possessing movement powers to enter a chase. These two extras alone would be well worth the cost of the PDF.

Justice Wheels #2: The Auguste Anarch is an eight-page PDF available now at RPGNow for $1.50 written by Mike Lafferty and Daniel Gallant (with input from ICONS creator Steve Kenson) and featuring artwork by Scott Harshbarger. I highly recommend picking this up!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Power: Mediumship

Below is a new power I came up with to add mediums or spiritualists to an ICONS game, perhaps one focusing on the supernatural and containing elements of horror. As always, please feel free to critique and offer suggestions in the comment section below.

Mediumship
Sensory Power
You see dead people, and as a medium have the ability to communicate and interact with them as well.

Mediumship allows you to see, hear and interact with the ghosts and spirits of the departed, whether they wish to be seen or not. Just as you are aware of the spirits present, they too are aware of your presence and know you can see them as well. On a successful Mediumship power check against a difficulty of the Willpower of the target, any ghost, spirit or other incorporeal being in your presence can be touched and affected by you as if they were corporeal beings, and your attacks, powers and other abilities will now work on them as if they were living beings in the real, material world.

You may ask a ghost or spirit in your presence any questions you like, but they are not required to provide truthful answers to you or even answer you at all unless they are under the influence of any mental powers you possess or other means of forcing their will. If you are unable to speak the language that the ghost or spirit spoke in life, make a Mediumship power check against a difficulty of the incorporeal being's Intellect. Success means you are able to communicate verbally and understand each other despite your language differences.

Mediumship requires the ghost or spirit to already be in the immediate vicinity (perhaps anchored to or otherwise haunting the area) for the power to work. 

Séance
As a bonus power or power stunt, you may perform a séance to summon to your presence the ghost or spirit of any departed soul with whom you wish to communicate. For a séance to work, you must have at least two other people present (they do not need to have the Mediumship power) and join hands with them in a circle that must not be broken. You must also possess and have present either an object that was of significance to the departed soul you wish to contact, or one of the participants in the séance should be someone with a significant relationship to the deceased. Make a power check against the Willpower of the spirit you wish to summon to your presence. Success means they heed your call and arrive in your presence to make themselves known. They must answer your questions and the questions of all others present at the séance truthfully (although some may give cryptic responses) and to the best of their ability. Unless other séance participants also possess the Mediumship power, they cannot see the incorporeal spirit, but they can hear and communicate with the departed soul who will appear to speak through your voice as the acting medium. All present at the séance will be able to understand and communicate with the spirit regardless of language differences.

Speak With Dead
As a bonus power or power stunt, you may speak with the ghost or spirit of a departed soul in a manner similar to Séance. Speak With Dead requires that you possess in your presence the corpse or bones of the spirit you wish to summon and communicate with - the spirit will animate the earthly remains and appear to speak through them as it did in life. Make a power check against the Willpower of the spirit you wish to summon and speak with. Success means they heed your call and arrive in your presence, possessing the remains of their corporeal body. They must answer your questions and the questions of all others present truthfully (although some may give cryptic responses) and to the best of their ability. Unlike Séance, however, all present (even if they do not possess the Mediumship power) will see and hear the earthly remains speak with the voice of the departed spirit. All present will be able to understand and communicate with the spirit regardless of language differences.

When randomly rolling characters, Mediumship can be taken in place of ESP.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Golden Age Throwbacks: Miss Masque

It is time once again to return to the pages of the Golden Age comic books of yesteryear and take a look at  the next member of the Golden Age Throwbacks now in the public domain, Miss Masque. As a female superhero, Miss Masque was a relative latecomer, her first appearance coming toward the end of the Golden Age. Nor was she the first female superhero from Nedor Comics - she replaced The Woman in Red (considered to be the first costumed female superhero to ever appear in a comic book) who was simultaneously dropped from Exciting Comics. Unlike The Woman in Red, who wore a long red cloak that covered her whole form, Miss Masque had a more revealing red costume consisting of a short skirt dress with a neckline that got progressively lower over time and finally an exposed midsection as well, most likely in an attempt to appeal to the young adolescent male readership. Despite her relatively short run at the tail end of the Golden Age, Miss Masque was still a very popular secondary feature even though she never got her own title (although she did grace a few covers). Eventually she too was replaced by Judy of the Jungle when the "jungle girl" archetype became the next big thing in comic books.

MISS MASQUE
Origin: Trained
Real Name: Diana Adams
First Appearance: Exciting Comics #51 [Nedor Comics September 1946]

Diana Adams a.k.a. Miss Masque
ABILITIES
Prowess  4
Coordination  4
Strength  3
Intellect  4
Awareness  3
Willpower  6

Stamina  9
Determination  5

SPECIALTIES
  • Acrobatics
  • Athletics
  • Criminology Expert
  • Investigation Expert
  • Martial Arts Master (Jiu-Jitsu, Judo)
  • Pilot Expert
  • Stealth
  • Weapons Master (Guns)
  • Wrestling
POWERS
  • Blast Device 5 (Shooting) - Pair of M1911 Colt .45 Semi-Automatic Pistols

QUALITIES
  • Epithet: Scourge of the Underworld
  • Identity: Wealthy Young Socialite
  • Motivation: Personal war against crime and vice
  • Connections: Russ Bowman (newspaper reporter and fiancé)
  • Sharp Wit
CHALLENGES
  • Enemy: Organized Crime
  • Social: Woman in a Man's World
Point Total: 45 

ORIGIN STORY
Diana Adams
Diana Adams was a wealthy young socialite who had inherited her father's estate but quickly became bored despite her comfortable lifestyle. She decided instead to put her affluence, education and athletic ability to better use and fight crime and injustice by secretly adopting the persona of Miss Masque. Donning a domino mask, a red dress with matching cape, hat and gloves, and armed with two Colt .45 semi-automatic pistols and a sharp wit, Diana was able to investigate crime and corruption free from the constraints placed on her by her position in high society. And while the heiress had no true superpowers, her wealth gave her all the resources she needed to fight crime. She was a trained marksman with a pistol, had a pilot's license and her own private airplane, and also studied jiu-jitsu and other martial arts. To keep people from learning her secret identity, Diana played the part of the delicate, feminine debutante and would always make a point of disapproving of Miss Masque's unladylike activities.

Most of Miss Masque's adventures involved the theft of jewels or other valuables, swindlers, con artists and murderers. Frequently, the always observant Diana Adams would stumble upon these crimes in the course of her socialite activities and then return later to investigate disguised as Miss Masque. If someone was victimizing or taking advantage of someone else, Miss Masque pursued the matter until justice was served, and became known as the Scourge of the Underworld. Anywhere Diana went, she always had her Miss Masque costume hidden and ready nearby. In addition to her weapons and martial arts training, she also possessed great skill as a criminal investigator. Diana operated out of her penthouse apartment and had a maid named Belinda who was the only soul to know her secret identity as a crime fighter.

Russ Bowman with Diana
Russ Bowman, friend and social companion to Diana Adams and reporter for the Daily Standard, often crossed paths with Miss Masque in the course of his investigations for the newspaper, but he was unaware the two women were in fact one in the same. Russ was a good journalist who often did features on organized crime and corruption, and he could hold his own in a fight. Diana would often tease him about his crush on Miss Masque and dismiss her behavior as too unfeminine to prevent him from becoming suspicious. Despite having saved each other on numerous occasions, Russ never could get Miss Masque to reveal too much about herself to him, and she always disappeared shorty after their work together wrapped up. Eventually, however, Russ Bowman and Diana Adams became engaged to be married.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Miss Masque first appeared in Exciting Comics #51 (September 1946) published by Nedor (a.k.a. Standard, a.k.a. Best) Comics, but the names of the original writer and artist are unknown. Alex Schomburg and Frank Frazetta provided art for later cover appearances, and Ralph Mayo penciled some splash pages.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thoughts on Character Conversion

Say you have a character that you want to convert to ICONS from another superhero roleplaying game system. You may be thinking, "wouldn't it be nice if there was some conversion document available to make this process easier?" You want to know how do the traits in one game relate and compare to the traits found in ICONS, and what the "formula" is so you can convert your character over as accurately as you can. My advice?

Don't.

Instead, start from scratch. Distill your existing character down to the core defining essence with as little gaming terminology as possible. Character creation in ICONS is so easy, even more so when you use the ICONS Character Folio software, that I have found this to be the best approach when doing conversions. Now take your description or list and start crafting your character from the ground up in ICONS - use the optional "point buy" system (or don't, sometimes not limiting yourself to a static 45 points can be liberating and allow your creativity to flow, but try to keep it reasonable while giving yourself permission to use whatever number of points you feel you need). In addition to the abilities, specialties and powers, don't forget to make use of  aspects, both qualities and challenges, and feel free to use these narrative devices inspired by FATE to model your character even for details that might be more quantitatively defined in more traditional roleplaying systems. If you need them, this list of benchmarks at the ICONS Truth, Justice and Gaming Wiki provides some examples featuring Marvel and DC Comics characters. 

Despite my admittedly unsolicited advice above, know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a more traditional approach to character conversion if you prefer. The old Marvel Super Heroes RPG from TSR (a.k.a. MSH or FASERIP), for example, converts quite nicely into ICONS as it was one of the game's inspirations, like FATE. The ability scores in both games have a 1 to 10 range (as well as named range levels) and map nicely to one another: MSH's Fighting, Agility, Strength, Reason, Intuition and Psyche become in ICONS Prowess, Coordination, Strength, Intellect, Awareness and Willpower. MSH's Endurance is gone but that's handled to an extent in ICONS by Stamina and other rules. See the benchmarks linked in the paragraph above for more thoughts on converting from MSH to ICONS too.

Additionally, Jason Sunday offered these suggestions for Mutants and Masterminds Second Edition to ICONS conversions back when ICONS first came out in 2010 and are worth taking a look at.

This advice comes not just from my experience but from many of the folks who have worked on ICONS products and fellow fans of the game as well from whom I have learned much. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stark City Games Releases Golden Age Thrilling Action #1

I'm pleased to report that Dan Houser and I have released the first installment of Golden Age Thrilling Action from Stark City Press this week at RPGNow!

Written by Line Artist for ICONS Dan Houser and myself (Joe Bardales), this is a Golden Age character pack with a pair of characters from the classic public domain pulp comics of the 40s, and a sample battleground. Dan also does all the amazing artwork.

This supplement is to be used to either run a quick battle scene for one-on-one play, or to have a few more characters for your own personal ICONS universe!

This issue features:
Doctor Hugo Strange -- mighty man of science who's mission in life is to CRUSH CRIME beneath his boot
Vs. 
Faceless Phantom -- Desperate criminal, mad genius, and occultist looking to destroy his hated foe, Doc Strange!

I take a look at Doc Strange and his origin story (complete with ICONS stats), then Dan gives you some insight into the background and machinations of the Faceless Phantom (also fully-statted for ICONS). Finally, Dan follows up on the two-fisted action with an exciting battle scene aboard the Phantom's Flying Fortress on the Fourth Of July!

And what's MORE patriotic than sending a right hook into the jaw of villainy on a Nazi Zeppelin on the Fourth of July?

Golden Age Thrilling Action #1 is a 13-page PDF and retails at RPGNow for only $1 buck!

Dan and I both hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more installments of Golden Age Thrilling Action!

Get a sneak-peak at Doc Strange right here at Just Add Heroes!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rethinking Powers: Power Theft

Tonight on the ICONS Yahoo Groups Mailing list, Paul (bliss_infinite) asked if Power Theft was possibly the most powerful - if not too powerful - of the powers in ICONS. This is something I've recently been thinking about myself as well. While Power Theft does cost two power slots in random character generation, it also potentially has a very long duration (based on power level). When I think of Power Theft I think of Rogue from the X-Men as being the iconic example of a hero with the power. When she uses her power theft ability, we often see her take on some of the other characteristics of the target - a raging temper, physical changes, and mental states (like fear and depression), for example. So here is my first attempt at a re-write of Power Theft where I've added a hindrance to its use - the acquisition of the target's challenge aspects as if they were your own for the duration of the power. So while Rogue might get Sabretooth's Invulnerability temporarily, she would also get his Quick to Rage challenge for awhile too. I've also thrown in a little bit about a touch attack as well (Prowess vs. Prowess) that is implied but not always expressly stated in every ICONS power description with a touch component. As always, please feel free to critique and evaluate in the comment section below.
Rogue - X-Men Evolution

Power Theft (x2)
Alteration Power
By touching another character, you can steal their powers and use them yourself!

When selecting this power at character creation, decide if Power Theft can be used to acquire natural, innate powers by touching another person or gimmick powers by touching a power device (it cannot be used on both).

Roll a Prowess test to touch the target against a difficulty of the target’s Prowess (an evading reaction, Acrobatics specialty bonus may apply). If successful, subtract your power level from the levels of all the target’s powers. You gain the powers at that level (the lesser of your Power Theft level and the target’s original level). The target retains any remaining power level. So if you have Power Theft 4 and touch a target with Fire Control 7, you gain Fire Control 4 and your target retains Fire Control 3. If your power level exceeds the subject’s power, you gain it at the target’s level and the target loses it entirely. Multiple touches have a cumulative effect, until all of the target’s power levels are gone (at which point there is no more left for you to steal).

You retain the stolen powers for ten times your Power Theft level in pages. Then you lose 1 level from each stolen power per page, and your target regains 1 level per page, until the stolen powers are completely gone.

You can steal powers from multiple targets, but only the highest level of any given power applies.

Using this power often comes with a price: you take on and internalize some of the negative baggage of the target. On a moderate success, you acquire all the target's challenge aspects for the duration the power is in effect as if they were your own. On a major success, you acquire one of the target's challenge aspects for the duration of the power (chosen randomly or by the GM). With a massive success, you do not take on any of the target's challenge aspects. You do not take on any of the target's challenge aspects with a failure outcome.

As a bonus power, you can make a power theft attack at extended range. You must make a Coordination test to hit the target of your attack.
Rogue's appearance after stealing Mystique's powers

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fainting Goat Games Releases Aqua-Zombies of the Kriegsmarine

An old sunken Nazi U-Boat has been raised from the ocean floor. But what evil has been sleeping beneath the deep for decades…waiting to strike?

Fainting Goat Games has just released the third installment of their Improbable Tales adventure line, Aqua-Zombies of the Kriegsmarine. Written by Mike Lafferty, Chris McGroarty and John Post with artwork by Adrian Smith and Jon Gibbons, this 25-page PDF features new art, maps, standees of the important NPCs and antagonists and play-tested tips on getting the most fun from the adventure. In addition to undead Nazi U-Boat sailor zombies, the adventure features two characters created by John Post from ICONS: Hero Pack 2, Necromancer and Dark Pharaoh.  This adventure contains art, maps, standees of the important NPCs and antagonists and play-tested tips on getting the most fun from the adventure. Aqua-Zombies of the Kriegsmarine is available now at RPGNow for the low introductory price of $2.50.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him...

Growing up in the 1970s, The Six Million Dollar Man was one of my favorite shows as a kid. The show was so popular it had a toy line, a spin-off series (The Bionic Woman) and a comic book series published by Charlton Comics. Just for fun, I've statted up for ICONS Steve Austin, astronaut, the man barely alive. Looking back now, it's amazing to me how much enjoyment I got from this show as a kid, so maybe I'll pay it a visit here again (Bigfoot? Man I thought it was the greatest thing ever when Bigfoot showed up on The Six Million Dollar Man!).  And $6 million seems like a bargain today. With inflation, he would probably be called "The Billion Dollar Man" now at the very least...

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN
Origin: Transformed
Real Name: Colonel Steve Austin
First Appearance: The Six Million Dollar Man #1 [June 1976, Charlton Comics]

ABILITIES
Prowess  4
Coordination  4
Strength  7
Intellect  4
Awareness  3
Willpower  4

Stamina  11
Determination  1

SPECIALTIES
  • Investigation Expert
  • Pilot Master
  • Stealth
POWERS
  • Ability Increase Device (Strength) - Bionic Right Arm
  • Detection Device 8 (Radiation) - Bionic Right Arm (built-in Geiger counter)
  • Super-Speed Device 6  - Bionic Legs
  • Leaping Device 6  - Bionic Legs
  • Supersenses Device 5 (Infravision +1, Extended Vision +4) - Bionic Left Eye (with infrared filter for night vision)
QUALITIES
  • Identity: World's First Bionic Man
  • Identity: Former Astronaut and Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) Operative
  • Connections: Oscar Goldman, OSI Director
  • Connections: Dr. Rudy Wells, OSI physician and bionics expert
CHALLENGES
  • Weakness : Bionic implants don't function in extreme cold
  • Enemy : Dr. Franklin and the Fembots
  • Enemy : Bigfoot
Point Total: 57

RESOURCES
'The Six Million Dollar Man' and 'The Bionic Woman' are registered trademarks of MCA / Universal Studios and are used without permission. No infringement of the trademarks or copyrights of MCA / Universal Studios or any other corporation, entity or person is intended by this article.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Coming Soon: Golden Age Thrilling Action!

Daredevil by Dan Houser
I am thrilled to report that ICONS line artist Dan Houser has invited me to partner with him on a new series of PDF products for ICONS called Golden Age Thrilling Action! published through his imprint, Stark City Press. The concept is a pair of characters, a Golden Age ICONS hero and villain squaring off on a fantastic battleground. It's not a full adventure, just one scene and a map of the place where the battle takes place! Best news is, each PDF will retail for the low price of just $1 buck!

So what does this mean for the Golden Age Throwbacks series here at Just Add Heroes, is it going away? Absolutely not! I will continue to post my versions of classic Golden Age superheroes fully-statted for ICONS along with their origin stories. Many of those heroes will eventually make their way into Golden Age Thrilling Action! releases, but in addition to what you get here on the blog, you will also get a fully-statted supervillain, a battle scene to pit them against each other in, a map of that location and the best part: new artwork for these classic public domain characters re-imagined by Dan Houser himself.

Thank you everyone for your support and as always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Golden Age Throwbacks: The Ghost

Let's return to the Nedor Comics roll call with another superhero from the Golden Age of Comic Books now in the public domain, The Ghost. Unlike some of the other Nedor superheroes I've featured previously in the Golden Age Throwbacks series, the Ghost wasn't so much a featured cover star as he was a backup feature to the main act. Still, he is interesting in his own right, and his powers and background story are very different from what we've seen so far. He was also one of a small number of superheroes who started out in the Pulps and later transitioned into a comic book series based (albeit loosely in this case) on the character. The Ghost also had an arch-enemy named Professor Fenton who made frequent appearances in the series.

THE GHOST (Nedor Comics)
Origin: No Origin
Real Name: George Chance
First Appearance: Thrilling Comics #3 [Nedor Comics April 1940]

ABILITIES
Prowess  3
Coordination  3
Strength  4
Intellect  4
Awareness  6
Willpower  8

Stamina  12
Determination  1

SPECIALTIES
  • Occult Master
POWERS
  • Astral Projection 5
  • Flight 8  - Levitation
  • Invisibility 5
  • Illusion 4
  • Telekinesis 4
  • Mind Control 4
  • ESP Device 3 (Sight and Hearing) - crystal ball
QUALITIES
  • Connections: Betty Morris (assistant and girlfriend)
  • Connections: Yogi Masters (by psychic bond)
  • Identity: Yogi Master of the Mystical Arts
  • Catchphrase: Hindu Oaths (Sacred Sakti! - Great Gautama! - Sainted Siva! - Well-beloved Krishna! - Blessed Buddha! - Karma!)
CHALLENGES
  • Arch-Enemy: Professor Fenton
  • Enemy: Axis Powers
  • Enemy: Emperor Tengo of Venus (5000 AD)
  • Weakness: Powers don't work if his hands are tied
Point Total: 64

ORIGIN STORY
George Chance a.k.a. the Ghost!
As a boy, George Chance lived in India with his father amongst the mystical yogis. On his deathbed, George's father asked the yogis to raise his young son for him. The yogis imparted to George the greatest magic of the ages and secrets of their mystical Hindu ways which he learned to put to practical use. When George reached adulthood, the yogis told him that the world needed him now, so he left them to return to his American homeland. Impressed with Chance's yogi magic (which he used openly after his arrival in the Western world), a wealthy gentlemen invited him to perform at a party that night. A short while later, Chance discovered that the same man who invited him to the party had been found dead, an apparent suicide. Thinking this didn't add up (why would he invite him to a party if he was planning on kill himself?), George Chance suspected murder and decides to investigate further. Chance decided to dedicate his powers to fighting crime and adopted the persona of the Ghost!

As the Ghost, Chance went to the police with his murder theory, but learned that the suicide note was indeed written by the dead gentleman. Soon after, however, another man was found dead under similar circumstances, again by suicide and leaving a note. Investing further, the Ghost uncovered an elaborate insurance fraud scheme devised by a criminal named Tanko. The "suicides" were actually in on the plot, having written the suicide notes themselves and with Tanko's help, planned on faking their deaths to collect. But Tanko double-crossed them, tricking them into actually killing themselves and keeping all the insurance claim money for himself. The Ghost used his yogi powers to pretend to be the next victim and tricked Tanko into revealing his plan.

The Ghost's powers all stemmed from his mastery of yogi magic which included levitation (and flight), astral projection, the ability to turn himself and others invisible, illusion, telekinesis, and mind control. By using a crystal ball, he was able to see what his enemies were up to elsewhere. He also possessed a psychic bond with his yogi masters which allowed them to know when he was in grave danger and communicate a warning to him, and even save him from certain doom when he was completely helpless (i.e. he was unconscious or his hands were tied, preventing him from using his yogi magic).

Professor Fenton
Although George Chance in the guise of the Ghost often fought enemy Nazi and Japanese agents and saboteurs during World War II, Professor Fenton was truly his greatest nemesis and arch-enemy. Fenton was an evil genius who possessed an amazing time machine which he used to commit crimes all throughout history as well as in the present. Many of the comic book storylines featured Fenton and some elaborate scheme to steal some valuable artifact from the past, but the Ghost always outwitted him in the end. Fenton's time machine needed an operator in the present to bring back anyone time traveling and included a "televisor" so that person could check up on the traveler's progress in the other time period and communicate with them. Sometimes the Ghost would even sneak into Fenton's lab and use the time machine himself when he needed it, usually by ordering one of Fenton's thugs to work the machine and then return him on command through mind control. And on one occasion, a yogi master to whom he was psychically bound operated the machine in astral form and returned the Ghost from the past. The time machine could also send someone to the future, as the Ghost discovered when he traveled to the year 5000 AD where the humans of Earth had been enslaved by Tengo, the Venusian Emperor.

The Ghost and Betty Morris
The Ghost was often assisted on his adventures by his girlfriend, Betty Morris. Betty was originally from the 18th century and met the time-traveling Ghost on one of his adventures when she became entangled in one of Professor Fenton's schemes. The Ghost later brought her back to the 20th century via Fenton's time machine where Betty quickly adapted to the styles and culture of her new modern life.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
The Ghost first appeared in Thrilling Comics #3 (April 1940) published by Nedor (a.k.a. Standard) Comics, but the names of the original writer and artist are unknown. The Ghost was loosely based on the Green Ghost, a Pulp fiction character also named George Chance.