Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Advantages, and the getting thereof

SYSTEM: ICONS

Just a caveat: What follows is my interpretation, not holy writ handed down by Steve Kenson.

One of the things that happened when ICONS reappeared as The Assembled Edition was the addition of Advantages. My guess is that Steve Kenson looked at all the things he was doing with Determination Points, sometimes without spending Determination Points, and decided he needed a more generic name and method.

So the first thing to remember is that you can still spend a Determination Point and do what you did before: you can use Determined Effort or Push a Power or Retcon something. That's pretty much the same. But now, instead of saying, "Oh, you spend a Determination Point to do that," we say, "Oh, you spend an Advantage to do that."

Now, a Determination Point gets you an Advantage, and an Advantage does pretty much what a Determination Point did before. So that part hasn't really changed. In fact, if you want, you can ignore all the rest of the stuff and keep playing that way. If you're happy with it, great. I'm not going to call you out.

But there are situations where you should have an advantage over your foes, and you don't have Determination Points, or where it should just come about as a consequence of doing those things. You shouldn't have to spend Determination Points in order to scare someone because you're dangling them off a really tall building and you claim you'll drop them if they don't talk. You shouldn't have to spend a Determination Point to know that the robot is, duh, a robot and that while mental powers might not work, dunking it in seawater might do something.

That's the other part of what Advantages are for.

So we're going to ignore the spending-a-Determination-Point method for getting an Advantage for the rest of this post. It's a given. We're even going to ignore the whole Get-compelled-by-your-Quality-to-get-a-Determination-Point. Also a given.

Not quite a given is the idea of giving yourself Trouble. This is like being compelled. It's the generic version of being compelled. Any time you give yourself Trouble, you get an Advantage in return. Sometimes the Advantage is immediate (the GM says, "You have an Advantage") and sometimes it's in the form of a Determination Point (which you can spend for an Advantage...Determination Points are really just a way to store Advantages for later).

There are three ways to get yourself an Advantage:
  • A maneuver
  • A tactic
  • It's lying on the scenario ground, free to take
The last one is the easiest. If the place you're in has the Quality "Gloomy Victorian mansion" and nobody has turned on the lights, the GM probably says, "You get +2 on your Stealth Effort." That's a use of an Advantage, but nobody talked about Advantages. You don't have to pay for it because there it is: it's dark. Go for it. You're in an Aardian healing machine; your regeneration gives you some of that drained Strength. It just is. Accept it.

The big difference between a maneuver and a tactic, it seems to me, is that one is paid for by taking a test, and the other is paid for by taking Trouble.

Let's take the fire-breathing robot I mentioned the other day. There's a weak spot in the mouth.
  • A maneuver would be to roll awareness and see if you noticed the weak spot in the mouth. Maybe you make the roll, maybe not. If you make it well, you might get two Advantages out of it. Hey, if your awareness is 8 and you have telescopic vision and you happened to be looking at the robot when it belched flame, you've got this pretty much locked up. 
  • A tactic would be to go in the mouth and accept the Trouble that it has these powerful jaws and maybe you won't be able to get out before the next gout of flame. Now, if you're resistant to fire and you have phasing or something, maybe the GM says that's not Trouble at all. But if you're in danger of being turned into a bacon bit, well, that is Trouble. It has to disadvantage you to be Trouble.
Coming up with a maneuver is usually pretty easy: you make an appropriate roll. Obviously, you're going to try and slant things to your advantage...if your character's Prowess is 7, then maybe you want your feint to be a maneuver, because you're pretty sure that you'll make the roll:
"On this turn, I feint to the left of Gasbag, so that I can get an Advantage and increase my effort by +2 on my next Slam roll against him."
On the other hand, maybe your Prowess isn't so high, but you're tough. Instead, you're going to use a tactic that makes you easy to hit, but increases the  chance of hitting.
"On this turn, I stand perfectly still, trying to entice him to come in closer so I can hit him. I'm going to take the Quality Easy Target until I move, so others don't have trouble hitting me. I'll use the Advantage for +2 to my effort when I swing at him."
Of course, nothing says that the Trouble has to be immediate...so long as your GM agrees, you can make it anything that inconveniences you.
"I really need an Advantage, but I'm out of Determination Points and I can't think of a clever maneuver. Okay...this fight is going on longer than I thought it would, so I was supposed to meet my sweetie, Francis Honey, at the theatre, and I'm late. I want to take the Trouble Sweetie Ticked At Me."
 You can use Advantages with improvised weapons. I'm sure I've seen this mentioned somewhere.
"He's too far away? I uproot the streetlight standard (that's a Strength maneuver) because I want an Advantage that I'm going to spend on Stretching 2."
Or:
"I throw the tanker truck at him, so my ranged attack is effectively Burst."
ICONS isn't the only game with Advantages and Qualities, of course.

It takes a bit to get your mind around it, but the Advantage system and the Qualities are quite flexible.