Tuesday, December 27, 2016


In one of his blog posts (https://adeptpress.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/a-hero-gets-tired/#more-871), Ron Edwards talks about have fighting is tiring, and how he doesn't see that in comic books after 1980. (Read the post. I found it interesting.)

Champions used to emulate that by having powers and Strength cost END, 1 END per 5 points of power or strength used. A normal person (hah!) had enough endurance to punch ten times, more when you counted recovery in. As a Champions player, I used to find ways to work around END cost, even if I couldn't buy it to zero, I had lots of things on charges or whatever.

Edwards' main argument seems to be that END is realistic--fighting is fatiguing, which I remember from Days of Yore, when I practiced karate. But while comic RPGs don't need to deal with realism (Hello? Flying guys and telekinetic women?), they do need to deal with verisimilitude.

Comics as they are today mostly ignore endurance. ICONS ignores endurance.


If you would find the game more interesting if there were an Endurance kind of stat that made you tired in a linear way, rather than as an arbitrary "He gets away because you're exhausted, have a Determination Point" way--maybe you're playing an all martial artist game--here are some ideas. (This scenario is interesting to me only in an abstract way, so I can't guarantee that the ideas are good.)

Tiring by Default

All powers (including Strength) have the limitation "Tiring." Using a power costs two stamina. If you can fly with chi powers and punch, that's four stamina right there,

It's not linear, but it has the advantage of being right within the rules as written. It also means that fights are going to be short, unless everyone's going to be saving their determination to refresh stamina (or buying Healing or Stamina, if you allow that).

New Stat

The easiest way is to go for a new derived stat. ICONS has two, Stamina and Determination. We add Endurance to that, and make it five times your Stamina. So Dim Mak has a strength of 5 and a will of 6, he has a Stamina of 11 and an Endurance of 55. But the cost for a power has to switch. Instead, the cost is the point cost for that ability. So if Dim Mak is just punching (strength 5), that's 5 points of endurance. But if he's clearing out the room of mooks (strength with the Burst extra, to get all of them), that's 10 I points of endurance: 5 of strength, 5 of Burst. (Limitations would take away, but the minimum cost for using a power is 1.)

The extra "Zero End" might exist in this version of the system.

New Limitation

This combines them, and lets you roll dice, as well. It is not as linear as the new stat--I haven't worked out the math yet--but can be considerably more punishing than the "Tiring" limitation. You put a limitation--call it "Uncontrollably Tiring"--on the power. Whenever you use the power, roll 2D6 versus the number of ranks of power. If you roll over the number of ranks, you're fine. If you roll under, you lose that many ranks of Stamina, double that many ranks on an 11 or 12.

It behooves the GM not to allow this limitation for powers that have only 1-5 ranks, or to change it to 1d6 in that case.

Idea of the month

If you don't like world-building, set a superhero vigilante level game in the same place as the Grand Theft Auto games. That place looks lawless.

I haven't played, only overheard, because my son got GTA V for Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Antaeus League

The heroes are opposed by a mysterious organization that seeks to nullify and capture the powers of each super-powered individual, and do with them...what? Create a super-powered army? Grant powers to their own members? Infiltrate governments?

Or save the world?

(Idea brought on by late night watching of The Librarians; name from The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers.)

Not that the agents don't have powers: they do. The powers are oddly restricted, often earth-style powers: great strength, invulnerability, turning people to stone, growth, and more, but nothing that involves leaving contact with the ground: no flight, gliding, or teleport. They can stretch, but not throw.

Some very rare members know a little bit of magic (so they say) but that's always kept a low level, and those agents can be recognized by the chains hanging from their boots.

With luck, they'll stay in the background enough that the heroes won't have an opportunity to learn that the members of the League have no powers when not in contact with the earth, either through a chain or by standing directly on it. Asphalt is okay, but up in a building is not. (That means that their attacks always happen in open areas: on the field of a stadium, in a parking lot, a park, a nature reserve.

The heroes first come across them when they steal the powers of a fellow hero, rendering him normal, even though he didn't have the kind of powers you'd think of as removable: tech skills, perhaps, or something inborn. The next time, they might help, depowering one of their foes during a climactic battle that the heroes would have otherwise lost. The powers are imprisoned in a small urn with Egyptian hieroglyphics, most like a canopic jar.

Then the Antaeus League (still unnamed) comes after the heroes. (If you have a player who is going to be absent for a while, depower that character, but otherwise don't; it's not fun to be the unpowered hero in a superhero game.) There are close calls. Maybe the heroes manage to capture one of the League.

Why are they doing this? To save the world.

They have been responsible for thousands of years for keeping magic in check. Superpowers are nothing more than magic given a particular expression. If there is a clearly-defined start to the superpower age, someone got into their hideout and broke a thousand of the magic jars. (If there isn't, then the Antaeus League has its own enemies, who sometimes manage to free some of the magic.)

They are certain that if all the magic were freed, it wouldn't be superheroes any more; it would be a full-on Tolkienesque post-apocalyptic fantasy world.

And the Antaeus League member pleads with them to give up their powers.

Now, in your campaign, they might be deluded, or they might be right.

So try throwing that into your next superhero campaign.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Brief Personal Note

Just quickly, and to practice saying it:

So about four weeks ago, they removed chunks of my stomach, small intestine, pancreas, and gall bladder in an operation called the Whipple procedure. Examination of the removed tissue showed cancer in the common bile duct. Today I went to see another oncologist--not the surgeon--to see what was next.

Well, what's next might or might not be chemo. Yes, the surgeon thinks he got it all, and the single clinical study shows that for people with my indicators chemo might not affect the five year survival rate. Except it wasn't described to me that clearly, so I need to see how they did the math, and what the sample size was (because I'm annoyingly fact-based). I was told simply that the lifespan of chemo patients was longer, but applying chemo to my particular situation had no statistical significance. So I want to compare the average lifespans of chemo patients with my indicators to the average lifespans of non-chemo patients with my indicators. That seems straightforward enough and will guide my decision.

So that's why I've been absent or flakey this last little while.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Idea of the month

Here's a weird thought that would make the relationships between the characters more flawed. (If the players want that.) If you don't want to play it in my original concept, there's easily a Comics Code Authority version.

About each other character on the team, decide on one bad thing that's a secret. It could be something very heroic and comic-book-y ("I saw you passing information to the government about our activities!"), it could be something that's only about the team relationships ("I've noticed you always give in to Silver Antenna even though you always start opposing her"), or totally non-sequitur ("I, uh, kinda slept with your fiance. After she became your fiance.").

The thing is, you can use it as a quality once, by making it public. In essence, it lets you take a Determination Point from that other person's supply (which is a nice way of thinking about it, but that's not how things work now).

You can control how accurate the statements are by how complete they are. Two of the examples I gave would be perfect examples for a later retcon ("Not in the field, not now.") The more precise they are, like the one about the affair...that might have to bring in shape-shifting aliens to fix.

(In fact, it occurs to me that you can do this right now with the Trouble mechanism; this is just a way of formalizing it and making the players come up with relationship bits about each other. The fact that I thought it might be different shows that I am loopy from drugs and that the Trouble mechanism is much more varied than I thought.)