Monday, January 9, 2017

Point buy in ICONS


ICONS isn't really a point-buy game--it's a random-roll character creation game. But it does include a point-buy option that isn't terrifically well explained. But point-buy is useful for some online games, at least until the GM is comfortable with how Determination Points balance things.

So I thought I'd give a shot at explaining point-buy. This is based on information I've picked up from Mr. Kenson's posts on the ICONS Yahoo group and G+ and elsewhere. The caveat is that I might be wrong, and I hope someone more knowledgeable will correct me. I'll try to keep this post up to date as I'm corrected.

If you don't have a copy of the rules, you might want to pick up a free copy of the hero character creation quicksheet, from DriveThru or RPGNow.

The Basics

Everything costs one point per rank. Prowess 7 is 7 points. Specialty Law (Master: +3) is 3 points. The Power Danger Sense 1 is 1 point. With the exception of Extras and Limits, to total the point cost of a character, you add up all the rank values.

Bob Average

So Bob Average costs 18 points. Bob Specialist (the same guy with one specialty) would be 19 points.
Here's Bob Guard, who has some points in powers as devices:
Bob Guard
Intellect3Pistol (Shooting)3
Awareness3Nightstick (Strike)4

He's a whopping 26 points: 18 for the attributes, 1 for the specialty, and 7 for the powers.

The catch is Extras and Limits. They add a lot of versatility, but they muck up the accounting some.


An Extra is something you add on to a power. For the most part, Extras are the same rank as the power they're based on. An Extra on a power that's rank 1 is also Rank 1. An Extra on a power that's rank 9 is also rank 9. For many of the extras, rank doesn't matter, because the benefit of the extra is binary: it affects phased items or doesn't, for example. Still, in point-buy, that means that it costs the same as the original power. Leaping 9 + Extra: Defensive is 9+9=18 points.

Here's Bob Extra:

Bob Extra
Intellect3Shotgun (Shooting) Extra: Burst5
Awareness3Nightstick (Strike)4

Without the extra, he'd be 28 points (18 attributes, 1 specialty, 9 powers). With the extra, he's 33 points. Yup. With extras, your character can get expensive, fast. But you can't really do Burst other than as an extra. (Okay, you can stunt the extra if you only need it occasionally.)

For convenience in calculating, I generally put the rank of the extra beside it, so it becomes Extra: Burst 5.

The Extra: Effect adds a power, and the rank is still the same as the original power. Force Field 4 + Extra: Telekinesis 4 is 4+4=8 points. Now, in point buy, there isn't so much reason to use a power as an can just say you have the power at whatever level you can afford....unless the power also has a limit.


A Limit is a limitation on a power. When you apply a limitation to a power, you have a choice. The limitation has one of these three effects:
  • Raises the rank of the power by +2
  • Reduces the cost of the power for figuring Determination
  • Cancels the cost of an extra on that power

We'll concentrate on that third one for now. (When you're submitting your character to your GM, please let them know which use of a limitation you're going for. Otherwise, they might do the math differently.)


Why would you do this? Given that you have pretty much total control in a point-buy situation, why would you make any power an extra?

To cancel out the cost with a limitation.

Back to the Topic

A couple of things to note:
  • You can put limitations on an Extra: Effect
  • If the power has no extra, then you can't cancel out the cost of the extra.

That is, it's okay to do this:
Extra: Force Field Limit: Temporary 

The cost for the kit and caboodle? 5 points, because the Limitation cancels the cost of the extra.
Clear it with your GM, but I think this way of writing makes it clear that the Force Field has the Temporary limitation, not the TK power.

To be clear: If you wrote the power this way, the limitation would still cancel the cost of the extra:
Telekinesis Limit: Temporary5
Extra: Force Field 

The rules aren't clear, but I'd interpret that as meaning that the Temporary limitation applies to the Telekinesis and pretty much every Extra on it, including the Force Field. (Feel free to correct me, and if you get agreement otherwise from your GM, that trumps everything.)

More Examples

Telepathy 4
Cost: 4

Telepathy Extra: Rangeless 44
Cost: 8

Telepathy Extra: Rangeless 44
Telekinesis Limit: Close Range4
Cost: 12 (8+4, and limit is given to making the Determination cost 0 on Telekinesis)

Telepathy Extra: Rangeless 44
Extra: Telekinesis Limit: Close Range4
Cost: 8 (because the Limit cancels out the cost of the Telekinesis extra)

I don't think that's a complete discussion, but it includes a number of areas that seem to cause difficulty. I'll expand as necessary.