Thursday, June 29, 2017

Unsolicited advice

Over in the G+ ICONS community, Jonata Sodre asked a question about novice heroes and adventures. I mis-interpreted the question and provided this, which might be of interest to others.

In ICONS, the Determination Points mechanism overcomes most of the problems from point imbalance. (I have not played enough Supers! REd to be sure if competency dice do the same thing, but I suspect they might.)

If you want the opposition to be easier and more suitable to beginning characters, I might consider doing some or most of these. Some of these are specific to ICONS, some are general to superhero games.
  1. When looking at the characters before-hand, try to guide them away from things that will require lists or designing on the fly. So Transformation (Animals) is not great (though you can use the list of animals in the rulebook), Summoning (from Great Power) might be a hassle (because you have to design the summoned beast). Summoning is much easier to use when it's duplicating guess at the stats of the animated thing, and go.
  2. Use minions. If there are bunches of disposable henchpeople with the minion rule, the heroes can clean them up, and be demonstrably effective (good for player morale).
  3. Make sure that the opposition has no damage resistance or force field, or if there is one, it's very low...level 1, 2, or 3. That's enough that no one will ask why the police didn't handle it, but low enough that a Strength 4 crimefighter who is punching should still do a little damage every hit.
  4. Make the final fight with a single opponent. Then the players act once each and the villain acts once (on each page). That makes it much easier for the player characters to win.
  5. Try and have something for every player to do, in the adventure. If the characters are created with point-buy, the abilities are hints as to what the players want to do. Somebody who bought Investigation as a specialty probably wants to investigate something at some point. In the same way, look at the Qualities as hints about the story things they want. The character design isn't always a clue—some people put stuff in there for completeness' sake, or "just because"—but it might be a clue.
  6. Remind the players that they can try and find out the villain's Qualities, and that those Qualities can help bring down the villain. (If they can't figure out how to do it, give them more hints, and don't charge them Determination for it.)
  7. At the same time, don't go nuts with creating Qualities. Sometimes, just rolling some dice to do it (technically, a maneuver) is sufficient. Sometimes you don't even have to roll dice: "Okay, your fire blast sets it on fire. The propane tank explodes." Or, "I want to hit him and knock him off balance." "You're stronger than he is, so just roll Prowess, and if you do, he's off-balance. Everyone can take advantage of that this page."
  8. If you can't think of how to do something in the game, say, "Sure, it'll cost you a Determination Point" and charge them a Determination Point, rather than stalling the game by looking it up. (I mean, it's better to know the stuff, but it's okay to have been wrong if everyone has fun. You can do it right next time.) If the player doesn't have a Determination Point, trade them Trouble or have them roll something.
  9. For beginning players and characters, simple is usually better. The thief is stealing hawk things, they there's a display of Egyptian hawk jewelry at the museum tonight, and the villain turns out to be an Egyptian god who is seeking the Staff of Horus. Fight ensues. The players lose or win; if they lose, they've learned Qualities that will help them win; if they win, that's great. Adventure's over. Yes, you can complicate it by having the villain be an  assistant to the Egyptian god and now they really have to face him, but do you need to?
  10. I always find the secret identity stuff fun. If you do, too, have a little bit happen for each secret identity. Someone important is leaving, someone has arrived and the hero has to look after them, whatever...but not too much. That kind of stuff is the most fun for the player, and other people are just watching.
  11. Something I found useful when playing online was to have everyone make old-style ICONS rolls (1d6-1d6), apply that to the power or ability, and get some idea of it relative to the villain. Then the GM (me) doesn't have to roll dice often (you don't have to go all the way to "players do all the rolls") and can pay attention to other parts of the game. So as GM I'd roll for a surprise attack, or for some NPC using a specialty or attacking, but I don't care if the player rolls for the NPC they're attacking. Just saves time for me, but you might not find it so.

That's not so much about making the adventure easier as it is general tips, but I hope it helps. Those work for me, and I hope they work for you.