Friday, August 5, 2011

Hero Creation: the ARGHs! BAMs! and Crunch! of it all

So I've been looking at the Super's games Mystery Men! and Icons (though I may delve into Supers as well due to high recommendations). I really like Mystery Men! so far and Icons has certain qualities I like as well. But a heroes game all comes down to character creation, now doesn't it?

Mystery Men! uses a character build point system while Icons uses a random character creation. Icons also has a point system thrown in as an afterthought and I'll look at that as well.

There is something to be said about random character creation but for a Supers game I've never been sure how that would work. For me, part of a Supers game is creating a hero you want to play, whether it's your own creation or inspired by a classic comic hero.

So I rolled up an Icons character. I'm not going to get too into the mechanics of the game, I'll just talk about the results. Regardless, Icons uses 2d6 for the most part in it's creation process.

In Icons you go through a 7 step character creation process:
1. Origin
2. Ability Determination
3. Power Determination
4. Specialty Determination
5. Stamina, Background, and Description
6. Aspects (Qualities and Challenges)
7. Game Master Approval
Origin is your base starting point of how you received your powers, ie. trained, birthright, etc. I rolled Gimmick meaning all powers come from devices.

Next I rolled abilities, 3 physical and 3 mental. I ended up with low strength and a very high willpower (mental abilities). Still unsure what this character was going to be so lets see what powers I roll. Hmm, 2 powers, Animation (bringing inanimate objects to life) and Life Support. No real offensive powers. So this guy was going to be some kind of mentalist, in more of a support role, maybe alien (life support) so I choose Mental resistance for a skill.

I was a bit bummed about having a Prof. X type of character but then I thought this over once again and ended up with a brain kept alive in a floating jar of goo. Kinda like Basil Cronus from Godland. This was sounding more like a villain than a hero but really it could go both ways. This guy would be flipping' odd to have in your hero group.

I decided to go with villain and ended up with Hitler's brain in a jar come back to build a 4th reich (yeah, all this talk about Captain America hasn't influenced this at all).

Der Fuhrer's Brain! His brain is kept alive in this floating machine not needing to sleep, eat, or breath and he's protected from the vacuum and pressures of space and the oceans. He plots evils with his big brain and fights by bringing an assortment of inanimate objects to life through his connected machinery to fight his enemies. He's always in fear of having his jar being broken.

I actually kinda liked this guy. I don't know if I would ever have come up with this on my own so there's something to be said about random hero creation. He would even be a weird, freaky super-hero, something interesting to play. I'd take that challenge. Maybe Hitler's brain in a quest for forgiveness and redemption. Interesting and surprising. Either way, we've got some Kirbyesque gaming in this guys future.

One thing I would like to mention in the Icons random CharGen is that a hero can end up being just a bit better than a plain old guy or a superman, which I think is great for a multi-player team. A lot of diversity.

Now on to Mystery Men!

I built a character for an online game I'm participating in being run of the creator of the rules, John Stater. It's a silver-aged era campaign and we were allowed to build a character from scratch or base one off of a public domain golden age hero. I went with the golden age hero Firefly!

Mystery Men! foundation is based on an original fantasy game system so it's quite easy to pick up and create a character. In Myster Men! you get a pool of starting experience points ranging from normal (10,000) to cosmic (200,000). We were playing superhuman so we started with 50,000.

You start by rolling your standard 6 abilities on a 1d6 (yes, a 1d6) than building up from there. You add points to your abilities, use the points to buy powers, equipment, housing and even your character level.

There are three character classes to base your hero on, the adventurer, scientist, and sorcerer. At first I was a bit turned off by this lack of inspirational naming but it turns out to work well as it doesn't leave the class pigeon-holed. It's just a general category that you can just make into whatever you want - a true rules-lite open system and huge plus IMO.

Since Firefly was a scientist and used his knowledge to enhance his natural powers I built him as a scientist class character who still turned out to be quite strong. It was quite easy to match powers to the Firefly comic character, in fact, character creation was quite a breeze and fun. With a character concept in mind, you can pretty much breeze through the process.

FIREFLY (Level 6 Scientist)

The Firefly's real name is Harley Hudson, an entomologist and chemist. He discovered that insects can lift masses greater than their own weight because of their ability to coordinate their muscles. He taught himself to coordinate his muscles as insects do and found himself able to perform amazing feats. He then created a costume and called himself the Firefly. Thus, the Firefly does not possess any real superpowers but is merely a man possessing great physical and mental prowess due to his natural abilities.

Harley Hudson's romantic interest is Joan Burton, a newspaper reporter.

STR 13 | DEX 7 | CON 5 | INT 7 | WIL 3 | CHA 5 | HP 27 | DC 16 | ATK +3 | SPD 3
Powers: Iron Grip, Potent Attack, Jump, Invulnerability I, Super STR +7, Super INT +2, Super DEX +2, Super CON +4, Super CHA +4, Super Speed +1
Gear: Firecycle, chest symbol emits light 60' when controlled by button in belt. DC 10, hp 5 (I rolled a d6 and got 5 but if you want to roll on your own be my guest), Apartment/lab
Flaw: Ordinary human. Joan Burton love interest and reporter.

Finally, I wanted to see how the point system in Icons played out with the same character Firefly. The baseline hero points are 45 and that goes into all of your abilities and power levels. This can be adjusted by the GM, of course, for whatever campaign he/she would like to run.

So with 45 points I was able to create a pretty compatible version of Firefly. Housing and transportation isn't figured into the character cost like it is in Mystery Men! but the system worked better than I thought it would. With multiplayers starting with the same base points it may bring all the heroes into a closer power range with each other but I haven't explored that yet.

Regardless, both games process of character creation was fun and painless and didn't take to much time.

It's time to dive a bit deeper into the game playing aspects of both games and maybe take a look at Supers as well.


  1. ICONS is great for pick up and play games and makes a great convention game. The random character generation can be fun with a group. From the few times I've run this, I get the feeling that it's not a game for the long haul.

    I have both Mystery Men and Supers! but haven't really had a chance to look at either in great detail. At some point someone will be along to recommend BASH as well. Not got any experience of that though.

    My all time favourite supers game is Golden Heroes (now available as Squadron UK)' which did have random generation but was better suited to the long game.

    And of course there's the newly announced Marvel Super Heroes RPG from Margaret Weis to add to the mix.

    - Neil.

  2. AAARGH! Blogger ate my comment, so I'll give you a shorter version.
    I've been running an online ICONS game for about a year. I have some minor quibbles but, overall, it works great.
    If you decide to use it buy the character folio software. It speeds up character creation significantly. Random characters can be made in what is essentially an instant, point buy characters can be made in a couple of minute- literally.
    Go to RPGnow and DL the free sample of the Villainnomicon supplement it is like 30 pages long and contains a bunch of useful optional rules.
    If you decide to go with random PC gen, let the players generate 2-4 power sets and take the one they like.
    Determination points are very effective at mitigating any power disparity between heroes. you can have Orion and Jimmy Olson on the same team and it will work just fine.

  3. @Neil,
    I hear that comment about ICONS not being good for long campaigns- a lot. It makes me scratch my head, because I have not found that to be the case at all. My guys love it.

    FWIW, BASH is an extremely solid game but it has a soak role mechanic that really drags combat out.

  4. Sorry I forgot something...
    Also go here and look at this fan site- it is really, awesome. among other things it has ICONS stats for what seems like most of the DCU. Give some of these guys name changes and you've got a potentially huge supply of NPCs. Or you could just play in the DCU, if you roll that way.

  5. Thanks for the links and opinions!

    I'm trying to get a bit deeper into both of these games before I run something (hopefully soon).

  6. I see we are on quite a similar roll here lately and I agree with most of what you say. Despite decades of point-buy heroes in Champions (and M&M) there is something inherently intriguing in rolling up a random set of powers and pulling it all together - even if you end up with Hitler's Brain in a Jar seeking Redemption...