Someone over in the World of Supers group on Facebook, someone asked for a suggestion on how to do a Mystery Men style campaign, and what system you'd use. I spent some time thinking about what a Mystery Men campaign is. Here's my description, because it bears on how you bend ICONS (or Supers or Mutants & Masterminds) to it:
Heroes with only one or no powers, who strive to do good anyway.
If we look at the movie Mystery Men (who I dimly remember), they were something like:
- The Shoveler, who had a weapon, and probably some skill and a low Super-Speed or Fast Attack related to, uh, shovelling.
- The Bowler, who had one blast that wouldn't miss, but just the one
- The Blue Raja, who could throw silverware
- Mr. Furious, who had super-strength (maybe), keyed on being angry
- The Spleen, who could create, as I recall, a noxious smell
- Invisible Boy, who could become invisible, but I don't recall what made it useless
(I have to work from the movie; I never read the comic.)
In most cases, there's a single power or no power, and some kind of personality defect that makes them, well, largely useless. (A step up from Mystery Men would be the Awesomes, who would be characters with more powers...and personality defects that make them, well, largely useless.) So requirement one is that one of the character's qualities has to describe some personality defect that turns what might be a useful ability or super power into something less useful. I think that's the most important part: it doesn't matter what the powers are, if the personality isn't actually, well, heroic.
Now, those are not particularly strong powers on that list. The strongest is The Bowler's bowling ball, and that's probably at best a level 6 blast. It might be lower, because most or all of the people it knocks out are minions, but we'll say that it's a 6. It has a number of limitations (it's a device, so that might be the Source limitation; she doesn't seem to get Determination for it, so it might be a limitation).
It's relatively easy to say, oh, only zero to one powers; additional powers have to be extras on the first power. (It's kind of like a theme, which is an idea I explored earlier.) You have to change the character creation process, but that was pretty much a given as soon as we tightened the kind of campaign it was. So most characters have zero or one power. If you need extras, you take limits. A limit can offset an extra or add 2 to the level or offset the power's "cost" when figuring determination. There are two possibilities on power level: the power level is restricted in the game, or it isn't, but the benchmarks have been changed.
If there's a limit on power level, the limit seems like it might be level 4, and there's only one power. Higher levels are possible by taking limitations. So the limitation Source turns a level 4 into level 6. The super-speed that the Shoveler has is level 1, but the limitation might raise it to level 3. (Or maybe it's Fast Attack level 3.) Or maybe the benchmarks have been changed...each level does, oh, half of what it normally does.
The last thing that might need to be changed is Determination. In regular ICONS, Determination plays a large part in letting characters with fewer powers be as effective as characters with more powers...you figure your Determination by subtracting the number of powers from 6. Well, since these characters are actually less effective, you have at best one power. Instead of figuring the determination as the result of a subtraction from 6, what you subtract from is 2. You never have less than 1 Determination, so it's not awful if you have an extra. (Well, I suppose for a true loser experience, you could have less than 1 Determination, but I'm not going to play with that rule today.) Instead, if you have extras, maybe you have to think about limitations that offset the Determination cost.
What I might do in ICONS, then, is:
- The character requires a quality that makes them ludicrous
- Powers are limited to 4 at best, though higher levels are possible by applying limits
- A character has only one power, though additional powers are possible as extras to the main power
- Determination is changed.