Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dark vs. Spark as a genre...character creation

SYSTEM: ICONS

I've been thinking about the adventure I've written for the Dark vs Spark world (All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner). I felt like the standard ICONS origins weren't quite right, because all of the heroes we see are Transformed (though birthright heroes are mentioned as a possibility). (Edited and updated)

So you could do point-buy, because you ignore the effects of the origins. That might be what I do.

In all cases, follow the spirit of the book. In general, hero characters have an SF rationalization or are SF-adjacent (even in the book they're not really SF; in game terms, they're specifying the quality that will guide what powers they can stunt); villains are monsters of legend.

So generally: have some kind of cliche or tag in your Qualities that describes your powers. Given the environment, you can swap Swinging for another Movement power, unless you really want it.

If you're going to do point-buy:
  • Use 50 points
  • The Knack "Spark" is free.
  • You don't get the advantages that come with an Origin, regardless of what the origin is.
  • You can use the optional rule from ICONS Origins that lets you essentially buy a multipower or array of powers that fit in the same category. They can't be used simultaneously. For example, you can have three Movement powers at level 4 for 4+1+1=6 points.
  • The power "Magic" is still available, you just can't call it Magic, because Light and Dark don't mix. Green Lantern is a character with Magic, for instance: He can do nearly anything based on his Willpower roll...but he has some super-scientific gadget that allows that.
  • That said, a character can have magic items, but those items demand a price to be used, and you'd best have an interesting story about how you got it.

If you'd rather have pre-generated characters:

Well, I'm working on some in another post. But because Mike Lafferty agreed to let me run the finished version of this on an episode of the BAMF podcast, there will also be some Fainting Goat characters modified to suit the setting. Mostly this involves changing the backstory and the Qualities; with the pre-Assembled characters, sometimes the powers need to be adjusted, too. I'll be putting up the changes (only the changes: the point is to drive you guys to the Fainting Goat back catalogue). I am currently considering, as heroes:
  • Bastion (Stark City)...magnetic powers and your former criminal
  • Bodhivajra (Justice Wheels 10)...your can-do-anything-but-directly-solve-the-problem character...though he might be too difficult to rein in. Still considering.
  • Chill (Justice Wheels 5)...your cold controller character
  • Flux (Stark City)...your child-of-immigrants shape-changer
  • Laughing Boy (Stark City...your manic vengeance-seeker
  • Mako Commander (Justice Wheels 13)...hey, there's a school of Marine Technology right in Owen Sound, along with a nearby underwater national park.
  • Memphis Bell (Improbable Tales Primal Power)...your strong woman, though I'd also have to change the name, it being Canada and all
  • Orion-5 (World's Most Wanted 2)
  • Professor Prism (World Most Wanted 1)...your light controller with a heart of gold
  • Sable Lynx (Stark City)...your slicing fighter

General tie-ins...I need someone to provide someone to provide super-scientific parts, so the area has a supervillain, sort of. The Mechanic will create various gadgets, because he needs money for his Plan To Save The World, which less intelligent beings cannot comprehend. So he's a Spark, but not necessarily one of the good guys. He usually aligns with them...except when he thinks that not aligning will further his plan. So a certain number of the backgrounds will be rewritten to use The Mechanic instead.

If you're going to use random character creation:

Besides Transformed, I can imagine possible Trained, Artificial, and Birthright origins. Gimmick is essentially relegated to "a Spark created this artifact." Unearthly might be possible. I'd rather relegate those two to "if you have a character concept that uses one of these, talk to the GM, but for random character creation they aren't common enough to roll." (I could be talked out of that.)

This is what I've revised after my initial three minutes of thinking...

  • Most origins grant you the knack "Spark," which gives you the effects of the Halo from the book, and lets you defend against the effects of the Dark. If you get Spark, it doesn't cost you a Determination point—it's part of the book (or the genre, if you will).
  • Roll for origin, but the choices are seriously weighted to "Transformed." The easiest thing to do is say that all origins are Transformed, but I expect I'd get howls at that. So...any roll but doubles is Transformed. (As in the standard rules, and you get the knack "Spark.") For doubles:
    1,1 or 2,2Birthright. You get the knack Spark and the standard benefits.
    3,3Unearthly. You are or claim to be an alien or from an alternate dimension. You get the knack "Spark" and yu get to increase two abilities (attribute or power) by 2.
    4,4 or 5,5Trained. Even though you're not a Spark, you've decided to fight crime. Unlike the other origins, you don't get "Spark" but you get +4 Specialties instead of +2. As in the standard rules, you can still trade in a power for two more Specialties.
    6,6Artificial (your essence has/can move into an object). You get "Spark" and the standard benefits.

(Edit afterward: I'm re-thinking this, because most hero origins in comics aren't pure examples of their types. Is Jaime Reyes unearthly or transformed? Is it okay to say, "generate your character as normal, but remember that there is a transformative event." I'd still shy away from Trained or Unearthly, but those can be done.)

I originally had this, but I don't think I'll do it: Because the book makes a big deal of your one-line character description defining your powers, well, that sounds like a Quality to me. As a secondary reward, define your character with a Quality and you can change one (1) power or add +2 to a power to fit the "Spark elevator pitch." (Maximum is still 10, of course.)

Does that seem too restrictive or is it enforcing the book?

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?