ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition by Steve Kenson and published by Ad Infinitum Adventures is the core book for the ICONS system, a superhero role playing game. This book is an enhancement on the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying book, which adds new material. The book is covered by the Open Game License and consequently some of the material is considered to be Open Game Content.
The supplement is available as a watermarked PDF from RPGNow, although it isn't available as a print on demand book from the site (although some other supplements in the range are). A print version is available from the Green Ronin store however, and it is also possible to pick up the print version from places such as Amazon. The PDF, which is the version reviewed, normally costs $15, but it was purchased at the reduced price of $11.25.
The purchase includes three PDFs and a zip file. The PDFs are the main ICONS supplement, a blank, one page character sheet and a six page introductory adventure called Grudge Match. The zip file contains six black and white outlines of superheroes which are presumably intended to be used as a base to draw a character. There are three male and three female silhouettes, one for each of a kid, an adult and a muscular adult.
Credit: Ad Infinitum Games/Dan HouserThe Assembled Edition PDF has 234 pages. 2 pages are the full colour front and back covers, 1 page is a duplicate of the front cover image, but with only the ICONS logo and none of the other text on it, 1 page is the front matter, 1 page is the Contents and 1 page the Open Game License.
The Introduction gives a, very brief, overview of role playing and explains why the author - who has created other superhero role playing games, such as Mutants & Masterminds and Silver Age Sentinels - decided to make yet another game system in this genre.
The Basics has, as the name suggests, details on how the basics of the game work, such as abilities, time (which is strongly related to how a comic book is structured, having concepts such as panels, pages and issues), benchmarks, abilities and damage. This provides an overview of the fundamental mechanics of the game, and finishes with an example of the game in action.
Hero Creation is a multi-step procedure for creating a superhero, giving some optional rules and different ways of going about this, from the purely random to the more structure.
Powers covers superhero powers, grouping them into types, how to use them, how to modify, expand and limit them and then a complete list of every power available in the rulebook. There is also a reference to the Great Powers supplement, which expands the available options.
Specialities covers abilities that characters may have, which are not powers, but regular skills. These can still be useful.
Taking Action effectively describes how action, including combat, works, followed by an example of it in action.
Game Mastering covers how to run a game as a Game Master, from hero creation to that of villains - who are called Game Master Characters, which in most other games would be called non-player characters - and other minor characters, as well as some stats for creatures and such as universe and adventure creation.
Allies has descriptions, including origin stories and images, for nine superhero characters.
Adversaries is similar to Allies, only this time the nine characters are supervillains.
Glossary has the ICONS system terminology collected together for easy reference.
ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition in Review
The PDF is decently bookmarked, to a greater level of detail to the Contents (the powers are not individually listed in the Contents, for example, although they are in the bookmarks) although, rather oddly, the Contents page itself isn't bookmarked. The book has a single column of text throughout, and only seemed to have a few errors. It has full colour covers and there are plenty of full colour illustrations throughout, mostly based around the various superheroes and supervillains covered in the Allies and Adversaries sections, although there are a few of other heroes/villains that are not covered in this book. Some of these illustrations take up a full page, but most take up two-thirds of a page or less. Due to the formatting and the number of illustrations there is possibly not as much content as might be expected from the page count. If there is one problem with the formatting, it is where such as optional rules are printed in black on a white and yellow hatched background. Depending on the device, this is not always that easy to read.
The earlier version, ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying, is available as a pay what you want supplement; the Assembled Edition has a few differences to this, which are expanded in full on Steve Kenson's blog. It includes material from other supplements, such as Great Power, Villainomicon and Team-Up, as well as a host of tweaks. The Assembled Edition would appear to be largely compatible with previous material, which is a plus.
The system itself is relatively simple; it is a 2d6 system which uses less dice, and types of dice, than most other systems do. How various things are structured, especially combat, may not seem immediately obvious, with panels, pages and issues, but these are not actually that complex, just different. The ICONS system on the whole looks like one of the less complicated games around. It is stated to be primarily intended as a "pick-up" game, and as a consequence there aren't the opportunities for expanding a character's power and ability that there are in some other systems, but some options are given in the Game Mastering section, and the universe creation rules also provides information for creating and running an overall setting using several different GMs and many different heroes.
The ICONS game is not simply dependent on this rulebook. There are a number of supplements available, some of which have already been mentioned, including optional rules, adventures and character packs. As well as the material available from Ad Infinitum Adventures, there has also been quite a lot of third party content created for the system using the OGL. As a consequence, the system is quite well supported by a number of different publishers.
ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition will be a bit of a change of pace to those who are mostly familiar with Dungeons & Dragons derived systems, including Pathfinder, but this is a nicely made and presented supplement covering a game that is simpler to understand than it might initially appear to be.