Damage Variants

Alternate ways of handling damage (and the general effects of conflict) in ICONS.

0 Stamina = Massive Success

Rather than the standard effect of rendering the target unconscious, reducing a target to 0 or less Stamina counts as an automatic massive success with that attack, with no resistance test by the target. For bashing and blasting attacks, the outcome is the same: the target is rendered unconscious. With slashing and shooting attacks, however, this results in an automatic killing outcome and the target is dead!

This makes slashing and shooting attacks considerably more lethal (since they kill at 0 Stamina as well as on rolled killing outcomes). You can soften this somewhat by allowing the usual Strength test against the killing outcome at 0 Stamina, as if it were rolled as a normal massive success.

Newton's Revenge: Alternate Slams and Stuns

The default rules for Slam and Stun outcomes in ICONS (p. 70) assume a massive strong target acts like a truly massive target: you test damage (force) versus Strength (mass) to see if the target is affected. Thus really strong types can potentially stand their ground when hit by powerful impacts. This is often, but not always, the way it works for superheroes.

A variation that spices things up is to ignore the 0 or greater damage requirement for a slam or stun outcome; so long as the attack results in a major or massive success, then there has to be a test for a slam or stun. So relatively invulnerable targets can get tossed around, perhaps even stunned or knocked out, by a sufficiently successful attack without taking any Stamina damage at all!

In this variation, you may want to use the higher of the target's Strength or armor level (from Invulnerability) to resist the slam or stun outcome. So, for example, if a Strength 3, Invulnerability 6 target is hit with a damage 5 attack, normally it would have no result: 5 damage, minus 6 armor, results in –1 damage, not enough to do anything. In the variant, with a major or massive success, the attack could slam or stun the target. Then it is a test of 4 (damage) versus either 3 (the target's Strength) or 6 (the target's Invulnerability) depending on the approach. You can even split the difference: testing slams solely against Strength (for bracing ability, mass, etc.) and stuns against the better of Strength or armor.

You may wish to limit stun outcomes in this variant to one page. That is, unless the damage is 0 or higher, the best stun result is one page, rather than a knockout. This gives the invulnerable types some benefit; they might get shaken up, but not taken out by attacks to which they should be invulnerable.

Likewise, note that this variant does not include killing outcomes, which still have to inflict 0 or more damage (that is, have damage at least equal to the target's armor) in order to have a chance of killing. You may want to treat a killing outcome in this variant as a stun or slam instead when the damage is less than the target's armor and a major or massive success is scored on the attack test.

Innate Invulnerability

Invulnerability (p. 41) is a big factor in damage and combat in ICONS: An invulnerable character can often go much longer in a fight: for example, a Stamina 8 hero hit by two damage 4 attacks is out of the fight, whereas a Stamina 8, Invulnerability 3 hero can withstand eight such attacks! This benefit of Invulnerability is intended; the invulnerable-types are the ones in the comics who hang in fights longer, soaking up damage, while most heroes do their best to avoid getting hit.

If you want to extend damage resistance in your ICONS game, assign all characters a level of Invulnerability. Half the character's Strength level (rounded down) is a good guideline. So a Strength 7 hero has armor 3 (7 divided by 2 equals 3.5, rounded down to 3). If you want to further differentiate, a character's innate damage resistance from Strength should apply only to bashing and blasting damage, not slashing or shooting damage. The Invulnerability power still applies to all forms of damage, and characters use the higher of the two levels (Strength-derrived armor or Invulnerability) against bashing and blasting damage. So a Strength 10, Invulnerability 3 hero would have armor 5 against bashing/blasting damage (from Strength) and armor 3 against slashing and shooting damage (from Invulnerability).