Spending Determination

The following are some alternative ways of spending Determination from those given in the ICONS rules.

Determined Effort

You can simplify determined effort by allowing players to spend Determination for a flat +2 bonus to any test per point of Determination spent. The players may spend points to modify tests after the die roll and the initial result, essentially "retconning" the test result with Determination. The player must still tag an aspect (one of the hero's or an aspect of the subject of the test) to spend Determination.

While more straightforward, this approach allows players to manage their Determination use in a much more calculated and planned way; they don't need to decide a test is important until after they see the result, and there is no requirement for an initial failure or one-chance-only to spend Determination, which may encourage players to do more up-front spending. This may shorten some tests or challenges; for example, upon encountering the villain, the players immediately spend Determination on their first attacks to get the maximum possible result.

Free Tags

A concept used in some FATE games is that of "free" tags, wherein certain actions or test outcomes provide a hero with what amounts of a free point of Determination for a later test related to the earlier action. For example, an Awareness test that gives a hero insight into one of a foe's Challenges may provide a free tag, allowing the hero to spend a point of Determination to compel that Challenge without actually spending any Determination. Likewise, an effective Presence test might grant a free tag in dealing with impressed, persuaded, or overawed targets, or an effective Coordination test to pull off a particularly difficult maneuver (granting a tactical advantage) can grant a free tag against an opponent.

Free tags are a good way of providing quick bonuses and encouraging players to use their heroes' other abilities in order to garner them. They're a good option for Determination-poor (or simply frugal) players. They also encourage creativity, since coming up with a clever action, maneuver, or addition to the story may be good for a bonus.

Limited Tagging

Normally, players have to tag only one quality to spend Determination. In this variant, tagging a quality is limited to spending only one point of Determination. To spend more than one point, the player must tag one quality per point spent. So a determined effort involving three points of Determination, for example, would also require bringing at least three qualities into play. This effectively limits Determination spending to five points at a time, since characters have only five qualities at most. It also makes spending multiple points of Determination more involved, since the players have to come up with more complex justifications to bring multiple qualities into play.

Starting Determination

The standard system in Icons sets starting Determination based on the hero’s number of powers, counting abilities above level 6 as powers and some powers as double. Here are some variant ways of calculating starting Determination:

By Power Levels

Add up the levels of all of the hero’s powers, along with any abilities above level 6, and divide the sum by 6, rounding down. Subtract this value from a starting value of 6, with a minimum of 1, to determine the hero’s starting Determination. Powers that count double in Icons have their power level doubled before they are added to the total.

For example, a hero with Strength 8, Blast 7, Flight 5, and Invulnerability 8 has a sum total of 28 levels. This total, divided by 6, equals 4.66, which rounds down to 4. Subtracted from a starting value of 6, this provides a starting Determination of 2. On the other hand, if the hero’s Flight level were 7 (for a total of 30 levels), then dividing by 6 yields a value of 5, for a starting Determination of 1. Likewise, if the three powers were all level 4, for a total of 20, it yields a value of 3.33, rounded down to 3, for starting Determination 3.

This approach takes relative power level into account, with averages similar to the default approach, but providing a slight edge to heroes with lower overall power levels and charging a premium for those with relatively few powers at high levels.

By Power Types

In this approach, for each of the following power types where a hero a hero has one or more powers, reduce starting Determination by 1: defensive, movement, offensive, sensory, and miscellaneous (all other power types). So having powers in all five types, yields starting Determination of 1.

Having more than one power of a given type does not count. So having any number of offensive powers only reduces starting Determination by 1; only the first power of that type matters. Powers normally treated as two powers still count as double, unless the power fills more than one type, in which case it only applies to those type(s). For example, Teleportation counts as double, reducing starting Determination by 2, but only as a movement power. Elemental Control, on the other hand, may count as a defensive, movement, or offensive power (or all of those, depending on the power effects chosen).

Abilities above 6 typically count as miscellaneous, so –1 starting Determination for any number of abilities above 6, although the GM may wish to count Strength as an offensive "power" and high Prowess and/or Coordination as a "defensive" power, given their typical uses.