While the previous edition suffered from some controversy and late/cancelled titles with the previous publisher, rights have returned to Kenson and he is publishing this new, definitive, edition through his Ad Infinitum Adventures imprint, with distribution via Green Ronin.
From Kenson's website, here are some of the differences in this new edition:
- Adjectives (from Weak to Supreme) see a bit more use in talking about abilities on the scale.
- Actions characters can perform during their panel are better defined. Supplemental actions are gone; as feedback indicated they were confusing and folks tended not to use them or the associated modifiers. Instead, characters get an Action, a Move, and a number of opportunities to React and Interact.
- The Benchmarks Table from Great Power is included.
- The term “Determination Points” (DP) is used to differentiate the resource players spend from the Determination ability level.
- The default die rolling method is: Effort (Acting Ability + d6) – Difficulty (Opposing Ability/Level + d6) = Outcome. The math is the same, it just equalizes the die-rolling equation so there isn’t a need to “reverse” all the action formulae when its GM characters acting rather than heroes, or vice versa. The original d6-d6 method (along with a couple of others) are optional rules.
- There is a marginal degree of success, allowing for one of seven degrees of outcome: Massive, Major, and Moderate Failure, and Marginal, Moderate, Major, and Massive Success.
- The Combined Effort rules are more broadly applied for “stacking” instances.
- Pyramid Tests (which first appeared in Sidereal Schemes of Dr. Zodiac) are in the Basics chapter, along with all the Pyramid Test modifiers and variations from Team-Up.
- Challenges are consolidated into qualities, and the baseline number of qualities is reduced to three to start. Qualities are activated both to create advantage and to cause trouble for characters.
- The Qualities section has expanded information on creating and learning qualities, removing temporary qualities, and activating qualities through maneuvers and tactics as well as spending Determination Points.
- Determined Effort is replaced by a simpler Improved Effort that is just a flat +2 bonus, dropping the various requirements that no one really used anyway. Focused Effort is folded in the stunt mechanics (substituting one level for another in a test or effect), a Push Ability option is added.
- Trouble caused by activating qualities includes Challenge, Compulsion, Disability, Increased Difficulty, and Lost Panel. I may write at some point about the notion of “Editorial Interference” as trouble, but that concept didn’t make the cut (too meta and, frankly, rooting in comics fan cynicism).
- The Stunts section has expanded to include using superhuman (level 7+) abilities and Master Specialties for stunts, as well as powers.
- The Damage section include options for minions, more lethal damage, lasting injuries, and different damage effects (from the standard Slam, Stun, and Kill effects).
- There are two expanded examples of play, one in the Basics chapter and one in the Taking Action chapter.
- The random Power Type table is tweaked slightly to change the probabilities of generating certain powers (mainly making Movement Powers more common than Mental Powers).
- There is an optional table for randomly rolling Specialties (if you want, otherwise you just choose them as before).
- Powers have generally been brought in-line with the material in Great Power and make more reference to qualities for modifiers. The focus is on the “core” powers, with condensed descriptions, leaving the more detailed descriptions, extra and limit lists, and “reskinned” powers for Great Power to cover.
- Extras and limits from Great Power are included.
- Power descriptions are now all listed in alphabetical order, for easier reference.
- A condensed version of the Devices from Great Power is included, with lots of sample equipment.
- A simple initiative system is included (Coordination test, highest outcome goes first).
- Actions are broken out by different types (Movement, Action, Reaction, Interaction) and more clearly detailed.
- An option for Interludes (narrative based scenes that activate qualities and award DP, which can be saved or spent immediately for insight, retcons, or recovery) is in the Game Mastering chapter.
- Some expanded and cleaned-up Game Master advice.
- A system of Achievements & Changes for character development.
- The villain creation system from Villainomicon is included.
- A slightly updated version of the Universe Creation system from Team-Up is included.
- Nine sample heroes and nine sample villains are included. There is no sample adventure (as I’m not a big fan of sample adventures in the core rulebook itself). I might look at revising the four-page Wages of Sin from the original Icons book as a free downloadable sample adventure.
- A glossary of terms is included at the end.
- And, of course, the Assembled Edition benefits from new art and new layout by Dan Houser and Daniel Solis, very much in the style of Great Power.
You can also find some sample characters in the new edition over on Kenson's site as well. Currently, the new edition is scheduled for a Gen Con release. If you are a fan of light and flexible super-hero RPGs, and for some reason you haven't checked out ICONS yet, this is your chance. Kenson is one of the great designers and he has an understanding of the super-hero genre unlike few designers. If you miss out on this game you will regret that.
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