Publisher: Rob Lang
Review Dated: 4th, January 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 10
Average Score: 5.00
Icar game system by Rob Lang
Icar is big. There are far more supporting documents than one commonly encounters in any game. This is a sci-fi game set in the far future. The game’s documents are divided into system, settings, and support–including bionics & an amazing amount of equipment. The game is well-constructed, and visually appealing. The main rulebook (Elements34) is rather trim on images, but this is more than made up for by the nice 3D graphic renders in the supporting documents–every weapon & vehicle in the equipent index is illustrated. The main rulebook also includes a sidebar story.
Characters in Icar are constructed, and the process is worded with a decided sci-fi slant, as befits the genre. Personality is a numeric mechanic, and termed “Deviancy.” Statistics are randomly rolled, and the rest of the character being generated is chosen. One odd feature about Icar is immediately apparant from character generation: the wheels. The character sheet is designed so that the player does not (and should not) write any numbers on it. Instead, the various discs are marked with simple symbols according to normal (permanent) and current values. This takes a bit of getting used to, but only due to its uniqueness–there isn’t really a learning curve involved. By the second game session, no one seemed to notice it as unusual anymore.
Skills are percentile based, and a bit backwards from the more common “roll under skill level” mechanic common to percentile systems. Instead, the D100 roll is subtracted from the skill level, and the result compared to the task’s difficulty, with easier tasks having lower needed differences. While this may seem counter-intuitive for those accustomed to other percentile-based systems, it is the same discrete steps, only in a different order–the roll is subtracted from the skill, rather than the difficulty being subtracted from the roll. Icar also does other some interesting things with skills, such as Progressive skills for specialisations, or dividing skills into Epochs based upon difficulty & degree of specialisation.
Character creation is rounded out with Psychotheatrics, which can range from having one year to live to shyness to machine empathy. The player can determine beforehand if he or she wants 1 to 3 of these traits, but the actual results are randomly rolled. Psychotheatrics can modify any of the previous portions of the character sheet.
Combat is interesting. Close battles are comprised of building & comparing combos between the combatants, and firearms (of which there are plenty) each have their own “character” sheet. The different scales of battle (close, firearms, vehicles) each have their own section, and is explained fully, but in play fights go rather quickly. Despite these three different forms of combat, the mechanics & resolution processes are essentially the same, with necessary elements for each being the only real differences.
The Bionics book is comprehensive, and includes a wide range of options. Everything from regrowing lost tissues, to budget legs, to a range of full-body replacements is included. One facinating aspect is how bionics are perceived by society, which is generally negative. I also liked that augmentation isn’t a simple “spend money get cool cyber;” instead each piece is rated according to how difficult (and painful) it is for the remaining fleshly bits–especially the brain–to readjust to accomodate the new or replacement parts.
The Society book is that rarest of setting sourcebook: one written with game play in mind. From the shattered fragments of Human space, to the xenophobic Droids (not cute lil’bots, but rather violent, city-crushers), there is a wealth of information about the Icar setting.
An additional document was created for Game Masters, titled The Strings. This consists of general GM advice, Icar specific information, and includes a great system for building, coordinating, and running different NPC groups, as well as using this Connection Diagram system for campaign building.
Icar would be well worth the cost of the average rpg or sourcebook, but is free to download at http://www.icar.co.uk with these and other downloads available. The pagecounts are small, but there is quite a bit packed into a small space (I can’t believe Society is only 47 pages). It is well worth checking out, and should provide innumerable hours of game play.