Posted in Preview

Icon – Preview #2 “Narrative Play”

Just when I published my first preview of Icon, there was an update to version 1.2 with numerous adjustments and additions. I had already indicated that I would like to deal a little more intensively with Icon and therefore I am delving a little deeper into the matter. After the overview, I’m going into the narrative rules based on Forged in the Dark (FitD).

Icon’s narrative rules form the backbone of the game. If you want to forego tactical combat, you can still cover everything. FitD is based on Blades in the Dark (BitD) and involves players much more in the decision-making process. If the outcome of an action is questionable, an action roll is necessary. The player states his intention and decides which action he would like to use for it. There are twelve actions, such as sneak, study or traverse, some of which overlap somewhat. The game master decides if the risk of the action is controlled, risky or desperate. This affects the severity of the possible consequences; the players can influence everything by choosing their approach. The game master also determines the effect of the action. Some actions may only have limited success, for example if the right tools are missing or you try to tear down a stone wall with your bare hands. New in Icon is the superpowered effect that characters can achieve with certain abilities. Characters in Icon are larger than life.

The actual test uses six-sided dice. The number of points in the respective action corresponds to the number of dice. Certain abilities or traits can give you bonus dice or you can take stress on yourself. As a result, the highest die is taken. A one to three is a failure, where the game master narrates the consequences. A four and five is a partial success, a six is ​​a success and if you have rolled several sixes, then you have achieved a critical success.

An important element in FitD games are clocks. They can represent dangers, progress or effects. Depending on the effect and result of a roll, a different number of segments of the clock (usually a clock has 4, 6 or 8 segments) can be filled. Negative effects or dangers can also be filled as a consequence of failures.

I mentioned stress as a mechanic. Stress is a resource to improve tests, for example, but also to help allies to prevent consequences or to carry out actions as a group. In contrast to BitD, stress is much milder in Icon. A filled bar just means that you can no longer use stress. You don’t get broken like in BitD. What is new is strain as a resource. Physical as well as mental attacks cause strain. If this bar is filled, then the character gets a burden. Such a burden is a longer term problem such as injury or impairment. The player can use this burden in the game to make life difficult for himself. If he does this, he receives additional experience points. Burdens are also represented by clocks and gradually healed during downtime.

Downtime is one of the phases of the game. Here the players can take care of long-term projects, called ambitions, relax and then have time for free role play, for example to get to know the world or to look for new assignments. The real action takes place during the expeditions, which I will examine in more detail in a later preview.

What remains is the narrative combat, which can be used instead of the tactical combat system. This works like other actions and thus corresponds to battles in BitD and other FitD games. The only difference is that characters in Icon have three actions dedicated to narrative combat, skirmish, snipe, and crush. The narrative fight can also be used together with the tactical fights; here you use the first if you are not fighting with full force or if stakes are not that high, such as a fight in a bar.


Forged in the Dark is a great system and with the adjustments Icon offers a fast system, which is much less merciless than Blades in the Dark, for example. The system supports creative ideas and unconventional approaches to problem solving.

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