[They Came from the RPG Anthology!] Capes and Cowls: The Icon

Time I think for another They Came from the RPG Anthology preview! One of the vote winners in our crowdfunding campaign for RPG Anthology was They Came from Beneath Capes and Cowls!, so here’s a preview of one of the (many) Archetypes in this chapter and a few new Cinematics:

The Icon

I will stop this. I will save you. Even if it’s the last thing I do.

— Ghost Owl

Icons forge themselves into modern legends through extensive training and skill mastery. Many of their superpowers are subtle, and some lack innate powers entirely. When an ordinary human takes on the mantle of a superhero, chances are they’re an Icon. Public opinion is often divided, as for every person who sees them as a hero, there’s another who views them as a menace. Love them or hate them, an Icon always makes a memorable impact on the world around them.

Heroic Icons fight for their goals regardless of how others see them, and they’re always quick to save a person in need. They push themselves beyond their limits, juggling their crime fighting with their training and their secret identities. Rest is a luxury they can’t afford, and it’s not uncommon for an Icon to become completely subsumed into their superhero persona.

Villainous Icons embrace the infamy of their crimes. Many favor a single gimmick, requiring even their henchmen to match whichever motif they’ve chosen for their villainy. They’re as restless as their heroic counterparts, and their skills ensure they’re formidable opponents.


Icons always make an impression. They might be incredibly charming or disturbing to behold, but they seldom blend in with the faceless masses of humanity. Most are in peak physical condition thanks to constant training and adventure, and some sport aesthetically pleasing scars from missions gone awry. Their costumes inspire hope in the downtrodden or fear in evildoers, despite most Icons favoring practicality over fashion in their superhero personas, and any weapons or gadgets they carry are always close at hand.

Origins and Ambitions

Icon Origins indicate where their extensive training began. Some Icons are Trained from Birth (Aim, Athletics, Close Combat, Survival) to take up a heroic or villainous mantle. Another might be a Genius Billionaire Philanthropist (Command, Culture, Humanities, Pilot) taking a hands-on approach to saving the world. If They Came from Beyond the Fourth Wall! (Culture, Empathy, Enigmas, Science), the hero puts their encyclopedic knowledge of the comic book world to good use.

Icons pursue their Ambitions with single-minded dedication. An Avenger (Athletics, Close Combat, Larceny, Persuasion) seeks vengeance for lost loved ones, either from the one responsible for the loss or from an endless series of villains representing them. Other Icons may blame themselves for a great tragedy and seek to Make Amends (Empathy, Enigmas, Integrity, Persuasion). An Adrenaline Junkie (Athletics, Close Combat, Pilot, Survival) is just looking for the next big thrill.


Icons could justify almost any combination of Skills. Endless training ensures a high Athletics and Larceny. Many Icons rely on Technology to produce their own gadgets and gizmos. Embracing the crime-fighting lifestyle encourages Icons to master either Aim or Close Combat before confronting their foes.


Luck Is a Superpower!: Maybe you subconsciously alter probabilities, maybe some alien power is looking out for you, or maybe fate just likes your attitude. Either way, you get more lucky breaks than other people, lowering all Complications by one degree as odd coincidences work in your favor. You also impose a Moderate Complication when targeted by enemies. Failure to buy it off injures them or damages equipment they’re using. Once per session, you may seize Directorial Control to describe an elaborate series of unlikely events allowing you or an ally to achieve a goal.

Plot Armor: You have no business surviving the challenges you face, yet you always come out on top. Your base Defense is 3, and you gain 1 point of innate armor. Once per session, you may negate a successful attack against you by describing how your training, preparation, or luck worked to protect you.

Power Suit: Your costume has a plethora of special features. It adds two points of armor and duplicates the ongoing effects of two other Tropes, subject to the Director’s approval. Each point of damage the armor absorbs also disables one of its Tropes. Once per session, the suit may demonstrate emergency measures, unleashing the full effect of a Trope, even if its ongoing effects have been taken out. Instead of gaining a new Trope at the end of a story, a player may instead upgrade their Power Suit to gain another point of armor and a third Trope. This Trope may be purchased multiple times, reflecting additional suits with different capabilities, though only one may be worn at a time.

Those Wonderful Toys: Whether it’s high-tech gadgets, trick arrows, or a fancy utility belt, you’ve always got equipment on hand to address mundane issues, such as lockpicks for a sealed door or extra knives to throw at armed goons. Once per session, your ridiculously complicated preparations pay off, as you have just the specialized gadget necessary to foil an overly elaborate death trap or disable the villain’s doomsday device. This could even duplicate the effects of another Trope for the remainder of the scene before the device fizzles out.

The Very Best: Nobody’s better at what you do, and few even provide worthy competition. Choose one of your Paths. When using those Skills, gain +3 Enhancement regardless of circumstances. Once per session, you may use one of these Skills to pull off an impossible feat, such as ricocheting an arrow down a long vent to strike a villain lurking behind cover or clinging to a rough cliff face with only your fingertips while holding your friends with the other hand.

Example Character

Ghost Owl

Origin: Trained from Birth

Ambition: Redeem the Fallen

Orphaned at a young age, Lucinda Ward barely remembers her parents. She was raised in an Orphynage, where they trained her in numerous fighting styles, allegedly to be part of the next generation of superheroes. When her ghost form manifested, she soon uncovered the truth and escaped before being subjected to the identity purge.

Lucinda’s opposed the Orphynage ever since, foiling its plans whenever she can. After saving an inventor from an Orphyn assassin, she was provided with an owl-themed suit of high-tech armor capable of going intangible with her. As Ghost Owl, she continues to thwart the efforts of any villains who trade in human lives, but her greatest hope is to restore the memories of her former friends from the Orphynage.

Tropes: Can’t Touch This (Ghost Owl fades into a ghostly form to enhance her Defense and move through solid matter), Power Suit (her suit grants the silent flight and night vision of an owl from Whatever a Spider Can and an assortment of Those Wonderful Toys), The Very Best (she didn’t go through all that training for nothing)


Comic books cover a vast amount of territory, and Cinematics from many other genres are appropriate should the Director see fit to include them. Fear not, though, citizens, for we also provide a collection of Cinematics designed in a secret research laboratory for the use of our noble heroes!

Comic Book Death

Cost: 1 Rewrite per death

Nobody stays dead in comic books. For 1 Rewrite, anybody can come back following their Death Scene. When using this Cinematic, you may save yourself or as many characters as you wish, provided they’ve died at some point previously in the story. Each requires their own Rewrite, but any so saved can return as soon as the following scene.

Comics Code Enforcement

Cost: 3 Rewrites

Some things just aren’t appropriate for all audiences, and for the remainder of the scene, the censors are watching. That means nobody can die, and if someone would reach their Death Scene, they’re instead knocked unconscious. Anyone using foul language suffers a Minor Complication to their next action, losing their next turn if not bought off. Inappropriate actions that could offend someone’s delicate moral sensibilities increase their difficulty to 5. If Gritty Reboot is in effect, this Cinematic ends it.

Gritty Reboot

Cost: 2 Rewrites

Comics aren’t as wholesome as they used to be. People die more easily, blood flows freely, and while the language may be more than four colors now, everything else is much darker. For the remainder of the scene, any damage dealt is doubled. This is a double-edged sword, as it applies to the heroes as much as the villains. This Cinematic can’t be played while Comics Code Enforcement is in effect.

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