CORTEX PLUS HACKERS GUIDE PDF
June 2 This is a compilation of the last 21 pdf share threads CoC Alone Against the salelive.info .. Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide. After a delay from other projects, MWP was able to put the Hacker's Guide This is a book for fans of the Cortex Plus system and for game designers of all kinds. The Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide gives you articles, essays, and three complete reference documents to bring action, Available as a PDF or a POD HC or SC.
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Cortex Plus - Hackers Guide - Free ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File ( .txt) or read book online for free. Cortex Plus Hackers Guide. Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide - Crowdsourced & Crowdfunded We asked creators, Watermarked PDF + Hardcover Color Book (Premium). Cortex Plus is probably my second favorite system out of the + games on When this is released as PDF it will replace the Hackers Guide.
Hackers Guide Conception: Cam Banks Lead Developers: Christi Cardenas Editing and Additional Development: Sally Christensen Art Direction and Layout: Thomas Deeny Cover Art: Erika Lavin Hackers Guide Contributors:
The Hacker's Guide itself is split into a number of sections. It goes into the detail of the basics of each of the three types of roleplaying game the system is tuned for talking about when and why you roll as well as what you roll. This section starts off a little weak, most of the articles are very short, but they do improve as the section develops. The second section is entitled "History And Fantasy" and it is here we start to see some worked examples of how the system can be hacked.
The first hack is to use Leverage for fantasy games - a dungeon crawl can be viewed as a badly planned heist.
Then we get an ahistorical Roman drama hack using the Smallville rules. Next we have a section entitled "Modern Life". The first hack is for Leverage and is about investigators exploring and exploiting the dream worlds of the secret keepers of the world.
Next we have "The Breed: A Mutant Animal Hack" for Leverage which looks at how to do a monster of the week style game. Then we have Vampville - a dramatic game about vampires.
Finally we have a section on how to run kids' games based on stuff like Dora The Explorer or Enid Blyton if you are a bit older and more bookish. The first hack is for Smallville and is Cyberpunk Overdrive. Because it is based on Smallville it is obviously a drama-first game rather than action-first. This is unlike a lot of previous cyberpunk style games which emphasised the body-modification and violence and purely procedural style play where one had to complete a mission for a patron.
Hopefully this would enable a play-style closer to the original source material of the literary genre. After a piece on transhumanism the next hack is presented. This is Mechaville - a Smallville hack. As can be guessed this is a hack for playing mecha style games. Then we have two hacks which look at a spaceship crew. One is from the dramatic point of view, the other from the action point of view. Finally in the book we have the three systems presented denuded of brand indentification and without the level of examples, setting specific lists of distinctions and skills etc.
Cortex Plus characters have lots of different moving parts, many of them on the character sheet. First, you must decide which are the most important pieces. Youll need to pick two kinds of Traits to be your Core Traits, and then figure out where your Talents come from.
Finally, decide what other Traits will be available. Your Core Traits will be the axis around which the game revolves. Nearly every die roll will involve one of each, so they should be the central focus of the game. Do you want a game about the relationships between savvy characters and the highly competent things they do? Then go with Relationships and Skills. Do you want a game about what people believe, no matter what sort of person they are? Then maybe you need Values and Roles. Heres a quick look at your options: Attributes rate all characters on a handful of common characteristics, usually focusing on the physical, mental, and sometimes social.
Every character has a rating in each Attribute. You might use the classic Cortex six: Alternatively, you can come up with a list of five to seven Attributes that you want all characters in your game to focus on. Use Attributes if you want a common rubric that describes everybody in your game on the same scales, and for a Core Trait that is easily understandable. Relationships describe what the characters believe and how they feel about each other.
A game with Relationships usually starts with all player characters having Relationships with each other and with a handful of important NPCs. Relationships can be challenged to add dice to the Growth pool. Use Relationships to create a game that focuses on camaraderie, rivalries, loyalty, love triangles, vendettas, and other social interactions.
Roles let players mix and match character archetypes to create a unique synthesis for their own characters. Hacker, Hitter, Grifter, Thief, and Mastermind. Unless youre playing a game focusing on capers, youll need to come up with your own short list. As with Attributes, every character has a rating in each Role, but the top two ratings are a good indication of the kind of person the character is. Use Roles for lightly constrained but easily grasped characterization with a generous dash of style.
The first thing you need to hash out is your games setting. What kind of a game are you looking to play? What awesome things do you want rampaging across your gaming table? What trouble do you want the player characters getting into and out of? Will it be science fiction, fantasy, modern-day drama, or some unholy fusion of all three? If youre planning to be the GM, you can create the setting all by yourself, but make sure that the setting is easily conveyed to your players.
Boil everything down to a single sheet of paper: If you have trouble doing that, split the setting into two parts Geography and Adventuring, or City and Wilderness, or what-haveyou and make two Loresheets. Any more and your players will get that glassy-eyed stare instead of buying in.
Summarizing also helps you focus on whats really important in the setting. Sometimes doing it on your own is necessaryif youre running a con game, hosting an event, or getting your players to try something newbut it pales before creating the setting with your players. You can use the Pathways Map from Smallville with or without the associated character creation steps or simply sit down around your table for some good old-fashioned brainstorming.
You can make a mind map keyed off of a single, root idea: You could use a single imagea photograph or illustration that you particularly likeand see where that takes you. Once you have a handle on when and where youll be playing, its time to focus on who. Skills also known as Specialties rate characters in their areas of expertise, whatever they may be.
Computer Expert? Hotshot Pilot? Person Of Influence? While its best to have a short list no more than twenty , not every character has a rating in every skill. You might also elect to use Skill Specialties, which allow players to create their own Traits once they reach a certain level of competence.
Once you have Medicine d6, for instance, you might upgrade it to Field Medic d8. Use Skills as a lightly constrained, easy-to-use option with a gritty sense of character competence.
Values define what the characters believe in and lets them tap into those beliefs to fuel their actions. You can use these six or come up with a list of your own.
Values are most often common to all characters, but different characters can use different lists if thats the way you want to play. Use Values for stylized roleplay focused on beliefs and fueled by determination. Now that you know what dice youll be rolling regularly, theres one more thing you need: These go by different names in different Cortex Plus games, but for the purposes of this article, well call them Talents.
Talents let you reroll dice, wreak more or less havoc, insert special details into the story, andever a popular choiceearn you more Plot Points. They are an essential piece to game construction because they give the players a sense of control and ownership over the story; without Talents, players often feel like they are playing through somebody elses story. Talents can come from different places in different games.
Core Traits are your first place to look. Roles, for instance, make great sources for Talents. Hackers have Talents involving technology and Thieves have Talents involving sleight-of-hand and breaking-and-entering. High-level Attributes or Skills are also fertile ground for growing Talents: If your Core Traits arent singing to you, Talent-wise, a natural home for Talents are the Distinctions that nearly every Cortex Plus game uses.
You can take a page from the Smallville RPG and add a new Talent at every other level of each Distinction, get just one Talent for each Distinction, or some other scheme.
Wherever they come from, you need to decide, roughly, how many Talents each character gets. This number has a big effect on how play feels. Fewer Talents leads to fastpaced action and players working towards key moments where a Talent comes into play. More Talents create nuanced drama where each word and action might have game-changing significance. Theres a broad spectrum of possibilities between those two poles.
Assets are the catchall term for Traits outside the two core categories. Youll need to decide which of these to include: Distinctions are the archetypal Asset, and are a powerful tool for players to customize their characters. Distinctions allow you to make your character a Drunk, a Soldier, even an Atlantean.
Unrated Distinctions are worth a d8 when theyre useful or a d4 when they get in the way. Rated Distinctions yield their rating in any die roll where the Trait helps you.
Traits from categories that didnt make the cut for Core Traits can often be converted into Distinctions Willpower becomes Willful, Hacker becomeswell, Hacker. Abilities confer superhuman capabilities to characters: Flight, X-Ray Vision, Teleportation, and many others.
While a game with super powers or magic might make the full list available to characters, most games will narrow down the list to a handful of Abilities that are only available to certain kinds of characters.
You might use the Gear rules to allow Abilities in the form of cutting-edge technology. Extras are bit characters that help other characters. They may have a name and a few quirks, but they dont have their own agenda and they dont cause trouble.
Theyre there for the main characters, and theyre potent tools for fleshing out the setting. Locations are places that work identically to Extras. When in a Location, a character is empowered by its resources, familiarity, or other special significance. A stable of solid Locations will make a setting feel realas long as the games story doesnt take the characters elsewhere!
Signature Assets come from the Leverage RPG, and are usually items or Locations that the character can use to add a d8 in appropriate rolls.
Think of this as the Simple Gear and Locations option. The last bit you need is to decide how the game will proceed.
Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide - Regional Peterborough Gaming Society
How will you structure a session of play? How will you roll dice? How will characters advance? DICE The basic Cortex Plus die mechanic has you roll a pool of dice one from each Core Trait, one Asset, more of each by spending Plot Points, plus any temporary Assets you can get your hands on and add the highest two together. Theyre good, and they grow, because of what theyve done. Its up to you whether players can get bonus dice for their past deeds, as in the Leverage RPG. The essential element is that players can spend their achievements on the Record to improve the Traits on their sheet.
Playing with a Growth pool puts a focus on challenging assumptions, uncovering secrets, and adopting new perspectives. Its more than dramatic: Whenever you choose to roll, the thrust is the same: To create dramatic play focusing on conflicts between characters and challenging assumptions, create Episodes as described in the Smallville RPG.
This works best when you have Relationships as a Core Trait, but can work with Values just as easily. All you need to kick off play is a basic situation: As the players make their plans and try to resolve the problem, youll all develop that situation through play together. This usually creates pulpy, heroic sort of stories, where the player characters always find a way to come out on top. If neither of those options floats your boat, you can prepare a session of play by creating a rough Script, with a handful of necessary scenes and showdowns with your primary antagonists.
Know ahead of time that the players will fill in the details between your prepared showcase scenesor do them out of order or skip some entirely. The map is not the territory, and the plan never survives contact with the players!
What you do with that result depends on which dice you elect to use: Action Dice, from the Leverage RPG, create punchy, fast-paced play that resolves the current conflict and moves on to the next one.
Play creates a list of temporary Assets and Complications that can be called upon later for bonuses, creating rich plot development. Use Action Dice when you want the game to focus on character competence, plot development, and getting the job done. Dramatic Dice, from the Smallville RPG, create tense inter-character drama, as well as thematically significant action sequences. Importantly, when youre using Dramatic Dice, no character is ever forced to do anything: Use Dramatic Dice when you want the game to focus the characters resolve, relationships, and realizations.
Other towns may not be known for murders and corporate espionage, but thats because their schools dont have students like you, determined to get to the bottom of things. You dont. You hunt monsters, keep normal folks safe, and live The Life.
Its dangerous and dirty and terrifying, and normal folks think youre crazy or criminal or worse, but somebodys got to do it. Somebody has to stand up against the darkness. Mind Map keyed off of Route Core Traits: You play the crew of a small ship running small jobslegal and otherwise and youve come to form something like a family. A dysfunctional and ethically challenged family, but a family, nonetheless. The ship is home, and youll do anything to protect it.
Now a rag-tag fleet of shipswhat may be the only remnants of the speciesis on the run, trying to find the mythical Homeworld. Unrated Distinctions and Signature Assets Structure: Episodes Dice: Action Advancement: Growth pool from Challenges, plus a d8 for each Distinction rolled at d4.
Dramatic Advancement: Growth pool from Challenges and all Stress. Instead, you might be better served with a simplified version that hits the high points of both stylesespecially if youre used to playing Cortex Classic as opposed to the highly customized Cortex Plus system. So, the answer presented here lies somewhere in the middle. To have a generic system you could use for any cinematic game, you can take elements from Cortex Plus as inspiration and install them into Cortex Classic.
Before we get into that, though, lets look at cinematic RPGs from a birds-eye view. To adapt any television show to an RPG, you will need a high concept before you even think about emulating it with a game system.
What will you do in your game? Hunt ghosts? Investigate murders? Say you were going to adapt a game to a show like Legend of the Seeker or He-Man. You decide your goal is to find a mysterious box hidden deep within a mountain. Sure, the roles might be similar to a standard dungeon crawlCleric, Barbarian, Ranger, Rogue, Wizardbut imagine all the action is captured with a camera and things change, from the pace to the emotional intensity.
Once you have established what your game is about, consider your characters roles and how they relate to each other. After all, its not just about playing a Cleric or Barbarian; its also about a characters place within the team.
Thats where universal roles or archetypes come into play. By using a one-word description, you can dramatize your roleplaying to fit a more cinematic style game. While there are dozens of roles you can assign to your character, here are five examples: Doesnt matter what the circumstance the group is in, the cheerleader will use her sunny disposition to encourage and inspire everyone.
Abhors conflict and violence. This character will do whatever he can to avoid it and keep everyone happy. Always voices her opinion regardless of whether or not shes informed, and expects others to listen and trust her judgment. Regardless of the risks, this character always looks for ways to benefit the group, either for himself or for the team.
Once a course of action is decided, this character will see a job through to the end, no matter who hired her and how moral it may be. Have you ever fallen in love with a television show? Played an RPG? If your answer to both of these questions is Yes! The questions that follow are: Why and How? The appeal of playing a game based on a television show is twofold: At first, it doesnt sound like the two goals are all that different, but take a closer look.
In one scenario, whats drawn a fan to the show is a popular character. If thats the case, the players emotional connection to this character encourages him to spend Advancement Points from Cortex Classic to level him up or build an iconic character right off the bat.
Here, spending AP for other aspects of play may not be as important to this player as the chance to play Malcolm Reynolds, for example.
In the second scenario, a fan enjoys a shows story so much it doesnt matter what character she plays, as long as she get to engage in similarly themed plots. LOST is a great example of this, since the setting is rife with mystery and the story can go in a direction far different from what went on the screen. An ideal cinematic system would affect an individual character, the players as a group, and the story to ensure both the GMs and the players needs are met.
While there are no perfect systems, some of those you like to play can help you reach that goal. Cinematic-style systems vary wildly, even within Cortex. In Smallville, theres a fair amount of attention to character relationships in the mechanics, which were pioneered in the Cortex Plus Dramatic Roleplaying system.
Supernatural, on the other hand, built on the original Cortex System RPG, focuses on more classical RPG mechanics such as skills, gear and combat abilities.
Both these systems fulfill separate needs and yet each has its own merits. If you take a close look at Cortex Plus, you will clearly see some core elements taken from Cortex Classic. Even if you were to strip out any one of these systems, youll quickly find they dont work. These generic roles allow a characters personality to flourish within a team environment.
Cortex Plus - Hackers Guide
The Cleric might be the Peacekeeper; the Barbarian might be the Closer. By assigning a one-word description like this to any character sheet, your roleplaying will immediately improve because you dont need to figure out all of your characters personality or how well he plays with others.
Often, it can be challenging to have good cohesion and team synergy right off the bat for any game. Here, a simple word helps you jump right in.
Of course, these roles are samples, so dont be afraid to come up with your own to fit your game. Turning back to the game system, after assigning a team role to your character, you can flesh out your Assets and Complications to support that idea. Now that you have a good foundation for your character, grab your character sheet from the Cortex System RPG. Well demonstrate how you can alter and update Cortex Classic to fit any television show you want to play.
Classic Cortex provides you with everything you need to play any setting. Contemporary elements of Relationships and paths found in Smallville were designed to dramatize your character in a way thats similar to an actors role on a television show. So, to have a generic template you can use to play in any character-focused game, were going to develop a modified character sheet thats simple enough to use for any show, any genre.
The first thing were going to do is take a page from the Leverage RPG and drop the following from the first page of the character sheet: Under the Description box, were going to add a slot for Team Role. Thats where youre going to write your one-word idea to help you roleplay your character. Well get to Advancement Points in a minute. On the second page, add back in the Derived Attributes: Weapons, Armor and Health.
Gear and History remain unchanged. So far, so good. What you now have is a customized two-page character sheet. On the first page, youve simply placed the Classic Cortex system mechanics best suited for a cinematic game.
Now, the second page is optional for those of you who enjoy more crunch in your RPG. As a Novice, remember youll have a pool of 42 points to spend on Attributes, 68 on Skills and zero on Traits. Dont want to limit your character with a group of Skills? Simply drop them from your character creation process altogether. By rearranging the existing boxes, the focus of Classic Cortex is more in line with a cinematic-style game.
Lets take that one step further and highlight interpersonal Relationships in a way inspired by the Smallville RPG. Under Description, add a three-column box called Connections. In the first column, go around the table and list each characters name in your team. Similar to your characters team role, come up with a short description that describes how your character feels about the others at the table.
For example, you might say: I envy Kahlans power. Or say, I admire Orkos tact. If you can figure out how that might apply to a roll at the table, then youd add a bonus or penalty to your result. The assumption behind this addition is that you as a player already have feelings about a television shows characters before you sit down to play. Adding these feelings onto your sheet provides you with another layer of quick roleplaying tips that you can both use mechanically and in spirit.
Writing down what you like and dont like about a character could also lead to closer relationships, romantic infatuation, or rivalry. A second option reinforces those emotional connections you just figured out. This option facilitates players who want to focus on their interpersonal relationships and strengthen or weaken these ties. Roleplaying a character from any television show is a lot of fun because youre invested in the show before you roll your die.
Cortex Plus allows you to really dig in and have a well-developed system thats designed to fit a particular show like Leverage or Smallville. For those of you who want a quick, down and dirty version for your favorite TV show, you can accommodate multiple styles of play and genres by tweaking your Classic Cortex character sheet. What are you waiting for? Now go play! Okay, now that weve addressed your character from a roleplaying perspective on your sheet and from a descriptive point-of-view, theres one thing left to do.
Lets discuss how to spend your hard-earned Advancement Points. Earlier, we moved the Skills to the back of your character sheet. So, were going to keep all the current costs for Advancement Points AP , just in case. No need to duplicate that box, right? Instead, were going to add two more options for you to spend your hard-earned APs on. The first option circles back to the idea that a player might want to play an iconic character. Instead of spending your APs on your characters Attributes, Traits or Skills, bank your AP to earn a temporary session bonus to all your rolls; the cost is ten points per bonus die.
After all, if youre swinging across a canyon or fighting a black dragon, youll need all the help you can get. It hits them in the moment when they lose a Contest, and it stays as lasting consequences until they get some Stress Relief. Stress is a key piece of your Lead as you play, since you want to gain Stress in order to get your Growth pool. Also, people dealing with Stress are interesting. The five original Stress TraitsAfraid, Angry, Exhausted, Injured, and Insecureare perfect for a Drama about young adults finding their way in a world, who happen to have superpowers.
There are a lot of different forms of Stress your Drama game can take, and a few different ways you can change Stress in your game. Here are over thirty different Stress Traits. The meaning of most of these will be obvious. Some will make you stop and think.
But its not for me to tell you what Angry or Delusional or Overconfident means. Its for your Leads to tell us what they mean. This is far from exhaustive, but its a good start to get you thinking. The names you use for your Stress Traits will have a huge impact on your game. Choosing them wisely makes the difference between a good Drama and a fantastic one.
In supernatural horror, it makes sense to have an Afraid Stress Trait. But the word Afraid doesnt sound quite right for a game about mind-shattering knowledge and monsters made of tentacles and ichor. Terrified or Horrified has a much stronger ring to it.
It that sort of game, saying youre dealing with d10 Horrified feels like it has more weight than d10 Afraid, even if it is basically the same thing. Those sorts of words are more primal and are in keeping with the genre. Alternatively, using a word that suggests an added taste of competency under horror for your operatives against the supernatural story , try Unnerved.
That suggests a different way to play out how your Leads handle the Stress. Any time you can see a word your characters would use in the fiction, thats a signal that it could be a good Stress Trait. In a paramilitary drama, Sloppy might be one youre interested in adding, but the name sounds comical, downright goofy.
If your Leads are meant to be sharp, strong individuals in extraordinary times, another word to use is Undisciplined. You can imagine how the characters in this story would talk, and they would throw that word around at and about each other. Sometimes you need a little extra oomph to set something apart as a Stress Trait. In many settings, Suspicious is fine. But in very conspiratorial Dramas, everyone already is or had better well be.
That would be like having Breathing as Stress. To kick that up a notch for those stories, use Paranoid. Sometimes the word fits exactly right, but you need to still note down what it means because of your genre. Thats okay, too!
Say youre setting up a drama set in Louisiana, where humans live in a turbulent peace with other creatures of the night. It would make sense for Leads to have Hungry. As long as everyone is on board with knowing thats talking about people, not steak, youre set. Genre-specific Stress like Hacked might be better served in your game by using in-world slang.
Pwned, Trojand, or R00t3d are along from our real world. Whats it called in yours? Most people playing Drama have a sense that d6 Afraid doesnt feel like d12 Afraid. Sometimes, youll want to use different words for those different ratings. Do that by adding a little granularity to some of your Stress Traits. To start with, pick an overall name for that Stress Trait, which youll use in rewriting any Distinctions or otherwise referring to it mechanically.
Then come up with names for it for the d6, d8, d10, and d12 rating. Or for our supernatural horror above, with Horrified:. Now that you have an idea of how to do different Stress, its really easy to change it. Once youve got all your Leads made, you have one last step.
Regional Peterborough Gaming Society
Come up with what five Stress Traits youll use either the GM alone or as a group, though as a group is always better. Stick with five Stress Traits. Too few and each one will come up too often.
Thatll get boring. Too many and they wont hit often enough to be interesting. Someone who is, for example, Afraid constantly is a one-note character. Characters who only get Afraid once never show us anything interesting about how they deal with fear. You want Leads that are Afraid sometimes, so they can play that out in different ways at different times. If you want to break this rule, know that youll change how Stress feels.
Many key off of increasing or decreasing Stress Traits, either their own or others. If a Lead has a Distinction that applies to a Stress you arent using, work with the group to decide how to rewrite that Distinction or maybe decide that Distinction doesnt fit your hack either. Once you know how to tweak Stress Traits for your game, it doesnt take much to realize you can tweak them for each Lead.
This can put even more personality into your Leads. Youre already coming up with what they believe in, who matters to them, and the notable things they can do. To say how theyre vulnerable, how they deal with setbacks and defeats, adds even more story mojo to your game.
This gives you all sorts of options to come up with interesting characters that you might not expect. Focusing the Pain means narrowing down the list of available Stress Traits down to between eight and twelve. This allows you to craft a more consistent theme in your game, while still allowing room for flexibility. Neither ones better than the other; its all about what you and your game need.
Its important to keep in mind that no matter what you call these, at no point does the name of a Stress Rating mean a Lead cannot act.
The only time where a Lead cannot act significantly is after being Stressed Out. Your secret operative with d12 Medic! If you do this, limit it to one or two Stress Traits rather than all five. Thats a lot of work for everyone to keep track of.
You have some other choices you can make here: Free for All is simple. From the list of available Stress Traits, pick five that feel right for a Lead, and would be fun to see the Lead deal with. This is great if you want a looser drama, where Leads come from many different backgrounds and have very different roles in the story. You might even consider changing these as you play, possibly one per Tag Scene.
Common Stress is a little more involved, as you have to come up with two or three Stress Traits that everyone in the campaign should have, leaving the remaining ones open for a Free for All. This unification results in a tighter story about characters that are similar. Its a great way to explore how such characters still differ in that tight story space. In particular, a humans versus supernatural menaces or military drama game will be well served with a few common Stress Traits.
Heritage Stress is a variation on Common Stress, for specialized character types like different races or species, or characters with very different walks of lifewhatever your Drama game decides are Heritages. A game with elves, dwarves, and humans might have all three with their own set of Common Stress Traits.
And possibly even have some special Stress Traits the other races cant take! Likewise, a game where you have disciplined military or law enforcement personnel alongside untrained civilian scientists could be reflected in two different sets of Heritage Stress.
Now that we know all sorts of ways to change Stress in our games, lets take a look a few examples:. You get up, go to school, get home, and fight against killer robots from the future.
Your mother has been training you since birth to be a great leader of a future resistance, your uncle was sent back in time to aid you both, and your cousin is a reprogrammed killer robot. Oh, and next week is show and tell! All Robots from the Future have the same Stress Traits: Damaged, Hacked, Revealed. The group decided that Robots should feel very similar and only have three Stress Traits.
Germany was marching across the Earth with Powers Unknowable. Its been years since their defeat, both temporal and supernatural, but their dark legacy lives on in secret. The Bureau was shut down a few years ago, but evil continues to discover and wield Nazi magitech.
So you and your pistol continue the Bureaus good work in secret, unknown even to your spouse and children. Everyone has: Distracted specifically from the Leads home life , Exhausted, Horrified. Everyone can choose from: Never before has something so grand been attempted by individual men and women.
Taking Planet Haxith will be difficult without boots on the ground. Ion cannons will take out large dropships, but you three hundred will drop solo from high orbit in pods too small to be targeted, land, and make our beachhead. Our success depends entirely on you. Welcome to Fall Brigade. Everyone has the same six Stress Traits in the game: The group couldnt choose which one to drop to make five, so theyre trying all six to see what happens. Theyll see if one should go away after the third session.
They had five until someone suggested Blissed and explained it. There have been thirteen instances of reality deviation in Manhattan in the last month alone.
Naturally, this is a cause for concern. The local authorities cant handle this. This is a case for you, the Luxmas Group. You have the expertise and resources to handle this before we have another Incursion.
And Ms. Cranstonwe have evidences that suggests your deceased husband is behind all this. Distracted specifically about something from their past , Stumped in an investigative Drama, this is a fun Stress. FBI-trained characters have: Restrained meaning dealing with bureaucratic red tape.
Scientist characters have: Obsessed the Luxmas Group tends to recruit a certain sort of gifted individual.
The remaining Stress Traits are open. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and sorcerers, oh my! The world got a lot weirder a few years back when the vamps outed themselves and tried to live among us, but lifes still more or less normal. At least, until that new guy came into town to reclaim his familys lost estate.
They say hes trying to live off the vein, but I fear everythings about to change. Vampires have: Hungry, Injured. Werewolves have: Feral, Injured. Ghosts have: Bound, Incorporeal. They intentionally dont have Injured. Sorcerers have: Exhausted or Overconfident, Injured. Normal humans must take: Crippled theyre much more delicate that everyone else , Enthralled.
Of the remaining three Stress Traits, the group says, Get your emo on!: Making scarcity of time or action a core piece of your task resolution system is one way to simulate mounting threats.
By tracking ever-shrinking resources or limiting a players range of action, you can evoke urgency and desperation. While a dynamic time mechanic can add intensity to any game, it fits best in games with frequent scenes of time-sensitive action, regardless of the scale of those actions. Once you standardize how players interact with time, tactical conflicts become much more feasible with Cortex Plus. The second half of this article notes some tips for making tactics and positioning matter.
Leverage, Smallville, and Marvel Heroic RPGs use cinematic or dramatic pacing, dividing action into scenes, episodes, and beats as needed to find and focus on drama. This format works wonderfully for games based on TV shows, movies, or comic books. It doesnt, however, quite capture the tone of many other classic genres and game styles where the drama itself grows from characters always coming up short. Time itself is often hand-waved away in roleplaying games in favor of focusing on character action.
Forcing attention onto dwindling options, though, is what makes time compelling in a game. When every choice has an irrevocable cost, those choices take on additional dramatic importance.
Certain stories and genres are more gripping when players are pressed to make the most of limited resources. Relentless urgency and reflexive gambles, intersected by moments of heroism, clarity, or epic failurethis tone is ripe for games in which characters fight back against overwhelming odds, or where an objectives success depends on speed, efficiency, and team coordination. Many classic action genres rely heavily on before its too late urgency or the opportunity cost of every effort: Zombie survival: Can you reach somewhere safe before you run out of ammo, daylight, or brains?
Disaster or environmental survival: Youve just crashed or became stranded. How long will you last when the environment or your companions are hostile? Alien invasions: Can you juggle developing defenses and finding a weakness before youre conquered? Criminal investigation: Can you catch recidivist criminals before they repeat crimes, retaliate, or escape?
Espionage and subterfuge: Will you accomplish a mission before your covers blown? Tactical combat: How can you achieve objectives or neutralize enemies before they do likewise? What will it cost to achieve a civil resolution before escalation ensues?
Epidemic or disaster control: Will you find the cure, treat the patient, and prevent the cataclysm before all is lost? Dynastic development: How much can you achieve in a lifetime? Exploration or war: How far can you stretch resources of fuel, food, or troop loyalty? Courier, getaway, or racing themes: Can you get from Point A to Point B before something terrible happens, like losing?
Mixing and matching these ideas can draw on the appeal of urgency at various levels of scale. Epidemic control as an overarching plot connects and gives meaning to zombie-survival missions, which could become repetitive on their own. The primary tension in all these games lies in the characters inability to have it all; they must sacrifice some opportunities for the sake of others. Presenting that same tension to players in your game mechanics helps them experience the game in a unique way, along with their characters.
Rather than representing a fixed die size, Time Die ratings fluctuate with each action, depending on how much attention and focus a player is willing to commit.
The more time a character spends on an action, the larger the Time Dice for that action becomes; this results in a greater chance for success, minimizing the odds of rolling a Complication, but at the cost of limiting further action. To determine how much total relative time a group has spent in a turn, add the total Time Steps based on all actions that depended on each other to be performed on a turn.
During that time, Crystal spent 2 Steps providing cover fire with her Assault Rifle. The total Time Steps of that turn would be Katyas 5 plus Enders 3, for a total of 8. Crystals Action was performed in parallel, as it was independent from her teammates.
As the example shows, adding a Time Die to every action encourages teamwork and cooperation. Katya likely felt more comfortable rolling a d12 even if it meant slowing down her whole team. Thats why Crystal decided to perform an independent action to prevent squandering too much time.
The anticipation of passing times effect on other resources carries the dramatic weight that makes for a compelling game. Either way, the players should have clear understanding of how each passing round affects the story and their precious resources.
GMs act on behalf of opposition or perform upkeep on growing or decaying Traits at the end of an action using Time Steps.
You may be surprised by the extent that maintaining crucial resources can drive story and plot, pushing players to take action to secure what they need. The following are examples of resources that fluctuate with time and may play vital roles in various games. Time Steps measure abstract time when using Time Dice. In each scene, decide what time span Time Steps represent so they best fit your scene.
These steps may represent seconds, daylight, or seasons, and may even relate to how much focus or willpower a character has to spend during that amount of time. When a character takes an action, the player decides how many time steps to spend on an action. The player gains the appropriate Time Die and performs the action in a turn order relative to the Time Step chosen. A player choosing 1 Time Step acts at the beginning of the turn at the same time as anybody else who chooses 1 Time Step , while those spending 5 get to roll last in a turn.
Handle ties according to narrative sense and teamwork. The amount of time steps spent by each character sets the size of the Time Die rolled when taking the Action. Imagine Katya, a Heavy Infantry private fighting in an alternate universe war using a variant of the Cortex Plus Action rules. As usual, she builds her dice pool based on her Attribute and Role, but to capture the tone of urgency, Katyas player decides to roll a Time Die along with whatever other dice are used.
Using little to no time therefore using a lower Time Die makes the action relatively faster but increases the odds of rolling Complications. Using more time and focus increases her chances for success a larger Time Die , but will cost the Squad precious time it may not have. Katya and her team have no time to rest and move from battle to battle, making it harder to focus on threats around them.
At the start of each scene, players can choose Time Steps of four or more, but must step back their Stamina rating at the start of the scene to do so. Whether rounds represent a few seconds, hours, day, seasons, or more depends on the scope of your games action. Since this mechanic can easily scale up and down, consider embedding scenes at a personal scale within larger scale efforts. Continuing Katyas example, after completing an adrenaline-pumping mission, the squad must prepare before the next assault.
Scale back your rounds from a few seconds to days or weeks, allowing players to pick new Time Steps to influence their chance to upgrade holdouts or vehicles, achieve long-distance travel, scrounge for supplies, investigate evidence gathered during missions, or foster relationships with friends and patrons. After a number of rounds at the wider scale, urgency flares with a newly sighted assault and rounds zoom back to seconds and minutes as characters jump seamlessly back into personal-scale scenes.
You can still feature time without making it central to your game in a number of ways. Perhaps you assume all actions take enough time unless otherwise stated. In this case, players only add a Time Die to actions that are hurried or take special focus, in which case it operates as Cortex Plus Action-style Distinction, adding either a d8 or a d4 to earn a Plot Point.
Another option would be to use two other character Traits as primary dice, as in Smallville and Leverage, but give players a slowly but regularly accumulating budget of Time Steps; they can then add bonus Time Dice to actions, either whenever players wish, or in certain character-specific circumstances.
Using this method, Time Steps represent a characters ability to focus, charge up abilities, or slow time as needed. Instead, have them perform actions grouped together or at certain Steps as the story demands. Maybe slow zombies act after Time Step 5.
Faster, nastier zombies may act on Step 2 or 3 or even maybe more than once per turn! Perhaps a virus spreads to a new city each day, or hunted criminals secure and step up Assets each round leading to a getaway or the next big crime. Tracking tactical conflict in Leverage, Smallville, or Marvel Heroic Roleplaying is not necessary, advisable, or even possible. Using Time Steps, or growing and decaying Assets or Complications, however, can add enormous tactical potential to Cortex Plus games without too much difficulty.
While managing resources encourages players to strategically coordinate their actions, you can further expand your Cortex Plus tactical toolbox with three simple additions: Heighten characters unique roles in a time-focused game by allowing Specialties, Talents, or SFX to further manipulate time-based mechanics.
Perhaps a player gets to step up or double a Time Die for certain actions. Divide scene locations into zones representing the relative size, navigability, and complexity of various parts of the area.
At another scale, an adjacent zone could be a days drive away on good roads, a months march in decent weather, or one jump to the next planetary system. Place a few zone Traits such as obstacles or benefits within and between zones. Unerring Sniper: Solid Rock: When rolling at least a d8 Time Die to support another characters morale, recover one of your own Stress by one step.
Use Time Steps to immediately achieve basic maneuvers that arent interesting enough to warrant rolls. Sample Maneuvers for personal scale combat scenes: Add 2 Time Steps to your action to move a character from one zone to another. Add 1 Time Step to access and operate devices such as doors, lifts, lights, and vehicles. Give these suggestions a try, and let them be your springboard to hack and explore new, more compelling ways to inject time and tactics into your gaming experience.
Scene Distinctions as seen in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying work well here. If it fits your game, let players place additional Assets or Distinctions using Plot Points or actions.
A white board, index cards, and tokens work well to show zones with their Traits, as well as character locations and temporary effects.
Sample zone Distinctions:. Overcoming complex barriers between zones that require a set number of Time Steps or successful actions. Traps, alarms, or events that trigger when people enter certain zones. When players get together to create the Pathways Map, it creates a shared investment in the game. Players gain a clear sense of their characters: Such an approach, however, is not always practical for new Features the Watchtower wants to introduce to the game.
This hack offers a semi-random approach to characterize a new Feature with the appropriate mechanics to present an engaging Wedge for the characters. This could happen, for instance, when an Extra is promoted to a full Feature status.
There are seven categories of Traits in Cortex Plus Drama. Abilities described on pages of the Smallville RPG Distinctions pages 90 98 Gear page Extras pages Locations pages Relationships pages Values pages You begin with your concept, established by the Pathways Map, and by the role the Feature plays as a Wedge in your upcoming story.
In order to capture the Feature with the appropriate mechanics, you need to determine how many Traits they have in each of the categories of Traits. Furthermore, youll need to know which of these Traits get stepped up and are therefore rated with bigger dice. The two charts shown below work as an alternative to following the full Pathway or doing it on the fly.
When establishing new Traits, you look up each category in the New Traits column of Table 1: Adding and Raising Traits. The table will tell you to do one of three things: Roll sends you on a specific column of Table 2: Rolls for Traits, to roll dice and generate a number of new Traits or raises. All new Traits start with a d4 rating. Fix means setting the value as established by the game. For instance, the game fixes the total number of possible Values at six. Or, the Watchtower may create entirely new Traits using these examples.
Dont forget that your Feature exists solely to drive a wedge between your players. Using the existing Locations and Extras already identified for your session help ensure that your new Lead promotes drama. When prompted to roll new Traits, pick 2d10s, add them together and cross check the appropriate column in Table 2. Youll get the number of new Traits in the given category you rolled for.
Assigning the new Traits to specific choices involves an exercise of creativity for the Watchtower. Raising Traits involves determining the number of raises received per Traits category. For each category, check on Table 1 to determine which column to roll on Table 2. Then make another 2d10 roll for each category. The result in the column maps to the number of raises you get to distribute, as you see fit, in the category.
Features created using this method will have, on average, the same number of Traits as any Feature created using the full Pathways process. Features coming off the Pathways Charts tend to be moderately specializedtwo Traits or so which have been raised four or more times.
The charts reflect this. Any Trait that you choose not to raise stays at d4. There are some exceptions to the tables that are worth noting. If the Feature gains no new Traits in any category, you may still roll to raise the Trait if you wish. You can then use a raise to open up a new Trait at d4.