Grading the Cortex Plus and Cortex Prime System

How do you feel about the Cortex Plus/Prime System?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 11 20.0%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 11 20.0%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 5 9.1%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 2 3.6%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 24 43.6%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 2 3.6%

Thomas Shey

Legend
I ran a moderate length campaign using the setting for Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, and I'm a little conflicted about it, but its not clear to me how much of what ended up dissatisfying me was that I tried to take a cheap and dirty solution to certain things rather than do the heavy lifting.
 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
We played a Firefly campaign which was interesting and I personally enjoyed it. It didn’t do a huge amount for the rest of my group, however, and it is less likely to get played again in future for that reason. I think its strongest feature is the ability to support antagonistic characters within functioning groups (demonstrated by Smallville where Clark Kent and Lex Luther can both coexist). I think it would be a great system for playing an Ars Magica style game with a community of characters who co-exist but who are in tension with each other.

The downside was it felt like you were playing a dice game along side the RPG, but you could just as easily criticise many RPGs that you are playing a tactical skirmish game alongside the RPG, so I think this is more an overriding preference than an inherent weakness in the design. I could certainly see it being more attractive to players who did not come out of a war gaming heritage.

This may have been what bothered me; I ended up finding the various combat scenes oddly unengaging. Oddly, I didn't feel the same way with the MHR session I ran, which makes me think I did something wrong with the campaign set-up.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Once I got to actually remembering my Stats class, my major fear about it went away.

Since it's many keep 2, that makes it heavily weighted...

It doesn't do genre enforcement, but it does, in both of my favored flavors (MHRP and Firefly), it does support the genre.

Both are easy to teach, easy to run, but a bit too open for my player base.
 

Kannik

Hero
I'd like to see something more like the Cortex Hacker's Guide (previously for Cortex Plus) published for Cortex Prime that shows some detailed and specific genre implementations of the system, as well as some better guidance to those ends than what exists in the core book. I think people would buy something like that.
Hmmm. I'm starting to get the urge to make something like this my next RPG writing project... :)
 

Kannik

Hero
This may have been what bothered me; I ended up finding the various combat scenes oddly unengaging. Oddly, I didn't feel the same way with the MHR session I ran, which makes me think I did something wrong with the campaign set-up.
That could be, I've found that overall setup, whether characters have SFX that are engagement-relevant and interesting, and especially the engagement of the players during the encounter, can make a big difference in the theatre of the mind nature of the conflict.

FWIW, we've had some amazing combat encounters within the rules. One of the most memorable hast to be the time one of the raider's leaders pulled their battle standard out of the ground and jumped on a passing dune buggy to attempt to joust/lance one of the characters... who managed to rip a stop sign off the side of the adjacent school bus and use it as a makeshift shield to help defend herself. Later, she herself ended up on another of the raider's buggies while the leader was attacking her using long heavy chains, and she hitches on her defense roll... so as she scrambles to the top of the buggy to get out of the way of the incoming chain, she accidentally steps on the steering wheel as a foot purchase, causing the buggy to swerve (thus causing the attack to miss) but then roll, which damaged her Bow (one of her signature assets, which we stepped down rather than add a new complication). :)
 

aramis erak

Legend
I've had some interesting combat in Firefly... tthe range of things done to damage the Alliance patrol craft.... All the while increasing their bounty... but since they jammed it before it could report them, they were able to drop a really big bit of cargo. They got lucky, and blew it's plant. (The dodge roll came up 5× 1's... )

There was also the brawl in one of my runs of The Wedding Planners. Noting that melee damage is always incapacitating unless you spend a PP, it depleted the PCs quick. But me quicker.

The thing is, the fights in the show are seldom long; the game is tooled to keep fights short by keeping them super dangerous.
 

pemerton

Legend
I really like MHRP and my Cortex+ Heroic Fantasy hack (developed from MHRP taking advice from the Hacker's Guide).

Here is a bit about my Vikings fantasy game: https://www.enworld.org/threads/into-the-north-cortex-plus-heroic-fantasy-actual-play.530990/

And here about my LotR/MERP fantasy game: https://www.enworld.org/threads/middle-earth-lotr-rpging-using-cortex-heroic.670013/


What's perhaps the most interesting for me is the use of Scene Distinctions to move the focus of the fiction beyond the architectural or meteorological to the temporal, emotional, allegorical etc.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
It doesn't do genre enforcement, but it does, in both of my favored flavors (MHRP and Firefly), it does support the genre.

I find this sentence very difficult to parse.

Cortex Prime is a toolkit. Whether it supports/enforces genre depends on how you've applied that toolkit. If you build your game based on traditional stats (Str, Dex Con, Int, Wis Chr, or the like) and typical fantasy skills, you won't get much enforcement, no. If you build a game based on the genre patterns, then you get genre enforcement and support.

A great example is Marvel Heroic RP - where you have a stat for how the character works Solo, Duo, or as a part of a larger team. That's enforcing something seen in the comics genre.

Another would be in Tales of Xadia, how there are six ways to take Stress, and only one of them is actual physical injury, which enforces how in the animated show much of the focus is on the character's emotional lives, which carry much of the rest of the forms of Stress.
 
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A great example is Marvel Heroic RP - where you have a stat for how the character works Solo, Duo, or as a part of a larger team. That's enforcing something seen in the comics genre.
That was actually the Prime Trait choice I found most inexplicable in that rule set. It works okay on the table, granted, but if I were homebrewing supers Values would be a Prime, not that set of Affiliations. I'd understand something like it for characters who operate on multiple teams or solo (eg Wolverine might have different dice when with the X-Men, the Avengers, or alone - or even more variations) but that seems more like a Relationship-style adder than a Prime Trait. It's pretty rare to see a Marvel character whose performance consistently falls apart when they're with the wrong number of people. Ones who spike on a team are a bit more common - leader types like Cap A or some depictions of Cyclops - but they also don't suck when soloing or in a team-up book.

Interesting to note that Cam's later supers rule set for Sentinel Comics introduced a de facto Prime Trait called your status die, which is dependent on a combination of personal health/stress and how much tension there is in the scene. Functionally it reflects characters who either start off confident and fall apart if things go wrong for them, or folks who are either slow starters or who try harder and harder the more pressure they're under. There's no close parallel in Cortex prime, but you could reverse engineer something similar to the personal health part by either using the life points mod and dividing into different "pressure' zones, or by defining current status looking you worst current complication or total number of complications or some combination thereof.

Showcases Prime's versatility, that's for sure.
 

timbannock

Adventurer
Supporter
That was actually the Prime Trait choice I found most inexplicable in that rule set. It works okay on the table, granted, but if I were homebrewing supers Values would be a Prime, not that set of Affiliations. I'd understand something like it for characters who operate on multiple teams or solo (eg Wolverine might have different dice when with the X-Men, the Avengers, or alone - or even more variations) but that seems more like a Relationship-style adder than a Prime Trait. It's pretty rare to see a Marvel character whose performance consistently falls apart when they're with the wrong number of people. Ones who spike on a team are a bit more common - leader types like Cap A or some depictions of Cyclops - but they also don't suck when soloing or in a team-up book.
Pretty sure that was to specifically model the Event format of the game, rather than to model the comic universe itself. Knowing so many games (published events as well as homebrew tables) would feature a mixed bag of Marvel characters rather than groups that focus along team affiliation lines, they wanted to stress the idea of these disparate characters and what made them work (or not) together.

It also plays into the Milestones a lot (many choices will impact who you work with or when you might choose between going it alone or seeking out help), and gives the Doom Pool fun things to do (changing party composition).

That said, I don't disagree with your solution: I make values a prime set in my MHR games for PCs, and add the Catalyst die to major GMCs. This helps play up the more social aspects without needing to dive into relationships, trait statements, etc.
 

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