Cortex Prime

silva

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So, the recent talk about it kicked some nostalgia. Me and my brother playing Wolverine and Black Widow in some classified ops accross the globe was super fun with Marvel Heroic. How is Prime? The official site is certainly pretty.

Will there be specific games or settings for it, like Firefly and Smallville and Marvel Heroic? Or will it be a big GURPS-like toolkit where I must do everything for myself (oh please no)?

Also, something that bothered me a bit in Cortex Plus (dont remember if in Marvel Heroic or Smallvile) was the different conditions on different kinds of Traits (abilities, qualities, quicks, etc), each with their own rules exceptions. Given the dice shenanigans are already kinda consuming (for me), I would prefer a more unified treatment of the Traits.

@Ladybird and @EmperorNorton , watssup.
 

TheophilusCarter

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I didn't back Cortex Prime, so I haven't had a look myself, but I hear it's definite toolkit-like, with the option to basically re-create any earlier version of Cortex Classic or Cortex Plus (Action, Drama, or Heroic). I believe there are also some complete games coming too such as Tales of Xadia: Dragon Prince. I haven't heard of any other specific ones yet.

I looked at Cortex Plus a lot, especially the Action variant in Leverage and Firefly. I liked a lot about it, but there were aspects of it that seemed too fiddly. Plus you need to own about five-thousand d8s ... :smile: I'm curious about Prime, though. Perhaps I could bash a version together that would take care of the things that I got hung up on back then.
 

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I have the PDF for prime. I like it a lot. It has most of what was good from all the previous games, and is really well laid out as a "toolset" system, where you just pick out the parts you want and construct the game you want to construct out of it.

It also explains the BASE of cortex and how it is supposed to work, a lot better than previous versions imo.

I might talk a bit more about it later, but I'm really busy at the moment with work stuff. (probably shouldn't be posting on here instead of writing copy to be honest :B)
 

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I looked at Cortex Plus a lot, especially the Action variant in Leverage and Firefly. I liked a lot about it, but there were aspects of it that seemed too fiddly. Plus you need to own about five-thousand d8s ... :smile: I'm curious about Prime, though. Perhaps I could bash a version together that would take care of the things that I got hung up on back then.
I think you should definitely check out Prime. As it basically is just a huge list of modules and you just pick and choose the modules you want for your game. Don't like how one of the modules works? Just don't use it.
 

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Will there be specific games or settings for it, like Firefly and Smallville and Marvel Heroic? Or will it be a big GURPS-like toolkit where I must do everything for myself (oh please no)?
It is very much a toolkit, for good or ill. The basic approach gives you the system, and then several options to tailor the game. I'm lukewarm on it at the moment, but part of that is admittedly the long delay it took from KS funding to (so far) near-completion. But as well, the toolkit approach is one I'm not as fond of as I once was, and if I'm going to go in that direction I prefer Fate Core. That may change a bit once I get a print copy in hand, but I will say that Cortex Prime has not blown me away like Marvel Heroic and Smallville did.
 

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There is a free demo implementation you can play around with - Hammerheads

I must admit that my interest has also wained with the long delay to fulfilment, however it might pick up again once I actually have the system in-hand. I did enjoy Firefly.
 

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I think the intention is really more to do a Savage Worlds type thing where you have a toolkit system and then there will be game settings for it. Like I think there was Dragon Prince? that is Cortex Prime?

So like, I think there will be systems that build off the toolkit and do it premade for you, but the core book itself is intended to be a pure toolkit with no setting.
 

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That is pretty much on the money as I understand it, though I would say that Savage Worlds is more usable out-of-the-box than Cortex Prime.

So GURPS is probably closer to the mark in terms of ‘completeness’ of the core rules - complete, but some assembly still required before gaming.
 

Z-Man

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That is pretty much on the money as I understand it, though I would say that Savage Worlds is more usable out-of-the-box than Cortex Prime.

So GURPS is probably closer to the mark in terms of ‘completeness’ of the core rules - complete, but some assembly still required before gaming.
I would agree with that. Savage Worlds is fairly simple to use with little to no adjustment right from the main book, but with Cortex you'll have to make several decisions relating to skills, specialties, roles, powers, etc. to get to where you want to go.
 
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My friend's transhumanist sci-fi game in an older version of what became Prime started with us designing the character sheet together, and working out rules modules from there.

We ended up with something pretty cool - top half your "mind" traits, bottom half your "body" traits, and you could swap out bottom halves (Which I think only I actually did, having "spaceship" and "android" forms) - that I don't think would have worked anywhere near as neatly in other systems, but it was a lot of up-front work.
 

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We ended up with something pretty cool - top half your "mind" traits, bottom half your "body" traits, and you could swap out bottom halves (Which I think only I actually did, having "spaceship" and "android" forms) - that I don't think would have worked anywhere near as neatly in other systems, but it was a lot of up-front work.
That sounds awesome!
 

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OK, I just had a flip through Hammerheads. Apart from the funky dice mechanic and a basic metacurrency system, I'd be interested to see what folks like about Cortex as opposed to any other system. At the risk of threadjacking, what do folks like/hate about Cortex in its various flavours?
 

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Cortex has been another contender for my go-to generic system. It occupies a similar spot in the landscape as Fate, but the mechanisms are different as you can plainly see.

I would say a key strength is that you assemble the game from roughly three components:
  1. Something every character has (stat-like abilities)
  2. Something every character could have (skill-like abilities)
  3. Something that makes the character more unique (feat-like abilities)
These are all expressed as dice, with items 1 and 2 on a dice rating from d6 to d12 (generally, d4s are seen as a negative in the system).

Item 3 usually has a double rating - use it as a d8 or use it as a d4 and get a plot-point. The rational here is the distinction (they are sometimes named as this) is a hinderance or maybe you are show-boating. For example, if your distinction was being hideously scarred then you could use that as d8 to intimidate or d4 when trying to befriend someone. These abilities usually have a specific non-dice thing they can do, sometimes stepping a dice up to the next bigger size or adding another dice of the same size.

Anyhow - the point is, you as the GM (possibly in collaboration with your group, naturally) get to define what these elements are. As If you might play GURPS but decide that strength was immaterial in your planned campaign and so you would switch that stat out for something else. It moved Cortex to be even more generic and flexible. A bit more FUDGE-like in that regard.

The exemplar for this is perhaps Smallville where why you do something is more important than how you do something. So the stats are Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth. Clark Kent’s abilities fit into the ‘type 3’ above, as do things like Lex Luther’s wealth and control of a massive corporation.

It’s definitely a genre emulation game, and if you want a game with a tightly defined genre that doesn’t stick to classic lines* it is pretty cool.

* In a classic system Clark’s physical prowess would put him so far above other characters it would be impossible for them to compete - Cortex manages to square this circle.

We played a Firefly campaign which was great fun and true to the series. We found straight-up combat to be the weakest part of the rules, however, and I would want to look closely at how Cortex Prime addresses this to see if it likely to be better In future games.

So, it’s a genre game and the mechanics are pretty meta in play. It is good at what it does, if you want a game that does those things...
 

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Cortex has been another contender for my go-to generic system. It occupies a similar spot in the landscape as Fate, but the mechanisms are different as you can plainly see.

I would say a key strength is that you assemble the game from roughly three components:
  1. Something every character has (stat-like abilities)
  2. Something every character could have (skill-like abilities)
  3. Something that makes the character more unique (feat-like abilities)
These are all expressed as dice, with items 1 and 2 on a dice rating from d6 to d12 (generally, d4s are seen as a negative in the system).

Item 3 usually has a double rating - use it as a d8 or use it as a d4 and get a plot-point. The rational here is the distinction (they are sometimes named as this) is a hinderance or maybe you are show-boating. For example, if your distinction was being hideously scarred then you could use that as d8 to intimidate or d4 when trying to befriend someone. These abilities usually have a specific non-dice thing they can do, sometimes stepping a dice up to the next bigger size or adding another dice of the same size.

Anyhow - the point is, you as the GM (possibly in collaboration with your group, naturally) get to define what these elements are. As If you might play GURPS but decide that strength was immaterial in your planned campaign and so you would switch that stat out for something else. It moved Cortex to be even more generic and flexible. A bit more FUDGE-like in that regard.

The exemplar for this is perhaps Smallville where why you do something is more important than how you do something. So the stats are Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth. Clark Kent’s abilities fit into the ‘type 3’ above, as do things like Lex Luther’s wealth and control of a massive corporation.

It’s definitely a genre emulation game, and if you want a game with a tightly defined genre that doesn’t stick to classic lines* it is pretty cool.

* In a classic system Clark’s physical prowess would put him so far above other characters it would be impossible for them to compete - Cortex manages to square this circle.

We played a Firefly campaign which was great fun and true to the series. We found straight-up combat to be the weakest part of the rules, however, and I would want to look closely at how Cortex Prime addresses this to see if it likely to be better In future games.

So, it’s a genre game and the mechanics are pretty meta in play. It is good at what it does, if you want a game that does those things...
Cortex+ is one of those systems, like PbtA, that while they’re so narrative that they really aren’t what I look for in an RPG, I can admire the design, because they both brilliantly do exactly what they were designed to do, and do it well.
 

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OK, I just had a flip through Hammerheads. Apart from the funky dice mechanic and a basic metacurrency system, I'd be interested to see what folks like about Cortex as opposed to any other system. At the risk of threadjacking, what do folks like/hate about Cortex in its various flavours?
TBH I don't like it - I don't think the fiddlyness really pays off that well compared to Fate. I'm happy enough to play it, but it would never be my first choice.

That said, I like how it's self-balancing - because you can only claim the results of so many dice, and every extra die you add into a pool has a chance of giving the GM a plot point against you, advantage fishing isn't always the best idea. And in our sci-fi game, as I was the party's spaceship and the rest of the party were effectively bridge crew (Under my command, natch, because I was a bored and lonely spaceship that craved adventure) I liked how we could compose dice pools by them putting in their skill and me throwing in my ship stats, so I got to feel like both a vehicle and a part of the team without really bending the system in any way.
 

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TBH I don't like it - I don't think the fiddlyness really pays off that well compared to Fate. I'm happy enough to play it, but it would never be my first choice.

That said, I like how it's self-balancing - because you can only claim the results of so many dice, and every extra die you add into a pool has a chance of giving the GM a plot point against you, advantage fishing isn't always the best idea. And in our sci-fi game, as I was the party's spaceship and the rest of the party were effectively bridge crew (Under my command, natch, because I was a bored and lonely spaceship that craved adventure) I liked how we could compose dice pools by them putting in their skill and me throwing in my ship stats, so I got to feel like both a vehicle and a part of the team without really bending the system in any way.
A PC spaceship. Love it.
Did you ever just Veto what the party wanted to do and took the ship wherever you wanted?
Did you ever get a temper, and make life difficult (doors won’t open, no hot water, cabin temperature always too hot/cold,etc.) just to mess with them.

A sentient spaceship with an abundance of personality, could be humorous or terrifying.
 

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A PC spaceship. Love it.
Did you ever just Veto what the party wanted to do and took the ship wherever you wanted?
Did you ever get a temper, and make life difficult (doors won’t open, no hot water, cabin temperature always too hot/cold,etc.) just to mess with them.

A sentient spaceship with an abundance of personality, could be humorous or terrifying.
Speaking of which, just coincidentally, I've be re-reading Schlock Mercenary.
 

Ladybird

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A PC spaceship. Love it.
Did you ever just Veto what the party wanted to do and took the ship wherever you wanted?
Did you ever get a temper, and make life difficult (doors won’t open, no hot water, cabin temperature always too hot/cold,etc.) just to mess with them.

A sentient spaceship with an abundance of personality, could be humorous or terrifying.
One of our setting conceits was that AI's had a mental block preventing them from navigating warp space, so we needed a human to plot a course for us. Given that my PC was also incredibly wealthy due to being very old and a fairly good investor, as well as being a bored adventure-seeker (She'd previously been the AI for a mining vessel, before buying herself out and getting a new ship form), she could afford to be selective with her crew.

But yeah, I did make it clear to them that if they ever tried to mutiny, I could survive and make it back to port with all of my airlocks open...
 

Z-Man

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OK, I just had a flip through Hammerheads. Apart from the funky dice mechanic and a basic metacurrency system, I'd be interested to see what folks like about Cortex as opposed to any other system. At the risk of threadjacking, what do folks like/hate about Cortex in its various flavours?
My main Cortex game is Marvel Super Heroic. I've read but not played Smallville.

MSH is...a pretty fantastic supers game. Coming from a Champions background I tend toward dice-pool systems, so MSH was an instant win there. However, the decision-making in not only what dice you roll, but which you keep and in what capacity brings another level of interest to the game. Your character feels SUPER in the game. They can do things straight out of the comics, and do them exceptionally well. The system of creating assets and complications is very well thought-out, and brings a surprising level of strategy to the combat portion of the game.

The non-combat bits are not as well thought-out, however, and seem as if they are more of a required afterthought. They aren't broken, but they are less interesting. Action scenes dominate the game and the filler scenes in-between are meant for recovery and preparation for the next action scene. It's not a game-breaker by any means, but it's something to be aware of.

The system also uses Milestones to encourage RP and for XP purposes. I can't stand them, personally, and we've never used them. They're meant to bring some big dramatic moments to the game (in return for XP!) but the few times we tried them they were primarily an unnecessary distraction. The characters don't need XP as they're already immensely powerful, and I'm not big on reward-driven roleplaying.
 

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Cortex Plus Heroic, which drives Marvel Heroic, is my go to system. Cortex Plus was our group's declared default system, although we've gone all in on 2D20 lately. Z-Man covers a lot of the same points I'd make. MHR, to me, is the perfect superhero game. It can emulate anyone, even at disparate "power levels". Thor and Hawkeye can fight next to each other and both are interesting and effective.

We never used Milestones and I didn't miss them. Why be a zero when you're already a hero? :shade:
 

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I didn't see it mentioned yet, but the latest Cortex Prime update mentioned that the book has been finalized and is sent to the printers. Of course, we all know what's going on right now, so . . . they'll get here when they get here.

Smallville was one of the first RPGs I read that had nonstandard stats like Values and Relationships instead of something inspired by how D&D originally did things. You had Distinctions and stuff to model those aspects of your character, too, but the Values and Relationships that are in every single roll you make are far more important. I thought it was brilliant, the idea that what's important to model numerically could vary by game, genre, sometimes character(see alternate Values in the Watchtower Report supplement[PDF only, sorry]), and that it's not always the same kind of stats(whether they divide them into 3, 6, 9, 15, or otherwise). That said, the book had organization issues. Once you finally parse all of the rules, they're not nearly as complicated as this mess of a book makes it seem.

Also got to play Leverage. This is the one where I really started hating 1s generating complications. You roll them too much, and it's a nightmare to have to come up with micro-problems every ****ing time. Really enjoyed the game I got to play in general, but I'd seriously have some kind of counter in play(that could vary by game, too) so that you only generate a new complication every X number of 1s your team rolls instead(counters could also be character specific, but I think a team counter would be fitting for something like Leverage).

And then there's Marvel Heroic. From the game I played, I can say that it . . . certainly does exactly what it's supposed to do, at least for the most part(didn't really push the system to its limits or anything). The way you moved from scene to scene really did have a comic-book-like feel to it. But not gonna lie - I describe it as a Rube Goldberg machine, far slower and clunkier than it needs to be even though it does at least get the job done. Quite a few times I found myself thinking "there's gotta be a faster and/or easier way to handle this." Also, so many 1s that even with the GM spending Doom Pool dice on NPC abilities and stuff, the Doom Pool got ridiculously big ridiculously fast. It was another thing that made things drag on a bit. I know I looked at the Pool compared to the pools our PCs could roll a few times and thought "why even ****ing bother?" By the time we got to one of those downtime scenes where you can try to help each other recover, the Doom Pool was already so big there was no reasonable chance of succeeding at the roll. The book makes it sound like it's supposed to fluctuate up and down over the course of the session, but in practice it mostly just goes one way - up, up, up.
We never used Milestones and I didn't miss them. Why be a zero when you're already a hero? :shade:
I thought Milestones were an interesting idea with absolutely dreadful implementation. They should absolutely NOT be player-facing in nature, and the ones we had were wildly inconsistent in how easy they were to trigger. Some characters(Black Cat and Dagger for 2 examples) were basically XP factories with their 1-point milestones. No incentive whatsoever to aim for the 5-or-10-point ones considering the work-to-payoff ratio. Work through multiple sessions to reach a point where you make a 10-point decision or . . . generate 10 points easily in a small fraction of the time. And they're so oddly specific in some cases that they can be hard to work in or even disruptive to the flow of the game, and that's before taking into account that knowing the "big decisions" that your character is "supposed to" eventually make is meta to a level that bothers even me.
 

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And then there's Marvel Heroic. From the game I played, I can say that it . . . certainly does exactly what it's supposed to do, at least for the most part(didn't really push the system to its limits or anything). The way you moved from scene to scene really did have a comic-book-like feel to it. But not gonna lie - I describe it as a Rube Goldberg machine, far slower and clunkier than it needs to be even though it does at least get the job done. Quite a few times I found myself thinking "there's gotta be a faster and/or easier way to handle this." Also, so many 1s that even with the GM spending Doom Pool dice on NPC abilities and stuff, the Doom Pool got ridiculously big ridiculously fast. It was another thing that made things drag on a bit. I know I looked at the Pool compared to the pools our PCs could roll a few times and thought "why even ****ing bother?" By the time we got to one of those downtime scenes where you can try to help each other recover, the Doom Pool was already so big there was no reasonable chance of succeeding at the roll. The book makes it sound like it's supposed to fluctuate up and down over the course of the session, but in practice it mostly just goes one way - up, up, up.
I've played MHR a lot and I'll summarize by saying I've had a much different experience. Sometimes it's been difficult to keep the Doom Pool filled; most of the time I haven't seen it grow too quickly. There's no requirement that the entire Doom Pool needs to be rolled, the GM can pick a subset of dice. And personally I found HERO to be much slower and clunkier than Marvel. But that's just me.
 

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[ . . . ]
Also got to play Leverage. This is the one where I really started hating 1s generating complications. You roll them too much, and it's a nightmare to have to come up with micro-problems every ****ing time. Really enjoyed the game I got to play in general, but I'd seriously have some kind of counter in play(that could vary by game, too) so that you only generate a new complication every X number of 1s your team rolls instead(counters could also be character specific, but I think a team counter would be fitting for something like Leverage).
This is a problem I'm getting with Scum and Villainy. By far the most likely outcome in a roll is some sort of yes-but. It's intended to generate melodrama, and this is by design, but it does continually require one to come up with stuff going wrong. This also gets underfoot for PbP if you have to negotiate stuff.

I think if I was designing such a system I would rehash the dice mechanics to reduce the likelihood of yes-but results. You can definitely have too much of a good thing.
 
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Picaroon Jack

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This is a problem I'm getting with Scum and Villainy. By far the most likely outcome in a roll is some sort of yes but. It's intended to generate melodrama, and this is by design, but it does continually require one to come up with stuff going wrong. This also gets underfoot for PbP if you have to negotiate stuff.

I think if I was designing such a system I would rehash the dice mechanics to reduce the likelihood of yes-but results. You can definitely have too much of a good thing.
Agreed. In my 1939 Worlds of Peril, we had so many complications from critical failure after critical failure I was struggling to come up with new bad news. We ended with the heroes captured and chained in the belly of a ship headed to the villains' secret lair.
 

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I was very excited about Cortex Prime because many people had commented to me that it's Fate-like in all of the abstract widgets but it has less wrangling over aspects at the table. I backed the kickstarter but I'm waiting for all of the mini-settings they promised - I need a lot more guidance in the form of worked examples before I could use this thing.
 

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I was very excited about Cortex Prime because many people had commented to me that it's Fate-like in all of the abstract widgets but it has less wrangling over aspects at the table. I backed the kickstarter but I'm waiting for all of the mini-settings they promised - I need a lot more guidance in the form of worked examples before I could use this thing.
Dude, that is more than fair. As I understand it, the core Prime book is meant to be basically a "build your game" thing with lots of options and advice. And while we have a number of older versions to draw inspiration from, including some mini-settings in the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide, I too am looking forward to having more worked examples(hopefully with explanations of what decisions were made and why). I'm fairly familiar with how Cortex is supposed to work at this point, but I'd like to get to the point that I'm comfortable enough with it to make my own game and be reasonably certain that it's not hot garbage. :wink:
 

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Honestly, out of all toolkit systems I've read though, Cortex Prime has WAY more clarity on how the modules work and interlock and how you should structure things.
 

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I'm backing the crowdsourced Cortex Prime corebook - I have the early pdf version of it, but not going to take a good look until I have the hardcover printed version in my hands. I haven't played any of the Cortex games before, but it was a reasonably cheap kickstarter project to back, so I threw some money at it.

I have a habit of backing rpg kickstarters, I did this for CoC 7E, RQ G2G, Fate Core, and Fateforge (D&D 5E). Still waiting on a fair few to come out yet, such as Cortex Prime, Monster Hunters Club (SW), Red Moon Rising (BRP RD100), Chronicles of Future Earth (Fate), and Trudvang Adventures (D&D 5E)

Hopefully we are not too far away for the release of Cortex Prime, I will take a better look at it then, but from a brief look at the pdf it seems pretty functional. Not sure if it will replace Fate Core for me when it comes to that style of game in a generic ruleset, but I will just have to see.

I've got an open mind, it does seem to look quite good :thumbsup:
 
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dbm

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I have the early pdf version of it, but not going to take a good look until I have the hardcover printed version in my hands.
Just to check - you should have the print-ready PDF as well if you are a backer.
 

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Just to check - you should have the print-ready PDF as well if you are a backer.
Wow! Somehow I completely missed that update - the last pdf I had was the no-art version from March 2019!
Thanks for alerting me, I've now downloaded the Pre-Release version from Backer Kit.
I'll give it a good look later tonight! :grin: :thumbsup:
 
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Mankcam

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Never had any experience with Cortex rpgs, although I did keep hearing about the original Cortex system, as well as Cortex Plus.
The fact that it was buried within various IPs meant that I never gave it too much thought. I did see that it was also released in a core book, but I just missed that at the time, I would have been heavily focused in other rpgs and not wanting to be distracted by yet another system.

When it was announced that the new edition was to be a generic toolkit, my interest sparked up once again.
I backed the Cortex Prime kickstarter on a whim, and also on the reputation of the author.

I have been getting the updates, but have not followed it too much, although now with the coloured pre-release pdf I am taking a bit more interest again.

Hmmm I'm quite liking what I have read so far. It feels very much like Fate Core, but the writing style of @Cam Banks is very clear, which for me makes this an easier read than Fate Core. The use of colour artwork throughout the corebook is also much nicer than Fate Core

As far as mechanics go, I am not sure if I will find it preferable to Fate Core or not. Very early days.
However in my opinion, I can see that Cortex Prime covers similar ground, and in doing so feels a much more relaxed read than Fate Core.
Time will tell whether it beats Fate Core as my go-to generic toolkit in the narrative-heavy end of the pond, but it certainly is quite appealing in a lot of ways.

I'm interested is how the GM can mod the system, including character sheet detail, according to the genre and flavour they want. This is similar to Fate here, but perhaps a bit more realised and spelt out to the reader. In any case, it certainly has a wide scope for settings able to be portrayed.

From more of my very brief read, Cortex feels like Fate Core-meets-Cypher-meets-Savage Worlds, which is a compliment from where I sit.

I think it is definately time for me to start doing a deep dive read into this, although I will likely only do once I have the hard copy in my hands.
I am however quite enjoying a skim of the pre-release pdf :thumbsup:
 
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From more of my very brief read, Cortex feels like Fate Core-meets-Cypher-meets-Savage Worlds, which is a compliment from where I sit.
I think that is pretty fair, though I think the savage world similarities are more superficial. The modularity is similar To cypher, for sure.

cortex provides some of the best actually unique dice mechanics I’ve seen in a while. While I don’t always want to use it, for some things, it’s quite easy To put together.
 
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