DMing is Not Storytelling

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AsenRG

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In nearly 40 years, I can count on my fingers the number of 'third person' roleplayers I've met. All the rest being 'first person' in their approach.

Maybe it's a regional thing?
Maybe. Or maybe it's related to the kind of education you have. Or just natural tendency which might or might not be related to regional differences.
So yeah, I guess "it's a regional thing" is as good an explanation as any.
 

NinjaWeasel

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In nearly 40 years, I can count on my fingers the number of 'third person' roleplayers I've met. All the rest being 'first person' in their approach.

Maybe it's a regional thing?

It's entirely possible it is regional.

To be clear, people may sometimes speak in first person but it's definitely a third-person experience overall for most, if not all, people I've played with. They're definitely trying to imagine their characters doing things and not trying to live their characters. (not really sure if I'm explaining myself well here!)

In my time I think I've encountered 11 different RPG groups in the North of England.

Of those, I've encountered one store-based Fate/PbtA/Fiasco group, who were definitely in-character almost the whole time but it felt too... theatrical, in some way, for my tastes. I know some friends of a friend who've been running MERP since the late 80s and they do everything in character (not just first person) and it's all like an episode of Blackadder, with a bit of Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and a ton of in-joking throw in. Very alienating to anyone who hasn't been in that group for the last 30 years but they seem to have a lot of fun!

I've also encountered three D&D groups, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, where they play almost entirely pre-written adventures and campaigns, with minatures and battlemats, and play everything in an almost purely gamist way. i.e. little to no more consideration given the world than they would in a boardgame. Everything is "okay, my guy is moving X Number of squares and then using Persuade on the guard immediately in front of him". There's clear objectives, clear rewards, a sense of "win" conditions and a real efficiency of play. I played a single session in one of those groups once and it wasn't for me either.

Which leaves 6 groups I've encountered that play somewhat similarly to myself and, admittedly to varying degrees, switch back and forth between first and third person and immersion was not the goal (or at least didn't seem to be the primary goal). I don't think any of those groups learned to play from anyone else. In my group we didn't learn from anyone (except some bits of advice maybe from the White Dwarf and Warlock magazines) and just picked up the books, read them, and then tried to figure it all out at the table together.

So, possibly regional. Perhaps it's an "explaining things on the internet" thing too? If you actually watched us play maybe you'd see a smaller difference in play style than you imagine? Likewise for me if I watched your group. The execution of something can look or feel quite different from the explanation sometimes.

Sorry, I thought I've written "my natural tendency". Edited:thumbsup:!

Don't worry, I pretty much got you. I figured you meant yourself and the gamers you knew.
 

AsenRG

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It's entirely possible it is regional.

To be clear, people may sometimes speak in first person but it's definitely a third-person experience overall for most, if not all, people I've played with. They're definitely trying to imagine their characters doing things and not trying to live their characters. (not really sure if I'm explaining myself well here!)

In my time I think I've encountered 11 different RPG groups in the North of England.

Of those, I've encountered one store-based Fate/PbtA/Fiasco group, who were definitely in-character almost the whole time but it felt too... theatrical, in some way, for my tastes. I know some friends of a friend who've been running MERP since the late 80s and they do everything in character (not just first person) and it's all like an episode of Blackadder, with a bit of Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and a ton of in-joking throw in. Very alienating to anyone who hasn't been in that group for the last 30 years but they seem to have a lot of fun!

I've also encountered three D&D groups, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, where they play almost entirely pre-written adventures and campaigns, with minatures and battlemats, and play everything in an almost purely gamist way. i.e. little to no more consideration given the world than they would in a boardgame. Everything is "okay, my guy is moving X Number of squares and then using Persuade on the guard immediately in front of him". There's clear objectives, clear rewards, a sense of "win" conditions and a real efficiency of play. I played a single session in one of those groups once and it wasn't for me either.

Which leaves 6 groups I've encountered that play somewhat similarly to myself and, admittedly to varying degrees, switch back and forth between first and third person and immersion was not the goal (or at least didn't seem to be the primary goal). I don't think any of those groups learned to play from anyone else. In my group we didn't learn from anyone (except some bits of advice maybe from the White Dwarf and Warlock magazines) and just picked up the books, read them, and then tried to figure it all out at the table together.

So, possibly regional. Perhaps it's an "explaining things on the internet" thing too? If you actually watched us play maybe you'd see a smaller difference in play style than you imagine? Likewise for me if I watched your group. The execution of something can look or feel quite different from the explanation sometimes.



Don't worry, I pretty much got you. I figured you meant yourself and the gamers you knew.
Not the gamers I knew. Those are a mix between the 1st and 3rd person roleplaying, with some predominance of the former, maybe 70:30 up to 80:20:thumbsup:.
 

AsenRG

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I've played with both, either is fine. It gets the job done. I sometimes switch back and forth without meaning to in the course of one session.
I've played with both as well. But first person is my natural tendency, as noted upthread, and my preference as well.
 

xanther

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All the groups I've played in it is a mix, there is usually one player who prefers 3rd person and another who prefers 1st, and most just jump back and forth.

Have experienced the real "board game" approach to a lot of recent D&D games, run into range and execute feat or game term (no attempt for example even on a intimidate or persuade check to even add color). Yet even then there is usually one player that prefers 3rd person and they are kind of left feeling meh, getting dribs of role playing amongst the flood of roll playing.
 

xanther

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It's hard to describe for me, but the difference is how, IDK, invested or involved I am in the current action. That's not exactly right, but it's close.
Think I get it. Sometimes in the heroic moment get all in character. And nothing I like more when can have a parley that slips well into "pure" third person.
I'm not going to get all 3rd person for picking a lock, unless it starts talking to me.
 

AsenRG

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It's hard to describe for me, but the difference is how, IDK, invested or involved I am in the current action. That's not exactly right, but it's close.
I get what you mean, and don't have a better explanation, either. But it also depends on the character.

I mean, I usually try to maintain the same person (1st/3rd) consistently, depending on what I started with...but when the character is doing something I'd disapprove of, I switch to 3rd person without even noticing until after the fact. And yes, that happens...with some characters, actually happens a lot:shade:!

Think I get it. Sometimes in the heroic moment get all in character. And nothing I like more when can have a parley that slips well into "pure" third person.
I'm not going to get all 3rd person for picking a lock, unless it starts talking to me.
Something like this, IME:thumbsup:.
 

NinjaWeasel

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It's hard to describe for me, but the difference is how, IDK, invested or involved I am in the current action. That's not exactly right, but it's close.

I think I understand where you're coming from. If I'm a player (which is rare) I will usually only do things in first person if the GM (or another player) addresses me directly in first person. In that situation it seems appropriate to respond in kind. So it happens if prompted basically. There is one exception, if things get exciting and fast flowing then I'm more likely to slip into first person. After pondering it, I think this is partly (and unconsciously) because other players are more likely to be doing it but also for the greater sense of immediacy and because I'm more drawn in to the moment I guess.
 

AsenRG

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I think I understand where you're coming from. If I'm a player (which is rare) I will usually only do things in first person if the GM (or another player) addresses me directly in first person. In that situation it seems appropriate to respond in kind. So it happens if prompted basically. There is one exception, if things get exciting and fast flowing then I'm more likely to slip into first person. After pondering it, I think this is partly (and unconsciously) because other players are more likely to be doing it but also for the greater sense of immediacy and because I'm more drawn in to the moment I guess.
And vice versa?
 

NinjaWeasel

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And vice versa?

When I'm GM and I address the players in first person? Hmmmm... :hmmm:

I think they're more likely to respond to me in first person overall but a few of them are perhaps not as likely as others, or as I am, to respond in kind.

If I'm GMing and things get fast and furious?

I'm likely to slip into first person if they're doing it I think. I may even start the first personing in that situation sometimes. It's something I may pay more attention to in future as I've never really given it that much thought in the past.
 

AsenRG

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When I'm GM and I address the players in first person? Hmmmm... :hmmm:

I think they're more likely to respond to me in first person overall but a few of them are perhaps not as likely as others, or as I am, to respond in kind.

If I'm GMing and things get fast and furious?

I'm likely to slip into first person if they're doing it I think. I may even start the first personing in that situation sometimes. It's something I may pay more attention to in future as I've never really given it that much thought in the past.
Actually I was asking "do people switch to 3rd person when addressed this way IC", though you're right that it's different when the GM is addressing you:thumbsup:!
 

NinjaWeasel

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Actually I was asking "do people switch to 3rd person when addressed this way IC", though you're right that it's different when the GM is addressing you:thumbsup:!

Ah, sorry!

You know what, I'm not so sure about that. As speaking in third person is more common in our games, it's not something I really notice on the same level as the other way around. I can say that, yes, I'm sure there have been occasions when people have switched to third person after being addressed that way but I couldn't honestly tell you the frequency of that though. However, I don't think it's anywhere near as common. They're quite likely to switch to third person without prompts to do so anyway.
 

AsenRG

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Ah, sorry!

You know what, I'm not so sure about that. As speaking in third person is more common in our games, it's not something I really notice on the same level as the other way around. I can say that, yes, I'm sure there have been occasions when people have switched to third person after being addressed that way but I couldn't honestly tell you the frequency of that though. However, I don't think it's anywhere near as common. They're quite likely to switch to third person without prompts to do so anyway.
How about an experiment? Try going all 1st person a session and see how many would follow and how often they'd revert?

I don't think it should create much drama, and you could tell them after the session if they seem surprised:thumbsup:!
 

NinjaWeasel

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How about an experiment? Try going all 1st person a session and see how many would follow and how often they'd revert?

I don't think it should create much drama, and you could tell them after the session if they seem surprised:thumbsup:!

Yeah, I can certainly try it out and see what happens. We have had discussions at times in the past about play style and I know the general preference is for way we do things now but we haven't tried entirely in first person and there's no harm in trying it.

There is one guy who I know at one time, back in the 80s and 90s, would've preferred first person but he has only two modes as a gamer. The first mode is a slightly bossy at times but generally going along with the group kinda guy. The second mode is the kinda guy who, regardless of genre or character, starts impersonating Brian Blessed doing faux Shakespearean drama and has a tendency to bellow bombastic speeches, or melodramatic monologues, at regular intervals while derailing the whole game and making it entirely about him. That was his primary mode back in the 80s and 90s. It's not really an immersion issue just... I guess he just gets into the character and gets way too excited? He's got more relaxed as he's got older but I fear we will have to keep that second mode in check!
 
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AsenRG

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Yeah, I can certainly try it out and see what happens. We have had discussions at times in the past about play style and I know the general preference is for way we do things now but we haven't tried entirely in first person and there's no harm in trying it.

There is one guy who I know at one time, back in the 80s and 90s, would've preferred first person but he has only two modes as a gamer. The first mode is a slightly bossy at times but generally going along with the group kinda guy. The second mode is the kinda guy who, regardless of genre or character, starts impersonating Brian Blessed doing faux Shakespearean drama and has a tendency to bellow bombastic speeches, or melodramatic monologues, at regular intervals while derailing the whole game and making it entirely about him. That was his primary mode back in the 80s and 90s. It's not really an immersion issue just... I guess he just gets into the character and gets way too excited? He's got more relaxed as he's got older but I fear we will have to keep that second mode in check!
Cool! Let us know how it went after you try it:thumbsup:!

Also, I think we've all seen that guy. Though he's often fun to play with:grin:!
 

NinjaWeasel

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Cool! Let us know how it went after you try it:thumbsup:!

Also, I think we've all seen that guy. Though he's often fun to play with:grin:!

Yeah he can be fun! I just have to make sure, if he gets excited, that he lets the less outgoing players do... Something. Anything! lol

I'll get back to you and let you know. I'm going to be working this weekend sadly so it's likely to be a couple of weeks at least before I report back though.
 

Brock Savage

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For 19 years my primary gaming group insisted that all roleplay had to be 1st person. Ugh it sucked so bad! I don't know why I put up with it for so long. Once I started hosting games with people who were new the hobby, the most common objections I would run into by far was having to speak in character and cringy funny voices. A lot of people half joking half serious thought dressing up at the table was a thing.

Anyway, I am really lax about enforcing roleplay. I give a quick speech explaining that egregious metagaming isn't cool and that's about it. If someone wants to passively roleplay in third person that is perfectly fine with me, I ain't gonna bust their chops. Honestly, if their comfort zone is treating their character like a board game token most of the time I am okay with that too as long as they are invested and having fun. I find that new players grow comfortable over time and start roleplaying more often in 1st person without any prodding from me.

Edit: I think the best RP comes forth naturally and unprovoked. Last session my players had a heated IC debate about what it meant to be "Lawful" and what, if any, moral lines should be drawn when fighting the Old Ones. It was so awesome! This is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to see them explore in my game and it just can't be forced.
 
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hawkeyefan

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It's hard to describe for me, but the difference is how, IDK, invested or involved I am in the current action. That's not exactly right, but it's close.

I’ve noticed in your PBP game that I tend to type things in third person. Something about typing things out that tends to put some distance there, I guess?

But I think when I play in person (or by video) I tend to use first or third pretty interchangeably. I think it depends on the situation and what I’m declaring. Things that are straightforward or perhaps equally viable for both character and player, I probably go with first person. So something like “no way am I gonna let this guy get through that door” or similar.

But if it’s more an examination of character…if I have to take that moment….which can be a long moment or just like a nanosecond…to pause and think what my character would do, then I very likely will shift into third person. So something like “no, I don’t think Teemo would let this merchant get away with ripping people off” or similar.

I can’t even say these trends are certain, but that’s I think reflecting on it now. I’ll have to pay attention and see if I notice any different factors.
 

robertsconley

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However, in my group people don't do a lot in character. It's mostly "what can my character see?" or "what does this place look like?" rather than "what do I see?" It's a fairly superficial difference but, in the example the "I" is important, without it it's a sign that the players are imagining the setting much the way they would a film, only the are also interacting with it. It's a related experience but they aren't trying to capture the feel of living in the setting. There's a certain psychological distance there. That is the best way I can put it! While we don't use miniatures (not generally anyway) the characters are avatars of sorts I guess.
As a referee I find it sufficient if the players act as if they are there even if it just essentially themselves with the abilities of the character. If they choose to act as in acting and actors, and to try to play a different personality then more power to them and it is appreciated. But it not required in my book.

But here the thing, I will engage with all my players via first person roleplaying and strongly discourage third person roleplaying. I don't berate them for it. I manipulate the situation that first person responses are the natural thing to do. It comes up mostly in roleplaying. A player will do something like, "I have my character talk to the shopkeeper about buying a sword." My response is to look the player in the eye, and say in a "funny" voice "Well there, welcome to my shop. What are you interested in today."

The only time I do third person stuff when it would be third person stuff in game. For example planning troop movements and logistics.

The reason I do this is not immersion. It because I found third person causes issues in that player roleplaying in that mode on average tends to treat their character and the NPCs as game pieces. And are more prone to what I call maddog actions. Doing stuff as their character that make no sense. By emphasizing first person roleplaying I found that engages the players social instinct as a result encounters play out more naturally. Players wind up seeing more options, and generally have more fun.

The problem I seen with zealous advocacy of first person roleplaying is that it equated with acting and immersion. Immersion can't be forced and not everybody has fun acting. And for those players have trouble socially period, I am aware enough to cut some slack. Either I will coach them, or ignore their awkwardness, and focus on their intent. If their intent works out for the situation then I roleplay as if they nailed an epic Shakespearean speech. The same technique I use for people who have a stutter or some other verbal disability.

There's a third-person quality to the experience rather than imagining the first-person experience, which is how I believe immersion works.
Immersion for me is getting into the mind of a character and acting as that character to the point where it just flows naturally. I don't need to do that look the referee in the eye and say "Yes sir I am here to buy a sword."

Keep in mind I am not talking absolutes but averages and observation over four decades of doing this. Some players are maddog even with first person roleplaying. For Many players first person or third person roleplaying is irrelevant, they are great players and play great character that fun for them, the group and the campaign. And while I have a strong opinion about it, I am not dogmatic about it. When push comes to shove I will let it slide if player says something third person. It generally only significant when dealing with NPCs.
 

Fenris-77

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I’ve noticed in your PBP game that I tend to type things in third person. Something about typing things out that tends to put some distance there, I guess?

But I think when I play in person (or by video) I tend to use first or third pretty interchangeably. I think it depends on the situation and what I’m declaring. Things that are straightforward or perhaps equally viable for both character and player, I probably go with first person. So something like “no way am I gonna let this guy get through that door” or similar.

But if it’s more an examination of character…if I have to take that moment….which can be a long moment or just like a nanosecond…to pause and think what my character would do, then I very likely will shift into third person. So something like “no, I don’t think Teemo would let this merchant get away with ripping people off” or similar.

I can’t even say these trends are certain, but that’s I think reflecting on it now. I’ll have to pay attention and see if I notice any different factors.
Yeah, PbP is different. That said, in Séadna Séadna 's PbP Mythras game ive noticed i move back and forth I think based on how into the scene I am. I think that's representative of my live play as well, but I haven't really gotten to do that for a long time.
 

CRKrueger

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Yeah, PbP is different. That said, in Séadna Séadna 's PbP Mythras game ive noticed i move back and forth I think based on how into the scene I am. I think that's representative of my live play as well, but I haven't really gotten to do that for a long time.
In PbP, you have to write differently, even assume things on occasion and go with it, forcing the GM to accept it or roll it back, impeding momentum, which is a death kneel for PbP.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t really get into it, too much authorship.
 

Fenris-77

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In PbP, you have to write differently, even assume things on occasion and go with it, forcing the GM to accept it or roll it back, impeding momentum, which is a death kneel for PbP.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t really get into it, too much authorship.
I dont have that issue at all, but we're talking about taste rather than anything else.
 

opaopajr

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I once knew a GM who told a story through a tabletop RPG... and then they all died.

Something about rocks falling. Tragic. :grin:

In PbP, you have to write differently, even assume things on occasion and go with it, forcing the GM to accept it or roll it back, impeding momentum, which is a death kneel for PbP.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t really get into it, too much authorship.
Far too true, in my experience. :sad:
 

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I don't get it, could you please explain? I have never seen Smallville.

The Smallville RPG is designed to model prime-time soap opera drama. The mechanics and the core gameplay loop are designed to test characters' relationships with each other and bring their values into conflict.

IOW, the morality debate you described is every session of Smallville. Hillfolk does the same thing but eschews any kind of mechanics in favour of pure IC improv.
 

Brock Savage

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The Smallville RPG is designed to model prime-time soap opera drama. The mechanics and the core gameplay loop are designed to test characters' relationships with each other and bring their values into conflict.
Interesting. How easy would it be to port that into a setting of nihilistic cosmic horror? How does it handle combat, investigation, and exploration?
 

TristramEvans

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Interesting. How easy would it be to port that into a setting of nihilistic cosmic horror? How does it handle combat, investigation, and exploration?

It's a cortex-based system, which means it's a heavily abstracted crunchy mechanic that encourages a third person viewpoint.

Characters are described not by what things they can do, but by what motivates them to do things. Each character has six Values; Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power, and Truth. Each is assigned a single die of varying size, d4 through d12. A short descriptive phrase is attached to each Value, indicating how the character feels about that particular concept. Instead of a list of skills,, each PC is assigned a Relationship die with each other PC, and with the various NPCs in their lives. Like Values, these have a descriptive phrase attached, showing how the character feels about the other character in the Relationship. The game begins with defining all these relationships on a sort of "map". When you do something in the game you take a dice based on the relationship you have to the person you are interacting with, and the Value you are invoking with the action.

How does it handle combat, investigation, and exploration? It doesn't, really, except insofar as how these relate to your relationships.
 

Lessa

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The Smallville RPG is designed to model prime-time soap opera drama. The mechanics and the core gameplay loop are designed to test characters' relationships with each other and bring their values into conflict.

IOW, the morality debate you described is every session of Smallville. Hillfolk does the same thing but eschews any kind of mechanics in favour of pure IC improv.
I love this "genre" of games but never played Smallville nor Hillfolk, sadly. I've played Monsterhearts, Sagas of the Icelanders and Undying, though, which are PbtA with similar goals and I had a ton of fun! :thumbsup:

Edit: actually, I've played Marvel Heroic Roleplaying which is also Cortex. But I guess it doesn't have the same "punch" for drama.
 

Tommy Brownell

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It's a cortex-based system, which means it's a heavily abstracted crunchy mechanic that encourages a third person viewpoint.

Characters are described not by what things they can do, but by what motivates them to do things. Each character has six Values; Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power, and Truth. Each is assigned a single die of varying size, d4 through d12. A short descriptive phrase is attached to each Value, indicating how the character feels about that particular concept. Instead of a list of skills,, each PC is assigned a Relationship die with each other PC, and with the various NPCs in their lives. Like Values, these have a descriptive phrase attached, showing how the character feels about the other character in the Relationship. The game begins with defining all these relationships on a sort of "map". When you do something in the game you take a dice based on the relationship you have to the person you are interacting with, and the Value you are invoking with the action.

How does it handle combat, investigation, and exploration? It doesn't, really, except insofar as how these relate to your relationships.

That said, if you have the new Cortex game, it has all the building blocks of the various Cortex games, if one wants to try to mix and match for desired effect.
 

daniel_ream

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That said, if you have the new Cortex game, it has all the building blocks of the various Cortex games, if one wants to try to mix and match for desired effect.

FWIW, I would not recommend the new Cortex Prime book. It's a toolkit, not unlike Fate Core. While you could technically replicate any of the earlier Cortex Plus games with it, it omits a lot of things from all of them (like the character creation system from Smallville, which IMHO is the heart of the game). If you want to play Cortex P() Drama, you'll be better served by hunting up copies of Smallville and the Watchtower book and hacking those rather than trying to build something from Cortex Prime.

How does it handle combat, investigation, and exploration? It doesn't, really, except insofar as how these relate to your relationships.

This. It's a game about soap opera drama. It handles combat, investigation, and exploration about as well as an episode of Falcon Crest does.
 

Brock Savage

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It's a cortex-based system, which means it's a heavily abstracted crunchy mechanic that encourages a third person viewpoint.
I appreciate the explanation.
It's a game about soap opera drama. It handles combat, investigation, and exploration about as well as an episode of Falcon Crest does.
Ah well. You had me interested for a moment there.
 

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FWIW, I would not recommend the new Cortex Prime book. It's a toolkit, not unlike Fate Core. While you could technically replicate any of the earlier Cortex Plus games with it, it omits a lot of things from all of them (like the character creation system from Smallville, which IMHO is the heart of the game). If you want to play Cortex P() Drama, you'll be better served by hunting up copies of Smallville and the Watchtower book and hacking those rather than trying to build something from Cortex Prime.
I felt like it did a better job of actually explaining how to play Cortex than any of the other games did, but YMMV.
 

daniel_ream

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I felt like it did a better job of actually explaining how to play Cortex than any of the other games did, but YMMV.
Oh, I would agree with that. Cam Banks is a great designer but a terrible writer, and the final edit of CPrime is vastly improved in that regard. I suppose for me the major issue was that it's becoming increasingly hard to find print copies of any of the original Cortex Plus games. Cortex Prime does not let me play, out of the box, a game about elaborate heists or high-octane superhero action or superpowered teen drama or scoundrels in starships. Most of the mechanics from those games didn't make it into the final cut.

At its base, Cortex P() is just a simple roll-and-keep system with Fate-style Aspects. It's the genre-specific mechanics you need to actually run a game with it.

I love this "genre" of games but never played Smallville nor Hillfolk, sadly. I've played Monsterhearts, Sagas of the Icelanders and Undying, though, which are PbtA
I should point out that PbtA and Cortex are very different. Cortex has much more in common with Fate than PbtA, and it's much heavier "crunch".
 

Duskwight

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In nearly 40 years, I can count on my fingers the number of 'third person' roleplayers I've met. All the rest being 'first person' in their approach.

Maybe it's a regional thing?
Medium is also an element. All of my games are in third-person perspective written prose. First-person perspective leads to suspicion of too much self-identification with the PC.
 
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