Universal systems: Differences and Weaknesses

TristramEvans

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The baseline of Cortex Prime is just the very basics of the dice rolling mechanic and distinctions.
Sounds like every toolkit universal system I know of - a basic task resolution mechanic and set up for how attributes/skills are expressed mechanically, and everything else is widgets added to model the type of game you want to run - that describes GURPs to FUDGE to certain flavours of D&D even.
 

Baulderstone

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Sounds like every toolkit universal system I know of - a basic task resolution mechanic and set up for how attributes/skills are expressed mechanically, and everything else is widgets added to model the type of game you want to run - that describes GURPs to FUDGE to certain flavours of D&D even.
It's really not. But we already went around this part of the carousel when I posted yesterday.
 

CRKrueger

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GURPS 4th is pretty unplayable without going through the hundreds of pages of stuff and deciding what you’re using.
Yeah, Cortex+ takes it a step farther in that you have to decide the names for the various dice you’ll be rolling and what they represent, but it’s a degree of difference, not of kind.
 

TristramEvans

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It's really not. But we already went around this part of the carousel when I posted yesterday.

I must have missed that because last post I read of yours in the thread was you saying you had just gotten a copy and were looking forward to reading it. So when I say "sounds like" I'm just going by Norton's description there. I'll go back and see what you said.
 

robertsconley

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I used HERO for years. If you think it is the same, then you don't understand the way Cortex Prime is designed.

Cortex doesn't expect you to custom-tailor the system. It expects you to BUILD the system. It doesn't give you a baseline. It just gives you the parts and you put it together.
I see no functional difference between between the two.

Case in point Fudge.

I wrote a Fudge based RPG

Fudge also doesn't define any attribute. Most of the book talks about what you could do with the system that more or less a stream of conscious essay on all the wonderful things you could do with 4DF.

Ya you are given some concrete lists like attributes and skills with Hero System, but the guts of it is the powers system which is used for everything else. And that you have to build from scratch whether it mundane like Danger International or fantastic like Fantasy Hero.

GURPS 4e is nothing but list but lists so extensive, that you are doing the same thing and spending the same amount of time. Even in the core system. And to boot GURPS 4e has a power system that works design wise like Hero System so it has too deal with as well.

All of the foremention including others like Genesys Core are toolkits where one of the first steps to using it is to build your own RPG.
 

robertsconley

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GURPS 4th is pretty unplayable without going through the hundreds of pages of stuff and deciding what you’re using.
Yeah, Cortex+ takes it a step farther in that you have to decide the names for the various dice you’ll be rolling and what they represent, but it’s a degree of difference, not of kind.
I haven't work with Cortex+ but I have worked with Fudge and I agree with this.

While I had to come up with nearly everything from below. I had to think about what I did, why I did it, and what important to express as game mechanics.

1614114985798.png

With GURPS I had to comb through multiple lists to make something coherent for my Majestic Wilderlands setting. And I still had to think about what I did, what important to express as game mechanics, and why.

1614115165791.png
 

EmperorNorton

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It's really not. But we already went around this part of the carousel when I posted yesterday.
Honestly, I give up.

I've played HERO. It was my main system for several years. I severely doubt any of the people commenting that it is exactly the same have actually even read Cortex Prime, much less played it.
 

Baulderstone

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GURPS 4th is pretty unplayable without going through the hundreds of pages of stuff and deciding what you’re using.
Yeah, Cortex+ takes it a step farther in that you have to decide the names for the various dice you’ll be rolling and what they represent, but it’s a degree of difference, not of kind.
No, having run a lot of GURPS, I disagree.

With character generation, I can just give everyone 200 points, and tell them to build a character. From a genre-coherency perspective, it will be a mess, but it will be a working character, and will function in the same campaign as the other characters. A player isn't going to be able to do that with Cortex Prime at all.

GURPS has a baseline of how combat works. To quote page p. 362 in Chapter 11. "This chapter contains all the core combat rules. Chapter 12 add rules for playing out combat using counters or figures on a hexagonal grid. Chapter 13 provided rules a number of special situations." You can just read Chapter 11, and it is a complete fully-baked system. You know how initiative works, movement works, combat manuevers, unarmed combat, melee combat, ranged combat. It's all explained in concrete terms. You can add stuff to it from the later chapters, but you don't need to in order for it to work. You can modify it with setting books, but you don't need to do that either. There is a baseline version GURPS, which is what I generally used.

By contrast, the conflict section in Cortex Prime doesn't work like that. When you get to Initiative, it lists a variety of ways to handle deciding who goes first. You can't run a combat until you decide among the options. There is no specific baseline.

And to be clear, I am not saying Cortex Prime is better, or that no other system has done it before. Just that it is a different approach. I remember Aria from the '90s, which essentially made you design your game as you went. I will say that Cortex Prime better written than Aria.
 

TristramEvans

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Honestly, I give up.

I've played HERO. It was my main system for several years. I severely doubt any of the people commenting that it is exactly the same have actually even read Cortex Prime, much less played it.
well, part of the issue may be that you are contradicting yourself in your own posts when trying to describe it...


Cortex doesn't expect you to custom-tailor the system. It expects you to BUILD the system. It doesn't give you a baseline.
...
The baseline of Cortex Prime is just the very basics of the dice rolling mechanic and distinctions.
So, you're desription of it is unclear, first you say no baseline, and then yousay it has a baseline which is, in your desription, the exact same baseline as everytoolkit RPG I know of. So now I've gone back and found Adam's description:

I'm reading Cortex Prime at the moment, and it is definitely more of a toolkit than most universal systems. With GURPS and Savage Worlds, there is a baseline game in there that you can just run while ignoring all the options and add-ons. Cortex Prime requires you to make decisions about very fundamental things about dice rolls and what stats mean.
...which is...a curious description, I'll say. As pointed out above, it reminded me of Fudge, but I dont know how comparable that is - Fuge just gives you a dice mechanic, everything else is up to you. If Cortex doesn't even provide that, you have to decide on your own dice mechanic, I guess my first thought is, if you are making fundamental decisions at every level, how is any game actually "Cortex", as opposed to just a game you made up yourself? I look at the published games that are Cortex and there are commononalities that are recognizeable as "this is a Cortex game" - the stepped die resolution mechanic, etc. SMallville, Leverage, MHR - all have the same underlying structure. So, how far from this is the toolkit presented by Cortex Prime? And then I wonder what the utility is, if there is no baseline...I mean, I can make up a game system, pretty easily, on the fly. What does Cortex Prime offer then that makes it a "toolkit" and not simply - "here's a limited set of examples of what you could do?"
 

EmperorNorton

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well, part of the issue may be that you are contradicting yourself in your own posts when trying to describe it...

So, you're desription of it is unclear, first you say no baseline, and then yousay it has a baseline which is, in your desription, the exact same baseline as everytoolkit RPG I know of. So now I've gone back and found Adam's description:
The "baseline" of cortex isn't even enough to play the game. Distinctions are short phrases describing your character. The only part of the dice rolling mechanic that is core is "grab dice based on your sets, roll, keep highest two vs difficulty number". Keep in mind what your sets are aren't even defined.

The "cortex prime at it's simplest iteration" that is described in the book in the beginning to show you the basics has to add rules just to be playable.

...which is...a curious description, I'll say. As pointed out above, it reminded me of Fudge, but I dont know how comparable that is - Fuge just gives you a dice mechanic, everything else is up to you. If Cortex doesn't even provide that, you have to decide on your own dice mechanic, I guess my first thought is, if you are making fundamental decisions at every level, how is any game actually "Cortex", as opposed to just a game you made up yourself? I look at the published games that are Cortex and there are commononalities that arre recognizeable as "this is a Cortex game" - the stepped die resolution mechanic, etc. So, how far from this is the toolkit presented by Cortex Prime? And then I wonder what the utility is, if there is no baseline...I mean, I can make up a game system, pretty easily, on the fly. What does Cortex Prime offer then that makes it a "toolkit" and not simply - "here's a limited set of examples of what you could do?"
Not having a baseline doesn't mean there aren't rules in the book. It has tons and tons of modules that you can use. As Baulderstone says above, there are multiple "initiative" systems (including "no initiative") that you can use. There are rules for various sets, like relationships from Smallville or roles like in Leverage. There are various modules on how damage works. Etc. etc.

Look at it like building a model of a house.

Building your own system from scratch, you have some wood and your glue/exacto knife/etc.

Customizing most universal systems. You start with a basic house model, and you get a bunch of pieces you can add on or paint it with, and a few pieces that might come off.

Cortex Prime. You just get a bunch of lego bricks. You put it together from those however you want.

(And of course, with the 2nd and 3rd, you can always break out the mod podge and add something custom you made up yourself to dress it up).
 

Baulderstone

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...which is...a curious description, I'll say. As pointed out above, it reminded me of Fudge, but I dont know how comparable that is - Fuge just gives you a dice mechanic, everything else is up to you. If Cortex doesn't even provide that, you have to decide on your own dice mechanic, I guess my first thought is, if you are making fundamental decisions at every level, how is any game actually "Cortex", as opposed to just a game you made up yourself? I look at the published games that are Cortex and there are commononalities that are recognizeable as "this is a Cortex game" - the stepped die resolution mechanic, etc. SMallville, Leverage, MHR - all have the same underlying structure. So, how far from this is the toolkit presented by Cortex Prime? And then I wonder what the utility is, if there is no baseline...I mean, I can make up a game system, pretty easily, on the fly. What does Cortex Prime offer then that makes it a "toolkit" and not simply - "here's a limited set of examples of what you could do?"
Cortex does do a solid job of walking you through the options it provides. It just doesn't provide a default baseline to start with, as GURPS does.
 

EmperorNorton

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I don't think anyone's questioned that.
Well in that case: When you make a PBJ sandwich, why don't you bake the bread yourself, make the jelly from scratch, and chunk some peanuts in the food processor?

I mean, if I'm going to decide what kind of bread to use, what kind of jelly or jam to use, and what kind of peanut butter to use, and whether to toast it, grill it, press it in a panini press, might as well just go all the way and make everything from scratch right?
 

TristramEvans

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Well in that case: When you make a PBJ sandwich, why don't you bake the bread yourself, make the jelly from scratch, and chunk some peanuts in the food processor?

I mean, if I'm going to decide what kind of bread to use, what kind of jelly or jam to use, and what kind of peanut butter to use, and whether to toast it, grill it, press it in a panini press, might as well just go all the way and make everything from scratch right?
It's an interesting analogy. Let me ruminate on that for a bit, I just realized I'm hungry and haven't eaten all day.
 

E-Rocker

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Sandwiches are one of the foods I feel kind of silly getting from restaurants, since they're so easy to make, and yet I get restaurant sandwiches pretty frequently... No PBJ, though, I had a life-threatening peanut allergy before it was cool.
 

KrakaJak

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I an see Cortex as Fate Core, by way of Savage Worlds. Since all rolls in Cortex (attack, defense, challenges.. however you choose to define the opposition) are simply the result of rolling and using the highest roll, and the opposition rolls too. The results feel more dynamic than Fate.

But like Fate, much of the attributes of a particular campaign are GM defined. You can make Fate feel a whole lot like Cortex by rolling against the players when they make Overcome actions.
 

EmperorNorton

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I an see Cortex as Fate Core, by way of Savage Worlds. Since all rolls in Cortex (attack, defense, challenges.. however you choose to define the opposition) are simply the result of rolling and using the highest roll, and the opposition rolls too. The results feel more dynamic than Fate.

But like Fate, much of the attributes of a particular campaign are GM defined. You can make Fate feel a whole lot like Cortex by rolling against the players when they make Overcome actions.
Eh, Fate Core is still way more defined than Cortex Prime is. How damage works has a baseline. The four base actions are pretty set things. etc. etc.

For the most part, you can run Fate Core out of the book straight with just coming up with a skill list (hell I think there is still one in the book as is) and some stunts.
 

EmperorNorton

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No sandwiches for me today, it's Taco Tuesday! I just ordered Mexican, and now the long period wehere I constantly refresh the Uber Eats map to see how far away the little cartoon car is...
I had a wrap, so a variation of a sandwich :B. I mean, tacos are kind of like sandwiches if you stretch the definition a lot!

Thinking about it: Is a taco a sandwich sounds a lot like 90% of our arguments on this forum...
 

robiswrong

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I can't, Fate, Fudge, GURPS, Hero System, all are toolkit from which you have to assemble the specifics for your campaign.
That's true of Fudge, GURPS, and Hero.

Fate.... less so. While you certainly can tweak it and muck with it, it's not as necessary. I mean, you'd probably want to edit the skills in the game a touch, but that's pretty minor.
 

KrakaJak

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Eh, Fate Core is still way more defined than Cortex Prime is. How damage works has a baseline. The four base actions are pretty set things. etc. etc.

For the most part, you can run Fate Core out of the book straight with just coming up with a skill list (hell I think there is still one in the book as is) and some stunts.
The Fate Core rulebook is a single, workable presentation of the system, it's not the whole of the system. Same with FAE. Same with Fate Condensed. All of those books give you some instruction on how you can tinker with the mechanics, but are ready to run right out of the gate. Fate Core is very explicit that everything is changeable, and the Fate System Toolkit goes over a lot of advice and pre-built options.

Cortex has a baseline system too, Prime Core. Prime Core Characters are: Attributes at d8, trade one step down for one step up(Social, Physical, Mental), 3 Distinctions/SFX (equivalent of Aspects for Fate), 9 points to step up skills (with a Core Skill list), 5 points for specialties/signature assets. Cortex is very explicit about what is Core and what is a Mod, and Core is ready to play right out of the box in Cortex Prime.

Fate and Cortex presents themselves as an eminently customizable systems. Fate is more open in how it presents those options, mostly giving advice: "You can use skill lists, or use Aspects as skills, or use tracks as skills, or don't use skills and use approaches instead don't use skills at all..." Cortex is more explicit: "This is how you add a Doom Pool to Cortex."

Damage is pretty consistent and simple in Cortex: If a Complication steps up past a d12, you are Taken Out. It's very comparable to Fate Core: if you don't have the Consequences to absorb Stress, you are Taken Out. Neither Complications nor Stress need to come from physical combat to take you out in either game.

Fate Core has 4 basic actions. Cortex has 1 (the Contest). The Contest is the equivalent to the Attack and Defend actions in Fate, but you use Contests in Cortex for passive opposition too (climbing walls, noticing a clue). Overcome in Fate is against a static DC.

Advantages and Disadvantages in Fate are covered by Assets and Complications in Cortex Core. One is powered by Fate Points, one is powered by Plot Points.

Long story long: Prime Core and Fate Core are so similar in setup, it's ridiculous. Cortex Prime combines what is in Fate Core and the Fate System Toolkit in one book, but it's harder to count the similarities than the differences between the two.
 

EmperorNorton

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Cortex has a baseline system too, Prime Core. Prime Core Characters are: Attributes at d8, trade one step down for one step up(Social, Physical, Mental), 3 Distinctions/SFX (equivalent of Aspects for Fate), 9 points to step up skills (with a Core Skill list), 5 points for specialties/signature assets. Cortex is very explicit about what is Core and what is a Mod, and Core is ready to play right out of the box in Cortex Prime.
Where did you get that list for Prime Core Trait Sets. It never states default prime sets. It says Attributes and Skills are COMMON prime sets, but it isn't Core.

It does say it uses attributes and skills in the examples in the book, specifically so it has something to use for example text, but it does not define that as core. (Go to the chapter on Trait Sets. None of them are listed with the "optional rule" symbol, because none are baseline vs mods, they are all options for prime sets.)
 

TristramEvans

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You know, I wish there was a nice place nearby to get authentic fajitas, the kind where they bring the steaming pile of freshly grilled steak slices to the table and there's fresh hot tortillas in a round wicker container, and you've got all the fixin's to put them together along with a bowl of melted butter...

mmmm, I only ever miss Texas when I'm hungry...
 

Toadmaster

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I had a pizza sandwich in Denmark. In reality more of a pizza taco, but regardless of nomenclature it was tasty. Danish pizza has a much more middle eastern vibe than American pizza.
 

KrakaJak

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Where did you get that list for Prime Core Trait Sets.
Cortex Tabletop Roleplaying Game | Fandom Tabletop (cortexrpg.com) <----link Cortex Prime character creation

Every single character creation option given in Cortex has players select Attributes + Skills. There is a sidebar somewhere about how Attributes and Skills are used in all of the examples because they are the most common for action adventure roleplaying. You can call your attributes and skills (Prime Sets) something else (like, say, Roles and Approaches) but they'll work the same. Changing the name of your prime sets only re-skins the same mechanic, just like changing Skills to Approaches in Fate. <--- Link to Fate doing the same thing
 
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