Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Cortex and Unisystem
I have a few posts about Cortex coming up and I am actually putting them on hold to put this one up first.
Cortex is a system I have talked about off and on. I like it. It has some neat things going for it. I have described it before as the funky love child of Unisystem and Savage Worlds and that is still a fair comparison. Cortex though is closer in nature to Unisystem I think. Like Unisystem, Cortex is designed to be a universal core rules system. Like Unisystem it has some very cool licensed properties; Supernatural being my favorite, but I have to admit I like Demon Hunters too.
So. Why don't I like Cortex more? Well. For starters I am not a fan of its thin magic system. Or rather, it's overly thin magic system. I will discuss that in a later post, but mostly outside of magic and dealing with normal humans, Cortex and Unisystem are roughly equal. In fact there is a lot overlap between the games.
Attributes are roughly the same. Strength = Strength, Dexterity = Agility, Constitution = Vitality, Intelligence = Intelligence, Willpower = Willpower and Perception = Alertness. Even the ranges are roughly the same. 1 = d2, 2=d4, 3=d6, 4=d8, 5=d10 and 6=d12, with the proper human mins and maxs lining up. Cortex even assumes the human average to be about d6, similar to Unisystem's 3. With the point buy systems Cortex's Veteran is roughly equal then Experienced Heroes in many Unisystem games. Life points are calculated differently, so I would stick to the system used in each game rather than a full conversion.
Skills are likewise roughly equal. Cortex has more skills and offers skill specializations, something that might work very nice ported over to Unisystem as a bridge for the Cinematic to Classic gap. I like the Skill Specializations. Nice way for more powerful characters to spend their points. I like it quite a lot to be honest, so much that I would consider it for a Cinematic/Classic Unisystem hybrid. Have Cinematic skills up to a certain point (say maybe 3) and then anything after that (4 and up) have to be specializations.
Unisystem characters get Qualities and Drawbacks. Cortex characters get Traits and Complications; and they get a few of those. This is fine really when dealing with normal humans. In the core rules there are still a few to choose from and there are others in the other, licensed material cores. In this respect it is closer to Savage Worlds. All three games have some overlap here, but each has something here and there to offer the others. Demon Hunters and Supernatural can get a boost from the likes of Buffy, Angel and Ghosts of Albion, while Unisystem gamers can get a different feel for their games from Demon Hunters and Supernatural. Adding Battlestar Galactica to the mix extends this even more. Ghosts of Albion/Angel/Buffy, Supernatural and Demon Hunters all live under the same basic idea; the supernatural is real and you need to fight it, though they all differ in approach. Mixing the games up a bit would be perfect for that Urban Fantasy genre that is so popular these days, with a perfect balance of fluff and crunch and rules-lite cinematic fun. While conversions are easy, some would be harder to convert. For example, a Cortex Vampire costs d6, in Unisystem Vampires are 15 pts. Granted they are different sort of vampires. But something like a Slayer or Protector would cost quite a bit in Cortex, and for the current games they have not really appropriate. I'd have to go through all the Demon and Supernatural creation rules (in Angel and Ghosts respectively) to see if they would convert fine to Cortex.
Magic though is an issue. Not surprising (and really nothing against the other games) I like Unisystem's magic the best. But looking over Cortex's base system, there is a lot of room to improve on what they have, adapt something else or grow something new! The magic system in Ghosts would work fine more or less as is. I would need to create a "Spellcasting" skill, to represent basic understanding and then specialize it out into various forms; say Kabalistic, Solomonic, FamTrad Witchcraft to go one route or even Alteration, Necromancy, Illusion for another or even more basic, Arcane, Divine, Psionic. Lots of choices really. Just need to sit down pen to paper one day and do it. But this one sounds the best to me so far, though I have a lot of ideas.
Cortex has at least one thing going for it that I do like over Unisystem; the step-die mechanic. Not that I don't like Unisystem's 1d10 (or even my 2d6 variant), I do. But the die + die gives a nice set of probability curves over die + fixed numbers.
So now all that is left is to test my conversions. So what is a good choice? Well I need a good Unisystem character that could also exist in a Cortex world. Sounds like a great excuse for me pull out Vampire Tara! In my Unisystem games Tara and Willow are still alive and together, and in one adventure they came across a vampire version of Tara, from another reality. Well. Amber Benson played a vampire named Lenore in Supernatural. Sounds like a perfect choice. You can see her Unisystem stats here, http://edenstudiosdiscussionboards.yuku.com/forum/viewtopic/id/3558. You can use these stats for Vampire Tara or Vampire Lenore as you like.
Agi d10 Str d12 Vit d10 Ale d12 Int d6 Wil d10
Init d10 + d6 LP 20
Endurance d10 + d10
Traits Allure d4, Amorous d4, Sharp Senses d6
Skills Athletics d6/Acrobatics d10, Drive d6/Horses d8, Influence d4, Knowledge d6/Occultism d12, Melee Weapons d6, Perception d6, Science d2, Unarmed Combat d6
Comparing these stats to those of "Kate" in the Supernatural Corebook I am fairly pleased. Conversions seem to work out very nice.
So, given this, maybe I should run a Vampire Willow and Tara game using Cortex. I think it could be really fun and work. Play a couple of vampires on the run various hunters, sort of the opposite of most Unisystem fare, but not quite World of Darkness.