Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Willow & Tara: Cortex (Cortex Part 2)

So I am going to pull out my iconic witches again because I want to test out the magic system Cortex presently has and work through my Unisystem conversions.

Following up from yesterday's post, I decided that what Cortex does rather well is "normal people in an abnormal world" thing, with Supernatural being my Cortex game of choice for this.  This is something that Savage Worlds (out of the box) does well too, but Cortex does it a bit better in my opinion.

Let me begin with the conversions. Some of this is very similar to the Savage Worlds conversions I had done a bit back.  So I'll re-include those numbers again.

Basic Conversions
Conversions between the two systems are surprisingly easy. I say surprising, it isn't really since I feel both games appeal to the same kind of gamer and similar kinds of game worlds. Both games assume normal humans (at least at their core) and a small set of skills.

Attributes and Skills
Conversions here could not be easier. 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 between the two.

From the Unisystem perspective the lowest human score is a 1, but most heroes will have a minimum of 2 in their Attributes. For Cortex that is a d2 (rarely used in my experience) and the d4.  Again, on par with Savage Worlds. This give us this:

Unisystem        Savage Worlds  Cortex      
1 d4-1 d2
2 d4 d4
3 d6 d6
4 d8 d8
5 d10 d10
6 d12 d12
7 d12+1 d12+d2
8 d12+2 d12+d4
9 d12+3 d12+d6

Success are easier in Cortex, but Cortex is scaled more like d20.  So an "Easy" Difficulty needs a 3 (which can still be botched if you roll all "1"s.)  The scaling is similar to Unisystem's Success levels, so in practice I would often adjudicate them the same way.
Cinematic Unisystem has Drama Points, Cortex has Plot Points, and they have similar uses.

Cortex does split off it's damage to Stun and Wound, round towards Stun.  This way a character can be knocked out or stunned in some cases.  I like the idea myself and it is a neat and simple way of doing things.  Not something I would use in Unisystem, but I might give it a try just to see.

Qualities, Drawbacks, Traits and Complications
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.
There are not as many choices in Cortex as there are in Unisystem, but then again you are limited to how many you can have more in Cortex too.  So Qualities/Drawbacks don't always line up perfectly with Traits/Complications.

The Core book is straight forward and takes a lot of cues from Savage Worlds,  provide lots of crunch, some builds and almost no fluff.  That is fine by me really.  Makes the Core easy to read.  There are some sample "worlds" or campaigns (like you find in the True 20 book) to get you going.  IF you don't like those then there are all the other books they make.

I played Cortex for the first time a couple of Gen Con's ago and it is easy to learn on the fly, very fast and very fun.  The advantage it has over Unisystem is the more interesting (to me) probability curves of the different sized dice. d12+d6 is much more interesting than  d10 + some number + some other number.  Though even given that it still has not really replaced Cinematic Unisystem in my heart.

Willow and Tara
Ok for this time I am going to use the magic system as-is and see how things stack up. Normally I would stat them up the same year I was introduced to the game, in this case 2008.  But that puts WAY outside what Cortex could do in post "Season of the Witch" terms.  There are more details on my "seasons" here.  I think I'll still say 2008, but use slightly scaled back versions.  Parallel worlds.  Wibbly-wobbly and all.  Maybe this is the Willow and Tara that live in the same universe as Sam and Dean from Supernatural.

Tara Maclay
Tara A. Maclay
(circa 2008 game time)
Female; Age 28; Height: 5' 5"; Weight 125lbs

Agility: d4
Strength: d4
Vitality: d6
Alertness: d12 (*Tara is an empath, so I bumped this up to this level)
Intelligence:  d10
Willpower: d12

Life Points: 18
Initiative: d4 + d12
Endurance: d6 + d12
Resistance:  d6 + d6
Move: 15
Innate Def: d4
Dodge: d4 + d4

Allure d2
Animal Empathy d4
Contacts (Supernatural) d6
Enhanced Senses d10 (Empathy, The Sight) *In a Supernatural game I would make this Clairvoyant at d6 (I know not in the rules...)
Healer's Touch d2
Higher Education d6

Channeling Trait (Magic) d12 + d8
Telekinesis d12

Allergy, Shellfish d2
Erie Presence d2 (to supernaturals only)
Shy d6 (though by 2008 she has grown out of this)

Animals d6
- Riding d8
Artistry d6
- Writing d8
Athletics d4
Craft d6
- Cooking d8
Discipline d4
Drive d4
Influence d4
Knowledge d6
- Folklore d10
- Occult d12 + d6
- History d8
Medicine d4
Melee Weapons d4
Perception d6
Performance d6
- Dancing d8
- Singing d8
Science d6
- Social Sciences d10
Tech d6
Unarmed Combat d4

The magic trait is Magic.

Willow Rosenberg
Willow D. Rosenberg
(circa 2008 game time)
Female; Age 28; Height: 5' 3"; Weight 105lbs

Agility: d4
Strength: d4
Vitality: d6
Alertness: d10
Intelligence:  d12
Willpower: d12

Life Points: 18
Initiative: d4 + d10
Endurance: d6 + d12
Resistance:  d6 + d6
Move: 15
Innate Def: d4
Dodge: d4 + d4

Allure d4
Ambidexterity d2  
Attuned to Technology
Contacts (Supernatural, Business) d6
Enhanced Senses d10 (Lesser Sensing)
Head for Numbers d6
Talented (Computers) d6
Wealthy d8

Channeling Trait (Magic) d12 + d8
Telekinesis d12

Anger Issues d2 

Athletics dd
Craft d6
Discipline d2
Drive d4
Influence d6
Knowledge d6
- Occult d12 + d8
- History d8
Mechanic d6
Medicine d6
Melee Weapons d2
Perception d4
Science d6
- Biology d10
- Chemistry d12
Tech d6
- Computers d12 + d4
- Robotics d10  (though this would not work in a Supernatural game, in a Demon Hunters game though it would)
Unarmed Combat d4

The magic trait is Magic.

After building these I would like to give the out of the box version of the magic system a trial run again.  It would be interesting to see how everything fits together.    Stat wise I do like how they came out.  These are not starting characters and using the same ideas I used WAAAY back in the WitchCraft days I advanced them with points.  I am pleased with the results.

Of course to really try this out I have work up some more characters.  If I am going to do that then why not see how they all work together as a social group.  Sounds like the perfect time for Smallville and Cortex Plus.


Corone said...

Have you tried using the Smallville cortex system? It'd run Buffy really well I think.

Timothy S. Brannan said...


Wait till you see what I have on tap next.

RRVistas (Robert) said...

Well, according to all Unisystem books an attribute of 2 is human average, not 3 that is stated above average.

Using your rules I just went through a bunch of NPC's of the Serenity adventure "Out in the black" and realized that all have at least 24 points of attributes.

Even the plain folks have no attribute lesser then a d6. For example:
Merchant: Agi d6, Str d6, Vit d6, Ale d8, Int d8, Wil d6
Tong Thug: Agi d6, Str d10, Vit d8, Ale d6, Int d4, Wil d6

Thats 20pt in Attributes, equaling in power a Champion or Hero!!! Definately overpowered IMHO! Especialliy taking in mind that the template suggested in "Spacefarer and Prariefolk" for the players only has 15pts in attributes.

Seeing that and fact that the number of npcs having a d2 in publications using Cortex rules is quite nill, I would go with a conversion one step lower.

d2/d4 = 1, d6=2, d8=3, d10=4, d12=5, d12+2 = 6, and so on....

That makes our plain NPC's a Unisystem equivalent of
Merchant: ST 2, DX 2, CON 2, IQ 3, PER 3, WILL 2 ==> 14pts
Tong Thug: ST 4, DX 2, CON 3, IQ 1, PER 2, WILL 2 ==> 14pts
instead of
Merchant: ST 3, DX 3, CON 3, IQ 4, PER 4, WILL 3 ==> 20pts
Tong Thug: ST 5, DX 3, CON 4, IQ 2, PER 3, WILL 3 ==> 20pts