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John Bogart
I'm a database programmer at the University of Utah.
I'm a database programmer at the University of Utah.


I'm sure this has been talked about before, but my search skills are failing.

Just out of curiosity, why can't GM-rolled opportunities be bought as assets the way the GM can buy complications on player-rolled spoilers?

I want to run a sci-fi game that focuses really heavily on the crew dynamics, like The Expanse or Firefly where the crew members have different values and argue, but they're basically like a (sometimes dysfunctional) family. I want it to run and feel like a TV series focused on the crew.

So far that sounds like what used to be called Dramatic (DRP) in Cortex Plus (e.g. Smallville). But, while I love Smallville, it doesn't really handle action scenes the way I want for this campaign. (If you're rolling once for the entire conflict, Values are great, but deciding the Value and Relationship to use each turn in a conflict feels weird). I want the actual action scenes to play out more like Firefly (for conflicts) and Leverage (for jobs/missions).

Basically I want Smallville for inter-party conflicts and some interactions with NPCs, but the team-based competence and job/mission feel of Leverage. Does that make sense?

Anyway, what I'm looking for is suggestions how to do that?

My first thought is to vary the core traits used by situation (e.g. use Values and Relationships for the inter-party and dramatic scenes, but then switch to Attributes and Roles/Skills (or similar) when they start a job).

But that sounds really clunky.

Or am I thinking about this entirely wrong and there's another approach that would do what I want?

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For the Mercy of the Icons campaign, are there certain group concepts that will be easier or harder to tie in? I suspect that any group concept can be made to work, but I also suspect that some are more natural fits.

Also, any tips on individual character concepts or backgrounds that would tie characters more closely to the campaign?

I'm planning on starting a new Coriolis campaign soon, probably before the Emissary Lost book is out. I'm planning to run some jobs first and transition into the larger campaign, but I'd like to be working towards the campaign from the very beginning, including character creation. And the more personal I can make it to the characters and the more I can tie their backgrounds directly into the campaign, the better.

(I really appreciated the general advice in the linked topic, so I thought I'd ask something similar about group concepts:

Power SFX Question:

The list of Power SFX in the SRD (and the SFX in MHR, which basically are the same list) are often are structured as "add a d6 and [Benefit]".

What's the reasoning on adding the d6? Some, like Area Attack and Burst, make sense to me because the benefit requires extra dice available after rolling (extra effect dice and adding an extra die to the total, respectively).

But what about SFX like Afflict or Constructs, where you add a d6 and step up the effect die? No extra dice are being used in the outcome.

That makes me think that I'm just totally misunderstanding why the d6 is being added in the others.

Also, on a related but separate note, it seems like the Power SFX often don't have a drawback, unless I'm missing something?

So, as a general question to the community:

When you're preparing to start a new campaign, how much work do you put into creating a pre-made list of Distinctions with 2 SFX each?

(This is for a build with the default 3 Distinctions with 2 SFX each + the default add as a D4 and gain 1 PP SFX.)

Do you make a full list of dozens or even hundreds of Distinctions? Do you make a handful as examples? Do you do something else?

Why? What do you gain by putting lots of work into that? / What do you lose by not doing that? What have your experiences been (good or bad) with what you did?

On the one hand, for many settings a list of Distinctions seem like one of the easiest ways to convey the setting in a playable way and make sure that PCs are appropriate to and integrated into the setting (I'm thinking of Firefly as an example, where much of the setting is ultimately in the Distinctions). On the other hand, creating a robust list of Distinctions is a lot of work and the majority will never be used (unless you reuse them several times across several campaigns, I suppose, but assume that won't be the case here).

Thoughts? Tips? Advice?

(This is related to, but separate from, my other recent post about using on-the-fly SFX instead of predefined SFX.)

Freeform SFX:

So this is a half-formed idea. Honestly, I'm looking for thoughts an feedback about whether this is worth pursuing more, so I apologize in advance if it seems half-baked (because it is).

Basically, I've been thinking about getting rid of pre-defined SFX and instead saying that players can make up SFX on the fly on a case-by-case basis.

This is not something I'd think about doing in general - the main case I can think of would be for quick pickup games, where you'd sit down, come up with the game concept, pick the mods you were using, make characters, then starting to play - all in one session.

A couple years ago, there was a short PDF called "A Spark in Fate Core" that basically walked through brainstorming and creating the setting and then characters collaboratively as a group at the table. Nothing was required ahead of time and you didn't know sitting down if you were playing fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, etc. I never actually used Spark in Fate, but the idea appealed to me a lot. And it seems like Cortex Prime is really well suited for the same approach.

But that means that you can't really have a list of predefined Distinctions with SFX before you start. There are other options (like just not picking SFX at character creation, then the GM and players can come up with SFX between sessions, so it's a MUCH smaller list to come up with - presumably three times the number of players). So I don't really think this idea is necessary, but it got me thinking about it.

(There are also probably other times this might be a useful idea, like... I don't know... maybe a really flexible free-form magic system, modeling something like Mage: The Ascension?)

Back to the mod idea:

I would take the lists of benefits and drawbacks, simplify it, and let players pick and match at the table when they used it.

Basically it would fill the same role as stunts, except that a D8 for 1 PP is only one option - you could also step up or double a positive die, step back a negative die, reroll a die, introduce a non-mechanical story detail, etc.

I'd also take a couple of the common SFX (like area effect) and call them out specifically as options.

I would say that the SFX created would have to be tied to one of their Distinctions (or something else, like Power Sets, Roles, etc. - as long as it's somewhat narrow and central to the character).

I'm thinking that I might make spending 1 PP always the drawback used (e.g. there is only a list of benefits and not drawbacks - pay 1 PP to pick a benefit from the list). I'm undecided on that, though. The reason I would do that is for simplicity, since coming up with SFX on the fly is more work that using a predefined SFX spelled out on your sheet. If I did do that, I might add "gain 1 PP for choosing to do something risky/ill-advised/complicated" as another option.

All in all, it would cut down on campaign prep by not requiring lists of SFX to be created ahead of time. It would give characters more flexible options within their theme. It would give one less thing to spend advancement on (for good or bad). It would require more system knowledge and creativity on the part of the players (though a simplified list of benefits and always costing 1 PP seems like it wouldn't be all that much system knowledge required). Are those good things? I don't know. Like I said, I'm mainly thinking about this as a way to get games up and running with less prep, so it's the first impact above that I'm really thinking of.

Does that all make sense? I could give examples, but they'd really just be examples of SFX, in general.

So... Thoughts? Criticisms? Suggestions? Other ways to get the same benefits without going to free-form SFX?

Hi all,

I haven't posted here in awhile, but I wanted to get some feedback on an idea.

Inspired by the Objectives system in Unknown Armies 3rd edition (for those of you that are familiar with it), I'm toying with the idea of having the players set a group goal and then work towards it. I'm thinking of creating an Objective Pool (I need a better name) that is sort of a parallel of the Doom Pool.

I've seen the approach of having a trait for things like a short-term goal (e.g. a chase) to be resolved in a scene that when it reaches D12 or D4 the scene is over. This would be sort of like that, except meant to spread over a couple sessions.

I honestly have only rough ideas on this: Maybe reaching 2D12 would mean achieving the next step in the objective (or the complete objective, depending on how big it is), parallel to how 2D12 in the Doom Pool can end the scene. Maybe you could spend dice from the Pool to help tasks towards the goal and/or create assets, again parallel to the Doom Pool. Maybe it has other uses?

The next question is how do you add to the Objetive Pool. Probably spend a scene doing something directly related to advancing the goal and then roll and the Effect Die is added to the Objective?

I suppose there are other possibilities, like using it to set difficulties (things get harder the closer you get to completing your goal), though not the other effects of the Doom Pool (in that case, there wouldn't be a Doom Pool). Or maybe the GM can knock out dice when the players roll 1's (though that seems like it would be frustrating and not fun). Or maybe the Doom Pool becomes something more like the Opposition Pool (how close are your enemies and rivals to completing their goals before you and/or stopping you completely?)

Again, this is only a very rough idea. I'm not sure if I'd ever use it. Has anyone done anything similar? Anyone have thoughts on how to do the same kind of thing in an entirely different way? Anyone want to build on this?

Is there anyone in this group in the Salt Lake City, UT area that might be interested in a face to face game? I have the itch to run or play BW again.

(I'll probably look at the Hangout option soon, but thought it was worth checking if there were any local players first, as that's my preference...)

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Aggressive Inclusivity

So I'm developing an all-new edition/version/core rules set, Cortex Prime, and while the spine and muscles of it are pretty much a solo effort I'm looking ahead to a Kickstarter that should include works by other people. Other designers.

This is that weird thing where I'm like, I would really like to hire people who do not look like me to write, design, and create settings and rules plug-ins for the game, and pay them well for it, but they also need to know the game.

So if you are or you know women, PoC, LGBTQ/NB folk, designers and writers who have loved or still love Marvel Heroic, Leverage, Smallville, or Firefly, and you think they or you can handle my laid-back Kiwi management style and produce rock-solid shit-hot awesome work for me on a not-terrible schedule, let me know.

Drop me an email at seth AT magic-vacuum DOT com with your enthusiastic vision. I want to help you help me make it happen.

(Permission granted to share this around. Originally shared it to my Circles. Sorry about that.)
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I was recently reading through the Mage: The Awakening 2nd (MtAw2) book and I'm considering how to borrow a mechanic for Cortex Plus (probably HRP, but possibly ARP based on Firefly orDragon Brigade).

Part of how MtAw2 does magic is that there are a five spell factors (potency, duration, scale, range, and casting time) that have variable levels. Either potency or duration is the "primary factor" and it increases based on how well you roll. But the other factors you have to set before rolling and they increase the difficulty, which in that system that means taking away dice before rolling.

There's a lot more to the MtAw2 spell casting system than that, but I'm not trying to port the whole system over--what I'm thinking about is the best way to choose factors before rolling that increase the difficulty. I'm also trying to decide it it would work well/be fun. (Also, I know this approach isn't unique to MtAw2, but it's what is fresh in my mind at the moment.)

The "primary factor" seems easy -- use an Effect Die or similar mechanic so that degree of success is determined by your roll. For example, if you're causing damage then Potency is the primary factor and you cause stress equal to your effect die.

But for the preset factors that increase the difficulty, I'm toying with adding dice to the opposed roll. For example, if you increase the Scale to a D10 level and the Range to D6 level, but leave the other factors at the default lowest level, then the GM adds a D10 and a D6 to the opposed roll.

On the one hand, that seems clean and the most in keeping with how increased difficulty is usually handled in Cortex Plus (I remember reading somewhere that it was an intentional design choice that dice are never taken away from the player but added to the opposition instead).

But would it model the desired feel of increasing the difficulty of your spell or effect before casting to get greater effects? Is it too easy? Too harsh? Too fiddly? And more importantly, would it be fun and smooth in play?

(I've really just idly playing with an idea right now and I'm not that invested in this. Any suggestions and criticisms are welcome. I'm also open to suggestions for completely different approaches to the same thing. If I'm missing an already existing system in the Hackers Guide or another Cortex Plus game, let me know that, too.)
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