A Cortex Plus Primer

In my X-Com RPG posts, I’ve been assuming a certain knowledge of CortexPlus from my readers. For those unfamiliar with the system, here is a quick primer which I hope contains all you need to understand what I’m doing with X-Com RPG.

CortexPlus is significantly different (and very much improved, in my opinion) from its predecessor: Cortex (used in games like Serenity, and Batttlestar Galactica).

CortexPlus 101

CortexPlus is very simple but harnesses astounding potential.

  • Everything that matters has Traits which are rated in die sizes from d4-d12. (In my posts I usually color Traits blue for easy spotting)
  • Actions that include any risk are resolved as contests between two or more Traits on each side.
    • Both sides of the contest roll all applicable dice and add together the highest 2 results.
    • The higher of these two sums wins the contest.
  • In addition to the resolution mechanic, players have means of taking control over the narrative
    • ie. Plot Points (as in Leverage and Smallville)
    • Talents (special powers players have to bend or break the rules in certain circumstances)

That’s all there is to CortexPlus basically, but the potential it allows is unbelievable once you dig into it.

X-Com Particularities

Additional things I’ve mentioned like Distinctions and Specialties are just standardized kinds of Traits that work a certain way within a game. Specialties add a d6 to the dice pool a player rolls when taking certain actions. Distinctions are sometimes helpful and sometimes detrimental. Players may choose to add one d8 to any roll when a Distinction would help the effort, or may choose to earn a Plot Point to add one d4 to any roll when a Distinction would hurt the effort.

In X-Com, I haven’t dealt with Plot Points yet, though they most closely align with Time Units. I have been assuming Commanders will have Distinctions and Talents, and I’m toying with an idea that Soldiers will each have a random Talent as well to give them that unique, random feeling from the original game, and to help players get attached to the characters so their death is more poignant.

Any other questions that I assume in the posts but aren’t covered here? Leave your questions in comments and I’ll flesh out any gaps.

About Adam

I'm a husband, an explorer of the inexhaustible, and a hunter for unexpected synergies and collaborative potentials. My explorations into RPGs began with running D&D games, though lately I enjoy mining the potentials of diverse systems, especially Cortex Plus.