Hi folks, and welcome back! Last week, we stretched some of our creative muscles and threw together a character using just the basic Firefly RPG rules – and Raynor showed us you can reach beyond just the ‘Verse for your ideas. Today, we’re going to take a big leap outside that box, and see how easy it is to get your game Primed for Cortex. If you came here this week looking for more ideas for your Firefly game like last time, don’t fret! We’ll get right back into showcasing creative options for basic characters next week.
So! Backstory time. As established last time, Firefly RPG is an iteration of MWP’s Cortex Plus system, which includes quite a variety of games and play-styles – from the dramatic, deeply character-driven Smallville RPG, to the streamlined, action-packed Leverage RPG, to the super-powered, scene-stealing Marvel Heroic Roleplay. Well this May, Cam Banks – one of the key creative forces behind Cortex Plus – held a successful Kickstarter for Cortex Prime, a brand new, refined and redesigned universal toolkit for creating games with the design philosophies that made Cortex Plus a success.
How powerful is Cortex Prime? Well, we’re going to make one fundamental change to the basic Firefly RPG baseline, which is going to make it a completely different game. Here to show us how this works is G’Kar, of Babylon 5 fame.
Now, if you grab the character sheet (also linked at the end), you’ll see we still have the thematic groupings of character traits, just like we went over last time. Skills, Distinctions, and Signature Assets should all be familiar – but what happened to Attributes? Well, we’re presenting a setting where your political ties and interactions with other factions matter more than your strength or intelligence. So instead we have a variation called Affiliations.
Affiliations work pretty much the same way any other trait group works – you choose one to bring one into your pool, as long as the fiction allows it. They’re associated with contextual situations – in this particular case, interacting with people, technology, or policies related to one of the dominant factions on Babylon 5. For this version of G’Kar, I’m starting off with the six seats on the Babylon 5 Assembly, but throughout play these factions actually change due to sweeping movements in the storyline. (Humans and League might become EarthForce and Alliance, for example)
The other mechanic that we’re attaching to Affiliations is something called Trait Statements. These are like mini Distinctions – short phrases describing your relationship to that trait. And rather than spending episodes to shift Affiliation dice around, instead we “challenge” the Statement. If the way you’re bringing the Affiliation into your dice pool aligns with your Statement, nothing unusual happens.
However! If your actions – or your perception of the Affiliation, or their perception of you – stand counter to your Statement, you bring in three copies of your Affiliation die instead of one. This represents a powerful, meaningful shakeup to your association with that faction, and the after-effect is that that particular Affiliation steps back a die size for the rest of the session, with an opportunity at the end of the session to rewrite the Statement and/or transfer that step to a different Affiliation.
Using faction-associated Affiliations instead of Firefly’s default Attributes shifts the entire focus of the game, in a way that really spotlights the political maneuverings that are commonplace on Babylon 5. By including that in every die roll, you have to decide which faction is most likely to influence your success, and by bringing in Trait Statements we’ve emphasized that each interaction you have with those factions has meaning and repercussions.
Cortex Prime provides enough dials and switches to be able to recreate any prior Cortex Classic or Cortex Plus game, or to create just about any setting or feel you want – these are just a couple of the ones available. This week, I wanted to focus on one of the ways you can leverage that toolkit to fine-tune your experience at the table. While I’m totally happy to discuss G’Kar’s Distinctions and Specialty choices in comments, or on Twitter, or on Google+, that’s not what this particular post was about. Next week – get ready to really explore the subject of alien races!