I’ve mentioned Smallville before. Several times now, I think. Despite being a licensed property, it’s essentially a setting-free game using the Cortex Plus engine, which is designed to model the genre of soap operas, specifically super-powered teenage soap operas.
I love the game, but having run three campaigns and played in a fourth, I know that it’s not perfect. I can see the cracks. Someday I’ll discuss my issues with the mechanics, but for now I want to talk about the core book itself.
Put bluntly, the book is laid out terribly. There is no index and it is almost impossible to cross-reference. Some rules are mentioned in only one place, which can be hidden in the middle of paragraphs or even in sidebar examples. In some places it even contradicts itself. For example, the number of Plot Points given out to players at the start of a session is explained in exactly two places, and they give different answers.
A lot of these little annoyances are fixed in online errata (the number of Plot Points given out at the start of a session depends on how many players in the group, for example), and in subsequent material (The Watchtower Report, and more especially the Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide), but the core book itself remains unwieldy.
Plot Points, by the way, are the game’s currency. They flow between players and the GM throughout the game. In a perfect example of how badly the core book is structured, there is no list of all the things that Plot Points do. There is a list on page 9 of the core book, but it’s not complete.
Therefore, I present here a full list of everything you can do with Plot Points during a game of Smallville. How you can Spend them, Earn them, and other ways you might receive them.
To players of Smallville, I hope this is useful. I always give this list to my players in every session (and keep one for myself, of course). For everyone else, it is not intended to tell you how the game works, but it may give you a flavour of it. If you’ve never played Smallville before, I do recommend giving it a try.