Turning over a new leaf: A villainous Cortex Prime playtest

It’s 2018, hurrah! A new year means a new year for roleplaying, and I’m looking forward to a few upcoming changes in my roleplaying calendar. First, all three regular campaigns that I’m in are reaching their climactic finales, which will be an exciting if bittersweet farewell to some characters. Second, I’m hoping to play some more one-shots, particularly in systems I’ve never tried before. Third, I’m putting my hand to game design a bit more—unusually, I’ve been inspired to dip my toe into OSR gaming, so we’ll see where that goes.

Most immediately, though, there are two things that are dominating my early 2018 roleplaying thoughts: GMing my first new campaigns after a relatively lackluster 2017 in that area, and the Cortex Prime playtest draft rules.

These two things go together pretty well, it turns out.

Mick Rory (Heatwave) in Legends of Tomorrow season 3 episode 2,
The gif that inspired it all.

Right now, I’m running a Cortex Prime game of supervillains, whisked out of the toxic environments that enabled their iniquity to fight a greater threat, given a chance to do something good for a change. Something like Legends of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad, or Guardians of the Galaxy (only the last of which I’ve actually watched, admittedly). Can they reform and become better people? Do they want to? Can they save the world? This is Set a Villain.

Since I last blogged about Cortex Prime, its Kickstarter was fully funded with all of its stretch goals reached, and several drafts of an SRD have been released for playtesting. I initially used v2.1 of the SRD (released on 19 September 2017), but I plan to update this to the latest versions as they come out. Currently, that’s v3.1, dated 1 January 2018. Happy New Year!

In this blog I’m giving a rundown of my new campaign, including the Cortex Prime variant rules we’re using. Note that while I’ve been writing detailed feedback on the game so far and sending it to the developers, I’m not going to copy it out here. Cortex Prime is still a work in progress, and (I hope) any feedback I’d write now would be irrelevant by the time the game is finalised and published. The most you’ll get here (for now) are some general opinions. Onward!

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32: A Step into RPGs Retrospective

Turtles, vanish... by Fatboy73 on DeviantArt
The piece of TMNT fanart I liked most but didn’t use in my TMNT RPG blog series.

This month is the 32nd since I started this blog. It is also, by a weird coincidence, the month of my 32nd birthday. I realised this too late to turn RPGaDay into “31 posts in month 31 while 31”, but nevertheless I’m feeling a bit reflective.

Here is a look back at some of my most popular blog posts, the top 11 posts on the blog based on average views per month (vpm) since publication.

There are a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in this list. You’ve been warned.

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RPGaDay 2017, Day 29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

I have backed exactly two RPG Kickstarters: Unknown Armies Third Edition and Cortex Prime. Both of these were run by Cam Banks, so there’s not really much difference between the two campaigns. They were both run really well, as far as I could tell. I’m already playing Unknown Armies Third Edition, and there are draft rules out for Cortex Prime too, so non-delivery is a non-issue. I guess I’ll pick Cortex Prime as my answer, because it came second and therefore Cam could use the experience from the Unknown Armies Kickstarter when running it.

RPGaDay 2017, Day 15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

This one’s easy: the game I enjoy adapting the most is Fate Core, and the related games under that banner (like Fate Accelerated Edition and various Fate Worlds and Adventures). The mechanics are straightforward and their purpose is transparent enough to see what each bit does, so it’s easy to chop and change and be confident how your changes will affect the narrative of your game. The Fate System Toolkit is great for this, and there’s a huge community online of people who are constantly taking the game apart and doing interesting things with it.

As evidence of my interest, I’m going to highlight my version of TinyFate (a minimalist Fate hack based on the work of Rob Donoghue) and the Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a TMNT hack based on PK Sullivan’s The Three Rocketeers).

I have some hopes for Cortex Prime in the future, though…

Will Cortex Prime light our darkest hour?

Optimus Prime displaying the Cortex logo matrix of leadership
It’s Optimus Cortex Prime, geddit?

The Kickstarter for Cortex Prime is currently live, and it’s doing rather well. It funded in 36 hours (I helped!), it has just passed its third stretch goal, and it still has 12 days to go.

Cortex Prime is the latest iteration of the Cortex roleplaying system and, more immediately, the successor system to Cortex Plus, which gave us games like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Leverage, Firefly and my favourite Smallville. (I’ve blogged about Smallville a lot. Have a look.)

This seems like a good time to talk about my feelings for the new game. In short, I’m looking forward to it. My last Cortex Plus game, the X-Men drama Worthington Academy, wrapped up last year. I had no intention of running another one, but just before the Kickstarter launched I was starting to get the itch for a new Cortex Plus Drama campaign, and so Cortex Prime showed up at just the right time.

But what do I think about what I’ve seen so far?

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