What is Cortex Prime?

Consider the needs of a game simulating super hero fiction. Or science fiction. Or teenage drama. Or caper movies. Each of these seems to have their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and dramatic drives. Creating a single system that can mimic all of these seems a monumental task, but for over ten years that’s just what Cortex has done. With adaptations of Marvel super heroes, Smallville, Firefly, Leverage, and others, Cortex has found a way to model multiple genres with the same style of dice mechanic by creating a game engine that is uniquely customizable.

That is why the new edition of Mecha Vs Kaiju will be
Primed by Cortex

With Cortex, I have built a new system from the ground up specifically designed to model anime and manga drama. At the core of every character is their Values. What is most important to your player character: Composure or Passion? Kinship or Self-Reliance? Ferocity or Spirituality? Together these values make up your character’s core personality. One of these values factors into every action you take in MvK, forming one of your character’s “Prime Sets”. Along with Distinctions, which describe their life, and Affiliations, which describe their relationship with others, these Prime Sets become the lens through which all your characters actions is seen, and form the dice pools which will determine success or failure something equally interesting happening.

MvK will include a complete Cortex engine, but if you want to learn more check out Fandom Tabletop’s Cortex page.

Let’s see Cortex Prime in action

Say you want to model James Bond. Cortex Prime has a lot of great mods for this. They do bosses with minions who team up against PCs, organizations, “Crisis Pools” which can be used to represent individual threats, a Doom Pool which slowly gets stronger, increasing the level of the challenge over time. To take actions you assemble a dice pool from various sets of traits.

Building Bond, he could have Distinctions like “License to Kill” or “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”; a set of Values like Patriotism, Hedonism, Exhibitionism; and a set of Affiliations like Government, Espionage, Criminal. Taking an Action he’d choose one die from each pool. He’d also have Assets like gadgets he carries, or beautiful women he seduces into helping him, that he can add to the roll.

Sudden story changes like shifting alliances or death traps can be represented by spending a die from the Doom Pool to create a Complication, which limits his level of success, or even a separate Crisis Pool, representing a long-form challenge to overcome.

An example would be the climax of “You Only Live Twice”. Bond, Tiger, and Kissy must stop the theft of a Russian rocket and the start of WWIII. There’s a self destruct to the Spectre rocket, locked in an armored bunker. Players have to get to it within X rounds. Kissy plays support, using her turn to create assets for the other players such as spotting enemy weak points and creating scene details like “Explosive gas”. Tiger uses his abilities, plus a “Ninja Strike Force” asset, to target the Spectre mooks, slowly chipping away at the Crisis Pool. Bond moves into Blowfeld’s office and the GM takes the last of the Doom Pool to make a GMC brute he has to defeat. The Bond player takes out the last die of the Crisis Pool on the last round, saving the world once again.

Notice that none of that needed to be preplanned. If you could run something like that off the cuff , there’s no limit to what you can do with Cortex.

The MvK Alpha Ruleset

Traditionally “Alpha” products are the first version that can stand on its own, but which still needs a lot of testing. Patrons will be the ones to play the game, and they’ll be ones deciding what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing. The Alpha edition includes:

  • A complete Cortex ruleset, using Action resolution and a Doom Pool;
  • Character creation rules, with Anime Archetypes, Values for determining your character’s motivation, and Affiliations for establishing your character’s place in the world
  • A point-buy system for characters creating giant robots, and GMs creating giant monsters
  • Over 60 SFX to customize the weapons, defenses, and movement of your Mecha and Kaiju
  • Scale rules for those times when it’s only the lowly humans against the terrible kaiju

Every Patron receives an Alpha copy of the ruleset, which will be updated each month with new rules derived from playtesting.