Playing the Game, Continued

In addition, the dice pool might be increased by:

  • All other players with their Faces in the scene can contribute one of their relevant Face Traits to the die pool for free.
  • Any player can spend a Plot Point to add another relevant Trait (Face or Misc) that they control to the roll (this can be done after seeing the result of the roll).

For example: In the above example, if Dominique is on the scene she can use her Connected (d10) trait to help talk the cops out of pursuing Chavez. After the dice are rolled, if Chavez had nothing higher than a 6 (and sees the GM’s roll is slightly higher), he might spend a Plot Point to add his Humor to the roll as well.

As is standard in Cortex Plus:

  • The total of the roll is the sum of the two highest dice results.
  • Any 1s showing on any of the dice can be used as complications.

The winner of the roll works with the GM to describe a victory in line with the actions used and that explains any complications generated. Also give a plot point to the owner of the action that was used to win. For example, if Chavez carries out a Righteous Execution, the plot point will go to Dominique’s player, as it’s her theme’s action.

When 1s are showing, this is a Complication. This can be activated by the GM (for a player’s roll) or by any player (for the GM’s roll; the active player gets to decide who spends if multiple players want to pay to activate it).

  • If the GM activates a complication, the player with the least plot points gains one. If a player activates a complication, he or she spends a plot point from his or her total.
  • The 1s rolled can be spent to generate a new miscellaneous trait and/or alter an existing one as the trait is relevant to the action being attempted:
    • Spend 1 to buy a new trait at 1d6 or 2d4 or add 1d6 to an existing misc. trait.
    • Spend 1 to increase the die size of one die of an existing misc. trait (including one just created when there were multiple 1s rolled).
    • Spend 1 to remove the lowest die from an existing trait (i.e., a trait that hurts you).

For example: Dominique is trying to execute a corrupt cop, but the GM wins the conflict and he escapes. However, the GM rolls two 1s and Dominique’s player pays a plot point to activate the complication, suggesting that, in his flight, he drops his “Custom Handgun (d8).” When the GM narrates the result of the scene, Dominique will gain access to that misc. trait. Later, the GM may activate one of Dominique’s own complications to have her lose the gun as well (dropping the lowest die from the trait and effectively eliminating it).


A Face can be killed off or otherwise removed from play by a simple narration (if the player can’t find any relevant dice to resist or chooses to allow it) or as the result of the GM’s victory narration. An Antagonist can be killed off in the same way (except it is based on the player’s narration). Whenever this happens, the owner of the removed character gains a plot point. Unless the owner is fine with the result, the removal should leave room for the character to return (e.g., an offscreen death): the player can spend 2 plot points to return the Face in the current session after at least one scene has passed, or can spend 1 plot point to return the Face in the next session. No matter what, a new Face can be introduced in the next scene with different traits (but the same dice array as before). Ultimately, Faces are disposable, and the only real problem with a loss of one is that the new Face may take a couple of scenes to get up to speed.

At any point that makes sense in the narrative, a player (or the GM) can declare any contest a Victory contest.

  • The acting player spends 2 plot points.
  • The losing player loses 1 plot point (the owner of the winning action gains a plot point as normal).
  • If the loser is reduced below 0 plot points, the owning theme of the action used by the winner declares Victory.
  • The victorious player (or the GM) describes the successful completion of a relevant agenda in keeping with the theme, thus showing that theme proving its primacy.

For example: Dominique and Chavez are sneaking into the evidence locker when their players realize the GM is out of plot points for his “Corrupt down to the bone” theme. But he does have a bunch of relevant traits and an action to catch them…

  • Dominique’s player can roll A planned infiltration as a victory contest and, if successful, narrates: “The dirty cops race into the locker only to find the files missing that prove they killed Mayor Voss. Just then, the door clangs shut and Dominique waves the folder at them, ‘the DA will be very interested in these.’ She sneers at Chavez, stuffing his heroin into a bag, ‘We’re even. Don’t let me ever see you again.'”
  • Chavez’s player can roll “It’s time to get out of here!” as a victory contest and, if successful, narrates: “Chavez snatches up the impounded heroin and an armful of other shiny stuff as Dominique grabs what looks like evidence files. The corrupt cops show up just in time to see a door slamming and hear the getaway car tearing off into the night. That evening, the news is abuzz with the story of the blown drug bust and interesting files about the death of Mayor Voss coming to light. ‘See, kid,’ he grins as he kicks back in front of the TV, ‘I told you it would all work out.'”
  • Of course, if the roll goes in the GM’s favor, there’s probably a player that is now very close to being subjected to a Victory contest of his or her own…

In any case, Dominique’s player may decide that her vengeance is sated and introduce a new Face looking for revenge in the next session. Meanwhile, Chavez’ player may stick with him to see what kind of cowardly inanity he can introduce to the next story.

Character Improvement

After each session, each player may do one of the following:

  • Increase the size of an adjective or verb die by one step (to a maximum of d12). For example, Chavez raises Lie to d6, increasing the pool for “You can’t prove anything!” to d10 + d6.
  • Reduce the size of an adjective or verb die by one step (to a minimum of d4). Introduce a new adjective or verb (whichever was reduced) at the same adjusted amount. Combine it with an existing trait to make a new action. For example, Chavez reduces Retreat to d10 (from d12). He can now create a new verb at d10, and picks Gamble d10. He makes a new action “What the hell, I feel lucky” (Unexpected d6 Gamble d10).

(Next week: some more thorough examples) I got distracted and wanted to write about something else. Thematic Character examples at some point in the future if the demand is great enough!