Tuesday, 11 August 2015

#RPGaDay 2015: Day 9 - Off License

Prompt: Favourite media you wish was an RPG
I hear swell things about Leverage, but notably
that is a flagship application of the Cortex Plus
system.

Well, last year I covered most of this in my post about licensed RPGs. I'm not typically sold on licensed RPGs and thus rarely feel that what I really want is for someone to publish an RPG of my favourite media, especially when I could alternatively just hack something under Fate Core or Unisystem, or - although I have less experience of this one - Cortex Plus.

Cortex Plus seems to be pretty much designed for licensed products, with notable releases including Leverage, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Smallville and Firefly (not to be confused with the Serenity RPG which was mostly noted for having a character sheet complex enough to make your eyes bleed.) Pretty much all of the above have been well received, but I would still rather have a basic system to play with myself (although I entirely understand the fiscal appeal of the licensed property.) Some day I may pick up the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide, but I don't actually know if it contains the basics to run from.

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Fate Core is a lovely system because it's built to be adaptable without additional material. Adapting an existing setting to Fate Core is a three stage process:

1) Define Aspects - By default, Fate Core characters have five Aspects: Their High Concept, their Trouble, and three relating to their background which are defined in concert with the other players (Fate Core is a fundamentally cooperative system.) By changing these categories, you can alter the focus of the game. Perhaps in a supers game, 'Trouble' could be replaced with 'Power Source', an Aspect that defines where your powers come from, and by extension how they can be taken away. In an espionage or heist game, each of the later three Aspects could be a lesson learned in a past gig: 'Never Trust a Dame', 'Don't Get Personal', or 'Always Check Your Exits'. In a more structured horror setting you might have a High Concept, a Dark Secret, a Known Fear, a Secret Fear and a Survival Trait.

For the 80s Cartoon game I hope to run some day, I'd go with something like: High Concept, Focus Flaw (the problem you have when the episode gets to being about you), Meaningful Codename, Weapon and Vehicle/Suit/Totem Animal.

2) Set Skill list and Refresh level - Decide how many and what skills to use. Small skill lists result in more generalist characters; longer ones demand specialists. You then set the Refresh level (starting Fate Points), which can be dropped to buy additional stunts an (if you have them) powers. More Refresh means potentially greater powers and more flexibility; less means specialise and chose your moments carefully.

The Cartoon game is unlikely to need a large skill set, and much is likely to be determine by dramatic twists. I'd go for a short skill list and high Refresh.

3) Determine extras - This is either the biggest or the smallest job, as you could do anything from deciding that, fuck it, you're good with the core system to adding complete magic systems, super powers and other weirdness.

Again, taking the 80s Cartoon example, you'd probably need something tailored around the vehicles or powers that form the theme of the 'show', probably represented by a set of Aspects and Stunts to be used when in the vehicle/suit/Mummy form, either in place of or in addition to the regular ones.

And that's it, pretty much. Stunts are freeform, so no major front-loading is required there. As I say, this is what I love about Fate Core. It can't do everything, but anything it can do it does simply and easily.