- First off, in general, the heart of the MHRPG system is basically bucket based. You get a set of buckets (affiliation, powers etc) and you get to build your pool by taking a die from each bucket (assuming it applies). On some level, creating a hack is as simple as coming up with your own set of 3-5 buckets and filling them in. Buckets may have their own rules (the distinction bucket works differently than the powers bucket), so when you add a pool, it’s also the place to hang more or fewer rules.
- Physically, I represented each bucket with an index card, so players picked a card for race, a card for class, and so on. This worked well for chargen, but also had a neat effect in play – the players started using them to physically build their pools, putting the die on the card as they used it. If there was no die on a card, it was a cue to check that card for a contribution to the pool. Once there was a die on every card, they could pick them up and roll them. Ended up working with assets too, since they just grabbed them physically and put the die on them.
- The cards worked so well, that I may design a game based solely on that hook sometime.
- I added an extra bucket for Gear. It had weapons, armor and focus items. The base die value for weapons and armor was based off the weapon and durability ratings of the character. Thus, the rogue (weapons d8, no durability) had Daggers d8 and Leather Armor d6. The Cleric (Weapons d8, Durability d8, divinity d8) had Spear d8, Chainmail d8 and Holy Symbol d8. I was prepared to make things magical by effectively adding powers or extra dice (fiery d6, etc) to them but I ended up skimming over that in play. Curiously, I’d really put this in to help the fighter classes have an area to stand out (fighter gets a step up in weapon or armor, and Paladin’s get an armor bump) but ended up with fewer of them on the table.
- I did not bring enough d8s. I need to buy a TON more.
- Part of the reason I needed so many is that the pools really gravitated that way. The game was colorful and novel enough that I don’t think it really got in the way, but there was a lot of sameness to the final dice pools.
- I changed up the area attack rules to curtail them a little bit. Basically, to make an area attack (assuming you can – powers, PP and stuff play in), you remove a die from your attack pool, and ad a number of targets based on the step-size of the die (so d6 gets you +2, d8 +3 and so on). Any hit that you don’t have a damage die for is a d6. Classes with area attack abilities got a bonus die that they could spend without reducing their pool (so, the ranger could add a d4 to his pool for multi attack purposes, meaning he could attack 2 targets all the time). It worked ok, but the interaction with d4 is a little weird, so I’d probably change it so it starts at d6 (d6 for +1, d8 for +2 and so on) and not allow d4s to be spent in this fashion.
- I also ended up taking a more conservative approach to Plot Points that made them much more tightly tied to opportunities. This was a genre shift, and while I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with it, it had some very nice properties in play that I think I need to explore a bit further. Distinctions still paid out as normal, but the trick was in the rolls. Basically, Opportunities were the central point of everything – an opportunity was a chance to spend a PP *or* to earn one. If you did not use an opportunity (that is, spend a PP or use an ability) then it earned you a PP. Net result was fewer PPs, but when PP’s were spent, they were more concretely tied to the action. One mixed result is that the results of the dice ended up standing a lot more often than the do in Marvel – not sure that’s good or bad, just different.
- One thing I’d tweak with this is probably end up going a little bit closer to Leverage and it’s use of d4s for a variety of effects. More opportunities is probably desirable, and may be a better way to address the fact that limits end up working a lot less well outside of the super-hero context.
- But that said, making opportunities a little more front and center provided a really nice area to hook in mechanics. The Rogue, for example, got tweaked, so it could use an opportunity for a damage step up (no PP Cost). Didn’t come up all the time, but the one time an assassin handed the rogue two opportunities and turned that d8 hit into a d12 hit went very badly indeed.
- Initiative system is still solid gold.
- Doom Pool ends up being an interesting balancing mechanism. If you find you’ve slightly over-powered the opposition (as I did) you can offset it by not spending from the pool. Handy.
- [EDIT] Just remembered. We had two fights – I did nto make much use of scene elements int he first one, but did in the second, and the players (not experienced Cortex players) absolutely gravitated towards them with no real urging on my part. One more argument to maybe dip a little more into the Leverage bag.
I cheat a bit when I run Leverage and its variants. According to the rules, when the GM spends a PP to create something, it’s created at d6. I’m less kind, and when I create things, they’re d8s, and for all intents and purposes, I have an infinite budget of d6s that I can use for anything, anytime.
At first blush, that make seem unbalanced and abusive, and I’ll concede it’s a little mean, but the reality is that it reflects a specific piece of perspective I have about Cortex+, that is to say, what I consider normal to be.
To my mind, in the language of Cortex+, d6 is effectively the die that means “normal”. It’s the die I pick up to fill gaps when nothing else really applies. If there’s a security guard who matters solely because the players eyes have fallen upon him, he’s a Security Guard d6. If he matters enough for me to spend some points on, then he should be exceptional (or terrible) and interesting, which merits different dice.
It’s also no coincidence that this is the midpoint between the two die values for a distinction. D6 is what D4 is worse than and D8 is better than. Obvious on the face of it, but it underscores why I take D6 as the baseline. If nothing else interesting is going on, just grab a d6.
(Mechanically this also comes in handy when the GM needs to build a small pool. Even if that security guard is a d8, if he’s making a roll tangential to any other resource I have in play, it’s easier to just add in a d6 to fill out your hand, so to speak)
There’s an interesting shift that comes from this, because you stop seeing the world as being built up from zero and more in terms of how it deviates from the norm. It spares you of the obligation to fill in details prematurely. If an NPC is introduced and you don’t know anything about him, just use two or three d6s when appropriate until you hit upon the ways in which the character is noteworthy.
This is in some ways a nod back to Over The Edge, where the baseline for any action was 2d6, and you could always fall back to that, but your specific strengths and weaknesses could change that. Having that baseline allowed for much simpler character sheets because it removed the need to note everything, only demanding that which deviated from the norm (and which was, one hoped, therefor interesting). You can see it in other systems too, though it is sometimes more muddled.
This idea bounces around various Cortex+ implementations, but it’s precise meaning and role depends on the system. I’ve noted how it impacts my Leverge play, but it’s perhaps even more interesting in Marvel, where the d6 is the placeholder die. Mechanical effects that need a die that’s ok use it (like area attacks) dip into it, but for anything interesting, it gets passed by. Ever wondered why there’s not a d6 option for specialties? Easy answer: BECAUSE YOU’RE COOLER THAN THAT. I admit, I do dip into d6s for Marvel, but when I do, it’s almost always a sign of something mundane – as with Leverage, it’s suitable for something that doesn’t grab, but which needs mechanical representation.
There’s an obvious question here: if d6’s are that dull, why bother rolling them? Never make a boring roll, right?
Well, that’s the interesting and subtle trick of the d6. It’s true, it’s not too potent, but every now and again you get boxcars and a surprise. It’s important to remember this because normal does not need to mean boring. Rather, it’s the baseline by which players can judge themselves. A too-easy success (as many mook rules provide) provide surface awesome but can ultimately feel hollow because anyone can overcome it. D6s have just the right amount of challenge to make your bigger dice feel rewarding and just enough threat to make you wonder if it’s _really_ worth trading that d8 for a d4.