System:Cortex Prime

Tests & Contests

Tests are rolled when the question is simple success or failure against an obstacle. This is usually against something in the environment, but may be a minor supporting character.

Contests are rolled when a lead or major character attempts to do something opposed by another lead or major character. Do not roll for two supporting characters; the GM should just decide what happens.

How To Roll

Choose an appropriate activity, distinction, drive, ability, role, and asset from your character or the scene. In a contest, you can also choose one of your opponent’s complications. You can choose only one from each category; you probably won’t have applicable dice from every category, but there’s always an applicable activity. This forms your dice pool.

In all cases, to determine a total, take two dice from your pool and add them together. Dice that roll a 1 can’t be used; this may leave you with fewer than two dice.

Effect Dice

The effect die is chosen from the dice that remain in the pool after the dice used to generate the total are removed, and excluding dice that rolled a 1. The value rolled on the effect die is irrelevant. If there are no eligible dice, the effect die is a d4.

If the player beat the difficulty by 5 or more, it’s a heroic success. Step up the effect die by one for each five points by which the total exceeded the difficulty.


The GM rolls the doom pool and determines a total. The player assembles a dice pool and rolls it, also determining a total. If the player’s total is higher than the GM’s, the roll is a success; if it’s equal or lower, it’s a failure.


In a contest, both sides first state what they’re trying to accomplish. The one who initiates the contest assembles a dice pool and rolls first, setting the difficulty. The other side then rolls their dice pool, trying to roll better than the difficulty.

If your opponent doesn’t roll higher, you’ve won. If they do roll higher, you have a choice. You can give in and define failure on your own terms. Or you can assemble a new dice pool and try to beat the total your opponent rolled; failing means your opposition gets to define how they stopped you. Contests go back and forth until one side gives in or fails.

Whoever loses the contest takes a complication equal to the winner’s effect die. If the loser’s effect die is larger than the winner’s, the winner’s is stepped back by one before being applied as a complication.

[[ Should there be a reward for giving in before you’ve rolled? ]]

High-stakes contests

The GM may declare a contest to be high-stakes; the loser may be taken out. Being taken out means you can no longer perform any test or contest and no longer participate in the scene.

In a high-stakes scene, if the winner’s effect die is larger than the loser’s, the loser is taken out of the scene. If the loser’s effect die is equal or larger, or the loser spends a plot point to avoid it, they take a complication equal to the winner’s effect die.


When a player succeeds at a test or wins a contest, they get to narrate the outcome. They describe how they got what they wanted. Likewise, when they fail or give in, they get to describe how they failed. The GM should only narrate outcomes when the player is stumped. There are no lasting consequences to failure or loss other than the complications gained.

Spoilers and Catastrophes

If you roll a 1 (a spoiler), it can’t be added to your total or used as an effect die.

If all your dice come up 1, that’s a catastrophe. You have a total of 0, and so fail. The results are unambiguously bad for your character.

Plot Points

Earning Plot Points

Players always start a session with two plot points. There are a number of ways to get more.

Any time you include a d4 distinction in your pool, you get a plot point.
Whenever a player rolls a spoiler, the GM may hand over a plot point to activate it. At the same time, he either adds or steps up a complication, or adds or steps up another die in the doom pool. Additional spoilers in the same roll step up the die, which starts at d6.
Giving In:
If you give in during a contest, letting your opponent succeed after you’ve already rolled once during the contest, you get a plot point.
GM Use:
Any time the GM uses a plot point, the player gets the point he spent.
Some SFX give you a plot point.

Uses for Plot Points

Add more dice:
Before you roll, you can spend a plot point to add another die to your pool as long as there’s a reasonable explanation. This can include more than one trait in a given category.
Including more results:
After you roll, you can spend a plot point to add another die to your total. The only limit to how many dice you can include are how many dice you have in the pool that aren’t spoilers, and how many plot points you have.
Success with abilities:
If you fail a test with one of your abilities in your pool, you can spend a plot point to succeed instead. You can just spend the plot point and forgo the roll. You can also do this in a contest if the other side doesn’t have an ability in their opposing pool. In this case your ability die is your effect die.
Activating SFX:
Some SFX require a plot point to use. By default, any such effect lasts only for the roll you’re using it on.
Create a relationship:
You can spend a plot point to create a d6 relationship with another character with whom you don’t already have a relationship.
You can spend a plot point to create a d6 asset for the remainder of the scene. This gives dramatic weight to an item (Pipe d6), some bit of scenery (Unlocked Door d6), or even a new minor character (Handyman d6) that can be of help to you.
If you create an asset related to your abilities, that’s a stunt, and it’s as a d8 instead of a d6.
Role Assets:
In a transition scene, or after succeeding at a role action, you can spend a plot point to create an asset.
Not being taken out:
If you lose a high-stakes contest, you can spend a plot point to take a complication instead of being taken out.
Limited Action:
If you have been taken out (either by losing a high stakes contest or by stepping a complication above d12), you can spend a plot point to take a limited action. You only get to keep one die for your total, but you can spend more plot points to add more dice as ususal.

Drama Dice

You can declare a contest to be a big deal. You must have at least one drama die. If your opponent gives in, you have to give him the drama die. If he doesn’t give in, but you decide to end the contest there, you gain a drama die. If he doesn’t give in and you choose to go on with the contest, proceed as usual.

Earning drama dice

Give in to a big deal:
When you give in to a big deal, you get a drama die (from the other party or the doom pool).
Accept a big deal failure:
When your opponent doesn’t give in, and you accept it, you get a drama die.
Get or give help:
When you help another character recover stress, or are yourself helped, you get a drama die. The person recovering turns the stress into a drama die; the helper gets a drama die equal to their effect die.
Some SFX will grant drama dice.

Using drama dice

To make a contest a big deal, you have to put a drama die at risk. In addition, you can use drama dice for other things.

Reject a big deal:
If someone else makes a contest a big deal, you may have to give them a drama die if you don’t give in.
As plot points:
You can spend a drama die to do anything you could do with a plot point.
In a test or contest:
You can spend a plot point and use one of your drama dice after your pool has been rolled. Add the drama die to the total. You can also use a drama die in a dice pool before it is rolled at no plot point cost.
As effect dice:
You can spend a drama die to substitute for an effect die.
Some SFX may require the use of drama dice.

Cortex Eternal - Beats (last edited 2019-07-19 17:45:02 by JackOfSpades)