System:Cortex Prime

All variable traits (everything but distinctions) are rated from d4 to d12 based on how important the trait is to the narrative. Don’t assign I love my wife d10 and Duty d6 unless you want your character’s love for his wife to be far more important to the story than his duty. The fact that he’d abandon his duty for his marriage isn’t relevant. Similarly, that one character has Super-Strength d6 and another Super-Strength d8 doesn’t mean the second character is stronger than the first, it means that strength is a more core element of the second character than the first.


Every character has three activity traits, which are involved in different kinds of story beats.

Roll using Action when you’re dealing with an obstacle in a physical or practical manner, or when you’re trying to be such an obstacle.

Use Investigation when you are trying to gain or withhold information.

Add Drama to your pool when you are seeking or trying to withhold an emotional reward, or when you’re trying to get another character, through dialog, to do anything other than give you information.

What’s special about them?

You can always add one of your activity dice to any pool. Mobs and large-scale threats are represented with multiple activity dice.


Distinctions are the things that are unique about your character. Leads and major characters have 1-3 distinctions; those traits should, taken alone, sum up what is important about the character and give a clear impression of who they are.

You can add a distinction to any pool where it might help or hinder you. When it would hinder you, you add a d4 and receive a Plot Point. When it would help you, you add a d8. You do not have to do either.

Distinctions are the baseline of die ratings. They are the thing that is most unique about your character. Traits rated d10 or d12 are even more important than your distinctions, but may not be unique. Traits rated d6 or d4 are less important than your uniqueness.

What’s special about them?

A distinction can be used as a d4 to earn a plot point.


Drives are the things that motivate your character. They are typically broadly phrased, like Truth, Family, or Power. Leads and major characters will have 1-3 drives. In addition, leads & major characters have a drive to Survive that they can call on when in physical danger.

You may add one of your drive dice to any pool when it’s what’s motivating you to act. If you are in physical danger, you can add your Survive die to your pool.

You should rate drives based on how effective your character is at achieving the things he is driven to do, not how much he wants them. A d4 drive is sometimes called a weakness. It does not motivate the character any less, but it gets him into more trouble than it solves.

What’s special about them?

Drives have statements, which refine and clarify how you feel about your drives. This allows them to be challenged or affirmed.

You can only initiate a contest if you can add a drive die to the pool – but you can be drawn into a contest initiated by someone else even if you can’t use a drive die.

You can spend a Plot Point to create a d6 relationship asset that lasts for the duration of the story (this is different from a push, which lasts for one scene or costs two plot points). If your relationship can be related to a drive, like Family, step up the relationship.

Challenge & Affirmation

You can challenge or affirm a drive. When you do, you add three dice to your pool instead of one. If you acted in accord with your drive statement, you affirmed it; step back a different drive until your next tag scene. If you acted contrary to your drive statement, you challenged it; step back the drive itself until the next tag scene.

At the start of your tag scene, evaluate your challenged & affirmed drives. If you challenged a drive, you can either rewrite the statement and return the drive to its original value, or keep it stepped back and step up another drive to compensate. If you affirmed the drive, everything returns to normal at the start of tag scene.


Abilities are areas where you are especially, perhaps superhumanly, powerful or talented. There’s no such thing as a mundane ability; they will always stand out, and are almost always beyond anything in the real world. Abilities often have associated SFX and limits.

You may add an ability die to any pool where the ability would help you. Since people often do not have any applicable abilities, this gives you an edge in any situation where your ability applies.

What’s special about them?

If the other side does not have an ability die in their pool, and you do not succeed, you can spend a Plot Point to succeed anyway – or just spend one and not bother to roll.

When you use a Plot Point to create a push die related to an ability, you can step up the push die into a stunt die.


Roles are combinations of skills, mundane assets, social connections, and anything else you need to perform a type of activity. So the Guard d6 has a uniform, equipment, any necessary licenses, and acquaintance with other guards in addition to basic guarding skills, all represented by the role.

You may add a role die to any dice pool where the role’s skills are appropriate to the task or contest.

What’s special about them?

During a transition scene, you can spend a plot point to create an asset related to your role. The asset is one step lower than your specialty, so you could use your Hacker d8 role to generate a set of Building Plans d6 for the building you plan to raid in the next scene, while your teammate uses his Ex-con d8 to recruit a Criminal d6 to help you out.

You can also use a role to create assets in action scenes, but this requires a test (or contest). This still costs a plot point.


Unlike standard Cortex Prime, we do not use a fixed list of roles. They may be open-ended and loosely described to suit the character.

Assets & Complications

Assets and complications are temporary traits that will come and go during the course of a story. Assets help a character; complications hinder him by adding to the dice pools opposed to him. You can add one asset to any dice pool where it makes sense. If you are in a contest, you can add one of your opponent’s complications to your pool; in a test, the GM can add one of your complications to his pool.

What’s special about them?

Assets and complications come and go from scene to scene and story to story. They can be created or stepped up or back by using Plot Points, contests, and opportunities.


We are not using Signature Assets. In this setting, they’d be Abilities instead, when they exist at all.

Cortex Eternal - Traits (last edited 2019-07-19 17:44:29 by JackOfSpades)