United We Stand – Teaming Up in Cortex Plus, Part 2

In part one we looked at how the various Cortex Plus rules released so far have handled the mechanics of two or more characters cooperating on a task.  Now, I’d like to explore a third way between the two.

I must honest: I have a slight dislike for the Leverage version.

In the Cortex Plus Action rules we have so far, during a cooperative action, only one person gets to roll the dice. Gamers like to roll dice, but in this system, unless you’re leading things, the best you can really hope for is picking up a d10 and passing it to your friend.

This isn’t such a huge deal in Leverage due to the way that every character is going to have their own niche to fill, and you’re not going to see people stepping on each others’ toes too often. Generally, everyone will stand back and let the Hitter take on the gang of mooks themselves, because while combat in the system is fun, it’s just as much fun as all the other players have in their own opportunities to shine.

Where is a middle ground or third way?

Middle Grounds and a Third Way

Not all campaigns will fall so neatly at the ends of the Drama-Action axis as Leverage and Smallville do.  Which side would a Firefly hack lean towards? The show is undoubtably about the relationships between the crew of Serenity, but again, they very rarely work against each other. If we use the Smallville rules, we’re going to fall into the trap of making everything too easy for the players, but as there is much less of the niche protection of Leverage, there’d be a lot of players watching their friends roll “for them” when working together.

As such, I’ve opted for a modification for my own Firefly hack, which is basically as follows: –

All players participating in an action roll all their applicable dice. The rolled values form a combined pool when calculating the result by adding the two highest dice together, but remain as individual pools for purposes of spending Plot Points to include additional dice in the total result. Using this method, you may see cases where you can’t add the third highest rolled value if the person who rolled that particular die has no Plot Points remaining.

Example: Craig rolls 6,3,2,2; Mark rolls 8,3,2; Chris rolls 5,5,5,2. The total for their combined action is 14 (Craig’s 6 + Mark’s 8). If either Craig or Mark spend a Plot Point, the total comes to 17 from adding their next highest of 3; if Chris spends a Plot Point, he gets to add one of his 5s to the total for a result of 19.

So with these mechanics, the benefits to teaming up are gaining a larger dice pool, which improves the chances of a higher result and gives more options when spending plot points. Furthermore, you can share the cost of buying up a higher result.  What this way doesn’t produce are results that are particularly high without the expenditure of further resources (Plot Points) as sometimes occur in Smallville.  This option occupies what appears to be a nice middle ground; I wouldn’t suggest this for either Smallville or Leverage, but it seems to be a nice fit for our Firefly hack.

About craggle

Despite being born tone deaf in one ear, Craig has risen above his disadvantage to achieve the lofty position of spending most of his free time mucking around on the Internet, tinkering with RPG rules, and failing on at least seven occasions to finish writing a novel.
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6 Responses to United We Stand – Teaming Up in Cortex Plus, Part 2

  1. Cam Banks says:

    One side effect of this method would be that there is no “primary” actor in the action; all involved characters are rolling dice, and the two highest are considered. This casts cooperative activity in a different light from both Smallville and Leverage, both of which maintain one player as primary with the others as secondary.

  2. Adam says:

    From my experiences, my players (who are used to 4e D&D) prefer to each roll rather than assisting a leader, even if assisting is statistically better for them. Do you see any downsides to not having a lead actor? Assigning Stress or consequences would spread between all participants rather than focusing on the primary actor, possibly applying to all participants (everyone gets d6 Stress for instance) making involvement risky.

    • Cam Banks says:

      It’s primarily a narrative issue, where you need to resolve the outcome based on whose participation actually had a hand in the success. Obviously, you can simply state this as being resolved by whoever contributes high-rolling dice to the result, but it can present awkwardness if the lead-in narrative says one thing and the outcome of the action requires you to change that.

      • Dave Bozarth says:

        I think that with this type of of teamwork you have to approach the narrative a little differently. The narrative lead-ins would need to account for the assistance of others, whereas people that decide to help at the last moment would have to use either a simple dice hand off or be a narrative event of its own (i.e. coming to the rescue).

        This could be a jarring experience for some DMs though, so I am not belittling it.

      • craggle says:

        I can’t think of many instances where it wouldn’t really be viable to say everyone helping contributed to the success (and somewhat keeping with the style of the shows, I feel: if a character is being “useless” in a team-up, it’s usually a spotlight show for them, and will show them saving the day in another area). Complications can be used to mechanically decide who may introduce problems, while still avoiding making anyone’s rolls less important.

        That said, we’ve only had one trial run of this so far in our Firefly game, so maybe it would raise more issues over a longer term…?

  3. Adam says:

    I like the idea that the roll could show who’s participation helped the most or least, guiding the narrative accordingly.

    On the other side, I hadn’t thought about the fact that everybody rolling separately could produce a lot of Complications. To cut down on the complexity of a lot of complications you could use single larger complications could be created (a d12 from four 1s for instance) and/or apply Complications as immediate Stress (or increase of existing Stress) to characters who roll 1s.

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