Character Creation Cast

Series 43.3 - Cortex Prime with Cam Banks [Designer] (Discussion)

Episode Summary

Welcome to the final episode of series 43, everyone! This series we welcome Cam Banks to discuss his game, Cortex Prime, an RPG Toolkit for creating ANY game you want! This episode we discuss the character creation process, learn a bit more about Cam Banks, talk about the game design process, and get into the few outtakes that came out of this series!

Episode Notes

Welcome to the final episode of series 43, everyone! This series we welcome Cam Banks to discuss his game, Cortex Prime, an RPG Toolkit for creating ANY game you want! This episode we discuss the character creation process, learn a bit more about Cam Banks, talk about the game design process, and get into the few outtakes that came out of this series!


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Guests and Projects:

Cam Banks (Designer) @boymonster

Games discussed this episode:

Cortex Prime




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Episode Transcription

Transcripts Automatically Generated - Not 100% Accurate

Ryan Boelter  0:01  

Welcome to the final episode of series 43. Everyone. We have some great discussion coming up shortly with game designer cam bakes. designer of this silver any award winning game cortex prime, which we have been covering in this series. But before we get to that, some announcements we are about 39 days out as of the release of this episode before on a close on my house and start moving into a new house. But we're also 14 days away from October's first scheduled episode. And we have yet to record it. We also have a recording set for next weekend with Tracy Burnett for a spotlight episode for their upcoming game iron Ada reforged which looks just fantastic. So our only chance to really record anything is literally the day before. Can we do it? I have no clue. But we appreciate you understanding if we are a tad late on next month's series as well. We are planning to cover Call of Cthulhu Finally, and see what this system is all about. Just in time for some spooky fun around Halloween. We will keep everyone posted on our Twitter account and our Discord. So stay tuned. In other news, September is international podcast month. My first two games were released already last week. You can check out employee of the month to hear me play a 74 year old retired super spy turned artisinal custodian who may or may not still have what it takes when the time is right. Also, the lobsters and feelings game that I had edited is available to listen to as well. Finally, the game Iran Chi mera makes its IPM debut with a blend of superhero fantasy and medical girl genres, as well as a heavy dose of the musical genre. This is a fully produced episode with environmental sound design and musical direction done by myself, as well as sound effects added by fate onyx from the writing alchemy podcast. It turned out to be a phenomenal production. And I think you'll get a huge kick out of it this coming Saturday when it releases, you can go to international podcast, calm or at pod month on Twitter tour and more. There has links to all the different places you can find episodes. And we will put a link to that and the website in our show notes. Finally, we recently revamped our website, we are currently getting the guests added back as well as the character sheets for every series. And that process will just take some time, which we don't exactly have at the moment. But once all the hullabaloo settles down in both of our lives, we should be able to tackle that. Also, Character Creation Cast comm finally goes to its own web space. Instead of redirecting. We would like to thank the block party Podcast Network for allowing us to park our old pages there for all of these years. But now we're finally looking a bit more professional. And that's pretty cool. It only took us what like three and a half years. That's all true report for now. Thanks for sticking with us everyone. We will be back after the show for some calls to action. But until then, enjoy the show.


Amelia Antrim  4:11  

Welcome back to our discussion episode. Last time we finished our session zero for cortex prime. This episode we will be discussing the character creation process. We are thrilled to welcome back cam banks, the designer of this very game, do you want to introduce yourself for our audience and tell everybody at home a little bit about your contribution to this mess that we made.


Cam Banks  4:38  

Thank you once again for having me here. I'm Kevin banks, creative director of cortex at fandom tabletop. And I've been working on cortex games for quite a long time. And last time we put together a very interesting little setting and my contribution to it was Todd Braveheart. Who was raised to be the vessel for the power primordial by his parents, and they gave him all the best training that could possibly get, tried to enroll him in all sports teams and everything else. And turns out, he doesn't like any of that stuff. And he really wishes he had cool magic, like, you know, necromancy or fireballs or something really neat. Turns out when you're the vessel for the power primordial and you're not into it, life can be very difficult. And especially if you're at school as a teenager.


Amelia Antrim  5:35  

Yeah, as if High School. Is it hard enough? I know. Ryan, Jenna, tell everybody about your character.


Ryan Boelter  5:42  

Yeah, so I made Wilma Valentine, aka duo. She is your your typical youngest of five siblings. You know, large family can kind of get away with whatever she wants to. So she's kind of constantly pushing the boundaries.


Amelia Antrim  6:04  

I'm thinking about this, because I'm the oldest of five. And so as you're, as you're telling me this, I'm thinking about my youngest sibling. And I'm like, Yeah, they do push the boundaries. Yeah. Okay. checks out.


Ryan Boelter  6:15  

Yeah. So. So she's going to this perfectly Monday in school, and happens to have some powers of light and darkness that she's able to draw upon to transform into duo, her alter ego that allows her to fight. We'll figure that out in the fan page.


Amelia Antrim  6:37  

I don't want to feel like the evil because


Ryan Boelter  6:40  

using the forces of evil to fight the greater forces of evil.


Amelia Antrim  6:44  

I don't know. I don't know. We're about to learn. Yeah, you know, morality is a social construct.


Ryan Boelter  6:53  

So what about yourself, Amelia?


Amelia Antrim  6:55  

I am, I mean, Jennifer, who was named Jennifer by her parents, but will insist to anyone that asks or doesn't to ask that her name is Stephanie. And she has the power to harness your hatred and her own to create magic. It's the black sheep of her family. And as I said before, it does believe that morality is a social construct, and good and evil is what you make of it.


Ryan Boelter  7:28  

Is it really evil if we're, you know, not doing evil things with it? Yeah,


Amelia Antrim  7:33  

I'm good. That's what I'm saying. Like, unclear.


Cam Banks  7:37  

Too much misunderstanding in the world of morality. Right. Right, exactly.


Ryan Boelter  7:43  

Well, let's go ahead and dive right into a segment that we are calling d 24. Your thoughts


Amelia Antrim  7:49  

b 24. Your thoughts. In this segment, we talked to our guests about their thoughts on the character creation process and how it relates to playing the game, and to other systems that we've played. But first, we like to start out with getting really generic boring questions out of the way. So we want to ask, how did you get into role playing games? How did you end up designing them?


Cam Banks  8:12  

I was into games role playing games, especially starting with the various stereotypical d&d at the age of 1010, or 11, actually kind of came in sideways through fighting fantasy gamebooks, which anyone from the UK and Commonwealth countries like myself, was very into. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston wrote the warlock of firetop Mountain and they said, they'll have chaos and all those books. Now there were like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, but they had kind of Dyson things you had to use to do things and then to, and that was the way into d&d for me, my friends at school, we were bought, the day, we had a friend who came from the States, and he had brought over all of his d&d books that we hadn't even seen yet. So that was a great thing to do when you're a young kid in 1981. Just to get that out of the way, a long, long time ago. But from that point on, I mean, we were doing homebrew stuff, we were making things of our own. We all had fun putting together games, because we obviously couldn't afford to get much as young teens. So a lot of the time we were drawing things into our school, exercise books and making games on our own. So I think my design sort of brain kicked in fairly soon after my my other gaming brain was, you know, prompted by d&d, and I think we, we did some absolutely awful things when we're kids in terms of the terrible quality of our game sessions and being jerks. But over time, I think I got into a real good swing of it. I think that all the way through high school and into college. I was running games and doing things with stuff that would later on, you know, kind of manifest as sort of principles for being a good GM and being a good designer.


Amelia Antrim  10:09  

I think a lot of people start that way, really early with game design stuff of just like, well, we wanted this thing and it wasn't a thing. So we made it into one. And I know I started playing games later, I guess I was 16. And then took kind of a break before I got back into it. And by then, for me, it felt like, you know, like, the indie scene had really taken off and everything by that point. So it was like, there wasn't a whole as much of a need for me to like, make my own thing, because there was something out there already. But I know depending on when you started, and like sort of how plugged in you were everything. I know a lot of people who were just like, well, we wanted to do this, and it wasn't a thing. So we started doing it. And it just kind of snowballed from there. I always say that, like game design is that line that I won't cross because once you start you don't you don't stop. Now, I'm like, that's a bridge too far for me. But yeah, I think I think that's the story that a lot of people have is just like, we wanted it to do something, and it didn't. And so we made to do


Ryan Boelter  11:14  

it. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So cam, what do you look for in a system as far as character creation, like what pieces need to be there for great characters to happen?


Cam Banks  11:28  

I liked it to be some understanding, at least in the character creation system of getting the people together to all agree about what the game is going to be about. I think it's, it's always good, though, to have the ability to make characters independently. So you can have that they call that lonely fun, when you're making characters over and over again, for a system that, you know, you're never gonna play because the gms of your group don't care about it. But I think that there needs to be some sort of method or part of collaboration where it's actually possible to do a session zero and people talk about their characters and sort of agree that I'm going to play this kind of character and so on. I love life path or pathways or any kind of sort of flow chart style character creation. Yeah, I think that's really cool, especially when you've got maybe limited choices, but you know, those branched out to different other things. So those are things I look for. I'm not really as big a it's not I'm not a fan. I just don't demand the game to have, you know, super detailed point by I don't feel that really adds as much as people think it does.


Amelia Antrim  12:40  

Yeah, Ryan loves a good point by system. I do like you do, because that's like one of the like, quickest ways to min max and you love You are a dirty min max.


Ryan Boelter  12:51  

You are secretly right. Like I


Amelia Antrim  12:56  

say, a lot on this podcast for people to


Cam Banks  12:58  

hear no one will ever find out.


Amelia Antrim  13:02  

The secret? No, like Ryan, I mean, and like, I don't mean that in a bad way. I think that's like, for a lot of people, that's a really fun thing to like, find that little, you know, like that way that you can, you know, like I was talking about fourth edition, aisle five, our there was a way that if you, if you use the point by system correctly, you could be ranked to right out of character creation. And, you know, like, some people like to really mess around and do that, because it's fun to find those ways to make things work. But yeah, that for me is not mine. It's like how can I make all of these disjointed decisions?


Ryan Boelter  13:39  

Yeah, I would be lying if I didn't think for a minute about min Maxine for cortex prime characters. Because it did cross my mind. I was like, well, there's so many out if


Amelia Antrim  13:51  

I drop this thing down. I could see the wheels turning.


Cam Banks  13:57  

What's fun about is that we when we were doing Marvel hararithe we actually ended up with a game that it was possible for one person to play Thor. And someone has to be Ant Man, the wasp or Hawkeye. And not to feel as if you're overshadowed by the thorough plan, just because of the way the game works. The fact that you know, you're making dice pools and contributing in one way or another. This is obviously the the special effect of I'm throwing a hammer and lightness coming out of it, which seems a huge and, and amazing. And I'm shooting an arrow. Yeah. Which is somewhat less amazing. Right. Right. So I don't know whether the min max approach gives you the eventual endorphin rush in play that you think it does. Don't I mean, you may find it. Oh, I thought I was gonna be amazing. And I'm just like everyone else. Right? Oh, yeah.


Amelia Antrim  14:51  

Right. Yeah, no, there's definitely a level of like, you know, where does that thrill happen and how much does it pay down the road. Yeah. character creation, right? Obviously, like on our show, we don't have to deal with that we just make the characters and then we never do anything with them. So we don't have to, like, deal with the consequences of any bad decisions that we make. Which is really just the dream. So But yeah, I can I'm not a point but because involves math, you obviously have to keep track of the points that you use to buy things. I don't like that at all. I am much more of a like, give me a choice of 10 things. And then let me stress them out which three, I'm allowed to have. Yeah. tons of great. One of the things that we spend a lot of time talking about on this show is the interaction between mechanics and story in a game, and particularly how mechanics influence the kinds of stories that you can tell in a game. And we talked about this a little bit earlier. But you know, it's why I always tell people that you can't make everything into a fivey hack. Why you should play different games. But because of that interaction, even generic systems, settings or not, or whatever have, like a predisposition to certain kinds of stories. We talked a little bit about how you think that this one does really well with like, sort of cinematic stories. How do you keep that marriage of mechanics and story in mind when you're designing a game, though?


Cam Banks  16:34  

Yeah, that's a good question. I think that's a falls under that whole concept of system matters, right? And I believe very firmly to, I think, play the same world with different roles, and then it feels different. And that's just, I think that's true. I don't know that. There's a lot of argument from me on that score. I will say that the question when designing it is, what am I going to implement? That seems like a principle of mine, as a designer, that I hope will carry over when anyone put something together with anything. And a number of things, fairly evident to people, when they when they read over cortex prime or play a game that's primed by cortex is the idea that the game moderator is not the GM is not an all powerful God person, who essentially lays out a story that you get to play through. I take a lot of power from the GM and share it among the players. I think there's a lot of that, just with the way that plot points work. And the way that the sort of the game is kind of predisposed for the GM to sort of frame a scene and set things up, but then have to find out what's going to happen next, just like everybody else does. And there's a lot of that was kind of hardwired into the rules. And there are people who have talked to me and said, What can I remove this part of it? How do I get it to change this? Someone asked me, can I make a completely player facing version of his game? And then all of those things are possible. But the more that you take things out, the less it feels like a cortex game and more or less something you've just modeled a bit more to your liking, which is fine. I can answer


Amelia Antrim  18:15  

is obviously you can't banks cannot come into your house. How to play a game,


Cam Banks  18:20  

I absolutely will not do that. Because you don't want me in your house telling you how to do games anyway. But that's, that's a big part of it is like, you know, what kind of principles can you carry? Can you sort of lend it to the game? And so yeah, yeah, the differently the whole genome is not a god, players have agency more than they do in other games, or at least in traditional games. So the other thing that I think would say is that the way that the dice pool system works is because you're taking parts of the character sheet, from all different areas, or the different prime states and trade sets and things. You're kind of telling the story, even just by putting your dice to pull together, like this is what I'm doing, it's gonna be this and this is using this thing, this thing contributes to my success, too. So you there's a bit of intention behind everything you do. Which means that if you roll the dice all the time, it might get fatiguing. So I kind of think that people shouldn't be rolling dice for everything. And that's another thing I talk about too, is don't roll roll in this. It's meaningful. In that case, Oh, nice. Yeah.


Amelia Antrim  19:28  

Yeah, I really like that. I mean, those are things that I personally agree with in most games is that you know, like, you shouldn't roll unless there's some kind of like, you know, consequences to it or, or something like that. And we obviously talk a lot on this show about, you know, like the the sort of player GM relationship. It's just always intriguing to me how you apply all of those things in a game where you're like, Well, here's a game that I made, but I don't know actually like what anybody's doing with it. You can make so many different things. It's just Don't I, it hurts my brain to think about, like how to even start designing something?


Ryan Boelter  20:07  

Well, I'm wondering, cuz you were talking about how you are distributing kind of the power amongst the whole group, instead of having the GM on top, and everything kind of filtering from there. Like, it reminds me a lot of like power by the apocalypse, very narrative based very player centric. A lot of the pvta games have the like, players are able to add stuff to the story and stuff like that. And almost every power by the apocalypse game that I can think of has that very cinematic feel as well. And I'm wondering if just the act of dispersing the power amongst all the players, just naturally creates that cinematic feel, no matter what genre you're kind of playing?


Cam Banks  20:55  

Yeah, there's the The key difference between cortex and the pvta games, I would say is, it's completely about the lack of GM rolling dice of any kind, right? I make a big deal about how I love opposed rolls, I like to have this feedback back and forth between player it comes out not just in, in Rolling ones for players and getting plot points and stuff, but the GM roles ones, the players could activate those and sort of do things and to kind of hose the GM and eliminate their own problems. And that kind of back and forth. connection isn't as strong in the pbta things, I think that it's obviously there, but the gym, and if it's a pbta game powered by the apocalypse game, it is much more like a GM, Fiat style thing with the players getting to do stuff. And the gene reacts against that. And there's that whole thing that Vincent cause the conversation, right. But with with cortex is less of that. And I think it's not, it's a different kind of shared power, right. And it's shared power, because we all play by the same rules, as opposed to the players take all the rules and use those while the GM kind of shepherds things along and then react to it, which is the distribution redistribution is different, but I think it achieves similar results in terms of being different feeling from a traditional game.


Ryan Boelter  22:25  

So then, how does the process of character creation, once we have our setting and everything? How does the process of character creation reinforce the feel of cortex prime and set expectations for play?


Cam Banks  22:40  

Yeah, as we learned this, there's multiple ways to get to character creation in the cortex game. And I think some of them will make a difference to and how the game feels that the archetype version more like a playbook style where you take something and you just do a couple of changes. That's really good. If you don't have a lot of simple ways of getting the setting across the players other than saying, look, look, youth here, that sort of nine different kinds of people there exists, please pick one, you know, read up the background, understand how they work and just change a couple of numbers around, put a die here, the dice here, you know, the scratchable thing, which we did, was really good for this ongoing collaboration of the setting as we were doing it, like we didn't have a setting, we were doing it whether we went and the pathways approach is much more, let's all create a setting but we will do it through steps and add things to a relationship map and make a sort of a makeup, all these locations then on the fly. So yeah, there's ways of doing that, that will be different. I think that what reinforces the feel, is that you are creating the narrative on your characters character file as you go, you're coming up with distinctions, you've given them names, your, your labeling things, you've, you've chosen certain distributions of your dice, and they all get that feel that we're we're making people come alive, which sort of add into the cinematic sense of it, but extends for me how I see it. And I think that that's been reflected back to me by people in the past telling me how they think it's fun to make characters because you kind of building them as opposed to, you know, I'm just gonna pick three things here and I'm good. Absolutely.


Amelia Antrim  24:25  

Yeah, it's definitely different than, you know, something like d&d, where it's like, Okay, I'm going to pick from this pile on this pile on this, you know, and it's like, now I've got like this, you know, all this stuff. And I have to like, shape it into a human Yeah. And decide like what that what that means for this person. Whereas this was very much like taking the things that I want, right? To build a person.


Cam Banks  24:51  

Yeah, and that's in to is that it's not a zero to hero game, which I think a lot of role playing games have always been started at the bottom and authority to If they will, you know, whatever. Yeah, you make the character you want to play with in the beginning, usually in cortex, although there's always room for advancement and growth and so on.


Amelia Antrim  25:10  

Yeah, we like to look at character sheets and talk about, like the intention behind the sheets and like the way that they're designed, and you know, what kind of stories they tell, when you think about, like what people would want on a sheet for this game? Because they know that there are a couple example ones in the book. And then obviously, we did our own thing that was separate from that. What, what kind of things do you think that people should focus on? In the character sheets? Or like putting down on their sheets?


Cam Banks  25:42  

Yep. First of all, I think it's, it should be obvious we roll the dice come from. And so your trait sets, if whatever, whatever they are skills, attributes, values, and things should have their own proper place on the character sheet. And I should be somewhere where it's obvious, you can kind of go down and check them off as you're making the dice. They're kind of workflow approach to character sheet where it's like, Okay, I need this and this and this and this, and I'm good. I also like that there's usually places to kind of give you a hint, when you're making a character, like where things are supposed to be like I've got, it's clearly ranges from D four d 12. Or it's clear that there are five spaces here for these things. I always love character sheets, where I can almost make the character just with the shape, you know, yes. With a bit of references, something else if I can go through and do the character with their sheet as a guideline. That's one way that like playbooks, for example. And pvta games really succeed. Well, I think that it's all there. Yeah. But this is also true for games with it, but they've got like, you know, hints about how things work. I think it's not true for d&d, there's no way you can make one from the d&d.


Amelia Antrim  26:58  

No, most of the things that have like derived attributes, it's like are just like out of luck. No, I know, we just covered Sentinel comics, too. And that was another one that it felt pretty intuitive. Like, obviously, there was a lot of stuff that we had to look up in the book and everything. But like, once you had your character sheet in front of you, it was very much like, obvious to me how you use it and like, what things is like, okay, grab one from this category and one from this category. And, you know, like, it felt really intentional, rather than just like, okay, we should have a spot to write this down somewhere, I guess.


Cam Banks  27:31  

Yeah. It's, it's, it's uncanny how that sort of game feels similar to stuff that I've worked on. In the past since I helped.


Amelia Antrim  27:41  

Yeah, no, I didn't come up. We're covering it to that. It has like a lot of cortex inspiration, the same thing with like, the die sizes and that kind of stuff. But it does have that same feel of like, you know, like I said, knowing, okay, I need to pull one of these and one of these. I think it's the thing that we've learned over the course of doing this show is exactly how important the layout of your character sheet is in your ability to build a character and then to play the character. So people designing games, don't leave it for the last minute. It's actually extremely important.


Cam Banks  28:14  

I honestly, I think I can't find what I'm looking for on a character sheet. Or if the sheets like, six pages long or something, there's, there's a problem I guess for them.


Amelia Antrim  28:24  

Yeah, I was reading a game recently, too, that I came across, like something in the book. And I was like, is this the character sheet? And so it's like, that's an even like, different issue of if I can't tell whether this is or is not the character sheet. That's also a problem. Yeah, yeah, it makes a huge difference.


Ryan Boelter  28:43  

So one of the questions I love to ask, especially when we have designers on the show, is, what do you think is one of the biggest flaws of character creation for cortex prime and what is one of your favorite parts?


Cam Banks  28:59  

Book flow would be that it's not always good for people who have who are super tired, super distracted, or super worn out, because if their brain is tired, then it's going to be hard for them to come up with no names for three distinctions or choose a number of things that they have to actually do some kind of creative part to it as opposed to picking off a list, let alone having them choose their character's name, which seems like it's always a huge momentous difficulty. But I think that's that's a flaw. I don't know that you could just sort of like, half asleep stumbled through character creation with cortex where some of the games I'm sure you consider like going on a session at a convention that's like, one of the morning that's that ninth one of the day you've been playing because you booked Yourself Solid. And they just say please fill out for four things here. check this box to this Nina Goku. Probably not possible with with the cortex Prime Minister, he did a lot of work up front.


Ryan Boelter  30:05  

Especially if you throw in the the creating the system itself too,


Cam Banks  30:09  

right? Yeah. Oh gosh, no, I mean, there's no way that you do that on very little sleep or too much anxiety or stress at the time, I think it's probably not likely,


Amelia Antrim  30:20  

I don't know, we could try it, we can see play pretty chronic insomnia. So maybe we'll get into a couple days into it. And we'll see how I fare.


Cam Banks  30:31  

And I'm, I'm a huge big proponent for making things more accessible to not just to, you know, impaired, visual impaired or otherwise. But also, for folks who are neuro diverse to on the spectrum is unkind. I think that's really important because a lot of us live with or are familiar with, or have that sort of challenge themselves. And when you do something like what we're doing with the digital stuff, we're doing a lot more of the guided approach to help that out. So we're hoping that makes it easier for people to sort of make their characters with Tales of the idea, and make the characters for whatever other game we've come up with. Just because it's hard, it can be hard when you don't know what you're doing. And if you don't have the game, as I know, on the podcast with you, helping you and so on.


Amelia Antrim  31:20  

Yeah, I mean, I will say, you know, as somebody who is neurodiverse, I find those kinds of tools to be really helpful, because I get that sort of, like analysis paralysis of like, there's too many choices, and my brain just shuts down. Yeah. And so, you know, like, as fun as you know, cortex prime potentially is, without some kind of like, guardrails, kind of just go, like, do your lights, I don't know what to do. I'm just going to not. And so having those kind of tools available for people makes a huge difference. Because sometimes it's, it's not a matter of like, want to or anything like that. It's just like, I can't my brain just like, can't get there. You know, when I think about like, you know, just people who are tired, like, if you're a new parent, you should still get to play.


Cam Banks  32:13  

It's true. I did a lot of my writing with my with my newborn son, who is now 19. But back in the day when running on dragon Lance, I did a lot of it with him on Monday at three in the morning, because he just wasn't sleeping. You know, that's the thing, right? Sure. Ryan, you had asked about what the best part I think the best part, for me, at least is seeing someone come alive as a character in as you go through and just putting those pieces together instead of molding someone who has their own, almost like they have their own backstory and qualities and things sort of like they're ready for you to do something with and live in them in the game. And it's my favorite thing.


Ryan Boelter  32:50  

Yeah, absolutely. I really liked how they're, like, once we figured out what pieces we're going to be throwing at our characters to create our characters, right? Like the relationships, the distinctions, the values, all that sort of stuff, right? Yeah. It wasn't that many steps to just get through it. And no,


Amelia Antrim  33:14  

I was it was so much easier and quicker than I expected it to be considering that we went in with nothing.


Cam Banks  33:22  

Yep. Yeah, I was shocked.


Ryan Boelter  33:24  

I was shocked that it wasn't a two and a half hour recording. And I've read the book


Unknown Speaker  33:29  



Amelia Antrim  33:32  

Like it was so much easier than I thought it would be.


Ryan Boelter  33:35  

Absolutely. Especially since we had kind of a path that we were not deviating too far from Yeah, from our initial idea. I think that helped out a lot.


Amelia Antrim  33:46  

Definitely. I want to ask as a follow up to that, that best part is there like a, like a moment that you had when you were kind of putting this game together that felt like an aha sort of moment that was like, this is it we found the things that like, clicks into place, and like makes this what I really want it to be?


Cam Banks  34:08  

I suppose when we started seeing these things laid out in the book, when Tina was doing layout, and sort of during the diagrammatical parts of it. I just thought Oh gosh, this really is going to be something people can can get. We've got a you know, really good examples. We have lots of arrows and circles and things pointing everywhere. And I just thought this was really cool. We had a similar feeling recommend we did Smallville when I realized the pathways sort of chart with all the different pieces. And all the different examples we're coming together to it has felt like we had done a fairly good job of it. And that was it was really manifesting as opposed to being on our head


Amelia Antrim  34:48  

as Id right. Like it makes sense when you still put it down on paper not just up here.


Cam Banks  34:52  

Oh, it's super good when that happens, because there are times it does not happen and you like Oh, so


Amelia Antrim  34:59  

Oh yeah, there's spend plenty of times in my life to where it's like, oh, I have this really great idea. And then you write it down and you're like, what? I thought it was good. It's not. This is our favorite part of the show. I think, aside from making characters. We call it our fanfiction section, where instead of playing the game, we just like to talk about what we think would have happened. Um, so let's, let's talk about like, what kind of story would we want to throw these three characters in? And how do you think it goes?


Cam Banks  35:34  

policy? You're asking me? Well,


Amelia Antrim  35:36  

I mean, this is you, we usually kind of like talk it out. Usually Ryan has like a really strong sense of what he wants. And then the rest of us kind of just go Yeah. I don't know. Ryan, do you want to start It's here. Imagine a world


Ryan Boelter  35:52  

I really love the thought of using evil to fight greater evil. That's like, kind of the baseline. Right? Okay. Like, like there's a really bad evil that's, that's coming to unload, destroy the world, or Endor universe. Right? And then take all of that power for itself. Our I don't know, you know, magical girl anime logic. Right. And, and, and we have control of these abilities were the were the only ones that are kind that have the abilities that we have in the in the world. And maybe we see it as like a duty to do that to fight this thing.


Amelia Antrim  36:38  

Yeah, well, we're teenagers. So obviously, we think that the world like rests on our shoulders and races, you know, we're super important.


Ryan Boelter  36:46  

Well, I guess my question is, did we become friends? Or at least acquaintances? Before we started fighting evil together?


Amelia Antrim  36:59  

Oh, yeah. Yeah, that makes a big difference. Yeah.


Ryan Boelter  37:03  

Or, or was it like, we were fighting evil as our alternate personas together, and then eventually figured out that we share a mundane connection at this high school?


Amelia Antrim  37:20  

Um, I mean, I feel like Ryan, I feel like you and I would be like, next door neighbors, all the growing up. And like, we don't really have a whole lot in common. But we're kind of like friends, you know, it's like the friend that you were there. Because we're like, close by, you know. And then like, obviously, as you grow up, you, you branch out and get other friends, but like your neighbors, or your first friends, because they're right there.


Ryan Boelter  37:45  

Yeah. Yeah. I don't know when they're working.


Amelia Antrim  37:49  

I mean, I feel like if Todd wants to be our neighbor, too, we could be like a little neighborhood gang. Because those are really fun. Either. of us. Growing up,


Cam Banks  37:57  

I think that Todd, Todd's family moved into this area. And I think that towels family moved here, because in their sort of worldview, they're the ones fighting evil because they're the Paladin family. Yeah. And they've got this kid who they think you know, will be the next, you know, champion that both of the power primordial and can sort of fight against all these evil things. Todd does not believe that to be the case. And Todd's a terrible child and falls in with some bad kids at school. But those bad kids aren't really bad. They're just while they're the same rebel kids who you were talking about which of the two of you. Okay, so Todd's sort of rebelling against his family by, by hanging out with these goth kids and other wise, you know, just whatever. But the fun thing probably is, I think that what, what's likely to happen is that per Stephanie, and duo realize that they're who they are really quickly. And then because Todd shows up to do something prompted by his parents, perhaps like it's time you go out and do this. There may be an initial clash between the three of them. Oh, and before they can kind of resolve that something worse shows up. So Todd's like, okay, so you're not the bad guys that I have to fight. That is, so let's work about let's work it out. And I think that's that's a classic superhero. Meeting is when they will find each other first and then they go, Oh, crap, we're not we shouldn't do this where she shouldn't be friends.


Amelia Antrim  39:35  

And then we all go over to Todd's house for dinner and his parents actually like us because we were fighting evil the whole time. which just makes Todd really mad because it's there's nothing worse than your parents liking your friends better than you. Absolutely.


Cam Banks  39:49  

Like you don't realize it the two of them their families are super, super bad and you're like well, but the nice kids and you should hang out with them while What's wrong with you, Mom and Dad. I also have this idea that Todd is an early child and that that's the reason that he is the one that they they, if they had had siblings, someone else surely would have stepped up.


Amelia Antrim  40:12  

Right. Like literally any other child.


Cam Banks  40:16  

So, you know, I think that you to come from big families. I mean, Todd's probably like, okay, you know, I need to have that something experience and has never got that. And similarly, Todd's parents think it's great if he has friends. But you don't get to pick your friends apparently.


Amelia Antrim  40:36  

No. No, not if you all have superpowers. No. That's just destiny.


Ryan Boelter  40:44  

Yeah. I like how we we had known each other at least before we clashed as superheroes. Yeah, effectively, right? Yeah. And then the big bad What? So So what do we want to keep the big bad kind of ambiguous? Or? Like, what? What's


Amelia Antrim  41:05  

vague? I like it being just like, bad. Yes. I feel like we don't we don't figure out what it is until, you know,


Cam Banks  41:12  

it's darkness. Right? Because that's an aspect of the magic that Ryan's character has, right. So it's something where it's like, you know,


Amelia Antrim  41:23  

it's capitalism. This is like the sixth episode in a row race tested that that you will


Unknown Speaker  41:32  

stick with. I think that the evil care system


Cam Banks  41:35  

could be the entropy that the stratification and everything else this idea. It's not corruption so much as it is, eventually if this if it's super big bad has its way. The world has no power in it. Because take.


Unknown Speaker  41:53  

Yeah, I like that.


Cam Banks  41:56  

Yeah, absolutely. Kind of the Jeff Bezos of right. Oh, great old ones.


Unknown Speaker  42:03  



Amelia Antrim  42:04  

Yes, I want somebody has all of the money. There's none left for anybody. build a rocket ship.


Ryan Boelter  42:13  

Yeah, come on. Jeff, who certainly listens to our podcast?


Amelia Antrim  42:17  

Hey, listen up. Jeff. Let me tell you


Cam Banks  42:21  

just take a sidebar to talk to, to our sponsor. Okay.


Amelia Antrim  42:30  

Well, let's go ahead and get into our advancement discussion and take it up a level. Take it up a level, level. So in this segment, we talk about character advancement, and growth. So we like to start with, how does the character level up or advance mechanically in this game?


Cam Banks  42:53  

Well, it wouldn't be caught its prime if they weren't like three different ways of doing things. And so once again, we have three different ways of doing things, at least they're the ones that are in the book. And those three ways. We have this idea of callbacks, session, session logs, where each session we you kind of log off and say, okay, for this session, session three, we did this thing, and this is what we learned. And this session for we did this. And then you can refer back to those sessions previously, to kind of do callbacks, which are fun, either flashback style or just referring to them to get benefits. So the longer you play, the more callbacks you can do. And the more you have you in cash those in and kind of draw a line through an episode and kind of cash it in for XP. So, oh, that's really cool. It sticks around either as a thing you can refer to and you don't, you don't personally change all that much. But you do have this kind of growing backstory, which you can always pull on. Or you can sercap these five sessions has been like, maybe it was last season, you know, season one, season two, season one, I'm now cashing in the tidy to make XP and then I'll use Season Two for my quarterbacks for a while. There's one way of doing and I thought it might be really good for this one, because it seems like it's a pretty appropriate episodic sort of game. Number one is milestones. milestones are a little bit like keys. In some of the games you might be from like late the BlackBerry has keys, where when you do a thing, you get XP for doing it. And after a while, you know, you can sort of close it out by doing the thing that gives you the most XP and then you make a new milestone for it. And most characters will have two milestones. The GM can come up with one for the story and say here's, here's a few milestones you can choose. Or you can pursue your personal ones. And they normally give you 1x p for something that's not too difficult to do but involves you actively doing something 3x p for something that kind of works a little bit adjacent or or kind of against your general milestone thing like if your milestone is become a brave hero, and you do the three thing, which is like, get through it when you could go to do something important and you choose instead not to. Okay? So it kind of makes you have that moment in the hero's journey where you kind of go, No, I'm turning away from it for a moment. And then there's the 10x p, which is like, do a major, major, huge decision, do I become the hero? Or do I give up this role for the rest of my life, and now I get to.


Ryan Boelter  45:32  

So that's fun. I


Cam Banks  45:32  

think that's, that's good. We used to have a Marvel Huracan. A few other games, I think could benefit from it. But it doesn't feel very much like a thing we would use for this one. And the last one is just growth pools, which is, when you do things in the game that create growth dice, which you save in a pool, at the end of the session, or in the story, depending how you want to do it, you roll those dice, as opposed to try and beat a number based on what the new one is step up in your character file. When we did that for Smallville, so a good example might be I'm working towards stepping up my relationship dice, or my specialty skill, dice or something. So the more I take stress in the game will get hurt. The more that generates growth, the more I challenge the things I believe that make growth dice. So you do things yourself to sort of, you know, it's the whole school of hard knocks approach. You know, we learn from our experiences. And so therefore, the things that happened to me that make me challenge me, will become growth dice, and those growth dice I can use to roll and try and step up. So very cool. Yeah, I think I'm gonna recommend probably the, the session log version, just because it feels like those rookie entries where it's the entire season one, season two episodes, and you can kind of get back and that was the episode we did their thing. Remember that thing? And they may do that you can get extra D eight asset for calling back to it.


Amelia Antrim  47:02  

Okay, I definitely think that that sounds like what we've described to us, like, you know, not revealing that thing until season two, like makes more sense to do it. Like that.


Ryan Boelter  47:12  

Yeah. And then when you when you do have that advancement, then what effect does advancement have on the the narrative? Does the mechanical benefit represent something in the story?


Cam Banks  47:24  

Yeah, obviously, anytime we change these directions, it changes their focus changes their narrative, wait. Bigger dice means more important. But also the way that you're tackled growth and advancement will also reflect how things work. I mean, obviously, the somewhat out of a show session callback does seem artificial, because it's, there's only a number of them that you've done. But it also reinforces that the story of created together. So the narrative of the past informs, you know how things work out for the current game. Whereas I think the things like the milestones, a major league narrative pushes, like, you're always trying to achieve a thing and get points for doing it. So it's like goal setting, you know?


Amelia Antrim  48:09  

Yeah. I like that. There's different ways to do it, like based on the kind of game that you're playing, I feel like that's, that is not something that I've seen that other sort of, you know, like, I really hate the term generic, but, you know, generic systems, usually, they still only have their one way of gaining XP or advancing or whatever, like, I know, Genesis, it's the same in XP, point by kind of thing. And I know that that doesn't always make sense for stories. So like that this has different options that baked in rather than waiting for, you know, your GM to say, well, we're going to do it this way instead. Because obviously, anybody can do that in any game. But you did it for them.


Cam Banks  48:56  

Yeah. The other thing too, is that I like when XP can be spent on something other than leveling up. I think it's cool when you can unlock things, I think I talked about them in the book unlockables are things in the story that you can kind of spend XP on to become permanent parts of the of the setting. And okay, maybe there are things that have mechanical readings to them that maybe you've got, I can call upon my cousin who is kind of tangentially related to my family, but also has different magical powers to sort of come in here for one scene, and help us out once per session or something like that. Or it's like, I want to unlock a call base that we will have, what's a call headquarters that we have. And over time, we can throw it up into that and unlock different parts of it. That's not you necessarily being leveling up. It's like you've got a shared base of some kind, which you can add cool things to write Oh, yeah.


Amelia Antrim  49:55  

And something that like other people on the group can add things to over time. You Yeah, I'm


Cam Banks  50:00  

a big fan of base building. I think that's one of the coolest things about role playing games if you can do it, especially since you have no idea going in before the game campaign starts what its gonna look like. Yeah, I had one game that I ran of pin dragon and one of the players was super into horses, and horse breeding. And there are kind of rules and Pendragon for that. No King Arthur's knights and things. But she went crazy just into spreadsheets of how many different tires and dams and things and you know what if I breed these two animals together, what happens? Oh, this is a demon horse. Well, cool. Can I have the demon horse be put on like? Yep. Eventually, that was the fun part of the game for her. Her night wasn't as exciting as her horse breeding.


Amelia Antrim  50:49  

There's something for everybody. You know, like, find your fun.


Ryan Boelter  50:53  



Amelia Antrim  50:55  

I lost that. I wish now I'm wishing more games had like, base building mechanics. Yeah, we're playing playing card of blades right now. Which does have like a little bit of that in there. We have defined our collection of stolen art pieces that we have in our base. I feel like that's the first game that I've really, like, gotten to actually design one. I want that more.


Ryan Boelter  51:22  

Yeah. I love that. That's, that's an option we can do in this one. Yeah.


Amelia Antrim  51:27  

Yeah, I know what we're picking. We don't play this game.


Ryan Boelter  51:34  

We need a cool, dark hero base. Yeah. Where we can be all angsty out of prying eyes.


Amelia Antrim  51:42  

Yeah, that'd be some bonus content.


Ryan Boelter  51:44  

There you go. Well, Kim, is there anything else that you want to say about cortex prime? before we head out?


Cam Banks  51:53  

I guess I'm really looking forward to people being able to make their own settings and and contribute to a kind of a community of design, we already have, to some extent done that with what we call the Quartet has confirmed on our discord where we've opened it up, people can make their own little mods and hacks and settings and things. And we are one sort of play test them. So we have we sort of post sessions and people can join them, and they can play test what someone else has made. And then we all kind of do judgments and rate them and things. That's all fine. I think that eventually what will happen is, we'll see even more games that are all kind of similar, forming correct clusters around each other like a little ecosystem. There'll be more games that are very much on this drama, type style, and some will be more like action adventure style. I'm looking forward to seeing, you know, where that trend goes. And what what people tend to like about cortex and what they where they find themselves drawn to. Yeah, absolutely.


Amelia Antrim  52:54  

I always love seeing what people make with these kinds of games. Like, you know, what kind of kind of stuff fan content sort of pops up from it. When people aren't given those kinds of tools where they go with it.


Ryan Boelter  53:06  

Yeah, I'm really excited to see where careers call goes from here as well with cortex with all the different options. Yeah. Now, now that we've learned about the game, it's gonna be really interesting going to the next episode of that show, and, and kind of being able to kind of see what they're doing behind the scenes. Damon? Yeah, exactly. That's, that's gonna be really fun. Yeah. All right. Well, cam, thank you so much for joining us to talk about cortex. Brian. This has been wonderful.


Cam Banks  53:44  

Yes, with a great deal of fun. I've enjoyed it immensely. I think it's always neat to put several brains together to come up with something fun and see what comes out of it.


Ryan Boelter  53:54  

Yeah. Well, can you remind everyone where they can find you online and any other things that you want to shout out to? Yeah,


Cam Banks  54:03  

I think I would tell folks to find me on Twitter at boy monster, Instagram, Rusty cell sword. Do check out cortex Apogee on Twitter as well. It's a cortex Apogee Twitter account with all the updates and things will come out from and also cortex RPG comm for news links and other things to find out discord and join the larger community of people


Ryan Boelter  54:28  

to do that. And a beautiful online version of the book as well. Huh? Yeah, yeah,


Amelia Antrim  54:34  

shout out to our wonderfully searchable


Cam Banks  54:36  

dev team. Yeah, they are great. I love them. Everyone who works at cortex of fandom is a rock star. Hmm.


Amelia Antrim  54:45  

Well, thank you again for joining us and thank you to everyone for listening.


Ryan Boelter  54:51  

Call to


Unknown Speaker  54:53  

Action. Yeah, like that.


Ryan Boelter  54:56  

I was really excited to see cortex prime getting Silver Medal for best rules at the Emmys this year. It's really well deserved and was among some truly inspiring company. It was a blast learning about this game from cam and he was a delight to interview. I hope you enjoyed this series as much as we enjoyed making it and leaning hard into our nonsense. Until we bid you adieu and take at least a week off, we have some quick calls to action. A reminder that September is international podcast month. You can find more info at international podcast or on their Twitter at pod month. Check out our new website, head over to Character Creation Cast comm and see how it looks and let us know what you think of the improvement or if there's anything missing on there that you would like to see. Finally, we seriously thank you for all of your patience and understanding. While we work to get our episodes out on time. Life is absolutely wild. We are human. And we're likely going to have a few more episodes this year to be released a little bit late, but they will be there. So patience is absolutely key. We'll get to it. But until then, stay safe. Drink water, get vaccinated if you can keep making those amazing people. We'll see you next time.


Ryan Boelter  56:50  

Character Creation Cast is a production of the one shot Podcast Network and can be found online at www dot Character Creation Add to the website to get more information on our hosts this show and even our press kit. Character Creation Cast can also be found on Twitter at Creation Cast or on our Discord server at discord Character Creation. is one of your hosts Ryan Boelter and I can be found on twitter at Lord Neptune or online at Lord Neptune calm. Our other host Amelia Antrim can be found on twitter at ginger reckoning. Music for this episode is used with a Creative Commons license, or with permission from the podcast they originated from. Further information can be found within the show notes. Our main theme music is hero remix by Steve combs. And it's used with a creative commons places. This podcast is owned by us under Creative Commons. This episode was edited by Ryan Boelter. Further information for the game systems used and today's guests can be found in the show notes. If you'd like to leave us a rating or review. We have links to various preview platforms out there including Apple podcasts in our show notes. Also check the show notes for links to our other projects. Thanks for joining us. I remember we find that the best part of any role playing game is character creation. So go out there and create some amazing people. We will see you next time.


Amelia Antrim  58:36  

We got to read some show


Unknown Speaker  58:37  

blurbs show blurbs show show show blurbs.


Amelia Antrim  58:44  

Character Creation Cast is hosted by the one shot Podcast Network. If you enjoyed our show, visit one shot podcast comm where you'll find other great shows like Asians represent


Ryan Boelter  58:54  

Asians represent celebrates Asian creators and diversity in the gaming community. Join hosts Agatha chain and Daniel Kwan as they discuss gaming genre and representation with third guests. And occasionally Are you with each other to the sound of Agatha his beloved air horn app? He Yeah, there we go.


Amelia Antrim  59:19  

It did a wonderful microphone in front of my face here. And


Ryan Boelter  59:24  

that's awesome. I know. Everything working over there cam


Cam Banks  59:28  

seems to be perfect. I'm getting waves and what?


Unknown Speaker  59:32  

Wonderful. Okay.


Ryan Boelter  59:35  

All right. Any questions then? Aside from what we've already covered before we start? Nope. Good. Perfect. Okay. So I will give us a five count of silence to pick up background a sound so we can filter that out in the Edit. And then I'll go ahead and get started. Here we go.


Unknown Speaker  59:54  

Lucky. I waited till after I clicked it so that I could say clicky because Mr. It's not the same clicky but I have waveforms. So that's exciting. Big fan of waveforms. Game Really? I feel like


Amelia Antrim  1:00:11  

I feel better. My getting waveform still photos feel better. How does my game get turned up when I like don't touch the microphone.


Unknown Speaker  1:00:17  

What is that about? There's some game ghosts out there somewhere just messing with people's game. I'm so sorry Ryan that was really messy. But please make it into something usable.


Amelia Antrim  1:00:35  

Eleanor got to better chinchilla her summer camp. I was like losing her mind because they're so soft. Yes. Like we shouldn't get one. I was like not getting a chinchilla.


Unknown Speaker  1:00:47  

No, not cheap either.


Amelia Antrim  1:00:49  

No, no, we already have a dog fight like she has no pets. She also made a favorite llama friend at summer camp. And of course that llamas name was trouble. And that's the llama she picked?


Ryan Boelter  1:01:03  

Yeah, of course.


Amelia Antrim  1:01:07  

Yeah, we can stop.


Ryan Boelter  1:01:09  

Let's stop our recording.


Cam Banks  1:01:11  

Not recording.


Ryan Boelter  1:01:14  

All right. All right.


Amelia Antrim  1:01:16  

I have weird air conditioning waveforms again. Just so yeah, those are free. They just turning my ear off because that one time I did and I was so crappy about it. So.


Ryan Boelter  1:01:26  

No, it's fine. They look angrier than they really are.


Unknown Speaker  1:01:31  

Just like me.


Ryan Boelter  1:01:36  

How act?


Unknown Speaker  1:01:38  

Oh, I left my glasses somewhere.


Ryan Boelter  1:01:41  

I assume you need glasses to read. Yeah,


Unknown Speaker  1:01:44  

I got them. Oh, gross.


Amelia Antrim  1:01:47  

The dog was eating. Oh, no. David told me if he knew like all of the crap that's put my glasses through. He doesn't even like that. I put them on top of my head. My ex husband is an optician. And so he's always like, you have to take care of your glasses and you can't like take and I'm like, whatever. You're just like chewing on them like you would have a heart attack.


Ryan Boelter  1:02:18  

Alright, so we can go ahead and stop by recording


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