A quick perusal of this blog will quickly show that I’m a fan of the original Cortex system. While I liked the original Serentiy rules, I think the move from traits and complications from die shifts to actual dice ratings was a good idea. Since then, I’ve thought this one of the more elegant and flexible RPG mechanics I’ve seen. It has a few flaws for things like superheroes, but that’s not insurmountable.

The latest set of rules, “Cortex Plus”, was created for the Leverage and Smallville games and imported a lot of ideas from FATE to Cortex. Again, a perusal of the blog will show I’m not a fan of this move…however, I had thought that elements could be brought in to make the GMs job easier.

One place this shines is in the idea of “extras” — the bit players in the game from the gal running the grociery store you have a throw down in to the bad guys’ mooks. Mooks rules are particularly useful in settings like pulp games, Star Wars for stormtroopers, etc., or even for espionage games where you have to storm the volcano base and go through a $#!tsotrm of baddies to get to the real altercation with the privileged henchman and master villain.

Here’s an idea for how to create mooks/extras in your Cortex Classic (using cane sugar, not that corn syrup crap!) using some of the ideas from Cortex Plus (just 1 calorie…not Cortex enough):

Extras are given a general competence rating on how “bad ass” they are, from d4 to d12. It’s assumed there aren’t going to be extras with a d2, because beating up on an infant is uncool. d10 and higher should be reserved for big animals — lions, tigers, and bears or the like. The average bad guy should be d6. the slightly better than average bad guy, computer jockey you’ve hired, etc. d8. They then get a skill/descriptor die. This could be something like “Brick Shithouse” for that massive knuckle-dragger the bad guy has brought in to get you to sell your place to him — Say he has a d10 in Brick Shithouse. This is not overly competent on most things [d6], but when it comes to asskicking his descriptor counts it’s d6+d10. If he’s “Martial Arts Expert” — you can expect that his descriptor counts for Unarmed Combat and Melee Combat, and maybe covert (if he’s a ninja!)

Assume mooks have a 12 Life Points, but that when they take 6 points they’ve either unconscious or stunned enough they’re not a problem (unless the scene calls for it.) A mook like Brick Shithouse would have 16…because he’s built like a brick shithouse.

A few examples:

Fearsome Housecat: d4 for anything except being fearsome — then it’s 2d4 for intimidation and unarmed combat.

Fat Hacker Kid: d4 for anything but Hacking and Comic Book/Sci-fi Knowledge tests, then it’s d4+d10

Late-Night Security Guard: d6 and for perception tests 2d6.

Grizzly Bear: d12 plus d8 in killing your @$$.

Stormtrooper Nazi or the Star Wars kind: d6 and d6 in combat or chase related skills.

SPECTRE volcano base guards: d6 and d6 in combat and not much else.