Cortex Fantasy Hack

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Each character starts play with three distinctions that can be rolled as a d8 if the distinction would help your character or at a d4 if it would hinder your character. If you choose to roll your distinction as a d4 you get a Plot Point for doing so.

Choose one distinction from each category (Wyrd, Purpose, and Quirk) for your character.

Wyrd Distinction

A character's Wyrd represents their unique spiritual essence and determines what nature of energies they are able to call forth from beyond the Realm of Men.

Chose one of the Wyrd Distinctions below.

Highlighted Skills: Each distinction in this category has Focus as one of it's highlighted skills. Choose two more highlighted skills that make sense to be associated with your character's Wyrd Distinction.

Bonewight: Speakers for the dead, the Bonewight always carries with them a finger bone or other small piece of a favored ancestral corpse that they may consult with for counsel. If they have access to any piece of any corpse, they may focus on it and learn things that the person or creature knew in life.
Note: Difficulty increases based on how long ago the dead thing passed. (The Bonewight's piece of ancestral corpse is always treated as a d6 difficulty (plus any environmental difficulty or complications that might apply).
Pick Bonewight if your concept is maybe a little bit darker, and you like the idea of being a necromantic rumormonger.

Farseer: Oracles and seers, the Farseer's are able to see through the eyes of others. They cannot communicate with that other or force them to take any action or movement, but they see what the other sees. Targets beyond the Farseer's line of sight (unless in a precisely known location) resist with Scale.
Pick Farseer if you like the idea of spying on folk unseen from a distance.

Harbinger: If the Bonewight is the Speaker for the Dead, the Harbinger is the Bringer of Death. They can reach out with their invisible Wyrd and attack, hold, or otherwise interfere with any single creature or object within their line of sight.
Pick Harbinger if mind over matter telekinetic Jedi abilities appeal.

Mistweaver: The Mistweaver commands the primordial elements of fog and mist. They use their command of these elements primarily for concealment and illusion, cloaking areas in fog, altering its density and form to make it look as if things are moving within it, or opening odd channels that muffle or amplify sound - or change it altogether.
Pick Mistweaver if you fancy shadowy concealment and wielding subtle visual and audible misdirection.

Runespeaker: Runespeakers are the saboteurs of the supernatural world. They are able to trace invisible runes of fire and destruction on non-living matter. The Runespeaker must be able to physically touch whatever they are tracing the rune on to effectively do so. Runes activate on the end following turn. (At GM discretion, the player may select an activation time within 5 turns of setting the rune if they roll an extraordinary success).
Pick Runespeaker if you want to downlow sneak in/sneak out and obliterate tactical targets.

Wildwarden: Nature is red of tooth and claw, and the Wildwarden knows how to call those teeth and claws forth. Able to sense animals near to them, whether they can see them or not, the Wildwarden is able to communicate with them and get information from them. They also have the potential to convince the animal in question to act on their behalf if it would be in the animal's nature to do so. As a general rule, the Wildwarden can hold sway over a single large creature, two or three medium creatures, or a swarm of small/tiny creatures at one time.
Pick Wildwarden if you want to to pied-piper/ranger-companion your way through the world.

The Wyrdless: Some characters are born in the manner of folk throughout the wider world, with no access to their Wyrd, no way to reach beyond the Realm of Men. The Red Adepts, who hunt the Wyrded, are unable to sense the Wyrdless, and the null aura of the Wyrdless can mask other Wyrded gathered close to them from the Adepts' supernatural senses.
Pick The Wyrdless if messing with the supernatural just doesn't much appeal to you.

Purpose Distinction

Your character's Purpose Distinction should tell what motivates or drives them. Are they Insatiably Curious? Are they Always There in a Fight? Are they driven to Win Friends and Influence People? Do they Protect Others at All Costs? etc.

Choose one Role Distinction for your character.

Highlighted Skills: Choose three highlighted skills that make sense to be associated with your character's Role Distinction.

Quirk Distinction

Your final Distinction should highlight something singularly unique about your character and tie it to what they do for a living. Are they an Awkward Acrobat? An Ornery Drifter? A Bastard Knife Thrower? Are they a Kind Hearted Servant? Or a Penny Pinching Soldier? Maybe they're a Big Tipping Gambler? etc. It can literally be just about anything that combines a unique character trait with what they spend most of their days doing.

Choose one Quirk Distinction for your character.

Highlighted Skills: Chose three highlighted skills that make sense to be associated with your character's Quirk Distinction.


Each distinction has potential SFX associated with it [as can Signature Assets, but not during chargen]. An SFX is something beyond the base Distinction that you can do that allows for a specific benefit in exchange for a specific cost. To start play, you may create one SFX for each of your Distinctions. Each SFX should have one benefit and require one cost. Below are a list of example Benefits and Costs.

Each SFX you create should conceptually fit the Distinction it is paired with.

Possible Benefits

  • Earn a Plot Point
  • Step up a beneficial die (usually a Skill or Asset, like “step up Melee Combat”) for an action
  • Double a beneficial die (usually a Skill or Asset, like “double Melee Combat”) for an action
  • Step back a non-beneficial die (usually a Complication) for an action
  • Introduce a non-dice related story detail (“I know how to find the resources we need…”)
  • Rename a Complication to change its nature (“I’m not Sickened, I’m Angry”)
  • Reroll a single die after a failed roll
  • Create a d8 Asset for the rest of the scene

Possible Costs

  • Spend a Plot Point (very common)
  • Step back a beneficial die (usually an Attribute, Skill, or Asset) for the scene
  • Choose to do something risky or complicated (“When you attack a red adept in front of their entourage...")
  • Take or step up a broad Complication (like “Take or step up a Complication that represents your physical exhaustion”)
  • Take a specific d8 Complication (like “Take a Heat Exhaustion Complication” d8)

Character Traits


Choose one of the following configurations:

  • Set all four attributes at d8
  • Set one at d10, two at d8, and one at d6
  • Set two at d10 and two at d6.

Your total should equal 32 regardless of which option you choose.

No character may have an attribute higher than d10 or lower than d6 to start the game.


Indicates actions/reactions of violence, force, or power


Indicates actions/reactions of precision, finesse or care


Indicates actions/reactions of insight, wit, or manipulation


Indicates actions/reactions of presence, tenacity, or determination


All skills start at d4

For each instance a skill appears among your Highlighted Skills, raise that skill one die type. So, if a skill shows up once among your Highlighted Skills, it starts at d6. If a skill shows up twice among your Highlighted Skills, it starts at d/. And if a skill shows up three times among your Highlighted Skills, it starts at d10.

You then have 9 points to divide among your skills. Raising any d4 skill up to d6 costs 2 points. Any skill at d6 or higher costs one point for each die type you step it up.

Skills ranked at d6 or higher are considered Trained Skills. Skills ranked at d4 are considered untrained.


Running, jumping, climbing, swimming, etc

Possible Specialties: Endurance, Racing, Holding Breath

Combat, Melee

Close-in fighting, unarmed or with hand held weapons.

Possible Specialties: Sword, Dagger, Axe, Unarmed, Kicks, Combo Moves

Combat, Ranged

Use of thrown (spear, dagger, hatchet), launched (sling, atlatl), or fired (bow, crossbow) weapons

Possible Specialties: Crossbow, Javelin, Sling Stone, Long Range, Point Blank


Convincing others to think or act a certain way or perceive things differently than they did

Possible Specialties: Statesman, Fear Monger, Conciliatory


Concentration. Used to resist Diplomacy and Intimidation.

Possible Specialties: Mind Like a Steel Trap; Too Stupid to be Scared, Can't be Moved


Taking care of people's injuries or ailments, physical or psychological

Possible Specialties: Field Aid, Herbalist, Back Alley Surgeon, Bedside Manner


Seeing behind the words or action presented to the intent behind them. Used to resist Diplomacy and Trickery

Possible Specialties: Empathy, Fellow Trickster, Reason


Coercing someone through threat of force, real or imagined

Possible Specialties: Build Like a Mountain, Barely Suppressed Rage, A Hint of Madness


The ability to suss out commonalities in unfamiliar languages, dialects, or writings with known tongues to gain new understanding

Possible Specialties: Ancient Tongues, Dialects of the Empire, Glyphs and Runes


General understanding and recall. Gain one free specialization for each die rank d6 or higher.

Possible Specialties: Royal Etiquette, Heraldry, Mythology, Astrology, Numerology, Cultures of the Empire, History, Architecture, Famous Landmarks, Warcraft, Cooking, Poisoncraft, etc


Tampering with, setting, unsetting, jamming, or fixing locks, traps, and other machinery.

Possible Specialties: Locksmith, Tinkerer, Trapper


Noticing things in your surroundings that might otherwise go unnoticed

Possible Specialties: Eagle Eye, Nose for Trouble, Eidetic Memory


Acting, singing, playing an instrument, etc

Possible Specialties: Lute Master, Virtuoso, A Thousand Faces


The art of going unseen and unheard

Possible Specialties: Move Silently, Silent Step, Not an Item Out of Place


Tracking, covering your tracks, and foraging food, water, and supplies

Possible Specialties: Streetcraft (urban Trailcraft), Desert Survival, Leave No Tracks


Deceiving or conning somebody, sleight of hand, feinting instead of attacking, etc

Possible Specialties: Pickpocket, Misdirection, Forgeries


Reaching past the Realm of Men and manifesting effects from the Other Side [Must have a Wyrd Distinction to use this skill].

Possible Specialties: A character's choice of Wyrd Specialty must fit with their Wyrd Distinction, so a Farseer might have the specialty Children that makes it easier to use their power on the young, or a Bonewight might have the specialty Creature that makes it easier for them to speak to dead animals, etc

Specialties and Signature Assets

Specialties represent unique focus or training in a narrow aspect of a given skill that grants an extra die to that specific skill in the right situation. For example, specializing in Dagger under Combat, Melee would grant a bonus die any time the character chose to fight using a dagger.

Unless they had a similar specialty under Combat, Ranged, however, the Dagger specialty for Melee would not apply to a thrown dagger.

The Specialty die is always a d6

A character can only have specialties in skills ranked d6 or higher.

Signature Assets are iconic things or concepts associated with a character, such as weapons, armor, a familiar, a unique bit of background that frequently benefits the character, etc. by way of example, King Arthur might have had the Signature Assets Excalibur and Raised by a Ruddy Mystic

Each character has 5 points to divide among Specialties and Signature Assets. These points spend as follows"

  • Buy a single Specialty d6
  • Buy a single Signature Asset d6
  • Upgrade an existing Signature Asset to d8 (max)

Note: if your Lore skill is ranked above d4 you get one or more free specialty under that skill.

d6 = 1 free specialty
d8 = 2 free specialties
d10 = 3 free specialties
d12 = 4 free specialties