I’ve always tended toward running GMCs light and loose in my games. A lot of times my notes for a GMC in Silhouette Tribe 8 would look something like Joanite Watch 2d/+1 Fighting/DM x12. I’d have Mekton GMCs statted up with basically a combination of their skill and stat, like Pilot +15. Part of this is because, for me at least, running RPGs is very mentally tiring so I take steps to try to reduce it – and I’d like to spend the time doing other prep work, even if it’s pretty light. Games like Fate or Cortex can be even more mentally tiring for me. Because of this, reducing the GM’s workload by simplifying GMCs was a design goal for Tribe 8 in Cortex and was implemented very early during my playtesting.
Luckily, Cortex Prime offers a number of ideas for handling GMCs out of the box. Many of those techniques fit rather well with what I want, sometimes with a few adjustments. The most basic are minor GMCs, which basically are a set of freely defined traits. The Joanite above might look like this:
Joanite Watch Warrior d8, Poleaxe d8, Easily Tricked d4
The minor GMC style is going to easily be the most common write-up. If need be, an SFX can be slapped on to give them a little bit more punch, but that’s going to be pretty rare. Mobs or bosses are what I’ve used instead in cases like that.
Mobs for me are mostly opposition that, by themselves, may not warrant even a single die rating individually – but together are a threat. Groups of Serfs, packs of zoms or wolves, scray swarms, that sort of thing. A mob of zoms might look like:
Zoms 4d6 Slow Moving d4, Tireless d8, Grab and Bite d6 Growing Numbers: Spend a d6 from the doom pool to add another d6 to the Zom's mob rating.
But mobs aren’t likely the right fit for a squad of a dozen heavily armed Joanites, and having them as individual GMCs is likely wasted effort. The PCs would be very unlikely to try to take them on either as individuals or a group…they’d want to get away. In that case, a crisis pool representing escaping from the Joanites would be a better option. Crisis pools in Cortex Prime are like miniature doom pools. While they’re intended for things like environmental hazards, they work well for all kinds of threats and are easily adapted to other things.
On the other end, scaling individual GMCs means engaging Cortex Prime’s “boss” mechanics. Similar to a mob, bosses have a pool of dice that must be reduced in order to be considered “defeated”, and a handful of traits. What’s great about them is they can be scaled easily, from a Joanite Captain 2d8 to a Z’bri monstrosity 3d8 to a Z’bri 4d10. Even with the addition of some traits and SFX, the format is human readable without excessive abbreviations or excessive jargon, and fits on an index card. Bosses also have more mechanical variation to keep them interesting. For example, this is the Gek’roh that gave players in my Big Bad Con games a run for their money:
Chained Z’bri 3d8 Armored Hide d8, Razor Quills d6, Claws and Teeth d8 Quill Blast: When using Razor Quills, spend d6 entropy to add a d6 and keep an additional effect die for each PC in the scene beyond the first. Multi-Limbs: Spend d6 entropy to leap, clamber, and adhere to surfaces to stay out of Fight range. Mindless Rage: Spend d6 entropy to split Claws and Teeth into 2d6.
Getting the exact mix right with boss pools can take some practice. I’m aiming to get more of during play, if only to help improve guidelines for GMCs. Thankfully, it’s far more interesting for me to create GMCs this way than most other games. Plus, by its nature Cortex has been way more forgiving of making a mistake in creating a GMC. The only worry I have is that with frequent mob and boss pools, combined with the doom pool, crisis pools, and plot milestones, it’s going to be hard for a GM to keep it all straight. That’s a subject for another post though.