It was all too much. I had bidding in there, push-your-luck dice pools, and a danger/damage system that was yet another dice pool. Furthermore, although I’d rolled several solo conflicts on my own, I’d never put it to the test with more than 2 sides before. Four players amplified the complexity exponentially.
In the meantime, the Cortex Prime preview rules got an update that included many more examples and that system finally clicked for me. I get it now, and I think I can accomplish what I want from this nascent pulp action game with Cortex without welding something together from scratch.
I think Tightrope still has some value, either in stripping away unnecessary mechanics or building it out as a sort of dice boardgame, like Dungeon Roll or Zombie Dice or something.