Star Wars with Cortex Prime, Episode IV

I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself.

Han Solo

Welcome to the first installment of my foray into building a Cortex Prime system to use for Star Wars with my local group. With luck, some of what I’m doing might resonate with your own personal Star Wars and you’ll get some inspiration from what I’m doing here.

This One Goes There, That One Goes There

Choosing prime sets for characters is actually fairly tricky. You can make a good case for nearly anything because Star Wars is so very broad. Some of the options I considered, and am still considering, include:

  • Affiliations: Rebel, Scum, Imperial. I liked this idea a lot, but usually it’s important that your character is knowledgeable about only one of these. It works better as a distinction.
  • Skills: It makes sense, and it’s a classic way to differentiate characters. I don’t want to use a skill list mainly for the reasons outlined here. In that article I reference the Talents list from my FASERIPbtA hack – I’ll end up using a variant of that instead.
  • Roles: Warrior, Leader, Scoundrel, Tech, Pilot. There are a lot of ways you can spin this. There’s the playbooks from Scum & Villainy: Muscle, Mechanic, Stitch, Speaker, Pilot, Mystic, Scoundrel. There’s the basic classes from Saga Edition: Jedi, Soldier, Scout, Noble, Scoundrel. There’s classes from that KOTOR MMO, or Star Wars Galaxies. Roles are still in the running for this build, because they’d create a nice broad fallback die for your pool.


Everyone in Star Wars shoots blasters, but what makes a Star Wars character unique is what they believe in and what they’re fighting for.

The example that made Values stick for me as a prime set is Han Solo changing from “smuggler” to everyone’s favorite “smuggler with a heart of gold”. Supporting that kind of change mechanically, by challenging values and rewriting trait statements, is more important to me than rating Han’s Pilot skill.

  • Loyalty
    • They’re my friends; I’ve gotta help them
    • Rebel scum
  • Compassion
    • That’s how we’re gonna win; not fighting what we hate, saving what we love
    • I can feel the good in you
  • Faith
    • Rebellions are built on hope
    • Do or do not; there is no try
  • Power
    • I’m in it for the money
    • The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force
  • Survival
    • Better her than me
    • I’ve just made a deal that’ll keep the Empire out of here forever

Rate one value at d10, one at d8, one at d4, and the rest at d6. Write a trait statement for each.


Settling on Relationships as the second prime set after values required a lot of introspection. Despite my misgivings about a whole skill list, did I really want to shunt “what you know how to do” off to distinctions?

The Force changed my mind. You can have a relationship with the Force. In fact, everyone can have a relationship with the Force, even if it’s skepticism. And with trait statements, you can challenge that relationship, turn to the Dark Side, or bring someone back from the Dark Side.

No, I am your father.

Darth Vader

The more I thought about it, the better relationships fit. The relationship between father and son, light side and dark side, is the fulcrum on which the entire fate of the galaxy teeters. Beyond that, you have lifelong friendships like Han and Chewie, secret siblings, old friends, and ancient feuds.

PCs start with relationships with the other PCs as well as any important NPCs created during session zero. They also start with a relationship to the Force. One relationship starts at d10, one at d8, and the rest default to d6. Write a trait statement for each.

Here’s one take on Han Solo as an example:

  • Chewbacca d10
    • It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee
  • Lando Calrissian d8
    • We go way back, Lando and me
  • Jabba the Hutt d6
    • I was just on my way to pay you back
  • The Force d6
    • Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side


The first distinction is your archetype. This is your High Concept aspect, to use Fate terms. Your character class. It covers “what you are” in a general sense, and should be a constant fallback option if nothing else fits your action. I’ll personally be using the massive list of talent tree names across Fantasy Flight’s 3 Star Wars games. That should cover areas of expertise without needing a big skill list or samey roles.

Attaching SFX to distinctions can create some crunch that should appeal to my players, giving the feeling of edges or talents or feats.

Other Trait Sets

There’s a lot to like about this setup so far, but I wonder if players will be able to reliably build dice pools from values, relationships, and distinctions. I think values are good, and you should always be able to find a way to work in a distinction, but relationships might not always be applicable. I’m thinking about Cam’s Hammerheads setting in the Cortex Prime document and how it uses attributes, skills, distinctions, and relationships. There might be room for Roles yet.

5 thoughts on “Star Wars with Cortex Prime, Episode IV

  1. Addendum: I’m leaning towards using skills along with Values and the usual Distinctions:


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