# Cortex rules: how to handle complications

The Cortex rules generally say that you should "subtract your complication to a roll in certain situations". What exactly does this mean?

The two ways I can interpret it is:

1. Step penalties equivalent to half your die score. So, if you have a d2 in Cowardice, then if you are making a d10 Willpower / d6 Influence roll, you roll a d8+d6.
2. A marked die that you subtract from your final score. So, if you have a d2 in Cowardice, then if you are making a d10 Willpower / d6 Influence roll, you roll a (d10+d6)-d2.

Option #2 is a bit more complicated, but the players like the increased variability and potential for absolute SNAFU, so that's what we've house ruled. We've also ruled that any roll that results in a 0 or less is a critical failure.

But, it would be nice to know the official rule. Ideas?

There is a third way to interpret it:

A bonus die for the opponent. In cases where the opponent is a fixed number, roll the penalty, and treat the fixed number as the other die.

• Interesting. I didn't think of that, but doesn't that ultimately resolve to option #2, just with adding to the other side instead of subtracting from your side? I'm trying to wrap my head around what the difference ultimately is between option #2 and the bonus die option. And, who rolls the penalty die? Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 12:19
• Not really, a minus die doesn't fit with the roll & keep system that Cortex uses, and if you have it up at around -d10 or something like that, you could be turning up with a total negative result even without otherwise rolling 1s.
– migo
Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 17:27

I'm not sure what the official rule is, as Leverage doesn't include Complications, but I always figured that it would be dice the opponent could use against you. If you've got dX in Cowardice, any time an opponent can use that against you, they roll it in addition to the rest of their dice, increasing their odds of success.

• Smallville (which uses Cortex Plus) gives you a "complication" whenever you roll a 1 on any die. Meaning that the group gets to decide what went wrong. You can still succeed, but the rest of the group gets to decide what went wrong while you were succeeding. So, if I'm robbing a bank, and I succeed on the contest, but I get a complication in the process the rest of the group could determine "But you left your fingerprints behind." Commented May 31, 2011 at 18:58
• Leverage absolutely does have Complications. From p. 67: Whenever a player rolls a 1, the Fixer can hand over a Plot Point to the player and add a Complication to the Job. Commented May 31, 2011 at 20:01
• I meant in the sense of acquiring a dX complication. It's just something that gets narrated in later.
– migo
Commented May 31, 2011 at 21:39
• Ah, I see. I think in Leverage, you'd be talking about Distinctions - complications as part of the character rather than the dynamic complications that arise from rolling a 1. Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 15:27
• No, that's separate too. The question is talking about the type that show up in Smallville (in that case called stress). Cortex Plus is pretty liberal in terms of renaming things, so in talking about the question specifically, Leverage doesn't have anything that matches it.
– migo
Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 1:46