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Skip Navigation LinksHack Guidelines>Plot Points

Plot Points

As in Cortex Prime, when using this hack Plot Points (PP) are the currency of play. They are earned by investing in the story or taking risks, and spent to enhance the impact of the character on the story, to activate opportunities rolled by the GM, and as a cost to activate some powerful abilities.

The GM has an infinite supply of Plot Points to distribute to player characters when appropriate, while player characters start each session with at least one Plot Point and potentially more.

Physical and Practical Considerations

Plot Points should have a physical representation; glass beads, poker chips, coins, or tokens are all common choices. It is highly recommended to not use anything messy or edible to represent Plot Points. All Plot Points not currently in the possession of major characters (PC's and important NPC's) participating in the session are kept in the Plot Point Reserve (some players prefer the term "bank", like in Monopoly). In theory, the Reserve has an infinite supply of Plot Points, but a starting Reserve of about sixty (60) Plot Points should be plenty for most sessions.

The GM controls the Reserve, and is in charge of issuing Plot Points from it to major characters, when it is appropriate to do so. When Plot Points are spent they are returned to the Reserve; however when Plot Points are spent as part of resolving an action or reaction, it can be useful to keep them in the play area where the dice pool resolution they were spent on is being determined in order to help keep straight what is happening, and then toss them into the Reserve after everything is resolved.

Gaining Plot Points

Major characters start each session with a number of Plot Points equal to their Starting Plot Point Rating; for most characters this is one (1) Plot Point. If a character ended their last session with more Plot Points than their Starting Plot Point Rating the excess Plot Points are lost; thus there is no incentive to hoard Plot Points during a session or to run the game clock out at the end of a session in an attempt to start the next session sitting on a pile of Plot Points. It's a use 'em or lose 'em arrangement.

There are several ways a character can gain additional Plot Points during a session; the most common of which is by a player choosing to describe how one of their Distinctions is disadvantageous to their character in this situation and adding a d4 instead of a d8 to one of their character's dice pools. This option has the advantage of being entirely under the control of the player. It also incentivizes players to take Distinctions that can potentially be either good or bad depending upon circumstances, which tends to make for more complex and interesting characters.

The second most common way of gaining more Plot Points during a session is a little more complicated; when a character's dice pool is rolled each '1' in the result represents the opportunity for something disadvantageous to happen; the GM (or other players!) may activate these opportunities by paying a Plot Point to the affected character. This isn't as reliable as players can't predict when they will roll 1's, but the GM is motivated to activate most opportunities offered by players as it is the primary tool available to them to grow the Doom Pool, and thus it will happen frequently during a typical session.

Additionally, some characters also have Limits which offer Plot Points when they complicate the character, and some characters select Milestone Goals that grant Plot Points when they are achieved.

Plot Points Earned During A Resolution

It is important to note that Plot Points earned during a dice pool resolution (including forming the dice pool) cannot be spent on that same resolution. Therefore a player should set such Plot Points aside, separate from any they already had before the resolution began. When the current dice pool resolution is over, the character gains those Plot Points and may spend them normally thereafter.

For instance, if a Distinction is added to a dice pool as a d4 instead of a d8, a Plot Point is gained but cannot be applied during the resolution of the action or reaction that dice pool was assembled for. Similarly, Plot Points gained due to having opportunities activated cannot be spent to influence the outcome of the dice roll that offered those opportunities.

This is an important game balance consideration, and a failure to remember or enforce this practice strongly advantages player characters and can trivialize many challenges and ultimately result in an unchallenging play experience that will typically become boring for most people and undermine the long term playability of the game.

Spending Plot Points

Plot Points are spent by major characters for a variety of powerful advantages over the course of a session. The GM controls the Plot Point expenditures for major NPC's, and each player controls the expenditure of their own character's Plot Points. Spending a Plot Point to gain a benefit or activate an ability is voluntary; players and the GM have full agency over the choice to use them or not for the characters they respectively control.

The following table summarizes the common things that a character can spend Plot Points on, and a detailed explanation of each options follows.

Change Stress you've taken to another type of Stress

Some Special Effects (SFX) and Limits require a Plot Point to be spent

Activate an opportunity

Before you roll, Plot Points may be spent to:

  • Extend the range of a Standard Range Ability trait by one (1) zone
  • Add an extra die to your dice pool
    • two Distinctions
    • two Aptitudes
    • two Ability Set traits
  • On a reaction, activate an opportunity to add a d8 (or potentially higher) to your dice pool

After you roll, Plot Points may be spent to:

  • Reroll a single die; the second result must be taken
  • Include an extra die from your roll in your total
  • Use an effect die from a reaction roll
  • Keep an extra effect die

Change Stress Type

When a character would take Body Stress they can spend a Plot Point to take the Stress on their Ego Stress Track, and vice versa. This is typically a desperation tactic to avoid being taken out, but a character with Ability traits or SFX that allow them to mitigate or manage Body Stress or Ego Stress might do this purposefuly to fully leverage their capabilities.

Satisfy A SFX

Some particularly powerful SFX require a character to spend one (1) Plot Point to use them. The timing will vary depending upon the nature of a given SFX, but regardless of the timing of anything else going on the character pays the Plot Point immediately when the SFX takes effect. This might happen before, during, or after a dice roll, in the middle of some other character's action or reaction, or conceivably at any time during gameplay. If it is valid to use the SFX the character may interrupt whatever is currently going on to spend the Plot Point and resolve the SFX's effect, after which gameplay resumes.

Satisfy A Limit

Some Limits require a character to spend a Plot Point (and also possibly activate an opportunity) to do various things (such as recover a shut down SFX, Trait, or Ability Set), or something similar. The timing of spending a Plot Point per the directions of a Limit works exactly the same as spending a Plot Point for a SFX, when the circumstances apply whatever is currently going on is interrupted to resolve the Limit's effect, after which gameplay resumes.

Activate An Opportunity

When an opposing character in the Scene offers an opportunity, a character may spend a Plot Point to activate it.


In some circumstances, a character activating an opportunity can put a d6 Complication into play, or improve an existing Complication by d6 instead of exercising some other option. If the opponent offered more than one opportunity, then for each additional opportunity offered the character may step up the relevant Complication to a maximum of a d12. For instance, if four opportunities were offered a character could spend one (1) Plot Point to put a d12 Complication into play affecting the character that offered the opportunities. Note that sufficient justification must be provided to explain the type and severity of the relevant Complication.

Before Rolling A Dice Pool

When a character is about to take an action or reaction, they first must justify what they are attempting to do and satisfy any rules restrictions (such as checking that they are within range of whatever they are trying to affect). Once that has been accomplished, a dice pool is formed; Plot Points can be spent on various things as part of this process.

Add Extra Trait Dice

Normally a character can add one Trait die from the same trait group to the same dice pool; one Distinction, one Aptitude, and one Ability Trait per Ability Set. However a Plot Point can be spent to allow an additional die from the same trait group to be added to a dice pool.

For instance if more than one of a character's Distinctions applies to the action or reaction they are attempting, a Plot Point could be spent to allow another Distinction die to be added to the dice pool. A character might want to combine multiple Aptitudes; a master swordsman might do something like spend two (2) Plot Points to add Violence, Smarts, and Finesse to the same dice pool as part of a complex series of feints, flourishes, and thrusts.

Similarly, a character might have an Ability Set with both Ranged and Melee and want to use both Ability traits in a single combined attack, or combine Durability and Reflexes on a reaction to represent rolling with a punch, avoiding some of the force and absorbing the rest. The possibilites are endless, limited only by the ability of the player to justify how the additional die they want to add is applicable to the situation.

React To Opportunity

When forming a dice pool to make a reaction to some other character's action, if any opportunities were offered in that action's result the reacting character can spend a Plot Point to add a d8 to their reaction dice pool. If the opponent offered more than one opportunity, then for each additional opportunity offered the character may step up this d8, up to a d12. For instance, if three opportunities were offered the reacting chacter could spend one (1) Plot Point and add a d12 to their reaction dice pool.

Extend Range

Some Ability traits use Standard Range, which determines range in terms of zones based upon the step of the Ability trait. A Plot Point can be spent to extend this maximum range on the action or reaction the character is about to take by one (1) zone per Plot Point spent.

After Rolling A Dice Pool

Once a dice pool has been rolled for an action or reaction, Plot Points can be spent in various ways during the resolution to change the outcome.

Reroll A Die

Immediately after rolling, before 1's are resolved, a character can spend a Plot Point to reroll a single die. Any number of Plot Points can be spent like this on separate dice, but each individual die can only be rerolled once and the second result must be taken.

Include An Extra Die In Your Total

Normally two dice from the rolled result are selected and their face values are added together to form the action or reaction's total; the higher the total the more likely the roll will succeed. Before a total is declared, a character can spend a Plot Point to include an additional die when forming their total.

Multiple Plot Points can be spent to allow multiple additional dice to be include in the total (until no more dice remain in the result). However, dice used to form the roll's total can't be used as part of the roll's effect.

Reaction Effect Die

Normally a character does not get to choose an effect die from a reaction roll. However, a character can spend a Plot Point to pick an effect die from a successful reaction roll result and apply it in exactly the same way as if they themselves had taken a successful action.

Keep An Extra Effect Die

Normally a character may choose one die from a successful action roll to be their effect die, and similarly they may choose one die from a successful reaction roll to be their effect die if a Plot Point has been spent to allow it. In either case a character can spend a Plot Point to keep an additional effect die from their result. This can allow a character to attack multiple targets, do Stress and also introduce a Complication or an Asset with the same roll, and so on. This offers excellent action economy.

Multiple Plot Points can be spent to keep additional effect dice (until no more dice remain in the result). However, dice used as an effect die can't be used as part of the roll's total.

It should be noted that multiple effect dice from the same roll do not combine or stack with themselves, so for instance a character cannot apply multiple Body Stress effect dice to the same target with a single attack. However it is completely valid to apply multiple effect dice to inflict Body Stress on multiple targets with a single attack, or to inflict both Body Stress and Ego Stress on the same target with the same attack.

In all cases sufficient narrative justification is necessary to explain what is happening by the application of multiple effect dice; anything that simply doesn't make sense to the situation is not allowed.


Normally a character who wants the benefit of a SFX must have spent Advances to permanently add that SFX to their character sheet. However, as an option a GM might allow a character to spend two (2) Plot Points to gain the benefits of a specific SFX the character does not actually have for a single Panel. This is called a Stunt, and allows for a circumstance sometimes seen in fiction where a character pulls off a trick that is outside of what they are normally capable of. The decision of whether or not to allow this option, or more selectively to allow it for some SFX and situations and not others, is entirely subject to GM discretion.

Hoarding Plot Points

Spending Plot Points is voluntary, and given how potentially useful a Plot Point not spent now might be later some players may be tempted to hoard their Plot Points. On the surface this seems like a reasonable and shrewd strategy, however the game works best and is most fun when Plot Points flow back and forth between characters and the Reserve, and players hoarding them can suck the energy right out of a session.

Non-intuitively, hoarding Plot Points during an Action Scene in an attempt to force a "win" in a later encounter makes the current encounter take longer, which gives the GM more chances to build up the doom pool and thus often puts the player characters at more overall risk. So in addition to being less fun, hoarding Plot Points is often also inefficient or even dangerous.

A sort of Goldilocks rule of thumb for how many Plot Points a player should try to keep on hand at any given time applies. It is always a good idea to try to keep back between one (1) and three (3) Plot Points before heading into an escalating situation, but hoarding more than that is usually counterproductive and a player would probably be better off spending some of their Plot Points in an attempt to move the story forward faster towards an outcome beneficial to the player characters.

Additionally, as any unspent Plot Points held at the end of a session are returned to the Reserve, as a session gets closer to being over a player might as well go all in and try to end with no Plot Points remaining. Characters will start the next session with a number of Plot Points equal to their Starting Plot Point Rating, so there is no benefit to exiting a session sitting on a pile of Plot Points; each one unspent is just wasted potential.