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Cover of the 2nd edition CORPS core rule book
|Publisher(s)||Blacksburg Tactical Research Center|
When the game was first published, it was available in game stores and conventions. Beginning in 2003, Blacksburg Tactical Research Center ended publication of CORPS books and related materials. They are available only in a PDF format download, or printed on demand.
In 1987, Blacksburg Tactical Research Center ("BTRC") published its first game, Timelords, in which players played characters based upon themselves in a time travel setting. As a time travel/science fiction based game crossing many possible settings, much of the groundwork was already laid for converting the base system into a truly universal RPG, and in fact some players were already using it as a generic game system. The CORPS system is loosely based on the Timelords system, but dropping detailed realism in exchange for speed and playability.
The CORPS game book was first published in 1990 in a small (by comparison to other RPGs) print run and limited marketing. This was standard business practice for BTRC, which has tried to never go into excessive debt to introduce a product. The system was initially criticized for not being a truly universal RPG, focusing only on human centered settings. BTRC attempted to learn from this criticism and make changes in the design of its 2nd edition, published in 1995, and later in its next universal system, EABA.
In August 2008, Applied Vectors entered into a new contract to create the CORPS Rules Expansion, which included a host of addons for the original game, including a bestiary and reprinted material from the original first edition game. Although this was a new contract, it followed an unrealised earlier contract entered into some time before. This was made available in April 2009.
In September 2011 Applied Vectors announced a license agreement with BTRC to produce the 3rd edition of the CORPS roleplaying game. This was intended to be a complete overhaul of the system, but as of March 31, 2018 no product other than the CORPS Rules Expansion has appeared and the company seems to be concentrating its efforts on other game systems.
CORPS uses a custom d10 based system for most actions.
A character in CORPS is built based on two types of statistic based on Attributes and Skills. These are purchased in a points based system, using Attribute Points (AP) to purchase attributes, and Skill Points (SP) to purchase skills. The total number of points available to spend depends on the setting and Game Master. A "normal" human might start with 100AP and 50SP, while a superhero character might start with 200AP and SP (or more).
Attributes are ranked on a 1-10 scale, with an average human rating a 4-5 in any one attribute and 10 being human maximum. CORPS uses six basic Attributes: Strength, Agility, Awareness, Willpower, Health and Power.
The cost of an Attribute is the square of the Attribute rank purchased, so a Strength of 4 would cost 16AP, and an Agility of 5 would cost 25AP.
Skills are linked to attribute scores via aptitudes (attribute/4) and applied to a specific area. Certain skill level requires Skill Points equal to square of the desired skill level minus the square of the related aptitude. Hence character with a high attribute would have to spend less Skill Points to develop skills related to that attribute.
Skills are further broken down into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary skills. These break down specializations of specific skills. Secondary skills have a maximum level of one-half of the associated Primary skill, and Tertiary skills have a maximum level of one-half of the associated Secondary skill. The aptitude savings apply only to primary skills.
For example, the character with the Firearms skill of 4 may decide to also purchase the associated Secondary skill of Longarms with a maximum of 2, and the Tertiary skill of M-16A2 with a maximum of 1. This character could then use an M-16A2 rifle with a total skill of 7.
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Players can also use the points for additional advantages or gain more points by accepting disadvantages. These are very generic like Age, Authority/Duty, Natural Aptitude/Debility, Physical Advantage/Limitation, Psychological Limitation and Wealth (positive or negative). The system also gives some points for writing a character background and drawing a character portrait.
To keep the system simple and fast moving, success rolls are not needed for many actions. Any action a character may attempt is rated based on difficulty. If the character's appropriate skill level is equal to or higher than the difficulty, the action succeeds automatically. If it is lower, the player may roll 1d10. If they roll less than 11 minus the difference between their skill and the difficulty of the action times 2, they succeed.
For example, the character above with a total skill of 7 attempts an action with a difficulty of 8. It is higher than his skill, so it's not automatic. The difference is only 1, so he needs to roll a 9 or less. (11 - (2x1) = 9). If the action had a difficulty of 9, he would need to roll a 7 or less.
While it may seem confusing at first, this system makes success rolls very quick and predictable. The only rolls ever needed are 9, 7, 5, 3, or 1. Any action with a difficulty more than 5 points higher than a character's skill is therefore impossible unless the campaign uses the "long shot" rule; if the player rolls 1, they may roll again with a -5 difficulty.
Characters advance by increasing their skills and attributes. During play, characters earn additional Attribute and Skills Points related to the attributed and skills they used in play. The cost to increase a skill or attribute is the difference between the cost of the level they currently have, and the cost of the level they want. Therefore, to improve a Strength score from 5 to 6 would cost 11 points (6² - 5² = '11, omitting aptitude savings).
CORPS Related Game Worlds
- Timelords, a CORPS version of the original game
- Dreamtime, a mythical stone-age setting
- Apocalypse, a dark alternate history setting written by Charles Rice under the pseudonym Ed Rice.