Dr BreenTimeWatch pledging is now closed. The TimeWatch RPG will be available for pre-order from the Pelgrane Store in a few months.

 


 Bile roachAvoiding the Gimmick

by Kevin Kulp

TimeWatch, Pelgrane Press’s recently Kickstarted game of investigative time travel, falls into the same category of games that play quite differently as a one-shot than they do as a continuing campaign. Feng Shui, Trail of Cthulhu, and Night’s Black Agents fall into this category as well, as does Paranoia… okay, who am I kidding? I’m having a little trouble imagining a game of Paranoia that isn’t a one-shot. I’ve played several games where the character death count was 35 out of 36.

But I digress.

In these games, the assumption and goals for a one-shot game may be very different than for a campaign. Loot and (most) character development doesn’t matter, and neither do the long-term consequences of the characters’ actions. It doesn’t matter if five of your six Lovecraftian investigators die or are driven screamingly insane, so long as the hideous evil is thwarted. It’s okay if your secret agents blow up Cartagena; law enforcement heat doesn’t carry over into the next one-shot. And your Feng Shui everyman hero probably isn’t going to be all that different at the end of a one-shot adventure than he was at the beginning of play.

If you’re in a long-term campaign, however, these things matter. Your investigator will probably prefer to keep her sanity and a portion of her health. Those agents discover that any massive assault that makes international news has consequences. Your everyman hero may fall in love, develop allies, and decide there are things in this world he’d give his life for.

That brings us to TimeWatch. I designed the game to provide an intuitive and self-contained one-shot adventure. That’s evident in the default mission structure: get a mission, time travel, investigate the time disturbance, try to fix history, and take down the bad guys before they use time travel to detect and assault you first. It’s fun, allows huge amounts of flexibility, and (surprisingly for a time travel game) like any one-shot has a minimum of real consequences. Each mission is self-contained, and there’s not necessarily much character development in the process. History is restored, but have the characters fundamentally changed? You had to replace Abraham Lincoln with a cyborg after accidentally getting him killed early, but will anyone notice before Ford’s Theater?

That’s where the concept of a TimeWatch continuing campaign comes in. Here are three rules to remember as you settle into a TimeWatch campaign:

  • Relationships and secrets matter
  • Enemies remember and multiply
  • Small changes add up

Relationships and Secrets Matter. If you’re playing more than a game or two, pay attention to whom your character meets, trusts, and loves. Maybe you live embedded in the normal time stream while not working, with a normal job, boss, family and set of friends who care for you, and from whom you need to keep secrets. Perhaps you have relationships with TimeWatch coworkers, never quite knowing who in the vast organization is on your side and who may be subtly working against you. Do hidden secrets turn allies to enemies — and are you the one to blame? This is why characters have secrets, and GMs are encouraged to exploit and draw on them for adventure ideas.

Your GM may include factions, secret organizations or cabals within both TimeWatch and history as a whole, giving you and your group secret and personal missions to accomplish alongside your normal history-saving work. When you aren’t quite sure why you’ve been asked to accomplish something, the long-term ramifications of your actions become a lot more interesting.

Enemies Remember and Multiply. You may have to fight an arch-nemesis long before you’ve ever met her for the first time. You may have the allies of an enemy come calling at the time when you’re the most vulnerable. Any history you let be known might conceivably be exploited by your foes, and don’t be surprised if unexplained and mysterious enemies show up at exceptionally inconvenient moments. They’ll strike to eliminate you from TimeWatch if you let them, and that may mean a tactic as insidious as ensuring that you have an incredibly happy childhood, just so you’re never tempted to lead a life of adventure.

You can use this same game feature against your enemies. Try to discover the earliest point when they might be vulnerable. Strike against their friends, relatives, or history. Harass them at a half dozen different places in their life, in the hopes of stopping their ultimate plans. Just be cautious not to be the cause of their hostility in the first place.

Ultimately, continuing play becomes personal. It becomes more about the agents and what they experience during their missions, than it does about solving the mission itself and saving history. The best games are a combination of the two.

Small Changes Add Up. If you end up with some sloppy solutions to alternate history, enemies may try to leverage and exploit these for their own gain. Say, for instance, that you teach some jolly Austrian children baseball while on a mission in the 19th century. That’s the sort of thing that history usually takes care of on its own, reabsorbing the knowledge back into the river of time until Abner Doubleday reads about the Austrian game and decides to re-invent it. A clever GM might have your enemies try to pry that small shift into a much larger breach, changing the timestream in unexpected ways just to try to open some weaknesses in the flow of history. Continuity in multiple missions is a joy, mostly because you may find yourself dodging and hiding from your younger selves from three missions ago, just to reduce the chance of paradox.

Work to avoid the gimmick. That’s really what time travel is –  a fabulous gimmick, but it’s a means to an end just as much as it is an integral part of your everyday adventures. Once you get used to the flexibility and problem-solving that a time machine gives you, you should break the pattern and experience a mission or an adventure that might be solved almost completely without your time machine. As your missions transition to become more personal, and you find your character changing in both power and attitude as a result, you’ll be well settled in for long-term campaign play.

Just remember, unlike Paranoia, every TimeWatch character doesn’t start the game with six disposable and identical clones. Your character development may benefit as a result.

You can still pledge to TimeWatch until April 1st 2014; see details at http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=14572.

 

The TimeWatch RPG  is backed – more than backed! Thank you to everyone who pledged, encouraged others to back and upgrade their pledges – everyone has benefitted with a full colour hardback.

You can see the list of available pledge levels and add-ons here.

Until 1st April, new backers can still pledge at any available level, and get add-ons via paypal. Email us and Paypal funds to simon@dyingearth.com.

Until further notice existing backers can add add-ons and  increase their pledges via paypal. Email us and Paypal funds to simon@dyingearth.com.

TimeWatch cover 300Scenes from TimeWatch:

An adversary flees across the pristine diamond-bearing beaches of South Africa, ocean on his left and TimeWatch agents far behind. “It’s a shame that I’ll be going back to last week and covering that area with stun mines,” says an agent. roll roll The sound of an explosion echoes across the beach, ending the easiest chase ever.

– o –

“You!” taunts agent Mace Hunter, screaming up at a rogue T-Rex summoned by Nazi scientists into 1940s Berlin. “Stop eating my teammate!” The massive dinosaur swallows what’s left of Dr. Breen, swings its ponderous head towards Mace, and lurches forward like the predator it is. Its roar shakes the building. Mace raises his high-tech elephant gun, squints his eyes, and smiles.

– o –

“You can not trust these people!” claims a rogue time traveler from the future, hoping to influence the Great Khan. “They are unnatural witches who you barely know!”

“These people?” growls the Khan. He slaps a grizzled TimeWatch agent on the back. “They have been my friends, commanders, and bodyguards for almost 20 years. It is YOU who can not be trusted. Guards, kill him.”

“Best long con ever,” mutters one of the agents to the others. They palm their PaciFists and move in.

– o –

A TimeWatch agent arrives in ancient Egypt, only to see the Sphinx bearing her own face. “Why does the sphinx look like you?” asks the rest of the team.

“I don’t know?” she hazards. “I look pretty good up there. But we better go see what my future self has gotten up to. Something, I think, has gone horribly wrong.”

“Guys? There’s a 27th century starship hovering over that pyramid,” says their scout. “That might be an understatement.”

– o –

“Stay away from that — kzkt! — body!” The Russian soldier starts to move, but is held back by Altani, a TimeWatch agent with a drawn pistol and a bad attitude.

“This body?” asks Dr. Breen innocently, and she rips off another hunk of the psi-active bile that coats the unconscious form. The Russian soldier’s face bulges as a giant mandible swells and pops through the skin, mottled brown chitin reflecting dully in the overhead fluorescents. An extra arm bursts through the front of the soldier’s chest, followed by several more. Flesh splatters. Now the soldier’s flesh-mask is hanging loosely from its head, and the ezeru’s true eyes can be seen behind the disguise. They are entirely inhuman.

“Poor choice,” buzzes the insectoid ezeru, and its limbs move faster than a human eye can follow. Altani screams.

– o –

Three days left to join 1500 other fans and back the Kickstarter! Forget these; go make your OWN TimeWatch stories.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kevinkulp/timewatch-gumshoe-investigative-time-travel-rpg

 

 

TimeWatch cover 300The Future Us Knew TimeWatch WOULD Be Successful…

…but apparently to avoid any paradox or chronal instability, we failed to tell our current selves exactly the extent to which that would be true. The GUMSHOE game of investigative time travel has had a great start on Kickstarter, raising close to $28K in funding over the first 48 hours. That’s unlocked ten stretch goals, including three mission hooks, with one from Kenneth Hite. Two campaign style expansions have been unlocked, Pulp Action TimeWatch and a Quantum Leap-style solo campaign, but there’s still lots to go.

What’s The Pitch?

You’re an elite TimeWatch agent from somewhere across time, working to prevent alternate histories and chronal disaster. You’ve got a time machine, high-powered weaponry, and a whole lot of history to save. Better get started.

That makes for a fun premise, but one of the things we’ve been surprised about is how flexible the concept is. Want to emulate your favorite TV show or time travel movie? The game should be able to handle it. That’s true from killer future cyborgs like the T-1000, to parallel universe jumping in the style of Sliders, to touring the future and past of alien planets as a tourist in a larger-than-expected time machine. Of particular note are the possibility of a Conspiracy campaign, where you never know who to trust and your own team could be infiltrated by aliens or the people who work for them, and the Horror Campaign, where time travel itself releases chronal monstrosities across time that you may have to deal with… even if it makes the problem worse in the process.

Want To See It?

We’ve added a $1 pledge level to the Kickstarter under the theory that some people will want to see the playtest rules before deciding whether the game is right for them. That will get you access to the Jurassic Edition, a 260-odd-page PDF copy of TimeWatch’s playtest documents. Grab it, argue about it, and play it if you’re at all curious.

What’s Next?

Revealed stretch goals include:

  • A specially-commissioned TimeWatch theme from composer James Semple
  • The above-mentioned Tourist-style campaign that captures the joy and the themes from your favorite time traveling TV show—jelly babies and robotic dog optional
  • A Rebellion-style campaign where you’re the people trying to change history and make it a better place, while TimeWatch is cast in the role of the evil empire trying to stop you
  • Hardcover rulebooks!
  • Building an actual time machine (mind you, the amount to hit this stretch goal is a bit high)

Swing by, take a look, and say hi. Unless you already did last week. Sometimes, it’s a bit difficult to be sure.

TimeWatch cover 300

The TimeWatch Kickstarter is funded, and you can still pledge or change your existing pledges and add-ons here.

13th century Europe is enslaved, there’s an army of Mongol warriors burning the city of Paris, and the Supreme Khan is alive and well in Mongolia? Someone is changing history again, and it’s up to your team to fix it.
Welcome to TimeWatch.

TimeWatch, by Kevin Kulp, is a GUMSHOE game of investigative time travel. You are a defender of history, an elite TimeWatch agent plucked out of your native era and trained to stop saboteurs from ripping history apart. Your training allows you to diagnose disruptions in the time stream and track down the cause, making conclusions that less capable investigators might just guess at. The TimeWatch rules presume that you are a highly competent badass. Who are you to prove them wrong?

If you’ve played other GUMSHOE games like Night’s Black Agents and Trail of Cthulhu, TimeWatch’s mechanics will look familiar. It uses a pared-down ability list (Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, and various engineering abilities are all grouped under the ability “Science!”, whose exclamation point tells you quite a bit about the game’s tone) and can be played in a variety of different styles. You can play it in Pulp style if you want more dinosaurs and aliens, Rebel style if you want to be the people changing history for the better, Cinematic style if you want to emulate your favorite time travel movie, and more. The default is Patrol style, acting as time cops to save the timeline.

The Kickstarter is now live! You can see how it’s progressing here.

 

Status: In development

T-rexby Kevin Kulp

One of my favorite things about GUMSHOE games is the Preparedness ability. It’s an ability that’s designed to eliminate gearing-up at the beginning of the play session. Instead of trying to guess at what weaponry, gear, explosives and devices you’re going to need for the mission, you’re assumed to bring a bunch of things with you that you can use on the fly. When you need an item, make a Preparedness test. If you’re successful, you pull the item out of your kit and you’re ready to go.

I love this because it rewards improvisational creativity. My friend Adam drove this home when, as noted in the p. 184 sidebar in Kenneth Hite’s Night’s Black Agents, Adam’s character produced a rocket launcher and blew my escaping bad guy’s helicopter right out of the sky. Bastard.

In TimeWatch, this conventional use of Preparedness still holds true, but hey — it’s a time travel game! That means you have carte blanche for Bill-and-Ted-style tactics. Sitting at a table in a restaurant when being confronted by an adversary, it’s perfectly legitimate to say “When this mission is over, I’m going to time travel back here in disguise and strap a pistol to the underside of this table.” Spend a few points, make your Preparedness test, and the pistol’s just where you expect it should be.

That’s true, at least, as long as you haven’t previously looked at the underside of that table. If you had, paradox would have prevented this trick from working. That makes a closed door a TimeWatch agent’s best friend, because until that door is open, your team could use Preparedness to put whatever they need on the other side. Once you’ve seen what’s there, though, you’ll have to be creative to get new items into that scene.

This ability has gotten used extensively in playtest, mostly because it’s a classic time travel trick and because it’s so much freakin’ fun to create weapons and tools on the fly. If you have 8 or more points of Preparedness, your character also has the Flashback booster, which lets you state that this sort of countermeasure is already in place. “Oh, he’s running from us down the beach? Later, remind me to travel back here and bury a few neural disruption landmines under the sand over there.” (roll, roll, WHOOMP.) “Ah, there they go now.”

The other reason I like Preparedness is because TimeWatch is a game where you may be jumping forwards and backwards in time during the same mission, and the disruptor rifle you need in the 24th century won’t be tremendously popular back in the witch trials of colonial Salem. If you want to get a chronomorphic weapon instead (a weapon that changes shape to match the time period), or a local weapon, no problem; make a Preparedness test. Just try not to get accused of witchcraft in the process.

TimeWatch is an upcoming Pelgrane Press GUMSHOE RPG about time cops, by Kevin Kulp, due to be Kickstarted in January 2014. Stay in touch at @timewatchrpg. To be notified when the Kickstarter goes live, click http://bit.ly/1hSd99K

The world has changed. Again.

China wasn’t supposed to colonize 15th century North America, right? And yet you find yourself being attacked by eunuch swordsmen in what should be San Francisco. Some time traveler told the Golden Fleet about the Pacific oceanic gyre that would lead them to a rich new land. Someone you’ll have to stop.

Welcome to TimeWatch.

TimeWatch cover 300TimeWatch, by Kevin Kulp, is a GUMSHOE game of investigative time travel that Pelgrane Press is about to Kickstart. You are a defender of history, an elite TimeWatch agent plucked out of your native era and trained to stop saboteurs from ripping history apart. Your training allows you to diagnose disruptions in the time stream and track down the cause, making conclusions that less capable investigators might just guess at. The TimeWatch rules presume that you are a highly competent badass. Who are you to prove them wrong?

If you’ve played other GUMSHOE games like Night’s Black Agents and Trail of Cthulhu, TimeWatch’s mechanics will look familiar. It uses a pared-down ability list (Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics, and various engineering abilities are all grouped under the ability “Science!”, whose exclamation point tells you quite a bit about the game’s tone) and can be played in a variety of different styles. You can play it in Pulp style if you want more dinosaurs and aliens, Rebel style if you want to be the people changing history for the better, Cinematic style if you want to emulate your favorite time travel movie, and more. The default is Patrol style, acting as time cops to save the timeline.

Traditionally, the two big road blocks to time travel games have been game research and handling paradox. The former has gotten to be surprisingly simple over the past few years; with Wikipedia for research and innumerable, excellent alternate history message boards and podcasts (such as Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff or Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History) out there, it’s easy to track down good ideas. The TW rules will contain a number of mission hooks, of course, and our plan is to offer superb guest designers the chance to write missions as part of the upcoming Kickstarter’s stretch goals.

In TimeWatch, paradox is handled through an ability called Chronal Stability, which takes the place of Stability in other GUMSHOE games. Cause paradox and you lose chronal stability; lose enough chronal stability and you become unanchored in time. This allows fun flexibility when solving missions; you can time travel forward to check the work of historians fifty years hence to figure out what happened in this timeline, or even have your future self leave you a cryptic note about what happens, but doing so risks chronal instability. You can plan your investigation accordingly, solving conundrums while keeping paradox to a minimum. Whether you’re dealing with a rogue time traveler who gave Hitler nuclear weapons, or mongols who sacked and burned all of western Europe, you may want the extra help.

The biggest change between TimeWatch and other GUMSHOE games are stitches (as in “a stitch in time”), an action point mechanic that rewards fun play and allows players to decide for themselves when to refresh their ability pools. If you find yourself getting nervous about how many Shooting points to spend because you can’t predict when they’ll come back, you’ll want to give stitches a try.

We’ve also worked hard to get all the joy of breakneck chases matched with time travel. Chase someone through time on your personal time machine, and you’ll find yourself slipping from historical chase to historical chase as you try and catch up; from Roman chariots, to riding a stegosaurus during a dinosaur stampede, to racing high altitude fighter jets after them.

Above all, TimeWatch is a game that embraces everything that time travel should be. Want your future self to come back and help you in a fight at the OK Corral? You can do that. Want to play a caveman, or a starship pilot, or Amelia Earhart, all figuring out why the Titantic didn’t sink? You can do that. Want to produce a disintegrator rifle with Preparedness, just by reminding yourself to come back later and hide it under a floorboard? You can do that. This leads to some interesting solutions when solving mysteries. When you end up arranging the very same mysterious ambush that almost killed your earlier self last session, just to prove to a local bandit king that you have prophetic powers, you know you’re a member of TimeWatch.

The Kickstarter launches soon, so you’ll hear from playtesters and see lots more about TimeWatch in the next few months. For a one-time only, no-spam email alert when TimeWatch goes live, please follow this link. http://bit.ly/1hSd99K

Kevin Kulp is a Boston-based game designer and the co-author of Owl Hoot Trail. His work appears in Pelgrane supplements and adventures for Night’s Black Agents and Ashen Stars.

Christian is very close to being finished with the layout for Hillfolk, and it’s really capturing the feel of the game. We’ve also had a picture from the printers of one of the bags for the Hillfolk tokens. Here are some initial mock-ups of how the books, the cards and the bag will look.

Hillfolk_books_mockup

Hillfolk_cards_mockup

Hillfolk_bag_mockup

I am very pleased to report that editorial for the core Hillfolk book has been completed. The last submissions are in, edited, and proofed, and the text and illustrations are now in the hands of graphic design supremo Christian Knutsson. That final straggler of a Series Pitch is now in hand at last. Barring unforeseen calamity, that means that Blood in the Snow should be ready for layout by the time Christian has finished with the core text. He estimates that layout will take three weeks. After we sign off on the layout, we’re looking at an eight week turnaround for printing.

We will fulfill electronic editions as soon as layout is ready, so everyone will have the PDFs in hand even as the presses are rolling on the print copies.

So raise your cups of mead, raiders. The snows of an overlong winter have delayed us, but we have finally equipped our forces. We now ride off into the badlands, to claim our victory.

If you missed the Kickstarter but want to jump on board now, stay tuned for pre-order details.

And here, apropos of nothing in the first paragraph, is John Kovalic’s illustration for his Blood on the Snow Series Pitch, “The Dagon Bar and Grille,” which brings to DramaSystem the vibe of an animated sitcom. Plus tentacles, natch.

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