All of reality never was in the first place.
So, we finished another game of Epidiah Ravachols amazing Time Temp (which you should pick up if you don’t already have it, maybe even in this nice package). Oh, and we also finished with reality.
We had a Skype session. Me as General Management, my old hometown group as temps on the other end. This worked rather well, as the player-GM setup is roughly as asymmetrical as the one-lone-skyper-and-a-bunch-of-guys-in-the-living-room setup. In short, we had a blast.
We used a dice-roller website, the spreadsheet Matrix on Google Docs and another file on Google Docs for CVs, incidents, anomalies, … This worked very well. Maybe better than with all the sheets getting lost on your table.
A short paragraph on the story: Sometime in the Dark Ages, the Spanish Inquisition (nobody expected that, right?) got hold of a heretic owning s strange sceptre. Turns out, it allowed them to travel through time which they used to travel to 1999, seeking to char the a-coming Antichrist. Considering the also a-coming Y2k hype and who exatcly they made out to be the Antichrist, this would lead to serious paradox. Thus, Todd sends the temps to old Babyon, where they should get hold of the guy producing that sceptre before it gets lost in time. Unfortunately, the Spanish Inquisition wants to prevent that. Turns out, the temps themselves stopped the building of that gigantic tower and caused the linguistic problems. Oh, and via bilocation caused all of reality to have never existed in the first place.
So, what did we learn from the game?
Anomalies are few in numbers. We only had one and it was brought about intentionally so that the temps would be able to use Déjà-Vu on their rolls. The space where you could plug in a number into the matrix gets larger in a linear fashion. The longer you play, the less chance for an accidental anomaly. And since the temps were afraid of anomalies, they introduced no intentional anomalies either.
Incident Reports come in two flavours: verbal and written. The verbal ones go away after using them once to the temps detriment, the written ones have a contidtion to remove them.
This does not mean, that written ones are more severe than verbal ones. You cannot get rid of a verbal one unless it is used against you. But you can get rid of a written one by actively doing something. How hard this is to do and if it needs a roll governs how tough the Incident actually is. My players definitely preferred the written ones for that reason.
Also, written reports introduce a lot more of story. First, something interesting just happened. Second, your character now has some ridiculous trait. Third, the temps do cool stuff to get rid of it.
Zeitgeist is really a kickass power for the temps. If you use it right, you will unlock a Paradox Die, you will save one number from threathening Paradox and you will also remove a number from the grid.
Pick a number within your Synchronic Sets and you might be able to gain a vast amount of new Synchronicity Tokens (in our case 3) by plugging in the same number again. And you just spent a single token for that and saving your ass.
Anachronometer and Paradox Dice
The Anachronometer with the line separating save numbers from numbers threatening Paradox might lead to odd behaviors. Whenever you plug a number to the right of the line, you roll for Paradox, all d20 showing a number which is right of that line will be locked in on that number.
So, if you used most of the numbers two times (meaning the next one would be right of said line), you will want to use as many dice as possible, so that one of them shows up on a number that is already threatening paradox. That way, you will not increase the hitting area of these vicious Paradox Dice. Their chance of a hit stays the same.
So once you are over the line, you will want to pile up same numbers to avoid all of reality never having happened in the first place. This is done best with a lot of dice (risking Failure, Incident and Paradox) and using extensive Efforts and Effects. That way, you can pile up on the 1, only. So, once you have stepped over the line, you will start not thinking safe, but rather thinking unsafe and big.
Combine that with the abundance of Synchronicity Tokens in the endgame and you have got yourself a rather quick transition from trying to keep a low profile to the temps going full steam. Whooohooo!
Time Temp tends to give players severe Analysis Paralysis. Everybody comes up with a theory of what best to do and how to manipulate time and reality to remove the paradox. That’s great fun.
But then comes the tedious part: every players describes to the others their plan, working out the details. Then they go on and on about whose plan is best as, naturally, all plans differ significantly. Yawn …
Sadly, all their plans are valid and would work, if they just rolled with them. Here comes the Temporal Villain, checking of numbers on the Anachronometer. Unfortunately, potentially ending reality sometimes is not enough to motivate players to actually do stuff.
My solution to this is that after everybody detailed their plan (the fun part) you pick one random person, maybe the least engaged one and ask them (and only them) what the group is doing. This solution turned out rather nicely and showed that not discussing but rather doing will yield results.
Time Temp is really complex. I usually start out with explaining rules as we move along. But it takes quite a while and by the end of the game I will not have touched all of the tidbits. There is just so much out there to do. And to do right.
So, during the game I have never really been an antagonist to the players, but tried to help them, gauging their options on the mechanics. This helped, but it felt to me like I was taking too much control over them. I do not see a way to avoid this, however, without requiring all the players to read and understand the rules.
Also, dice rolls tend to take up a lot of time and detailing all the consequences, especially in the late game, can be a hurdle before playing on. Especially if you are eager to move into the action.
My only solution to this is: have all the players expect a rules-heavy game of awesome Paradox-Sudoku combined with messing up history (or the future!). I think, you cannot get around it or simplify it, if you want to really play the game.
I should not use that word, I know. The goal of Time Temp is to take a bunch of guys through time to solve an awesome alternate history puzzle. It’s not about portraying the characters. Pick up some other game, if you are looking for that. This one is all about spacetime. And that is, what it does really well.
Of course, the temps themselves come up in the fiction: as the tools of the players to manipulate spacetime and by doing things in a style that is coherent to their CV. You might even say, they have some sort of character. Also, the Incident Reports will tell something about the character by showing their behavior in distress.
But in the end, it is not about the temps. It’s about playing through all the implications of messing with history (and future), having über-anachronisms and nothing in the fiction (only in mechanics) you can rely on and catching the curveballs spacetime throws at you.
That’s where the immersion (don’t hit me) lies.
Language and History
Fortunately, the GM has a rather easy job coming up with adventures: Pick a time, pick a villain, fake a logical plot around that → there you go!
You don’t have to worry about being historically correct. Things are messed up in spacetime and what the players learned might not hold any more. If they are in doubt, have the temps look it up on Wikipedia on their iPhones. There you go, it’s just like the article says!
Same thing goes for language. Since the players use Basal Linguistic Techniques, they don’t hear if some guy is saying “Voigt” or “Großwesir”. They just hear “the guy that is doing all the organizational work for the ruler of this land”. Any of the above would be a fine place-holder in Basal for that.
So don’t worry about historical correctness and proper wording.
Todd is a nice way to introduce the players to the office setting, get them up to speed and throw them right into the action. In my games he will always assume that the temps have already been briefed (though working in a temporal engineering enterprise, they still can’ get that right). So, when they start looking puzzled, he will give an annoyed 30 second summary and shove the temps into the domed room, keys in hand.
Off they go, everything they need to grasp the setting and get going in less than 5 minutes playing time.
Needless to say, the insertion roll is a nice way to have the players make a safe first roll.
So, that’s my thought on this game of Time Temp. I’d love to hear what you think on these issues and if you have encountered further interesting observations on the mechanics.
Thanks for enduring my Teutonic-style digression. Hope to see you around!
Article source: http://pihalbe.org/blogentry/observations-playing-time-temp-802
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