Before I ran my first TimeWatch session, I was intimidated. The PCs can roam anywhere and anywhen, defeat their enemies before they are born and even get help from themselves. How can you do anything other than improvise if players have that scope?

In practice it was very straightforward, easy and fun.

So, like the Doctor, this article holds your hand and takes you through space and time, but without the ever-present risk of death and abandonment.

fighting

 

Bluffing the System

This article assumes you know the basics of GUMSHOE, both the Investigative side and the General ability side. You need to know what a Test is, what a Spend is and the combat rules and the use of Preparedness.

Snag these cheat sheets and read the summaries in this article.

Unlike more complex GUMSHOE games, there isn’t much work to offload onto players. Someone might like to keep an eye on Paradox tests for Chronal Stability rolls, found in the cheat sheets, and all players should read the descriptions and benefits of the Timecraft and Paradox Prevention investigative abilities.

Combat Summary

Most import of all, you need to understand the basics of combat, not because you’ll necessarily need to spend a lot of time in combat in the game, but because combat needs to be fast and thrilling. You should always know whose go it is, whether a test hits or not, and what your monsters can do. But combat is pretty straightforward in GUMSHOE.

  1. At the outset,  decide who the instigator of the combat is. Give them a token (we recommend a plastic dinosaur)
  2. To try to hit an opponent, make a test (d6 + point spend) against their Hit Threshold (almost always 3 or 4). Spend points from the combat pool before rolling. If you match or beat the Hit Threshold, you hit.
    • for lethal weapons roll the damage listed on your character sheet. There is no dodging.
    • If you hit with a stun weapon they need to make a Stun test, optionally spending Health points to resist being knocked unconscious. Even if they succeed, they are impaired, suffering a penalty on tests. Foes with 3 or fewer Health points do not get to make a test, which makes it easy to stun mooks
  3. Players can spend Investigative points in combat with suitable narration to get a +3 bonus on combats Tests (Timecraft and Intimidate are two good examples).
  4. Sometime during their go the instigator decides who is up next, and passes them the dinosaur.
  5. When it’s your go, if you want to fight, you make the same test against the PCs Hit Threshold.  Usually TimeWatch foes have simple bonus rather than a combat pool. Watch out for and use creature special abilities, usually powered with a pool called Tempus. There is a sample stat block with notes in this article to give you an example.
  6. The dinosaur is passed round until all players and the GM have had their go. The last person passes it to the new instigator for the next round.

Time Chase summary

Most TimeWatch games include a time chase – on dino-back in the Jurassic era, to Minis in Rome, through to hover bikes in 23rd Century.  The chase summary and track are available in the cheat sheets.

  1. The pursuers and the pursued decide secretly how many points they’ll spend, reveal their spends, then make a Chase test, usually Difficulty 4, but it can be different for each side
  2. Deduct the Difficulty from the test results.
  3. Compare the results, and the lead changes in favour of the winner.
  4. Agents can use their abilities to improve the odds, for example spending a point  of Paradox Prevention to will have arranged for a traffic jam to be in the way, or Preparedness to scatter caltrops behind them. They could even arrange for their future selves to be waiting in ambush for their pursuers.
  5. When the lead reaches point-blank, that’s the end of the chase.

timeriver

Stitches

Stitches are TimeWatch’s action tokens. Add three per player in a bowl at the beginning of the game. Whenever anyone plays their character well, makes a great suggestion, solves a clever clue or is other cool, any other player (including the GM) may give them a Stitch. Stitches let you refresh on the fly as well as giving you  other options – see the cheat sheet for these.

Abilities

TimeWatch features a very streamlined character sheet with few abilities. All the scientific abilities are subsumed into the pulp-flavoured Science! Being unnoticed and noticing are rolled into Unobtrusiveness. Burglary includes infiltration, concealment and filching.

Tinkering lets you  create, repair and upgrade gear and use explosives. Often combined with Science! it lets players peruse the gear section and chose chronal grenades, time slime and make a choice, at the cost of Tinkering tests.

So, which abilities are not familiar?  Well, Timecraft and Paradox Prevention on the investigative side and Chronal Stability and Reality Anchor on the other.  Timecraft is straightforward – it tells you when there is something up with the timeline and lets you spot and follow other time travellers, lets you makes Tests twice and use the result you choose in a scene.

So far, so simple, and it gives the correct impression that TimeWatch is  fast and fun.

Preparedness

Preparedness allows players to model their characters’ competence, without themselves knowing how to be a TimeWatch Agent. It also shortcuts lengthy planning meetings, and gives players a fallback in emergencies. This is how it’s used.

  • Make a test to have something relatively unusual you haven’t mentioned.
  • If you have a rating 8+ allows you to have all ready done something you describe in flashback. If the action requires another test by you or another player you need to make that too, afterwards.

Adventure Knowledge

There are lots of short, simple TimeWatch adventures to kick you off. Recruiting Call from the core book is good start, as is Axe and Hatchet from Behind Enemy Times. For your first game it will make you happier if you know the adventure pretty well. Get a basic grasp of the each featured historical era (think media rather than accuracy), prepare for any fights by checking antagonist special abilities and see if there are any chases. There is a little bit of added complexity in that players can meet foes for the first time who have already met them – this is usually flagged up.

Introducing the Game

Open by explaining they are TimeWatch agents, whose job it is to keep history on its fixed path. They can try all the tricks you see in time travel stories – getting help from yourself, defeating foes before they were born and trapping adversaries in time loops. They have all the gear they need to travel in time, blend in wherever they go and stun foes when they need to.

Character creation in TimeWatch is straightforward, so straightforward I wouldn’t recommend using pregens. Encourage them to create character concepts from anywhere in time and space, but offer suggestions so they don’t freeze up. Highlight and summarise Timecraft, Paradox prevention, Chronal Stability and Reality Anchor (the equivalent of Trail’s Psychoanalysis.) If a player finishes their character quickly, refer them to the gear section – and if they want to pay the Tinkering points – they can start the game with any gear which won’t spoil the adventure.

What to tell the players

  • Don’t spend much time planning One of the big problems with action games is planning inertia, so tell them about Preparedness and Timecraft – they give the benefit of planning without the planning. Their characters will know what to do, even if they don’t, and if they do get bogged down in an extended planning scene, remind them of Preparedness.
  • Try all the weird time stuff Even the most egregious time manipulation is possible – try it. Timecraft and Paradox prevention is your friend here. Once you are low on Chronal Stability – tread more carefully.
  • If in doubt, time travel Hunkering down is always a bad idea. Time travellers stay ahead of their opponents, or before them. There’s a small Chronal Stability cost, but worth it.
  • In the end, true history prevails after all the fun, it’s the real timeline the Agents want to protect, and that might well help you dial back any excessive meddling.

Going anywhen

Adventure design gently points players at choke points in history – times and places where history has diverged. These are player magnets – you don’t need to persuade them to visit these places. But they may well want to go elsewhen, too: that’s half the fun of the game.

First, consider what they actually want to achieve. Does it need a scene? The simple answer to that question is – would it be fun?

If it’s just getting information, let them spend History (narratively they could have travelled to the Library of Alexandria, and that might be worth a little scene)

Things which give you an advantage in the here and now, are straightforward: The mechanics are simple and flexible enough that if a player wants to talk their way past a receptionist and says “I go back in time and was his roommate for five years, ten years ago” a one point Timecraft spend just does that.

However, if they go back and try to prevent an important character being born – that’s probably a full scene plus some Chronal Stability. If they are having fun, shift some antagonists around. If necessary, have one of their characters from the future advise them to move on!

Thanks for reading, and let me know how your first session goes!

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TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Using a plastic dinosaur substitute

Using an unauthorised substitute for the toy dinosaur

We’ve sampled characters and their gear, now let’s get into the thrilling action of TimeWatch.

In TimeWatch, when you determine who gets to act in a fight or other contest, author Kevin Kulp suggests you make use of a plastic dinosaur. It’s that kind of game.

The TimeWatch RPG lets players decide who goes in a fight or other contest – so-called “popcorn initiative.” The first person to initiate a combat goes first (even if that’s the GM)-  a player can spend a point of Notice to go first. The first character to act gets the toy dinosaur. Any time during their turn, they get to pass the dinosaur to the next person to act, which can be the GM. At the end of the round, the last actor gives the dinosaur to the first actor in the next round; if the GM acts last, they are likely to tag themself and get another go.

This lets you tag the medic before the unconscious character, tag distant enemies with no ranged weapons to act first, and tag the foes last (if you think you can beat them in one round). I also let players whose characters are not involved directly in a combat have a go, because it keeps them involved, and reminds me that they, too, are doing something, even if it’s not fighting.

In more serious games, I’ve used a mini egg timer from a board game in place of the dinosaur.

Borrowed from Night’s Black Agents, TimeWatch also features chases – but these are usually chase through time – jumping from Roman chariot race to aerial dogfight to literal roller coaster. The Agents time machine (the baton-shaped autochron) adapts to suit the environment.

In a chase, the pursuers and the pursued decide secretly how many points they’ll spend, reveal their spends, then make a Chase test. The results are compared, and the lead changes in favour of the winner. Agents can use their abilities to improve the odds, for example spending a point  of Paradox Prevention to will have arranged for a traffic jam to be in the way, or Preparedness to scatter caltrops behind them. They could even arrange for their future selves to be waiting in ambush for their pursuers.

Sample Antagonist – the Ezeru Drone

The GM has a host of easy-to-run fearsome antagonists, some of whom have special abilities. These are listed in the rules summary.

The ezeru are TimeWatch’s go-to enemies – horrid human-sized cockroaches. Let’s take a look at an ezeru drone.

Defense: Hit Threshold 4, Armor 3, Health 15

All GUMSHOE GMs are familiar with these numbers

Offense: Scuffling +3 (+2 when impersonating a human), Shooting +1; Damage Modifier +2 (hideous clacking pincers), +3 (jagged mandibles), +1 (pistol), +4 (acidic bile), Stun 6 (psi-active bile)

Instead of keeping records of Scuffling and Shooting pools, just roll and add the bonus when making an attack. Add the Damage Modifer to your d6 damage roll – so d6 + 4 for acidic bile.

Abilities: Tempus 12

Tempus is a pool which powers foes’ special abilites, listed below.

Special Abilities: Clock Out (cost 2), Extra Action (cost 2), Impersonation (cost 2 —psychically links the ezeru drone to a single human or animal encased in the ezeru’s paralytic bile), Lightning Speed (cost 2), Resist Stun; drones can attack by spitting acidic or paralytic bile within Close range

Clock Out – time travel away from the scene, often resulting in a time chase

Extra Action – spend two points to act again in around

Lighting speed – move twice

Resist Stun – decreases the Difficulty of a Stun test by two – this usually means ezeru only need to roll a 3 to avoid being knocked unconscious by a standard issue TimeWatch PaciFist.

Misc: Alertness Modifier +1, Stealth Modifier +1

If you sneak up on an ezeru, or an ezeru sneaks up on you, the Difficulty of your Unobtrusiveness test is increase by 1.

Description: A standard ezeru drone is sly, deadly, reliable, but not particularly creative. They follow instructions superbly but usually lack the inspired planning or quick thinking of creatures that aren’t tied into a massive insectoid hivemind. When circumstances change quickly on an ezeru and it doesn’t have time to plan, it often responds with brute force.

You’ll notice that this beast is pretty fearsome – in a straight fight with creatures like this, TimeWatch agents can be in trouble. But with all the abilities a TimeWatch agent has to jump around in time, get help for themselves from the future, or have used Tinkering to create a super-science device which takes the edge of their special abilities.

Next article: The Quick and Clean Guide to Having Already Run Your First TimeWatch Game

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TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

This article follows on from Part One, Characters, to give GUMSHOE GMs a picture of what the TimeWatch RPG has to offer.

With the whole of history to play with, the TimeWatch RPG is able to offer you an incredible selection of equipment. We’ll start with the standard issue equipment of the TimeWatch agent. All of it is chronomorphic; that is, it adapts to match the local place and timeline. All of this equipment was included in the game  to handwave obstacles to the narrative, move the game forward and make it more enjoyable. These descriptions highlight some of the TimeWatch-specific rules

  • Autochron – your personal time machine. It looks like a short long baton, but can change appears to be a handle bar or even reins.
  • Impersonator Mesh – makes you uninteresting to casual observers – it’s dull to be an obvious time traveller everywhere you go.
  • Translator – stops you worrying about learning every language in history.
  • Medkit – who wants to be laid up in hospital?
  • Tether – an AI with holographic projection and a huge array of data. It’s a way of accessing your more obscure Investigative abilities in field
  • Uniform – part disguise, part armour. Better than acquiring new outfits every time you jump.
  • MEM-tags let you send unconscious people back to the Citadel (TimeWatch HQ) to be memory altered and returned moments later. It’s more convenient and genre-appropriate than explaining that
  • The PaciFist Neural Disruptor – a stun gun. Stunning foes is a great option in TimeWatch, which lets you take people down without killing them; ideal if you want to rescue a mind-controlled Einstein. When you hit someone with a stun weapon, they need to make a Stun test, optionally spending Health points to resist being knocked unconscious. Even if they succeed, they are impaired, suffering a penalty on tests. Foes with 3 or fewer Health points do not get to make a test, which makes it easy to stun mooks.

gear

Agents can make Tinkering and Preparedness tests and occasionally a Science! spend to snag high-tech devices, and Here are Eight TimeWatch Devices Which Will Leave you Flabbergasted!

  • Grandfather Bullet – jumps through time and kills the target’s grandfather, forcing them to check Chronal Stability.
  • Codova Cryto-Tranposer, or Bigfoot Beam – summons up a bigfoot or other cryptid,  and dumps it near the target
  • Ezeru Infestator – a weapon which fires insect eggs at the opponent which then incubate and eat their host
  • Mindblanker – a pen light which knocks out a subjects recent memories
  • A Psyonic Stone – anyone wearing one of these looks like a large velociraptor for 24 hours, and can’t remove the disguise.
  • Punxsutawney Prime Perpetuation Device (Tri-P) – want Groundhog Day? You got it.
  • Stopwatch – just what you’d expect. In game terms – gives you an extra go in a round
  • Timebat – hit someone with it and knock them six days into the future

In the next article we cover thrilling fights and time chases

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TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

twresourcesEach GUMSHOE game takes the background-neutral GUMSHOE core and makes changes to suit the game. Mutant City Blues has investigative abilities which let cops gather evidence of super-powered malfeasance. Night’s Black Agents has pools of points for spy networks, and thriller combat options. Fear Itself lets your group build and Escape Pool to flee the adventure’s horrors.

So, what new bells and whistles does TimeWatch add to GUMSHOE which support the tropes of time travel? TimeWatch has more tweaks and adaptations to GUMSHOE than any other system, but is nontheless straightforward to run and play. In part one, we’ll start with your character…

The first place to look with any GUMSHOE game to get a flavour of it, is the character sheet.

What’s perhaps surprising is that TimeWatch has fewer General abilities than any other game, and fewer Investigative abilites than most. All the scientific abilities are subsumbed into the pulp-flavoured Science! – that exclamation mark is doing all the work. Stealth, Shadowing, Sense Trouble and Infiltration are rolled into Unobtrusiveness. Tinkering incorporates Mechnical Repair and Explosives. So far, so simple, and it gives the correct impression that TimeWatch is simple, fast and fun.

Like Night’s Black Agents, characters with high General abilities get a little something extra – called a Booster. For Preparedness, you get Flashback – the chance to narrate a plan your group has already made, and for Disguise it’s the self-explanatory Don’t I Know You?

So, which abilities are not familiar? Well, Timecraft and Paradox Prevention on the investigative side and Chronal Stability and Reality Anchor on the other.  Timecraft is straightforward – it tells you when there is something up with the timeline and lets you spot and follow other time travellers, and lets you makes Tests twice and use the result you choose in a scene.

In the time travel genre, there are many examples of paradoxes – people doing things which conflict with known reality such as killing your own grandfather before your mother was born. These are fun to make use and explore in the game, but they can also break it if they are overused. Paradox is dangerous in the setting, but OK in small quantities. Paradox Prevention spends let you try clever time travel tricks such as gaining help from your future self, organising a parade to appear to interfere with a chase, but your attempts are limited by the amount of Paradox Prevention you have.

timewatch-disguiseIn our horror games, it’s seeing terrible things which causes you to lose humanity, and Stability measures your resistance to that. In TimeWatch, it’s paradox which can make you go mad or even disappear altogether. Chronal Stability is your ability to resist paradox and Reality Anchor is the equivalent of Shrink. Whenever you travel through time, it costs a little Chronal Stability – not enough to be a big problem, but just enough to stop jump after jump in a session.

These simple rules enable players to have fun with time travel, but not use it to solve everything.

While most characters are human, if you want your character to be a disembodied brain in a jar or a psychic velociraptor, you can. You can really make your character your own in  TimeWatch  – GUMSHOE doesn’t care how you describe abilities the use of abilities as Taunt or Disguise; and this is used to the full in character creation.Your Disguise ability is can be simple makeup, or a psychic or holographic projection.

You’ll also notuec a section marked Stitches. Stitches are tokens which players can award each other for great roleplaying, good ideas, solving clues or making everyone laugh. You can use these stitches to refresh a pool by a couple of points, reward teamwork, increase damage to a foe, or reduce damage to yourself.  You are limited to three stitches, which encourages you to spend them and not hoard them. Stitches represent TimeWatch agents ability to slightly manipulate time, and they reward good play, and keep the game moving forward.

The other thing to note about the character sheet is the big Gear section, which I’ll cover in the next part.

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TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

Evil Pelgrane Logo - WhiteGUMSHOE is the rules engine used in many of Evil Pelgrane’s products, from The Esoterrorists to Trail of Cthulhu to our newest (evil) release, Timewatch. (GUMSHOE is capitalised because it’s an acronym  – Generic Universal Mechanic Serving Henchmen Of Evil Why else would it be all-caps?).

It’s 10 years old this year, so let’s take the time to review the basics of Evil GUMSHOE.

If you want to take the advanced class, that’ll be $129.99, peons. And it doesn’t even come in a black cube.

NOTE: Pelgrane Press are happy and enthusiastic backers of the Invisible Sun Kickstarter, and are engaging in a bit of friendly teasing. Evil Gar’s opinions are evil, and are not shared by Good Pelgrane.

EVIL GUMSHOE FOR PLAYERS

Or, how to ruin your own fun.

USE YOUR INVESTIGATIVE ABILITIES!

Right there on your sheet, you’ve got a long long list of methods for gathering information. Use them all! All at once! All the time! I mean, the rules clearly say that if you use the right ability in the right place at the right time, you’ll always get the clue, no rolling. So, obviously, the right place is HERE and the right time is NOW and the right ability is ALL OF THEM.

 

Good Example of Play

GM: Ok, you time-travel back to the professor’s lab on the night before the explosion. It’s deathly quiet except for the occasional bleep from one of the instruments. The professor’s prototype time machine is still sitting there on the desk, hooked up to various monitoring devices. From the bluey science glow, you guess it’s already powered up and running, but hasn’t been activated yet.

Player 1: Can I tell anything more about the machine with my Science! ability?

GM: Are you touching it, or scanning it with your tether, or just looking at it.

Player 1: We know this thing is going to explode soon, so I’m being as careful as possible.

GM: OK, it’ll take you a few minutes to work out what it’s doing.

Player 2: Can I get the Professor’s emails?

GM: Do you have Hacking?

Player 2: Yep. I sit down at his computer and start using exploits that haven’t been discovered yet to get through his security systems.

GM: Do you want to spend a point to get it done faster?
Player 2: Nope.

GM: Ok, as you’re both distracted by your respective tasks, you don’t notice the presence of the night watchman until he’s right in the corridor outside. He’s about to come through the door – what do you do?

Player 3: I’ll disguise myself as one of the professor’s lab assistants and use my Authority ability to convince him we’re allowed to be in here.

 

Evil Example of Play

GM: Ok, you time-travel back to the professor –

PLAYERS (Overlapping): Anthropology! Charm! Architecture! Military Tactics! Streetwise! Medical Expertise!

GM: You’re using Charm on…

PLAYER 1: EVERYTHING!

 

GET CLUES BUT DON’T FOLLOW THEM

In fact, go in the opposite direction. Run away from those leads! Investigation only leads to fun, and Evil GUMSHOE isn’t about fun – it’s about torturing your GM and the other players.

 

Good Example of Play

GM: One of the professor’s emails is from a woman named Sybil. She wants to meet him at a café near the university – tonight, in about ten minutes. And attached to the email is a photograph of a weird symbol painted on what looks like the wall of a basement.

PLAYER 1: Ok, let’s go to the café and see what’s going on there.

PLAYER 2: Actually, I’m going to spend a point of Anthropology to blend in – I’m travelling back five years in time and getting a job in that café. I figure by now, I’m running the place and I’ve set up really good security and surveillance there.

 

Evil Example of Play:

GM: One of the professor’s emails is from a woman named Sybil. She wants to meet him at a café near the university – tonight, in about ten minutes. And attached to the email is a photograph of a weird symbol painted on what looks like the wall of a basement.

PLAYER 1: Ok, let’s ignore this obvious lead and obsess about something obviously irrelevant.

PLAYER 2: That night watchman had a moustache, right? WAS HE TIME TRAVELLING HITLER?
GM: No, he just –

PLAYER 2: FALSEHOOD DETECTION!

GM: That only works on NPCs!

PLAYER 2: TRUE. I go to Berlin anyway.

 

EVIL GUMSHOE FOR GMS

GUMSHOE’s core thesis is that the challenge of an investigative game shouldn’t be getting the clues, it should be deciding how to act on them. Evil GUMSHOE’s core thesis is that life is suffering and you can’t spell “frustration” without “fun” (and “tsr ratio”, apparently). So, as an evil GUMSHOE GM, your watchwords are:

LOVE MY NARRATIVE RAILROAD

If the players always get the clue, and the clue leads to the next scene, then you can just dispense with all that tiresome roleplaying and decision-making on the part of the players, and focus on what really matters – your unpublished novel. The players have two very important tasks – they need to use their investigative abilities to find clues, and they need to sit there while you explain what the clue means and how it fits into the story.

Good Example of Play

GM: Ok, you used Hacking to get into the professor’s computer and you’ve found that email from ‘Sybil’ talking about a meet in the coffee shop. What are you doing?

PLAYER 1: Let’s go and spy on them there.

PLAYER 2: One moment – that symbol. Do I know anything about it with any of my Histories? I’ve got Past, Contemporary and Future.

GM: It’s not from any of those, but you do recognise it from the Timewatch archives. There’s a parallel history where Earth gets invaded by aliens in the 1950s, and that symbol was used by the human resistance to mark the homes of collaborators. You know that the change point for that timeline was Roswell, in 1947 – a Timewatch team disabled the distress beacon on the Roswell saucer, so the alien mothership never came looking for it.

PLAYER 2: So, if someone wanted to change history back again, then Roswell 1947 would be the place to go?

GM: Yep.

PLAYER 3: I’m going to ask that night watchman if he knows this ‘Sybil.’

GM: He doesn’t recognise the name, but he does mutter about the car parked across the road from the lab. There are two people out there, and he’s convinced they’re watching the university. He describes them as sinister government-types. Men in black.

Look at that! Three possible leads for the players to follow. That’s far too much work. Railroads are much easier!

 

Evil Example of Play

GM: Ok, you used Hacking to get into the professor’s computer and you’ve found that email from ‘Sybil’ talking about a meet in the coffee shop. You go to the coffee shop, and you see the professor talking to the woman. Who has Spying?

PLAYER 1: I do.

GM: You sneak close enough to eavesdrop, and the woman’s saying that she knows the professor escaped from another timeline with alien time-travel technology stolen from Roswell and now you must go back to Roswell in 1947.

PLAYER 2: Can I talk to Sybil and –

GM: NOW YOU MUST GO BACK TO ROSWELL. LOOK AT MY SCENE DIAGRAM! IT CLEARLY SAYS THAT THE ROSWELL SCENE COMES IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CAFÉ SCENE.

 

DEMAND THE RIGHT ABILITY!

GUMSHOE games have lots of highly specialised investigative abilities, allowing the players to interrogate the world in many different ways. When writing a scenario, note which clues can be found with which investigative ability, and stick rigidly to that note. Never relent, and never reward ingenuity on the part of the players.

Also, make sure you hide your clues in really obscure, non-intuitive places using inappropriate abilities. That’s always fun.

Good Example of Play

GM: Ok, you’re in Roswell air force base, disguised as military police. How are you going to find the flying saucer debris?

PLAYER 1: I could just order a soldier to tell me with Authority, right?

PLAYER 2: It’s probably top-secret. I’ll go to the base office and use Bureaucracy to find out where the restricted areas are.

PLAYER 3: It’s all probably been documented in history books – can I just check with Research or Contemporary History to find out which hangar contains the ‘weather balloon’?

GM: They’ll all work, although Research will take a few minutes. Which one are you using?

Bad Example of Play

GM: Ok, you’re in Roswell air force base, disguised as military police. How are you going to find the flying saucer debris?

PLAYER 1: I could just order a soldier to tell me with Authority, right?

GM: He doesn’t know.

PLAYER 2: It’s probably top-secret. I’ll go to the base office and use Bureaucracy to find out where the restricted areas are.

GM: They don’t tell you.

PLAYER 3: It’s all probably been documented in history books – can I just check with Research or Contemporary History to find out which hangar contains the ‘weather balloon’?

GM: No. It’s not in any of the books you check.

PLAYER 1: Ok… can I scan with Science for radiation emissions or –

GM: You don’t detect anything.

Two hours later.

PLAYER 2: Sigh. Ok. ANTHROPOLOGY! ARCHITECTURE! MILITARY TACTICS! CHARM!

GM: You can’t just shout out investigative abilities! You have to describe how you’re using them.

PLAYER 2: Ok, Military Tactics – I know how air forces bases work. If I was dragging in debris from a crashed object, which would be the obvious hangar to use.

GM: You can’t tell.

PLAYER 3: Can I find any tracks with, uh, Notice? Like, fresh tyre-tracks on the road from the ranch where it crashed.

GM: No.

PLAYER 3: Can I find any tracks on that road with Outdoor Survival?

GM: Yes! They clearly point at Hanger 3.

Don’t just make it a railroad – make it a painfully delayed and overcrowded railroad with a nightmarish ticketing system! That’s the Evil Pelgrane way!

There’s more bad GUMSHOE advice on twitter (look for #evilpelgrane), and we’ll happily give you personalised bad advice in the comments on this article, too!

=======

TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

twresourcesFire up your time machine, and hunt down your evil double with these TimeWatch RPG resources.

All official downloads as a zip file.

Articles

Running your first TimeWatch game

An Overview of TimeWatch for GUMSHOE GMs – Part One, Characters

An Overview of TimeWatch for GUMSHOE GMs – Part Two, Gear

An Overview of TimeWatch for GUMSHOE GMs – Part Three, Thrills

Adventures

Official

The Font of Knowledge – Free RPG Day 2017 adventure

Character Sheets and Pregens

Official

Static low-res character sheet

Static print-resolution character sheet

Fillable PDF with character templates

Iconic characters in a fillable PDF – landscape

Iconic characters in a fillable PDF – portrait

Iconic characters on individual pages

Excel character generator


Fan-Created

Fillable PDF by Jargogle Bamboozle

 

Play Aides

Official

TimeWatch theme by James Semple

GM and player cheat sheets for TimeWatch (layered)


Fan-Created

TimeWatch Playmat by Jargogle Bamboozle

Other

Errata for The Font of Knowledge print book

Evil Pelgrane Logo - WhiteThe TimeWatch Roleplaying Game is now available to pre-order! But this happy occasion is threatened, as sinister forces from a dark timeline launch an attack on our reality. TimeWatch needs brave recruits to help defend it!

Vote in the survey below to strike a blow for either side. But remember: your vote has the power to change our future, by altering an upcoming TimeWatch RPG release – the GM Screen and Resource Book!

A Shocking Foe

We are locked in a life or death struggle against…ourselves. Our enemy is Evil Pelgrane.

These vile miscreants hail from an alternate timeline in which the entire run of the TimeWatch RPG was washed overboard during shipping. This catastrophe sent Simon and Cat over the edge into bottomless rage and nihilism, and Pelgrane Press became the most evil games company in the world. Now, the ruthless* Evil Pelgrane works to undermine our timeline and ensure that their terrifying future comes to pass!

You can spot our mirror universe doppelgangers by their jet-black goatees and bizarre behavior. If you see Simon smashing sastumas with a hammer, Cat pouring coffee down the sink while disparaging LARPing, Kevin disparaging barbecue or complaining about his dog allergy, or Wade making the dark arts of spin even darker, you are very likely in the presence of an Evil Pelgranista.

(They also tag their Tweets with #evilpelgrane, which is rather less than cunning.)

EVIL-CAT-SIMON

Choose Your Side

If Good Pelgrane gets the most votes, the upcoming TimeWatch GM’s Resource Book will include an adventure seed and illustration featuring TimeWatch members battling robot pirates

If Evil Pelgrane wins the most votes, the Resource Book will include a Time Crime heist, raiding a Spanish treasure ship

The war will rage (and pre-orders last) until September 21st, when the survey closes. Join the battle to determine whether Pelgrane Press or their counterparts at Evil Pelgrane prevail!

Which version of Pelgrane Press do you support?

View Results

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*Technically not ruthless, because they have an Evil Ruth.

Jungle_350The Tree People: TimeWatch Adapts KARTAS

By Kevin Kulp

If you haven’t already, consider seeking out the ENnie-winning podcast Ken And Robin Talk About Stuff, where GUMSHOE authors Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws opine about history, time travel, and creative game design. Here in See Page XX, we’ll periodically show you how to further develop a KARTAS topic for use in the GUMSHOE time-travel RPG TimeWatch.

In Episode 176: Shut Up Fungus, Ken and Robin create a sci-fi plant-based alien race on the fly. Let’s adapt it for TimeWatch.

THE BACKGROUND

August, 1926. Rural Iowa. A lonely teenage boy installed one final vacuum tube and turned on his new homemade home-made ham radio. It was 1am on a hot summer night, and he expected to hear the distant crackling voice of European radio. Instead there was a flash of purple electricity, and a 100 meter-long flying seed-ship materialized above his house in a shriek of torn reality. It would have been an understatement to say he was surprised.

The ship hovered over the house and the corn field. Dogs barked. His parents fled. And in awe, the boy slowly walked out to meet the glowing, inhuman aliens who emerged from the side of the vessel. They moved like trees in the wind, and their suits shone with brilliant ultraviolet light.

Their encounter didn’t last long, though; the boy’s elderly grandmother emerged with a shotgun, the aliens retreated back into their organic wooden vessel, and the massive ship silently spun upwards into the dark sky. By the time the authorities arrived, the only “proof” was jumbled eye-witness accounts and a melted ham radio that never worked again. The boy couldn’t even find the old dusty store in Cedar Rapids where he bought the ham radio parts. It broke him; he’d end up being incarcerated in three years, institutionalized in five (with the derogatory nickname “rocket boy”), and dead in a sanitarium by the age of 25.

And my, had he lived, he may have felt better in 1938 when the alien invasion begins in earnest.

WHAT HAPPENED

The boy’s home-made ham radio actually contained a primitive Everett Bridge, a device used to tear open doorways between parallel dimensions. It had been sold to him by a disguised time traveler who is a member of the Church of Reinvention, a religious sect that believes mankind will reach their peak through advanced technology; the sect’s members travel through the past to secretly distribute and spread anachronistic super-science. The time traveler and his family folded up shop five minutes after the boy left his store, and they left behind a blank brick wall where the door to his shop had stood a few minutes earlier.

The Everett Bridge had opened a gate to an alien planet in a parallel universe, and the race of plant beings developed in KARTAS episode 176 were on the other side. The aliens found themselves trapped in our world and timeline instead of their own. Faced with infinite unknowns and possibly under attack, they quickly withdrew to gather more intelligence.  The aliens piloted their seedship into the largest mass of plants they could find, the heart of the Amazon jungle, and they settled in to try and understand where they were and how they got there.

The plant-based creatures never named themselves in a human tongue, but once contact was made Central Americans quickly began calling them La Parra: “the vine.” This name became corrupted to Laparra, Lampara, Parra, Vines, and others, but was adopted worldwide as the species’ official name.

Growing undetected and undisturbed in the Amazon, the motile plant creatures spent twelve years budding, sprouting, and reproducing in the bright equatorial sunlight. They split into philosophically aligned groups as described in the podcast, including one particularly hostile to human life. They’d never seen mammals before coming to Earth, and most of the La Parra found them meaty and repugnant.  In fact, most mammals (including humans) are difficult to tell apart for La Parra, and all look pretty much the same.

When the aliens were ready to make contact, they grew new, smaller ships and flew across Central and South America, seeking the sun and colonizing as they traveled. Not all expedition ships destroyed humanity in the places they settled, but humans couldn’t easily tell a hostile tree-creature from a potentially friendly one, so any attempts at diplomacy quickly failed.

Mexico, Central America, and most of South America fell to La Parra largely due to famine and crop failures after human crops become corrupted by the Parra’s more viable seeds. In Europe, Germany and the Axis powers used the distracted West as an excuse to step up their own warmongering and barbarity. By the time Americans fled their country for Canada and England, abandoning the USA to La Parra now seeded and growing in America’s breadbasket, official history was in shambles.

ENTER TIMEWATCH

TimeWatch first hears about the problem when the Axis wins World War II. Agents are quickly tasked with investigating the problem, tracking it back, and preventing the initial change from having occurred. That takes some doing, as an Axis victory doesn’t immediately imply an alien invasion, and the story of the Iowa boy and the ship’s first appearance has already become nothing more than an urban legend with no names and only loose locations attached.

To prevent the accidental invasion, the Agents will need to discover who sold the boy “ham radio parts” that actually functioned as an Everett Bridge. Tracking the rogue time traveler and his religious cult down in his disappearing alley shop and arresting him should solve the problem – so long as none of the La Parra in the far future have found a method to time travel themselves or reach backwards through time, thus are there lying in wait to protect their own existence on Earth.

LA PARRA AS ANTAGONISTS

La Parra Thorn

Defense: Hit Threshold 3, Armor 1, Health 3 (Mook) or 8 (Antagonist)

Offense: Scuffling +1, Shooting +1; Damage Modifier +1 (thorny strangling vines, range Close)

Abilities: Tempus 7; Outdoor Survival 1

Special Abilities: Lightning Speed (cost 2), Regenerate (cost 0) 1 Health per round in bright sunlight only, Technology (cost 2)

Misc: Stealth Modifier +2; Difficulty Target Numbers for all Tests drop by -1 in bright sunlight and rise by +1 in darkness; all La Parra technology is organic in nature

Fast-moving and thornbush-like, able to roll like tumbleweeds, La Parra Thorns rely on stealth and subterfuge to explore new areas and identify possible threats. They make decent assassins but due to their relative fragility they seldom pursue such goals unless tasked to do so.

La Parra Sapling

Defense: Hit Threshold 4, Armor 1, Health 12

Offense: Scuffling +2; Damage Modifier +1 (thorny strangling vines, range Close)

Abilities: Tempus 12; Outdoor Survival 1

Special Abilities: Regenerate (cost 0) 1 Health per round in bright sunlight only, Technology (cost 2)

Misc: Stealth Modifier +1; Difficulty Target Numbers for all Tests drop by -1 in bright sunlight and rise by +1 in darkness; all La Parra technology is organic in nature

Saplings are the primary workers and laborers of the La Parra. They have decent social skills, keen minds, strong curiosity, and seldom hesitate to investigate new surroundings.

La Parra Seedtree

Defense: Hit Threshold 4 (5 in bright sunlight, 3 in darkness), Armor 2, Health 18

Offense: Scuffling +2; Damage Modifier +2 (coiled thorny strangling vines, range Near)

Abilities: Tempus 20; Outdoor Survival 2

Special Abilities: Flashback (cost 5), Regenerate (cost 0) 1 Health per round in bright sunlight only, Resist Stun, Stony (well, Woody; immune or resistant to most weapons, takes full damage from fire), Technology (cost 2), Universal Attack (cost 2)

Misc: Stealth Modifier +1; Difficulty Target Numbers for all Tests drop by -1 in bright sunlight and rise by +1 in darkness. The seedtree’s Hit Threshold rises to 5 in bright sunlight, and drops to 3 in darkness.

Seedtrees are tangled, slow, 3 meter tall masses of thorny vines wrapped around a central flexible trunk. Typically the oldest La Parra in a group (or a “grove”) is a seedtree, and it is rare to find more than one in any given grove. If they choose to do so, when in bright sunlight they literally can spread their species by seeding the ground they walk upon. Seedtrees are dangerous due to their tactical knowledge, robust defenses (fire excluded), and exceptionally long reach.

Chakk

Defense: Hit Threshold 3, Armor 1, Health 1

Offense: Scuffling +0; Damage Modifier -1 (vaguely sharpened appendages)

Abilities: Tempus 5

La Parra are tended to by “fungus lemurs,” slavishly loyal arthropods coated in a moderately sentient and telepathic fungus that obeys all La Parra requests without hesitation. Chakk, named after the clacking and clicking sound their exoskeleton makes while moving, do everything from groom and tend La Parra to perform needed labor.

LA PARRA AS PLAYER CHARACTERS

Not all of the Parra are intrinsically hostile to mammals. If a player expresses interest in playing one, here’s what to use.

Starting characters:

  • An Agent’s standard 1 free point of Timecraft is replaced with a 1 free point of Outdoor Survival
  • With the GM’s permission, Outdoor Survival points can be spent for plant-related special abilities, such as regrowing from a seed in order to be smuggled into a hostile location, or gaining Regeneration (1 Health per round when in bright sunlight) for one scene.
  • In extremely bright sunlight, Difficulties for Athletics, Shooting, Scuffling and Vehicles are reduced by one point (making these activities easier). In darkness or in dimly lit conditions, Difficulties for Athletics, Shooting, Scuffling and Vehicles are increased by one point (making these activities more difficult). For player characters, other General ability Tests are not affected by the presence or absence of light.

GMs: if there’s ever any question of “is this extremely bright sunlight?”, then the answer is probably no.

  • Specialized spacesuits that flood the wearer with infrared light can typically be acquired with a Difficulty 8 Preparation or Difficulty 6 Tinkering test.
  • The Medic ability is less effective on La Parra, restoring 1 point of Health per 1 point spent. This worsens if the Agent lacks a medkit or the La Parra is trying to use Medic on themselves.
  • Spending Stitches to reduce damage is more effective for a La Parra. Spending a Stitch in this way reduces Scuffling and Shooting damage by 2 points per Stitch instead of 1. This models the La Parra’s hard-to-injure woody nature. Stitches cannot be spent to reduce fire damage.
  • The GM may provide ad hoc penalties or modifiers to the character’s Unobtrusiveness Difficulties. It’s simplicity itself for them to go unnoticed in a forested area; a high society party, however, a walking tree may be a different story. Disguise will come in handy here.

These changes in character abilities are designed to model a plant alien’s strengths and vulnerabilities, while remaining balanced with other player characters. GMs are encouraged to tweak these abilities to match their own vision of the species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

behind enemy times cover smaller

Behind Enemy Times is a series of missions for the TimeWatch RPG. Run them separately or as a linked campaign.

Insects are everywhere, in their millions, roaches, scarabs and ants and mosquitos. Now imagine them human-sized,  with a chip on their carapaces, add psychic powers and you have the ezeru: huge, advanced beetles forged in the aftermath of a self-inflicted human extinction event. But TimeWatch engineered history so that never happened, and only a few ezeru remained, caught in the time stream outside of reality. They want to restore their species and their history, and only you, the agents of TimeWatch, can stop them.

Behind Enemy Times features:

The Gadget

An obsessive 24th-century collector (and disembodied brain) tries to steal the first working atomic bomb for his own personal museum. As Agents work to stop him, ezeru slip in to steal his collection of nuclear warheads.

Thief in the Night

Sophosaurs (sentient velociraptors from an alternate history) destroy human culture by systematically stealing the creativity and memories of history’s greatest thinkers. Agents must unravel the scheme to prevent it from ever occurring.

Time Will Tell

A rogue TimeWatch memory technician has teamed up with William Tell to destroy oppression throughout history. The Agents must undo Tell’s actions in a way that does not create paradox, never letting him know they’re saving his victims, or they could inadvertently destroy TimeWatch’s Citadel.

Rebel Heart

Against their will or knowledge, the Agents are burned by their own superiors and put into deep cover to infiltrate a rebellion against TimeWatch.

Hatchet and Axe

Ezeru spies trigger nuclear war in the 1960s with an unexpected change to history, helping 19th-century social reformer Carrie Nation in a way that creates catastrophe 70 years hence.

The Hatching Time

Ezeru plan to hatch millions of eggs in the heart of New York City, and they’re willing to flood the city with radiation to do so. It takes careful investigation and tricky alliances to defeat an ezeru queen once and for all.

Also available as part of The Complete TimeWatch RPG Bundle with TimeWatch and The Book of Changing Years.

Stock #: PELGTW02 Authors: Kevin W. Kulp, Matthew Breen, Michael Rees, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
Artist: Rich Longmore Pages: 108 page perfect bound 8.5″ x 11″

Buy the standard edition

Buy the complete TimeWatch bundle

Book of Changing Years front cover_350On 1st May 1895 a young gentleman — a recently admitted solicitor from the West Country — called upon the offices of Pelgrane Press bearing a manuscript loosely bound in waxed paper and string, together with a small steamer trunk packed with an assortment of curios. Acting under instructions from his anonymous client, he passed these items to me together with a banker’s draft drawn on the Bank of England for a substantial sum.

The book itself is a work of scientific romance, a gallimaufry of fables in the manner of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. To what end it was written, and for whom, I may never know, but I hope you, Gentle Reader, find it of use, whoever you are, wherever you may travel and whenever you read it.

The Book of Changing Years is a collection of time travellers’ tales and curios put together on the quiet by agents of TimeWatch and secreted in an innocuous drawer in the Citadel TimeWatch HQ.  It’s an in-world book of clues and mysteries for players of the TimeWatch RPG in the style of The Book of the Smoke and The Armitage Files.

  • Why are there too many cats in London in 1840 and no dogs at all, and how does that relate to the pyramids of Kush?
  • Why is Edward V scouring the timelines for Caravaggios?
  • Who time-pranked Alexander Graham Bell into thinking he’d heard spirit voices on his new invention?

Fire up your autochron, unhook your tethers and dive into the gaps between the chimes.

 

Also available as part of The Complete TimeWatch RPG Bundle with TimeWatch and Behind Enemy Times, or in a cloth-covered, hardback, limited edition format.

 

Buy the standard edition

Buy the complete TimeWatch bundle

Buy the limited edition

 

 

Stock #:PELGTW03 Authors: Heather Albano, Kennon Bauman, Emily Care Boss, Stephanie Bryant, Emily Dresner, Marissa Kelly, Emma Marlow, Epidiah Ravachol, Rebecca Slitt, Ruth Tillman and Kevin Kulp
Pages: 224 pages, perfect bound Artists: Juha Makkonen, Sarah Wroot
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