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Old 07-05-2017, 05:10 PM   #11
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Berkeley, CA
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

So, poking at the adventure as written:

After you escape in scene 3, your objective in scenes 4 and 5 is to gain information to reach scene 6. The basic problem with scenes 4-6 is that there isn't really opposition, you're just investigating BREEN nanoclusters which aren't really reacting to the PCs.

I'd start with something really simple: pursuit from 1966. Make the pursuers deadly and important to evade (maybe the gathered BREEN-bot from scene 5), but since they're time travelers trying to protect their own timeline, they're vulnerable to paradox, particularly if they encounter other BREEN nanoclusters.
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Old 07-24-2017, 12:31 PM   #12
Join Date: Jul 2017
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

Hi, author here. Sorry for the delay -- I just ran across this. Also, definitely pick up the free PDF; it has errata, so the opening intro and the character sheets are corrected.


I think the best strategy for a great high-action opening is to be wrapping up, in media res, a Terminator-like finish for the battle to control BREEN in our near-future. Either the PCs are running defense while another team executes some sort of deadly strike, or vice versa. For particular joy, this fight can be on a space station or in free fall as they try to trigger a last minute EMP of some sort. I would say that the most important aspect of this fight/action scene is to keep it moving quickly and keep it really cinematic. Use it to introduce the deadliness of the AI, preferably with sleek killer robots that the later steam-powered versions will echo.

In playtest, the final scene has been literally 60 seconds of epilogue (and is meant to be such.)

I think there's great joy to be had in making the BREEN nano-clusters as creepy and inhuman as you can get 'em. Maybe have them in birds, or horses, or small children. Have them affect the color of the eyes. Have them use the same verbal tics. Have them manipulate others to accomplish their bidding.

So that being said, any questions I can answer?

Last edited by Piratecat; 07-24-2017 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 07-24-2017, 02:27 PM   #13
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

Cool. Good to hear from the Author.


We played it yesterday with 4 characters, they and I are new to Timewatch (which posed some issues).

I ended up changing the briefing officer, which is minor. The PCs had some discussion about how best to disguise Rogo, Quill, and Ochoa for 15th C. Florence. I had realized that the standard issue PaciFists would be useless against anything with Unfeeling, so hinted that they might want to equip with guns, but they decided that would be anachronistic.

I had moved the first scene to Florence, 1478 (eve of the Pazzi conspiracy). Had the PCs interacted more with Florence, there was the potential for them to thwart (or abet) the assassination of Lorenzo di Medici and his brother. (Which would have given Jean someone to duel) The PCs bypassed that by coming in near Pisa, seeing the clock-punk leaning tower, and getting enough information on the road to skip going into Florence. :(

They got hijacked to 1966 as expected. If I ran this again, I'd have a pregenerated list of 6-12 possible items that one could find in the pit, with difficulty numbers for each. Other stuff would be possible, but it would give newbie to the system some immediately available options. Quill got the teleportation function going again before they got shot up, and they went to a desolate beach to gather their wits and clear their gear.

I had a couple of options for the next scene. Florence circa 1101 or Canossa in 1077 (the Investiture controversy). They went to Canossa about a month before the big event, passed themselves off as emissaries from Prester John's African kingdom (along with the wise talking ape, Rogo), made friends, and prepared a forged ComicSans bible that was badly translated and had heritical bits. They ambushed Santo Beneficio, timebat-d him 6 days ahead (taking a round of grey goo damage in the process), and left the forged, heretical tome and the idea of ComicSans as the devil's letters.

Having timebat'd Beneficio, they could dig a pit for his return, questioned him a bit, and shot him up. They found out about Ochoa, went back to 900. As things were flagging, I let them EMP the Breen-bots and not go looking for the source.

Had they gone to stop Breen from going aback, my backstory was that Breen had been fought in 1994, escaped into the creator of Microsoft Bob/Comic San's computer, gotten stuck there when he shut it down, and then re-emerged in 2044, when the computer was rebooted for the 50th anniversary celebration. It then moved to a prepared body and time machine on a Japanese automated whaler (to work in the cover art t-shirt) armed to protect itself from activists. Sadly, we didn't get to that scene.

Question: Scene 6 takes place in the true-history, which is an alternate from their perspective. If it only takes a point of Timecraft per character to get there (and presumably another point to get back), why is the timeline wiping out timetravel such a huge issue. It seems like the PCs could jump back to their home line, get re-enforcements, and then come back after BREEN in the alternate time-line in force.

Overall, the players had fun. Some confusion over the system on all parts. We liked the adventure.
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Old 07-24-2017, 02:48 PM   #14
Join Date: Jul 2017
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge


- A briefing officer is fungible. Use anyone you like, or no one at all.

- No problem if no one equips with guns; that's exactly what Preparedness is for. Need a gun? roll Preparedness, have a gun.

How did they end up disguising Rogo?

- Great opening. I really like it.

- I (and the game) handwave Timecraft spends and Chronal Stability tests after the adventure is concluded, unless it's relevant for an ongoing series. The number of points of Timecraft needed to slip into parallel histories varies by the needs of the game, and is gated by the GM.

In this case I'd ask myself: is the game more fun if lots of agents are pulled into a parallel timeline? Does anything happen to them when that timeline collapses? Is that actually the AI's plan so it can do something awful while they're gone? Does that many people time traveling to the same place at once screw up space and time enough that the cost to travel in rises steadily, trapping agents on the other side?

And the truth, of course, is that bringing in reinforcements is a completely valid choice that probably diminishes an Agent's reputation, and which can save the day, so the question is "is this fun?" If that's the most fun choice, I think it's valid.

Where did your rules confusion show up?
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Old 07-24-2017, 05:24 PM   #15
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

Rules confusion:

Just keeping track of general abilities vs. investigative abilities. Players being confused about what they needed to roll/spend for. Difference between Tinkering and Hacking in how to do things.

Chronal Stability and Reality Anchor as it affected how often one could make travel tests. Forgot that one could use a stitch to refresh the RA pool, and then use that to boost otherwise unrecoverable CS.

Complaint by some players about the pool mechanic -- they felt their options diminishing as they spend from their pools, which some found more frustrating than tension building.

I'll think about whether there was ought else.

They started with preparedness to get a HAT and made Rogo their bodyguard (going in as merchants from the Near East). The Prester John/Wise Ape bit worked wonderfully in the 3rd scene.
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Old 07-24-2017, 09:16 PM   #16
Join Date: Jul 2017
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

(Written on my phone, so there is bound to be typos.)

Question: did you have boosters disappear as people spend their general points? If so, that shouldn't be the case. If you think about rank versus pool, your rank is the size of a bucket. And your pool is how much water is in the bucket. Boosters are based on the rank. Sure, you are going to spend general points (and then get them back by spending stitches) but your capabilities should not drop.

Tinkering versus Hacking: Tinkering is your general " Holy crap I can go do cool technical stuff" ability. If you have a point in Hacking, you automatically get any computer–related clues, but you can't (for example) clean out someone's bank account. That isn't clue related, it's just awesome, so (assuming you had one or more points of Hacking) you would need to make a tinkering test to do so. Think of hacking as the prerequisite to doing a lot of cool non-clue-related computer stuff.

Chronal Stability loss interests me. People are so scared about fading, but reality anchor restores two points of CS loss for every point spent. It's really hard to die from chronal stability loss, but people get nervous. I think that's a feature, not a bug.
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Old 07-25-2017, 05:45 AM   #17
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

Boosters we used correctly, more the loss of preparedness, tinkering, and various investigative points. I may need more practice with using the different abilities.

Question: PCs want to forge a duplicate version of Beneficio's bible, but heretically wrong, and send it back to themselves. I had charged them a Forgery point -- was that right?

One player's feedback:
Here are my sparse thoughts:

*The adventure amused a bunch of grognards with its premise and it's early execution.
* It felt untested, which is fair since it was for Free RPG Day. It had brilliant concepts for What Went Astray.
*La Maupin is a natural choice for a Timewatch recruit. I just reread her Wikipedia article - about 5 years later in my own personal time stream - and it fits so perfectly.
*There appeared to be little reason to go to Florence other than "The GM says 'Go to Florence'!" Where was the hook for Leonardo da Vinci again?? - Corollary. Da Vinci and Einstein have to be recruits or under some sort of "Don't Talk To Them. Ever!" Interdict because they are historical personages that many would think they would enjoy meeting.
*Jumping from Ochoa's childhood circa 900 AD - neat character - to a final confrontation in 2044 was really hard to fathom. It didn't work.
*A time chase would enhance the adventure nicely - perhaps even to lead the PCs to the finale.
*Use of Comic Sans as the ultimate villain vector is genius.
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Old 07-25-2017, 08:13 AM   #18
Join Date: Jul 2017
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

Lovely feedback, and thank you. It was playtested several times, but I think it benefits from expansion to a longer word count. You identified some things I now want to go into more detail on.

What was the Stitch economy in your game like, out of curiosity? The intended feel is that General points go up and down, and are restored by Stitches as players do cool stuff; and that Investigative spends don't return, but that's fine because they're more powerful. Also, don't forget that you can always turn an Investigative point into 3 General points -- so for instance I could spend a point of Military Tactics to get 3 points of Scuffling in a pinch, or a point of History to get 3 Preparedness points (as I know where to find something I need.) It's meant to be flexible.

Forging a bible is a neat thing to do, and isn't involved with acquiring a clue -- so charging a Forgery point for it is exactly correct.

Interesting side note: the reason that briefings exist, and the reason that every mission starts with a firm "go here," is that clue gathering in time travel can lead to analysis paralysis. In playtests, missions where the PCs got to decide where to start were harder on players (who sometimes took a while to reach consensus) and brutal for GMs (who didn't know what to prep.) With a briefing officer saying "hey, start here," you have a common spot to start from.

Last edited by Piratecat; 07-25-2017 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 07-25-2017, 10:12 AM   #19
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

Stiches worked well. My players are very familiar with Fate/Spirit of the Century, so are used to Fate Points which work in similar ways.

If I can suggest -- a reason why Comic Sans -- I had changed the BREEN history to have it confronted in 1994 and take shelter in the creator of Bob/Comic Sans' laptop (crashing it because it is wholly inadequate for BREEN's kernel). Thus, BREEN is imprinted with Comic Sans and Bob. (When the PCs gear went dark in 1966, they got a Bob welcome screen.)

The pointer to Florence is a formerly Gothic Bible that turns to Comic Sans in Timewatch's archives. The first knowledge of it was when it was used by Guilano Medici to try to block a blow during the famed assassination attempt in 1478. Timewatch saved it from Savonarola's bonfire of the vanities in 1497.

I was just thinking of setting up an assassination attempt by the Pazzi (second most powerful family in Florence in the late 14th C) on a young Leonardo (who has the Medici as patrons). The Pazzi want to stop Leonardo from making the Medici bots better. Leonardo/BREEN is in no danger, but the PCs don't know that -- they can get into a low-stakes duel with the Pazzi's men and meet Leo/BREEN as an ally (at first). (For my setting, there were rival-made BREEN bots -- Medici's Mechanical Men and Pazzi's Practically People.)
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Old 07-25-2017, 10:36 AM   #20
Join Date: Jul 2017
Default Re: Some help with Timewatch's Free RPG day Font of Knowledge

I keep wanting to click a Like button and I'm not on Facebook.

I couldn't easily tie in Microsoft Bob because of copyright issues in the published adventure*, but it's a glorious link that I am absolutely going to incorporate at Gen Con. Wow. Very nice.

I think that for a four-hour game, there's a risk of getting too deep in the weeds of Florentine politics. It sounds like your players tackled it really well; my playtests indicated that using too many local politics distracted some players from the big picture by giving conflicting levels of detail ("if all this is going on, we MUST need to find more clues here!") and thus caused the game to run long. When that's not a risk, using the Pazzi looks like a solid and fun plot hook.

And if I haven't said so, thank you for running this. I'm grateful.

* My very favorite TimeWatch adventure that's still unpublished involves infiltrating the coterie of a very famous celebrity. It's been nixed, at least in that form, for very good legal reasons. :)
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