TimeWatch RPG Playtest Story Hour (Updated 9-2-14)


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Ladybird

First Post
Episode 1, Chapter 11: In Which a King is Imperiled, But Not How We'd Planned

Two more days till the end of the Kickstarter! Some awesome stretch goals are already unlocked, and there's only $560 to go before the 96-page campaign supplement gets unlocked. (And only $999,930,560 before we all get pet dinosaurs! Hey, if our future selves all come back and chip in, we can totally reach that last stretch goal!) Anyway, check out the TimeWatch Kickstarter here, and help make this excellent game happen!

And now, on with the show...

---
Back at court, Team King is trying to track down the new valet, whom we know to be Forrest. The trouble is, we've just met him a few hours ago forty years from now. That's kind of risky, but we know how to avoid paradoxes as much as possible, so we're safe for now.

Rules Sidebar:
[sblock]Paradox Prevention is an amazingly useful skill, and also one that you can use to do ridiculous time-travel stunts, because ridiculous time-travel stunts are one of the most fun parts of time-travel stories. What we're doing now is a relatively easy Paradox Prevention task. If we'd wanted to, we could have spent some points to do something bigger, like meet up with our former selves when they were confronting Forrest here in 1757 so that we could give ourselves backup.[/sblock]

"What do we do when we find him?" Yves asks.

"We should make sure that he's disgraced!" Edward suggests eagerly.

"Might be nice," Kat agrees. "But all we really need is to get him alone so that we can knock him out and MemTag him." She would know, of course - that's how she dealt with him before. "If we can just sneak up on him, that would be best of all."

We find our way to the salon where high-level functionaries go when they're not on duty, doing our best not to call attention to ourselves along the way, and doing our best to sneak in so that we can take Forrest by surprise. Kat's great at sneaking, but Yves and Edward aren't. Kat can help cover for Edward a bit, but it quickly becomes clear that Yves is just not going to be able to blend in at all.

Rules Sidebar:
[sblock]On aiding other characters: If you have at least some points in a skill, you can benefit from another PC's assistance. Edward has 2 points in Unobtrusive, so Kat can help him. Yves has 0, so he is conspicuously out of luck.[/sblock]

"Well…perhaps we could go the other way, instead," Edward suggests. "Instead of trying to blend in, Yves, could you be a big noisy diversion so that Kat and I can sneak up on Forrest?"

"But of course!" Yves cries happily. "How would you like me to call attention to myself?"

Kat opens her mouth. Closes her mouth. Looks at Edward.

"Er. Drunkenness might work well?" Edward suggests hopefully. "Be loud and drunken."

You will be shocked, shocked! to hear that Yves makes a very convincing drunken nobleman. He shouts and staggers around the kitchen, and the palace servants wisely stay out of his way, watching him warily. Because they're all watching him, nobody is watching Kat and Edward, which allows them to sneak much more effectively.

As soon as we're in the servants' salon, we spot Forrest. Just as we've hoped, he's watching Yves very closely. And then after a moment, he's watching even more closely than we'd hoped. Has he figured out that Yves isn't local to this timeline? Or has he just started to suspect that something is up?

Time for Plan B?

Plan B is to get into a fight with Forrest outright: either we can take the fight outside, or just punch him out right there in the servants' hall.

Edward is only too happy to go along with any plan that ends with him punching Forrest. He musters his best attempt at a drunken stagger (not as convincing as Yves, since he hasn't had quite as many opportunities to draw on real-life experiences) and lurches over to Forrest. "You!" he slurs. "You're the one I saw with my girl! You stay away from her!" And then he punches Forrest in the face.

But, oddly, it hurts Edward's fist almost as much as it hurts Forrest's face. Forrest is wearing some kind of armor. Uh-oh.

Kat springs into action with her part of the plan: doing her best impression of a senior palace functionary, she storms up to Edward and Forrest, shouting, "Both of you! Your behavior is unbecoming. Get outside!" If we can just get Forrest alone...

Forrest still looks unconvinced, though, and keeps scuffling with Edward.

Since we can't seem to get Forrest outside, Yves tries to get the other servants outside instead. "It is best to avoid the affairs of the heart if they are not your own," he advises them. "I think it best for us to leave them to their own private matter." He's convincing on his own, but his little speech is made even more effective by the coins he starts handing out.

The servants hastily file out, finally leaving us alone with Forrest. But now that he's managed to get a good look at Edward, Forrest's eyes are starting to sharpen with recognition. "Oh," he drawls. "You're one of them." And pulls a blaster pistol, and shoots Edward point-blank.

Kat is utterly astonished at what she thinks next: "I should throw myself between the King and the bullet. I…guess I'm still British?"

As patriotic as the impulse is, she's too far away to actually do anything - Edward is hit. Fortunately, they're in such close quarters that Forrest's second shot hits himself. And then his third shot -

Wait, Forrest is shooting again? Yup. He's got some kind of timegadget - it lets him move faster than any ordinary human can. He gets off two more shots: again, one hits Edward, and the other hits Forrest himself.

Edward collapses, very badly shot. He didn't succeed in taking Forrest out, but he got the satisfaction of implying that he's dishonorable and punching him in the face, which counts for something.

Kat finally gets to take a shot with her PaciFist, hitting Forrest squarely. He staggers, but doesn't drop - and because he's got that nasty gadget, he can shoot yet again, this time at Kat.

But while Forrest is shooting at Kat, Yves leaps in and whacks him over the head with a candlestick. That does the trick! Forrest falls to the ground, unconscious.
 


Ladybird

First Post
Trying to use a ranged weapon in very close quarters means that if you miss badly enough, there's a risk that you'll shoot yourself instead of the other person :)
 

Piratecat

Sesquipedalian
1 in 6 chance, I think. Why, that could only happen one time in a million!

Thank you, Ladybird et al, for writing this. We're just about done with the Kickstarter (6 hours to go!), and it's a complete honor to be reading this.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 1, Chapter 12: In Which Everything is Spilled

Just a few more hours left in the Kickstarter! Help make TimeWatch happen! We've had an amazing time playing, and we want the world to see how great this game is.

And now, on with the show!

--
As Edward bleeds on the floor and Yves celebrates his triumph at knocking out Forrest, Kat quickly tethers to Team Lunatic, telling them to get back to the palace. Fortunately, they get there quickly - Mace Hunter! knows some shortcuts, and he and Hypatia hurry back in time for Hypatia to give Edward the medical attention that he very badly needs.

Now we settle down to the real interrogation.

"How about Good Cop-Bad Cop?" Mace suggests.

We all consider our various skills to see how we can go about doing this. To everyone's surprise, it turns out that Edward is the most intimidating (in a technical skill-point sort of way). To everyone's greater surprise, he's only too happy to be the Bad Cop. Edward enthusiastically intimidates Forrest, impugns his honor, and even punches him a few times.

Equally surprising is the fact that Mace takes the role of Good Cop, offering his own particular brand of friendly reassurance to Forrest. So, while the 20-year-old chivalry-obsessed king plays Bad Cop, and the battle-hardened adventurer plays Good Cop, Kat uses her knowledge of psychology to play mind games on Forrest. Through everyone's combined efforts, he spills everything.

Forrest explains that he doesn't actually know that much about Damiens, but does know that Damiens killed Louis. Yes, on his own, and yes, with a penknife. So Forrest's first attempt to change the timeline was to just try to keep Damiens away from Louis, but Elizabeth prevented him from doing that. (In telling that part of the story, Forrest describes Elizabeth in some racist and sexist terms that make Edward hit him again.)

"So I started looking for alternate timelines," Forrest explains. "I found one where Damiens failed because the knife didn't go deep enough. So Louis lived, and he overruled Choiseul on the Falklands War, and the American colonies rebelled. It wasn't ideal, but it was the best I could find." That familiar smirk starts to crease his face. "I could work with it. After all, it was a timeline in which the South rose up against Northern oppression. I could encourage that."

After we've gotten all of that, we start to pump Forrest for information about his home timeline. "What's the government like?" Hypatia asks. The British Empire dominates North America, which is what we'd thought.

Kat leans over to say quietly to Edward, "You were interested in the royal succession. Now might be a good time to ask."

Edward nods, and says, "Queen Anne reigns at the beginning of the 21st century. What happened to Elizabeth II? And Prince Charles?"

"Oh," says Forrest, with the offhanded tone of someone discussing the distant past, "they died when London was bombed."

Everyone is silent.

Finally Edward manages to ask, very quietly, "Bombed by whom?"

"The Soviets, of course," says Forrest. "You know, in the second phase of World War II."

The first phase of World War II was the one that happened in our timeline, more or less, although in Forrest's, it was mostly the Nazis against the British Empire, since there wasn't any US. The second phase was between the British Empire and the Soviet Union, triggered by still-PM Winston Churchill's Operation Unthinkable. In our timeline, Churchill planned Operation Unthinkable but never put it into practice.

The second phase of the war was nuclear: all major cities on both sides were nuked. Moscow, London, Edinburgh, Leningrad, and many more. When London was bombed, Elizabeth II and Charles died, but Princess Anne - who was just a baby - was saved somehow.

(Edward thinks that a baby being saved in the middle of a nuclear war sounds exceptionally lucky. If Princess Anne was saved by more time travelers intervening, he really doesn't wanna deal.)

"I do not think that this is a very good timeline," Yves says quietly.

We also think that we've gotten as much out of Forrest as we need. We knock him out again, Memtag him and send him up to TimeWatch HQ to join the other copy of himself. It's even more satisfying the second time around!

But…now what do we do?

Forrest and Elizabeth's timeline is the original one, but in that timeline, most of Europe was destroyed by nuclear war. The one that we all came from was better, but it was created by Forrest's intervention.

Which one do we choose? And how do we choose? How can we possibly choose between nuclear war and racist time-traveler manipulation?
 

Couple comments from the GM:
1. Queen Anne was a mistake I made when answering a question off the cuff. I knew I wanted Elizabeth and Charles to have died--it was a clue about the nuclear war, that there had been a calamitus event that had killed both Elizabeth and her heir-apparent. But Princess Anne surviving didn't make much sense--I could come up with a story where she was with a nurse and stuff safely away from London to keep her safe while the Queen was back there, but it's pretty thin gruel. In retrospect, the King should have been King David (possibly King Albert, depending on which name he wanted to use)--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Armstrong-Jones,_Viscount_Linley having succeeded his mother, Queen Margaret (the real-world's Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon). They could much more reliably have been away from London--indeed, deliberately so to protect the succession. Oh well.

2. The nuclear exchange was substantial, and destroyed many of the major cities of Europe, but ti was far from mutually assured destruction (hitting too early for a massive build-up of nuclear weapons beforehand). It also was basically limited exclusively to Europe, because the exchange happened before the development of ICBMs. So it was probably about 10 or 15 cities total that got nuked--something like London, Manchester, Birmingham, maybe Leeds or Liverpool, Paris, Berlin, maybe Munich or some additional continental cities, and then all the major cities of the Soviet Union--Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Stalingrad. Not "most of Europe" but still a huge catastrophe, with enormous loss of life.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 1, Chapter 13: Chasing the Truth

"I believe we should ensure that Le Roi is wearing a nice thick coat," Yves begins.

Kat frowns. "I disagree. We can't pick and choose which timeline we like best."

"Exactly!" Edward chimes in. "Our duty is to find the right timeline, and that means the original one."

"But even if that one is the original, it seems like a bloody awful one," says Mace.

"Let us vote," Hypatia declares, as democratically as you'd expect. "I say we take the time travelers out of it. Forrest can do nothing now, and we should do nothing as well. Let history and chance take their course."

Slowly and painfully, Edward and Kat agree. "We can't intervene in the timeline anymore," Edward argues. "Hypatia is right: we have achieved our goal here by taking out Forrest, and now we have to stay out of it."

Yves and Mace hold out. "There will always be disturbances in the timeline," Yves counters. "It is our job, through our commission by Timewatch, to make sure that Timewatch exists. So that is what we need to do. It is circular, yes, but that should be our paramount concern. We must save the king."

Michel is skeptical. "In what way does that differ from the logic of M. Forrest, trying to make certain that the timeline he likes best wins?"

"It does not!" Yves declares. And then adds. "Except for the white supremacy."

Everyone stares.

"Well," Kat finally says. "That makes my decision easier."

Edward agrees. "Yes. A lot easier."

Mace Hunter! still isn't convinced."What is the point of Timewatch if we're not going to figure out the right answer and make sure that that happens? The right answer is right there on our tether. That's the timeline we have to protect."

"Timewatch sent us to stop Forrest," Edward argues back. "We can't do that if we allow - or make - the same change that Forrest attempted."

Michel adds, "If we do intervene, how do we know that we will not create even worse ripples in the timeline?"

"Timewatch would not send us out to do nothing," Yves sniffs.

"We haven't done nothing!" Edward protests. "We've apprehended Forrest. Twice!"

"Yves," Michel asks, "what do you propose that we do that does not compromise the integrity of the timeline by introducing ourselves to a major political figure?"

"Simply ensure that the king wears a warm coat in four days," says Yves.

Even that is too much intervention for the rest of us. Hypatia suggests, as she has all along, "Just let the old valet come back. Let Damiens try and - we hope - fail anyway."

Michel does have one small intervention: "Let us make sure that the valet isn't so bitter that he dresses the king in unsuitably thin clothes to try to give the king a cold."

Which is all very reasonable. And all very distracting. While we're debating and making other plans, Yves is slipping out his Autochron. By the time we notice it, the purple globe is already forming around him. All we can do is chase!

Rules Sidebar:
[sblock] Well, we could have shot him, but we wanted to test the time-chase mechanics :)

This was our first real speed bump in the playtest. Somehow we'd missed the fact that time chases are based on the Vehicles stat, and with an entire party of pre-modern people, none of us had enough points in Vehicles to make a decent chase! So instead, we decided to use Athletics instead, and made a note of that for the future.

Also, this session took place before a really great update to the rules. Now when you engage in a time chase, you hop in and out of famous historical chases! Chariot races, Olympic sprints, 1920s mob car chases, futuristic spaceship battles - any chase you want. Alas, that had not yet entered the rules.
[/sblock]

Edward, being a quick and athletic sort of person, is the first to leap after Yves. He takes the lead in the chase, steering us through space and time, past whirling stars and fleeting glimpses of alternate times.

We land on a balcony - still in Paris, still in the palace, but a century earlier. We're in 1657, witnessing the signing of a treaty between King Louis XIV and Oliver Cromwell. We barely have enough time to realize what's going on before Yves winks out again.

The stars whirl again, and tentacles slither out to grab at our Autochrons. Yves is fast, but so are the rest of us - Edward's expertise at Paradox Prevention has prepared him for just this kind of chase, and he's leading the group at top speed through the chaos of time.

We land in a desolate wasteland, so blasted by nuclear war that we couldn't even begin to guess when and where we are. Only our tethers tell us: it's still Paris. This is the 23rd century. It's the time that Forrest came from, the future that will follow if we do nothing.

And then Yves jumps out again, and when the stars stop spinning, we're almost back where we started. Still in Paris, back in January 1757. It's January 3: two days after we left, and one day before Damiens will try to assassinate King Louis XV.

We close in around Yves, prepared for him to jump away again - but he doesn't.

"You have exhausted my ability to escape you," Yves says, "but perhaps you have seen the consequences of not saving the king's life. You have a choice: you can arrest me right now. Or you can just allow me to pay the new king's valet a small bribe to make sure that he is extra warm in a couple days."

"Does it not occur to you that you are about to talk to the valet?" Michel cries in exasperation. "You could spare yourself so much effort." That is, in fact, what we had been about to do when Yves fired up his Autochron.

Edward is still focused on the big picture, though. "We already understood the consequences," he says steadily. "We still can't allow you to do this. Our whole purpose here is to prevent the deed that your'e trying to do."

Yves shakes his head. "Understanding something intellectually is not the same as experiencing it."

"We still need to prevent time travelers from interfering in this timeline," Edward persists.

"But that's what created our timeline!" protests Yves.

"You don't know that," Hypatia counters.

"Are you willing to risk your entire existence on that chance?" Yves asks.

Edward quirks a faint smile. "Isn't that what we do every day?"

Yves clearly isn't making any headway with Edward or Hypatia, so he tries a different tactic now. "Michel, I thought your love for La France would make you act in a different manner."

"Yves!" Edward exclaims indignantly. "Weren't you just accusing me of trying to bend the timeline for nationalist purposes?"

"Yes," Yves admits calmly, "but you were doing it for England."

Edward throws up his hands. "Oh, it's all right if French people do it!"

Michel answers the question, and doesn't take the bait that Yves has been trying to hold out. "I have been on the battlefield defending France against invaders. I do not want to do it again."

Eventually we talk Yves down - he's outnumbered, after all, and he's already lost one chase, so he'll very likely lose if he tries to run again. We watch him very very closely, and move ahead with our original plan.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 1, Chapter 14: Comedy, Tragedy, and the Fate of Kings

After recovering from the chase, we resume our original plan: to find the courtier who was acting as the king's valet before Forrest. We're worried that he might be bitter about losing his position, and that his bitterness might result in some subtle action against the king - nothing violent, of course, but maybe he would let the king go out in a thin coat in the hopes that he'll catch cold, which would put the king at greater risk from Damiens' stabbing attempt.

The valet still around court, and not hard to find. Hypatia has a strong appreciation for of all sorts, and 18th-century royal fashion definitely counts as that, so she can draw out the valet fairly easily. "What the king wears is fashion!" he declares happily.

Fortunately, the valet doesn't seem to be hostile - he's still very proud of his position, and very much wants to keep it now that he's gotten it back. Edward, as you might expect, is good at telling when nobles are making veiled insults against kings, and can tell that the valet isn't doing that.

But would there be anyone else who might encroach on the valet's position, or who might try to influence the valet to do something that might affect the timeline? Michel Flatters the valet expertly to find out. "I'm certain that many lesser people have tried to influence you, but it's good to see a man of such integrity in this role - someone who would never be influenced by anyone's petty maneuverings!"

The valet is more than happy to insult those "lesser people." People like Forrest, for instance. "Oh, he was awful!" gasps the valet.

Hypatia lowers her voice to a scandalized whisper. "I heard he got into a fistfight in the corridors!"

"Did he?" Edward gasps. "How shocking!"

The valet eagerly chimes in with some gossip of his own: "I heard he was sleeping with someone's wife!"

"And who knows what crimes against fashion he may have committed!" Michel adds.

"After the fight, he was never heard from again!" the valet informs us. "He must have been so embarrassed that he left town."

So there's no danger that the valet will take any action either to harm the king of his own volition or to protect the king under the influence of another timetraveler. There's no danger that Yves can slip away to take action on his own: he's really not an Unobtrusive person, and we're watching him like a hawk.

All the loose ends are tied up. So we wait.

Two days pass.

On January 5, 1757, a sudden uproarious shout begins outside the palace, and spreads throughout the city. The king has been stabbed.

At first, nobody knows for certain what has happened, and rumors run all around the city. He's alive, he's dead, he's dying - nobody knows. But as the hours pass, it becomes clear that he has been very badly wounded, and is on the verge of death.

On Jan 6, 1757, King Louis XV dies.

His son succeeds as Louis XVI - a name that in our timeline was borne by Louis XV's grandson. Because Louis XV survived in our timeline, he outlived his own son, and was succeeded by his grandson instead. But now we have a new king, one who never reigned in our timeline.

Our tethers are broken.

Over and over, we try to contact TimeWatch HQ, but there is no answer. Only silence.

There is an enormous outcry against the assassin - Robert-Francois Damiens, an unknown servant who apparently acted alone. His execution is gruesome and prolonged.

Our tethers are still silent. There are no messages from HQ. No messages from anywhere.

Where do we go? What do we do?
 


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