Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Happens in Gomorrah Stays in Gomorrah


All except the poor are welcome.  No soldiers bar the gates excepting to an army.  No police patrol the streets.  In Gomorrah, it is said, you can go anywhere you wish, commit whatever crime you wish, subject only to your own strength.  There is no law, save the law of the sword, no punishment save that which your victim may attempt to inflict.
The second 'Time Capsule' presented with the Timeship role-playing game is 'The Destruction of Gomorrah'.  The phrase, “There is no law,” indicated above, refers only to moral law.  There is, indeed, an inviolable law in this Capsule – Gomorrah will be destroyed.  The Capsule states, “[T]he destruction of the city is inevitable and total and those who fail to find the EXIT must perish with it in the long dead past.”  Although this is an 'Adventure' Capsule – meaning the player characters have no set goal – locating an EXIT within a given period of time becomes a de facto goal.

I won't divulge the amount of time, but I will mention the clock starts ticking as soon as the party ventures through the Gateway to the bazaar scene (shown above).  As the party enters the Gateway, “an automatic pulse of energy” starts the timer of an atomic bomb.  (Of course, the players have no way of knowing this.)  The bomb has been placed in a particular location by extraterrestrial operatives who have decided to impose their alien values upon a developing culture.  They judged that the cities of Gomorrah and Sodom were “without evolutionary potential” and must therefore be destroyed.  In other words, an 'advanced civilization' uses extreme violence to 'solve' a problem that has nothing to do with them.  Is this supposed to be a lesson?  Why did they go through all of the trouble to hide an atomic bomb in Gomorrah as opposed to using a more direct solution?  Why did they arrange for the bomb to be triggered by time travelers?  Anyway, since the Voyagers don't know about the atomic bomb, they can't look for it; but, if they come across it, they can disarm it.  However, even if they manage to disarm the bomb, the alien Mother Ship will send “a disc which will release an explosive device of great power in the atmosphere above these cities.”  The “missile” takes an hour to reach its detonation point, giving the Voyagers time to find an EXIT.

One minute before the destruction of Gomorrah (whether from bomb or missile), “the party will hear a voice booming out across the city.”  This functions as a (literal) last-minute warning for the Voyagers to split the scene.  This “peculiar metallic” voice explains the aliens' rationale for mass their victims who will cease to exist in a matter of seconds.  “You will be unaware of your end,” the aliens helpfully inform their audience.  I guess this somehow makes sense to the aliens.

Let's set aside the doom and gloom and look at the opportunities that present themselves to the Voyagers as they explore this 'sandbox of sin' (so to speak).  I have it on good authority that the denizens of Gomorrah did not speak English.  This, however, should not daunt intrepid Voyagers.  A mere two units of PERSONAL ENERGY...
...will allow everyone who hears you in your travels to hear you speak in his or her native, or common, language.  By the same token, you shall hear all that is spoken around you in your native or common language.
At one point, author Herbie Brennan uses the phrase “Universal Translator.”  Doubtless, he is referring to this ability.

For the reader's edification, below is the map of Gomorrah provided in the Timeship box.  An astute observer will note that the map is not keyed.  This is because a random DESCRIPTION TABLE is to be consulted for each building in the city with the exception of certain areas:  the bazaar, the parkland, the palace, the ziggurat, and the guard stations.  Even so, some locations described in the table are meant to be unique and the Timelord is advised that “If [a particular description] does not appear to you to fit the prevailing circumstances, ignore it and roll again.”  Also, “as Timelord, you are not bound by any table.”

The Voyagers arrive at the bazaar.  Aside from slaves, a variety of merchandise is sold; Brennan spends a paragraph listing examples.  The guard stations house guards that have no concern for crimes other than (a) attacks upon a guard and (b) riots.  In the ziggurat, ten girls (“ages ranging between seven and eleven”) are about to be sacrificed to Moloch.  Don't even bother going to the palace; as soon as any Voyager enters the area, “the entire complex will [become] an explosive inferno.”  In the parkland, one is apt to encounter various combinations of persons indulging in carnal activity.  However, it's possible to meet a Hebrew prophet as well as a card-carrying “Time Traveller from the Twenty-Eighth Century.”  Also, watch out for snakes. 

The DESCRIPTION TABLE lists twenty-three establishments.  Often, a “percentile roll” is used to determine the number of occupants of a structure.  I think Brennan means for a Timelord to roll one of the percentile dice, thereby generating a number from one to ten.  Along with the various dens of iniquity, one may encounter a “Sorcerer's Lodge” wherein a demon is being summoned.  A patron of the “Prostitute's House” has a 76% chance of contracting body lice.  (There is no chance of contracting body lice at the “Brothel.”)  Relief from the body lice requires an expenditure of three PERSONAL ENERGY units.  Try to avoid getting leprosy.  (There is a “Leper Colony” location as well as a possible leper encounter on the street.)  Leprosy “will eat away four points of ENERGY for each hour's play subsequent to contracting it.”  Also, “within half an hour (real time) the player will have lost the use of his sword arm.”  For a Voyager, leprosy “will terminate its course once the victim has passed through an EXIT.”

When the Voyagers “enter a new street or district,” the Timelord is instructed to roll on the ENCOUNTER TABLE which offers twenty-two distinct encounters (and a 9% chance of 'no encounter').  There is a 30% chance of encountering a streetwalker of either gender or inclination.  Other encounters include thieves, pimps, pushers, and drunks.  Among the special encounters there is an “Angel...dressed in a vaguely luminous, skintight silver suit of metallic appearance,” a 3' 6" dwarf (who “will offer his services as a fighter to the males of the party and his services as a lover to the females”), and a homicidal hermaphrodite who “has stained his/her skin bright green.”

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