Sunday, August 4, 2019

Experience and Significance in Timemaster


As indicated previously, player characters rise in the ranks of the Time Corps as they successfully complete missions.  They can also gain Success Points which can be used “to raise their Basic Ability Scores and skill scores, or to acquire new skills and paranormal talents.”  Contrary to the notion of success, player characters do not necessarily receive Success Points upon successfully completing a mission; they only get Success Points if they don't change history.  Whether or not player characters change history is tied to the notion of “significance.”

Historical figures and events – as well as certain items of Time Corps equipment – have significance ratings reflecting their potential to affect history.  We learn that “each human NPC has a significance rating of 1 to 500.”  For instance, the Guide to the Continuum tells us that Cleopatra has a significance rating of 275.  According to the introductory adventure, Manfred von Richtofen (sic) has a significance rating of 100.  The Paranormal Talent of Significance Sensing “allows characters to sense how important an unknown NPC or event is to history . . . with an accuracy of plus or minus 25 points.”  During the course of an adventure, player characters may make “mistakes” which have a significance rating value.  The premature demise of an important personage would be a mistake with a “cost” equal to the significance rating of said person.  Losing a piece of Time Corps equipment “costs” the significance rating of the item.  (A medical kit has a significance rating of 500, a Time Corps stunner has one of 300.)  Various events in an adventure have “costs” if player characters do not prevent them.  For example, in the first encounter in the introductory adventure, a meddlesome Demorean attempts to steal military plans being delivered to George S. Patton.  If the Demorean succeeds, there is a “cost” of 75 points.

At the end of an adventure, the Continuum Master tallies up the values of the “mistakes” and rolls a d1000.  This is called a “significance check.”  If the result of the check exceeds the “mistakes total,” then the course of history is preserved.  Otherwise, history is altered and the player characters are not awarded Success Points.  In this circumstance, the significance check value is subtracted from the “mistakes total.”  This difference is compared to the adventure's Historical Changes Chart; the greater the difference, the greater the deviance from 'original' history.  Such a deviance is never for the better.  The Historical Changes Chart for the introductory adventure (which takes place in the first World War) describes the following conditions:
Difference 01 – 99:  The ancestor of a Time Corps agent dies, meaning said agent never comes into existence.  “Fortunately, the agent was only a Trainee/5, so only five missions will have to be redone.”
Difference 100 – 199:  The German High Command becomes paranoid about saboteurs and spies.  “The Army arrests hundreds of innocent Germans, and executes them.”
Difference 200 – 299:  An American soldier (who should have died in the war) becomes a financier and the stock market crash occurs in 1927 rather than 1929.  “Herbert Hoover solves the problems of the Depression by 1931; Franklin Roosevelt is not elected President, and American entry into World World II is delayed until 1943.”  Eventually, “Communist China becomes the major world power by 1960.”
Difference 300 – 399:  The Allied Powers become discouraged with tank warfare, causing the war to continue longer than it would have.  Somehow, “this works to the benefit of Soviet Russia, which becomes the major power in Europe by 1940 . . . [and] nuclear war occurs in 1984.”
Difference 400 + :  “The Allies lose badly at Cambrais [sic], but realize the significance of air and rocket power to their defeat.”  World War II begins sooner than it would have.  “Europe is devastated; the United States is badly crippled, and Japan conquers most of Asia.”
If the player characters utterly fail in their mission, “The Allies still win World War I, but the lessons learned at Cambrais [sic] give the Germans a significant technological edge before the beginning of World War II.”  As an eventual result, “The Nazi Third Reich dominates Europe until the Holocaust of 1984, when America and Nazi Europe destroy one another in a nuclear war.”

Assuming that player characters are successful in a mission (as defined in the Time Corps' briefing at the beginning of the adventure) and they do not alter the course of history, they are entitled to Success Points.  We learn that, “Every TIMEMASTER adventure has a significance rating from 1 to 1000.”  (The introductory adventure has a significance rating of 500.)  The “mistakes total” is subtracted from the adventure's significance rating.  The result is the number of Success Points to be equally divided among the player characters.  Success Points may be saved, but can only spent between adventures.

If agents violate Time Corps regulations, they may be demoted and “earn no Success Points until they regain their original status.”  So, if there are five player characters and one has been demoted, is the pool of Success Points divided by four?  Or is it divided by five and the fifth portion is lost?

At the conclusion of a gaming session, the Continuum Master may award up to fifty bonus Success Points “to reward outstanding play.”  The rules explain that, “Outstanding play includes things such as playing the character almost as well as an actor would, coming up with a particularly good plan to solve a problem, risking the character's life for the benefit of the group of characters, and so forth.”

In TIMEMASTER, each skill has three levels:  Specialist, Expert, and Master.  When a character first learns a skill, it is at Specialist level.  A new skill costs 50 points.  Raising a skill from Specialist to Expert costs 100 points; from Expert to Master is 150 points.  While player characters can purchase any number of skills, a given skill may only be raised one level at a time.  For example, a skill may be raised from Specialist to Expert, but that skill cannot be raised to Master until at least one adventure has passed.  Also, player characters receive a new skill upon attaining a new rank in the Corps (i.e., ten grades or successful adventures).

New Paranormal Talents cost 200 points each.  For fifty Success Points, a Basic Ability score may be increased by one, but such scores cannot be increased beyond a value of 80.

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