Timelords (role-playing game)
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TimeLords 2nd edition cover
|Publisher(s)||Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC)|
|Publication date||1987 TimeLords
1990 TimeLords 2nd Edition
2003 EABA TimeLords
2003 CORPS TimeLords
|Genre(s)||time travel, science fiction|
|System(s)||Custom (1st–2nd edition)
Complete Omniversal Role Playing System (CORPS)
End All Be All (EABA) v1.1
TimeLords is a set of time travel role-playing games by Greg Porter and published by Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC). None are related to the Doctor Who RPG, Time Lord. The first two editions used a custom d20 based game system, the 3rd and most recent edition uses either the EABA or CORPS systems from BTRC.
TimeLords begins at the End of Time. A doomed race, known as "The Designers", gifted in both psionics and sciences set about escaping their fate as the inevitable end of the universe encroached. Eventually, they discover time travel, and use this knowledge to move their entire solar system backwards in time to when the universe is about 15 billion years old. The actual Designers have never been seen by humans. After attempting to create powerful new life forms, they created an being to be an "Emissary" to other species, but it destroyed the Designers and caused the dispersion of Designer technology across the universe. They also created an enhanced human originally named "Bright-Spear". Bright-Spear was the sole survivor of a group of humans being studied by the Designers, the rest being slaughtered by the Emissary. Devoting himself to revenge, he eventually took the name "Lucifer" and has attempted multiple "times" to guide humanity to a state of knowledge where it could withstand and destroy the Emissary.
The pinnacle of their achievements was the "Matrix", a small time-travel device, the size and shape of a 20-sided die, weighing about 3 pounds. The Matrix could be used for personal time travel, as an energy source, and other things only hinted at by the rule books. It is one of these Matrix devices that the players of the game find to begin their adventure.
The actual game setting is virtually limitless. As a time travel game, characters may find themselves at any time in Earth history, past or future. Space travel is also a possibility, with some modules taking place on space ships or other planets. The game also hints at the idea of traveling to alternate universes, where mental powers, magic, or alternate technologies exist, opening up the possibility for fantasy, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, or any other game setting the players may want.
The game solves the problem of time travel paradox by creating multiple universes which players can jump across. For example, if a player were to go back in time to kill his own grandfather (the Grandfather Paradox), this would only create a parallel universe where his grandfather was dead, but the original universe where he is alive still exists. This also gives opportunities for players to meet alternate universe versions of themselves, and even to replace characters that may have died.
Gameplay is split into two games:
- The Primary Game, where players play as characters based on themselves, lost in time after finding a Matrix device
- The Secondary Game, in which players make characters who are agents of a Time Patrol organization.
The first edition of the game had only the Primary Game, but gave suggestions for creating Time Patrol characters, or replacing characters who died or were lost by creating alternate versions of them. The game systems were essentially the same as second edition, with only minor differences.
Regardless of which subgame of TimeLords you're playing in, your character has from 10-11 Primary Attributes:
- Bravado: similar to chutzpah
- Power: used for mental powers (not always used).
- Matrix Lag: number of seconds of stun and inability of action after using the Matrix for a "jump". This attribute can be lowered, but never to less than 1.
Attributes are scored between 1-20, with 8-11 considered "average". Scores under 5 are considered feeble, while scores over 15 are considered in the upper levels of human ability.
Primary Game: Generating Yourself
Most of the Primary Attributes start at a value of 10, and are adjusted up or down by answering questions or taking tests relating to that attribute.
- Strength's test is holding the heaviest weight you can out at arm's length for a full 5 seconds.
- Constitution is based on how frequently you get sick. Once you've found the appropriate range, you add a d3 to find your actual score.
- Intelligence is based on your IQ score, your SAT or ACT score, or 4.5 times your 4 point QCA score (if you've been a full-time student of high school or college for at least a year).
- Dexterity starts with a base of 10, adjusted based on tests such as juggling and balance.
- Bravado and Appearance are based on how the other gamers perceive a player. Someone with a "good poker face" or the ability to talk their way out of speeding tickets would have a higher Bravado.
- Matrix Lag is rolled on a d20, and whatever it comes up as is what you get, at least until you get used to "jumping".
- Power is based on a d20 roll only. It is meant to reflect a players mental ability for psionics or telepathic powers, and is rarely used. Some alternate universes might have these abilities.
In the Primary Game, a character's abilities and skills are determined by their real life counterparts. The Game Master and Players go through an extensive list of possible skills, with players rating themselves and each other on a 1-20 scale. A beginner might have a range of 2-5, while a skill used professionally might rate 16 or higher. The game also encourages the creation of new skills, to cover relevant experience players may have that is not included in the manual.
In the Secondary Game, characters purchase skills in a points based system.
Each skill is related to an attribute, for example "firearms" is based on Dexterity, and "computer" based on Intelligence. A high attribute score would gain the character a bonus in a related skill, and makes learning a new skill easier.
To determine the success or failure of an action, the character's skill level is modified by any factors that would make the action more or less difficult, then this is run through the Universal Modifier Chart. A simple d20 roll is then made to determine success.
The Universal Modifier Chart
This chart is the games system for overcoming one of the perceived flaws in a linearly progressive skill based game system. In a standard system, any modifier to a die roll has a greater effect on a lower skill level than a higher one. For example, a -1 modifier to a skill of 15 reduces that skill by about 7%, where a skill of 5 is reduced by 20%. To overcome this, any roll to dertermine the success of an action would first have the modifiers referenced on the Universal Modifier Chart, which would alter the penalty (or bonus) to the skill accordingly.
For skills in the median range, 8-12, the UMC does not make much difference in rolls needed. Use of the chart is considered optional, as it slows down play in an already complex system.
The first two editions used one of the most complex combat systems of any RPG, with a goal of simulating real life as closely as possible. To shoot a firearm, for example, a character's "firearm" skill is modified by the accuracy of the weapon, the distance to the target, size of the target, and other conditions such as weather or terrain. These modifiers are run through the UMC, and a roll made to determine if the attack scored a hit.
To determine damage from an attack, the body is divided into 26 areas, each with its own damage points, and separate tables for determining damage to each area. Damage is further divided based on the type of weapon used, and the type of damage it could cause (blunt, crushing, burning, edged, etc.); then modified based on armor worn, again divided based on how the armor countered different damage types. Still more tables are used to find continuing damage from bleeding, recovery times, unconsciousness, temporary and permanent disabilities, or possibly death.
This resulted in nearly half of the book being devoted to combat tables, and correspondingly long and complex combat. A simple one on one confrontation might take an hour or more. A simplified version of the combat rules, using only 6 body areas, and correspondingly fewer tables, is also given, and does cut down on some of the complexity.
The goal, as stated by the game's designer, was to create as realistic a combat system as possible, and avoid the "shot in the foot" paradox of some other game systems. This happens in some games when an injured character low on hit points could be killed simply by shooting them in the foot, something that would almost never happen in real life. Characters in TimeLords rarely die from a single attack, instead they suffer traumas that might cause death if left untreated.
To keep the game more focused on realism, characters do not gain experience points or levels like many RPGs. A character's attributes or skills may increase based on how often and how well they used that skill during the game. Practicing a skill or actively working on an ability can also cause it to increase. For example, spending a few hours a day at a firing range may increase the "firearms" skill, but not as quickly as using that skill in a combat situation. Skill advancement also requires that characters push the boundaries of their skill - driving a car daily for 10 years does not automatically make someone a first class driver, as they might never learn some advanced techniques that racing drivers have.
TimeLords 3rd Edition
in 2003, BTRC re-issued the TimeLords game as part of their new EABA (End All Be All) system. The new system is loosely based on the custom system used in TimeLords, and kept much of the story and setting. It is d6-based and has dice pools, but rarely will a character keep more than three of the results.
Some changes that were made to the setting with the EABA rules:
- A Matrix can only be used by a Designer, or a descendant of a Designer. This means that one of the characters must have some ancient Designer relative. Which character this is can be left unknown to the players.
- A Matrix no longer requires direct contact to function. This makes it easier for the Game Master to disguise which player may have Designer blood.
The TimeLords game using the CORPS (C.omplete O.mniversal R.ole P.laying S.ystem) rules, also by BTRC, which is d10-based. It is otherwise the same as EABA TimeLords.
BTRC was started by Greg in 1987, and TimeLords was its first product. It was not initially well received, but maintained a cult following that allowed a second edition to be published in 1990. Several books of adventures were published in the early 90's for use with the second edition.
Starting in 2003, BTRC stopped paper publication of all of its games, and made them available only in a downloaded PDF format, or published on-demand.
- WarpWorld: a post-apocalyptic RPG from BTRC, using the same d20-based system.
- SpaceTime: a cyberpunk RPG from BTRC, using the same d20-based system.
- Renegade Dreams: a complete adventure for the SpaceTime game universe.
- TimeLords TL-01, by Greg Porter (1987) ASIN B000JQ7FH6
- Pursuit: An Adventure Module for TimeLords, by Greg Porter and Jasper Merendino (1988) ASIN B000J0TLTC
- TimeLords (2nd Edition), by Greg Porter (1990) ISBN 0-943891-10-8
- Time Capsules, by Greg Porter (1990) ISBN 0-943891-11-6, book of mini adventures
- Supertanker of Death, by Erik Baker (1991) ISBN 0-943891-18-3, full length adventure
- Time Capsules 2: Adventures for TimeLords, by Greg Porter (1993) ISBN 0-943891-22-1, 60 pages of mini adventures
- BTRC Adventure Pack #1, Three introductory adventures for TimeLords, by Greg Porter and Roger Campbell (1995) ISBN 0-943891-01-9
- Avengers, A campaign supplement for TimeLords, by Greg Porter (1995), ISBN 0-943891-02-7
Third Edition, EABA and CORPS editions are only available in a downloaded PDF format.