FanExpo Series: Time & Temp

Well. It's been awhile. For those of you that want to know about my actual life, I just got married and am applying for school. Thus, been busy.

I know it's been more than month since the most wonderful FanExpo, but I'm finally getting around to talking about what happened there. Deal with it.

Time & Temp is an indie game by game designer Epidiah Ravachol. It's about being temp workers at a time travel agency. And yes, it's as hilarious as the about line indicates. I've had this game on my shelf since last Christmas and had never really gotten around to trying it. I had never played it before, and as I learn best by doing instead of reading, I found the task of learning a new system from a book a little daunting. It wouldn't be the first time I've done it, but my habit of reading only a little and making the rest up sometimes screws with indie games and I don't like it doing it.

But FanExpo came along and we needed GMs. A lot of GMs as we had our own room this year (by we, I mean TAG). So I bullied, bribed and begged my best mates and gamers to come on out and put some games on. It turned out wonderfully. Anyways, I looked critically at my gaming shelf, whereupon I discovered I needed new games, and pulled down I haven't run yet, and some I love running no matter what. One of those, was Time & Temp.

I picked up my unbound edition and wandered over to my friends' house wherein we got drunk and wrote a ridiculous story for a one-shot for Time & Temp. Sober, the next day, I built on the story and attempted to learn the rules. A few hours later and much jabbering at my now husband, I could explain to him how to play and knew what my role was as the GM. I had my story-line, I had dice, and I had a freshly printed copy of the number matrix required for the game.

I had six players for my game, and their character names were Lisa, Celeste, Eddie, Sergei, James and Ralph. Three of these people were my good friends, three were gaming acquaintances I see every year at FanExpo but still don't know their names. I'm awful with names. They all played very different characters and made them up at the beginning of the game with scribbled resumes.

The game was set in Camelot. The crew were told that they were as an anomaly and they had to go solve the problem, with little more than that. Their manager called Ralph by the wrong name, insisting that he had given him the file. The player thought I had screwed up his character's name, I guess, and went along with it. Or knew it was deliberate and went along with it. It resulted in an on-going in-game joke about this jerk npc that got fired and hadn't given them back the file. He had also apparently stolen company equipment, and Lisa had ratted him out to the company. It was an interesting development that let the players blame their lack of knowledge on someone not even there. It definitely felt like these guys had been co-workers for a considerable length of time and reminded me vaguely of the television show Community.

The character Lisa was a rules-lawyer. I do mean her -character- was a rules lawyer. Lisa took it upon herself to read the entire handbook and shout at her team mates whenever they were doing things incorrectly. She also frequently yelled about boats and ripples, and continually told people they were being too big of a boat when the others were exploring and talking to locals at Camelot. One of my favourite quotes that came from Lisa saying they could destroy the multiverse if they muck around too much: "Multiverse or Universe? Which one? I read the wikipedia article."

A correction from Lisa: "Don't high-five! It's anachronistically incorrect!"

The game works on a premise that every time the players roll dice, they have to enter the number they rolled into the matrix. No two same numbers can be touching, otherwise paradoxes start happening. Too many paradox dice get locked in, and the world 'splodes. Yeah. It's an awesome game. So my policy for a one-shot was to get these guys to roll dice as often as I could so they (and myself) could learn the system and push for paradoxes to start happening. I wanted the team to feel the pressure of fucking up too much. I also wanted to get to throw some awesome anomalies at them.

At first, dice rolling was slow. You find out how many dice you're rolling, and what kind by how much effort and what kind of result you want. Then you ask essential questions that determine the number of dice. Then you roll. Then you look at this little chart to see what number you're going to use of the ones you rolled based on what's in the matrix and what result you want to get. This is easy at first, and these clever kids let themselves fail a few times so they wouldn't waste the most common low numbers first. But they enjoyed rolling and liked trying to find ways to get bonuses. You get bonuses in the game by plugging the numbers into the matrix in bingo-like patterns.

The group was eager to find out what was wrong in Camelot, and eventually discovered that Guinevere was actually Gerta Goebbels, a Nazi. She was trying to bring King Arthur down, it seemed, or steal Excalibur. The characters weren't really sure, but she was a Nazi, therefore evil, and had to be stopped by any means necessary. Sergei was a Russian character and blew their cover by talking to Gerta and pretending he wasn't Russian. Gera/Guinevere tried to have them arrested but the crew broke free and tried to talk to Merlin about the insanity happening in hopes that Merlin was a time traveler as well.

At this point, the players had rolled enough dice to have two paradox (out of four) locked in and Celeste made a final roll to escape the Nazis. This gave them the bonus they were hoping for, and they decided that Merlin would totally be a time traveler and know what they meant by Nazis in Camelot! They fled to Merlin, convinced him to help them, and the rest, as they say, is history. They tried to burn Guinevere at the stake, Lancelot saved her, and they destroyed her time machine.

This was one of the first games outside of CyberGeneration I've run that has a silly tone to it. I'm usually a fairly serious gamer and try to present games that have a horrific tone if not a theme to them. For Time & Temp, the rules say it should be funny and often, hilarious. So when we wrote the game, we went with Nazis in Camelot because if it can happen in Indiana Jones, it can happen anywhere. We also chose Nazis because they're always the bad guys (for good reason) and it's easy to hate them and peg them as the problem.

What I found really interesting amongst the players is the lack of interest in why the Nazis were in Camelot. They just went on the premise that Nazis are not from the age and should not be here, therefore, stop the Nazi. There was an entire back story to this that I thought folks would be interested in. I learned from this, that when having a big bad like Nazis, people aren't really going to ask questions.

One of the other things I've learned with games at conventions is to give players ten to fifteen minutes of just role-playing time. Time & Temp takes place in an office and should always begin with the temps doing temp-like things. I followed this cue and told the players to do their temp like things. As I let the time stretch and silence reigned for a few minutes after the obvious "I'm filing" the players began to talk to one another in character. I do this for my Deliria game as well. I think this time really helped people get a bit of a relationship before they're forced into making group decisions.

Now, my favourite part about Time & Temp: cooperation. I helped teach a seminar awhile ago on the importance of cooperative gaming instead of competitive gaming with young children. This is a big thing for me as I feel that cooperation is very important to humanity and we've lost a lot of the working together skills we innately have. In a study, it showed our brain lit up more (responded positively more) when we cooperated versus when we worked against one another. And there was another study I read about team work and such... wow, that's specific. I'll get specifics when I can find those stats again. Just you wait.

Anyways, it's important for us to learn and to experience cooperation. Games that allow people to cooperate together instead of play competitively against one another are more fun, and allow for people to have a sense of community for a few moments. It also, obviously, teaches us to get along and work better with others. Time & Temp is heavily cooperative. It demands that you work together to put numbers into a matrix and to avoid destroying the universe. Most other rpgs that I run don't have this feature. In fact, most I run tend to have you working against one another in a back-stabbing type of function such as Fiasco or In A Wicked Age.

Time & Temp is diverse. You could easily change the setting to fit another time period (which I'm doing to make the game Victorian and therefore, steampunk) and to fit another city's setting. It's easy to pick up and drop players as the characters are temp agents and aren't meant to stick around that long. As a role-playing game, I plan on running and hopefully, one day, playing it, again and again. My friends, whom are snobby and extremely picky, much like myself, have requested I run a nine session campaign of the game. That says a lot.

I received several questions about where to purchase the game from other players and have since directed them to Indie Press Revolution. Hopefully we've found some new indie gamers.

Time & Temp
One shot experience: Amazing!
Easy to Learn: Yep. Short and sweet.
Replayability: Very high
Ease for newbies: Very high
Campaign: Not as easy, but do-able
Work for GM: Medium, creating a different problem every session
Price: Average for an indie game (10 - 20 bucks)

My one gripe: The website doesn't have print outs of the Matrix available. I ended up purchasing another copy of Time & Temp, only the pdf, just so I could print the Matrix at my leisure. I would post that document online so people can print them off instead of asking them to go photocopy or scan them. But I'm lazy. I think most online documents you need to play a game (character sheets, etc) should be available online.