12 Months 12 Systems Debrief: Month 1 TimeWatch

So last week I played the official game of TimeWatch at the game store. It went fairly well, although I learned a lot about running the systems for this project. I also learned a bit about how the event is organized. SO that was good.

First, attendance was not as kigh as I would like. This is my fault, as I didn’t promote the event like I ought to have, for a decent reason. There was a MTG event going on at the gamestore that night, so I was limited to just the back room. There was no space for me to branch out and steal an additional table if needed, so I was bashful about inviting people to the game. I hate to turn people away and that week, I had a firm limit as to my player count. So I did not promote as I will be doing for future weeks.

We ended up with one player, one of the other AL DMs. He chose Skegg the psycho-raptor as his character. He had a lot of fun playing her and played up a few moments very in character. Probably some of my most picturesque scenes of TimeWatch ATM come from this. (I waited a week to see if that Matt guy would finish a picture of this scene, but it didn’t happen. Skegg the Raptor went undercover wearing a blonde wig, a dress, and a moustache. Hilarious. I’ll do what I can for a picture, eventually.)

I think for 12M12S to be an effective showcase, I have to highlight the best aspects of the games I run, making them stand out from the pack. For TW, the best aspects are probably Stitches, Preparedness, Time Shenanigans, and hanging out as a group of nerds, “bullshitting about time travel” as it says in the book.

With only 1 player, we were curtailed a lot in what we could realistically demonstrate. I ended up not using Stiches, which I regret. Of the 3 times I’ve run the game, the session where they flowed like water was the most fun. (That was also the only session a specific bother was at. Everything is connected).

I was also unable to have much time travel conversation between us. Apparently, he knew a heck of a lot about WW1 and I hadn’t even glanced at Wikipedia about it, which was bad for me. I bluffed it out and managed to not have to back track, but it was rough for me. I wish I had prepared better. And I wish I had additional players to help dilute my ignorance (its easier to get away with not knowing something if more people don’t know it. But you knew that, right?)

There also wasn’t a lot of time travel shenanigans. There was the basic scene changing things, but nothing as crazy as my first game, where I can’t even describe how the game played out, there was so much time travel crap. Way fun. This game, however, progressed fairly linearly. I think that just comes down to how different tables do things, I guess. That’s probably the most important part about RPGs. If you aren’t having fun, try playing with different people. It will be a different experience, I promise. (Better? Eh, not going to promise that. Its another roll of the dice, though.)

Preparedness we did cover though, which is great as its the only one of the 3 that is core to GUMSHOE and not just TW. Josh had his dinosaur whip out a silly disguise from his pocket, which was great. It made for a fun scene, which, at its core, is what RPGs is about, amiright?

I will say t was interesting to play with someone who was a dedicated gamer, instead of my family of casuals. He had a great grasp on the scuffling rules and how best handle a town full of guards and things. He also remembered that he had a translator when confronting the penguin, which is not something that any of my players recalled when they dealt with that story in my second session.

For stories, I ran the Peanut Machine and Titanic Consequences, 2 small scenarios I named just now. (Not sure about Peanut Machine, but Titanic Consequences is an amazing name) I’ve done each of them twice now and they’re slowly being refined with details. I imagine there is a method to figure  out what a party will do and how to adequately prepare for players going every which way, but I do not know it yet. So repeated playtesting has netted me two moderately prepped adventures.  Nothing worthy of writing down yet, but maybe, one day, if I keep doing TW.

So for Peanut Machine, we actually made it to the prehistoric village, which I had to name and motivate in rapid succession. There was also a boss fight that worked for a solo combatant, but probably wouldn’t for a group. But that’s part of being an Ultimate DM. (Man, could I write a book about being an Ultimate DM? I know I’m not ready, but what would I want in that? hmmm… that bears some thought.)

Once again, no one interacted with my NPC. I should be used to it by now, I guess, but I probably need to increase Mr. Carver’s impact on the story. He’s a bystander, not an instigator or antagonist.

In this running of Titanic Consequences, the beginning went a lot smoother. I changed the data point the players start on from “Something’s wrong with the 20th century ” to “We haven’t heard from Taskforce: Hitler in a while” It restricted the entry point into the timestream and made everything flow a little easier.

I didn’t use the polar bears this time around, as there was just one guy and they were nasty. Did have a conversation with the penguin, though, which was interesting.

I got rid of the dog outside of the docks. It was a cute idea, but I think it detracted from the game.

So yeah. The game went well. I ran 2 short missions in the hour and a half we used the room. I know it would have been longer with more people. Probably only would have run 1 mission with a full table.

In the end, I think I learned a lot. GUMSHOE is now my favorite system* and I’m working at throwing words on page to make a medieval fantasy adaptation of it. Which is an interesting puzzle. How strong ARE dragons?

Anyway, that was TimeWatch. Not a great demo, definitely would run again.

*This has already changed in the week since I wrote this.

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