Going Back in Time — Time & Time Again RPG

Time & Time Again

The Time Travel Role Playing Game

Author: H. N. Voss & W. P. Worzel
Publisher: Timeline Ltd.
Published Year: 1984
Available Formats: Print $19.95

Everyone has a favorite roleplaying theme. Some like medieval fantasy, hard sci-fi, bleak post-apocalyptic, etc. When it comes to roleplaying themes, I’m partial to time-travel. Though looking at my shelves, it would speak differently. There are not that many roleplaying games focused on time travel. More often, you will find time travel as part of another game, but rarely it is the central theme. Time & Time Again is one of those unique games that devotes its theme to time travel.

Time & Time Again or T2 as its called is set in the alternative timeline of the 1990s or 2000s. There is no hard timeline to give an accurate date. In this alternative timeline, the devastating war in 1992 births man’s ability to time travel. The warring factions of the ’92 war mimic the same hostile entities to the United States, as found in the 1980s. An explanation of how the war began is detailed in the beginning pages of T2. It involved many countries with the two superpowers taking center stage. A brilliant Japanese graduate student names Mudashi emerged out of the war with a theory on how to travel through time.

Mudashi took his theory and secretly developed the first time translation device in Chicago at the lab he worked at shortly after the war ended. Not long after, Mudashi vanished. Possibly taking a one-way trip into the past. No one knows what happened to him. It wasn’t until his disappearance that his work on time travel was discovered. The newly formed World Government seized all of Mudashi’s Temporal Translation research and assigned classified scientists to make use of it. It took the scientists years to understand Mudashi notes, but they finally did, and time travel became a reality.

Following the war of ’92, the United Nations began its slow descent, and a new World Government (WG) sprang forth. Along with this new governing body came its military might, the World Government Force (WGF). Modeled after the French Foreign Legion, many of its titles and workings mirrored the workings of the WGF. The WGF was not formed to dominate over other nation-states but to prevent another 1992 war. Beyond controlling the WGF, the World Government doesn’t inject itself into other countries’ internal affairs. The WG handles disaster relief and temporal affairs.

The World Government wasn’t the only new entity to rise after the ’92 war. The expense of building and maintaining time travel facilities was quickly recognized. No one entity had the resources to do it. The World Federations of Colleges and Universities (WFCU) came together to share resources and work as one. The World Government quickly stepped in to prevented the WFCU from having access to temporal technologies. After careful negotiation, the WG allowed the WFCU to develop temporal technologies. But due to WFCU’s earlier failures in this process, the World Government stepped in once again an formed the Bureau of Temporal Affairs (BTA) to oversee the WFCU. These three entities, WG, WFCU, and BTA, work together, though not always so nice, to oversee all temporal affairs.

Working in unison, the three entities fully develop a working time machine. The WFCU was quick to send it’s scholar into the past to study history first hand. Unfortunately, the scholars did not return even though the technology was proven to work. It was quickly realized that the scholars did not return not because of failure with the machine but because they were killed by hostile entities in the past. This lead to the development of the Voltigeurs. The Voltigeurs is an armed service comprised of “survivors”, hardy and resourceful individuals that would accompany scholars. These are the roles the players assume in Time & Time Again.

Running a time-traveling themed RPG can have its difficulties. The biggest difficultly is dealing with paradoxes. Time & Time Again circumnavigates paradoxes and other time-related issues by employing these truths.

  1. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change history. History is fixed and unwavering. The strange powers of time prevent anyone from altering it. That doesn’t mean actions taken by Voltigeurs are not tied to history. Their actions may play a part in history and they just don’t know it yet.
  2. You can’t travel forward in time. I know a lot of people would be happy to travel forward in time and leave 2020 behind, but time is not an option in T2. You can only be pushed into the past and pulled into the present. It’s just the way it works.
  3. You shouldn’t meet yourself in the past. If you do, you won’t come back. In early tests, subjects sent back in time to the same place and time never returned. It’s suspected that they disappeared into nothingness, but no one really knows what happened. BTA guidelines are to stay 50 miles of your former self for safety.
  4. You can’t move an object in time into spaces already occupied. Meaning you can’t materialize into stone or any other objects.
  5. You can’t safely travel back more than half a million years. Even when traveling through time, things age. The rate of organic decomposition discovered through testing showed that a human traveling a half a million years or more would return as a pile of dust.
  6. You can’t send metal back, but you can bring it back. This has to do with the amount of energy needed to push metal through time. It takes less energy to pull. This prevents modern weapons and high-technology in the past.

With these truths in place, the game alleviates a lot of headaches caused by time traveling. But more importantly, it keeps modern technology out of the past and preserves the timeline.

The game mechanics for Time & Time Again are very similar to the Morrow Project RPG, also published by Timeline, TLD. Characters, the Voltigeurs, use six statistics to represent themselves, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Attitude, and Luck, with each value falling between 3-18. Hit points are separated into Structure and Blood points, which are based on Str and Con. Structure points represent the amount of damage a specific body part can absorb before becoming useless as well as the parts extending from it. Blood points represent the amount of blood loss from a wound. It’s possible to receive a minor wound but die of blood loss. T2 uses an extensive body hit location chart to determine the wounded area.

The Bureau of Temporal Affairs (BTA) oversees and trains the Voltigeurs. There are four categories of skills in T2 that the Voltigeurs are trained in, Knowledge, Survival, Social, and Itinerant Skills. Eight Knowledge Skills are taught in the classroom and will increase with further study. There are twelve Survival Skills and eight Social Skills to aid a Voltigeur in any period. The last set of skills is Itinerant Skills. Itinerant Skills are skills to help the Voltigeurs blend in with the crowd or give them basic knowledge of a trade like Wood Carver, Tinker, or Jewelist. Each Voltigeur receives basic training in each of the skills above. They can then specialize in specific skills and raise it higher based on their intelligence. After basic training, increasing skills are achieved from experience or further training. When a skill is used successfully in a mission, a Voltigeur can raise the skill level upon their return or monthly if the mission is to exceed one month. Voltigeurs can also pay for additional instruction to raise a skill.

Each Voltigeurs receives training in self-defense. Voltigeurs are taught to avoid fights and use their best weapon, knowledge. When combat is unavoidable, a Voltigeur is capable of defending themselves armed and unarmed. The BTA provides training for both. Unarmed combat falls into two categories, strikes and throws. Strikes are physical attacks from the striker’s body to the defender’s body. A Voltigeurs is trained to use their body as a weapon. Throws represent other types of brawling techniques like grappling, wrestling, or martial arts like Aikido. Throw acts in two parts. The first attack begins with getting hold of your opponent then performing the throw; both actions utilizing the same base chance of success.

Voltigeurs can also use defensive maneuvers in combat. Defensive maneuvers are broken into three categories, blocks, dodges, and rolls. Blocks protect against incoming strikes or turning a strike into a counter-attack, but it cannot prevent being thrown. Dodges remove the body from strikes and can prevent a person from being thrown but can’t be used as a counter move. Rolls are used only when a person is being thrown to reduce the damage taken.

Voltigeurs can turn an attack against them into a counter-attack. There are two types of counters, throws, and cast. A countered throw begins when the Voltigeur is about to be thrown themselves. They can attempt to counter by using their opposite’s own grip to throw them instead. A counter cast is when a Voltigeurs throws something like a handful of sand or the like into an opponent’s face. The BTA does not specifically train Voltigeurs in counter-attacks. These types of attacks come from experience and other training sources.

Armed combat consists of non-missile weapons and missile weapons. Non-missile weapons (melee) is used for strikes and defense and missile for ranged attacks. Missile or projectile weapons in T2 use “E-Factor” to calculate the weapon’s damage like the Morrow Project RPG (though the formula is different). The E-Factor is calculated by multiplying the size of the projectile in inches to its velocity, seconds per feet. The result is then divided by 25 for the E-Factor. Non-missile weapons have a set damage rating based on the weapon.

Combat in T2 is measured in Combat Turns, which represents five seconds. Within each turn, Voltigeurs can take X amount of actions based on the type of combat skill they are using, unarmed, armed, or a combination of the two. An example of combining the two looks like this. A Voltigeur strikes with their staff and then follows through with their shoulder to knock their opponent prone. They could have also struck with their staff and then choose to use it defensively against the next incoming strike. Combat in T2 works like most other roleplaying games. I did not find anything in the rules to judge it otherwise.

Time & Time Again’s most significant divergence from other roleplaying games is its use of a D200 system. Rolling a D200 in T2 is suggested in two ways. The first way is to roll a D20 numbered 0-19 and a D10 numbered 0-9. The D20 result is multiplied by 10 and added to the result of the D10. The second method uses a D20 numbered 1-20 with a D10 numbered 0-9. The D20 result is subtracted by one before it is multiplied by 10 and then added to the d10 result. Results of 0 on both dice are counted as 200.

I’m no expert in dice mechanics or probabilities, but the two methods seem overly complicated. I assume using a D20 (1-20) as the first two numbers of the result and a D10 (0-9) as the third number would work just as well, without the need for multiplying, adding, or subtracting. If I am wrong, please call me out. For example, a roll of 12 on a D20 (1-20) and a 5 on a D10 (0-9) would result in 125. The same result would occur if a D20 (0-19) with a D10 (0-9) is used (12 x 10 = 120+5=125). The only breakdown of this process is if a 20 is rolled on the D20 (1-20) with anything else on the d10 (0-9) other than 0. At that point, you would treat the 20 as 0, and the d10 roll is the only die that mattered. D20s aren’t numbered 0-19. They are label 0-9 twice (D20-shaped D10s) or 1-20. The 0 in D10 shaped as d20 have always represented 10s or 20s to me. Perhaps it was viewed differently in 1984 or at least by T2’s authors.

That completes the premise and mechanics of Time & Time Again, but there is more. T2, like all great games of that age it came in a box. Inside the box is Book One encompassing the setting and rules (outlined above), Book two with information to aid in creating your own adventures, two folded tabloid-size leaflets with quick reference tables for weapons, game mechanics, and a character sheet for photocopying, and three folded tabloid-size adventure leaflets, Quiet Days in Birka, Rescue In The Sacred Valley, and Just Moments Before Dark: The Fall Of Saigon. Sadly no dice.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to cover Book Two quickly. Book two is used to aid the gamemaster in creating their own adventures. Since adventures can take place in any era, Book Two covers climate, terrain, animals, economics, technology, transportation, language, government, and politics, ethics, and etiquette by providing general theories and practices for each subject. The theory covers known facts about the subject while practices help the gamemaster utilize these facts in an era. Book two has no era-specific information. It is up to the gamemaster to do their own historical research and implore the theories and practices of the subjects above to flesh out their adventures.

I’m a fan of time travel in movies, T.V. shows, and roleplaying games. I like how T2 treats time travel with truths to prevent paradoxes or timeline corruption. An aspect of the game I have yet to mention is that Voltigeurs get to keep what they bring back. In the true murder hobo style of the 1980s, Voltigeurs are encouraged to augment their salaries with the spoils they bring back from the past. Though with the time travel restrictions on metal objects, Voltigeurs will find it easier to line their pockets with precious gems rather than metals.

One of the flaws with T2 is that all the action takes place in other eras. When your back in the present, there is no story other than training. No world background other than the organization that oversees the Voltigeurs and time travel is talked about in T2. Despite this, T2 offers a great platform for the history enthusiast. It allows the gamemaster to transport the players back in time to important periods in history, so they view witness history for themselves.

~Stephen Pennisi

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Great rundown Stephen on this hidden gem.

    I read through Time and Time Again a couple years back, when I was contemplating a time travel campaign. Lots of great ideas for making time travel work in an RPG setting, as you noted.

    I linked to this review at my reference site entry for TTA:
    http://www.waynesbooks.com/MorrowProject.html#t2

    Like

    1. DadsAngry says:

      Thank you. I enjoy highlighting games that are usually regulated to the bargain bin or overlooked. It’s always great to find positive qualities within and share them with others.

      Liked by 1 person

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