Time & Temp: Paperless Office Edition
Author: Epidiah Ravachol
Publisher: Dig a Thousand Holes Publishing
Page Count: 67
Available Formats: PDF (DTRPG) – $2.99
You are a temporary worker at Browne Chronometic Engineering, Inc. Your contact at Marigold Staffing promised it would be your most exciting job yet. Sitting in one of the empty cubicles waiting for your assignment, you are called into Human Resource to sign a few papers. Once all the paperwork is complete, you undergo specialized training before getting whisked away to another place, and it is time to repair the fabric of space and time. It is just a typical day for temps at Browne Chronometic Engineering, Inc.
Time & Temp is a story roleplaying game in which players are temps at Browne Chronometric Engineering, Inc. (BCE), an independent agency sworn to protect the integrity of temporal threats. Hired through the temporary agency, Marigold Staffing, the players arrive at BCE for the first time and wait in an empty cubicle until called into Human Resources. There they receive Browne Chronometric Engineering, Inc. Employee Handbook (Rev. 10.01.17-PL-1834) to review before they are given their first assignment to the past. Their jobs are simple. Prevent or correct anomalies that disrupt the current timeline. Before players take on their first assignment, they must create their C.V. (Curriculum vitae, a.k.a. résumés).
Marigold Staffing is located in New York City and has a very tight relationship with BCE. BCE shares some of its time-traveling technology with Marigold Staffing, allowing them to recruit from anywhere in the world or time. Players create Temps from the future, past, or present-day New Jersey if desired.
Before Marigold Staffing can send the Temps to their assignments at BCE, players need to create their Temps C.V. Their C.V. should include at least three of the following: past jobs, achievements, academic history, or hobbies with two bullet points underneath with a related skill or trait. These will provide advantages for the Temps.
Now that the players have their C.V.s completed, they are ready to work. They are sent to BCE, and when called into the Human Resources office, they are handed a physical copy of the BCE Employee handbook. It is 12 pages and a typical corporate document you could receive in real life. Within is BCE rules of conduct for new hires. Temps are expected to read through its pages signing and dating each page in the designated area in the folio. Once an employee has read and initialed each page, it is returned to the General Manager (Gamemaster) for filing.
Within the document, there is BCE’s mission statement:
To police and protect the historical integrity of the temporal order against all anomalies, anachronisms, and other threats.
The Temps’ primary objective in the game is to uphold the integrity of the timeline while not creating further damage. Traveling in time is dangerous. One reason BCE uses temp workers is to avoid temporal overlap. The more a person travels in time, the greater the chance of creating anomalies.
Each new hire is provided with special training outlined in the handbook related to time travel. Temps undergo a week-long Cultural Transcendency Course where they learn to blend into foreign societies. They also learn Basal Linguistics Techniques that allow them to sound and appear like a native speaker. But before going on any missions, workers must participate in the Employee Immunization Program, where they are protected from most historical diseases.
Outlined in detail, new hires learn the Fragile Immutability of Time. This critical section of the employee’s handbook explains how time travel works and demonstrates how dangerous it is to create anomalies—pointing out examples of paradoxes. It all boils down to two laws of time travel.
- The more you interfere with your immediate personal history, the greater the risk of paradox.
- The further you travel from your current point in time, the greater the risk of a cascade effect causing a paradox.
This law is further illustrated in a graph showing the Yossarian Horizon—the probability of creating a paradox based on your point of origin in time. The further you go back in time, the less likely it will affect a Temps personal history. The more you travel in time, your personal history becomes a bigger part and increases the risk of paradox.
New hires must follow the Employee Responsibilities and Regulations sections of the employee handbook.
- Employees of BCE and their representatives are required to correct any anomalies or any other paradoxes they encounter.
- Employees may not share knowledge of the future.
- Employees should respect the personal property and space of other employees.
- Employees should not allow future knowledge to affect their chosen course of action.
- Employees may not use their knowledge of the future for personal gain.
- Employees must not right a wrong that has already happened.
- Employees should report any theft of office supplies or other wrongdoings.
- Employees should never attempt to meet themselves.
- Alcohol, drugs, and other substance abuse are prohibited.
- Employees should seek a diplomatic solution before violence—avoid indiscriminate killings.
- BCE has a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy.
- Employees are strictly prohibited from intimate relationships with persons from other times.
The Temps can advance in their careers at BCE. Each mission requires each Temp to carry a Personal Progress Report. They are to record at least two of their contributions to the success of their mission and two areas in which their co-workers think they could use improvement. The Temps’ Personal Progress Report review is conducted at a debrief right after returning from their mission.
General Manager and Temps work together to form the adventure. Dice are only used when two Temps or creatures oppose each other, any action taken could alter history, or when there is a risk of failure. Every time dice are rolled, the nature of reality is altered. These changes are tracked on the Matrix; more will come later.
The G.M. and player work together to determine the Effort and Effect when confronted with a dice-rolling situation. Players get to choose either the Effort or Effect. Whichever they don’t choose, the G.M. will define. The Effort determines how far the Temp is willing to go to complete the task. The Effect describes the action the Temp will take. If the player doesn’t like what the G.M. comes up with, they are free to change their answer or switch roles. The player and G.M. will go back and forth until the matter is resolved. The player and G.M. then designate each Effort and Effect with a minor, major, or extensive level. The different levels are cross-referenced on a chart that gives the players the appropriate die to resolve the situation. The rules provide guidelines for the three levels of Effort and Effect.
The next step is to determine how many dice are used. The lowest die (d4 for minor) is always used when the Temps search for information. The highest die (d12 for extensive) is always used for actions that could permanently destroy or create a sentient being that is or will be part of that timeline. For all other situations, it comes down to the risk. How risky the action taken determines the amount of dice used. The risk level is determined by three parameters: Risking Failure, Risking Incident, and Risking paradox. The first two are determined by the players, while the third is by the rules. The player rolls one die plus an additional die for each risk level established.
After the dice are rolled, the player chooses which die result to use. The lowest result is good for the Temps but more dangerous for reality. The lowest result frees the Temps from any incident or any failed results. The second lowest has consequences. The Temps must choose between creating an incident or failing the roll. Using the third lowest, the Temps fails the roll and creates an incident. A Temp who chooses to fail narrates the outcome with the option to try again. If they do, the player must set the Effort. If they fail again, they have one more try. On the third attempt, the player must choose the Effect.
Once the die result is chosen, the result is added to the Matrix. The Matrix is a grid that tracks the group’s dice results. As the grid fills up, the chances of the Temps creating a paradox that will end the world increase, as does an anomaly that rips the fabric of time, and/or the Temps discover the advantage of time travel.
The team’s insertion roll is the first number to go onto the Matrix. This is always placed in the upper right corner of the grid. All following numbers must be to the left or directly below another number. The only time the insertion roll is not placed in the upper left corner is if the team has previously traveled in time. If they have, they use their previous Matrix and put the number in the first legal spot in the upper right corner if they agree to a failure. If they choose a success, they place it in any legal position. The more missions the Temps go on, the greater the risk of disrupting time, a reason BCE uses temps for this type of work.
When a number is placed in the Matrix, it is also recorded on the Anachronometer. The Anachronometer is another tracking device that gauges the temps’ chances of causing a paradox. Each number up to 12 has two open spots to record before a paradox is threatened—one location for 13 to 20. When there is a threat of a paradox, the G.M. rolls one to three D20 Paradox Dice. Paradox dice through anomalies may get locked to a number on the Anachronometer. When a Paradox Die becomes locked, it further escalates the risk of the temps creating an anomaly.
Temps may gain an advantage by placing their numbers into the Matrix to create Synchronic Sets. Synchronic Sets consist of placing 9 unique numbers into a cube shape, 2 cross bars (vertical/horizontal, or diagonal) of 5 unique numbers, or 7 consecutive numbers in a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal). Completing one of these sets earns the players a Synchronicity Token.
Synchronicity Tokens are a pooled commodity that can be used by any player to enact one of five Synchroniticies: Epiphany, Deus ex Machina, Hidden Agenda, Zeitgeist, or Bilocation. Epiphany allows a player to create a truth about the world as long as it doesn’t contradict an established fact. Deus ex Machina enables the Temps to go back in time to give themselves an advantage in their current situation. It could be planting an object to aid them or possibly an ally. Hidden Agenda gives the players a partner willing to act on the Temps’ behalf. Zeitgeist eases the Temps’ footprint in time by allowing them to become progenitors of historical events—causing the apple to fall on Newton’s head or coining a famous catchphrase. It also allows the players to remove a number on the Matrix that could deescalate an anomaly or paradox. Bilocation is the most dangerous of the choices. It will enable a future version of a Temp to aid the team and increase the chance of creating a paradox.
Anomalies and Paradoxes
An anomaly occurs when two numbers of the same value are placed next to each other in the Matrix. Anomalies are measured in three ways, ephemeral to persistent, benign to hostile, and subtle to obvious. The first anomaly to the Temps is always ephemeral, a case of Déjà Vu. After the Temps initial anomaly, future anomalies will gradually escalate until all will be persistent, hostile, and obvious. Locking in the second and third Paradox Dice also increases the strength of anomalies.
General Management Policies
The General Management Policies section is broken into three parts for General Managers. The first part focuses on BCE’s offices, personnel, and technologies. It gives an in-depth insight into the office life in the BCE with a few sample employees to use. The second part discusses the rules, how they are to be used, and general gamemastering tips. The third part outlines a typical Temps mission and how to create a long-term game.
Time & Temp was Runner-up for Best Support and Game of the Year at the 2009 Indie RPG Awards. The game’s bureaucratic corporate setting, the trip to H.R. to peruse and sign the BCE Employee Handbook, and the after-mission debrief with written reports hint at humorous antics one would find in a Paranoia game. Its use of the Matrix by the players to control the direction of the narrative is unique. It makes Time & Temp part roleplaying/story game part logic puzzle game as the Temps and General Manager, in unison, weave the narrative while the logic puzzle steers its direction. It’s a game where choosing the correct result, be it good or bad, is for a larger goal several steps still away. It challenges players to direct their actions to achieve favorable results in the narrative and Matrix.
The rules are light but did take me some time to grasp. At first, I found it hard to grok the use of the Matrix to achieve Sycnonitc Sets and the Anachronometer. Though after several passes over the rules with both tracking pages in hand, I soon was able to understand how these unique sets of rules come together. Thankfully, Time & Temp keeps the rules and their explanations brief and to the point. Reading them over and over was not much of a chore, and the PDF bookmarks allowed me to find the sections I needed quickly.
The game is mostly devoid of any art. Its layout is straightforward and clean—fitting everything into a compact, digest-sized booklet. If I had better improvisational or storytelling skills, it is a game I would run, but I’m not good with story games. I really like the corporate humor the author has introduced. As a previous temp in the corporate world, I could relate to the stereotypical sterile corporate bureaucracy.
Time & Temp is a unique story roleplaying game that uses players’ creative and analytical sides of their brains. It has a humorous corporate undertone with the flexibility to tell any kind of story the Gamemaster wishes to present. The players can gain control and direct the narrative to their goals. Time & Temp is a fun and entertaining game with a unique set of rules that enhances its play.
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