And thus begins our journey into the seedy underbelly of Time & Temp‘s mechanics.
Mr. Baker playing Colin, a hot-headed former child prodigy who was rejected by NASA astronautics program because of his psych profile.
Mr. McCoy playing Sylvester, a private piano instructor trying to make ends meet with a second job.
Ms. Ward playing Lalla, a retired veteran of the NYPD circa 2031.
We join our Examplinauts as they’re just about to take their first trip through time. Todd, their immediate manager, has already collected them and herded them into the Domed Room and said as little as he can about what awaits. After tinkering for a moment with the Commodore 64, he wishes the temps good luck and closes the door behind him.
Mr. Hartnell: No, this will never do. I should have started you off with a fight–
Mr. Baker: Nonsense. You forget, I’ve read the rules, too. It’s easy. I’ll just roll for insertion and we’ll be off.
The Insertion Roll is the first roll made in any Time & Temp game. It’s the roll that assesses the immediate impact on time the temps have when they insert themselves into a time in which they might not belong.
Mr. Hartnell: Yes, yes, yes, but what are you doing? What is Colin up to?
Mr. Baker: He’s a genius! Colin’ll just quickly fiddle about with keys until everything works. Like in the movies.
Mr. Hartnell: Ah yes, so you’re setting the effort. Minor, I presume?
Mr. Baker: Of course, Colin wouldn’t need much more than that.
Since Mr. Baker has chosen the effort, it’s up to Mr. Hartnell to set the effect. This is an easy one . . .
Mr. Hartnell: Right, so off you’ll fly to a time not your own. A major effect. That’ll be d10s, but how many . . .
Checking the Effort & Effect Chart, we see that a major and a minor means Mr. Baker will be rolling ten-sided dice. To find out how many d10s he’ll roll, we need to decide if he risks failure or incident.
Ms. Ward: Hmph. He definitely risks failure.
Mr. Hartnell: Now see here young lady, if he fails I’ll have nothing to give you.
Mr. Baker: I can’t fail!
Anyone playing–the General Manager, the player of the temp who is acting or even those playing the other temps–can make a roll risk failure or incident. The simply have to speak up. Mr. Hartnell is very astute in pointing out that if Mr. Baker fails on the first roll, they might go nowhere. So for the Insertion Roll, it’s best not to risk failure until you start returning to times and places you’ve already been.
Ms. Ward: Fine. For Hartnell’s sake, not yours.
Mr. McCoy: Well yes, but he certainly risks incident. There is that danger. It’ll be more interesting that way, anyway.
Mr. Baker: All right, then. I’ll roll two d10s. Well, d12s, actually. As my history as a child prodigy has certainly given me extensive experience in both computers and physics. I should have no trouble easing us in when and where it would cause the least harm to the timeline.
Mr. Baker is using Colin’s résumé to get a bonus, which he spent on adjusting the effect that Mr. Hartnell set, bumping it down to a minor effect. This changed the size of the dice accordingly, and it means that when their arrival won’t be as jarring to the timestream.
Mr. McCoy: “Now see here, lad! Don’t mess about with something you don’t comprehend!” Sylvester will try to interject himself between Colin and the Commodore 64.
Mr. Hartnell: Bickering?
Mr. McCoy: Yes, indeed.
Mr. Baker: There’s no need for that!
Ms. Ward: Too late. Roll already.
Bickering is a particular sort of bonus that adds another die to the mix, but gives the players a few more options after the dice are rolled.
Mr. Baker: Fine, I’ll roll all three. But d12s! Two 4s and a 12.
Ms. Ward: Excellent! A 12 is a grand way to begin our adventure.
It is! Generally speaking, the higher numbers are much more rare than the lower numbers. So when you see an 11 or 12, usually it’s a good idea to use it. But because there’s bickering involved, the highest value is off the table unless one of the bickerers accepts an incident from Mr. Hartnell.
Mr. Baker: Well?
Mr. McCoy: Well all right. I suppose I deserve it. Sylvester will take the incident on the chin. For the better good and all that.
Because Sylvester is suffering an incident from bickering, Mr. Hartnell removes the lowest value from the table. This happens to be one of the two dice that rolled 4.
Mr. Baker: Excellent. Then we’ll just plug this 4 into the Matrix and–
Ms. Ward: Wait, wait!
Mr. Baker: Oh is it that important to have a 12? There’s nothing in the Matrix. A 4 is just as good as anything else.
Mr. Baker is hesitant to put the 12 in the Matrix because he’d have to also accept an incident to do so. If he puts the lowest value (4) in the Matrix, Colin will have succeeded without incurring an incident. But in order to put the second highest value (12) in the Matrix, Colin has to suffer incident or failure. And since he did not risk failure, he can only suffer incident.
Mr. McCoy: Hold on! I did my part. Now do yours.
Mr. Baker: Fine! The 12 can go in, but the two of you owe me.
Mr. Hartnell: Well then, as the two of you struggle over the console–
Mr. McCoy: More of a slapping fight, I suspect. Neither of us is very physically adept.
Mr. Baker: Agreed.
Mr. Hartnell: Right. As you frantically slap each other, an image is projected upon the domed ceiling. It is the sky as it looks right now, but it’s on reverse, and getting faster. Fading swiftly into dawn and then night. Then to dusk and back to day again. Faster and faster until it’s more of a gray blur, flitting backwards through the seasons, years, perhaps even centuries. Until it slows again, flickering back into the night and day transitions and finally settling on a dreary gray morning. Then the whole room lurches, tipping towards the door. Sylvester and Colin, distracted by their fight, haven’t time to brace themselves and they go tumbling into the door, knocking it open.
Mr. Hartnell grabs two Incident Reports to write up. For Colin he writes “Hanging by a door knob over the side of a cliff.” And for Sylvester he writes “Hanging by Colin’s foot over the side of a cliff.” Then he hands them to Mr. Baker and Mr. McCoy. Since these are the first two incidents in the game, they’re technically only verbal warnings. As soon as Mr. Hartnell uses them to penalize Colin and Sylvester, they will be removed. But since they do now have two verbal reports, any more incidents they incur will be written, which are a bit more permanent.
Mr. Hartnell: The two of you are hanging from the door, which has swung open to reveal that you landed on the side of a cliff, about 10 meters from the rocks below. From those rocks a rather shabbily dressed gentleman carrying a fishing pole stares up at you.
Ms. Ward:I assume Lalla is braced against the wall, rather than hanging from the door like an idiot?
Mr. Hartnell: That’s correct.
Ms. Ward: Then Lalla will peer out and call below, “Hello!”
To be continued in Failure, Déjà Vu . . .