One of my favorite things about GUMSHOE games is the Preparedness ability. It’s an ability that’s designed to eliminate gearing-up at the beginning of the play session. Instead of trying to guess at what weaponry, gear, explosives and devices you’re going to need for the mission, you’re assumed to bring a bunch of things with you that you can use on the fly. When you need an item, make a Preparedness test. If you’re successful, you pull the item out of your kit and you’re ready to go.
I love this because it rewards improvisational creativity. My friend Adam drove this home when, as noted in the p. 184 sidebar in Kenneth Hite’s Night’s Black Agents, Adam’s character produced a rocket launcher and blew my escaping bad guy’s helicopter right out of the sky. Bastard.
In TimeWatch, this conventional use of Preparedness still holds true, but hey — it’s a time travel game! That means you have carte blanche for Bill-and-Ted-style tactics. Sitting at a table in a restaurant when being confronted by an adversary, it’s perfectly legitimate to say “When this mission is over, I’m going to time travel back here in disguise and strap a pistol to the underside of this table.” Spend a few points, make your Preparedness test, and the pistol’s just where you expect it should be.
That’s true, at least, as long as you haven’t previously looked at the underside of that table. If you had, paradox would have prevented this trick from working. That makes a closed door a TimeWatch agent’s best friend, because until that door is open, your team could use Preparedness to put whatever they need on the other side. Once you’ve seen what’s there, though, you’ll have to be creative to get new items into that scene.
This ability has gotten used extensively in playtest, mostly because it’s a classic time travel trick and because it’s so much freakin’ fun to create weapons and tools on the fly. If you have 8 or more points of Preparedness, your character also has the Flashback booster, which lets you state that this sort of countermeasure is already in place. “Oh, he’s running from us down the beach? Later, remind me to travel back here and bury a few neural disruption landmines under the sand over there.” (roll, roll, WHOOMP.) “Ah, there they go now.”
The other reason I like Preparedness is because TimeWatch is a game where you may be jumping forwards and backwards in time during the same mission, and the disruptor rifle you need in the 24th century won’t be tremendously popular back in the witch trials of colonial Salem. If you want to get a chronomorphic weapon instead (a weapon that changes shape to match the time period), or a local weapon, no problem; make a Preparedness test. Just try not to get accused of witchcraft in the process.
TimeWatch is an upcoming Pelgrane Press GUMSHOE RPG about time cops, by Kevin Kulp, due to be Kickstarted in January 2014. Stay in touch at @timewatchrpg. To be notified when the Kickstarter goes live, click http://bit.ly/1hSd99K