An Overview of TimeWatch for GUMSHOE GMs – Part Three, Thrills

Using a plastic dinosaur substitute
Using an unauthorised substitute for the toy dinosaur

We’ve sampled characters and their gear, now let’s get into the thrilling action of TimeWatch.

In TimeWatch, when you determine who gets to act in a fight or other contest, author Kevin Kulp suggests you make use of a plastic dinosaur. It’s that kind of game.

The TimeWatch RPG lets players decide who goes in a fight or other contest – so-called “popcorn initiative.” The first person to initiate a combat goes first (even if that’s the GM)-  a player can spend a point of Notice to go first. The first character to act gets the toy dinosaur. Any time during their turn, they get to pass the dinosaur to the next person to act, which can be the GM. At the end of the round, the last actor gives the dinosaur to the first actor in the next round; if the GM acts last, they are likely to tag themself and get another go.

This lets you tag the medic before the unconscious character, tag distant enemies with no ranged weapons to act first, and tag the foes last (if you think you can beat them in one round). I also let players whose characters are not involved directly in a combat have a go, because it keeps them involved, and reminds me that they, too, are doing something, even if it’s not fighting.

In more serious games, I’ve used a mini egg timer from a board game in place of the dinosaur.

Borrowed from Night’s Black Agents, TimeWatch also features chases – but these are usually chase through time – jumping from Roman chariot race to aerial dogfight to literal roller coaster. The Agents time machine (the baton-shaped autochron) adapts to suit the environment.

In a chase, the pursuers and the pursued decide secretly how many points they’ll spend, reveal their spends, then make a Chase test. The results are compared, and the lead changes in favour of the winner. Agents can use their abilities to improve the odds, for example spending a point  of Paradox Prevention to will have arranged for a traffic jam to be in the way, or Preparedness to scatter caltrops behind them. They could even arrange for their future selves to be waiting in ambush for their pursuers.

Sample Antagonist – the Ezeru Drone

The GM has a host of easy-to-run fearsome antagonists, some of whom have special abilities. These are listed in the rules summary.

The ezeru are TimeWatch’s go-to enemies – horrid human-sized cockroaches. Let’s take a look at an ezeru drone.

Defense: Hit Threshold 4, Armor 3, Health 15

All GUMSHOE GMs are familiar with these numbers

Offense: Scuffling +3 (+2 when impersonating a human), Shooting +1; Damage Modifier +2 (hideous clacking pincers), +3 (jagged mandibles), +1 (pistol), +4 (acidic bile), Stun 6 (psi-active bile)

Instead of keeping records of Scuffling and Shooting pools, just roll and add the bonus when making an attack. Add the Damage Modifer to your d6 damage roll – so d6 + 4 for acidic bile.

Abilities: Tempus 12

Tempus is a pool which powers foes’ special abilites, listed below.

Special Abilities: Clock Out (cost 2), Extra Action (cost 2), Impersonation (cost 2 —psychically links the ezeru drone to a single human or animal encased in the ezeru’s paralytic bile), Lightning Speed (cost 2), Resist Stun; drones can attack by spitting acidic or paralytic bile within Close range

Clock Out – time travel away from the scene, often resulting in a time chase

Extra Action – spend two points to act again in around

Lighting speed – move twice

Resist Stun – decreases the Difficulty of a Stun test by two – this usually means ezeru only need to roll a 3 to avoid being knocked unconscious by a standard issue TimeWatch PaciFist.

Misc: Alertness Modifier +1, Stealth Modifier +1

If you sneak up on an ezeru, or an ezeru sneaks up on you, the Difficulty of your Unobtrusiveness test is increase by 1.

Description: A standard ezeru drone is sly, deadly, reliable, but not particularly creative. They follow instructions superbly but usually lack the inspired planning or quick thinking of creatures that aren’t tied into a massive insectoid hivemind. When circumstances change quickly on an ezeru and it doesn’t have time to plan, it often responds with brute force.

You’ll notice that this beast is pretty fearsome – in a straight fight with creatures like this, TimeWatch agents can be in trouble. But with all the abilities a TimeWatch agent has to jump around in time, get help for themselves from the future, or have used Tinkering to create a super-science device which takes the edge of their special abilities.

Next article: The Quick and Clean Guide to Having Already Run Your First TimeWatch Game


TimeWatch is a time-travel adventure RPG where brave agents of TimeWatch defend the timestream from radioactive cockroaches, psychic velociraptors, and human meddlers. Go back in time to help yourself in a fight, thwart your foes by targeting their ancestors, or gain a vital clue by checking out a scroll from the Library of Alexandria. But watch out for paradoxes that may erase you from existence… or worse.. Purchase TimeWatch in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

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