Hamsterprophecy: Prevision

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Archive for the ‘Timestream’ Category

Posts about my time travel game, Timestream.

Catching Up 1

Posted by Nathan P. on August 19, 2008

So, over Gen Con, an interview I did went out into the podcastosphere. I’m listening to it myself now, I hope I don’t sound like a schlub. Also, I rant about art! Check it out at Voice of Free Planet X here. Jared’s great, and a great host.

And you should add the podcast to yer feed, anyway.


Posted in Annalise, Artistry, carry. a game about war., Mission, Non-RPG Gaming, Personal, Promo, Timestream | 1 Comment »

Some #s

Posted by Nathan P. on January 20, 2008

Total Sales for 2007

carry. a game about war.: 93 (96 in 2006)

Timestream Standard PDF: 5 (17 in 2006)

Timestream Basic PDF: 8 (9 in 2006)

Timestream Premier Edition (print): 13 (168 in 2006, mostly cuz of sales into distribution)

Timestream Reference Edition (print): 2 (28 in 2006)

Time’s Champions: A Stream for Timestream: 4 (3 in 2006)

Posted in carry. a game about war., Promo, Publishing, Timestream | 2 Comments »

The Observer Effect

Posted by Nathan P. on December 1, 2007

I’m subscribed to C.W Richeson’s LJ, in which he posts his RPG reviews. The latest one is of a game I’d never heard of, called Aletheia. It’s apparently an occult conspiracy RPG with an interested setting – anyway, you can read the review for yourself. It sounds like something that I would be interested in playing, but I don’t think I need to go out and buy it. Anyway, reading the review sparked some ideas that relate to my always-in-the-background desire to make Timestream a better game.

Brain Explosion, Go:

So, there’s this thing called the Observer Effect, or maybe Observer Bias, that all characters are subject to. What it means is that each observer of an event has a specific and subjective understanding of that event, and that consensual reality (i.e. the timestream itself) is the aggregation of subjective observation.

Observer Bias can be strong or weak. The more involved with an event you are, the stronger your Bias, and the more tangential or secondhand your knowledge or involvement, the weaker.

So, time travel and temporal manipulation are always working against the Observation Effect. For new experiences (i.e. everything in your subjective future) you don’t have any Observer Bias, cuz you haven’t observed them yet. For anything you have already experienced, you have a certain amount of personal Observer Bias, which is what you have to overcome in order to change those things. There’s also a certain built-up Observer Effect for most things, that represents how ingrained that event is in consensual reality. Once your able to personally re-experience the situation, then you can try to overcome the ambiant Observer Effect.

So, in some kind of mechanical way, I would think that Bias is the effective “difficulty” of a roll, or set of rolls, or whatever, while the ambient Effect is the “hit points” of the event, which you have to bring to 0 in order to change it.

Big, famous event that you have known about all your life (uh, Hitler, for example, or the JFK assassination) has a high difficulty and loads of hit points.

Big, famous event that you’ve never heard of (like, maybe something in China’s revolutionary past  for a working-class American, or the like) has a low difficulty, but still loads of hit points.

Small event that you were personally involved in (basically, anything from your personal past) has a a high difficulty, but if you can overcome that it doesn’t take much to change.

Small events that you don’t know anything about (most of everything else) has a low difficulty and is pretty easy to change.

So, here’s a self-correcting framework for saying “it’s hard to change big things or personal things, but easy to change things that you’ve had nothing to do with and that not many people know about”. Also, once you change an event, you have a stronger Observer Bias (because of your multiple sets of memories about it), and changing it the next time is subsequently more difficult.

Strain (i.e. Paradox) comes from when you can’t overcome the Observation Effect.

So there’s some thoughts.

Posted in Timestream | 1 Comment »

Dolla Dolla Bills

Posted by Nathan P. on September 1, 2007

This may be of interest to some of y’alls.

When I released Timestream, it was partly a grand experiment to see how different price points, for the same content but different presentation, would work out.

The Basic PDF is $8.00. This is because, though there’s two versions in the package (screen and optomized-for-print), they’re both in grayscale, and there’s no PDF hyperlinking (kind of by accident, but that’s how it turned out, and whatever).

The Standard PDF is $12.00. Again, with the two versions, but it’s much prettier, with the full-color interior border and color pics. Also, the hyperlinks work. So there’s a little bit of value-added, plus the increased prettiness. I decided that this was worth an extra 4 bucks to those who cared about such things.

The Reference version is $16.00. It’s in print, it’s a grayscale interior, and it’s coil-bound. I really, really like coil binding, because it’s easy to reference at the table. So, the idea is that it’s a little less pretty, but it’s more utilitarian, and cheaper. I figured, since I’m charging 4$ more for the pretty PDF, I’ll charge 4$ more for the next “step up”. By accident, it’s also pretty much at the standard markup from the print cost (which I discovered later, when I started doing short digital print runs).

The Premier version is $26.00. Same content as the reference version, but the full-color interior (by which I mean, color borders on every page!) color pics, perfect binding, etc. So it’s more of a “real book”, right? I was gonna charge 20$ for it, keeping with my 4$ markup pattern, but then I printed them with the intent of going into distro (via Key20), and, um, that would have lost me a lot of money. I managed to figure out how to get the full-color down to something manageable, with the help of Lance at Avalon Innovations, but the 26$ price point is the lowest amount that gives me a whole dollar margin on sales in distribution. So, like, whatever, I priced it there, and I decided to see what would happen.

carry, on the other hand, is just the one version, with no plans for any others, and no fancy printing shenanigans. I looked at other games on the market, thought for a while, and decided to price it at $15.00. I was going to put it at 20, but I felt wrong about doing that, because, while I don’t think that anyone who would buy it at 15 wouldn’t buy it at 20, I don’t expect anyone except me to play the game more than once. So, 15 bucks for one evening of entertainment, that sounds fair to me, and I make enough off of that to pay for things.

Interestingly enough, while sales of all versions have slowed to a trickle, the general trend for Timestream is that the Premium far outsells the Reference, and the Standard PDF outsells the Basic PDF.

So, there’s some thoughts, from the publishers end, about pricing my small-press games.

Posted in carry. a game about war., Publishing, Timestream | Leave a Comment »

Dreamation AughtSeven, Part Deux

Posted by Nathan P. on February 1, 2007

Whew. I’ve actually been, like, working on games the last couple days (not to mention real life work), so my desire to get this post written has ebbed. But if I don’t get it down tonite, I’ll probably forget so many things that it won’t be worth writing.

Now, where was I?

Ah, yes…


So, with a solid 3 hours and 15 minutes of sleep under my belt, I dragged my ass out of bed and wended my way down to the game room for my 9am session of carry. Surprisingly enough, I had four players; Don, one of many Matt’s, Jeff (who has played the game before and in fact ran a session of it at a NC Gameday event(!)), and Greg.

Don played Daniel “Locker” Jones, with a Burden of having persistant shell shock and continually seeking releif in drink, drugs and faith; Matt played Efram “Chameleon” Osgood, with a Burden revolving about being scared to go home to his pregnant girlfriend who doesn’t answer his letters; Jeff played a trigger-happy and authority-hating Anaconda; and Greg played my favorite iteration of Cowboy so far, who saw the war as his ticket out of the pig farm, but now he was lost and adrift in a country he hated.

Our story ended up revolving around one of the Fodder characters, Elmo “Saint” Smith, and how his general irresponsibility and drug pushing contributed to the devestation and capture of the squad by the NVA. We had a lot of really solid Burden-addressing scenes and conflicts, and the first Action scene of the game saw I think the largest amount of fallout I’ve had yet – 31 points for poor Don to spend killing his own squad.

We had a really solid sequence in a Vietnamese village that started with Cowboy impaling a VC assassin on his bayonet (but he was justified in the eyes of the others!), and ended with I think all of the characters addressing part of their Burden’s and leaving the village peacefully.

Anyway, another solid game, and I was pleased that we managed to hold it together that early in the morning.

I grabbed lunch with Adam and Jeff (of the Sons of Kryos), who I kind of forcibly introduced, but we had a nice lunch talking game design, geek culture and all the wierdness that is the SCA.

I took a double booth shift that afternoon, and ended up talking a bunch with Shreyas and Bill White (Mr. Ganakagok). Sold some games, too, though I wasn’t pushing too hard. Dreamation isn’t a big sales con (or so we thought….), and I didn’t really feel comfortable trying to pitch people on stuff unless they obviously wanted to know more about a particular game. There was definitly a sale pattern, where sales would peak right before and right after the scheduled game sessions, as people either decided to pick something up before they forgot, or had gotten out of an awesome game and decided to grab it right away. During the game time, it was much more relaxed.

Oh, and did I mention that the first printing of carry sold out after my morning game? Which was unfortunate, because some people (Dave!) wanted to get it, but weren’t around until the afternoon, and it was gone gone gone. It’s the worse kind of good, and I should have more soon – but hey, I sold out! Hooray!

Anyhow, it was ticking down to my 8 pm slot, which I had scheduled to run Timestream. But, what with the no sleep and the sitting down all afternoon and the having two intense sessions under my belt already, I was really not feeling the good vibes, especially for a scenario that I haven’t run before and wasn’t sure was going to be fun. But I was all “well, only Adam and Shreyas are signed up to play it anyway, so I’ll cancel and we can playtest one of their games instead!”

Then I went up to my paper on the big board upstairs, and uh-oh…..4 other signups! The hell? After some waffling, I decided that it was actually more pressure to try and make a 6-person game work, and I just wasn’t up to it. So I tracked down those I knew, and made sure to talk to the other people when they showed up, and it was fine. Except one woman seemed really angry, but it didn’t feel like it was because of the game being cancelled, it was more that the game was cancelled. If you get me.

Oh, and the IGE party was in there as well! I ate Kat Millers With Great Chili… and chatted and was generally satisfied.

So, I cancelled Timestream, and played Shreyas’s game Snow From Korea with Shreyas and Adam and Russell Collins instead. The game is really fun, and once Shreyas makes it less broken it will be even funner. I really liked how once all the cards are on the table, you can look down and you feel like you’re in a Shogunate playing silly one-up-manship games until someone freaks out and kills someone else. It’s grand.

And then after that I took a couple minutes to regroup, and then sat down with Shreyas and Kevin Allen Jr to mock pretend playtest the skimpy beginnings I had for The Imp of the Perverse. I had character sheets (well, the idea for ones, at least), what more do you need to play a game? I mean, seriously.

Anyway, it turned into a cool mechanics jam where we played around with the Conflict Matrix until it turned into something that worked, and it really helped in unjamming my head for working on the game in general. I’ve been thinking about it and writing on it and chatting about it pretty much non-stop since then, and when it’s done it is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen so far.

Kevin is the little demon in my head that breaks down my inhibitions and shows me that I can go for it a million percent. Shreyas is the little angel on my shoulder that tells me I can actually do it. And they both lead by example.

Man, Saturday was long!

After Imping, we settled in with a big ol crowd of people and chatted, and we all eventually ended up playing Jared A. Sorensen’s Action Castle! (an implementation of his Parsley rules). It was….uh….”fun”

And then I went to sleep.


Woke up, went out to breakfast with Mayuran and Kevin and Terry, who I had seen around but not really met, and it was nice to kinda talk to her a bit. Then I had to get stuff together, and track down Mr. Keith Senkowski and practically force money down his throat in order to buy a great print of one of the images on this page (4th from the right on the top).

And then a long string of goodbyes and promises to get down to NYC to see people in the not-so-distant future.

One 3-hour car ride with Ben Lehman later, I was dropping him off and picking up my girlfriend from the airport in Providence, and that was the end of my Dreamation.


Posted in Actual Play, carry. a game about war., Conventions, Playtesting, The Imp Of The Perverse, Timestream | Leave a Comment »

Dreamation On The (Mental) Horizon

Posted by Nathan P. on December 3, 2006

And here’s what I’m planning to run at Dreamation 2007:


Event Title: A Night Of Enticing Stories

System: 1001 Nights

Blurb: 1001 Nights is the game of storytelling, courtly intrigue and self-preservation in the palace of the Sultan. “You play members of the Sultan’s Court, whiling away the sultry nights by telling pointed stories to advance your own ambitions. Navigate the social maze and you could win your heart’s desire; offend the wrong person and you suffer the Sultan’s wrath.” This rotating-GM style game gives everyone the opportunity to tell tall tales and enjoy the parables of others.

Maximum number of players: 6

Please choose an attitude rating for this game: Fun

Please choose an age rating for this game: Suitable for All Ages

Event Title: The Burdens Of War
System: carry. a game about war.

Blurb: carry. a game about war. is a short-form game that follows the story of a squad of U.S. Marines in the Vietnam war. The players take on the roles of soldiers from this squad, and create the weights and issues that they bring with them into the war. As the unit falls apart under both external attack and internal strife, how will you shape the legacy and memories that you will leave behind? This is not a convention scenario; this game is played in its entirety in one 4-hour session.

Maximum number of players: 6

Please choose an attitude rating for this game: Serious

Please choose an age rating for this game: Suitable for All Ages


Event Title: The Burdens Of War

System: carry. a game about war.

Blurb: carry. a game about war. is a short-form game that follows the story of a squad of U.S. Marines in the Vietnam war. The players take on the roles of soldiers from this squad, and create the weights and issues that they bring with them into the war. As the unit falls apart under both external attack and internal strife, how will you shape the legacy and memories that you will leave behind? This is not a convention scenario; this game is played in its entirety in one 4-hour session.

Maximum number of players: 6

Please choose an attitude rating for this game: Serious

Please choose an age rating for this game: Suitable for All Ages

Event Title: The Guardians of Time

System: Timestream

Blurb: It’s a big responsibility, the preservation of history. And those tasked with it have started to slip. Strange events and changes are started to erupt in every era, and now you’ve been tapped as a replacement. Unfortunately, you have your own goals and interests – which may or may not match up with your new duties. Will you and your compatriots be able to stand up to the test of time itself? Or will you let your personal interests get between you? As Time Travelers, Temporal Manipulators and Thralls, the fate of the timestream itself is in your hands.

Maximum number of players: 6

Please choose an attitude rating for this game: Fun

Please choose an age rating for this game: Suitable for All Ages

Keepin’ my Sunday open, baby. I’m looking forward to this one.

Posted in carry. a game about war., Conventions, Promo, Timestream | Leave a Comment »

Spiel x Press Review of Timestream

Posted by Nathan P. on October 6, 2006

German gaming mag Spiel x Press has published a short review of Timestream. Many thanks to them, and to Christian and Harald for the translation help. The review in the original german can be found here in PDF form; below is the translation.

The stream of time is unchangeable. Or maybe it isn’t? In the roleplaying game “Timestream” the protagonists can influence the stream of time immensely. Time travels are possible, time can be slowed down, and different situations can be lived through over and over again.

The details are left to one’s own imagination in “Timestream.”

“Timestream” is not a highly professional product of a large company. Accordingly, the focus of the Timestream rule book does not lie in impressive illustrations and the optical design, but in simple rules provided in a way as to be understandable. Timestream does not commit itself to a specific world or specific mechanics that are needed to time travel, but leaves these parts to the individual play groups. In this way, each roleplaying group can play time travel adventures according to its own preferences.

For this reason the rule book of Timestream is kept simple and general. Characters are created quickly, there are only three rough classes of characters and few attributes, which leads to not getting lost in rules but focusing on on the playing-out of the story.

Timestream is a roleplaying game that has its strenghts–such as flexibility and simplicity–but also its weaknesses. For example, an evening of Timestream means quite a bit of work for the game master. To pull an adventure out of nothing without a lot of background is tedious, and that in a roleplaying game about time travels almost any unforeseeable event can happen doesn’t make the whole thing any easier.

Anyone who wants to play a time travel and time manipulation game without fighting their way through endless constructions of rules and theoretical foundations will be in the right place with Timestream. The whole game is kept very simple, and while it’s not an optically professional product, it’s thought through very well and piques one’s interest.

So I think I’m going to get working on some situation generation tools for the game. Seems like that would be good thing.

Posted in Promo, Publishing, Timestream | Leave a Comment »

GamingReport.com Review of Timestream

Posted by Nathan P. on September 17, 2006

Read it here. It got 2 out of 5 stars.

In conclusion, overall I was not impressed with Timestream. There was nothing in it that drove me to want to play it. It had some interesting ideas and mechanics, but nothing in it really made me want to find players and try it out. It comes across as an singular idea that he built a role playing game around. It is lacking in some areas and seems to me to be a incomplete job. This is not unique, however. Many independent games are written this way. I suppose I need to lower my expectations for independent games.

It’s interesting to me that all of the reviews of the game have said basically the same thing, but that the particular reviewers taste leads to a somewhat broad variety of scores.

Posted in Promo, Timestream | Leave a Comment »

More Love

Posted by Nathan P. on August 7, 2006

Paul Tevis of the Have Games Will Travel podcast had some nice things to say about both Timestream and carry in his Gen Con Survival Guide episode, and put them both on his “games I want to know more about” list, with some great company: Deaths Door, Mechaton (I will destroy you all!) and Kwaidan. Though on the podcast he said that I was Thomas Robertson, which was funny for two reasons. First, I am not Thomas Robertson. Second, I recently met the fellow in question IRL. So, funny.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to meeting Paul if at all possible. Along with the rest of you lugs.

Posted in carry. a game about war., Promo, Timestream | 2 Comments »

General Update

Posted by Nathan P. on August 5, 2006

Played another game of Mechaton, three players this time. It was awesome. I still have pics to post, sometime, of my game the other day. I rebuilt some of my Mechs today to be even more awesome. Once I have the actual setup rules, it will be even more awesome than that. I can’t wait.

Played the first solid now-we’re-actually-playing session of Burning Wheel. It’s hard to remember that we have more than four hours to play, so I don’t need to push straight towards the awesome every second. Damn Con games are ruining me. I also need to internalize some of those rules – looking crap up takes time.

I really, really hope I’ll have my books in hand for Gen Con. I will be one sad puppy if that doesn’t happen.

Ideas for indie game events at Pandemonium are bubbing in my head. Post-Gen Con, some of them will hopefully be coming to fruition.

Ken Hite gave Timestream an unanticipated nod in his latest Out Of The Box. I yet again squee with fanboyish glee.

Haha, I’m having some blockage in regards to my latest game idea. Serves me right! I need to give the ol’ noggin a rest, but its so hard. So hard.

Oh yah – I also wrote a game about Owlbears.

Posted in Actual Play, carry. a game about war., Non-RPG Gaming, Publishing, Timestream | Leave a Comment »