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TimeWatch: Conquest of the Americas

55f70f0ffd42adf2585167d3a1bb0c38_largeIn my Wednesday night game this week, I took over as GM for a couple of sessions and ran TimeWatch.

Opening Scene: The PCs are watching the salvage operation of an anachronistic U-boat off the coast of Canada… it’s about 1000 years old, or 960 years before it was originally sunk. The PCs feel a time ripple and are abruptly recalled by a rather rude sophosaur, Leeph, who it turns out is their handler.

Leeph doesn’t like the human PCs much and calls them “pinks.” Skegg, however, is rather happy with this turn of events, especially now that the TimeWatch office seems to have been taken over by sophosaurs, and they have much more comfortable, tail-accommodating seats available.

Leeph orders Skegg to take her pinks and do some bug-hunting. World War III is always a good place to start.

The PCs instead do a little TimeWatch research and learn that, in the new timeline, the tribal nations of Turtle Island successfully fended off the European predations. They go back to 1600, Mexico, and discover that the Aztecs had gunpowder and the means to manufacture guns, before the Spanish arrived. Dr. Breen notes that the Aztec empire seems to be thriving, even though by this point in history, about 80% of their population had been obliterated by disease. Skegg has a few words with a sophosaur guard– apparently there are “spirit skins,” men who are also giant lizards. The sophosaur appears to be doing a damned good job of moving like a human, and they chat about brooding (the guard for some reason thinks Skegg is brooding, since she seems to have “egg brain”).

They learn from a friend of Uurrk’s about the past 70 years or so of history here in Mexico, where the Europeans were unable to get a foothold and have established trading routes and posts. Future-Uurrk helped a Spanish merchant, Jaime de la Cruz, escape from Aztec slavery, having been captured after attempting to sell guns without a permit.

At the temple library, Dr. Breen finds that the northern tribes have a more Scandinavian-inspired culture, and are also lighter skinned. They jump back to 1013 CE, Newfoundland, Canada, the site of Anse Aux Meadows, the very first known Viking settlement.

Here, Uurrk finds and buys a nice shiny axe. Skegg-as-expecting becomes a running joke. Mace Hunter drinks heavily at the meadhall. The party meets Bjarni Herjolfsson and his grown son Anssono Bjarnson. Bjarni is the first Viking who saw the North American mainland, back in 985, but did not make landfall in the true timeline. In the alternate timeline, a sea creature attack forced him to land and make limited contact with the native tribes. Eventually, he returned to Greenland and helped sponsor the expedition with Lief Erikson, which would lead to this settlement.

At this point, I should point out that Steve, our regular GM, is having utter nerdgasms because I’ve put dinosaurs and Vikings in the same adventure.

But it is with growing horror as my players and, by extension, their characters, realize that in the true timeline, Anssono died at age 13 during a raid, and his mother Garnissa disappeared. This led to Bjarni’s tragic suicide in 1003; he never made it to the North American mainland.

Did I really just set them up to go back 10 years and kill a 13 year old boy? Would I do that?

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4 thoughts on “TimeWatch: Conquest of the Americas”

  1. Interesting twists – so many changes to the timeline and a lot of jumps – who decided the investigation route (from a Sophosaur future to 1600 Mexico and the mysterious “spirit skins” and then to Vikings in 11th Century Newfoundland)? Was this where the clues led or did you have to do a lot of thinking on your feet in response to the players?

  2. I had a timeline, with lynchpin moments, leading from the first turning point in time (which I won’t reveal yet, since the PCs haven’t gotten there), through about 3000 CE, just so I’d have a sense of “what does the world look like now” if they time-hopped to somewhere else. When the players asked for some ideas, I provided a few options from my timeline. I did direct them to 1600 Mexico, instead of 1600 Virginia, just because I knew there were more interesting clues for them there, particularly about the gunpowder and what the Aztec empire was shaping into, and the prevalence of sophosaurs in that tribe.

    But for the most part, I left things very open ended as to where the PCs might go next, and used wikipedia and my own quick thinking to fill in the blanks. My players are very good about giving the GM a few minutes to regroup when needed. I want them to feel like all of time is available to them– I feel that the “they are experts at what they do” principle in TimeWatch really lends itself to “they can go anywhen to try and figure things out.”

  3. Thanks for that – I’m GMing my first Timewatch game on Sunday and one of my concerns were the whole open-ended nature of time travel and players having the potential to jump all over space and time and how best to handle it – I came to the same conclusion that I had to allow my players as much freedom as possible and do my best to think on my feet.

    Must admit I’m intrigued where your adventure will lead, I will be following this with interest, thanks for publishing.

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