TimeWatch: Conquest of the Americas, part 2

55f70f0ffd42adf2585167d3a1bb0c38_largeWhen last we left the brave time agents, they had just finished meeting Bjarni Herjolfsson at the first European settlement in continental North America. In this timeline, however, the settlement thrives and the Vikings end up taking over much of Canada and the Eastern seaboard of North America, spreading animal husbandry, shipbuilding, smallpox, and iron working among the native tribes. The “Skin Spirits,” aka “men who are both men and lizards” (sophosaurs) live among the natives, sometimes fully integrated into their tribes. That integration is troubling as, in the altered future, sophosaurs have eventually overtaken much of Earth and are now the dominant species, both on the planet and in TimeWatch HQ.

We started in 1013, but the agents immediately wanted to make a jump– they just couldn’t decide if it was to 1003 (the year Bjarni’s son was killed and Bjarni committed suicide), or 986, the year Bjarni saw North America but did not land on it.

They went back to the furthest time point, 986, at the coordinates “where we saw that U-boat being salvaged.” Cool. We discuss whether they would like to be treading water out there in the ocean blue, or what.

Mace Hunter spends some Preparedness and Authority points to hop through time into the 21st century, startup a small LARP cruise line, and have an outfitted longboat-replica, with which he has recruited a team of Viking-era live action role-players to come for “a LARP experience like none other! Please sign these waiver forms….” The LARPers are able to row and sail, and they have authentic-looking costumes, but they don’t speak more than a smattering of Old Norse, and most of them are carrying iPhones and bean bags (“magic missile!”) The entire outfit is called Mace Hunter’s Hunters in Time cruise line. The longboat is fully stocked with several Coleman coolers, most of which contain alcohol and beef jerky.

Mace returns with his boat and crew, and they hop through time to 986. Here, they see Bjarni’s ship, and he sees them. He approaches, and the two crews exchange a few words until Mace insults the Norse adventurer. Things go from bad to worse, and Bjarni decides to teach these upstarts a lesson– he rams their vessel with his own! Twice! A fight ensues between the boats as Vikings attempt to board and plunder. LARPers throw bean bags uselessly, and then are tossed from the boat. Dr. Breen attempts to create an illusion of a “sea monster” by projecting Mace Hunter in some of his more private moments upon the waters… this does little but anger and humiliates Mace, who spends most of the fight drinking from his private reserve, punching Vikings with his PaciFist, and “accidentally” tossing a few LARPers into the water, figuring they are safer there than on the wrong end of the Vikings’ spears.

Skegg leaps into battle (this surprises none of the LARPers, who are familiar with sophosaurs, and the Vikings are not so surprised by the idea of monsters). After a round, Skegg leaps back and asks Dr. Breen to “make some kind of thing where I can breathe fire?”

Meanwhile, Uurrk has met his equal in battle– an enormous Viking man carrying a very familiar axe! It’s the same one Uurrk himself is carrying, and there is a moment of temporal anomaly as the two weapons clash in the air. Uurrk downs the Viking using his PaciFist, and the Viking slumps into the water. Uurrk dives after him, not wanting to lose that axe!

Dr. Breen side-steps into Nazi Germany, where she conveniently (and not surprisingly, let’s face it) has a science lab. She works diligently for some time, carefully researching and piecing together an apparatus for Skegg. The Nazis have provided several sophosaur subjects for her to experiment on– very considerate of them, really. Once she’s done, she makes a few minor adjustments, including installing a DNA collection and scientific monitoring devices so she can collect all the data she wants to from Skegg. She steps back to the same time and place where she left and installs the apparatus on Skegg.

Skegg isn’t thrilled by the fact that this thing needs to actually be wired into her jaw, but for the moment, she’ll put up with it. She leaps back over to the siderail and breathes fire all over the Vikings.

Uurrk has grabbed the Viking warrior and his axe and turns to kick back up to the surface when he sees it. An enormous form in the water– a hundred feet long, easily, hanging there, a dark shadow in the murky depths. Uurrk reaches the surface and throws the Viking back into his own ship. He yells to the rest of the party, in Han-era Mandarin “submarine!” One of the LARPers, oddly, understands and says to another “did he just say submarine?”

Their ship now set ablaze, the Vikings make an expeditious retreat. They back away from Mace Hunter’s longboat to regroup, gather their men (and a few LARPers, now lost to the ages), and put out the fire. They turn west, towards land, where they can make repairs to their ship.

At this point, it seems prudent to point out to those who are reading along at home that this landfall is precisely the event the PCs need to prevent in order to restore their timeline and keep the sophosaurs from reaching superiority. This landfall results in the native populations making contact and contracting European diseases 500 years before the Europeans really settle here. If the Vikings make this landfall, the local tribes have been exposed at just the right time to be weakened when Lief Erikson founds Anse aux Meadows, and that settlement takes hold, leading to a firmly established Viking presence, and the eventual animal husbandry, diseases, and ironwork that allow the native tribes– infiltrated by sophosaurs– to hold their own against the Europeans. We’re not doing the natives any favors, here; we’re just trying to save our own timeline.

The PCs have to make a difficult choice– follow Bjarni’s ship to land, or deal with “the submarine.” They choose the submarine. At this point, Skegg spends some Preparedness to make Mace Hunter’s longboat into a convertible submarine– a few minor modifications with Dr. Breen’s help, and now it can safely be a small diving bell. Because The Beetles are his favorite band, Uurrk spends his point of Preparedness to make the submarine yellow.

As a DM, I’ve had to mute my microphone several times because I’m laughing too hard. The time agents literally caused exactly the event they were supposed to prevent. I am amused and thrilled and looking forward to how they might (or might not!) fix it!

preview-screenThey dive into the water, and are surprised when the “submarine” turns, animal-like, towards them. What they see coming through the gloom of the Newfoundland seas, is an enormous sea creature which several of them recognize, either as a plesiosaur, a sea monster, or even just “Nessie.”

Skegg has Mace maneuver the submarine closer to make mental contact with the beast.

I hadn’t really fully decided yet if the plesiosaurus was a sophosaur or not. Are sophosaurs polymorphic? Are there several species, or did only the top of the food chain evolve? I ask Tyler, who plays Skegg, how it turned out in the sophosaur timeline, and he says that, although the velociraptors were, indeed, the only sophosaurs to evolve into the hyper-intelligent masters they are today, they did take several of the more useful species from their times and genetically altered, selectively bred, and otherwise “raised them up,” much as one might envision humans doing with dolphins today. I nod, and have this pleisiosaur reply telepathically.

Skegg and “Edd” exchange several words, friendly at first. Skegg wants to know Edd’s mission here? “Oh, I’m to make sure that ship makes landfall, but it looks like they sent another team.”

Skegg then makes a faux pas which raises Edd’s suspicions, and he demands to know Skegg’s name and rank. Skegg tries to bluff, and it almost works, but Edd is also a TimeWatch agent and takes off through the water, attempting to put enough distance between them so he can jump back to HQ and figure this out.

Incidentally, at this point we realize that Skegg is actually the hero of Sophosaur TimeWatch, having breathed fire on the Viking longboat sufficient to force it to make landfall and trade with the natives. Go Skegg, you turncoat!

The party pursues. Why? Because with Mace Hunter and Uurrk on board, you can be sure that if someone runs away, their prey drives will kick in with a passion! Mace is at the controls and pilots to follow Edd, who time-leaps into what can best be described as an oil spill. The water is thick and filled with billows of black, thick oil, which is now coating everything on the outside of the sub. Mace has Dr. Breen take over driving, while Skegg tries to tear her fire-breathing apparatus off… it no longer seems prudent, given the extremely flammable nature of their vessel now.

The party ties in their piloting attempts vs. Edd’s athletics in this scene, so when he time-jumps, he’s still 2 ranges away. They still need to close in before they can effectively hit him.

Edd jumps to 30,000 CE, to a world where the atmosphere is so thick, you can indeed swim in it. It’s also heavily toxic (think the planet Venus). They continue their pursuit. Dr. Breen is at the submarine controls. Mace opens the hatch, letting the toxic air into the submarine, and fires once– too far. Dammit, Doctor– get us closer! Uurrk reaches a thick caveman arm through the hatch as Dr. Breen careens closer (vehicles vs. athletics, and this time the PCs win) and fires almost blindly. The PaciFist hits Edd, who plummets like a stone through the dense air.

At this point, Skegg side-steps through time to a point about three seconds earlier, to leap onto the back of the plummeting Edd.

Skegg spends a Paradox Prevention point to assist herself in a scene without directly confronting herself. She rolls chronal stability to make the leap, and then again to effect the paradox. She rolls well on both and leaps onto the back of Edd just as he gets his by Uurrk’s PaciFist. The two of them fall together.

Skegg and Edd land, with Skegg rolling easily to take minimal damage, but Edd is pretty badly knocked out. Skegg uses the MEM-tag to change Edd’s memories, placing Skegg firmly in command. When Edd comes to, Skegg demands he report, but all Edd wants to do is get out of this toxic environment. Skegg orders him back to Newfoundland’s coast, 986 CE. They reconvene with the party, and Edd explains that he’s just here to make sure that ship of Vikings makes landfall. With his new orders (“just follow me from now on”) from Skegg, he falls into line with the PCs.

The PCs, meanwhile, have a submarine-longboat full of unconscious, MEM-tagged LARPers, an already-landed Viking party with a critically damaged ship, a psychic plesiosaur, and a TimeWatch agency that is still run by sophosaurs. Thankfully, their sophosaur handler doesn’t care a bit what the “pinks” do, as long as they stay out of her way, so she hasn’t sent a second team to stop them yet.

We warp up with the PCs giving Bjarni Mace’s ship… which means Lief Erikson will eventually make it to the New World in a fiberglass longboat replica (“I’m sure no one will ever find it… it’s not like they dig those things up after a thousand years anyway.” The submarine parts are removed first, as is the Coleman cooler. The LARPers are ecstatic and go home with happy memories. About two weeks into the return trip to Greenland, the PCs give Bjarni some false, but exciting, memories of a sea dragon off the coast that he’d seen, and erase his memories of actually making landfall.

Uurrk leaps in time to 1003 to stop Bjarni’s son from being murdered, and his wife Garnissa from disappearing. He stages an elaborate setup in which the boy appears dead and he kidnaps Garnissa, taking her to Sweden, about 10 weeks into the future. He wants to set things up so Bjarni’s grief doesn’t cause him to commit suicide but instead convince him to go to Sweden. Since this would likely all result in TimeWatch intervention, I tell him “Okay… that’s what Uurrk thinks happens. MEM-tags work both ways, you know.”

Uurrk returns to the TimeWatch break room, where Skegg is happily sitting in the new chair that Dr. Breen made for her (just cause it has sensors and DNA samplers in it does not mean it’s an unkind gift!) Mace is flirting with one of the female LARPers– the one who knew ancient Mandarin. It turns out she’s a grad student, somewhat clever, and quite taken by Mace’s authority. Uurrk is startled as he steps in, having just settled Garnissa and Anssono in Sweden. The grad student is, without a doubt, a slightly younger version of Garnissa herself.

I am finding that TimeWatch games work best when you end them with another mystery to be solved on another day….