Saturday, August 26, 2006

Yet Another Temporality Review

This one from the aforementioned Dr Who yahoo group. I did point out that the book is now for sale in print but this review is again for the pdf (although there is, of course, no difference in content). Anywho, let's get on with the review...

"As someone who regularly picks through d20 and OGL content in searchof rules to reuse or repurpose, Temporality is an invaluable resource.For the other 95% of gamers who don't care what is, or isn't, OpenContent (and just want to play the damn game), Temporality is an invaluable resource.

The author has tirelessly ploughed through dozens of different products to pull together a near-definitive time-travel compendium. At 159 pages, my print-out is impressively weighty, and well set-out so as to be of use to player and GMs alike.The first ten chapters set out what players need to know, and offer some well defined concepts which sit comfortably together as background for time travel in the world of D&D. How time and time travel work, though realm- and plane-based, work well within the D&D context, but also share some basic similarities to how they might function within a d20 modern environment.

In Doctor Who terms (remembering its the angle we tend to be coming from) there are some clear analogies - 'the Continuum' is the Vortex,' Havens' are E-Space/CVEs, and 'shifting' is a method of time travel very close to the way a Tardis travels. The laws of time and the temporal mechanics, while not how I might have set them out, are clear and consistent enough for even the most anal retentive gamer.

The concept of renouncement - giving up years of one's life to relive that time again - is one of my favourite issues explored in the book,and establishes a trend: the best bits of the book tend to be the new and original elements. New prestige classes - the Fated and theTemporalists - also work well, with the latter providing an excellent variant class that would work well for the Dr. Who seen in the 60s movies. Except for the emphasis on the arcane. The focus on dealing with time primarily through magic rather thanfeats is a strong reminder that the book is - first and foremost - a fantasy resource. Much of the compiled content fits the spells/monsters/items stereotype, and my greatest disappointment was that only two new skills were presented. There ARE some interesting new feats (mostly relating to reincarnation, which gets a chapter all to itself) useful, perhaps, for ancestor-focused time-travel adventures.

Where Chapters 1-10 present a solid, non-contradictory overview of a single type of time travel game, Chapter 11 begins to open things up, and the book goes on to consider how to bring time travel to existing games, how to base a game around time travel, and giving some thought to how a GM can deal with crossovers between D&D and d20 Modern. It would have been nice to see some more exploration of alternate temporal mechanics. There is, for example, a minimal focus on paradox. This felt like an opportunity missed, and one source not tapped into was Mongoose's Encyclopedia Arcane: Chronomancy, arguably the best TimeTravel product produced for 3rd ed. d20.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a sample adventure - Roanaoke: The Lost Colony, which again reinforced my belief that the original content of the book is best. This proved to be a high point before thebook drifts into ever-so-necessary but seen-before weapon/monster territory during the last few chapters. While I applaud the diligence needed to pull Temporality together, but finding two variant time spiders in different parts of the book screamed "padding", and made me feel that the quantity of imported content outweighed the need for quality: an original monster or two here would have been nice.

The section of enemies and allies worked well for me though, with some more original and entertaining content raising the bar above that seen in the books imports. The book's equivalent of the Time Lords' CIA, the ATO, had me thinking that one change of letter to ATF could havebeen sooo funny in a cross-over adventure. The Temporal Psychologists firmly became my all-time favourite role-playing time-travel concept, and I've already got plans to make them antagonists for a Tenth Doctor adventure.

Overall, Temporality a robust piece of work that felt very much like a GURPs product, easily worth double or triple the online cost. I've mentioned Chronomancy not being sourced, and the Netbook of Time is another worthwhile omission, but these are minor niggles. It certainly has me looking forward to a d20 Modern-focused Temporality II, but the author should rely less on imports and more on original content next time around (and should probably go and read Lawrence Miles' The Book of the War to get some ideas that really fit in with some of his ownthoughts and concepts).

At least 8/10 I reckon."

So overall pretty darned good, in that reviewer's opinion. The only thing I would really take issue with is the omission of Mongoose's Chronomancy. I hated that book's approach to "time travel" (of which there really isn't any) and wanted none of its OGC in my book because the basic premises just didn't jive.

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