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Timeworks Training Manual Excerpt

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Hey folks!

As you may remember from my post last month, I’m producing a setting for Fate Core called Timeworks. The setting will be part of one of the Fate Worlds books that the Evil Hat Crew is putting together as part of their AMAZING FATE CORE KICKSTARTER that has blown up everything, climbing to more than $300,000 in pledges. Whew.

Fate Core Kickstarter

I just submitted the first draft of Timeworks to Evil Hat, and I wanted to share some of the fluff text I’m using to try to explain the setting of the game. Rather than simply tell the players what it’s like to work for Timeworks, I’m giving them a set of primary source documents–transcripts, training videos, etc–to simulate what it feels like to get hired by the company.

So without further ado, here’s a chunk of the setting for you all to discuss:


The Myth of the Butterfly Effect
Many Timework’s operatives express a deep fear of displacement before engaging in their first alteration, claiming that they are frightened of the potential side-effects that displacement can bring about in the timeline. Partially this is the result of popular media that we have embedded throughout history to discourage time travel, such as Mr. Ray Bradbury’s infamous work, A Sound of Thunder, in which a misplaced footstep in the Cretaceous leads to disastrous effects in the present.

The truth is that the greatest difficulties we have discovered when traveling through time is that our actions will not matter; rarely do we find unintended consequences. The timestream, or space-time continuum, is robust, and easily shakes off the death of a single butterfly or an additional sniper on a grassy knoll. Our operatives are often forced to undertake drastic measures in order for their efforts to successfully alter the timestream. Accidental timestream manipulation is rare and the effects are usually localized and contained.

For example, [REDACTED SECTION].

Coping with the Stress of Displacement
In addition to the more general fears about the effects of displacement on the timestream, operatives also express concerns about the stress of displacement itself. Operatives often find the idea of “living in the past” simultaneously exciting and terrifying, hoping to see what it was like “back then” while fearing that they will be unable to pass for normal in an era that is not their own.

These fears are not misplaced. One unfortunate effect of displacement is the tendency to attract unwanted attention from local authorities. Given that Timeworks operatives are usually involved in clandestine affairs, such attention can quickly get out of hand, spiraling into violence or incarceration. It is of the utmost importance that Timeworks operatives avoid these kinds of encounters and minimize their contact with local authorities at all times. Failure to do so will potentially damage the timestream, perhaps even cutting off Timeworks HQ’s ability to retrieve operatives from the field.

Dealignment and Personal Quantum Fields
In order to protect Timeworks operatives from the effects of altered timelines, each Timeworks operative undergoes a process known as dealignment. This procedure simultaneously reinforces the operative’s personal quantum perspective and severs the operative’s link to the current timestream, enabling her to alter events in the past without fear of altering herself. Because this process is involved and quite dangerous, Timeworks operatives go through a complex and lengthy screening process to ensure that they are prepared for the procedure and Timeworks employment.

Once the process is complete, however, a dealigned operative could kill her own mother or father without fear of never coming into being, as the dealignment separates her from the original timestream in which such events did not take place. Upon returning to the present, she would find that no one outside of Timeworks knew her, and that all records of her existence outside of the company had been erased, but she would not cease to be.
It should be noted that there is currently no method of realigning operatives after the procedure has taken place. After all, the timeline in which an operative originated will have ceased to exist by the time said operative decided to leave Timeworks. Psychological profiles of operatives all indicate that only rarely is dealignment seen as a loss once an operative has undergone the procedure; the vast majority of operatives have built successful lives free from the burdens of their original timeline.


13 thoughts on “Timeworks Training Manual Excerpt

  1. I like it a lot! The idea of giving what amounts to employee orientation is a great way to explain the setting in an entertaining way while still conveying the information that every player needs to begin contributing right away.

    And dealignment is perfect. That solution to the logic of self induced paradox is elegant as well as ripe for character development. After all, they are now the ultimate ‘man without a country’ in terms of displacement from society.

    1. Awesome! Glad you like it, Don. A lot of your ideas on the previous thread made it in to the final draft. You really nailed the metaphysics for us.

      And I love dealignment. It’s become one of my favorite parts of the setting.

        1. I believe that’s up to the Evil Hat folks. I know that the setting will be available in the Worlds of Fate books after the Kickstarter is over, and that the setting could very easily be lifted and used with non-Fate mechanics. Hope that helps!

  2. Hey Mark. I’m a Fate Core Kickstarter backer, and I just got finished reading Timeworks. Let me say that I think it’s fantastic; I was looking forward to a few of the settings, and I was underwhelmed by all the ones released except Timeworks. I really got excited about running a game when I read the setting.

    However, some questions arose when I was reading the rules. The whole “How does Timeworks get paid” thing really confused me, but I did see you addressed that. I was disappointed it was with a general “just figure it out on your own,” but okay. However, there were two rules that I couldn’t work out.

    The first one is that operatives can’t travel to the future. Okay. So when is the future? If the operative is from a previous era, then obviously they’re traveling to the future to join Timeworks. If it’s the future relative to Timeworks somehow, then can’t Timeworks send people to the future using the same mechanism they recruit operatives with? Can’t Timeworks five minutes later or five years later or fifty years later just go back and bring people “back to the future”? That didn’t make any sense to me.

    The second rule is that “operatives visiting an era they have previously visited… causes stress, leading to specific Timeworks policies that prohibit those actions.” Wouldn’t that severely limit an operative’s use? Although I guess part of that comes down to the very vague use of “era.” One of Merriam-Webster’s defintions for “era” is as follows:

    A period identified by some prominent figure or characteristic feature

    Now, one response to that would be along the same lines of how does Timeworks get paid, that being, “Make it up yourself.” Well, using established eras, I could use something like “The Soviet Era.” So that would be from 1922 to 1991. An operative could travel to anytime between those years once. Or, you could say, “The Era of When Bob Went to the Grocery Store,” and limit it to a day, which seems absurd. My first inclination is to make an era a decade, and that again seems to make operatives have a very, very short career. Like a career of a year or less.

    Those two things were big enough for me to make me wary about running Timeworks, because I know my players will want to understand the way the setting works, and I really can’t explain those time travel elements to them. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have.

    1. Addendum:

      The Merriam-Webster definition was slightly cut off due to HTML coding. Here’s a repost.

      A period identified by some prominent figure or characteristic feature (the era of the horse and buggy)

      1. Hey Skip!

        First, thank you for your excitement. I’m glad to hear that the setting met your expectations!

        A few thoughts on what you’ve written here:

        1) I left the Timeworks payment information up to your group primarily because I think it’s a natural question for your group to ask. Investigating it can be a really great way to look deeper into the corporate intrigue that drives the book. If you’d like some ideas, however, here are a few I toyed with:

        – Timeworks doesn’t get paid. They work for free in the hopes of making the world better.
        – Timeworks collects information from clients, secret information that can be used to possibly defeat the Shadow Men and open up the future.
        – Timeworks takes payment only in advance.
        – Timeworks collects after the changes using some form of documents that can resist alterations.
        – Timeworks brings the clients to the facility in order for them to remain separate from the timeline to authorize payment.

        2) “Future Displacement” is defined as pushing operatives into the future relative to Timeworks’ timeline (i.e. our modern day). When they send people into the future, they cannot track them with records (as they do with past displacement) and the teams have not checked in with Timeworks. No one knows why this is the case.

        Timeworks can definitely bring operatives from the past into the present, which I suppose is a kind of future displacement, but the future of Timeworks’ timeline is what I was referring to in the book.

        3)The vague use of era is intentional. I want the players to create timelines that fit their games, which may mean that one timeline is a “single important day” while other timelines may be decades.

        The “visiting an era twice” rule is designed to stop players from replaying the same scenes over and over. If you send an operative back to 1917, then send him back on a different mission to 1918, that’s fine. But if you send him back to 1917 to do the same mission again… timeline stress.

        Hope these responses help!

        1. Thanks for the response, Mark. That definitely helps. I’m still confused on future displacement, but I’ll try to roll with it. And thanks again for the cool setting. Hope to see more of it in the future.

  3. I think I will be running a Timeworks game. Plenty of story hooks. One thing I didn’t get a good sense for: what is the default adventure? (I’d like to be able to use this for a fluctuating gaming group, so being able to improvise quickly will be helpful.)

    1. There isn’t a default adventure for Timeworks because I wanted to encourage your group to think of which timelines they wanted to visit together. If you need a specific idea to get you started, I’d suggest:
      – A woman in her 40s hires Timeworks to go back 30 years to prevent her kidnapping. The only problem? She’s too traumatized to know who did it…
      – A tech company hires Timeworks to ensure that information that went missing 60 years ago is found. The only problem? There’s another Timeworks team already on the job when the players arrive…
      – A revolutionary group hires Timeworks to prevent the assassination of their leader 15 years earlier. The only problem? No one knows who the shooter was…
      – Timeworks HQ lost a team of agents 25 years in the past. They need your groups team to go back in time to figure out what happened…

      1. I phrased that ambiguously — not the in-the-box (sic) starter scenario that everyone plays, but the typical storyline (in D&D, go bash down a dungeon door; in Traveler, bring trade goods to another planet; in Champions, fight supervillains).

        Thanks for the answer, it’s still useful. I guess the common thread is timeline change (not recovering items or research — I can’t recall if there was a logic for this presented).

        And while I’m bugging you: is it worth dropping Resources? I may leave it only for its modern-era relevance, but it’s irrelevant on a mission and shorter lists are usually better.

        1. Ah, I see! The default scenario for Timeworks is “travel back in time to commit crimes while figuring out that your organization is probably up to no good.”

          I think dropping Resources is probably a good idea. 😀

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