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52 Pick Up

EPISODE 2: Time Knights

by Gareth-Michael Skarka
February 15, 2001

Deuce of Spades


This week's game is borne of my love of shows like Doctor Who, Sapphire&Steel and Voyagers.   Given a lack of playable time travel games on the market right now, I present the following:

At the end of time, suspended in the membrane between this Chronoverse and the void of nothingness that is the Gap between realities, lies the Terminal--a vast construct, a Cathedral of science and technology.  This is the home of the Time Knights, an order which has studied and cataloged the myriad corridors of history since their inception.  For thousands of Absolute Years, the Knights voyaged up and down the Timeline in their timeships, from its beginning to its end...studying, retrieving lost knowledge...until the coming of the Enemy.

Nobody knows who the Enemy are, or where they came from.  They possessed the power of Time Travel---the only force other than the Knights themselves to do so.  They infested history, attempting to alter the timeline to their own mysterious ends.  Among the Analyst-brothers of the Time Knights, a theory was put forth:  the Enemy were somehow remnants of the previous Chronoverse...the reality before this one.  They had somehow managed to bridge the Gap, and hurled themselves from their reality into ours...and were now engaged in attempting to alter the Chronoverse to re-create their own.  This was, of course, supposition.  No communication had ever come from the Enemy.

The efforts of the Knights turned from study and observation to protection and repair.  The damage done by the Enemy had to be countered and fought, and no-one else was capable, save the Knights themselves.

...and so, the dance continued, move and counter-move...until the Enemy lay siege to the Terminal itself.

Unprepared for the ferocity of the assault, the Knights fought valiantly, but in vain.   The defenses of the Terminal failed, and the Enemy stormed the gates.  As the last refuge of the Knights fell to the onslaught, survivors of the battle boarded what timeships could be salvaged, and threw themselves into the timeline, fleeing with their lives.

Now, the Knights are separated, alone, and lost.  They still must oppose the Enemy, but also now search for their comrades...and the Enemy searches for them as well.


Characters in Time Knights are defined by statistics and skills.  The 7 stats are:  Strength, Agility, Will-power, Intelligence, Hardiness, Charm and Luck. They range from 1 to 10.  Starting player character all have starting scores of 5, and a pool of points to raise those scores, derived by rolling 4d10.  Scores can be lowered below 5, if the player wishes, to spend those points on other stats.  Scores above 10 are possible, but exceedingly rare, and must be accompanied by an explanation...for example, a Strength of 11 or 12 might be the result of a cybernetically enhanced body.

Skills also range from 1 to 10.  A character begins with a point pool to spend on skills equal to his Intelligence plus Will-power plus Luck.  A full skill list will have to be developed by the individual Gamemaster, but should include broad field-skills such as: Ranged Combat, Melee, Temporal Science, Timeship Operation, Engineering, etc. etc.


Time Knights uses a simple percentile roll for all action resolution.  To determine the chance for success, the player adds the character's appropriate stat and skill together (if the player doesn't have the skill needed, they still do the addition, with the skill at level 0). In the event of stat checks, use the stat twice (filling the role of the stat and the skill) The total is then multiplied by the difficulty modifier of the action:

Easy:                x10

Moderate:         x7

Challenging:     x5

Hard:                x3

Impossible:        x1

Example:  Joe Average (5 stat and 5 skill, for a total of 10) would have the following chances:  Easy-- 100%, Moderate-- 70%, Challenging-- 50%, Hard-- 30%, and Impossible-- 10%.   Captain Overachiever (10 stat and 10 skill, for a total of 20) would have much higher chances:  200%, 140%, 100%, 60% and 20%.

Once you've arrived at your target number, a simple percentage roll, hitting at or beneath the target, is needed for success.  Modifiers based on situations, such as wounds, environmental conditions, etc would be expressed in terms of penalties to the target number (-10, -20, -30, etc.)...remember, the lower the target number, the harder the chances.

Combat is run using the same system.  Ranged combat difficulties are based on range:  Point Blank is Easy, Short is Moderate, Medium is Challenging, Long is Hard and Extreme is Impossible.  What constitutes range definitions will depend upon the weapon in question (for example, extreme range with a bow might only be Medium range with a sniper rifle, etc.).

Melee attacks have a standard difficulty of Moderate (x7).  The victim of a Melee attack has the option of attempting to block (if they're properly equipped...a bare-handed man isn't going to have much luck against a sword)...the difficulty of the block is equal to the final rolled result of the attacker.  For example, Player A attacks, hitting with a 44.  Player B can block if they roll a 44 or below.

After a hit is scored, damage is dealt to the target.  Damage is rolled as an open-ended d10 roll (i.e., if you roll 10, you keep going) plus the DC of the weapon (which is a score from 1-10, or in the case of Melee weapons, the a bonus to the wielder's strength...STR+2, STR +3, etc.).  This is compared against a defensive roll, which is an open-ended d10 plus the Hardiness of the target.   If the target's roll is greater, the attack is a graze that has no effect.  If the attacker's roll is greater, consult the following chart:

Difference Result
0       Graze
1-3       Light Wound
4-5       Medium Wound
6-7       Heavy Wound
8-9       Critical Wound
10+       Death
Wounds are cumulative:

Light Wound: -2 to the character's stat/skill totals (before multiplication)
Medium Wound:  -3 to stat/skill totals, plus make Moderate Hardiness check to avoid losing consciousness.
Heavy Wound:  -4 to stat/skill totals, plus make a Challenging Hardiness check to avoid losing consciousness.
Critical Wound: -5 to stat/skill totals, plus make a Hard Hardiness check to avoid losing consciousness.
Death:  Well, what do YOU think?


As you might be able to ascertain from my primary inspirations in this genre, I'm not interest in the hard science of paradox, or any of the rest of the hoo-hah that comes with Time Travel.  I only want to tell cool stories set in any time period.  That's all.  So, the only thing that I decide is that the Knights travel through time in vessels known as Timeships.  They are basically the classical UFO...hence the sightings throughout history.  The ships, if working properly, can either fully enter the local spacetime and land, or they can remain "anchored" in time, and merely extend a gateway into the real world, allowing the characters to pass from the ship to local spacetime, while keeping the vessel hidden.

The other thing I decided about the game world is the following point of metaplot:   The identity of the Enemy.    (highlight the space below for spoilers)

The Enemy are actually the Time Knights themselves. They discovered, at the end of time, that it was their own time travel, constantly weakening the fabric of reality, which accelerated the demise of the universe. The knowledge  drove them mad--unable to bear the pain of having destroyed all of existence.   They have been trying to alter history so that the science of time travel never reaches fruition.  Their first effort was to destroy their younger selves (setting up unbelievable levels of paradox energy, which they use to power their own time vessels, so as not to further erode the universe), and to begin making alterations in the timeline to cause a "cascade failure" of temporal science development.  Being mad, however, their efforts have moved beyond fanatical and into the realm of insanity.
There you go.  Again, nothing too intricate, but hopefully some of you will have some fun with it.

2 down, 50 to go.

See ya in 7.

Gareth-Michael Skarka

Gareth-Michael Skarka is the Operations Manager for Synister Creative Systems.  He has written and edited for games including Star Trek, Deadlands Hell on Earth, and GURPS.  He is the designer of several RPG systems, including UnderWorld and Hong Kong Action Theatre!. TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

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Reshuffled: 52 Pick Up, edited by Chris Czerniak

52 Pick Up original run, by Gareth-Michael Skarka

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