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[#] Pause: A Game of Times and Place
11:22pm EST - 11/19/2008
Tick.

That was the last real sound. The cut off so sudden, so loud in that sea of silence. Everything around was still, even your own flesh. Not paralyzed, not changed, not even sore. Just still. And then breath came again. The air around you moved sluggishly as you slowly stood up, and looked around the now silent lecture theatre.

All was still.

And then it wasn’t. One by one, a couple of others stood, shaking off a tangible slowness, and gazing around the room in shock. Everything was frozen. Chairs on the verge of sliding, drinks on the edge of spilling, a thrown paper aeroplane carrying a message from one side of the crowded hall to the other, all stopped in their tracks.

A silent, frozen world, populated by the five, counting yourself, you could see almost wading through the sea of slowness. Some seemed to be speaking, yet there was no sound passing through the still air. How odd…

Then a crack appeared through the wall. Except, it wasn’t in the wall, and even as you watched it spread, moving through the air, the furniture, the people, seemingly without effect. A sense of profound wrongness surrounded it, a feeling of instinctive dislike and discomfort, a knowledge that, whatever it was, it was Wrong.


You were almost so distracted by its passage you didn’t notice the thing it left behind, but its hard to miss a jumbled together mass of tables and chairs rearing its “head” and howling in a voice which sounded like a thousand stools screeching over across an already scuffed floor. Then it turned to look at you.

Of course, you backed away. Any sensible person would back away. But a little voice at the back of your head told you this was your job. You had been selected to deal with a problem. You had no choice in the matter. The universe was broken, and it was up to you to put it back together.

You wouldn’t be entirely unaided, however. That ring, the one you got on holiday all those years ago, but still fits you perfectly, suddenly felt heavy in your hand. Then it felt warm. Then you found yourself holding a ring of shining steel, a circular blade you were certain was deadly sharp, yet you held with an easy competence, an almost innate understanding of its use suddenly blossoming in your mind.

The air around moved almost freely now, and looking around the room, all the others seemed to be moving faster, more freely, and almost all were armed. The thought occurred to you that a bladed ring thrown at thrice the normal speed possible might just help with the job ahead.

This was starting to get interesting…


Apologies for the random writefaggotry, I was feeling in a creative mood and seem to have vented some of it here. I’ll leave it there because it serves to outline what I’d think of as an average beginning to a Pause campaign.

This is Earthflame by the way. You all know who I am, but its probably polite to introduce myself anyway. More traditional to do it at the beginning of course, but since my names in the title I suppose I don’t really need to bother. Anyway, onwards to relevance.

Pause is a recent game idea, inspired less than a few weeks ago by a particularly boring lecture and a fascinating daydream where time stopped, but me and my friends could move around it, and screwed with time flow to cause various amusing events when time started again. Of course, while fun, that wouldn’t make a very good game, and it occurred to them that the universe being broken would be, at the same time, a good excuse to stop time, and a good opposing factor to give the players motivation to do things other than put a paused cup of water upside down over the professors head.

The background of the game is relatively simple (By some standards). The universe, as it is now, is not a perfect machine. Occasionally, something breaks. It can be something simple, like the laws of gravity governing a random meteorite making a small error, or gigantic, like the very concept of furniture being corrupted. The minor errors, such as the meteorite, can either be corrected or ignored (Although the dinosaurs weren’t too happy) with impunity, as they don’t really mean much. The major errors however cause trouble, and can’t be automatically fixed or ignored for any length of time. One break in one part of the machine can easily spread. Luckily the universe has measures to solve things like this.

That’s where you come in. While the universe cannot fix major errors by itself, those within it can. Specifically, limited sentient minds such as those possessed by humans. Of course, they aren’t much use when they’re frozen in time, so a small allocation of personal time is necessary. It’s just coincidental that smart sentients learn to control the excess of this time, not only allowing them to move themselves, but to influence things around them. Likewise, sentients always seem to have trouble outside of time, temporally disconnected from everything they know. Thus, a form of anchor is necessary, usually an object they nearly always keep on their person and have some significant emotional investment in. The fact this object becomes indestructible and gains the ability to transform into a tool and a weapon is also purely coincidental. Then again, perhaps the universe has a sense of humour.

After the break is fixed, time is restarted again, and everything goes on as normal. Some people go through one of these events, and then live the rest of their lives as if it had never happened at all, perhaps attributing it to a moment of insanity, hallucination, or heightened imagination. Others simply forget. Many are not so lucky. The universe appears to have a good memory, and if you were successful once, its likely you’ll be called upon again. Sometimes, this can be a matter of weeks, while others may have years go past before they go into a second Pause. There are some benefits to this however.

Those who’ve gone through multiple pauses start bringing traces of their temporary power back with them. A little bit of spare time can go a long way, and an indestructible object of any sort has some advantages.

Of course, there are downsides. Simply put, the more you fight, the more chances there are you’ll lose. This isn’t always catastrophic. In a seemingly instinctive reaction, most people who would die during a pause reject their personal time, freezing themselves into the stopped time stream, and protecting themselves from harm. While this leaves you alive and generally well, it also means you’re essentially out of the fight unless your friends get together and give you a transfusion of extra time, and if you’re left stuck until the end, you’ll never be chosen again, and any powers you’ve gained will diminish.

The true catastrophes come when people become lost. These unlucky few find themselves trapped outside time, an eternally changing world of atemporal insanity and dark dealings. Many try to die, but finding this impossible nearly all go mad, and more than you’d expect turn against the world they knew, vowing allegiance to destruction and the shattering of creation simply to have a chance to break their own existence and freed from eternity of timeless existence. They prove a much more serious threat than the aberrations spawned from the, using the powers the players wield against them.

As to the cause of the breaks, that’s up to a GM. Perhaps they’re part of the natural order of the universe, or perhaps they’re the will of some dark Cthulian deity, trying to fracture the reality we know in order to illicit his entry. Whichever of these is the case, or any other options that presents themselves, is entirely personal preference.

Now, onto the game aspect. I’ve not got a concrete idea of system just yet, but I know how certain aspects work.

Characters are ordinary people, normally from a modern timeframe, although a Pause during ancient or future times would be an interesting thing to try. Each character simply needs to fulfill two requirements- They care about the world they live in, and they have an object they’ve emotionally invested in, which they keep on their person the majority of the time. Apart from this, they can be literally anyone, although GMs may wish to specify additional clauses.

The PCs' powers are simple. The object they possess is a personal trinket like a ring, charm, necklace or keyring which they have some emotional investment in, which can either turn into a weapon, usually something archaic and simple, and a tool, again something simple, usually without too many moving parts (Note: These rules are made to be broken. Just keep things reasonable). Time flow control works as a pool of points. Each point is the flow of normal time within a set space (To be decided, nominally human sized) with multiple points allowing you to increase time flow repeatedly or affect a larger space. Points can also be allocated to remove time, neutralizing the effects of other peoples point expenditure.

Time Points aren’t “used up”, they’re simply allocated in order to give something time. Each PC must leave one point allocated to themselves at all times, to allow normal movement through the time-stopped air, and if moving faster than a jog should keep one point allocated to the air ahead of them, preparing it for their swift passage. Things like opening doors, throwing objects or speaking over long distances also require point allocation. More difficult or dangerous things, such as catching a thrown knife, or giving it triple normal time to move in, simply require more skill and daring to do, but don’t have any particular difficulty associated with them.

In combat, rather than death, characters who are beaten down badly must attempt to resist the instinctive reaction to reject their personal time. Rejecting your personal time takes you completely out of the fight. You can’t be hurt, but neither can you act, and if you remain that way until the pause ends, game over. Of course, the alternative might be some horrible monster tearing you to pieces, so rejecting your personal time might be a highly intelligent survival instinct.

To be brought back in, you require an infusion of personal time from one of the others. This has a total number of points that would be required to bring you back in, and possibly a returned character would lose access to a point from his time pool temporarily. As a note, normal humans cannot be brought into the pause. You can give their bodies time, allowing you to move them about, but their minds seem unreachable.

Objects are slightly stranger, and I need to do more thinking on them, but what I’ve got so far is their role as emotional anchors. Without a living, moving world around, many people lose their way, or doubt the existence of that other time. The anchors are a way of confirming that it does exist, still exists, and you can return to it if you win. As part of a happy accident, this instilling of faith makes the object absolutely indestructible, which is always handy. In addition, the power committed to the object apparently makes it malleable to an extent, each one shaping into a single weapon and a single tool to suit the owners purpose. These definitions are intentionally vague to let players have fun with it.

The weapons have no particular special properties, save for the fact the players know how to use them, and they can hurt Aberrations, which will prove resilient to most other forms of attack. This is due to their nature as atemporal, concept-based beings with a very, very low reliance upon physical existence. The blades and bullets of the Weapons, however, hold an emotional commitment to the world, allowing them to harm the very concept of such beings.

The Tools are special almost beyond the weapons. In addition to very effectively doing whatever job they were made to do, that same emotional investment in the weapons functions in the tools too- essentially, you can use them to fix up reality, as long as you work out how. This isn’t to say you can’t fix reality without tools, but using them has definite advantages.

With all these advantages, how could they lose? I’ll tell you how- Aberrations, Cracks and the Corrupted.

Aberrations are the spawn of the cracks, the larger damage to the universe as a whole warping and twisting the lesser aspects, giving them motive to protect the crack, and spread the damage, to break and crack reality. The danger comes from both their nature- angry and powerful, but also from the manner of their creation. Born from the damage to the universe, the only way to truly kill them is to mend it. While being sliced into small pieces and set on fire may stop it for a time, an unfixed Crack will constantly heal and call its children to defend it.

The Cracks are the main difficulty the players face, and are more of a puzzle solving challenge than a combat one. While fighting off Aberrations may take up some of their time, the most important work they do is trying to work out how to seal up the damage to the universe.

As with every problem solving task, the first step is to define the problem, which can be difficult enough. The GM should give hints, from subtleties in descriptions, such as describing certain thing seeming odd, and not as they should be, or common factors between aberrations, enough to let the players work out what they’re dealing with relatively quickly.

Then the players have to fix it, a rather more difficult task, usually, than simply working out what’s broken, often compounded by the existence of aberrations to chomp at their heels. Again, a GM should have a couple of solutions prepared, possibly hinted at earlier in the game, but shouldn’t force the players to use those solutions. If they come up with a novel way of dealing with it which might just work, then by all means give it a chance of working.

The Corrupted shouldn’t be a normal enemy, and shouldn’t show up in the majority of sessions, but instead act as sudden shocks and starts to shake up players who’d fallen into the formula. Either a madman who sees them as aberrations themselves or a true fallen who has turned to the cause of destruction, as either has stayed longer in the paused time than any of the PCs, thus gaining a much greater mastery over time and control over their powers than any in the group, proving a worthy adversary on their own, even without the Crack and Aberrations there to cause problems.

Character advancement is relatively simple. In addition to normal XP for increasing skills and attributes, expenditure to increase your time pool should be allowable, with certain milestones in timepool size giving the PC access to that time outside of a Pause. Objects are tricky, but some method of upgrading and advancing them probably wouldn’t be too out of place.

The philosophical bullshit and backbone to this game lies in a parallel between the might and power of the universe, and the weakness and mortal nature of humans, and the reliance of the universe upon mortals to sort out its problems. I dunno, it seems more meaningful in my head, but I kinda like it.

As a game, Pause isn’t a main game for a group to play constantly for lots of concurrent sessions- unless they really like the formula. In my mind, its better suited to one shots and short run campaigns, or as single session interludes from a main campaign in a different world/system, letting you pick up another character for a change and try out a different story if the other was getting bored.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of to ramble on about, but I’m still feeling creative. Hmm…

The air shook as the crack faded and the aberration howled as it descended into its component parts. You felt the air start to move even as the ring in your hand shrank back to its usual size. A long awaited finish to a sound which seemed to have begun decades ago finally found its voice

Tock.

It was all over. The smile bloomed as you felt the wind on your face for what seemed like the first time in days. The others grinned too, happy to be alive, happy to feel the slow onset of time after an incomprehensible time without any standard flow to speak of. As the normal business of the lecture theatre resumed almost instantly, you rapidly made your way back to your seat, careful to conceal torn clothing and working the ring back onto its customary finger. You know in your heart that, sooner or later, you’ll need it again. Time will stop, the universe will call, and you’ll be ready.

You can’t wait.

~Earthflame

Comments

1 Coyote
08:38am UTC - 1/06/2009 [X]
Wow, I like this one. I'd end up in an argument about space/time if I payed it though.


2 FortyCakes
05:56am UTC - 1/15/2009 [X]
I've come up with a set of rules for this and tested them - the players really liked the idea of being able to manipulate time.


3 Earthflame
12:17pm UTC - 1/24/2009 [X]
That's really awesome Forty! Care to send me a link to those rules? I'd be interested in seeing them. Also, any comments on how the session went? Any difficulties you ran into or things people particularly enjoyed- With the time control, how inventive were they with it?


4 FortyCakes
05:57pm UTC - 1/25/2009 [X]
Sure. I was going to post a thread (if you have no objection?) once I've got them looking nice. A rough copy of the rules is at: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=QN5X0V4O . Difficulties: as to be expected, the players messed around quite a lot (probably made worse since I set it on our Uni campus). They were really inventive; one of the examples I mention is using a pad of paper as effectively Immovable Rods. My DMing style isn't really suited to super-serious games, but I'd be interested in seeing how you get on with it. I think it'd probably break if you let them get to ~30 XP, so it's best for a one-shot or short campaign, as you said.


5 Earthflame
04:23pm UTC - 1/27/2009 [X]
Go for it Forty. The rules are awesome, and since you made them, you should be the one to spread the word, when you think its ready to be spread. PC's messing around isn't too problematic. People play games to have fun, so its pretty understandable, and also quite an honest reaction to what people would do in a time-stopped world.


6 Dadamh
01:33pm UTC - 2/09/2009 [X]
This sounds great, Earthflame, seriously interesting setting. For that matter, the writing was decent as well.

I may give this a shot with WoD characters if I get a chance to run a one-shot or so again eventually. It's hard for me to pitch new systems to my group, but using this as a plotline might be fun.

Thanks for the idea.


7 Xanatrix
01:53pm UTC - 5/19/2009 [X]
Yeah, yeah, Slowpoke is slow and all that. I know that I caught this a bit late, but I was surfing the Pause page in 1d4chan, so I thought I would check up on it. Nice idea. Can't really access MegaUpload right now (public server and computers and all), but I definately need to try this when I get home. Good job, Earthflame! And good job to you, too, FortyCakes!


8 JSCervini
07:33am UTC - 7/10/2010 [X]
I really liked the idea of Pause and decided to come up with a system of my own for it. Here you go! http://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B9Mg8yJfS70mOGY2MmI5MWQtMTVlYy00ZGRlLWFjOGQtOTFhZDZiZDVlMTY3&sort=name&layout=list&num=50

Hope y'all enjoy it!


9 JSCervini
12:04am UTC - 7/15/2010 [X]
Updated the rules after I learned that I forgot a few things.

http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B9Mg8yJfS70mMGQ4NmZjOWItODk0OC00MWNiLTk4YTYtMDg5ZDQyN2U1NDNm&


 

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