Timemaster: Adventure in the 4th Dimension (1984)

Timemaster: Adventure in the 4th Dimension (1984) is a step up from Time and Time Again. The red and yellow box is bold. That Holloway painting really screams “Time travel!” Dinosaurs are obviously involved, which is never a bad thing. The box even just straight up propositions you. “A Great Time Any Time.” Really, Timemaster? Really?

Anyway, Timemaster is from Pacesetter games, the folks who made Chill. In fact, Timemaster uses the exact same resistance table system. Unlike Chill, Timemaster nails the tone right out of the gate. This game is a romp. The rules clunk a little, thanks to their age, but the energy and enthusiasm of the rest of the box set minimizes that. The writers are super smart about it, too, laying out paradoxes and the way time travel works without resorting to anything that made my head hurt. I don’t love time travel. It usually makes my head hurt. The only time travel story I really love is Tim Powers’ Anubis Gates. And maybe Timemaster.

Anyway, the idea is you’re part of the Time Corps, tasked with repairing damage from to the time stream, either lingering from the Time Wars, or new problems created by renegades or Demoreans (four-armed aliens who are mucking things up for mysterious and hostile reasons. Players can be from anywhere in history — the Time Corps plucks its agents out of the time stream, where they stay, never to return to their regular lives. Thinking about it, Timemaster seems like a bit of a post-war sequel to Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time (1958), in which the mysterious Spiders and Snakes fight the Change Wars using soldiers pulled from the time stream. I like it even more now.

The downside of the box set is that the designer seem fixated on historical battles. There are chits, a hex map and a rather lot of rules for large scale combat. That rarely gets me excited. The scenarios largely ignore this, though, and are roundly the sort of fun jaunts into time that you want from a game like this. Oh, want to meet the three musketeers or visit the Mad Max post apocalypse? Got ya covered!

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