Rewind

Reviewing Rewind: Temporal Tales

Rewind: Temporal Tales is a sole or single player narrative RPG by Todd Zircher. It’s available for pay want you want at http://drivethrurpg.com/product/180407/Rewind-Temporal-Tales.

Content

The book is the framework and toolkit you need to play the game.  Rather than just being a directionless sandbox however, Rewind immediately tells you what kind of story is unique to the game.  You play a character stuck in a time loop, unable to progress normally until their story has run its course.  The game is set up by answering a simple set of questions: who is the trapped character, what’s the goal, where’s the story, why is the character looping and when is the story taking place.  You’re free to answer these questions with as much or as little detail as you like but the game examples encourage you to be brief.

Character creation is handled with similar brevity.  A character is a set of personal background details and their skills.  The game is completely free of numbers on the character sheet but also lacks guidance on how to create a balanced character.  It’s hinted at in the text that you should balance out having numerous skills or masteries by taking disadvantages but no further guidance is given.

A key aspect of Rewind is the character development.  You gain experience points, called rewind points, by failing.  Once a timeline leads to a dead end, a set amount of time expires or the character dies, you go back to the start.  The event that ends that timeline is marked and you get it’s single rewind point.  Repeated failure at the same action doesn’t advance the character, encouraging you to seek out new timelines rather than grind a single one.  Rewind points are spent on skills and masteries.  Due to the nature of looping time, you lose all your equipment and physical changes and thus can’t keep them when you restart the timeline.

Mechanics

The core dice mechanics of the game are simply rolling 2d6 with modifiers and then comparing the result to a “no and yes but” table.  Modifiers come from a character’s skills and from penalties from the situation. For example, a character with skills in climbing gains a +1 to offset the -1 from the wall being wet from the rain.

The timelines are tracked using index cards, just like in Microscope.  The starting card is the zero card which represents the point to which the character returns to at the start of each loop.  Card are added as key decisions and rolls are made, forming a timeline.  A sensible mechanic is that if a character does not want to change the outcome of a key decision, they avoid repeating the roll and can move past the decision further down the timeline.  This allows a player to move quickly to the point of change they want to make in that timeline.  The game is very much about exploring possibilities than trying to repeat previous successes.

Design

Rewind uses landscape pages, a personal preference of mine that makes it fit better to electronic devices.  The text takes advantage further by using wide columns to give you two equally square blocks of text.  Besides the title only one non-text entity exists; a grey scale photo of some roleplaying supplies.  Combined with squeezed margins, this leads the document to become an indistinguishable wall of text.

The writing itself is solid if prone in the review copy to some grammatical mistakes.  The author has taken a more conversational tone and uses questions as ways of introducing or illustrating concepts.  This isn’t to my personal taste and to me makes the prose awkward and cluttered.

What is really good is the high number of examples.  Every concept is given at least two fully worked examples.  If you get stuck creatively, there are 3 pages of tables of ideas to draw from using playing cards.  There are also further content on the author’s website, with links in the document.  The last four pages are dedicated to a sample play through of the game.  This dedication to showing how the game works at a system level is worthwhile and appreciated.  Too many games give examples at the concept level and don’t demonstrate how the whole works.

Conclusion

Rewind takes it’s interesting time loop idea and gives you simple and solid mechanics to explore that idea.  A key plus point is that once you know the game, you won’t need to break game flow by referring to the text.  The layout is best described as functional but it doesn’t prevent you from learning the game.  A wealth of examples really help to convey the author’s intent and further understand the game.  Worth a look for pay what you want prices.

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