Sunday, June 29, 2014

Reincarnation and the Man, Myth & Magic Endgame

Sometimes, player characters die.

When I was a kid, I played in a campaign in which – when feasible – deceased player characters were candidates for resurrection.  On one occasion, however, we had different plans for a fallen comrade.  There was a dragon whose continued existence was problematic for us.  So, we came up with a hare-brained scheme to saturate the corpse of the dead character with (ingestive) poison and then get the dragon to devour said corpse.  Don't judge me; we were kids.  The Dungeon Master was disinclined to permit the success of our endeavor, but we appealed to the ultimate authority – dice.  The DM determined it was highly likely – something like a 98% chance – that the dragon would detect the poison and thereby thwart our plot.  In front of us, the DM rolled the dice...and failed!  But the dragon wasn't dead yet; he was still entitled to an easy saving throw.  Again, in front of us, the DM rolled...and again, he failed!  The dragon died; such was the unassailable dictate of the dice.  Unrealistic?  Perhaps, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Alas, we had to concede that resurrection was out of the question for a character who had died violently, been marinated in poison, and masticated and digested by a dragon.

A blogger greater than myself might spend the rest of this post discussing DM fiat versus “unrealistic” random results, perhaps with a digression into draconic psychology.  Yet, for your humble host, this is merely the lead-in for some observations about reincarnation in Man, Myth & Magic.

As mentioned previously, obtaining POWER is the raison d'être of MM&M characters.  Aside from all other benefits of having POWER, once a player character gains two hundred points of POWER, she (or he) is eligible for reincarnation.  This means that when said character dies and rolls for a new 'incarnation', certain considerations apply. 

The dice used to determine the Nationality and Class of a MM&M character incarnation (or reincarnation) are expressly referred to as “The Fates.”  Book II lists ten Nationalities.  Once The Fates determine a Nationality, they are consulted as to the character's Class.  Most Nationalities have four possible Classes; however, there are five Roman Classes but only two Gallic Classes.  When creating one's first (Advanced) MM&M character and the Class that The Fates indicated is unappealing, one may roll The Fates again.  In such a case, the result of the second roll is mandatory.

When using The Fates to determine the Class of a reincarnated character, a player can ignore results for Classes the character has already experienced in prior incarnations.  Optionally, the player can accept a previous Class as long as the Nationality differs from that Nationality the character held in said incarnation.

Other than reincarnation by virtue of death, a character who has gained two hundred POWER points has “the option of reincarnatory of the most spectacular achievements of ADVANCED MM&M.”  What does this mean?
This means that by act of will, at any stage of the current scenario, you may call upon The Fates to transform you instantly into a different Character Class.  [original emphasis]
I believe that “different Nationality” is implied.  According to the example given in the rules, a Greek Warrior can become an Egyptian Sorcerer.

Before we go further, I would like to make some distinctions about what can happen to a character.
  1. A character can die before she (or he) accumulates 200 POWER.  In this situation, the player rolls up a new character.
  2. A character can die after attaining 200 POWER.  In this situation, the player rolls up a new character; however, the character has a 'past life history' and does not need to repeat previously experienced Nationality/Class combinations.
  3. After attaining 200 POWER, a character can choose to engage in reincarnatory metamorphosis.  Presumably, previous Nationality/Class combinations are avoided.
I suspect that a character's current POWER must equal or exceed 200 points for the situations detailed in numbers 2 and 3, but I cannot find a rule that expressly states this.  POWER is not transferred between incarnations; however, for reincarnatory metamorphosis, gold-related POWER is retained because treasure and possessions stay with “the new character.”  Also with regard to reincarnatory metamorphosis, the rules state “you will possibly carry across the reincarnation process all of your characteristics except for that of SKILL, which must be rolled anew.”  SKILL is different for each Class; a warrior's SKILL regards combat, while a sorcerer's SKILL regards magic.

So, in the middle of an adventure, an African Wisewoman can suddenly become a Visigoth Merchant (or vice versa).  This should not be especially jarring to the player since she (or he) instigates the change, although she (or he) has little (or no) control of the result.  It might disconcert the Lore Master (so called in Book II as opposed to 'Game Master' in Book I); the party composition can change completely within a single adventure.

With reincarnatory metamorphosis, there is also the possibility of “Distant Memory.”  For every twenty-five points of POWER – beyond the requisite 200 – that a character has at the time of metamorphosis, there is a 1% chance of regaining the abilities of a prior incarnation.  In effect, the character becomes a multi-Class character with a separate SKILL characteristic for each “Class.”  (Do the rest of the characteristics carry over?  Is the “you will possibly carry” statement a reference to Distant Memory?)  If a character has a chance at Distant Memory, it can be checked “once per segment of a scenario.”

According to page 14 of Book II:
Distant Memory is a very important concept in ADVANCED MM&M.  It is the key to the ultimate character – a skilled, experienced amalgamation of all classes; and the ONLY character entitled to strive toward the final goal of ADVANCED MM&M.
So it seems there is a goal beyond the acquisition of POWER – a goal associated with the accumulation of past life experience.  In the Real World™, it is my understanding that the “goal” of reincarnation is to achieve eventually a blissful non-existence outside the life/death/rebirth cycle.  For a role-playing game, an objective of that sort may not be very enticing.  What, then, would be the “final goal”?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Ultimate Philosophical Question

Art by Ephraim Moshe Lilien

What's the purpose of it all?

Why are we here?

What should we do with our lives?

Profound questions, certainly, and ones not usually addressed in role-playing games.  Characters – particularly player characters – are not burdened with existential curiosity.  By definition, characters exist as “roles” and for every role, there is a reason.  Player characters are – of course – vicarious avatars of the players.  Non-player characters fulfil whatever role the game master requires of them.  Set dressing?  If needed.  Distraction?  Possibly.  Important plot element?  Could be.  Random encounter?  Perhaps.  If nothing else, the setting/circumstance can impose a role.  A new player generates a character to join the party's dungeon expedition at the last moment.  What would be the 'in game' reason for a reasonably sane person to tag along with a bunch of strangers into some dark and dank tunnels likely infested by monsters and traps?  Such a question need not be addressed; of more practical importance is what spells has he conveniently memorized for this escapade.

In Man, Myth & Magic, the purpose for every (player) character is expressly stated.  Page 13 of Book II poses the question, “What is the purpose of life?”  The answer follows immediately:  “In ADVANCED MM&M, the purpose of life is the pursuit of POWER.”  Well, that's unequivocal.  No self-actualization or getting in touch with one's feelings or any of that namby-pamby stuff – just get POWER.  (The rules consistently spell POWER with all capital letters.)  Even for the Greek Philosopher character type, it's all about the POWER.

This answer, naturally, begets the question:  What is POWER?  Herbie Brennan explained in this interview that POWER is “a way of combining the EXPERIENCE points with spell drivers like MANA.”  There are two types of POWER:  gold-related and adventure-related.

For every one thousand gold libra a character accumulates, one point is added to the character's POWER total.  However, “you retain gold-related POWER only so long as the gold remains in your possession.”  Spend (or otherwise lose) the gold and you lose the POWER.  Note that the rules specifically refer to gold, not wealth.  Maybe you have gems and jewels worth 10,000 gold libra, but do they confer any POWER?  If you bury a chest filled with gold, does that gold count as being “in your possession”?  I doubt it. The gold-to-POWER ratio seems to be more trouble than it's worth if you need to keep all that gold at hand; gold is heavy.

Scenarios in (Advanced) MM&M are divided into segments.  At the conclusion of a segment, each (surviving) character is entitled to a POWER roll; the result of d% is added to POWER.  A character that contributed significantly to a segment can wind up with a measly one point of POWER while a character who did nothing can gain 100 POWER.  Well, no one said that the universe is fair.

Every thirty points of POWER a character currently possesses (beyond the first hundred) increases his or her chances of success by one percent (or as the rules have it, “deduct 1 from your personal Failure Rate”).

Adventure POWER (but not gold POWER) can be used to cast spells (or use 'psychical abilities') and activate magic items.  For instance, an 'Astral Projection' spell requires 50 POWER while a 'Lucky Cork' needs 5 POWER per round of combat to be effective.  Such POWER expenditure is not permanent; characters recover POWER spent in this way “by a natural, automatic process at the rate of 10 POWER points per segment.”  However, if a character should “lose a limb” before his or her POWER is fully recovered, then the remainder is lost permanently.

Just how long is a segment?  Knowing the length of a segment would be conducive to budgeting POWER effectively.  Alas, segment length “is relative to scenario content” and is something players are not meant to know.

Finally, POWER is essential for the reincarnation process, but that is a topic for a future post.  Until that time, be good to one another and try not to lose any limbs (whether or not you are at peak POWER).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Role Playing Game of Man's Greatest Adventures

Art by Ephraim Moshe Lilien

Man, Myth & Magic is a fantasy role playing game set in the ancient world.  A world not seen from our modern perception; but rather through the eyes of the people who lived it.  A world filled with magic and sorcery, demons and monsters, and incredible powers and forces that hold the key to the domination of mankind.
The game is Man, Myth & Magic and it's a “role playing game of man's greatest adventures.”  This does not mean that MM&M is misogynistic – two character classes are available only to female characters – but that player characters may only be human (with one arguable exception).  The setting is not some fantasy realm populated by elves, dwarves, and whatnot; it is the ancient world seen “through the eyes of the people who lived it.”  (I feel that RuneQuest did a better job of evoking the ancient world paradigm, but that hardly invalidates MM&M.)

An important aspect of the 'ancient world paradigm' is magic – perhaps the most important aspect with regard to RPGs.  (After all, it is Man, Myth & Magic.)  Book II devotes a half-page to an essay on magic which states “...some magic worked, at least some of the time...Why magic worked is another question; and one that doesn't have a single answer.”  The essay then discusses five 'reasons' why magic worked:
  • Magic as Coincidence
Somebody laid a curse and the next day the victim walked over a cliff.  The fact that the victim was blind drunk at the time cut no ice with anybody; it was the curse that did it.
  • Magic as Science
“Magical” swords made from Damascus steel were a case in point.  You forged as good a blade as you could, then heated it until it was red hot then plunged it into the body of the nearest human being.  According to the theory, the victim's soul passed into the sword and made it work better in battle...Swords treated this way were harder and stayed sharper longer.  (The reason was the absorption of carbon molecules by the heated steel.  When it was finally discovered you could get exactly the same effect by plunging the blade into a water barrel full of old cow hides, people became a lot less wary of blacksmiths.)
  • Magic as Psychic Phenomena
The human mind has always been full of odd powers which surface now and then...
  • Magic as Trance State
If a person in a trance state – perhaps augmented by “psychedelic mushrooms” – believed he was flying, then “the experience was valid enough,” especially if other mushroom consumers imagined he was flying.
  • Magic as Lost Knowledge has to be admitted the Ancients knew a thing or two that we've forgotten.  Those old Egyptians, for example, knew how to grow multicoloured cotton...Maybe in that body of lost knowledge there were more dramatic discoveries.
The essay neglects to touch upon the power of suggestion as a 'reason' for why magic worked.  Even in our enlightened age, believers in such practices as Santería and Vodou feel the effects of magic because of their belief; magic is part of the cultural construct in which they live.

Thus we have a rationale for the 'why' of magic, yet the 'how' of magic eludes us.  Perhaps that's the point; if it didn't elude us, it wouldn't be magic.  Regardless, we have a better appreciation of the ancient 'mindset' toward magic – not as a rubric of duration, effects, and saving throws, but as mysterious circumstance, awesome and frightening.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Gallicus School for Prospective Gladiators

          The historian Daniel P. Mannix tells an interesting story about the Roman Games.  During the reign of Nero, the Empire's economic troubles got so bad that there was two weeks of uninterrupted rioting in the city streets.
          While this was going on, the Captain of the Shipping had a crisis meeting with the First Tribune.  He had the Merchant Fleet from Egypt ready to land.  But there was a choice of cargo; corn for the starving people or sand for the Circus arena.  Which, asked the Captain, was it to be?
          “Are you mad?” shouted the harassed Tribune.  “The situation here is out of control.  The Emperor is a lunatic.  The army is on the edge of mutiny.  The people are dying of hunger.  For the gods' sake, get the sand!”
– Man, Myth & Magic Book I (p. 18)

The boxed set of Man, Myth & Magic contained three rule books; Book I – 'The Basic Rules' – was intended for people who “have never played a role playing game.”  People “already familiar with role playing games” were directed to go to Book II after reading the sections on “Combat, Reading the Dice, and Basic Characteristics.”  Man, Myth & Magic started out as a game called Arena, according to Appelcline's Designers & Dragons.  We see evidence of this in Book I, the introductory version of MM&M wherein all player characters are gladiators (prospective gladiators really) in ancient Rome.  The back of the box reads, “It is summer, 41 A.D.” but the actual year – as we shall see – is not fixed.  Beginning players are not coddled with pre-generated characters, they create characters by rolling (percentile) dice to determine the prime characteristics of Strength, Speed, Endurance, Intelligence, and Courage.  A sixth characteristic – Skill – is left undetermined because the characters have not yet received training.  Characters are required to have names; a couple of dozen sample names are provided.  Players also roll percentile dice to determine the number of gold pieces (libra) each character has as an inheritance.

The party of player characters begin the game en route to the Gallicus gladiator school where they are expected to arrive by a certain time.  The way is blocked due to a military procession which will take hours to pass.  In order to reach the school on time, the party must travel through a violent and unsavory section of town called 'the Warren'.  The players are presented with a goal, then a complication.  Various establishments exist in the Warren for characters to encounter, among which are an apothecary that sells healing potions, an amulet & charm shop, and the requisite tavern.  As the characters travel through the Warren, the players become acquainted with the rudimentary RPG 'skills' of observing the environment and interacting with non-player characters; of course, they are also exposed to the essential rules of MM&M combat.

Book I isn't arranged merely for the benefit of the players; it also instructs the novice game master.  On page 5, author Herbie Brennan explains:
          The prime function of a GM is to describe to players what their characters are seeing and experiencing.  Just that and nothing more.  His secondary function is to act out those non-player characters the gladiators meet; and to decide, by dice rolls, on the outcome of any conflicts.
          It is no part of the GM's job to compete with players or direct their movements.  Each gladiator character is free to behave in any manner he sees fit.  The GM's sole concern is to calculate and describe the consequences of any action.
Of course, these are fundamental tenets of RPGs, but rarely have I seen them explained so succinctly and clearly.  There are no 'gray box' read-this-out-loud passages in Book I, but Brennan provides examples of what a GM could say and emphasizes the importance of dramatic effect.  He says on page 6, “...Game Mastering is about drama, atmosphere, mood, fascination and excitement – not about rules and regulations, although the rules and regulations are a necessary evil.”

The Gallicus school is mapped out (see below) and its various locations described “[s]hould the party elect to explore.”  The main point of interest, however, is the training labyrinth – in effect, a 'micro-dungeon'.  “Training” consists of players learning about the different gladiator types, their weapons, and an expansion of the combat rules.  (In MM&M, the gladiator types are retiarius, secutor, thracian, samnite, sagittarius, and thrax.)  For training purposes, each player is allowed to choose a type for his (or her) character.  Upon choosing a type, characters are expected to enter the training labyrinth.  As might be expected, the training labyrinth takes the form of a maze; at various points there are pit-traps, opposing gladiators, and even a lion encounter.  Opposing gladiators will have 'Life Point' totals equal or similar to that of the player characters.  Characters may enter the training labyrinth individually or as a group.  Opponents of individuals will be singular while groups will face groups of equivalent size.  Survivors of a group expedition get to roll percentile dice to determine their 'Skill' characteristic and they add 10% to Strength, Speed, and Endurance.  Individual survivors roll twice for 'Skill', choosing the better roll; they also add 15% to Strength, Speed, and Endurance.

Having 'graduated' from the training labyrinth, characters are ready to participate in the gladiatorial games.  “Each Games session concludes when every gladiator character has fought once in the arena,” we learn on page 18.  Perhaps the most important aspect of any Games session is which Emperor will preside; 1d6 is rolled:  1-2, Tiberius; 3-4, Nero; 5-6, Caligula.  That's right, Nero can preside over one session, Caligula the next, followed by Tiberius, then back to Caligula.  It is for this reason I said above that the year is not fixed.  MM&M Rome essentially exists in a timeless realm where different reigns overlap one another.  Some may find the irrationality of this (non-)continuity to be a game-breaker, but those who can accept it are more likely to tolerate the irrationality to be found in the advanced rules.

Anyway, if Tiberius is rolled, players may ask for a re-roll.  If Tiberius is rolled again, the players are stuck with him; otherwise, players may choose between Tiberius and the second Emperor rolled.  Under Tiberius, players can decide to have their characters fight one another ('competitive combat') or against NPCs.  Nero requires competitive combat while Caligula requires competitive combat or animal combat (50% chance of either).  Monetary awards to victors tend to be small when Tiberius presides, but he is more apt to permit a loser to keep his life.  Nero is generous but will never issue a Gladiator Pardon.  Caligula, being the original poster-child for crazy, is unpredictable.

Supposedly, “When Tiberius presides...experience adjustments are less than those arising from combat under other Emperors.”  However, page 20 makes no distinction among Emperors with regard to combat experience.  Every successful arena combat improves a characters 'to hit' score by 5 and adds ten percent to “basic statistics.”

1 – Legion Barracks
2 – Legion Barracks
3 – Legion Mess Hall
4 – Gladiator Mess Hall
5 – Cookhouse
6 – Arms Store
7 – Food Store
8 – Communal Jail
9 – Administration Building
10 – Chief Trainer's Villa
11 – Gladiator Barracks
12 – Gladiator Barracks
13 – Training Labyrinth
14 – Latrines
15 – Solitary Confinement Cells
16 – Animal Houses
17 – Whipping Post

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Interview with Herbie Brennan

signed by "C.A. Millan"

Yaquinto Publications managed to publish a decent selection of games during its brief existence, including a handful of role-playing games. Two of these RPGs – Man, Myth & Magic and Timeship – were designed (or co-designed) by accomplished author Herbie Brennan.  Mr Brennan has been gracious enough to answer a few questions about these games for this blog.

Thoul's Paradise:  First, what lead you to create Man, Myth & Magic and Timeship?  How did Yaquinto become the publisher?

Herbie Brennan:  I was having a wonderful time with FRP games (mainly Dungeons and Dragons, a bit of Runequest and something called Boot Hill) when I got it into my head that I’d like to create one of my own based on time travel, a theme that still fascinates me to this day. So I put together Timeship. I’d seen Yaquinto games advertised in several FRP magazines and thought the name sounded cool, so I submitted the project to them. I got a reply from the then President of Yaquinto Games, Steve Peek, who said he liked Timeship and wanted to publish it, but he thought my first move into this market should be in the area of fantasy, which was a proven seller, and proposed that we collaborate on creating Man, Myth and Magic. I jumped at the chance. As far as I can remember, Steve and I created the game system together, and wrote half the scenarios each. It was the start of a lifelong friendship. (Steve’s now out of the gaming industry and busy writing fabulous novels: you’ll find them on Kindle.)

Steve published Man, Myth and Magic first then Timeship several months later. Timeship got the most player reactions and Steve had so many people phoning he had to instruct his secretary to ‘tell them to call back yesterday.’ The fans loved that. A Texas software company called Five Star hired a 14-year-old to convert it into a computer game. This was right at the beginning of the computer game industry so the end product was a sort of text adventure with illustrations, pretty leading edge for the time.

TP:  What lead to the game being called Man, Myth & Magic ?  I can appreciate the alliteration, but there was already a magazine/encyclopedia by that name.  Why not Myth & Magic or Magic & Myth or even Leprechauns & Gladiators ?

HB:  That one was completely down to Steve, as instigator of the joint project. When he called me with the name, I pointed out that it was the name of a very successful partwork. He argued that we were in a completely different field of activity so it didn’t matter. I was a bit uneasy, but he was the publisher...

TP:  One of the innovative features of Man, Myth, & Magic is the concept of “Special Categories”  – a player, through his or her own skill, can adopt the “meta-role” of Sage and/or Orator.  Can you comment as to how the “Special Categories” concept was developed?

HB:  I didn’t even remember special categories until you mentioned them and I still can’t really remember them now, so I’ve no idea how the concept was developed. As a broad principle, though, Steve and I bounced ideas back and forth by letter (this was the pre-email age, of course) then refined the ones that looked useful. I’d imagine special categories came out of this process, driven by a need to do something a little different to existing role play games.

TP:  At the time M, M & M was published, most other RPGs had an 'experience' system through which characters could improve.  M, M & M had something different  – POWER  – which served as experience as well as a 'fuel' for spells and abilities.  Ultimately, POWER was used by characters for re-incarnation.  Do you recall how the POWER and re-incarnation concepts originated?

HB:  One of the aims of MM&M was to create a game that was a little different to the rest and also, if I had anything to do with it, simplified the gaming system. (Even at that time I was convinced most RPGs were too complicated and game systems often got in the way of players’ enjoyment.) The POWER concept was a way of combining the EXPERIENCE points with spell drivers like MANA, CHARISMA or what have you, thus eliminating one more thing for players to worry about.

The use of POWER for reincarnation emerged directly out of my interest in reincarnation. I spent some thirty years engaged in reincarnation research, mainly hypnotic regression, and produced two books on the subject: Five Keys to Past Lives and Discover Reincarnation (a.k.a. The Reincarnation Workbook.) A good FRP system closely mimics real life and in some instances can provide interesting insights into how the world works. I wanted to see what benefits/problems a reincarnation factor would provide in a game context and thus supply clues as to how reincarnation might work itself out in life.

TP:  The notion of hypnotic regression is an interesting one.  Parts of the 'Great Ritual of the Timeship' seem conducive to hypnosis, especially the dimmed lights and the gateway 'visualization'.  Was this intentional?

HB:  I’m afraid the inspiration for the dimmed lights and gateway was more disreputable than hypnotic regression. I drew it from an esoteric technique known as pathworking. It doesn’t involve hypnosis, but the original pathworking (not the modified form I introduced into the game) can sometimes induce trance in particularly susceptible subjects. Interestingly enough, my experience of role play, led me years later to develop what I called the Atlantis technique which is a specific type of pathworking designed to stimulate archetypal elements in the psyche. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but looking back, I suspect the Timeship ritual may have been an important root of this technique.

TPTimeship offered three adventure “capsules.”  Another adventure, The Werewolf of Europe (also suitable for M, M & M), was published separately.  Can you describe any other capsules that you used with your players?  Were there any you wished had been published?

HB:  The original business idea was to create two popular game systems then feed them with an open-ended series of adventure modules for as long as there was a market for them. MM&M was published first and Steve and I between us created a goodly number of modules to give it the best springboard into the market. Unfortunately the project didn’t achieve the sales we hoped, so we were more cautious in our approach to Timeship. The second game sold better than the first (in my view because it was a more original idea) but still not well enough to justify the creation of any modules beyond the ones you mentioned. No regrets and I’m delighted all this led to a lifelong friendship with Steve, but I can’t pretend either game was a runaway success.

TP:  If Timeship had been more successful, what sort of capsules would you have liked to publish?

HB:  I’ve long been interested in the scientific possibility of time travel and wrote a serious book on the subject some years ago. So I’ve often thought about what eras I’d most like to visit if time travel ever became a reality. Those would definitely have been the experiences I’d have turned into Timeship modules. My top choices would have been 1) The building of the Great Pyramid, 2) The Crucifixion, 3) The destruction of the dinosaurs 4) the sinking of Atlantis. Those modules would all have involved trips into the past. I’d also have tried two trips to the future with 1) a module built around humanity’s first contact with an alien life form and 2) an exploration of the Face on Mars (postulating an ancient civilisation on that planet.)

TP:  In Timeship, you adopt the conceit that you translated Sumerian cuneiform from manuscripts discovered by “Professor Mauzer.”  Was Mauzer entirely a product of your imagination or was he based – however loosely – on someone of your acquaintance?  What about Mauzer's colleagues (Bord and Speir)?  Are you prepared to reveal the details of “Professor Mauzer's tragic death”?

HB:  As best I can remember, I made them all up. Reference to somebody’s ‘tragic death’ is an old literary trick of mine. It gives the reader the impression of a whole back story without my having to bother actually to write one. I can, however, reveal that in this instance, Mauzer’s tragic death was occasioned by a bus falling on him.

TP:  You write about the TIMESHIP culture as though it died out long ago; however, since we are dealing with time travel, extinction is relative.  For all we know, the culture might not exist until some point in the future.  What relation (if any) does the TIMESHIP culture have with the Time Traveller's Guild?  What does the Time Traveller's Guild actually do?

HB:  Good point. A physicist friend of mine, Fred Alan Wolf, once told me it’s theoretically possible to build a time machine by lashing together ten neutron stars to form a (slightly lumpy) rod. Their combined gravitational field distorts time and space in such a way that it creates areas where you can fly your spaceship into the past and future respectively. The point here is that if this gizmo is ever built by a future technology, it will instantly and simultaneously exist throughout the whole of time. So concepts like a 'past' culture become essentially meaningless. Furthermore, since we know next to nothing about the nature of time, the possibility exists that it is circular, so you will eventually arrive at the same point in time whichever way you travel. The culture of the Timeship and the Guild are linked in that it’s a bit pointless having a Time Traveller’s Guild before you have time travel. In the world of Timeship, the Guild came into being as soon as time travel became popular and inexpensive. The purpose of the Guild is to look after the interests of time travellers (‘everywhere and everywhen’ as it says in their brochure) and provide them with travel insurance if and when they need it.

TP:  One of the interesting things about Timeship is the concept of Wild Talents.  The 'Timelord Screen' states that “Wild Talents manifest rarely; but once manifested remain with the player forever.”  However, the Rule Book implies that Wild Talents can only exist within a given capsule.  What is the final word?

HB:  They stay with you forever.

TP:  Back to M, M &M, in your 'How to Become the All-Time Greatest Lore Master of the Known Universe', you mention that one group of playtesters insisted on travelling to Colchester.  Do you recall this incident?  Do you recall what occurred to the playtest party?

HB:  I can’t remember this at all now: can’t even remember the playtesting generally. But I suspect I was being coy when I said the group insisted on visiting Colchester. For a long time I suspected I had a past life as a Roman living in Colchester, so I imagine I was looking for an excuse to visit it. Which I did eventually, but without stirring any memories.

TP:  Have you considered making M, M & M and/or Timeship available again as print-on-demand products?

HB:  I’d certainly be happy if a nice publisher appeared and offered me a contract, but the thought of tackling the job myself would fill me with horror, given my current work load.

TP:  Thank you for taking the time to respond to these questions and best of luck in your future endeavors.