Monday, November 25, 2013

Variations on a 4-D War

I enjoyed "Day of the Doctor," but the last battle of the Time War seemed a little--prosaic--for a protracted conflict between two ultra-powerful, reality-spanning powers. It got me to thinking about the gaming potential of a Time War, or as Alan Moore had it Doctor Who Weekly: A 4-D War. I've got two ideas.

Version One: 
"'Nowhere' was run by an old sasquatch named Lukashev. Found as a baby at 25,000 feet, he was captured and trained. His youth was spent as part of a super-naut space program along with a chupacabra and a dinosaur from the future."
- Brandon Graham, King City
This version goes full Kirby and quite possible layers on the gonzo. The Time War is strange--and fought by strange combatants with stranger weapons. Lords of Creation probably has some inspiration for this version (it might even provide a system if you could figure out how to play it.).

The combatants might be as starkly good and evil as Silver Age superbeings, or they might be painted in shades of gray with the protagonists (the PCs) cheerfully unconcerned with their superiors' ultimate goals--or even possibly their identities.


Version Two:
"Just remember this: All agents defect, and all resisters sell out."
- Naked Lunch (1991)
Maybe there's no need to be that cynical, but this version is Philip K. Dick by way of John le Carre. The time war is more of a cold war with brief flashes of violence. The weapons are still strange; they just get used less often. Individual agents might be a bit like 007 for a bit, but ultimately they may discover they've become Number 6 and all of spacetime is the Village.

The Agency is shadowy--and may in fact be the same as the Enemy, just at a different point on their timeline. All of this can be grim or even horrific, but it can also be played for satire (think G vs. E, and the relative amorality of Good and Evil in its cosmos).

Version Three:
Or, you could dial both of them back a bit and crash the two together. This is probably the Grant Morrison version (The Invisibles and The Filth would be good inspirations, here). Time agents are eclectic and flamboyant, but not usually Yeti's from alternate timelines. The weapons and battles are psychedelic, but the stakes can be grim, and the moral fog never dissipates--even in higher order dimensions.

8 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

moral fog never dissipates

Love that line. I think if I were to run a 4-D war I'd probably favor Version Three without the yeti. I think it would allow for some interesting game play. It would definitely need to be a fluid campaign. A lot of information would need to be remembered by the players and the GM for that matter. It would be an interesting challenge.

Jack said...

I love this bit: "Individual agents might be a bit like 007 for a bit, but ultimately they may discover they've become Number 6 and all of spacetime is the Village."

perdustin said...

With Version Two, I get a Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now vibe. Marlow/Willard encounters Kurtz only to realize that Kurtz is a future version of himself.

Trey said...

@Tim - Or maybe the forgetting on part of the player's could woven into the game, somehow.

@Jack - Thanks!

@perdustin - Excellent idea! The horror...the horror.

seaofstarsrpg said...

Agreed, I thought the Time War had to be ending because it was unwinding reality . . . not because Gallifrey (portrayed as just a world like any other) was about to fall to the Daleks. A serious lack of imagination from Moffat (and at total odds to the end of the war shown in The End of Time) who just seems to imagine the end of the Time War as a Dalek version of the Blitz.

garrisonjames said...

you might want to take another look at Fritz Leiber's The Big Time. that's a really interesting Time War. As for Grant Morrison, you could do worse than take a look into the Voudon Gnostic Workbook that he has found to be such a fount of inspiration. Mr. Harms did a review of the 'revised edition' of the Workbook, in case anyone is actually interested. It's a dense read, in every sense and permutation of the word. Beyond psychedelic...that book is full-on Burroughs-Kirby Axis Gonzo-mongery that'll warp any reader's mind beyond recognition in under ten pages.

garrisonjames said...

Perhaps my favorite Time War of them all, so far remains A. A. Attansio's Radix Tetrad, which features the nasty zotl-spiders and quite a lot of other high weirdness, not the least of all being humanity being re-created from intergalactic dust as bait for the zotl. Definitely Burroughs-Kiby axis gonzo space opera that is well worth taking a look at, if you're interested in time wars, etc.

Justin S. Davis said...

I adore that The Agency and The Enemy are the same organization, separated by time.

That's brilliant.