Timelords (role-playing game)

Last updated
Adventure Into Forever
Timelords 2nd ed.jpg
TimeLords 2nd edition cover
Designers Greg Porter
Publishers Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC)
  • 1987 1st edition
  • 1990 2nd Edition
  • 2003 EABA TimeLords
  • 2003 CORPS TimeLords
  • 2013 EABA v2 Timelords
Genrestime travel, science fiction
SystemsCustom d20(1st–2nd edition)

TimeLords is a set of time travel role-playing games by Greg Porter and published by Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC). The first two editions used a custom d20-based game system; the most recent edition uses the EABA system from BTRC.



TimeLords was developed by Greg Porter while attending college at Virginia Tech in the early 1980s, and many of his fellow Wargaming Society members are immortalized in the first edition as sample characters. He approached many game companies with the idea for a time travel based role playing game, but all preferred a supplement for their own systems rather than a stand alone RPG. Fantasy Games Unlimited agreed to publish the game, but sat on it for several years and never did. [1]

Blacksburg Tactical Research Center was started by Porter in 1985, and TimeLords was its first RPG product. It did not initially sell well, but maintained a cult following that allowed a second edition to be published in 1990. Several books of adventures were published in the early 1990s for use with the second edition.

In 2003, Timelords was redone as a setting for BTRC's EABA universal role playing game system. BTRC stopped paper publication of all of its games, and made them available only in a downloaded PDF format, or printed on-demand.


TimeLords begins at the End of Time. In the far future, a race known as "The Designers", gifted in both psionics and sciences, set about escaping their fate as the inevitable end of the universe encroached. Eventually, they discover time travel, and use this knowledge to move their entire solar system backwards in time to when the universe is about 15 billion years old. The actual Designers have never been seen by humans. The pinnacle of their achievements was the "Matrix", a small time-travel device, the size and shape of a 20-sided die, weighing about 1 pound. A Matrix could be used for personal time travel, as an energy source, and other things only hinted at by the rule books. When activated, a Matrix generates a spherical force field 6 meters in diameter, and instantly transports everything inside it to the new time and location. It is one of these Matrix devices that the players of the game find to begin their adventure.

TimeLords may be played two possible ways:

Characters may find themselves at any time in Earth history, past or future. Space travel is also a possibility, with some modules taking place on spaceships or other planets. The game also hints at the idea of traveling to alternate universes, where mental powers, magic, or alternate technologies exist, opening up the possibility for fantasy, steampunk, post-apocalyptic, or any other game setting the players may want.

The game explains time and time travel through a branching multiple timeline system. Traveling to the past doesn’t change the timeline you came from, it creates a new one with you in it. This makes it impossible for someone to go back in time and kill their own grandfather (the Grandfather Paradox), as this would only create a new timeline where the grandfather was dead; the old timeline where he was alive would still exist also. This also makes it incredibly difficult for characters “lost” in time to find the original timeline they came from, as every jump creates more and more timelines, and pushes them farther from the original.


The first two editions of TimeLords used a custom d20-based system designed by Greg Porter. The emphasis is on realism over speed and playability. [2]


Regardless of which subgame of TimeLords played, characters have from 10-11 Primary Attributes:

Attributes are scored between 1-20, with 8-11 considered an average human score. Each 3 points roughly doubles an attribute, so a character with a strength of 13 could lift double that of one with a strength of 10. Scores under 5 are considered feeble, while scores of 15 or higher are considered the upper levels of human ability.

Primary Game: Generating Yourself

To assist players in generating a character based on themselves, the game suggests a number of tests for the players to conduct.

  • Strength is tested by holding progressively heavier weights at arm's length for a full 5 seconds.
  • Constitution is based on how frequently the player gets sick, and how quickly they recover from injury or illness.
  • Intelligence is based on IQ score, SAT or ACT score, or QCA score for full time students.
  • Dexterity uses physical tests such as juggling and balance.
  • Bravado and Appearance are discussed and voted on by other players. Someone judged to have a "good poker face" or the ability to talk their way out of speeding tickets would have a higher Bravado.
  • Matrix Lag is based on a d20 roll. It gradually lowers over the course of the game as the character gets used to using a matrix.
  • Power is based on a d20 roll only. It is meant to reflect a players mental ability for psionics, magic, or telepathic powers, and is rarely used. Some alternate universes might have these abilities.


Skills rate each character's relative ability to do things, such as fire a gun or drive a car. Each skill is related to an attribute, for example "firearms" is based on Dexterity, and "computer" based on Intelligence. A high attribute score would gain the character a bonus in a related skill, and makes learning a new skill easier.

To determine the success or failure of an action, the character's skill level is modified by any factors that would make the action more or less difficult, then this is run through the Universal Modifier Chart. A simple d20 roll is then made to determine success.

In the Primary Game, players go through an extensive list of possible skills with the game master, and rate themselves and each other on a 1-20 scale. A beginner might have a range of 2-5, while a skill used professionally might rate 16 or higher. The game also encourages the creation of new skills, to cover relevant experience players may have that is not included in the manual.

In the Secondary Game, characters purchase skills in a points based system.

The Universal Modifier Chart

This chart is the games system for overcoming one of the perceived flaws in a linearly progressive skill based game system. In a standard system, any modifier to a die roll has a greater effect on a lower skill level than a higher one. For example, a -1 modifier to a skill of 15 reduces that skill by about 7%, where a skill of 5 is reduced by 20%. To overcome this, any roll to determine the success of an action would first have the modifiers referenced on the Universal Modifier Chart, which would alter the penalty (or bonus) to the skill accordingly.

For skills in the median range, 8-12, the UMC does not make much difference in rolls needed. Use of the chart is considered optional, as it slows down play in an already complex system.


The first two editions used one of the most complex combat systems of any RPG, with a goal of simulating real life as closely as possible. [2] To shoot a firearm, for example, a character's "firearm" skill is modified by the accuracy of the weapon, the distance to the target, size of the target, and other conditions such as weather or terrain. These modifiers are run through the UMC, and a roll made to determine if the attack scored a hit.

To determine damage from an attack, the body is divided into 26 areas, each with its own damage points, and separate tables for determining damage to each area. Damage is further divided based on the type of weapon used, and the type of damage it could cause (blunt, crushing, burning, edged, etc.); then modified based on armor worn, again divided based on how the armor countered different damage types. Still more tables are used to find continuing damage from bleeding, recovery times, unconsciousness, temporary and permanent disabilities, or possibly death.

This resulted in nearly half of the book being devoted to combat tables, and correspondingly long and complex combat. A simple one on one confrontation might take an hour or more. A simplified version of the combat rules, using only 6 body areas, and correspondingly fewer tables, is also given, and does cut down on some of the complexity.

The goal, as stated by the game's designer, was to create as realistic a combat system as possible, and avoid the "shot in the foot" paradox of some other game systems. This happens in some games when a character low on hit points could be killed by shooting them in the foot, something that would almost never happen in real life. Characters in TimeLords rarely die from a single attack, instead they suffer traumas that might lead to death if left untreated.


To keep the game more focused on realism, characters do not gain experience points or levels like many RPGs. A character's attributes or skills may increase based on how often and how well they were used during the game. Practicing a skill or actively working on an ability can also cause it to increase. For example, spending a few hours a day at a firing range may increase the "firearms" skill, but not as quickly as using that skill in combat situations. Skill advancement also requires that characters push the boundaries of their skill - driving a car in normal traffic every day for 10 years does not automatically make someone an expert driver, as they would never learn advanced techniques that racing drivers would learn.

TimeLords 3rd Edition

The cover to TimeLords 3rd Edition, which uses the EABA rules Timelords3rd.jpg
The cover to TimeLords 3rd Edition, which uses the EABA rules

EABA TimeLords

In 2003, BTRC re-issued TimeLords as a setting for their new EABA (End All Be All) generic role playing game system. All books are available in PDF format only, through download or print on demand.

In 2013, Timelords was re-released as a setting for the EABA v2 system, also in PDF format only.

Some changes made to the setting with the EABA rules:

CORPS TimeLords

The TimeLords game was released as a setting for the generic RPG CORPS (Complete Omniversal Role Playing System) Second Edition rules in 1995, also by BTRC. It is a d10 based system, but otherwise the same as EABA TimeLords, and out of print since 1999.


Rick Swan reviewed Timelords in Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer No. 83. [3] Swan commented that "The game mechanics [...] contain so many innovative ideas, that Timelords is worth a look by anyone interested in alternative approaches to roleplaying." [3]

Dragon Magazine reviewed the second edition of Timelords in issue 191. They described the combat system as highly realistic but "bordering on the incomprehensible", and "almost obsessive about minutia", but noted that players in this type of game setting would normally want to avoid combat. It also praised the game's explanation of timelines and time travel, calling it "elegant and fascinating". [2]



First edition

Second edition

EABA and CORPS editions are only available in a downloaded PDF format.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>GURPS</i> Tabletop role-playing game system

The Generic Universal RolePlaying System, or GURPS, is a tabletop role-playing game system designed to allow for play in any game setting. It was created by Steve Jackson Games and first published in 1986 at a time when most such systems were story- or genre-specific.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">HârnMaster</span> Role-playing game

HârnMaster is a fantasy role-playing game based in the fantasy world of Hârn. The system, like the world, was designed primarily by N. Robin Crossby.

<i>Mutants & Masterminds</i> Tabletop superhero role-playing game

Mutants & Masterminds is a superhero role-playing game written by Steve Kenson and published by Green Ronin Publishing based on a variant of the d20 System by Wizards of the Coast. The game system is designed to allow players to create virtually any type of hero or villain desired.

<i>Fringeworthy</i> 1982 alternate reality role-playing game

Fringeworthy is an alternate history role-playing game published by Tri Tac Games in 1982 that involves playing characters who have the ability to travel to different versions of Earth. It was the first role-playing game to explore the genre of alternate worlds.

<i>Gear Krieg</i> Tabletop role-playing game

Gear Krieg is an alternate history game setting published by Dream Pod 9. It contains information suitable for role-playing and wargaming a pulp-fueled World War II, featuring walking tanks and epic tabletop battles.

In some role-playing game (RPG) systems, the dice pool is the number of dice that a player is allowed to roll when attempting to perform a certain action.

<i>Aftermath!</i> Science fiction tabletop role-playing game

Aftermath! is a role-playing game created by Paul Hume and Robert Charette and published in 1981 by Fantasy Games Unlimited.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">D6 System</span> Tabletop role-playing game system

The D6 System is a role-playing game system published by West End Games (WEG) and licensees. While the system is primarily intended for pen-and-paper role-playing games, variations of the system have also been used in live action role-playing games and miniature battle games. The system is named after the 6-sided die, which is used in every roll required by the system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dzikie Pola (role-playing game)</span>

Dzikie Pola is a Polish role-playing game, set in the historical setting of the 17th century Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It had two editions: first in 1997 and second in 2005.

<i>Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game</i> 1997 Tabletop fantasy role-playing game

The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game is a role-playing game originally written by John Wick and published by Alderac Entertainment Group, under license from Five Rings Publishing Group, in 1997. The game uses the Legend of the Five Rings setting, primarily the nation of Rokugan, which is based on feudal Japan with influences from other East Asian cultures.

In the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, game mechanics and dice rolls determine much of what happens. These mechanics include:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Character creation</span> Process of defining a game character

Character creation is the process of defining a player character in a role-playing game. The result of character creation is a direct characterization that is recorded on a character sheet. This may include a representation of the character's physical, mental, psychological, and social attributes and skills in terms of the specific game's mechanics. It may also include informal descriptions of the character's physical appearance, personality, personal back-story ("background"), and possessions. Games with a fantasy setting may include traits such as race, class, or species. Character creation is the first step taken by the players in preparation for a game.

<i>Macho Women with Guns</i> Tabletop role-playing game

Macho Women with Guns (MWWG) is a comedy role-playing game created by Greg Porter and published by Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC). Nominally a science-fiction game, it parodies both action films and other role-playing games.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">EABA</span>

The End All Be All game system, commonly known as EABA and pronounced "ee-buh", is a role-playing game system from Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC). It is a generic gaming system designed to adapt to any imaginary gaming environment. It was created by Greg Porter in 2003. The game cites the Hero System, GURPS and Call of Cthulhu as influences in its development.

Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC) is an American game publishing company best known for the TimeLords, Macho Women with Guns, and EABA role-playing games. They have produced a variety of role-playing games, card games, and board games. Since 2003, they have published exclusively in PDF format.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CORPS</span>

The CORPS game system, created by Greg Porter was in its first 1990 edition the Conspiracy Oriented Roleplaying System, which was later revised and re-named the Complete Omniversal Role Playing System to focus purely on being a generic role-playing game system.

<i>Cutthroat: The Shadow Wars</i>

Cutthroat: The Shadow Wars is a fantasy role-playing game designed by Nathan Kaylor and first published by StormWorld Games in 1988.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tabletop role-playing game</span> Form of role-playing game using speech

A tabletop role-playing game, also known as a pen-and-paper role-playing game, is a classification for a role-playing game (RPG) in which the participants describe their characters' actions through speech. Participants determine the actions of their characters based on their characterization, and the actions succeed or fail according to a set formal system of rules and guidelines. Within the rules, players have the freedom to improvise; their choices shape the direction and outcome of the game.

<i>SpaceTime</i> Tabletop science fiction role-playing game

SpaceTime is a role-playing game published by Blacksburg Tactical Research Center in 1988.

<i>Starfinder Roleplaying Game</i> Tabletop role-playing game

The Starfinder Roleplaying Game is a science-fiction/science fantasy role-playing game published by Paizo Publishing. It is built on Paizo's previous game, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, both in its game mechanics and universe, but adapted to a more futuristic style than its fantasy predecessor; game content is intended to be easily convertible between the two systems. Like its predecessor, the Starfinder RPG supports adventure paths and other material written by Paizo and third party publishers.