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Temporal Probability Agency Core
by Scott F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/15/2013 12:11:54
An absolutely splendid treatment of the off-misunderstood time-travel theme. No longer do you have to pour over history books. The TPA has it all covered for you. And the concept of "Play, Pour and Play" should be commended and noted by the rest of the industry.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Temporal Probability Agency Core
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To Predict and Serve Complete Pack
by Joshuha O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2011 22:58:37
This idea of this setting is so simple yet so elegant. The concept of "reverse railroading" fits the flavor very well and I think provides a way for a GM to be able to run a fun adventure and let the players do the majority of the story work to get the plot back to the objectives. The amount of material you get, including the handouts, is wonderful and makes for very good presentation value. Speaking of presentation, the PDF is very well organized and pleasing to read and yet looks to not be a killer on the ink if you prefer to print.

While the setting fits Savage Worlds very well I think the idea is so good you could plug it any of the other rules lite settings (I am thinking Strands of FATE myself) and it would fit perfectly.

Overall a great value and looking forward to the further acts.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
To Predict and Serve Complete Pack
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Temporal Probability Agency Core
by Marcus B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/02/2011 09:21:35
Hello World!
This time I am trying my hands at a review for the Temporal Probability Agency (TPA) supplement from Apathy Games. What once was a Savage Worlds Blog is now a Game Studio and Savage Worlds Licensee.
Their first release is actually two items in one package : the "Agent' s Handbook", which has all the basic rules for the setting, and "To Predict and Serve Act 1: A Function of Probability" the first act of their campaign. This review is only about the  "Agent' s Handbook".  Lets find out what the Temporal Propability Agency is and have a look at the books content.

The Looks:

The "Agent's Handbook" comes as a 29 Page PDF File. It is fully bookmarked for easy on-screen navigation. There are several layer options to turn off for ink-friendly Printing. The interior design and layout is great and can easily match the best out there. They use a very subtle blue for headers, sidebars and Information of note which breaks up a page and is pleasing on the eyes.  This makes reading the book a breeze and a joy to look at. It clearly shows that there is a lot of work in the visual design and layout, everything is professional. The interior BW Artwork is good. The style is consistent throughout the book without any big variations in terms of quality either.  The whole document has a paper file feeling, with the background as a file folder and some  Pictures, Notes and other material seemingly "taped in". Very fitting to the setting, evocative and still very easy to read.

The inner Values:

What is the Temporal Probability Agency? The first thing you will see on the inside of the cover is the "New Agent Primer"  In one Page you pretty much get the idea what this might be about.

Characters
Becoming an Agent
Page 1-16 

The section opens with a short story of how the life normal persons is thrown upside down because she is suddenly part of a TPA Mission. This is a good piece of fluff at the right place as it sets the mood and gets you right into the world. It then goes straight to Character Creation. There are no surprises as they use the  Savage Worlds Engine without any changes.  This Section also has New Hindrances, Edges and Gear.
The number of Hindrances (3) and Edges (8) is not inflationary. I find that positive as "Edgecreep" is sometimes  an issue in other products.  You will be disappointed if you are looking for a supplement with lots of new edges or hindrances . What is there is good however. All Edges fit the setting presented and simply by reading you will be able to imagine scenarios where they will be useful. They are all valuable to have and do not feel redundant. They also took care to offer something new to a variety of character concepts.
The Gear section is all of 3 Pages. Normal Weapons like Pistols and Rifles are simply listed in a single sidebar with all the necessary Information. The rest of the items are new and specific to the setting. They use the space to describe each in detail with illustrations. Substantial room is given to the descriptions of different Uniforms for TPA agents. Yes, you are not simply a secret James Bond kind of Agent. You are wearing a uniform and you are wearing it proud! Focus is also put on the nonlethal weapons instead of the guns. This subtly reinforces that the agents do not have a license to kill.
After this section the pregenerated Characters are listed. Each is presented in two different formats. One is the familiar Statblock I described in an earlier post, fully filled out like in most other publications. Additionally each has a partial Build that lists what kind of adjustments can still be made to a template to complete it.  This could be helpful for a quick start when you have players that are a bit familiar with SW but don´t want to create their own character from scratch. I would use the partial Statblocks during a convention or for a one shot.  It makes it easy for players to take a pregen and make him his own without any fuss. I was a bit disappointed that only four of the  eight total pregenerated characters are illustrated. Mostly because I like the Illustrations  and would appreciate to see more. The four illustrated are the same Characters as the ones on the cover. From Left to right: The Gadgeteer, the Patriot, the Wireman and the Cowboy. Additionally you have the Boxer, the Dropout, the Scalpel and the Stuntman. There is one pregen for most of the basic Charactertypes out there but all with a certain own charme and indeed character!

About the TPA
A brief introduction for the new agent
Pages 17-24 

Again the section begins with a short story that gives us a glimpse into the life of another operative of the TPA. I would have expected the GM section here, but it does not contain any GM exclusive information. It first describes how an agent gets promoted, how you receive missions and the necessary gear to complete them. It explains what a "Laundry List" is: the To Do list of the field agents that clearly states what has to be done.
This list is integral to the game. Basically the players get a list of arbitrary and unrelated goals to complete. This could be anything from simply buying a newspaper in a specific place at a specific time to picking a fight with a specific person to breaking into a place and stealing something on a specific date or... you get the idea. The possibilities are endless and the goals can be as mundane or as exciting as you want them to be. 
It gives very specific goals but how the players reach them is absolutely open. It is encouraged to be as creative as possible with absolutely no restrictions on approaches. The fun part is that the players need to reach these goals exactly as described on the list, no matter what happens.  This is an interesting twist on the usual adventure Formula that should lead to some exciting scenarios. Buying a newspaper could suddenly become a heart pounding race through the city to get to the place in time while stuck in traffic.
Afterwards it shortly explains how Agents interact with the Law and how time works in this setting. The latter is not unimportant to understand how the tasks at hand and actions today affect the future. The last pages of the book are about the title giving Organization itself. A short history and description of the TPA and its structure complete this chapter. The back of the book has an Index that is very thorough for such a small book.

Conclusion:

The Setting is an interesting one. You do not need much to imagine the world this plays in, as it is basically alternative now. On the spot recruited agents are a prefect set up to basically drop your players into the following Campaign without them knowing what is really going on. You can really simply pick up the book and play it straight away. The writing is clear and to the point but still remains evocative enough to give you a feeling of the setting. It actually has a lot of quirky humor (Uniforms? Really?) but is never silly.
In a few places the writing seemed a bit odd. You begin reading a paragraph in a very cold, almost analytical sounding tone and ends in some humorous remark. This might have been done on purpose though and is a minor nit-pick in an overall great product. 
 The TPA Agent´s Handbook is a quick and interesting read, thanks to the great layout and writing. After a quick look at the Campaign part it seems to hold up equally well.  I did not have the chance to fully read it so I cannot offer more that this for now. All in all I am really impressed with their first PDF and look forward to their future releases.  At 5 Dollars this is great value-for-money, I am glad I bought it!

Read you soon @ http://www.chaotic-gm.com!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Temporal Probability Agency Core
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Temporal Probability Agency Core
by Keith (. T. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2011 12:50:02
You are minding your own business and walking home from the park. Suddenly, you’ve been contacted by the TPA for an urgent assignment, and it pays well. Tomorrow at noon, the Agency needs you to go to Bob’s records and strike up a simple conversation and keep it going for 5 minutes. That’s all, just 5 minutes. That one thing has to take place or 3 lives are at stake. $1,000 to have a conversation with a stranger? Lives are at stake? -- A fun premise!

The Temporal Probability Agency exists here, today. And it’s run by a computer named Daisy, sending messages from the future. Will you take the assignment? Save lives?

The TPA’s Agent Handbook is refreshingly light. DriveThruRPG has it listed at 90 pages but that’s only if you include all the Adventure Files and handouts found at Apathy’s site. Still, the main book is 25 pages and that was a relief to me. Since I live in the here and now, you don’t need to include 200 pages to document today’s technology and it makes for a much faster path to jump in.

You are greeted with “Welcome to the TPA!”. The page is the TPA Pamphlet from the Demo Adventure handout package and gives you the real “one page” treatment of who, what, why, when, and how of the TPA. Essentially a computer named Daisy is in the future sending back info to fix the timeline. You have been chosen by Daisy to accomplish some tasks that only you are best suited to accomplish. You are contacted, given a “to do” list, and outfitted with what you need to accomplish your goals. A generous reward awaits you when you complete your tasks.
Pretty simple.

Character creation is as simple as it gets. A basic Savage Worlds process with only 2 pages (1 front 1 back to be technical) that deal with the new Hindrances and Edges. I enjoyed that 2 of the 3 new Hindrances were Foul Mouth & Teenager...side by side. Oh so true! Of the group of Edges, my favorites were, Professional Edge: “Time Cop” Persona, and Weird Edge: Manifest Destiny, both of which lend themselves to the strong willed “save the world” mindset needed to live in a role where you unquestioningly follow the dictates of a computer communicating from the future. Gearing up is fun with “Probabilistic Field Armor” and a “KnightStick” that could have come from Bond’s Q.

The assumption for most players is that they were chosen to be TPA Agents. Some for only one mission as they were the right person at the right time and some are meant for more. Everything about the TPA premise lends itself to jumping into the thick of it quickly and without much set up. The Computer knows the key moments that make or break the future and its up to the Game Master to have enough preparation to orchestrate events to give that “butterfly effect” process a real feeling in game terms. You can progress from a Provisional Agent, to Field Agent and Cell Member. Maybe, eventually, you become a Handler that runs and covers for a cell of new fledgling Provisional Agents.

To drive the adventure, each Agent will receive Objectives via a Laundry List of tasks or directives. In the provided first adventure it’s as simple (but critically important) to “Spill Pete’s Beer”. The Objectives are in degree and relative to the proximity to the action and consequences. They are: Direct, Indirect, Oblique, and Long-Shot. The further down the list the more complications and issues to deal with. Agents are give a clear sense of what is appropriate so there shouldn’t be any wild agents of chaos in this setting. Daisy knows all and wouldn’t have selected you in the first place. Also, Timmy the Time Cop Says: Destruction of property is a crime! By the way, Timmy the Time Cop is sprinkled liberally throughout to communicate a bit of humor or annoy if you are looking for something a bit grittier.

The Agent Handbook ends with How Time Works and TPA History. Daisy knows all and allows all the questions about “how” to be dealt with by Daisy’s directions. Remember, to enjoy this and almost any game, a little “willing suspension of disbelief” is important.

Where’s the Game Master?
Noticeably absent from the Agent’s Handbook is any mention of the Game Master, with only 2 minor exceptions. Maybe this is by design, after all it is the Agent’s Handbook but some little mention of the Game Master and the role is warranted in my opinion.

To discover the role of the Game Master and expectations, “The Free Preview Adventure” actually becomes required reading for TPA Game Masters. It sets the adventure stage and gives the Game Master all the information and structure needed to run the adventure. By reading the adventure, I could glean the approach the writers expect the GM to take. After seeing our Pre-gen characters again, there is a 2 page Apathy Adventure Format that is essentially all you get to help you understand Apathy’s approach to organizing their Adventures. I trust this will become more apparent in their following adventures that are advertised in the back of the Preview Adventure.

Format Example (no spoilers here, only structure that I observed), TPA GMs are expected to create their adventures with:

Encounter based Organization.
Player Objectives and Game Master Objectives
Flavor Text: Descriptive Text to convey the adventure tone and to keep the Agent’s attention.
Significant Details: event details and encounter descriptions
Game Master Notes: further setting info for GM reference (one would hope has critical
“butterfly-effect” notes to help cover for player choices and make the game flow smootly).
Stat Blocks for characters: red for enemies, green for allies
Read-Aloud Text: sometimes needed



The Adventure itself is in 3 scenes and focuses on a hi-jacking. Given our real world news, this will get folks blood pressure up. Between the handouts and the short adventure, an experienced Game Master can easily run this adventure in short order. I would suggest to the writers that as much time as they spent in creating a format for their adventures a short 1 page Game Master page could be added to expand a little bit on the Apathy Adventure Format and philosophy. Some discussion on Apathy’s page (see link) goes into it but I think every game setting needs to address the GM.


Main TPA site at Apathy: http://www.apathygames.com/tpa/
To the right you’ll see some links to support materials. Quite a bit of supporting materials in fact.
You’ll Find:

Demo Adventure zip file link: This is a misleading link name. It should be called: The Getting Started Kit as it has a very useful set of handouts for the first adventure that help the beginner’s game get started smoothly. The handouts are:
Preview Adventure - This first adventure is really a guide on how Apathy suggests the
format or structure of adventures be event driven.
Pregen Characters - The 8 characters from the Agent’s Handbook but conveniently redone
in the character sheet format for ease of use by players.
Character Sheet - easy to use form. Missing from many much larger project so it was nice
to find.
Handouts: These handouts were specific to the Free Adventure but give a nice example
of what you can do:
Flight 101 - Laundry List: Objectives for the Pre-Gens
Flight 101 - Newspaper Clipping: potential news headlines depending on the outcome.
Flight 101 - Oahu: a contest winner announcement, prop.
TPA - FAQ: A one page description of the TPA and your role. Literally the first page
of the Agent’s Handbook.
TPA Pamphlet: A Timmy the Time Cop comic that visually shows some of the points
in the game in a more visual format


Apathy has a link to their Quick Temporal Agent Primer: http://www.apathygames.com/tpa-new-agent-primer/

Last Observations: For $4.99, the offering is a great value. The setting is unique and simple enough you can jump right in. The art work is adequate and conveys the setting. I like that the art is consistent throughout and not a hodge-podge of various projects. Timmy the Time Cop can be tolerated thru a sense of humor but to me he looks like a child soldier from WWII-era eastern europe, but maybe that’s just me. NOTE TO APATHY: ADD a GM section, even if it's only 3 pages.

After slogging thru settings that are many hundreds of pages, this one is a refreshing and simple offering. I can see playing a few adventures with my wife as there aren’t any dark overtones and she used to love the TV Show “Early Edition”. This reminds me a lot of that show (just add guns). Good wholesome “Save the World” fun!


The Savage Duck (Derek Brown - filling in for The Savage Troll: rptroll.blogstpot.com )

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the review. From the sounds of it, though, you seem to have missed that To Predict and Serve Act 1 is part of the core product. It includes the Game Master information, everything from the Free Demo Adventure, and two additional adventures. If, somehow, that PDF is missing from the product, please let me know, because that's a serious problem that I need to address.
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