View Full Version : Playable Timetravel

2013-03-07, 04:55 AM
I believe the Rules for Consistent Time Travel (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14736798) thread was/is based on a slight misapprehension that a consistent set of time travel rules is a playable set of rules. NichG's (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=14735151&postcount=60) campaign almost unraveled when his players realized that everything they had done so far could get wiped out with a badly placed sneeze.

I think it may be useful to share experiences of time travel games that did and did not work.

I've run two time travel games Star Wars (completed) and Marvel Superheros (in progress)

The Star Wars game basically lifted the Feng Shui (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_Shui_%28role-playing_game%29) time travel system. Force Sensitive characters can see and access portals to the Netherworld, a shifting labyrinth of tunnels and caves that connects portals to a number of different time periods of history. These were 1000 Before Yavin, 1 month before Yavin, 5 years after ROTJ and 5000 years in the future.

In this game The Force acted as a stabilizing influence so you could tromp all over mooks and butterfly's without too much future hassle. Only the consented actions of Force sensitives could trigger a Critical Shift rewriting future history.

There were three Critical Shifts in the game the first was when the BBEG rewrote Ep 4 so he ended up ruling the Galaxy for 5000 years. The second was when the PC's won. The third was a result of meddling 1000 years ago which resulted in good and evil swapping over (I didn't want to rewrite the whole universe so it was good Sith unsuccessfully fighting the Evil Jedi for 1000 years until the Good and Just Vader and Palpatine managed to forge a Good Empire)

As a time travel game it worked nicely. After the first shift the characters knew the plot of Star Wars (from videos) and that it was basically their job to put it all back together again.. (The Evil Plot was (among other things) to replace the Bothan map with one that indicated that a waste outlet was actually the thing to bomb.. a lot of time was spent scampering round in the background of Episode IV :-). Traveling between era's was more akin to going to new and strange planets and the timetravel was more a source of mission and motivation rather than an active component in the game. The campaign came to an end early but the climax was to go back 10000 years and destroy the seed of the Netherworld and stabilize things for good (and permanently) .

I'm now running a freeform Marvel Superheros game (FASERIP) this is Much more of a timewimey game and runs on the "Observer Effect" ie you can't change things you have observed (either directly or indirectly) but you can change their interpretation the less reliable the observation the easier it is to change the interpretation..

So you can't stop JFK being shot, but you could substitute a double and keep the original under wraps till after you get back to your home time.

From an Omnipotent POV my campaign plot-line and the players and NPC actions totally predetermined. JFK had always been rescued by the PC's its just noone knew till they did it.

Why play in the ultimate in railroaded game? Fortunately its only predetermined from an Omnipotent POV. The Players and even the GM do not have that until the game is over and they look back... and even then it may turn out that the JFK they got is a double and someone else got there first.

From a GM POV this is working out nicely I control what messages they successfully send back to themselves and if they actually meet up. From a Player POV they have great freedom to go back in time and mess round with things so long as they follow the rules (if they break the rules someone else steps in and sends the message or the selves they meet are actually Evil Robot doubles.)

Best of all I don't have to rewrite the campaign chronicle every time someone sneezes in the wrong place.

2013-03-07, 05:53 PM
So my thought for a playable timetravel game would be to grab the 'fixed point in time' thing from Dr. Who. Basically, you can change details but history always snaps back to the fixed points.

Now the trick is, how are these fixed points assigned, and how solid are they really? Well, make it so there's some kind of fundamental resource (lets call it Fluxium) that freezes things in time around it. Feed someone a dose of Fluxium and no events of their life can be altered by time travel (prereq for being a time traveller, really). Place a unit of Fluxium in a location and events that happen near it are fixed. Ideally for the stability of the game, Fluxium should decay at a certain rate so there aren't just eternal cities that can't be modified. The radius of the effect should be pretty small too.

This generates stress on the space-time continuum surrounding the Fluxium, especially where two fields interact with eachother and fix different timelines. When this gets severe enough it creates 'space-time rip', which gives you effects sort of like Brigadoon - the area dissapears from time except at places where the timelines line up properly. If this happens to a time traveller, it really sucks for them, but thats the price you pay for messing with things too much.

Fluxium's properties make it very hard to move for time travellers, so you basically have to work around where its been. You can put more in by sending some directly from the future, but once its there it tends to be there. If you want to alter a fixed point, you have to make things bad enough that you create a space-time rift, which rips the entire fixed point out of the timeline and the gap fills in (leaving ghost-lands that exist only once every century or so).

Game mechanically, this could be represented in the form of a certain number of anchors. Each unit of Fluxium in a place requires one anchor to be broken in the presence of a unit of Fluxium in order to create a spacetime rip. So lets say you want to prevent WWII. Perhaps there are three units of Fluxium pinning it in place, so you have to fix three other important events against it - three anchors. You might decide to do this to the burning of the Reichstag, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the birth of Hitler. Stop all three events in the presence of Fluxium and the whole WWII timeline rips free. But it can't happen by accident.