View Full Version : Factoring in Travel To Alternate Timelines

2007-11-04, 05:07 PM
Simply put:

How does one go about making a campaign where the PCs regularly travel to versions of the world that "could have been" (Since they exist, they technically are what has been, but since the mortal mind happens to comprehend that almost as easily as seeing Cthulhu, I'm not going to get into that can of worms) if a critical event in the world's history had changed? How will events in one timeline effect another? What are some possible timelines? What force monitors this travel? Exactly how will all this dimension-hopping physically, and ability-wise effect the party? What about dimensions which are not even part of the PC's, but are still part of their universe (i.e., the Rularuu's world in City of Heroes/Villains)? How will I explain this to the players without their heads exploding (or at least, only a head deflagration)?

The reason behind this grilling is that a villain I am planning to write up soon (His name's Janus Quartziu, in case you are wondering (And yes, it is symbolic)) basically wants to fuse the alternate timelines for reasons I will describe in homebrew. Since mixing universes has a similar effect, say, to mixing "lit fuse" and "dynamite", the PCs are given (Or get, depending if I want a less obvious hand of fate or not), a device that allows them to travel to previously mentioned alternate universes to stop him and his minions. And maybe (Okay, certainly) perform some random acts of kindness (Many of which are actually directly tied to the main plot).

Now, I ask you to please gather the pieces of your blown mind and thank you for your answers.

Please let there be answers. My last thread was stillborn.

2007-11-04, 05:25 PM
Well, just make 2 campaign worlds with different histories, and treat them as if they're different "planes." Just kinda special ones, that only your minor artifact can access. Tell them it is a "world very like our own, but strange in its own way." or something like that. Are you asking how to explain to players or characters? Metagaming, most players will understand the concept of an alternate universe, and as for characters, it's a "plane copy" that some God/Thing did some time ago made and changed. Do you have an uber-deity related to time / universe? Would make a good explanation. His realms would be Time, Lawful, etc. If they don't understand, have'em watch Back to the Future and say instead of Mr. Fusion it's Mr. Time God.

As for possible timelines.... That entirely depends on what you want in your campaign. Sliders / Stargate / Star Trek should provide some creative fodder for that. Could just make it simple and draw up the same land masses and just two different sets of governments in different regions on each.

As for how it'll effect the party. It's one hell of an escape ticket. You'll also have to plan events for how they progress on each "side." You can always make the device have some sort of ritual related to it, or long activation time. You can also have when the 'shift' over to the same location, have it be used for similar purposes by other people, or just pop up in the middle of a group. All depends on what you're going for.

2007-11-04, 05:28 PM
What kind of game is this? Modern or Fantasy?

2007-11-04, 05:40 PM
I was thinking Fantasy, though Modern could be done easily (I just take out the "Magi" part of the "Magitek" that makes these devices run. They'll still use Pheblonium as a power source, but thats the way the cookie crumbles (Oh, and don't give advice about the way the devices work. I already have them in my mind, fully formed. Good point about "non-instant" activation though))

2007-11-04, 06:10 PM
Eh? What's wrong with this forum? It says the Darkxarth was the last to post, and that there is only two replys, when I made one! Should I report this to the Mods?

2007-11-04, 06:30 PM
Could you add more details about how you're forming these parallel worlds? Not the metaphysical sense, but the deisgn sense. Are you going to be using towns in about the same location, governments that are polar opposites of each other by dimension, etc? What "feel" are you going for?

2007-11-04, 06:34 PM
It's a minor glitch at most. PMing Rawbear is a good idea for technical issues, I believe.


How will events in one timeline affect the other?
In almost all speculative fiction dealing with "alternate universes" and the like, actions in "parallel universes" do not directly affect the causalities of other universes, because they've already "diverged", and are separate entities. The only exceptions I can think of are ones that are effectively time-travel rather than universe-hopping, or ones that think too hard about quantum interference (Crichton's Timeline is both).

However, note that knowledge gained from visiting parallel universes can be extremely useful (reference Stargate SG-1 "But for the Grace of God").

What are some possible timelines?
The most common divergence-points in fiction are changes to major historical events, often battles, 98% of which involve the success of the Third Reich in stories set on Earth. Your players will definitely be expecting a "what if the Evil Empire actually succeeded in conquering the world?" 'verse.

Alternatively, there's the exploration of event cascades, or the "Butterfly Effect". A small, seemingly inconsequential detail is changed, resulting in drastic alterations further down the timeline. For example, one of the PC's is dead in this reality, and everything's different for lack of his subtle influence (Chrono Cross). Or theater got a few more patrons one year in this reality, resulting in it staying open when it would have otherwise been closed, and then one day the theater burns down with an important political figure inside it (stolen from the Back to the Future novelization).

I'll answer the other questions later. I've run into dinner time.

2007-11-04, 06:36 PM
Depending on how different you want your timelines to be, here are a few good ideas:

1. Up is Down, Black is White Orcs are bringers of peace, while Gnomes and Halflings wage war on Elves. Dwarves practice elegance and grace, preferring to remain peaceful, etc.

2. No, I'm not who you think I am! The PCs encounter the villain, only to find that it's this universe's equivalent, and he's a friendly bartender.

3. Us, Ourselves, and We The PCs encounter themselves, but they're evil! The BBEG has found and recruited them in this universe to help him.

4. No Magic/Technology An alternate universe where magic/technology was never discovered/developed. The PCs are either Gods among men, or evil demons that need to be destroyed.

These are just a few ideas, and I hope this is sort of what you were looking for.

2007-11-04, 06:53 PM

...so you're going to have to make something up.

Now, regardless of what timelines you create, you're going to have to figure out how they relate to eachother. Think flow chart... because depending on how much time passes between two events and what areas of the game world the PCs are in, things from previous timelines may or may not have caused a significant enough effect to be noticed. They could completely change the history and social structure of an entire continent, but the rest of the world might not care beyond having to reorganize a few trade routes. This could of course change the course of wars or even start a few, but, my point is the butterfly effect is not instantaneous or absolute in this case.

This of course assumes you want your timelines to affect eachother. If they didn't, then there probably wouldn't be much point to the campaign...