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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Question Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Occasionally, the makers of campaign settings feel the need to advance the timeline. Very often it seems to be for marketing reasons.
    There are always many people who really don't care for the differences between versions, but these are usually people who first got introduced to the later version and never had been used to an earlier one. Might possibly be a case of nobody starting a discussion when everything is alright, but I can't really remember anyone saying to be happy about the changes made to their beloved settings.

    Why exactly is that? What's the problem that seems to arise pretty much every single time?

    Is it as simple as people just being unhappy of certain things in the settings, which they like, being taken away and replaced with something else? I personally don't have any problems with settings increasing in size and everything getting more details. But I never like it when important cities are remodled, factions dissolved, and gods being taken out.
    Do other people feel different about this?
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Advancing a timeline often makes the world feel more organic - if it's done correctly. In this sense you project the logical conclusion of your world into another era, thus, you see how the timeline progressed and became how it is. Of course, if you're *really* doing it just to get a different setting but under the same name as an existing system, and phoning in the modifications, it'll be obvious and therefore bad.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    People hate change.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    If people have been playing in the setting already, then there are 2 possibilities when the writers make big, sweeping changes to it.
    1) The changes mirror what's been happening in that group's campaigns. Assuming they're not actually the writers, this is negligibly unlikely; even if it somehow is the case, presumably the PCs have been in the center of the action, and it annoys them to be told that, actually, these NPCs have been.
    2) The changes differ drastically from what's been happening in that group's campaigns. Maybe, halfway through a long campaign to join the Sensates, they suddenly get wiped off the map by the Lady of Pain, who has been established in that group's story in a way that means she has no good reason to do this. This amounts to printing a new core book with a big, "Expect to have to rewrite huge swathes of the material that comes out from now on, or throw out everything you've been doing" message printed in the middle of it.
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    This, in a nutshell.
    Yes, exactly.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post

    Why exactly is that? What's the problem that seems to arise pretty much every single time?

    Is it as simple as people just being unhappy of certain things in the settings, which they like, being taken away and replaced with something else? I personally don't have any problems with settings increasing in size and everything getting more details. But I never like it when important cities are remodled, factions dissolved, and gods being taken out.
    Do other people feel different about this?
    Most change is never done well. They often go way too far or just change things in the wrong direction. The fans would be fine with the more slow, natural changes. When one city fights another city and wins and they take over the losing city. Not when a whole continent is obliterated and races are retroactively recreated for all time. That is just too extreme.

    It is worse when nothing happens in the setting for like 2,000 years, but then in the last 20 years of modern time the planet explodes like five times and is recreated.

    Worse is the sad kid effect. Often the original setting is made by and for adults. The original setting will have things like proud elven warriors. But then the change comes, and for some reason the change is made for (and maybe) by kids. So now you have half pureblood dragon men anime warlock ninja pirate.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kish View Post
    If people have been playing in the setting already, then there are 2 possibilities when the writers make big, sweeping changes to it.
    1) The changes mirror what's been happening in that group's campaigns. Assuming they're not actually the writers, this is negligibly unlikely; even if it somehow is the case, presumably the PCs have been in the center of the action, and it annoys them to be told that, actually, these NPCs have been.
    2) The changes differ drastically from what's been happening in that group's campaigns. Maybe, halfway through a long campaign to join the Sensates, they suddenly get wiped off the map by the Lady of Pain, who has been established in that group's story in a way that means she has no good reason to do this. This amounts to printing a new core book with a big, "Expect to have to rewrite huge swathes of the material that comes out from now on, or throw out everything you've been doing" message printed in the middle of it.
    I think this hits the most relevant point of dislike and rage against timeline advancement. If a setting has been 'static' and been around for long enough to be used as a long-term setting for a campaign, it's going to be transformed in a way that will likely not be reflected in the new material. This makes the new material either relatively useless, or frustratingly hit and miss for use in one going games.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    This isn't a great reason, but I simply hate reading campaign settings. Usually they're not particularly interesting or well-written, so if I have to reread one just to use a new system that may not even be better than the old one... no, thanks.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by jedipotter View Post
    It is worse when nothing happens in the setting for like 2,000 years, but then in the last 20 years of modern time the planet explodes like five times and is recreated.
    I had an interesting idea a few days ago. I think the best written setting (structurally, the style of the content depends on personal taste) there is is Star Wars. It's a solid framework that everyone can expand while remaining consistent with the existing material, and it provides lots of things to do for protagonists of very different background and professions (as long as it involves getting into firefights with blasters).
    One very interesting thing about Star Wars is, that anytime I have an idea for an RPG campaign, I would set it at some point during or before the movies, but not after them. The setting is about the stuggle between the Empire and the Rebells, in which players would want to participate (and even if it's a party of neutral outlaws, the players would still expect to get cought up in Rebellion business one way or another). Knowing that in the end the Rebells will kill the Emperor and inflict losses from which the Empire will never recover doesn't really make it less interesting to play at an earlier point in the history. You could even run an adventure about Rebell spies getting the death star plans with the goal of handing them over to Leia. As players, you would know that the plans will reach Leia. But you have no idea what obstacles you'll have to overcome to get to that point and who, if any, of you will still be alive at the end. Or take the video game Halo: Reach. The whole premise of the game is that you know from the start that the planet Reach will be completely wiped out with almost all of the remaining human forces, and that after the battle only a single Spartan super-soldier remained. And the game starts on the planet Reach and you play a group of Spartans, of which none is that guy who will be the last one. It's obvious that the game will end it total defeat and you will all die. But you don't know how it will happen, and what other small victories you might accomplish in the meantime. Or take everything set in a historic setting. The overall outcome is always known, but it's still worth playing.

    However, with published campaign settings, it seems kind of the default assumption that any campaign takes place at the latest point in it's published history. Even if GMs chose to set their game a few years earlier, it's seemingly mostly because they don't like the later parts of the timeline and want to run a game in which those things never happen.

    Now here's the idea: Couldn't you write a campaign setting that covers not just a single point in time, but a period of about 30 years. The history for the setting and it's primary regions would be detailed, but remain at the surface. From the very beginning you know that the King of Somewhere will be assassinated in the year 19 and a civil war break out over his succession. But you don't spell out where the assassination will take place and in what way it will happen. When you already know in advance that some people, factions, or places will meet their end or undergo a significant change from the start, I think it solves the problem of people feeling something is been taken away from their campaigns. If you love a certain character in the world, you love him as someone who is doomed. The very first Dark Sun box set describes one of the sorcerer kings in a way that makes it very clear that his reign is about to collapse. It's pretty much spelled out that he is doomed and that he exists in the setting to undergo some significant change very soon in the continuing timeline. It's unlikely that anyone reading his discription would become a fan of him and hope he retains the center stage in the setting forever.

    I am currently working on a setting with the intention of eventually putting everything neatly together and releasing it for free. And one idea I have is about a semi-religious order of warriors attempting to establish a new base in a ruined city deep in the ancient forests that are still almost entirely unexplored and feared by most people. They will be quite successful in creating their new colony for a couple of years, but eventually they stir up some ancient burried evil and the whole valley goes all zombie apocalypse and the warriors fight a heroic last battle to protect the fleeing civilians over several months. In the end, the whole enterprise is abandoned and the city falls back into ruins.
    I know how things will end right from the start. The city exist only for the sole purpose of having a dark threat hovering over it and eventually being destroyed. It is meant as a place for adventures that are about exploring the gloomy ruins and establishing a settlement while having a bad feeling about this; or about discovering the ancient evil and trying to fight it but being overwhelmed; or about being among the last surviving warriors who are still keeping their posts to save more fleeing settlers. Describing the settlement in it's second year when everything is looking up and it's a base for explorers who search the surrounding wilderness for treasure would be both dishonest to readers and GMs, and also make the whole place appear in a very different role. It's an interesting idea and I wonder if I can apply it to the other regions of the setting as well. I think that shouldn't be too difficult.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by ClockShock View Post
    People hate change.
    I don't think this is always the case. For example, the Time of Troubles was a timeline advancement for the FR setting (back in... 1989? I think?), and near as I can tell most people responded favorably to it - particularly its mandate that tied deity power to follower-worship and established. That change codified the divine politics that have come to define FR and distinguish it from other settings to this day.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    The only reason I'm using the advanced timeline is that I loved the first version. So in the advanced timeline, one of two things have happened.

    1. You kept the parts I loved, so I have to learn a bunch of stuff I'm not interested just to play what I could have already played in the old version,
    or
    2. You changed what I liked, so it's not as fun anymore.

    The third possibility, that I like the new version more, is unlikely, simply because I already had time to fall in love with the first one.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    I think a better way to implement it, which I have not seen done, would be to PLAN AHEAD the timeline when the setting is written. Then publish all the material in a relatively short span of time.

    "Campaign Setting" 2nd Age
    "Campaign Setting" 3rd Age
    "Campaign Setting" 4th Age

    And so on. This way, I, as the DM, can say hey guys we are gonna be playing in CS 3rd Age. Cool, the players know what races are prominent, the relative technology level, the history, etc.


    I'm sure someone has done this, but i have not seen any like it.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    One of the last games of Shadowrun I was in was set in the year 2072.

    My character was a hacker who used a commlink (essentially the cyberpunk version of a high-end, modern-day smartphone) loaded with wiz programs to do most of his hacking, to great effect, since almost everything in the setting was wirelessly-enabled by default.

    You could make yourself much harder to hack by simply being smart about it; all your high-tech equipment still functioned, for the most part, if you switched the wireless off. The hacker's trick, in turn, was to be smarter still.

    The new edition came out, and advanced the timeline to 2075.

    The new rules for hacking changed the Matrix drastically, such that commlinks can't even perform illegal actions or use hacking programs; instead if you want to be doing anything nefarious in the blogosphere, you need a fancy cyberdeck that'll cost literally hundreds of thousands of nuyen (for context, real estate is cheaper).

    Worse still, in the span of three years, not only did a monolithic anti-hacking agency materialize out of the ether, but the second you engage in any kind of hacking, a countdown clock starts on you, and when it runs out, they simultaneously destroy your high-end equipment, get your real-life location, and call the cops on you, in case destroying your equipment while you were plugged into the Matrix didn't kill you.

    Oh, and at the same time, anything that's wirelessly-enabled (like everything) can now be remotely destroyed by a determined-enough hacker. Including your fancy wired nervous system. "Can't I just turn the wireless off?" you ask. Yeah, you can; say good-bye to any advantage to having it in the first place if you do. That's right, somehow the superconductor wire that's replaced your spinal column and the neural boosters and adrenaline stimulators implanted in you won't work together unless you're broadcasting.
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 2014-06-09 at 02:04 PM.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garimeth View Post
    I think a better way to implement it, which I have not seen done, would be to PLAN AHEAD the timeline when the setting is written. Then publish all the material in a relatively short span of time.

    "Campaign Setting" 2nd Age
    "Campaign Setting" 3rd Age
    "Campaign Setting" 4th Age

    And so on. This way, I, as the DM, can say hey guys we are gonna be playing in CS 3rd Age. Cool, the players know what races are prominent, the relative technology level, the history, etc.
    It think it developed purely by accident, but seems to be working very well for Star Wars. I love Knights of the Old Republic, the Rebellion Era, and the Early New Republic Era, but don't care at all for the Clone Wars, "the Next Generation" and whatever weirdness from another galaxy they cooked up later. I havn't been up to date for quite some while, but in the 90s books and games came out in a completely random order, wherever in the timeline the creators pleased.

    I think this could have worked for Forgotten Realms as well. The big mistake was destroying the world first and then advancing the timeline by 100 years for 4th edition. First you tell the players that the world around their current characters gets destroyed and then you abondon the rubble to do something entirely else. It would have been much smarter to make the big changes happen 100 years after the established continuity. That way players who don't want to play in the new setting can still advance their campaigns well beyond the life expectancy of their human characters and ignore the new changes while still playing in the official timeline.
    Though there is of course the possibility that it was intended on purpose to make players abandon their current campaigns and buy all the new books, which are all written for the new rules system, which they then would also buy.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    The only reason I'm using the advanced timeline is that I loved the first version. So in the advanced timeline, one of two things have happened.

    1. You kept the parts I loved, so I have to learn a bunch of stuff I'm not interested just to play what I could have already played in the old version,
    or
    2. You changed what I liked, so it's not as fun anymore.

    The third possibility, that I like the new version more, is unlikely, simply because I already had time to fall in love with the first one.
    Pretty much this.
    Even, or perhaps especially, in settings where change and development is an integral part, such as Rokugan (there is a constant advancement of story), this is a constant problem. Goodness knows I was less than pleased with Dragonlance after the War of the Lance, Forgotten Realms after the Time of Troubles (not to mention the 4e nonsense), Mystara after the Wrath of the Immortals or Rokugan...well, there were actually some good story arcs after the Second Day of Thunder, but the best version of the setting is before the Scorpion Clan Coup. The whole Kali-ma debacle drove me away from the official stuff done with the setting. Now it's only personal canon.

    Edit: It's of course an entirely different animal if the PCs and players are responsible for advancing the story and changing the setting. Forcing the setting to stay static in spite of PC actions because you don't want the to change is bad.
    Last edited by BWR; 2014-06-09 at 01:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post

    I think this could have worked for Forgotten Realms as well. The big mistake was destroying the world first and then advancing the timeline by 100 years for 4th edition.
    Of course this is the dreaded non-gamer suit people. They want to keep FR active to make money. They would never consider the ''alternate timeline'' idea, where the old Realms are left alone and they just make a spin off. In their greedy eyes there ''must be only one''(even though they would own and get money from both). They want to ''trick'' and ''brain wash'' everyone into buying the new stuff. They even think the people that hate the new crap might buy it as it is the only stuff they can buy.

    And it is even worse when they only care about their 13 year old video game burnout customers.

    And you'd think that Wizard would have learned the lesson from the Dragonlance crap from a couple years ago.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    It would be interesting to design a setting to explicitly support both branching timelines and merging timelines, so that the different timeline advancements could be described as 'Temporal Loci'.

    Basically the idea would be that each GM's game represents a branched timeline originating from one of the Loci. The locus that the campaign was started from has a special relationship with that campaign, but other nearby Loci explicitly act as alien influences, where 'nearby' is something that is decided by the GM based on how far away things have diverged.

    So for example, you start your campaign in (Locus: Guild Era), where the world is filled with growing coallitions of skilled people who are creating international power-bases and the like, and the setting information about that point in the timeline centers around the Guilds and their schemes and so on. Then, 20 years later there would be (Locus: War for Empire), where a powerful warlord sweeps the lands and unifies them into a single empire. Since you didn't start on that locus, those events don't necessarily happen, but there is an explicit game-mechanical way for events of that alternate timeline to influence your timeline and cast shadows on it. The population of a city wakes up, all having had the same dream of a man in golden armor who united them, and that city starts behaving weirdly. A war engine invented during (Locus: War for Empire) shows up on the drawing board of a city architect, and he has an unshakeable compulsion to turn his design into reality.

    Essentially the game mechanics would tell you how to take the timeline updates or later eras and weave them into whatever your campaign was doing without replacing the events of your campaign. And in principle they'd be something the players could actively pursue strengthening or weakening (maybe there are temporal lynchpins that, if you line them up, cause everything to 'snap together' and you join a bundle surrounding a new Locus; or if you break them, it removes the influence of that Locus).

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by ClockShock View Post
    People hate change.


    This lie is repeated too much. People love change. People just like good change. Take for example:

    TV shows: People would love it if they changed the show by adding new, complex, exciting characters or taking the show in a new, but based off the continuity direction. But it is rare to get anything like that.

    Work: People would love it if upper management came up with a new way to get things done that was quick, easy, had no paper/computer work to do, and had no red tape to do. People would also love a change in their pay of getting more money or doing less work for the same pay.


    D&D: If Wizards came out with 3.75 that fixed all the stuff from 3.5, a great many people would like it and buy it.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Except that not everyone agrees on what makes 3.5 so bad. Really if a suggested change is anything less than a perfect blessing, someone will have a greivance with it, and some of those people will even be justified.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Exactly. If people really hated 3.5 as much as the Internet would have you believe, no one would be buying Pathfinder books (because they didn't fix most of it).
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    Except that not everyone agrees on what makes 3.5 so bad.
    Exactly People don't hate change, and people don't crave change. People like different things.

    Therefore it's impossible to make a change that doesn't annoy some of people. And by definition, the people playing the setting before the changes liked the setting then (or they wouldn't have been playing it), so the probability that they will dislike the changes is artificially higher.

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    This is why I prefer playing in a DM's own world. The only thing that matters is his initial creation and how the players affect it. In my old group new campaigns advanced the timeline, but stuff we did in those campaigns affected what happened. First campaign my cleric showed mercy to medusas. Later campaigns medusas would show up now and then as non-hostile NPCs assisting the party. They were "tamed". In a later campaign my character established a number of churches in various cities. In an even later campaign before the group broke up, the campaign was set a great deal of time later. Those same churches were still there strong as ever. Other party members had their own legacies, such as the rogue who became the King of Thieves. His thieves' guild became the dominant guild on the home continent.

    Published settings don't allow for that. Nothing the party does has any effect. The DM has to force it in the world if he even bothers or don't even bother with the new stuff. This is also parcel to why I don't like Society play. Players cannot establish legacies. You aren't remembered for past successes in future modules. Events happen only as the authors declare, not by any PC input.
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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by jedipotter View Post
    Worse is the sad kid effect. Often the original setting is made by and for adults. The original setting will have things like proud elven warriors. But then the change comes, and for some reason the change is made for (and maybe) by kids. So now you have half pureblood dragon men anime warlock ninja pirate.
    This is a huge thing for me not liking change you ghet peopel that are inspired by different media ( like anime) and put that inspiration into the game world and they never really fit or even belonged there. I like Inuyasha but i mean damn crap like that does not belong in ancient greece. not to mention when you start putting other wierd as crap anime inot settings where they belong.

    then you have ther wierd forgotten ralms timelines where they just decide " lets just screw everything up ever' *hello spellplauge bull-ish* some tard-o gets and idea and then tells somebody else DO THIS YES!! and it ends up just making everythnig sooo bad.. but that is just my own thing there.. ive alwasy ahted that mystra/mystara or wtf ever her name might be NOW is alwasy the single most important ANYTHING ever in all of the realms..

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    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    This is why I prefer playing in a DM's own world. The only thing that matters is his initial creation and how the players affect it. In my old group new campaigns advanced the timeline, but stuff we did in those campaigns affected what happened. First campaign my cleric showed mercy to medusas. Later campaigns medusas would show up now and then as non-hostile NPCs assisting the party. They were "tamed". In a later campaign my character established a number of churches in various cities. In an even later campaign before the group broke up, the campaign was set a great deal of time later. Those same churches were still there strong as ever. Other party members had their own legacies, such as the rogue who became the King of Thieves. His thieves' guild became the dominant guild on the home continent.

    Published settings don't allow for that. Nothing the party does has any effect. The DM has to force it in the world if he even bothers or don't even bother with the new stuff. This is also parcel to why I don't like Society play. Players cannot establish legacies. You aren't remembered for past successes in future modules. Events happen only as the authors declare, not by any PC input.
    This. I homebrew every game I have ever run. I've used modules once or twice, but I changed things to make them fit into my world.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    To say that there is nothing new under the sun, is to forget there are more suns than we could possibly know what to do with and that there are probably a lot of new things under them.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Why are timeline advancements never really good?

    The biggest danger with them is that the author's high-level story can start to become more important than the actions of the PC.

    That way lies madness.

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