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Old 08-11-2020, 06:34 AM   #1
C-Moon
 
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Default TTRPG Time Travel?

Hi heroes!

So in Suzerain (meta-setting for SWADE), there are many realms, both those of the mortals and the gods, but some take place in completely different centuries.

How do you deal with time-travel / time-bending adventures in your TTRPGs? Or how would you if it came up?

Going to different centuries isn't compulsory but it's a great option to have, I just wondered if anyone has any tips!
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:06 AM   #2
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Default Re: TTRPG Time Travel?

It really depends on what role time travel plays in the setting. I'm not familiar with Suzerain, so I can't comment on that. But if you're playing something like Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, different times are really just other places to visit, and no further thought is needed. If you're playing something in which time travel and paradoxes are the central focus on the game, such as in Continuum: Roleplaying in the Yet, then you have to keep careful track of events and sequences, and you have to think in four dimensions.
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:50 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by C-Moon View Post
Hi heroes!

So in Suzerain (meta-setting for SWADE), there are many realms, both those of the mortals and the gods, but some take place in completely different centuries.

How do you deal with time-travel / time-bending adventures in your TTRPGs? Or how would you if it came up?

Going to different centuries isn't compulsory but it's a great option to have, I just wondered if anyone has any tips!
One approach is to stick to no consequence interactions. You end up in a town in the mythic old west and discover it's been taken over by vampires who prey on strangers who drift into town. As strangers who drifted into town you deal with them. You've saved a few thousand lives including your own but you haven't changed recorded history. Even if you failed.

Another approach is to make your character's job "preserving history". In theory keeping someone from saving Alexander the Great's life is a major thing, but it's only a major thing if you fail and you're not gonna fail.

A third approach is to make history high inertia. Changing history isn't something so simple as killing Hitler. It's a massive project requiring sustained effort making it basically a campaign-long endeavour.

A fourth approach is to go ahead and create a new world if the players decide to mess with recorded history or that happens to be the current plot. As many new worlds as it takes, whether you are revising the present world or spawning alternate worlds. This is substantially the most challenging approach.
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Old 08-11-2020, 08:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: TTRPG Time Travel?

2 books with great advices about how to handle Time Travel in TTRPG :

"Gurps time travel"
http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/books/timetravel/
Available

"All Our Yesterdays: The Time Travel Sourcebook"
https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/...rev_3610.phtml
Hard to find. Most of it is Star Trek based, but there is a chapter on narrating Time Travel adventures that I found useful.
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Old 08-20-2020, 11:49 PM   #5
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Default Re: TTRPG Time Travel?

I don't think I've ever had a time-travel heavy campaign (and I do want to try it) but it's definitely come up a lot as a one time thing in campaigns. Because I have a lot of control over how it can and will work, I can usually know ahead of time if and what the players will do if time travel comes up and retroactively change things if necessary. And that's assuming they travel back to where they left from. Basically, it just requires knowing enough of what is going on in the setting, figuring out how much needs to be changed, then how much you actually want changed.

I also have a pretty simple rule most of the time with time manipulation; No traveling to the past. Time goes forward. Consequently, you also can't see the future because information would be traveling to the past. Mind, that probably skirts the question for the exact reason I came up with it.

However, my big thought on time travel in general (not just roleplaying) is that I don't think paradox is a real thing and only something that is set up in hypothetical situations (or similar such as in the artificial system of math). Any system of time travel that would actually work both wouldn't have paradox and would likely be difficult, inconvenient, and limited in some manner. It would take a lot of planning ahead of time (something I'd do well before even telling the players about the campaign idea). But also, playing fast and loose with it and might do something silly like Chrono Trigger's approach to time travel which basically amounts to "don't let logic get in the way of fun".
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Old 08-21-2020, 12:39 PM   #6
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Default Re: TTRPG Time Travel?

I've played in two campaigns that featured time travel, neither is a fondly remembered experience. One was pitched as an apocalyptic wasteland war, but almost immediately became about going back in time to prevent the war (not the campaign I expected or wanted). The other was a SF campaign that only featured time travel as an excuse for putting us back on track when we rejected the GM's rails (and ultimately led to us mutinying and just repeatedly making things worse until the GM took the hint).

Basically, my advice is "Don't add time travel to a campaign that isn't a 'time travel campaign' by design."
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Old 08-21-2020, 04:11 PM   #7
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I've successfully surprised PCs by having them time travel back in time after several sessions of a campaign, and then they ended up creating several events that they had heard about "off camera" in prior sessions where they crossed their own time tracks. They thought it was pretty funny: "Wait, *we* caused the mysterious warehouse fire we were investigating?"
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Old 08-21-2020, 07:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Johnston2 View Post
One approach is to stick to no consequence interactions. You end up in a town in the mythic old west and discover it's been taken over by vampires who prey on strangers who drift into town. As strangers who drifted into town you deal with them. You've saved a few thousand lives including your own but you haven't changed recorded history. Even if you failed.

Another approach is to make your character's job "preserving history". In theory keeping someone from saving Alexander the Great's life is a major thing, but it's only a major thing if you fail and you're not gonna fail.

A third approach is to make history high inertia. Changing history isn't something so simple as killing Hitler. It's a massive project requiring sustained effort making it basically a campaign-long endeavour.

A fourth approach is to go ahead and create a new world if the players decide to mess with recorded history or that happens to be the current plot. As many new worlds as it takes, whether you are revising the present world or spawning alternate worlds. This is substantially the most challenging approach.
There's also the Chrono Trigger approach, where history is fairly high-inertia but changes can still have a big impact; this works best if, as with CT, the characters only have specific eras they can travel to (and can generally only travel to some time after when they last left it).

That first bit sounds a bit odd, but it's basically just that there's no "butterfly effect" for changes that you make. Your first foray into time travel unmakes one of the characters, due to the search for her great-great-etc grandmother being called off, leaving said ancestor to die, when she is found (she's mistaken for her ancestor), but when you go off and save her ancestor yourself, this doesn't cause much of a change in history* (and even brings your friend back from nonexistence). An act of charity to a woman 400 years ago means her descendent from your time is kind and charitable rather than rude and greedy, but he's still the mayor, still married to the same woman, and still has the same children. It's a simplistic handling of time travel, but one that lets the PC's see the results they wrought without being overly complex, which is a huge plus. If I were inclined to do a time travel game, that's certainly the approach I would take.

Stable time loops (or whatever it's called, where it turns out the things the characters did in the past were always what had been done in the past, and by those same characters to boot) can be interesting for stories, although I'm personally not fond of them, but for a TTRPG trying to set that up is a recipe for outright disaster, as sometimes the only way to pull it off is a combination of extreme railroading and basically ignoring certain dice rolls (if a character found his own tomb with him buried with his wife, you obviously can't let either of them die prior to getting married, or be maimed/killed in a manner inconsistent with the previously-discovered corpses). Of course, some of that can be avoided by a clever/skilled GM, which I suspect was that case with Kale's warehouse story. In those cases, you can probably get away with allowing for several things to cause the loop (for a warehouse fire, you can set things up so the PC's are likely to cause it, but if they don't have something else do so; for the discovered-tomb example - inspired by the movie Timeline - even if the GM intends for the couple to have been two characters in particular, he could keep it open to make any possible pairing represented).

*There's some implication Yakra XIII's actions in the present resulted from the party's interference in the past, but nothing definitive. His attempted trial of the king and subsequent unmasking are related to the party's time-hopping, however, due to the scheme's reliance on the Rainbow Shell.
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Old 08-21-2020, 08:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: TTRPG Time Travel?

Some settings scream out for the occasional time travel story... because the base IP also occasionally does so... without actually being focused upon time travel the rest of the time...
Examples include Star Trek and Babylon 5. And the Feng Shui RPG, too; It's got a temporal hot war...

There's also the "Flashback into someone else" which allows players to affect the past without being actually present then/there. Think Quantum Leap, tho' it's been done in a couple of late night anthology shows, too. And the variation, done in Trek DS9 Past Tense, the protagonists are part of the history, and ST TOS in All Our Yesterdays, of an entire society making one-way trips into the past.
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Old 08-22-2020, 12:32 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
There's also the Chrono Trigger approach, where history is fairly high-inertia but changes can still have a big impact; this works best if, as with CT, the characters only have specific eras they can travel to (and can generally only travel to some time after when they last left it).
Generally, Chrono Trigger time travelers are not effected by changes to their own past. And Marle was conscious of a cold, dark place while she "didn't exist".

The time travel in the series is carefully planned out by the Entity (i.e. the planet itself, or possibly the collective consciousness of the planet's native life). It is doing everything it can to rid itself of a parasite. Drastic butterfly effects do not serve its purpose, but giving the hero a kick in the pants by taking the girl away right in front him - possibly to the Darkness Beyond Time - does.
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