- Gnome Stew - http://www.gnomestew.com -
Time Travel in RPGs: Impossible or Merely Tricky?
Posted By Scott Martin On August 10, 2012 @ 1:00 am In GMing Advice | 14 Comments
I’m looking around and planning interesting ideas for new campaign pitches. Many of the ideas fit one common theme… but there’s another that keeps creeping in the side. I love the idea of time travel adventures.
Does the complexity introduced by time travel doom any game? We experienced an increase in complexity, in our Time Preservers game–while part of the adjustment was to the system, another part was the complexity of plotting in time travel. It pays to be clear about your setting or system’s limit on time travel. In fact… let’s break it down a bit.
In almost every movie, book, or TV show about time travel, the limits on affecting the past are often laid out early. In many ways it’s how much you can alter the past that defines “how time travel focused” your game is.
An independent but related dial that you can twist in creating a time travel rich setting are destination restrictions. While the above are all about “what can you do in the past”, destination limits reduce the GM’s overhead a bit, by limited when you can go to. Some common limits are listed below.
Neither category was meant to be exhaustive–you can come up with more interesting examples for each category. Books alone offer many interesting ideas and combinations of ability to affect the past and destination limitations.
If the game you’re designing involves time travel, you should first decide on how much the campaign revolves around it. For a humorous game, getting to pop back exactly one hour to give yourself advice makes for a fun TV show style plot–interesting, but not something requiring a grand theory of time. (Hopefully, the one-liners are worlds better after the character has an hour to think them up!) Similarly, if time travel tops out at “Time Stop”, a power only the greatest wizards can control, an it just lets them get a superior version of haste… then it’s not the focus of the game. You can worry about its exact effects once your wizard starts playing with that power, fifty sessions from now.
It’s very easy for Time Travel to take over a game, even if it’s intended as a minor accent to a game offering lots of changes. Being unable to undo mistakes often trumps super science and incredible sorceries–if not the first time, on rematch.
Pay careful attention to the limits and make sure that your players know how flexible the universe is. You don’t want them getting frustrated by having WWII run on schedule even after they remove Hitler–or get him into art school.
I haven’t played in a system focused on time travel, though I’ve seen a few in stores. They’re always interesting to flip through… in fact Time and Temp sounded interesting enough that I picked it up. Who could resist Office Space + Time’s Fix-it People?
CºNTINUUM: Roleplaying in The Yet, looked interesting, but I wasn’t considering a time travel game when I flipped through it. The time battle mechanic seemed like a very interesting way to handle all of those “I left it for myself, later” coincidences. Plus it slowly rolls out the span–the times that a character can visit–so the GM doesn’t have to be ready for anywhen on day 1.
Has anyone run an interesting time travel game? Care to share advice and pitfalls? I’d love to hear about how you overcame some of time travel’s challenges–did you have to incorporate strict limits? Did you spawn multitudes of parallel universes?
People had fun time travel ideas in New Year, New Game. How has your game gone? What type of special prep are you doing for a time travel game?
I look forward to hearing about time travel in your games… maybe even before the article goes live!
Article printed from Gnome Stew: http://www.gnomestew.com
URL to article: http://www.gnomestew.com/gming-advice/time-travel-in-rpgs-impossible-or-merely-tricky/
All articles copyright by their individual authors. All rights reserved.