Crowdstorming Time (Travel)!

Most gameable campaign premise involving time travel with the following caveats:

* It puts time travel and paradoxes and such to use (i.e. it’s not a one-way “travel to the Jurassic to hunt dinosaurs” type thing)

* Is character-driven (rather than logic puzzle driven or mission-driven)

* Allows for several characters to be involved at once.

And … go.

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0 thoughts on “Crowdstorming Time (Travel)!”

  1. I am going to call Côme Martin to the rescue, here! He published several chronicles on french podcasts about time travel game and may have ideas for you.

  2. I always liked the premise and storytelling of the “Time Tourist Company” In theory they are all there only to watch and interact. Of course subversive motives always come up. Then some of the group are trying to keep events straight so they can go home to the correct time line….

  3. An all-elf party in DCC (you asked!). Everyone can warp time via the King of Elfland patron. In our game we had several loops within loops as we messed up, wound time back. messed up again, wound back further. I don’t think the GM enjoyed it but it was fun for us.

  4. In 2 weeks, a disgruntled scientist from your facility will kidnap members of the board of trustees and take them back in time. You have just been quietly given the ransom note and proof of life. You are in a board meeting and everyone is in attendance. What do you do?

  5. I use time travel sometimes when I’m running The Clay That Woke. In one game a Voice came to the Degringolade for a player minotaur and offered him something he wanted if he agreed to be sent to the future to kidnap and bring back a future enemy of it. So presumably the Voices are outside of time and know and operate throughout their whole timeline. When the minotaur met that enemy in the future it was a future version of one of the other player minotaurs, who had a name at that point, and a girlfriend who was a fierce action hero future version of a woman another player minotaur was crushing on. No paradoxes though. The player minotaur is either eventually offered that name or he isn’t. He either meets that woman and they click, or he doesn’t.

  6. I always liked the “Time Patrol” concept, where the party’s function is trying to preserve their home timeline, and there may be a team of antagonists who is trying to preserve their home timeline.

  7. Right, yeah, point two exists entirely to address the Time Corps type thing.

    I played the bejeezus out of Pacesetter’s Timemaster and it was great, but it was also entirely logic and mission stuff.

    I know someone’s gonna mention Continuum at some point as well, and I’m super aware of the game but there’s nothing in it that’s character driven.

    I’ve been poking at a time travel game for years and, because I’m stupid, I just today figured out the reason I can’t get past some clever procedures is that I don’t even know what the fucking premise would be. I just know I don’t need or want to do a logic puzzle game because that’s already been nicely done.

  8. Aaron Griffin yup, already have it.

    I’m pretty sure my collection of time travel RPGs is comprehensive. It’s been years since anyone mentioned a title I didn’t already have.

  9. Sorry, it’s a Nobilis reference. You play the guardian/embodiment of a concept, and you are responsible for protecting it from being destroyed as well as forwarding your conceptual and philosophical agenda. Sort of. So you’d all be playing characters with the same job from different time periods who want to protect and defend time, but have seriously different ideas about what that means. Just think about time as experienced before and after the clock as one axis of difference.

  10. I like mystery solving, and I like time travel. What I’ve realized from using time travel in games is that I don’t want tightly wound time mysteries, and I don’t want meet some historical figure stories. Go back and solve a crime before it happens, or before clues are spoiled, is fun. Meeting historical figures is fun in shows like Timeless, but gets old really fast in RPG gaming for some reason.
    I realized what I really want is to see what characters do when they know stuff about their own futures, or if they get a second chance at something. That’s the fun. Playing with knowledge and decisions. Traverser uses parallel quantum realities to create these kinds of stories. People meet alternate versions of people they know, or adult versions of people who died young, or find themselves in relationships and have to work it through. They know things about other people, actions they took in other realities, and how does that affect interactions and decisions in the current one?

  11. If I were going to design an original game / campaign around this premise, here’s what I’d do. Time travel is consciousness-only – your body doesn’t actually pass through time. You are psychically linked to the other PCs, so you can travel to any time when any PC is alive in their own body. When you do, you possess the body of someone who is connected to that PC. At character creation, you each get to identify some number of things about your character’s life situation that are problems for you and you want to change. You and your time travel crew can change those things, but whenever you are offered “succeed at a cost” in the time period when you are playing, the cost takes place in another PC’s home time period – and you don’t know which one until you travel there and find out. Additionally, the ways in which your relationships with the other PCs change over time affect the ways that your host bodies/identities behave. So for example if you have a huge fight with a PC in one time period, you might travel to another time period to find out that your host character is not speaking to that person’s host, or that they have a reputation for being incredibly short-tempered, or some other way that that relationship change resonates. The goal of the campaign is to have all players happy with the current version of the timestream at the same time.

  12. Jessica, have you read Mike McQuay’s Memories? It does the consciousness time travel thing a lot like your game idea. Might be my favorite time travel novel. It’s certainly in my top three.

  13. The party are all members of the lab that finally crack time travel, a quirky and close-knit group.

    But now someone’s trying to prevent that. They’re going through the character’s pasts, changing events in an effort to make sure time travel isn’t invented.

    You won’t all be the same when you’re done…but if all goes well, you’ll all still be the sort of people who would work together to invent time travel.

  14. It’s a great book. I’ll be interested in your thoughts on the Hersh character if you read it. Now I might have to read it again.

  15. I will admit I always thought playing a group of Wrinkles from Mage the Ascension could be interesting. Like maybe a larp where you are discussing why you let X Mage slide on this infraction or the other. Or swapping stories around the metaphorical campfire.

  16. Commenters!

    I would like to redirect you to the OP, and gently clarify that I’m not looking for, nor need, recommendations for existing games. Thank you!

  17. You are a hunter-killer team of guerillas from the future sent back in time to protect your future infrastructure and leadership from assassin robots, while fighting the urge to beat up bullies at your past self’s school or spending the next ten years before the war on a beach. Lots of “how far is too far” conundrums, especially since you know all the civvies will die anyway. Doesn’t HAVE to be mission centric.

  18. OK, so. Grab a world history study guide for a period you’re really into, and flowchart the salient events. Put each event on a notecard (let’s call “actual history” the pink timeline). Where possible, make some causal links.

    Start messing with it! Try to ponder the “but for” outcomes, like if so-and-so died instead of lived, or if a piece of equipment failed at a critical moment (or didn’t!). Put those on differently-coloured notecards (let’s call those the blue events). Follow the chain of reasoning, as much as possible, until you have a pink-blue timeline, with all the events that you think would change and all the ones that stay the same, or close enough to the same. Keep it really general.

    All of this is pretty generic stuff, so here’s where it gets hairy:

    Create characters in the pink-blue timeline. Don’t tell your players what’s different from real history, but if they ask, let them know the scenario assuming those changes. Like, don’t say “this is the three-pronged Cold War if Hitler didn’t break the Nazi-Soviet Pact,” but allude to it: “it’s 1960, and you’re spies in the Third Reich capital of Berlin… etc etc.”

    Once everyone gets started, and characters are introduced, indicate to the players that their characters remember history differently. They remember being spies in Berlin, but the enemy was the USSR, not Nazi Germany. Wait, didn’t the Nazis get wiped out…? What’s going on! Reveal the time travel angle slowly, and let them try to figure out the points of divergence. Once they have a time machine, let them go back to what they believe are the points of divergence, and change things. If they change a blue event and revert it to a pink one, great! If they change a pink event, well, then you need a new colour! Maybe green. If they change a blue event, but in such a way that the pink timeline isn’t re-asserted, you need yet another colour. They make orange notecards, right?

    Play until the characters (or the players) are reasonably happy with their rainbow timeline.

  19. Everyone plays the same person at different moments of the same story. They are trying to understand why their wife/husband left them. Messages can be sent backwards/forwards through time, albeit only indirectly. Everyone only ever plays the one scene — their slice of the relationship arc — over and over, changing their actions based on interpretation of the messages they receive from the past or future.
    (Inspired by Jessica Hammer’s ‘Powers of Time’ notion, though it also basically describes a game I made.)

  20. Just some inspiration on the psychic link/time communicator route.

    Initial premise, each character has a Future player and a Present player. Each player has a set of goals which may or may not coincide with their co-player’s goals.

    You could add complications to make it even more interesting; more than one Future player per character, each player is a Future character for another player (could get messy, see WhiteWolf’s Wraith) , team Future against team Present, each Player has a Character with two other Players acting as Future players from different timelines

  21. My premise is actually much better if everyone is assumed to have in-fiction memories (including future memories) of every other scene, rather than indirect communication methods — that way the players can simply use their direct observation of the other scenes as inputs for their next attempt to ‘fix’ their relationship. This also allows for Arrival-style structural ambiguity about when in the relationship each scene is occurring — scenes that start out feeling like they are early in the relationship can be flipped later and turn out to be near the end, etc.

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