Compatible Time Travel
Time manipulation has a special place in the realm of the supernatural. It offers endless possibilities and limitless power, but because of this can easily become game-breaking, create onerous repetition, or cause excessive confusion. This post has taken special care to present chrono-themed special abilities that play well with others and mesh with the role-playing format, all while still presenting a new collection of choices and mechanics to explore.
Time Travel in your Role-Playing Game
The following special abilities were designed to fit into your role-playing sessions. They avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with blindly allowing arbitrary time manipulation, and above all preserve linearity. Role-playing takes place in a serial world. Your friends, unfortunately, will often not want to re-experience the same event all over again. Combat takes long enough as is, and keeping track of what the state of the world used to be can be quite a burden. The abilities below are either executed entirely serially or put the game-state tracking burden on the player, not on others.
You develop the ability to jump back a bit in time to correct a recent mistake or take an alternative route. Presage Choice can be engaged when the character may choose between one of two choices, and in the event of an incorrect choice, can use the obtained knowledge to make the correct one. In order to preserve linearity, Presage Choice is activated by the player before the choice is made and allows them to automatically choose the desired outcome in a short-horizon choice scenario.
Several times per day, the character may, if given the opportunity to choose between a handful of options whose results are apparent within the range of their Presage Choice time limit, make the correct choice.
Example: You are chasing the enemy, but come to a fork in your path. Your quarry either went left or right, and you didn't see which way, and you must choose quickly and correctly or risk losing them. If you activate Preseage Choice, your character takes one path, and in the event it is incorrect, goes back in time and picks the other. At the game table, and to all other characters present, it looks as though the correct choice was made automatically.
Other potential uses:
- Ask someone their name, then go back in time and pretend you knew it all along
- Get a coin flip right every time
- Cut the blue wire
- Figure out which guard tells the truth, which one lies, and which one stabs people that ask tricky questions
- Identify the impersonator correctly in the classic which-one-is-the-clone problem
- Determine that yes, trust me, that door is actually trapped
The power level for Presage Choice can be modulated to act over a span of a few seconds to several minutes, or an hour. The more time you give, the more complicated things can get, so be careful.
You enhance your ability to reset time and redo your actions, only now you don't have to completely undo the present. This ability allows you to go back in time while leaving a recording of yourself to replay your actions as they were just committed. To any outside viewer, it appears as though two of you suddenly exist in superposition at the time of reset, one of which does what will already have occurred, and the other of which is the present version of you and continues to act anew.
To preserve linearity, Chrono-Shadow must be declared ahead of time. You gain a duplicate, and may act with both your character and the shadow copy as though they were both you. At the end of the ability duration (a round or two), the shadow copy ceases to exist.
Note that the `true' you mentally experiences everything that the shadow copy experiences. You can thus use it to collect knowledge, or suffer horrible mental scarring from terrible pain, etc.
Extension: Instead of pre-declaring the shadow and final copy, this extension allows you to choose which one you want to continue with at the end of the time limit.
You can now create a freeze-frame of your current state - to be reverted to at a time of your choosing. When you use Time Lapse, record your physical state (location, HP, status ailments). You may re-trigger Time Lapse at any point within a set horizon to revert to your recorded physical state, causing your present self to warp to your previous location and take on your recorded state while preserving your mental state (spells prepared, spells remaining, etc.). The rest of the world does not reset, but continues to linearly move forward.
Note that to prevent this from being game-breaking it may be necessary to prevent wand uses and other powerful magic item charges from being reset by Time Lapse.
Does Time Lapse automatically trigger on death? I'll leave that up to the DM.
Other Abilities for Chronomancers
Here are some other abilities that work well for chronomancers and are already part of most role-playing games:
- Haste and Slow: Spells that could be cast on yourself, others, objects, or even as an area effect
- Dexterity-based abilities: Your character can locally speed up time, making herself more dexterous. Feats, increased move speed, and reflexes all fall under this category
- Decreased Casting Times: Quicken spells and reduce the casting time of standard spells
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? Responses (5)
This is very well presented and well thought out article on using time based abilities is n roleplaying games. I like how you thoughtfully take in consideration the pragmatic requirements of running a table top game. I like how you suggest using Presage mostly to make yourself look cool.
Time lapse seems dangerously close to a save point ability though.
Overall nice discussion that goes deep and straight into the tabletop rather than dressing itself in literature and winking at the table top from across the room. Slick presentation as well.
I did try full scale time travel once, same place the party going back about a day, existing in two places, dying in one path to survive in another etc. It was really hard to manage and roleplay. Your version sounds much more interesting and can't wait to try it.
Very well presented and incredibly useful if you wanted to introduce time travel in a game.
I was thinking of the movie 'Knowing' and trying to figure out where that would fit. Seems like a cross between the first two. I like how that movie uses the choice tree and maybe the shadows we see are him just using Presage over and over.
This is quite good! I like the mechanics of Presage the most.