Time Travel is My Bugbear (Or What Do People Think the Future Is?)

Every group has a type of adventure they don’t like. Every group has things that bother them, things that aggravate them, and things that annoy them. For most games, other than science fiction, the largest bugbear for most gaming groups is the time travel adventure. There are several main reasons for this:

One) No one likes to hear from the GM: “We’re sorry, you erased the Merovingians. Unfortunately, one of your ancestors was an important Merovingian. Your name is now Svetlana Obsobirsk, and you are a Muscovite.”

Two) Something that the characters previously did now never happened. This produces confusion, and likely aggravation.

Three) While such stuff provides good stories for novels and fecundity for the creative thinker, such as “The Grandfather Paradox” and “Who really invented the zipper?”, not all of these things make good gaming material.

Part of the problem also comes from really bad comic book stories like the X-Men’s “Days of Future Past” and “Days of Future Present.” One can only hope Marvel won’t make “Days of Future Future” and confuse everyone some more. Superhero gamers have an aversion to time travel stories, and after numerous stories with titles like “The Final Millennium Crisis On Infinite Secret Wars Dark Reign Earths,” who could blame them? Marvel even created a time travelling villain so ridiculously stupid that “Nimrod” became a derogatory term meaning “idiot.”

Who, indeed? I’m one of those people who had to put up with all that stuff, and didn’t like it one bit either. So how do we control time travel and make it not stink for the players of Legacies?

This involves some basic concepts:

One) Time Travel should generally involve the time travelling villain coming to where the heroes are. This allows the heroes to have multiple different futures or alternate timelines where different things can happen. Don’t let the heroes travel in time overmuch, unless you really enjoy messing with the heads of your players.

Two) Establish your time travel rules early and do not change them. This is one of the key principles of making your game fun. Time travel has to work pretty much the same for everyone, or the game will be a lot less fun.

Three) Make sure at least some time travellers can be defeated and their futures changed/altered/subverted so that they become ordinary villains in the timeline of the Player Characters. This gives them access to future tech without access to the ability to drop anvils on your players characters from ten thousand years in the future.

Four) Don’t do entirely what’s been done before. Your time travelling villains should not all be Degaton Clones or Kang/Immortus/Master of Time guys. Try this one on for size: What if Doctor Who had been created by the Shaw Brothers?

Look for that sourcebook; The Imperial Throne, in a couple of years. And wait for Doctor Hu, Servant of the Emperor of the Future! His calligraphy is perfect.

You’re going to love it.


A Special Thank You to Adamant Entertainment

As a result of reacquiring the ICONs license, Unkindness is once again available in two systems. I’d like to thank Adamant Entertainment, my editor, David Mattingly, Jason Walters, and the folks at Adamant for making my products more widely available.

Thanks guys.

Be a hero.

  • Upcoming Appearances

    Heroicon, Decatur, Illinois, May 15-17

    Michael will be appearing at Heroicon as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on panels. All proceeds from this convention go to benefit troops overseas with games, both donated and purchased, sponsored by a group called Games for Troops. I know it's a trek. Come join me anyway.

    Nexus Game Fair, Milwaukee, WI, June 25-28

    Michael will be appearing at Nexus Game Fair as a Special Guest, where he will run games and appear on Panels.

    Gencon, Indianapolis, IN, July 29-August 2.

    Michael will be attending Gencon and representing Blackwyrm Games, where his latest products will be playtested and he will have at least one signing.