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Pulling things from the future into the present--Time 4 or Time 5?

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  • Pulling things from the future into the present--Time 4 or Time 5?

    I'm inclined to think that if a mage reaches into the past and pulls something into the present, that's Time 5--even though it's "future travel" for that object, it modifies the past, the way past travel would. So would pulling something from the future be Time 4, because it's modifying the future, the way future travel would? From the mage's reference frame there is no temporal paradox. He's altering the future, which hasn't happened yet. But from the reference frame of the object traveling backward in time, the object's past is being modified by its travel. So is that also affecting the "past" and therefore a Time 5 Effect? I'm only about 65% sure it isn't. But it brings up another question: what does it mean to bring something out of the future, when the future is uncertain? Can you just pull in something from the likeliest future, or with more successes can you retrieve objects from less likely futures?
    Last edited by Faradn; 02-11-2017, 04:42 AM.

  • #2
    My first thought is, the object is traveling through time, therefor it's Time 5.

    My second thought is, if your mage doesnt think the future exists, they will not be able to travel there.

    Though that would make traveling to the past a bit of a one way trip.


    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running Chapter 37: The Shadow Coven

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Faradn View Post
      I'm inclined to think that if a mage reaches into the past and pulls something into the present, that's Time 5--even though it's "future travel" for that object, it modifies the past, the way past travel would. So would pulling something from the future be Time 4, because it's modifying the future, the way future travel would? From the mage's reference frame there is no temporal paradox. He's altering the future, which hasn't happened yet. But from the reference frame of the object traveling backward in time, the object's past is being modified by its travel. So is that also affecting the "past" and therefore a Time 5 Effect? I'm only about 65% sure it isn't. But it brings up another question: what does it mean to bring something out of the future, when the future is uncertain? Can you just pull in something from the likeliest future, or with more successes can you retrieve objects from less likely futures?
      Seems like the answers are really dependent on how time (not Time, the Sphere) works in your game. And I don't mean in the sense of "How does this particular Mage perceive time as working within their Focus?" unless every Mage in the world is effectively playing their own game as it makes everything so relative mutual comprehension is going to have serious issues. Characters might not be able to do all the same things with the same Sphere, but the suite of possible uses needs to be consistent across the board.

      If the future doesn't exist until it happens, then you've blocked off a lot of the utility of Time.
      If the future is indeterminate and the past is determinate, then you're in the zone you're starting from.
      If the future and past function the same, either determinate or indeterminate, then it should take the same expertise to access the timeline on either side of the present.

      And it might not be exactly that simple.
      Is the timeline the mage personally experiences more "set"? (If I don't remember using my car keys to start my car that morning and I grab them from the future...)
      Or that of a potential and known target? (If I grab your car keys in the future so you don't fulfill my vision that you drive drunk and die in a car wreck...)
      Are "objects/events/persons of importance" more "set" because of the effect they have on the timelines of other objects/events/persons (who may not be as "important"). (If I grab the the stick punch at the receiving end of the Zimmerman telegraph or boost the crown jewels.)

      It's going to also run right into issues of paradox and paradox qua Paradox/coincidental vs. vulgar that also need to be addressed when characters (including NPCs whose actions impact PCs) use the Time Sphere to mess with things.

      I'd make sure to flesh this out before it becomes an issue. Especially if an NPC is using Time to interfere with the past or future of the characters. Such as: "Gosh darn", says the Nephandi Time Master, "I sure HATE that Wonder the PC is using...." What level of Time does it take for him to snatch it from the character at some point before the encounter? What are the consequences for them depending on when they grab it? (When the PC is asleep and it's on the bedside table vs. right out of her hand at the start of the encounter that just started.) What if there are really salient reasons not to do either of those things (probably because of the BOOM factor Paradox-wise)? So what about snatching it from the nightstand when the PC goes to bed the night AFTER the encounter, but now the Nephandi has it DURING the fight and uses future it against the PC in question, even though she actually still has present it as well? Vs. waiting for the encounter to end and doing the same thing?

      And, if your plotline involves a LOT of some Time Master/Archmaster(s) doing a lot of cross-time plotting and it's central to the major plotline(s), you REALLY have to have that all sorted out... Believe me, I'm going through it right now in our current game.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Ajax View Post

        Seems like the answers are really dependent on how time (not Time, the Sphere) works in your game. And I don't mean in the sense of "How does this particular Mage perceive time as working within their Focus?" unless every Mage in the world is effectively playing their own game as it makes everything so relative mutual comprehension is going to have serious issues. Characters might not be able to do all the same things with the same Sphere, but the suite of possible uses needs to be consistent across the board.

        If the future doesn't exist until it happens, then you've blocked off a lot of the utility of Time.
        If the future is indeterminate and the past is determinate, then you're in the zone you're starting from.
        If the future and past function the same, either determinate or indeterminate, then it should take the same expertise to access the timeline on either side of the present.

        And it might not be exactly that simple.
        Is the timeline the mage personally experiences more "set"? (If I don't remember using my car keys to start my car that morning and I grab them from the future...)
        Or that of a potential and known target? (If I grab your car keys in the future so you don't fulfill my vision that you drive drunk and die in a car wreck...)
        Are "objects/events/persons of importance" more "set" because of the effect they have on the timelines of other objects/events/persons (who may not be as "important"). (If I grab the the stick punch at the receiving end of the Zimmerman telegraph or boost the crown jewels.)

        It's going to also run right into issues of paradox and paradox qua Paradox/coincidental vs. vulgar that also need to be addressed when characters (including NPCs whose actions impact PCs) use the Time Sphere to mess with things.

        I'd make sure to flesh this out before it becomes an issue. Especially if an NPC is using Time to interfere with the past or future of the characters. Such as: "Gosh darn", says the Nephandi Time Master, "I sure HATE that Wonder the PC is using...." What level of Time does it take for him to snatch it from the character at some point before the encounter? What are the consequences for them depending on when they grab it? (When the PC is asleep and it's on the bedside table vs. right out of her hand at the start of the encounter that just started.) What if there are really salient reasons not to do either of those things (probably because of the BOOM factor Paradox-wise)? So what about snatching it from the nightstand when the PC goes to bed the night AFTER the encounter, but now the Nephandi has it DURING the fight and uses future it against the PC in question, even though she actually still has present it as well? Vs. waiting for the encounter to end and doing the same thing?

        And, if your plotline involves a LOT of some Time Master/Archmaster(s) doing a lot of cross-time plotting and it's central to the major plotline(s), you REALLY have to have that all sorted out... Believe me, I'm going through it right now in our current game.
        This sounds like a nightmare. Since I'm not up for a headache of these proportions, I would simply say that the Technocracy claims that time travel is 100% impossible, as do the Traditions. Masters of Time know that they COULD reach into the past but the paradox inflicted on them and others would be devastating. Nephandi and Marauders with Time would love to disrupt things, but an Archmage of unknown origin is counter-magicking attempts by Mages to go back or forward in time, and they can't seem to overcome him. If the Technocracy or Traditions REALLY wanted to go back/forwards in time they could manage it, but they are aware of the risks it would present to the world and so they both veto it.

        Does this eliminate Time's utility? Not at all. You can slow things down, speed things up, perceive the movement of time, time things perfectly, make effects last for much longer, set up spells which will only go off at a specific time... you get the gist. Time Travel is unnecessary and only serves to destroy the way the game functions.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post

          This sounds like a nightmare. Since I'm not up for a headache of these proportions, I would simply say that the Technocracy claims that time travel is 100% impossible, as do the Traditions. Masters of Time know that they COULD reach into the past but the paradox inflicted on them and others would be devastating. Nephandi and Marauders with Time would love to disrupt things, but an Archmage of unknown origin is counter-magicking attempts by Mages to go back or forward in time, and they can't seem to overcome him. If the Technocracy or Traditions REALLY wanted to go back/forwards in time they could manage it, but they are aware of the risks it would present to the world and so they both veto it.

          Does this eliminate Time's utility? Not at all. You can slow things down, speed things up, perceive the movement of time, time things perfectly, make effects last for much longer, set up spells which will only go off at a specific time... you get the gist. Time Travel is unnecessary and only serves to destroy the way the game functions.
          Time travel can be a pain to deal with, but if there's any game where dealing with complicated metaphysics should be on the table, it's Mage--where ambiguity and subjectivity are often considered features, not bugs.

          Ajax, I'll get to your comment when I have more time, you raise a lot of interesting questions.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Faradn View Post
            Time travel can be a pain to deal with, but if there's any game where dealing with complicated metaphysics should be on the table, it's Mage--where ambiguity and subjectivity are often considered features, not bugs.

            Ajax, I'll get to your comment when I have more time, you raise a lot of interesting questions.
            The issue is that there isn't really a 100% paradox-free version of time-travel which can be modeled with any fidelity whatsoever in a storytelling system, unless it is done by an NPC. An NPC can do something planned and cause a planned weird time paradox, if a PC just does it without warning the ST can't prepare for it since they didn't know when they'd do it or why.

            Now you could storytell the outcomes of creating an paradox, have them whisked off to some particularly nasty Paradox realm featuring futures which never were... but basic questions remain. Can't I just have a conversation with future me? If the future is indeterminate, I get the most likely me, and they can tell me everything as they perceived it and I can gain a wealth of knowledge from this. Can I send knowledge to Past Me? And is the ST in charge of what Future Me is doing? If Future Me has Time 5 (or higher even), why aren't they interfering? Surely if Present Me would reach into the past to alter things, some future version of me would be meddling continuously?

            If I decide to use Time 5, Correspondence 5 and Life 5 to give a heart attack to a Technocrat an hour behind me, can I decide to do it and wait to see if it worked or not? Or do the changes to the Past only manifest ONCE I've done them? In that case you CANNOT be reaching into the Past you come from, you must be effectively creating a new timeline and shifting yourself into it... in which case you're no longer surrounded by the other PCs. You're surrounded by NPCs with the same names and motivations and backstories, in a world where that Technocrat died of a heart attack. The PCs are back in the timeline you originated from, where you just disappeared, migrating to a newly spawned timeline that you effectively made yourself. To them you were written out of existence, while from your perspective everything went to plan.

            Time Travel simply cannot exist in a logically consistent universe, without falling into a web of Beta Timelines and Possible Futures a la Steins;Gate, the issue with that however is that it's a story told by one person writing it down, not a collaborative piece where the characters can suddenly drop random bullshit on the narrator. Tabletop is not the medium for time travel. At all. That is, unless there is extensive preparation and that is what the chronicle is ABOUT.
            Last edited by 11twiggins; 02-11-2017, 03:25 PM.

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            • #7
              Correspondence can get you things you misplaced, so I don't think it is a big deal to allow Time to do the “same“.

              I would demand more successes for unlikely futures, and when the duration is due, then the object returns to its own time.


              So, this Zen Master walks up to a hot dog stand and says: "Make me one with everything!"

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              • #8
                11twiggins, you raise some valid concerns. However, this thread is about aspects of time travel in Mage. Inherent in that kind of discussion is the assumption that time travel in Mage is worth exploring. It's possible that it is not, but that is a topic for a different thread. Your comments aren't just off-topic, they are anti-topic.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Faradn View Post
                  11twiggins, you raise some valid concerns. However, this thread is about aspects of time travel in Mage. Inherent in that kind of discussion is the assumption that time travel in Mage is worth exploring. It's possible that it is not, but that is a topic for a different thread. Your comments aren't just off-topic, they are anti-topic.
                  You're right, that was somewhat akin to thread-capping. My point is that a simple solution for STs who aren't looking to make their Chronicle about Time Travel, a topic which is so incredible and important and worth exploring that it must be given proper respect (that is, the chronicle should be Time-focused), is to simply state outright that forward/backward manipulation of time isn't on the table.

                  I'm not saying it isn't worth exploring, I'm saying that it's something that is best explored in depth and with a LOT of preparation. In your "standard" Mage Chronicle (if there is such a thing), PCs can be told that reaching into the future isn't possible, and that those who attempt to change the Past disappear into an alternate timeline. It's a quick fix which allows Chronicles which aren't about Time Travel to remain unhampered by the HUGE topic.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ajax View Post
                    If the future doesn't exist until it happens, then you've blocked off a lot of the utility of Time.
                    If the future is indeterminate and the past is determinate, then you're in the zone you're starting from.
                    If the future and past function the same, either determinate or indeterminate, then it should take the same expertise to access the timeline on either side of the present.
                    I don't think it works very well, at least for me, to have really black and white rules about the realness of the past versus the realness of the future. It seems like both are somewhat fluid--but the past is more solid and therefore harder to affect. Also the future likely has at least some solidity as well. Some things are fated to happen. A lot of people fear ambiguity because it makes things confusing. I think with time travel you need some ambiguity. A rigid metaphysical structure is too brittle to withstand the tempest that is time travel.

                    Originally posted by Ajax View Post
                    And it might not be exactly that simple.
                    Is the timeline the mage personally experiences more "set"? (If I don't remember using my car keys to start my car that morning and I grab them from the future...)
                    Or that of a potential and known target? (If I grab your car keys in the future so you don't fulfill my vision that you drive drunk and die in a car wreck...)
                    Are "objects/events/persons of importance" more "set" because of the effect they have on the timelines of other objects/events/persons (who may not be as "important"). (If I grab the the stick punch at the receiving end of the Zimmerman telegraph or boost the crown jewels.)
                    I'm inclined to make the person using the magic the frame of reference. As much as it is possible to do so, it seems to simplify things. This necessarily means you think of both the past and the future as less real than the present, but I'm okay with that. I think. These are not easy answers.

                    Originally posted by Ajax View Post
                    I'd make sure to flesh this out before it becomes an issue. Especially if an NPC is using Time to interfere with the past or future of the characters. Such as: "Gosh darn", says the Nephandi Time Master, "I sure HATE that Wonder the PC is using...." What level of Time does it take for him to snatch it from the character at some point before the encounter? What are the consequences for them depending on when they grab it? (When the PC is asleep and it's on the bedside table vs. right out of her hand at the start of the encounter that just started.) What if there are really salient reasons not to do either of those things (probably because of the BOOM factor Paradox-wise)? So what about snatching it from the nightstand when the PC goes to bed the night AFTER the encounter, but now the Nephandi has it DURING the fight and uses future it against the PC in question, even though she actually still has present it as well? Vs. waiting for the encounter to end and doing the same thing?
                    It might bear more pondering, but at the moment my thoughts on the Nephandus example are that all Adept and Master level magic is powerful, and if it's Vulgar it will tend to be hard to do in the middle of combat. He could grab some version of a Talisman--or he could just stop time and casually slit the throat of everyone in the cabal. Dealing with Talismans is not all that hard--they are physical objects you can sunder with Matter 3, or turn to cheese with Matter 2. I would hope that an ST wouldn't do that willy-nilly though, for story purposes. Casually destroying or copying or tele-stealing Talismans has a kind of "vampires into lawn chairs" vibe to it.

                    Originally posted by Ajax View Post
                    And, if your plotline involves a LOT of some Time Master/Archmaster(s) doing a lot of cross-time plotting and it's central to the major plotline(s), you REALLY have to have that all sorted out... Believe me, I'm going through it right now in our current game.
                    Good luck, man, that sounds like it would be a lot of work--but potentially a lot of fun. I definitely agree that the metaphysics of time and Time need to be fleshed out a lot before one plays with them. Above I mentioned ambiguity being necessary--but it has to be careful and thoughtful ambiguity. Time is a whole other realm in a sense, like the Umbra.
                    Last edited by Faradn; 02-11-2017, 06:43 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 11twiggins View Post

                      You're right, that was somewhat akin to thread-capping. My point is that a simple solution for STs who aren't looking to make their Chronicle about Time Travel, a topic which is so incredible and important and worth exploring that it must be given proper respect (that is, the chronicle should be Time-focused), is to simply state outright that forward/backward manipulation of time isn't on the table.

                      I'm not saying it isn't worth exploring, I'm saying that it's something that is best explored in depth and with a LOT of preparation. In your "standard" Mage Chronicle (if there is such a thing), PCs can be told that reaching into the future isn't possible, and that those who attempt to change the Past disappear into an alternate timeline. It's a quick fix which allows Chronicles which aren't about Time Travel to remain unhampered by the HUGE topic.
                      Fortunately there's a lot of (real) time to prepare. If you're an ST and there's a Time Mage in the group, they're going to take awhile to get to Mastery if they ever get that far. In the meantime it seems fine to me to include just a few cryptic messages from a future version of a PC. I don't think players are going to feel cheated if there isn't a constant stream of advice from their future character. Affecting the past is never easy. If you really don't want to ever deal with these things in a given game you're running, it seems like the fairest way is to just not include PC's that prioritize Time--or at least be very clear about the limits you're placing on its functionality so the player can make an informed choice.
                      Last edited by Faradn; 02-11-2017, 07:07 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Faradn View Post
                        Fortunately there's a lot of (real) time to prepare. If you're an ST and there's a Time Mage in the group, they're going to take awhile to get to Mastery if they ever get that far. In the meantime it seems fine to me to include just a few cryptic messages from a future version of a PC. I don't think players are going to feel cheated if there isn't a constant stream of advice from their future character. Affecting the past is never easy. If you really don't want to ever deal with these things in a given game you're running, it seems like the fairest way is to just not include PC's that prioritize Time--or at least be very clear about the limits you're placing on its functionality so the player can make an informed choice.
                        Exactly. Which is why I think this is important.

                        Making Time/time fluid and unpredictable, something which obeys different rules at different times... is a bit of a "fuck you" to the person who paid those dots, freebies and EXP. You probably don't mean it that way when you say that time is fluid, but when people talk about powers that way I always get a tad edgy. To be clear I don't think you're saying "I will change how effective Time is drastically throughout a Chronicle", but I want to be 100% clear on something... never make your Players feel cheated.

                        If Time Travel won't be possible, tell them. If it will be a bit wibbly-wobbly and it will be in your gift to decide if it does/doesn't work, tell them. If recovering from wounds will be a bit of a quick patch-up rather than months of recuperation, tell them so that they don't come in with Life 3, Intelligence 5 and Medicine (First Aid) 5, expecting to be the Saintly Healer of the group who is quickly side-lined by your decision to make recovering from wounds more trivial.

                        No choice is an innately bad choice as long as you discuss it with your players before they put the dots on the sheet. So if time is... a bit of a jumble, and doesn't obey logical rules, be clear about that and let them make their choice.

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                        • #13
                          The idea that the way Spheres--all Spheres--work is somewhat contextual is part of the price of admission for Mage, at least Mage games I run. I always make that clear when I run it. I try to get things as consistent as I can, but a dynamic magic system resists 100% consistency.

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                          • #14
                            One of my problems with time travel is that the Time sphere does not deal with relative velocities (that is a product of Forces). A simple example is going bringing something from twelve hours in the future. Because of the different angle of rotational velocity, an object twelve hours ahead will be going in the exactly opposite direction and, at 30 degrees latitude, will be traveling at a relative velocity to the Mage of 2,000 kilometers per hour (1,000 kilometers per hour for its velocity and 1,000 kilometers per hour for the Mage's velocity in the opposite direction). Even grabbing a one kilogram brick from the future (or the past) should be a potentially lethal effect unless the Mage has sufficient Forces to drain off the excess velocity and another Sphere to do something with the energy (simply transforming the energy into another form would still be dangerous) and understands enough physics to use it.

                            It gets worse the further back the Mage goes because of orbital velocity. At six months, the difference in orbital velocities is 60 kilometers per second, which turns the brick into a high explosive device because it is the equivalent of 400 kilograms of TNT. Since the majority of Mages probably are not physicists, the first time they try to grab something from the future (or the past) is probably going to be their last time of doing anything. A one kilogram brick traveling 2,000 kilometers per hour should probably do around 20 dice of lethal damage to the first thing that it hits, which is probably the Mage that moved it from its place in time (the penny would have around 300,000 Joules of energy, just in case anyone was wondering, making it around 15 times as deadly as a .50 BMG). A one kilogram brick traveling 60 kilometers per hour is a cruise missile, and would probably be doing something on the order of a few hundred dice of lethal damage. Of course, most Mages are probably going to be stealing larger objects from the future (or past), which will do proportionally more damage than a one kilogram brick.

                            A more effective thing to do with Time would be to combine it with Matter and Prime (and sufficient Quintessence) to make a permanent copy of an object lost to the past (you could even artificially age it so it appears to be genuine). If you want to regain the texts lost to the Library of Alexandria, forget time travel, just make a permanent copy of all of the scroll (one point of Quintessence should be sufficient per scroll). Of course, it would take ten million points of Quintessence to copy the entire Library of Alexandria (the produce of Quintessence from 4,000 Level 5 Nodes for a year according to Revised) but it is something to consider.

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                            • #15
                              Or you could just ignore rotational velocity. The cosmology that governs most mystic paradigms in Mage is geocentric.

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