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  • How to make a working timetravel game

    The standard rules of mage are set so that time travel is exceedingly difficult. This helps to explain why mages don't mess with the continuum on a regular basis.

    I was hoping though to have a mage game wherein players travel to various periods in time, try to blend in with the locals, and then work toward some goal in each time period before moving on to the next one, all in the pursuit of some sort of overarching goal.

    So far, and this isn't set in stone, I'm thinking of house-ruling some of the time travel problems away (not sure how yet), and making the PCs mages from the time of judgement period who are going back in time to root out nephandic influence in the Traditions and the Technocracy to prevent the end of the world.

    I was wondering if anyone had any ideas regarding something like this for anything from rules changes, to story ideas, to methods of time travel, to maybe even a better plot.

  • #2
    I've got lots and lots of thoughts about time travel in Mage. Too many actually. There are a lot of ways of running time travel and how you handle it depends on what kind of story you are looking for. A Swiftly Tilting Planet is a much different story than, say, The Men Who Shot Mohamed. So there are a number of questions you need to answer, such as are the character going back to the real past? Can they change things? And is there only one past?


    Off hand here are a couple of story ideas:

    The characters can only travel back into the bodies of the people who held their Avatars. Their previous incarnations may not have been on the same side and can't be seen to work together.

    What happened in the past is important but so is what people think happened in the past. The characters can go back further in time, but their enemies have control of the history books.

    Certain key things must remain true. The characters can change the past but it won't take unless they make sure key (possibly arbitrary) events still happen in some form.





    Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
      Certain key things must remain true. The characters can change the past but it won't take unless they make sure key (possibly arbitrary) events still happen in some form.
      Would be a fun little twist if these guys from the very far future trying to prevent the end of the world had to ensure a key event of history still (possibly something very, very bad) ocurred. But in the process they end up facing other "good" time-travellers trying to stop such a thing because they don't know the whole picture.

      For example, 2000s mages, going through Times of Judgement go back in time to prevent the end of the world, in such an universe some catastrophical key event must be upheld, like Hitler's ascension to power because that put in motion a series of factors that would later lead to unity between the Paradigms. Only as they are there, mages from an earlier age (1970 or so) go back to kill Hitler before he is "Hitler", to try and prevent all the chaos and dying that followed War War II. Mages trying to stop the end of the world now have a moral dillema in their hands, possibly having to choose the lesser of two evils.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
        So there are a number of questions you need to answer, such as are the character going back to the real past? Can they change things? And is there only one past?
        So, the intent is the characters are going back to the actual past. They must be able to change things. They are trying to prevent the end of the world. I'm still trying to think of how to handle the past. The way they did things in Back to the Future is fun but really hard to pull off in an RPG. The more sensible way I can think of would be to consider their entry into the past as the creation of a divergent timeline... I think.

        Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
        Off hand here are a couple of story ideas:

        The characters can only travel back into the bodies of the people who held their Avatars. Their previous incarnations may not have been on the same side and can't be seen to work together.
        Sounds like one fun way to go about it.


        Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
        What happened in the past is important but so is what people think happened in the past. The characters can go back further in time, but their enemies have control of the history books.

        Certain key things must remain true. The characters can change the past but it won't take unless they make sure key (possibly arbitrary) events still happen in some form.
        I hope to give players free reign to completely screw up the future.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Rotwood View Post

          Would be a fun little twist if these guys from the very far future trying to prevent the end of the world had to ensure a key event of history still (possibly something very, very bad) ocurred. But in the process they end up facing other "good" time-travellers trying to stop such a thing because they don't know the whole picture.

          For example, 2000s mages, going through Times of Judgement go back in time to prevent the end of the world, in such an universe some catastrophical key event must be upheld, like Hitler's ascension to power because that put in motion a series of factors that would later lead to unity between the Paradigms. Only as they are there, mages from an earlier age (1970 or so) go back to kill Hitler before he is "Hitler", to try and prevent all the chaos and dying that followed War War II. Mages trying to stop the end of the world now have a moral dillema in their hands, possibly having to choose the lesser of two evils.
          The other "good" time-travellers sounds like an awesome idea.

          As for upholding things and ensuring key events happen, I'll leave what the players feel they have to uphold to them. Then I'll create drastic changes in the future based on every major event they change, and subtle ones just because they traveled to the past. I simply plan to point the players at the "bad guys" and give them information about what these guys supposedly did that led to the end of the world.

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          • #6
            Which leads me to the question, what events did lead to the end of the world of darkness?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Spacecat View Post
              So, the intent is the characters are going back to the actual past. They must be able to change things. They are trying to prevent the end of the world. I'm still trying to think of how to handle the past. The way they did things in Back to the Future is fun but really hard to pull off in an RPG. The more sensible way I can think of would be to consider their entry into the past as the creation of a divergent timeline... I think.
              Pitching in an idea for the creation of a divergent timeline as I agree that would indeed make things easier to handle for the Storyteller: in one of the older Vampire's supplements for blood sorcery there is this ritual:

              Turn Back the Skies
              The constellations symbolized within the bull-slaying scene in a Mithraic temple all seem to connect to the precession of the equinoxes - specifically, the transition from the Age of Taurus to the Age of Aries. A few powerful ashipu can use the Mithraic mysteries to send a soul back in time, from the present Age of Pisces to the twilight of the Age of Aries. This requires the sacrifice of a ram in an authentic Mithraic temple, and an armillary sphere (a device that depicts the constellations and the zoadiac, celestial equator and other map-lines of the heavens). These ashipu send minions back in time to seek long-lost secrets. Each use of the ritual can send several people back in time - a whole coterie of characters, in fact.

              System: The magician's player spends a point of permanent Willpower while the ram's blood falls onto the subjects, and then turns the armillary sphere from the current heavenly configuration to the sky of the desired time. The souls of the subjects flash back in time and possess the bodies of mortals undergoing Mithraic initiation in that temple. Mithraism flourished from 68 B.C to early in the 5th century A.D so a sorcerer can send people to any time in that span. Those ashipu who continued to practice the Mithraic mysteries after the decline of the mortal faith my provide limited access to other times, at the Storyteller's option. The time travelers spend one lunar month in their stolen bodies before automatically returning to their own time. If a time traveler dies in his boroweed flesh, his soul never returns. Time travelers have no supernatural powers (they are mortal now, after all), but retain all their Abilities. A time traveler can also call upon one dot of any Abilities the possessed person had that he does not. (This incidentally lets the interloper speak the possessed person's language.)

              Any ashipu who knows this spell warn time travellers to avoid changing history. Causality can adjust to a few knocks, but murdering famous historical figures or teaching the Maccabees how to make gunpowder destroys the foolish character. If a time traveler deliberately tries to cause such a drastic change to history, the character's soul instantly snaps back to his body, which then explodes and burns to ash. Storytellers should not take these "rules" too seriously, though. Turn Back the Skies is so powerful - and beyond the reach of typical Vampire characters - that Storytellers can treat it as a plot device that follows whatever rules their story demands. For instance, if a character does something by accident that could change history, you could let the player devise a plan to put history back on tract. Suppose, for example, that a time traveler accidentally kills the young Nero before he became emperor. The players might suggest finding a double to take Nero's place. The characters have the rest of the month to find a lookalike before vengeful History destroys them. Given a choice between killing characters and shunting them into a thrilling new story, we recommend the story.

              My idea being, the mages in your story could come across this ancient ritual, decide to adapt/translate the ritual to True Magick and add a different spin to it - borrowing Ramnesis' idea -: to avoid being powerless when they go to the past, these mages could be using the Mithraic temples and the faithful within simply as a focal point/temporal Shallowing/entry zone for the their conciousnesses in such an old time, instead of taking the bodies of the mortals undergoing Mithraic initiation; once in the stream of the space-time continuum (the ritual would involve they knowing roughly who and where the people who held their Avatars were in that age) their minds would navigate the fabric of time seeking these people. Maybe the unforeseen consequences of adapting such a powerful linear/static ritual into True Magick was a huge Paradox backlash that destroyed their "current ages" bodies - since their conciousnesses were already projected in the past the ties are merely severed, effectively trapping them in the past and disconnecting them from their original reality. Which would explain why they can change history freely - because the future is not yet written as they would be in an alternate reality.
              Last edited by Rotwood; 04-06-2017, 11:01 AM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Spacecat View Post
                Which leads me to the question, what events did lead to the end of the world of darkness?
                That depends on which TOJ ending you are going with. You don't have to stick to one, though. You can layer the major events your characters change so that in stopping one major enemy they advance the causes of another. The Time of Judgement, then, could be less a specific chain of events and more an almost unavoidable end date. The real question then is what is pushing that deadline and how.

                Going back to time travel in general:

                If you are going the alternate timeline route, you should probably answer what happens to the original timeline. Do its inhabitants get a limited amount of time to undo the characters' changes? Does it continue to exist as if nothing happened? How you answer that will have a profound impact on the course of the game. For instance, if it is the former the characters need to spend time defending and solidifying their changes before they move on. If the latter, they can stop the apocalypse, but its engineers still exist.


                Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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                • #9
                  That sounds great. I can imagine an NPC explaining to the PCs how he found this ancient Mithraic Time Travel ritual in a vampire library that he took the liberty of improving so that they could use it to jump into the past hosts of their avatars in order to Save the World!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post

                    That depends on which TOJ ending you are going with. You don't have to stick to one, though. You can layer the major events your characters change so that in stopping one major enemy they advance the causes of another. The Time of Judgement, then, could be less a specific chain of events and more an almost unavoidable end date. The real question then is what is pushing that deadline and how.
                    True that. I'm guessing I'll start with the fall of the gauntlet and the Marauder War thing and go from there.

                    Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
                    Going back to time travel in general:

                    If you are going the alternate timeline route, you should probably answer what happens to the original timeline. Do its inhabitants get a limited amount of time to undo the characters' changes? Does it continue to exist as if nothing happened? How you answer that will have a profound impact on the course of the game. For instance, if it is the former the characters need to spend time defending and solidifying their changes before they move on. If the latter, they can stop the apocalypse, but its engineers still exist.
                    I'm guessing the original timeline would exist in some sense but be of no more real consequence to the characters in the new timeline. But I won't tell the players this.

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                    • #11
                      I now wish I had all the TOJ books.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post

                        Off hand here are a couple of story ideas:

                        The characters can only travel back into the bodies of the people who held their Avatars. Their previous incarnations may not have been on the same side and can't be seen to work together.
                        This is worthy of its own RPG it's so good. Wow.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by GogariGlenRoss View Post

                          This is worthy of its own RPG it's so good. Wow.
                          Thanks! Glad you liked it.


                          Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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                          • #14
                            It pretty much solved a lot of my time travel game problems in one go... not to mention the crazy story potential.
                            Mage 1 "Hey, I'm Abe Lincoln!"
                            Mage 2 "Don't you die in a week or so?"
                            Mage 1 "Quick, we have to change history and go back!"
                            Mage 2 "Dude, we're stuck here for a month."

                            (So ya, thanks Ramnesis)

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