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Time Sphere: Going Deeper

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  • Time Sphere: Going Deeper

    I have always been in favour of the idea that different paradigms should inform in some ways how the spheres can be used, and whether certain effects are even possible given the assumptions certain paradigms bring with them. However, I never really liked the way HDYDT handled the idea, treating things more like a sphere tax rather than giving paradigms different uses of the spheres (I'm looking at you Chi Healing).
    So instead, I thought I'd go about stating how I would have ruled these kind of things, and what better way to start than to dive straight first into what is personally my favourite sphere, and seemingly the most confounding sphere of the bunch, Time.
    Just to make things clear. I abhor any rules that state certain paradigms can't use a sphere without another, such as the whole "A bit of Spirit" stuff. I believe that every sphere, even with paradigms that strictly state that everything is spirits, should be able to be usable by the mage without need of extra spheres, like Spirit. However, if they did have spirit, then their level of control will be all the greater, as would the flexibility of their approach to dealing with this kind of magic.

    To warn you, this is going to be very lengthy, and go into great lengths about theoretical models on time and how time functions, so if you're not prepared for this, this probably won't be a good time to read on.

    How to use:
    It is not my intention for this to replaced the spheres chapters of the books, but rather to enhance and expand upon the idea presented, with the context of Paradigm having an effect on the power of the spheres. Although it is entirely possible to use this as a "skill tree" of sorts, I think it would work better as a way to get you thinking a little deeper about the sort of Time magic your mage would be capable off given their current beliefs, and as an aide to to consider in greater detail the ways a particular paradigm can affect how one thinks about the spheres.
    As an added bonus, I hope this may provide material for one to enhance any time travel stories in their game by providing them with something which is unfortunately lacking in many Time travel stories: Consistency of their own established rules.

    Time sphere

    What is time?

    The Mechanical model
    Time is a perfect constant. The ticks which mark the second are absolute and universal, and essentially immutable. When time passes it passes for everyone everywhere at exactly the same rate. Time is a fundamental law of the universe, malleable only by awakened magic. On that note, it is quite impossible to manipulate time itself, but you can alter our relationship to time, how time is perceived, and that is what understanding of the Time sphere allows.

    The Fluid model
    Time is like a river, it ebbs and flows through the universe, pooling in some areas, forming rapids in others. It is perfectly natural for time to be slow and dreary one moment, and then horrendously fast the next. What can feel like hours to one person may have been a few minutes to another, and that is because time is literally flowing differently for these two individuals. When you see areas which are “stuck in the past”, while other areas are modernising in the span of a few months, it is due to the flow of time.

    The Illusion model
    Time is an illusion, a lie that humanity tells itself to make sense of our experiences. Events occur, and time is just what we call the how we view those events either as memory or as expectation. From this basis, it’s clear to see that time magic is simply the manipulation of this illusion. What makes a second last a second is arbitrary, something agreed by consensus rather than anything intrinsic to the world. Therefor a second can last as long or as short as it needs to based entirely on how we remember or expect the second to last.

    The Entropy model
    Time is decay. That is the natural endpoint of all things. While we try to build things, time is the force which causes them to return to the ground. While Entropy magic may be able to control and manipulate where things land, Time is instead the mediator of the fall. Scientifically, physics cannot even describe time outside of the second law of thermodynamics, in which the direction of time is defined only be one state being of higher entropy than the past state. But even among artists, poets, musicians, and historians alike, time is well known as a slow and careful loss of all that is; time heals all wounds only because time takes away the pain and importance of that feeling. Progress increases entropy as it enhances the amount of things which are due to fall, in the same way that an empty universe has the least amount of entropy, while random noise has the most. Time is that process from empty, to filled, to incomprehensible. Whether this process is cyclical or terminal depends on one's view of Entropy itself.

    The Living model
    Time is a conscious force. Whether Time is a divine being, a spirit or group of spirits, an incomprehensible creature, or simply a being as human as any of us, time is actual a living force. One way to think of this is that the universe is like a giant stop-motion animation, and each moment that passes is after these conscious beings move everything about before the next frame. By definition, these conscious beings exist outside of time, so only the Time sphere can be used to interfere with their activity. Spirit alone is insufficient, and in many ways unnecessary, as is Mind and Life. Why these beings do what they do is up to personal interpretation and perhaps even spiritual communion. The point is that all actions are mediated by these beings, operating behind the scenes of the universe to move all things about.

    The Substance model
    Time is a physical thing which can be touched, seen, and perhaps even distilled and bottled. Whether it is a fine powder dispersed evenly across the world, a plasma like substance which can congeal, or even a fire which burns on a metaphysical fuel, what we experience as time is a reflection of how exposed we are to this substance. It may be that the older we get, the more of this substance accumulates around us, or it could instead be that the substance is everywhere in a state of equilibrium and it is how objects interact with this substance that determines the effects, similar to how the Higgs field is everywhere and interaction with it gives particles mass, or how noise is everywhere, but requires a living ear for it to become sound. It is with direct manipulation of this substance, whatever it is, that Time magic can be done. Neither Matter nor Forces alone are sufficient to manipulate these substances as such spheres assume “normal” interactions with the substances of time; and as with spirit, mind, and life with the living model, are not necessary to use Time.

    The Sequential model
    Time is a series of moments, or even the space between these moments. When we wake up in the morning, we get out of bed, make breakfast, eat it, and get ready to leave, that entire sequence of events is in the nature of time. At a micro level, this functions to define even the most minute of movements, creating a straight line from one event to the next, amounting to what is commonly referred to as the 4th dimension of duration, or the temporal dimension. On a macro level, these moments may instead be the ties which bind all events to one another. Time here is in the bloodlines which define our genealogy, going backwards towards our ancestors and forwards towards our descendants, or in the stream of ideas which pass between civilisations. To direct these events and the cascade that results from interrupted or shaped duration is how Time manipulation is achieved.

    Note- none of these models are necessarily mutually exclusive, though some may mesh better than others. For example, you could possibly have a Mechanical model which is enacted by the Substance model. “Time is governed by Temporal Particles which permeate all things at a constant speed. When we measure time, we are merely measuring the speed of these particles”. You could also have the Illusion model explaining why time is experienced as seen in the Entropy model “Things just fall apart, but that’s not time, it’s just because that’s what things do, they fall apart. Everything crumbles eventually, that’s the law of the world, there’s no force behind it, it just is.” Even the most seemingly opposing of views, such as the Mechanical model and the Fluid model, can be combined into a single paradigm, the most successful example of which being Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
    It may be helpful to consider which of these models are the “dominant” model for your mage. For example, if taking both the Living model and the Sequential model, are all the sequences under the control of the spirits? Or are the spirits simply a slave to the flow of sequences?

    What does time sense do?

    - The Constant
    Those who consider time to be a constant, either as a fundamental law, a result of divine power, or as a steady march towards or away from something, would sense the exact number of ticks, or millisecond, moments, grains of sand, or whatever “unit” they understood as the fundamental fraction of time, as an absolute count. They would be very easily able to line up events across multiple locations universally under a constant and consistent chronology. Their understanding of one moment would translate perfectly to understanding of all moments in tandem, allowing the world to become much more predictable through observation alone. Time sense can therefore be used to accurately predict the exact moments when certain actions will occur, such as the exact moment of impact of a punch, or the precise window of opportunity you have to act before something is too late.

    - Spontaneous Pools
    A more fluid approach to time would probably not allow for this level of precision, but instead allow the mage to take advantage of the way time ebbs and flows within a given setting to give themselves an advantage in their movement. Perhaps they can sense that time flows a bit slower on the stage compared to in the audience, they can take advantage of this by getting on stage and have more time to react to things, like say a musical beat or a series of question, making it appear to the audience members that their performance is more flawless than it might otherwise have been.

    - The Gaps Between Thought
    If time does not exist, and is merely an illusion, then it may be impossible to truly measure time, but instead you can understand how people perceive time. These mages can measure the gap between events, the assumptions tied to them, the strength of this illusion, and perhaps sense the assumptions that others have about how time functions for them. Without Mind it would be impossible to know exactly how they’d react, but knowing that they perceive the world as slower or faster than others around them can give them an advantage in how to treat them. Perhaps allowing the mage to react outside of initiative order, since order has little meaning when time is imagined.

    - Countdown
    If time is entropy, then the mage may be able to read better not just how long things have been, but how long things have left to go, giving them a number of some kind until some yet unknown fate bestows them, a fate that only knowledge of the future, or the Entropy sphere itself would be able to properly describe. The world to this mage would become a series of timers and countdowns, the significance of which other spheres or astute understanding and study would be required to decipher.

    -External Forces
    Seeing time as something other than a fundamental law, or lack there of, of the universe might let Time sense lead you see, measure, or sense whatever it is that was causes time to flow, be it the march of the gods of time, the burn of the fire of time, the flow of the river of time, or the time blobs which accumulate, giving them extra insight into which ways time may have been manipulated by other Time users. They might even be able to sense these spirits/fires/whatevers, and how close they are, where they are going, and what they might be doing.

    - String of Duration
    For mages that see time as a sequential passage would become accutly aware of the series of moments that pass, focus on the micro moment will enable them to better feel exactly how long events take to pass, while focus on the macro moments will allow them to understand the relative age of things. They may be able to plot the micro moments out like dots on a graph of the 4th dimension, or instead the macro moments may be felt out like a string of pearls, able to sense exactly where the strings have formed, and how many pearls there are between events.

    What is Past & Future?

    When it comes to the past and future, it is important to understand the mage’s view of fate vs chance. Although such a concept is of greater relevance to the Entropy sphere, whether the mage believes in a predetermined future or a potential future will heavily determine how future sight functions for the mage, and if future sight is even possible. There are therefore several different theorems a mage may be considering the future or past by regarding magic with Time.

    - Time is a Straight Line
    This belief states that the universe is all completely mapped out, that our actions are but threads of a tapestry already weaved, and that any even seen in the future is an event that WILL happen, perhaps not necessarily as assumed. The past CANNOT be changed and every attempt at time travel will result in a stable time loop eventually, whether through your own actions, or the actions of outside, temporal, or even paradoxical forces. This line of thinking fits in well with the Mechanical model of time, as it does with the Living model, as the former implies that time is rigid and fixed, while the latter implies that time is being actively governed by an outside force that may have a plan in place for all of it. However, even the Fluid model can state that, while time, and the flow of time itself is erratic, the future is still certain.
    For mages who believe this, they will simply be unable to do any magic which drastically changes a timeline they have already observed, they just do not believe it is possible. So if they see an event occur, it will happen in some way, and any Time or Entropy magic done with the express purpose of halting it simply will not work and may even ensure the future functions as seen. If they try to divert what they saw through different means, their vision will come to pass in different ways. Their belief in the future is so strong that simply seeing it will ensure it happens.
    It should be noted that, depending on the individual paradigm of mage regarding Time sight, their view of the future or past may not be a literal one. They may see the future through dreams, visions, art, phrases, and the such. What is important isn’t the specific details that come to fruition, but that what they see is in some way a promise made by their prophecy. They believe wholeheartedly that their vision is not erroneous, even in their interpretation is.

    - The Past is Certain, The Future Does Not Exist
    This line of thinking contends that the notion of “future” is an inherently faulty one. The past is a record of history, events that have definitely happened, but nothing trully exists beyond the “now”. All is possible and therefore not really knowable until it comes to be. The Theorem fits well with the Sequential model assuming that sequences only begin from the moment of “now”, as well as the Substance model and really any model which can be made to forgo predetermined fate. For this mage, reliable future sight with Time alone is more or less an impossibility. If the future is visible at all, then it is only a vague guess, and can have very little baring on reality. Entropy would be required in order to direct the realms of possibility towards a particular direction, otherwise all is far too open to interpretation. Past sight, however, would still be very possible and rather reliable, though may be just as immutable as seen in the Straight Line theorem above.
    For simplicity sake, this will be the only theorem described here which treats the past and future differently. But it is very possible that a mage’s specific beliefs may allow for other combinations from the theorem discussed below and above. As long as it contains an internal logic of sorts, all may be permitted.

    - Both Future and Past are Multiple Choice
    Here, both the Future and the Past bend to the will of possibility. This theorem opens the doors to the concept of multiple time lines. It states that any action performed can push the timeline down a different path, and that there may be multiple parallel timelines as a result. It is also possible then that many of these multiple timelines converge at certain points, and that this has already happened several times, resulting a past which may have originated from several different points. This particular idea can be made to work with almost any model, but especially fits well in with the Fluid model due to their shared lack of rigidity, and the Sequential model as the timeline concept is particularly important when it comes to understanding time as a series of sequences. That being said, it may also work well with the Entropy model if the idea of all timelines converging to a single point is taken to its logical extreme. Under this theorem, the mage would only have a reliable understanding of the future and past the closer it is to the “now”. The further away you get, the more clouded with possibility either direction becomes, and the more one would require Entropy to make any sense of these potential time lines. This theorem is probably the one which most closely emulates how Mage Revised describes Time 2’s Time Sight to function.

    - It’s not the Journey, but the Destination
    A strange hybrid between Fate and Potential. Rather than everything being predetermined or up to chance, this theorem suggests that the big events are set in stone, but the details are much more flexible. Under this view, the rise and fall of Rome were inevitable certainties, but the name Rome, the men who became emperor, and the pattern of corruption within the empire, all of that could have been rather different. Similarly, if circumstances were different and Einstein became a watchmaker and did not come up with the theory of relativity, somebody else would have done so, and in the grand scheme of things, history would have been largely identical. There is of course a sliding scale here on what exactly counts as a “big event" and which a "triviality", such a distinction will be ineherently linked with the mage’s view on Entropy. The crux however is that this theorem relies on the mage having a clear or at least a consistent understanding between when events are destiny, and when details are more up to chance. The model that this theorem fits better than any other is the Entropy model, whereby the focus is on the fall. It’s not so important exactly how the crumbling started, but rather on when the crumbling starts and when it ends.
    For this mage, Time alone will only tell them the big events, the fall of chantries, the rise of armies, the shifts in the zeitgeist, or perhaps the birth and death of important figures. But names, addresses, locations, and even specific actions may be subject to change. In order to get these details, Entropy will probably be required to help tease it all out. Just as with the Straight Line theorem, they cannot change the grand outcome even if the specifics are seen, known, and adjusted. But they may be able to save a single life by changing, for example, who eventually becomes a martyr.

    -There is Only “Now”
    The past only exists as a memory, and the future only as imagined. For these mages, the only thing that has any real substance is what is happening right now in the immediate. This is most certainly the domain of the Illusion model, though not exclusively. For these mages, the past and the future are functionally the same thing and there is no real way to discriminate against them. Their attempts to use time sight will most likely result in an odd mix between the two as events from both past and future intermingle with little regard for chronology. Other spheres may be required to better discriminate what they are seeing. If, for example, they believe that future and past is all a shared illusion held by humanity, Mind may be required by these mages to distinguish between what is memory and what is forward thinking desires/fears. If instead the future and past are the domain of spirits who place events before us or behind us, Spirit may instead be required to make sense of it all.

    What direction does time flow in?

    At Time 3, all users of Time should be able to either slow or speed up time. Whether that’s by changing the way time flows around/through an individual, augmenting or lessening the gaps between events, or changing the perception of an individual’s relationship between them and time, they can all go about achieving similar ends to the outside observer. When it comes to the other effect the Time 3 offers, such the Time warp rote, things start to get a little bit messier.

    - Reversing
    If time is fluid as per the Fluid model, aspects of the Sequential model, or certain varieties of the Substance model, then reversing time should be a fairly straightforward logical conclusion. Reversing time works as described in most Mage core books. Everything in the area is reversed except for the memory of the caster who is the only one who can act differently unless they influence others. Reversing can also be used with other spheres to specifically reverse certain patterns such as life or matter to undo damage, mind to undo what someone witnessed, forces to reverse a fire, etc.

    - Looping
    In order to loop time, the mage must believe two things. First, that time is a series of events with a specific start and end, as per most versions of the Sequential model, Entropy model, Mechanical model, and certain forms of the Substance model and Living model. Second, that the future is not completely set in stone, and that the past can be influenced by the future, as would be the case in Multiple Choice theorem, the Now theorem, and certain interpretations of the Destination theorem.
    The act of looping may be metaphysically analogous to taking the string that is time, and bending it until it intersects itself. Looping is very similar to reversing with a few key differences. While reversing time allows for a localised area or group of targets to be reset, looping is more all or nothing. The entire time line follows you with the loop, and instead of targeting what becomes looped, you can target that which will be exempt from repeating. In essence, you are jumping to an earlier time point, choosing who to take with you, and rewriting things from the moment of arrival. Time looping cannot be used on specific objects with other spheres like reversing can, however, looping can offer the advantage that Correspondence is not strictly needed to undo a large area or a distant target. Similarly looping implies that all things are involved regardless of which side of the umbra one might be on, or whether the mage has sufficient knowledge to target something, such as forces for a fire, or spirit and life for the garou.

    - Repeating
    For mages who believes the Straight Line theorem and a model which states that time completely immutable, as is the case under the Mechanical model and certain varieties of the Living model and Substance model, the looping or reversing of time would completely impossible. However, it may instead be possible to cause their target to repeat certain events. This is because the mage’s certainty of the immutability of time allows for the past to be a completely accurate record of events, and their powers over Time allow them to pull the events in the recent past and recreate them. In this way, time itself has not changed, and what has been done remains already done, but events are repeated. When targeting an object, the object will repeat its actions from the number of turns determined by the dice as per normal Time 3 rules.
    For example, A battering ram on rope used to barge open a door breaks after the 4th attempt to barge the door open. Casting Repeat on the battering ram will allow it up to four more attempts to break open the door before it breaks again. As the door is not being repeated, it suffers the damage with each progressive hit. Targeting a living being would cause a similar effect, the subject would repeat their last few actions independently of anything else that happens around them. During the repeat, they would be impervious to any damage that didn’t hurt them the first time, but also unable to prevent any damage they received the first time. Any actions they perform would result in the exact same outcome as it pertains to them. For example, if someone walked through a door and you cast Repeat on them just after locking it. They would still be able to walk through the locked door, as though it wasn’t there, it would appear almost as though they were a ghost miming the action of opening a door, an echo of time. From the subject’s perspective, nothing would have changed. They would have just lost a few seconds (or however long the effect was built for) and be a bit confused that suddenly everything had shifted before their eyes. Other spheres would be required to fine tune the effect for more specific purposes.
    Mages who have a more fluid understanding of time, or a more flexible understanding of the past will be unable to cause repeats in this way.

    - Mixing
    While reversing requires belief that time is largely localised and different everywhere, looping requires that time is consistent but malleable, and repeating requires time to be strict and unchanging , mixing requires that the directionality of time is entirely superficial, as is the case in the Illusion model especially under the Now theorem. Mixing allows the mage to swap events around. The further apart these two events are, the more successes it will require, and the more paradox it will accumulate, just as with normal Time 3 reversing rules. When the events are swapped, the second event happens first, and the first event may be changed as a result, possibly causing a re-roll with altered difficulties. If it turns out the second event is nullified by the first event, then so be it. It might be possible to mix more than two events at a time, but the amount of paradox will increase in accordance with the size of the headache it causes the storyteller.

    Needless to say, these effects are mutually exclusive as they all rely on wildly different interpretations on the nature of time and how time works.

    What exists outside of time?

    Previously we have discussed how a mage may influence the flow and direction of time as according to their understanding. As the mage gets closer to mastery, they may begin to think of time outside of their current position, and perhaps even interact with beings or architecture that exists within the scaffolding of time itself. In this way, the mage is able to perform the techniques best known within the fourth level of Time, that of hanging effects and pulling people, place, or things out of time. However, with Time 4, other spheres, and a well-defined understanding of the inner workings of time, they may be able interact with and perhaps even visit that which makes up the scaffolds of time.

    - A Central Power
    Be it the Abrahamic God, Chronos and Kairos, Father Time, Kali, Heh, the Norns, or whomever else. There is a conscious, singular force out there that is driving the flow of time. Outside of time lies their respective domain, where they work to ensure that time runs as they deem suitable. These gods may have their servants to command the flow of time, and it is these spirits the mage may ask favour of or manipulate under the Living model. These gods may instead attend to the flow of time directly with their tools, the Norns have their tapestry of fate devised by needle and thread, while Kali has their ring of fire which they used to influence the wheel of time. Those that believe the Substance model may consider such tools to be the very thing that time is made of, and the object they are able to control.
    If the mage has the appropriate level of Spirit, it may be possible to use Time to communicate directly with the gods, or the servants of the gods that command time, or even enter their domain directly.

    - The River
    Time runs in a single direction, like a river flowing through a valley. This river can take as many forms as there are models and theorems to define it. For some the river is straight and constant, for others is branches into an endless string of deltas. There may be a single source and a gaping mouth, or the river may be entirely circular, forever looping in an infinite cycle. What makes up the river of time also varies heavily. It may be a flow of shining golden flakes of sand, seemingly ordinary water, a raging wind, streams of memories, or something altogether more bizarre. With Matter, Forces, or perhaps even Life, Mind, Prime, or Spirit depending on what precisely makes up this river, it could be possible to manipulate the substance of Time directly, though the consequences of doing so would be wholly dependent of the context, and entirely impossible to behold without a good understanding of Entropy. It may also be possible to extract the substance of time directly, pulling it into the physical world as tass with temporal qualities.
    It may also be possible to look at the river itself and see exactly how it flows, and possibly be able to affect its flow directly. Along with Time, such an effort would require Entropy and either Mind, Spirit, or Correspondence depending on whether the mage believes the river of time to be a sequential event of consciousness, a spiritual location, or the 4th dimension of duration.

    - The Great Record
    When the past is all that exists, as per the Certain Past theorem the only thing that manifests from time is the record. This may appear similar to the river, but has the notable difference of flowing in reverse. The source is the point of “now”, and what comes from it are all that is and has been. Rather than a river, instead this may take the form of a tree that is still growing. If the tree has branches, then they are the multiple alternative time lines made manifest, with each leaf being the “now” that each timeline currently experiences. As the tree grows, some leaves converge and others divide, and from them new twigs are formed. It is also possible that this great record has a more designed façade, the record may instead be a great library, gallery, or museum, perhaps curated by a Central Power. As with the river, the other spheres may be used to both see, influence, manipulate and even visit these structures of time. Unlike the river, Entropy cannot be used to manipulate the future, but Entropy may help the mage understand how the “Now” influences the rest of time, how the tree grows or the river forms as it were.

    - The Shores of Thought
    When all that exists is within the “Now” as in the Now theorem, the scaffolds of time are very narrow indeed. Stretching out ahead would be a seemingly infinite length, with darkness on either side; a thin peninsula over an endless sea. On one shore lies the imagined possibilities of the future, and the other the remembered past. However, which side is which is never confirmed, and whether they are even consistent is a mystery itself. Beyond the shore are a myriad of different things reflecting the collective desires and memories of humanity. Things may wash up along the shore, memories or desires made manifest into the “Now”, perhaps due hope, fear, or simply nostalgia. A Mage who can astral project may be able to visit these shores and “float” above this endless sea, looking into the collective desires of the consciousness if their paradigm allows for it. With Spirit, the mage may instead visit the shore and traverse the now, exploring to see what there is, and perhaps even try fish things out from the edge, returning them to prominence. There is no reason for this scaffold to be a literal shore, and may instead be a path through a forest, or a narrow precipice surrounded by fog. All is up to the specific beliefs of the mage in question.

    - Corridors Between Moments
    Time is a passage of moments, the connection between one great event and another, as described by both the Sequential model and the Entropy model. For those that hold this view, to stand outside of time is to walk freely between these events, like beads on a string, or rooms connected by corridors. The realm of time may present itself like a map of events with connections routed like constellations; a museum of moments carefully curated perhaps by a central power; a themepark of periods in which one may experience the history and potential of humankind as a curiosity; or a collection of clocks, sand timers, candles, etc. each one counting down the hours to another great event. The mage may explore the corridors and look towards the mapped out potential for events both great and small. If spirits are involved in the architecture of these realms, they may converse, perhaps even be taken on a tour, otherwise they are free to explore, and with the aid of entropy, interpret the space itself. While the rooms may be the larger draw of attention, it is the corridors where the details matter more. Here in lies the specifics, the actions and people involved, the locations, key items and decisions, all points held in these corridors which hold the key to how certain events may be reached. As ever, along with Time, Spirit is required to visit this area, and Entropy to gain access to the rooms of the future. Entropy may also be used to better understand the cryptic information held within the corridors themselves. Though they are referred to as built structures, nothing says they must be buildings, the rooms and corridors may instead be paths leading to clearings in a dense forest, or moments of calm in a storm connected by brief rays of light. Depending on their makeup, other spheres may be useful in their navigation.

    - The Wild Wastes
    In all of these examples lie areas outside the realms of time, be it the banks of the river, the sky above the shore, the space between the walls, or simply the void that surrounds the flow. Within this space lies the edge of human imagination. If there are paradox spirits that guard Time, this is where they reside. If there are creatures that live outside the time stream such as the dreaded Hounds of Tindalos, it is here where they hunt. If time travellers from days past or future are trapped by their own hubris, it is here where they have been trapped. A dark frictionless land where nothing passes and everything is all at once. To traverse too far into the wastes is to become perilously close to the Null Zone.

    Where these scaffolds exist can vary wildly. They may be among the spires and epiphanies of the high umbra, separate realms in the middle umbra, lost pathways in the tempest of the dark umbra, or even reflections of the Shard Realm of Time in the deep umbra. It's also very possible that these realms subsist in some way in all these places at once, as is often the case in the Umbra. In any case, The correct combination of spheres along with Time 4 should allow immediate access to these locations without need to go first via the penumbra.

    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running FINALE: Chapter 39: Green Fairy

  • #2
    Theories of Time Travel

    The fifth level of Time offers probably one of the most argument inducing powers in the game, Time travel. Like all the powers previously described, however, the mechanics and outcome of time travel will be heavily determined by the time travelling mage’s understanding on the nature of time. By this point, the mage should have a rather robust idea on not only the function of time, but on how time flows and what time is literally made up of and designed around. These beliefs will help inform the exact nuts and bolts on how time travel is not only done, but also on the outcome. The following section is therefore split into two parts. The first dealing with the implications of time travel, and is more dictated by the theorems behind how past and future operate. The second dealing with the mechanism of time travel itself, and is much more influenced by the model of time the mage operates under.

    What Happens When we Time Travel?

    - The Closed Time Loop
    With past and future fixed as in the Straight Line theorem, time travel works in a very fixed way. You may go to periods in the past or future, but nothing can actually change as a result. Your actions in the past already contributed to the present you started from, and your actions in the future are already set. Attempting to change the past will always be met with failure or inadvertent contribute to the state of things that are in the present. It will all be incorporated into how things have always been. Similarly, visiting the future and returning does not allow the traveller to change the future. In fact, the result of their return may set events in motion to ensure this future occurs.
    It is entirely possible under this paradigm for you to encounter future or past versions of yourself. However, if you don’t remember seeing yourself in the past, it’s inevitable that something will happen which made/will make you forget, maybe simply as a result of paradox backlash.

    - The Open Time loop
    A lesser version of the closed time loop can be seen with the Destination theorem in which the events are predetermined but the people/objects/symbols/etc. involved may change. Time travel can instead be used to change who ends up doing what, and even insert yourself into key roles of either history or the future. Upon returning, all the major beats of history will remain largely the same, but small specifics will be different such as who is doing what. The big question then becomes “If I go back in time and change events, and then return, what happens to me?”. Because Time magic makes the user immune to the changes that result, they would initially be the same person they were before the change took place, but over time the effects of paradox would eat away at their now time-shifted memories and identity. Anything that affects the person you became is subject to shifting will have an effect unless the mage protects themselves with Mind or whatever other sphere becomes suitable. Whether it is possible to stop yourself existing or not depends very much on how the mage considers certain events as fate or chance as per their understanding of Entropy. If life and death are immutable then you cannot change when you die or affect your birth, but you can affect how you live and die. If however only the really BIG events are immutable such as the swings of history, then your life may be very much subject to change. If that happens, then short of another mage coming to undo things, you’re pretty much done for. Paradox will slowly build up around you as your existence becomes less and less likely until it eventually erupts and wipes you out of existence. However, even if you were destined for greatness and your destiny was unfulfilled, reality will ensure that someone else will fulfil that destiny instead.
    The fourth level of Entropy may be used to protect the mage from inadvertently affecting their existence.

    -The Long Way Back
    If the future does not exist, as per the Certain Past theorem then it must be impossible to get there. However, reaching the past may be very possible, but could become a one way trip. Just the act of being in the past is enough to change it, ensuring that all certainty of the future you have come from is removed. The past you travel to becomes the new “now”, and the future, you prior “now” is lost in the wash of possibility. Because anything is possible in the potential space of the future, your existence in this past “now” has no bearing on when you came from, even if you somehow prevented your own existence, all that happens is you permanently cut off ever returning to that future you left behind. The upside of this is that under this paradigm, the future, or past as it were, is entirely changeable, and there is no risk to your metaphysical existence regardless of what impact you have, however if one ventures far back enough, it may be impossible, or at least quite improbable, that they will ever be able to come home again, and all that they left behind will be overwritten by this new “now”.

    - Navigating Branches
    When the timeline is awash with branching paths as in the Multiple Choice theorem. Time travel may be used to walk along them. Going backwards may allow you to return either the same present or branch off to other possible presents. You can even create alternative presents based on your actions. If your theorem of time does not allow for a branched past, then it is quite possible that you will be locked in to a specific future if you make enough changes, and the only way to undo them is to go further back in a convoluted mess of changing history. If branching and converging pasts are allowed however, then it is quite possible that after creating an alternative past, your actions may still lead back in to whichever “present” you had initially started from.
    Because there are multiple pathways that in theory exist simultaneously, nothing is overwritten via this idea of time travel. Instead everything is left in the present you left behind continues on without you, or perhaps with an alternative timeline you coming in and taking your place, as you no doubt may do to another alternative timeline version of you. While this paradigm offers a greater degree of flexibility and safety from eliminating your own existence or identity, It can be single hardest one to successfully navigate and return home safely, especially as there is no way of really knowing you've succeeded until something within your timeline turns out to be off or different as described by the Mandela effect.

    - The Anchored Now
    When Now is the only thing that really has any meaning, as in the Now theorem, then everything and everyone must belong to a specific time, a specific moment of "Now" before being transformed into memory or imagination. This means that any form of time travel is temporary by nature. There is something which tethers the traveller to their particular time point, perhaps a spiritual imprint, a metaphysical placement, a psychological hold, or something more substantial. With the fifth level of Time, the Mage can use other relevant sphere such as Spirit, Prime, Mind, or which ever pattern sphere the substance is made up of, in order to strengthen or weaken this tether. Doing so will increase or decrease the amount of time the mage or their target can subsist outside of their tethered “Now”. If the mage uses other spheres to pull objects, people, or whatnot from there respective times, they too will be around for a while before their tethers snap them back. While this may seem the safest and possibly most consequence free form of time travel, the mage should none the less be careful. If their tether is ever snapped, they are at great risk of becoming unstuck in time, possibly permanently.
    Under the default Now”theorem, there is no distinction between past and future, and so nothing a mage does can really alter their “now” in a meaningful way. Even preventing their own birth doesn’t really stick. However they may create new memories in the minds of those that interacted with them in the past, meaning preventing your own birth might not stop you from existing, but might affect your parent’s memories of you. Similarly, going to the future and interacting with someone may affect how they view you in the present, and perhaps be either drawn or repelled by you. Without Entropy it is difficult to predict exactly what the outcome of any of this would be.

    How Do You Travel Time?

    - Choose a Date
    Pretty much every master of Time that believes in time having an order to it will be able to pinpoint exactly when they wish to arrive, but how they come at a date will vary greatly. The Mechanical model may be able to choose their moment down to the second, while the Entropy model and Sequence model mages may have to settle for specific events and moments at the end or before countdowns, as would the Illusion model if the memories or expectations on such events are strong enough. Under the Fluid model things are a lot less certain, and travel ease may differ wildly depending on how time is behaving in the local area. If one is able to, it is almost always a better idea to look before you leap.

    - Dive in the River
    While Time 4 mixed with relevant spheres may allow a mage to visit the metaphysical scaffolds of time, be they a river, tree, museum, or otherwise interpreted, it will not be until they achieve mastery of Time before they can travel through time by jumping into the stream itself. As masters, they are able to walk along with river and specifically choose where they wish to go, perhaps with spiritual guidance. Time 2 may be needed in order to see exactly what is happening at a certain point before them, while Entropy may be needed to understand whether their actions will affect branching paths if there are any. If diving in from the Shores of Now, things may take a much more unusual turn as both past and future may be indistinguishable from one another.

    - Save States
    When time is malleable as in the Fluid model or simply the gaps between moments as with the Sequential model, and arguably Entropy model and certain variations of the Illusion model, then it is possible to tie the timeline in an almost literal knot. Once constructed, the mage can set the time in which the time stream overlaps, essentially creating a “jump off” point by which the mage may jump back to. In essence, they are creating a large time loop, perhaps of several hours or even several years depending on how long they are able to keep the effect going. In simpler terms, creating a save state to restore to after an allotted amount of time. Entropy can be used to have the time loop triggered by a certain event as can other spheres be used to specify details. The consequences of doing so, either creating new branches or overwriting the previous loop, depend on the mage’s specific beliefs on time travel as discussed above.

    - Make a Request
    Within the Living model, time travel can be as simple as seeking advice from the very spirits that manage time, or the gods and keep time moving. Spirit is not essential for this, but make make negotiations easier, or allow one to force their way through. Negotiations may come with a few caveats, but is the best way to ensure you arrive when you need to with perhaps a bit of guidance to avoid untoward consequences. Forcing the matter with Spirit may have variable results depending on the nature of the spirit in question.

    - Mind the Gap
    As time is only within the mind, as proclaimed by the more purist form of the Illusion model, It may therefore be easier then to travel back not physically, but mentally. As they travel backward or forwards, the traveller will be able to enter the mind of their past or future self either to relive those moments or to alter them. Naturally they will be limited by their own lifetime, but with Mind magic, may be able to extend their reach by travelling back through the minds of others. This method of travel may also be used by mages of the Sequential model and Substance model who believe, for example, that Time runs through the passage of blood, and thus it is possible to follow the bloodlines forward or backwards. With use of Life or Spirit, such a mage may relive not only their own life, but that of their descendants and ancestors. Unless the mage is in some way tethered to their original form, either by paradigm or magical contingency, there is a real danger of getting lost and perhaps even forgetting who you originally were.

    - Side to Side
    When branching paths are involved, so too is the idea of multiple “now”s from which it may be possible to travel between. While one could take the indirect route by travelling back and forth, it should also be possible to move from side to side. If time if thought of as a dimension then Correspondence with Time would work, otherwise Spirit or Mind with Time should be sufficient. These methods will allow the mages to travel by direct portals or instead by visiting the spiritual/mental scaffolds of time respectively.

    How Can You Sidestep Time?

    The other power open to a master of Time is that of being able to “pause” time as it were and walk outside of the confines of time. What the mage will witness while within the world unaffected by the stream of time will be very different depending on their particular understanding of time.

    - Immune to Time Powder
    Under the Substance model, the mage may become completely immune to the chemical/powder/fire/etc. that makes up time. Instead they will be able to walk around this substance and see it in all its ephemeral glory. From this position, it might be possible to collect this substance without the need of matter/life/forces/whatever the stuff is made off using objects that have been similarly immunised from their effects. If the mage also follows the Mechanical model, then this substance should be evenly spaced throughout the world, and taking any may create a “time vacuum” which the time stream will rush to undo resulting in very bizarre ripples of time while it tries to return to equilibrium. Under the Fluid model instead they may see huge fluctuations of time substance, with some areas with greater amount of time than others, resulting in the flux they see with their time sense. Moving time around then would result in changing these fluctuations and may cause a great deal of confusion, perhaps even instances of de-ja-vu once they return to the normal flow of the present. Followers of the Entropy model may instead see a gradual accumulation or loss of this substance on people and objects, and only the aid of Entropy would allow such changes to these time coagulations.

    - Avoid the Spirits
    If the master follows the Living model, they may see the creatures/spirits/angels/etc. that make all the changes that we experience as time. Their spell will put you at the same plane of existence as these creatures. They will then be able to watch as the beings make their slight changes to the world and can even speak to them directly without the need of Spirit magic. If the mage stays in the same place for long enough, they will notice that those still under the influence of the spirits will still be moving, but only as far as the spirits allow them to between “frames”. The Mechanical model will keep each being in strict synchronicity with one another, while the Fluid model will see some beings working more efficiently than others, explaining the fluctuations experienced.

    - Duck Out of the Stream
    This is how most of us think about time immunity, and the version described in the core books. The world has paused and the master is now free to walk about as they chose, affecting whatever they wish as things will only snap back into time once they have returned to the present. This is likely what is experienced by mages in the more purer forms of the Mechanical model, Fluid mode,,and perhaps even the Entropy model. Unlike the other paradigms of Time immunity, there will be little hint as to what may happen or has happened while they look around, and without further Time or Entropy magic, their view will be limited to the exact moment of pause.

    - See Intention and Memory
    Mages who believe the Illusion model, especially when paired with the Now theorem may instead become fully aware of the “Now” that they have found themselves in and see the full scale of the illusion they have been able to duck out of. Because of this, they will also be aware of scenes that make up the illusion, events that fade into memory, and intentions that soon become part of the now. A little mind magic may even allow the master to alter what these shadows are, and in this way change details about the past and future.

    -Moment to Moment, Room to Room
    Believers of the Sequential model may see a number of things depending on exactly on whether they hold the macro or micro version of this view. The micro version which causes time to be measurable like another dimension will essentially allow them to see the full line of duration from this point, including the moments that have just happened and may be about to happen. Further Time magic will be needed to see further ahead or behind the line, and the results may vary depending on which theorem of future and past the mage subscribes to. How this line may look may also depend on paradigm. It could be a series of images as though seen through a long exposure camera shot, it could be a ghostly protrusion literally going through their chest ala Donny Darko, or it may instead just be a block of shadows, a dotted line, or even just a sense that this is where the line of duration passes through. It may be possible to “scrub” through these timelines, moving the scene forwards or backward along the Duration axis, but this too will also depend on the theorem as it starts to venture into time travel territory.
    The macro version of this view will instead see the world looks more like a carefully manufactured diorama, with the next room along showing the next big event to take place. For example, the room you are currently in may show a grand fight scene, while the next room shows a diorama of the outcome. Travelling between rooms would be fairly simple to a master of Time, but understanding how the rooms connect would require Entropy, not unlike visiting the “museum of records” described above.

    Two Time Mages Walk into a Bar…

    While it’s all very well and good having one’s own complete logical understanding of how time works in the universe, things may get a bit messy when two mages with equally logical but utterly contradictory views clash. In honesty, however, this sort of things happens in Mage all the time, and the Time sphere shouldn’t be treated any different just because it happens to be about something as complicated and personal as the passage of time. As with any spell, the person conducting the magic is the one who is assumed to be “right” about how time works, and thus their model and theorems will be the ones in effect. If the other mage is assisting, then they will only be able to assist if they have similar beliefs, otherwise compromises need to be made, and it’s possible the full spectrum of Time magic will not be available to them as they collaborate.
    How does one Time mage react when they see undeniable proof that another’s contradictory view point works? Same as with any other magic, either with dismissal “They think they’re doing this, but I know what’s actually going on”, denial “That’s not Time magic, that’s just a weird kind of Spirit magic with Time elements!”, belittling “That may be how things work on the small scale/big scale, but if you were to focus in on the big picture/minute details you’ll see that I’m actually right.” And perhaps even vague hand waving “Yeah, that works too, doesn’t change how I do things though”. There may be a point where their understanding is challenged substantially and their paradigm begins to shift, but that sort of thing is better roleplayed and so may be completely different depending on the individual in question.

    How Do You Come Up with All This?

    When a mage first becomes aware of the Time sphere, they need not have all the answers initially. They may start with just a single model of time, and only develop a theorem of future and past on obtaining the second rank. As their understanding of Time grows, their original model may become more complex and nuanced, extra models may come in to augment their original understanding, while originally rigid views may become more flexible (or more flexible views become more rigid) as their development as a mage continues. Their experiences and understanding of the other spheres may also play a role in how their understanding of time develops, and though hard, it may be possible for one mage to completely overthrow their original understanding of Time as a complete mistake and start from scratch with a different one. However, such a dramatic change is paramount to changing a paradigm. But like all things in Mage, such a thing cannot truly be impossible.

    Wait, what about this?

    Consider the above as a starting point for your imagination. While it may seem like I've attached certain models with specific theorems, it is entirely possible for other combinations not specified above to work really well within the context of a specific paradigm. When crafting new combinations, however, the important thing to maintain is a sense of internal consistency, and adherence to the core beliefs of your mage's paradigm.

    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running FINALE: Chapter 39: Green Fairy