Connecticut Yankee
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Basic Information

The Connecticut Yankee is a character who is stranded in the past long before their own birth. Once they're over the initial shock of it, they settle down to improve the past with their superior knowledge from the future.

Traditionally, this trope ignores the History Of English, and the Connecticut Yankee doesn't have to worry about diseases they might bring with them or contract from the temporal natives.

See Also:


2. book: A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain — the trope-namer and original
3. book: Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprauge deCamp — an alternate history classic
4. book: The Cross-Time Engineer by Leo Frankowski — first in a series about a time-traveler in medieval Poland
5. short story: By His Bootstraps" by Robert Heinlein — classic time travel story. In this case, the primitive society that needs to be advanced lies in the future.

Game and Story Use

  • Logically, the odds are stacked against any Connecticut Yankee being able to singlehandedly transform the past and jumpstart civilization with his knowledge of technology. Even if you know how to build a car engine, or design a radio transmitter, you probably don't know how to teach cavemen efficient methods to mine and smelt iron ore, or extract and refine crude oil. According to a famous essay, even a lowly pencil is so complicated, no one person knows all the manufacturing steps intimately. You'd need a very broad eduction to transform society.
    • But don't let that stop you. The Connecticut Yankee scenario embodies the very reason to role-play for some folks. Using your creativity and randomly-collected useless trivia to overcome great challenges. Becoming rich and powerful by jump-starting the Industrial Revolution 500 years early on the "wrong" continent? What could be better? Just make sure you've got a lot of skills on your character sheet, and it wouldn't hurt to take a few blueprints and reference books with you.
    • Likewise, there might be social or economic barriers to adopting a technology. Just because you showed up with a knowledge of microprocessors and figured out how to build logic gates out of flowing water doesn't mean that anyone needs enough data processing to make it worthwhile.
  • On a lesser scale, a time traveler who doesn't want to transform society but just make a bit of cash can use his future knowledge to "invent" something that he already knows about. This arcanist once had a time traveler trapped in the 19th Century West make a tidy sum by manufacturing paper clips.
  • Then again, sometimes all it takes is a simple breakthrough to revolutionize technology and society. Look at the stirrup, for example, which had an incredible impact on mounted warfare. A time traveler might accidentally alter things simply by introducing a small innovation.
  • The Connecticut Yankee does not necessarily have to be a time traveler; just from a place with a higher technological level. It could be another planet, or just another country where they do things differently.
  • Connecticut Yankee types can also make for good antagonists, especially if their idea of "improvement" doesn't match yours. Someone who brings formulas for nerve gas to the Middle Ages can make for a terrifying opponent, especially if their idea of "improvement" is something like "replace the monarchy and the guilds with the principles of Fascism".
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