Our Time Travel Is Different
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Basic Information

What does Time Travel look like? Fiction has given us several theories:

  • Videocassette Time Travel - Pioneered in The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. You can actually see the progression of ages pass around you, like if you'd hit the rewind button on a video tape. As you back in time, and you'll see people walk backwards. As you move forward in time, and you'll see things age.
  • Wormhole Time Travel - Like the tunnel used in Dr Who or Bill and Ted, this version of time travel involves a wormhole or another dimension. To travel time you enter this special place, and then exit to the era (or moment) you seek.
  • Instantaneous Time Travel - One second you're in 1985, the next it's 1955. There may be some brief visual phenomena, but nothing concrete enough to interact with, and time travel (itself) can't really be used as a means of surveillance.
  • Unseen Time Travel - Time travel when you're asleep, or otherwise "off-camera". This could be because the time machine has no windows, or it might involve darker Things Man Was Not Meant To Know or a spurious Deus Ex Machina.



Game and Story Use

  • Time travel games probably need to address this issue at some point, as Players have that annoying habit of asking questions and trying to figure out the logistics of their powers.
  • A game where the time traveler occupies a place and can see the world aging or reverting around him might have a very different feel than a game where you blip off to another time instantly or travel through a strange extradimensional space.
    • The ramifications on the setting are different, as well.
      • In videocassette time travel, where the time traveler passes through each moment of history, it may be that they can be perceived by those who aren't time traveling. They might appear as ghostly after-images, or (if traveling into the future) as an immobile statue incapable of being altered or moved.
      • In wormhole time travel, an ambush could be set in the other space.
      • In unseen time travel, the PCs may be clueless as to how, why or even when they are traveling to.
  • Mixing time travel methods and descriptions might work wonderfully, or be a disaster, depending on the nature of the campaign and how well the GM thinks it through.
    • One interesting possibility is to have different time machines function differently. Maybe one type of technology does the videocassette method, and can be used to spy on other eras by being out of phase with time. In the same setting, a different machine might use instantaneous time travel, for greater efficiency.
  • The earth is constantly in motion, so a time machine should probably either be rooted to a frame of reference, or confer some means of locomotion or teleportation. Most movies about time travel blissfully ignore this fact (and the Wormhole method conveniently side-steps it), but players may inquire about it, and the GM should be prepared with some sort of an answer.
    • The Theory of Relativity rejects the notion of absolute time and space, positing that there is no universal truth about the spatial distance between (or temporal simultaneity of) two events. This conveniently makes whatever answer the GM gives the correct one (provided you don't fall into Timey Wimey Ball territory). Time Machines might need conventional engines and have to be sealed against the vacuum of space, or the act of time travel itself might reliably move you to the time and place of your choosing. See also Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
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