Rubber Band History
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Basic Information

Rubber Band History is a Time Travel Trope where history, like a wound up rubber band, is flexible and may show some stretch marks, but is all set to bounce back to it's original shape once it's been jostled a bit. A story using this trope starts out looking like an Alternate History or Parallel World, until some plucky time traveler accidentally removes whatever factor was bending time so strangely. Pop! Suddenly, the universe contorts into the shape and history that the players are familiar with.

The implication would be that our timeline wasn't the first or original shape of the universe, that we're the alternate timeline resulting from some time traveler's meddling. Alternately, the time traveler may have just Set Right What Once Went Wrong.



Game and Story Use

  • Applying the trope straight-up, you'd start with some elaborate alternate history, and then turn it into a more mundane version of reality. Depending on how much the players like the other setting they started in, they might try to "fix" it back.
  • Maybe the alternate history is a nightmare world, and the PCs are time-travelers trying to get things turned back to mundane reality. The back story of the campaign might involve a far-sweeping Time Paradox that altered all of reality and set up the hell world. In this case, the alternate history is just a way of starting the story In Media Res.
  • A twist on this trope would be to start the campaign as one RPG, then drop a time travel plot in mid-campaign. Let the PCs go back to the moment or event that renders that setting what it is, and give them the opportunity to change it. If they do alter the past, it may result in a completely different campaign world (and/or game system) when they get back to The Present.
    • In a Vampire The Masquerade game, the PCs go back to Enoch and prevent Caine from killing Able, or go back to the Dark Ages and prevent the Hermetic Mages from infiltrating Clan Tremere. When they get back to their own time, they are the only Vampires left, and only Mage: The Ascension (of the White Wolf books) remains canonical for the setting. All the Elders they knew are gone, and the neonates they knew are still mortal. Those who were Tremere before are Mages or Hedge Wizards now.
    • In a Deadlands game, the PCs go back in time a couple decades and prevent the Reckoners from being unleashed. They earth reverts to mundane reality more along the lines of straight Western films, possibly with the PC Hexslinger as the only functioning wizard in all the world. Or maybe the Whateleys have been dabbling in magic for untold generations before the reckoning, and the game just switched from Deadlands to a Western version of Call of Cthulhu.
  • This is a staple of Terry Pratchett's Discworld - the history monks have rebuilt history twice (albeit once with the assistance of something similar to a demigod), specifically by cutting and pasting broken bits of continuity and then stretching and shrinking what remained until it more or less worked.
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