Tomorrow's Tech Today
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Basic Information

In fiction, Time Travelers almost always head into the past. History is familiar and intriguing, and all sorts of plotlines suggest themselves (from epic transformations of world events, to personal "fix my childhood" plots). The future is speculative and hard to predict, so the past makes for better timelines.

Given total freedom (and "all the time in the world"), however, most player characters would at least stop off in the future for a quick shopping trip. Nearly every RPG scenario includes at least the spectre of a threat of violence, after all. I mean, you wouldn't run off to war armed with an old Brown Bess Musket, when you could instead carry a much deadlier and more reliable AK-47, would you? Extending that analogy, you could pop up to the Technological Singularity and get yourself some sort of compact, light, potent, variable-setting Energy Weapon that never needs reloading and leaves no ballistic traces, right?

And while you're there, you'll pick up a defensive forcefield, some self-tailoring chameleon clothing, a pocket supercomputer, a jetpack and a flying car, and a… say… speaking of cars… how many years to the gallon do the local time machines get? Really? Well, I guess I'll trade in this old thing I built in my garage for that state-of-the-art time scooter, then.

In short, unless the future is dominated by evil Alien Space Bats or pesky Time Police, there's a strong motivation to go get yourself some cutting edge tech before going out adventuring. I mean, you've got a time machine, so it's not like time or money should be in short supply.


1. RPG: Continuum - which, strangely enough, assumes you'll go get yourself the best possible time-machine, but then doesn't give you access to universal translators, laser-beam cufflinks, subdermal radio, or other tech gadgets one might realistically expect a time-traveler to find useful. They do explain it in-character, but it always struck me as a bit of a hand wave. Still a great game, nonetheless.

Game and Story Use

  • The most common reason to avoid this behavior involves something like "Think of the impact if you accidentally left that Zero-Point Battery in Ancient Rome!" This is a little silly, though, since:
    • It'd be more likely to be worshiped, broken, or ignored, then reverse-engineered.
    • A strike-team from the future could retrieve it as soon as you realized the problem, and it's not like "Rome plus batteries" could withstand their efforts.
    • The slightly-more-modern style of sandal (or the cotton-polyester blend Toga) you dressed in for the trip to Rome has just as much chance of changing history.
  • So, the GM has to be prepared with some very fanciful tech, or have some really good in-character reason why the players can't just load up on superscience.
  • Any time traveler is capable of (and motivated to do so) traveling to the technological singularity, and reaping the benefits. However, any society that's reached said singularity will likely be aware of time travel, and might be as Gods compared to the tinkerer who invented the first time machine. So, think you can you wrest the secrets of Heaven from the Gods? Should you fail, Mr Prometheus, is it possible to escape their wrath? Considering how much trouble a time-machine can cause, they might be interested in taking yours away, at least until you've proven you deserve it and can be trusted with it.
    • Of course, what may be secrets of heaven to you may be nursery school stuff - or at least secondary school science curriculum - to them…
  • Keep in mind that with at least some tech, there's limits to how useful it can be without support infrastructure. That AK-47 designed for an era of mass production is likely to have tighter ammunition tolerances than the Brown Bess designed for an era of handloading, a modern smartphone is little more than a pocket computer without a cellular network that recognizes its SIM and little more than a blunt instrument once its battery runs out, and an unaugmented human might not even be able to understand what it takes to keep a post-Singularity forcefield running.
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