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JadedDM
2015-07-03, 08:14 PM
I was watching old Enterprise episodes on Netflix and considered the idea of running a D&D version of the Temporal Cold War. While I think the idea of it was interesting, it was badly implemented in Star Trek; but that's not really relevant. Anyway, I am not married to the idea yet, but I thought it might be worth considering, and so I thought I'd bring it up for discussion here to get some other ideas on how it might work.

But first, if you are not familiar with the Temporal Cold War, the basic idea is that factions from the future are attempting to make changes to the timeline to their own benefit. This is usually done not by sending people or objects, but rather information.

For instance, let's say history records that there was a big war between the elves and the orcs over an island. The elves won. In the future, for whatever reason, a faction decides they want the orcs to win instead (maybe they are the future orcs, or maybe it's much more complicated than that; maybe the elves go on to conquer the world and stopping them at that point is the best scenario). So they send information to the orcs, warning them of traps, giving them intel on elven troop numbers and weapons technology, and so forth. This would all be done with chronomacy.

My idea is that the party is caught up in this in the present. Chaos starts breaking loose as various factions keep meddling with the timeline. Wars break out, political leaders are assassinated, and so forth. But also a lot of subtle things, like really unimportant people go missing (turns out they were ancestors of someone much more important later), for instance.

One or more of the factions may even make contact with the PCs, attempting to persuade them to help 'fix things.' But since the party has no knowledge of the future, they cannot be sure if the faction they are helping is really fixing things or just making them worse. At least, not until it's too late.

That's the basic gist of it, at any rate. What do you all think? Is this viable for a game plot?

tomandtish
2015-07-03, 10:13 PM
The problem I see as a game plot is: how do you drive home the temporal aspect to your players without them being the ones who are time traveling? Especially if all that is coming back is information.

Terminator worked as well as it did because you had the actual Terminator back there. A nigh-unstoppable force that was obviously from the future. The movie wouldn’t have been anywhere nearly effective if the war in the future had been between two groups of human with one trying to stop the other.

If chronomancy is the center point of your game, then it needs to have a huge emotional impact if/when your players learn that. If they aren’t in a position to influence the time travel aspects of things, then do they really matter? In fact, if you aren’t extremely careful it can present itself as railroading.

Using your example above (and assuming the players side with the elves): orcs are fighting a battler against elves. They have the new advantage of knowing how the elves won last time (plans) and the number of elven troops (forces).

How do you make it matter to your players that they got that info from time travel as opposed to really effective spies, or traitors, or some other contemporary means? Unless there are concrete actions they can do to affect it, it doesn’t really matter. And you run the risk of the players saying “Well, it doesn’t matter what we do because they’ll just get all our info through time travel anyway”.

Because that was the one big problem with the Terminator series. Since it worked on altering history instead of alternate timelines, Skynet shouldn’t have sent two Terminators back. They should have sent a lot more. Because as long as your future hasn’t changed, you know it didn’t work.

Run program: Send one back.
If still losing Then Run Program Send One Back.

I assume you can conveniently explain it as they only had time to send two, but hey.

You’ll need something in the present that they can do to deal with it. A “Miles Dyson” or some other figure/object/entity that they can somehow learn about that they can use to accomplish their end game (whether it is stopping the future war altogether, making sure one side wins, or just making sure they survive to see it). For example, chronomancy is developed by an Orc wizard 50 years in the future. If the orcs are winning the future war, do they try and stop this development by killing this Orc’s parents?

I’m not saying this can’t be done, but it will take a lot of careful planning to make an emotional impact, and careful GMing to make sure you don’t railroad the plot.

Zaydos
2015-07-03, 10:45 PM
I haven't read much of them but Fritz Leiber wrote several stories in the same vein about the "Change War" and the "Snakes and Spiders" which were the two factions who fought it.

Look also at Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories which dealt with a temporal war and the limitations on how they could influence the past.

Also Fred Saberhagen's Brother Assassin (second of his Berserker series) might be worth a read. It's basically Terminator, except the robots are fighting a war with the humans in the presence and are of alien design ancient superweapons which wiped out all life and set out to wipe out more (i.e. it's part of the Berserker series which gets copied a lot).

Andre Norton's The Time Traders and Galactic Derelict are other Temporal Cold War stories; literally (as in America v Russia during the cold war) until the most (2nd most? Post 90s) edition.

For the Terminator problem the standard answer is actually that there are temporal ripples and so much time passes in the 'present' after the time traveler is sent before it is changed, and/or there is energy expenditure involved which makes it very time consuming in the 'present' or the same tech can't send things to the same time twice.

dream
2015-07-03, 11:01 PM
How do the PC stop people who can time travel? What level will they be? Will they be able to time-travel too? Unless the PCs have more than one way to succeed, that plot would seem like a true railroad, to me anyway.

Ninjadeadbeard
2015-07-03, 11:57 PM
My first thought: The two Temporal Factions that are trying to effect the future are using basically a One-Shot Chronomancy spell. It was engineered to truly allow one to communicate to beings in the past...but it works like a wormhole. It has an A-opening, and a B-opening, one set in the past and one in the future. While open they are temporally linked, allowing the past and future to operate at relatively the same pace.

An easier explanation: The "Orcs" have cast the Chrono-Tunnel. It connects them at Year 0 to their allies in Year -580. The CT must remain open until victory is guaranteed for the Future Orcs, for the changes to time only take place when the portals close. While open, one hour passing in Y0 is equivalent to one hour passing in Y-580. The time periods are synced up.


The problem I see as a game plot is: how do you drive home the temporal aspect to your players without them being the ones who are time traveling? Especially if all that is coming back is information.

The formula for Gunpowder is information. The ritual to create a Super-Orc is information. The secret to flight, advanced weapons and armor, tactics, medicine, etc, is information. Have the past Orcs suddenly show up with mech-suits and robots that shame even the best Gnome-Engineers. Or show them cleaning wounds with anti-bacterial formulas, or crafting advanced prosthetics to their wounded. Or have an Orc-gatling gun suddenly open up on the Elven cavalry and shatter a charge that should have routed them.


How do the PC stop people who can time travel? What level will they be? Will they be able to time-travel too? Unless the PCs have more than one way to succeed, that plot would seem like a true railroad, to me anyway.

Only information time-travels, not people according to the OP.

Arbane
2015-07-04, 12:18 AM
What sort of saving throw is it to avoid nonexistence via Ontological Paradox, anyway?

noob
2015-07-04, 08:36 AM
When you do not know which kind of saving throw either there is no saving throw or it is will.

dream
2015-07-04, 09:33 AM
"Information Time-Travel" is time-travel, which is a very powerful ability. Here's your situation;

Once the PCs get involved and the time-bandits realize the PCs are against them, what's stopping the bad guys from just using their technology to erase the PCs from history? Time travel allows complete revisions of anything that has happened.

It's a pickle.

BWR
2015-07-04, 09:42 AM
This is basically the plot of the BECMI adventure "CM 6: Where Chaos Reigns".
While not exactly the basis of a full-blown campaign, it may have some interesting ideas for scenarios and opponents.
Also, the "Chronomancer" supplement for 2e would likely be useful.

Arbane
2015-07-04, 12:23 PM
I know there's a few RPGs that deal with time-travel as the plot. GURPS has a few settings for it (of course), and there's one called "CoNtinuum" which actually has rules for handling reality-fragmenting yourself (or others) via paradoxes, IIRC. That involves physical time-travel, but might provide some ideas.

JadedDM
2015-07-04, 02:42 PM
The problem I see as a game plot is: how do you drive home the temporal aspect to your players without them being the ones who are time traveling? Especially if all that is coming back is information.
I was thinking about this, too. From the player's perspective, how would they even know time traveling shenanigans were even occurring? I figure either the party would need to stumble upon some kind of evidence (maybe they witness a future faction member giving a speech to the present folk they are manipulating or find a diary from someone in the present that makes mention of the future folk helping them) or one of the factions reaches out to the party themselves (perhaps in the future, they turn out to be important people; heck, they are adventurers, so it's pretty likely).


Once the PCs get involved and the time-bandits realize the PCs are against them, what's stopping the bad guys from just using their technology to erase the PCs from history? Time travel allows complete revisions of anything that has happened.
The best way to combat this is for one of the factions to side with the party, and help keep them from being erased by using their own chronomancy.

Say the party were all born in the same village. So the bad guys go back even further, to before they were born, and convinces someone to burn the village down. Now the party is never born. So the 'good guys' would then find a way to stop this, maybe by warning the villagers that an arsonist was coming. Or going back to the village's creation and convincing the founders to build it with stone instead.

Of course, this could cause an eternal feedback loop, where the factions keep one-upping each other. Not sure what that would look like.

Maybe it would be easier if the party somehow acquired a form of temporal immunity. So no timeline changes affects them, even if their parents are wiped out (nobody would remember them, but they would still exist). Although I have no idea how that would be done.

Hmm, maybe this is more complicated than it's worth.

dream
2015-07-04, 03:08 PM
I was thinking about this, too. From the player's perspective, how would they even know time traveling shenanigans were even occurring? I figure either the party would need to stumble upon some kind of evidence (maybe they witness a future faction member giving a speech to the present folk they are manipulating or find a diary from someone in the present that makes mention of the future folk helping them) or one of the factions reaches out to the party themselves (perhaps in the future, they turn out to be important people; heck, they are adventurers, so it's pretty likely).


The best way to combat this is for one of the factions to side with the party, and help keep them from being erased by using their own chronomancy.

Say the party were all born in the same village. So the bad guys go back even further, to before they were born, and convinces someone to burn the village down. Now the party is never born. So the 'good guys' would then find a way to stop this, maybe by warning the villagers that an arsonist was coming. Or going back to the village's creation and convincing the founders to build it with stone instead.

Of course, this could cause an eternal feedback loop, where the factions keep one-upping each other. Not sure what that would look like.

Maybe it would be easier if the party somehow acquired a form of temporal immunity. So no timeline changes affects them, even if their parents are wiped out (nobody would remember them, but they would still exist). Although I have no idea how that would be done.

Hmm, maybe this is more complicated than it's worth.
There's the answer (in bold). The PCs will need some plot-armor protecting them from chronomancy and the rival faction works. So, no matter what the evil faction does, the PCs remain, although, it could be fun to alter the setting and/or PCs' memories of the past, as a sign of the hidden chronomantic battle going on.

Maybe then, once the bad faction realizes they can't eliminate the PCs, a direct confrontation occurs. Just suggestions. I've used reality-controllers against PCs many times and making changes in the setting around the heroes can add a "what the heck is going on?" element to things. Chaos & confusion. The thing to always consider with "time-control" type games (moreso than usual) is plot holes; be careful to note changes to the past and how they will impact the PCs/setting. It gets loopy :smalltongue:

oh yeah. Here's some tips on the subject from RoleplayingTips.com (http://www.roleplayingtips.com/campaigns/watch-out-for-these-time-travel-gm-traps/)

Bad Wolf
2015-07-04, 06:59 PM
So...basically the Last Great Time War? It's gonna get very complicated with death and stuff...

UristMcRandom
2015-07-04, 08:26 PM
So...basically the Last Great Time War? It's gonna get very complicated with death and stuff...

The difference with the Temporal Cold War and the Last Great Time War is that the Cold War never really went beyond assassinations and the like, whereas the Last Great Time War went to all-out battling across time and space. Of course, a Temporal Cold War campaign has the risk of the PCs' actions turning the war "hot" and ending up with all-out death and destruction.

Ninjadeadbeard
2015-07-05, 12:02 AM
The best way to combat this is for one of the factions to side with the party, and help keep them from being erased by using their own chronomancy.


Honestly, it's easier to just say that the Temporal Factions' "Time Zone" is synced with the PCs'. They can't just wipe the party from time without closing down their current connection, risking never being able to restore it or even risking their changes only then taking place. They need to use their current agents they've recruited in the past to deal with the PCs chronologically that way.

dream
2015-07-05, 12:28 AM
See. This is exactly why I never got into Dr. Who. There's always the issue of "why doesn't the Master just erase the Doctor?" Plot Armor is is better than immortality.

Bad Wolf
2015-07-05, 01:10 AM
See. This is exactly why I never got into Dr. Who. There's always the issue of "why doesn't the Master just erase the Doctor?" Plot Armor is is better than immortality.

Because erasing the Master, who has an undeniable influence on his own life, could result in the Doctor turning out very different or not being born at all.

Also they were friends, and I don't think he wants to lose those memories. And paradoxes and stuff.

JadedDM
2015-07-05, 02:33 PM
Honestly, it's easier to just say that the Temporal Factions' "Time Zone" is synced with the PCs'. They can't just wipe the party from time without closing down their current connection, risking never being able to restore it or even risking their changes only then taking place. They need to use their current agents they've recruited in the past to deal with the PCs chronologically that way.

I think you might be right. That would certainly solve a number of logistical concerns, at the very least.

ExLibrisMortis
2015-07-05, 04:53 PM
the Cold War never really went beyond assassinations and the like,
Well, apart from Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam etcetera. The Cold War featured some wars by proxy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_proxy_wars#Cold_War_and_aftermath), and it was definitely hot in a lot of places.

If you're going to do this in a default-ish D&D setting, I nominate the Illithid as attackers from the future. It fits their established backstory - play out the first arrival of the illithid in the past, get some aboleth to go "WTF?!". Abberation vs. abberation, time travel, what's not to like?

Lvl 2 Expert
2015-07-06, 01:34 AM
Honestly, it's easier to just say that the Temporal Factions' "Time Zone" is synced with the PCs'. They can't just wipe the party from time without closing down their current connection, risking never being able to restore it or even risking their changes only then taking place. They need to use their current agents they've recruited in the past to deal with the PCs chronologically that way.

I'd like to second this. In Enterprise one of the members of the handsome human looking faction says "we don't work quite that precise" (or something to that effect). Maybe the bad guys have a window to an earlier period, but it can't be used to change what they want to change, or would cause considerable secondary damage. You could even go with the realistic explanation that if you change one detail a few hundred years back there's a good chance almost no single individual alive today still exists as they did before the change, so the bad guys limit themselves to working after their own birth. This might lead to some slightly too interesting assassination options for the real murderhobo's, but it might at the same time explain why nobody from even later than those people with better time travel technology intervenes. Alternatively, maybe they can simply only go back as far as the creation of their time machine. For easier chronology, maybe the machine has been "storing time" since it was created, and that time has to be used in order, so the second attempt at doing something will never arrive before the first. It's kind of a lame explanation, but it prevents the 'send the T-1000 to go after a younger Sarah' scenario.

The players, at least at the start of the campaign, are the pawns used to change the timeline, not the people experiencing the changes. Make sure they know what the effects of their work are though. Maybe have the future people communicate in video, or holograms, or through some sort of technology that makes it look like the PC's are being briefed in the future, that way you can describe a lot of visual changes without relying on an NPC to tell them about it. Something went wrong during the last mission, maybe even something the PC's weren't told about? Have a big hole in the wall of the future office. The sky outside the window is no longer bustling with small civilian aircraft but is filled with pillars of smoke, and through the hole in the wall they can see a big glowing crater, in which large machines are dumping... some substance the PC's don't immediately recognize.

The time travel will most likely get convoluted as the campaign moves on (maybe the PC's get to build more time machines?), but to get the story set up my suggestion would be to make up the rules so that everything works pretty simple.

Hopeless
2015-07-06, 04:09 AM
See. This is exactly why I never got into Dr. Who. There's always the issue of "why doesn't the Master just erase the Doctor?" Plot Armor is is better than immortality.

Why would the Master want to lose his favourite sparring partner and more importantly the one person who he considered remotely an equal to himself?

He's had plenty of chances to kill him but never really took them, same applies to the Doctor except the Brigadier prevented that from changing.

You know the Daleks never seemed to be bothered about Earth barring the few times they conquered it or had conquered it thanks to an idiot messing up the time line that the 3rd doctor managed to figure out and correct...

Yes I said it was a THIRD Doctor story okay now go hunt!

Enterprise's problem is that their temporal war doesn't make any sense since they first tried to intervene when the Klingons got involved, then there was that expanse or whatever that region of space stuff was about since it could have easily tied in the first season by explaining they were countering the efforts of the species that caused the attack on Earth but didn't...

I always figured a Temporal Cold War should establish there's a section of space and time they can't mess with for their own good and part of a game should reveal why that's the case and through that realise how they should react to such meddling.

Why supply orcs with advanced tech unless they were always to suddenly develop that tech and had been put down to contact with a mysterious benefactor often given divine status only to discover someone else developed the time travel, they just used it to grant their ancestors the means to retain their current status but no further than that since that's what its all about keeping themselves where they are and not leave them digging through the dirt after their machinations blow up in their faces!

dysprosium
2015-07-06, 08:20 AM
I always figured a Temporal Cold War should establish there's a section of space and time they can't mess with for their own good and part of a game should reveal why that's the case and through that realise how they should react to such meddling.

This would be why the Temporal Cold War wants to stay cold. In order for any faction to even exist means that certain things have to happen in their collective past.

ko_sct
2015-07-06, 11:46 AM
Another idea:

You would think that the issue of this war is of extreme importance ?
You'd be wrong ! Truth is, a nearby volcano is going to erupt in 11 months, leaving nearly no survivor. The few survivors will talk of a terrible war that angered the gods themselves.

This is but a small feud in the time cold war, it's essentially an attempt by each faction to intimidate the other by showing off their technologie in a setting where it can only do limited dammage. Essentially a war by proxy, if a faction is crushed by the other in this skirmish, it mean surrendering might be a good idea.



Also, one thing a like about this setting is that it allow you to add or remove players easely. Justthrow your hand in the air, yell unforseen riple effect, and then say the newcommer has always been part of the group.


(Typed from phone, forgives all the mistakes please)

JadedDM
2015-07-06, 01:14 PM
I have to admit, I do like the idea of literally erasing PCs from history whose players drop the game (especially if it's without warning or even saying anything). :smallamused:

CarpeGuitarrem
2015-07-06, 03:07 PM
This is an interesting one to think through.

First: the information angle. Whoever the party in question is, they're only able to send information into the past. Information is less prone to paradox, and it's also not as easy to change things with. Information from the future is hard to verify, and so both sides will have spent plenty of time trying to undermine one another's attempts to provide helpful information to one another. (Amusingly, if one side attempts to pass back information of ambushes and such, the other side can totally undermine their credibility by sending that info back to their opponents so they can set different ambushes.)

This works well, because it's not easy to enact sweeping changes like erasing someone from history. You have to be really good in order to send information back to someone that can achieve such a broad goal.

Second: "what changes?" Because it's fantasy fiction, I think it works to go with the "perpetually-changing" model of time alteration. Maybe people notice the changes, maybe they don't, but small things change as information goes back. Some people chalk it up to bad memories (for the small stuff), maybe commanders chalk things up to spies (for the bigger stuff).

Question: how is the information appearing in the past? Is it written? Depicted through a portal? Given as a dream to someone? I'd go with something like the third choice, because it makes things more limited and harder to exploit in silly ways. You wind up having people who are dreaming prophecies...sent by people from the future!

Mark Hall
2015-07-06, 03:33 PM
http://www.treelobsters.com/2015/07/698-backtalk.html

This is something I immediately thought of.

However, if you're going to do that, consider that a Cold War is going to have people on both sides... so the elves are sending information back to them, while others are sending things back to the orcs.