I read an interesting article about time travel from Discovery Magazine.
So Zack and I talked about time travel a while ago in the context of trying to develop a reasonable time travel system for a role playing game. And I after reading this article I think I have one. Though I’m not sure it what you might be thinking but bear with me. Also I’m writing this based on reading the article so you might have to read it for this to make sense.
To have consistent stories involving time travel you also must have “closed time-like loops” in the physics of the universe and this implies a couple of interesting things. One, the physics are not deterministic (that is you cannot predict the next instant based on the previous instant) however oddly, two, you also have to give up the idea of free-will. This is because for a story to be consistent once an event is observed it CANNOT be changed. So if you go to the future and see yourself kill someone you are now ordained (if you will) to kill that person. You cannot choose not to.
This may seem like it would not work as the basis for a role playing game (because people like to choose what there player does) however I think if you look at role play a bit different it works just fine. First view the game universe as a 4-dimensional blank canvas. Now the players and the DM choose a setting; this fills in some of the canvas, basically a short period of time directly before the “start” of the game and a reasonable area surrounding the start in space. Now the players begin to make choices as to what there characters do and this starts to fill in this 4D canvas. However once a part of the canvas has been filled it can never be changed. So if a player or the DM says that they see themselves do something in the past of the future they cannot choose not to do it later. It is fixed. All they can do is write the story that lead them to that point that they have already set.
This lead the play style to a very “fiction first”, story gaming type of play. The players (including the DM) are writing a story, however they are not necessarily doing it in chronological order. It would be reasonable to say that a player plays all versions of themselves, in all times. So they will never be forced to do anything in any time. This style of play also has the interesting implication that if the players become board with an event they could just jump forward or backwards in time (as players not characters) and fill in a different part of the story that has not yet been “written”.
In the end one of the most important rule would be that if something has been observed it cannot be changed. So if you go forward in time and see something happen you cannot change it. However you could change it’s context or meaning. So if you go forward in time and see a bloody knife with your finger prints on it. Then that knife must be there and it must have your finger prints on it. However if it has not been stated whose blood it is than that could be decided later. It could even be your own. So as a player your goal will be to create an interesting story based on what has already been observed or written on the 4D canvas.Posted in Table Top Gaming