Sunday, December 16, 2018

Time Travel, Chronomancy, and the Hard Working Men and Women Who Make it Possible

Time Travel Disclaimer

You need to be very very careful when introducing time travel into your game. Its tricky, lots of fantasy is ruined by it. So how do we play with one of the most explored ideas in modern fiction? Carefully, with moderation.

This means introducing time travel to your party at the right time, and limiting its use either through prohibitive resource scarcity or unique circumstances leading to its application.

This guy is clearly a chronomancer, who else has the time to learn to balance on their cane like that?
Source: ReznovKG


But of course some wizard somewhere fucked that right up and invented time manipulation magic, Chronomancy. They probably thought, "Oh, I'll just go back in time once to kill the Dark Lord when he was a mortal and zip back to the modern day", and then ended up causing some horrible paradoxes that ripped up the mortal plane.

Luckily in this timeline the wizards haven't done anything too stupid yet and if you are very rich or powerful you too can toy with the sands of Time like a child plays with dirt. Here are some of the most common services for sale in the exclusive Time Market:
  • Chrono-experiential effects: This is time magic cast on the mind, to let you relive times past or to make time go by faster for you. Be careful, walking down memory lane is tilt shifted into the red spectrum of light, lending these experiences a rosy hue...
  • Time rate adjustment spells: Haste and Slow are the most common examples of this form of chronomancy. Its relatively easy to change how someone or something flows through time, their hearts just might not like beating at 240 bpm every fight though.
  • Time stoppage: Pausing time is much more major magic, though it carries none of the dangers of tampering with the timeline. Some Chronomancers have made mistakes meddling with this magic, and have trapped themselves inside a single moment as TIME HERMITS (thanks Arnold for the idea).
  • Time travel: The pièce de résistance of time magic, flinging a whole person through the timeline. Its not accurate, and its not cheap, but you can do it. Be careful when traveling forward in time, you don't always land in the most probable timeline. For example, if the odds are 1 in 10 that the Chancellor to the Emperor will successfully assassinate him and take the Empire for himself, there is a 1 in 10 chance that the future you travel to will be in the reign of the new Emperor. This gets nuttier the farther into the future you go, as possibilities branch and timelines fork. Its much more reliable to travel back in time, though you may have trouble finding your way back to your origin point.
The primary constraint on chronomancy is getting enough raw resources, specifically Time, to work with. Thats where the Time Market comes in...

The Time Market

The Tardy Sifters and other groups who preform Time accumulation labor are the bottom rung of a tall ladder of movers and users of Time. This economy can't really be altered, indeed if they were any more efficient at collecting Time their Time would be lest potent and thus would be Time wasted. No, grueling and inane labor are the best ways to accumulate a lot of Time.

Tardy Sifters making making their way to market
Source: Artur Sadlos

Its like crack cocaine or a pyramid scheme, its a viscous cycle designed to keep more and more people down while those running the show profit. The chronomancers don't pay in gold, but rather chrono-experiential potions.

Here's how it works: Say you miss your first cat. You go to the Time Market and ask a chronomancer for a way you could hang out with your cat again. The chronomancer prepares a draught for you that lets your mind travel back in time and play with your cat while your body is catatonic. You get snapped back to the present after the potion wares off. You ask the chronomancer for more time with your cat, but you are out of gold. He says its no problem, just go into the desert and collect me some sand, its easy work and in return you can hang out with your cat more. And so you are well on your way to chrono-experiential dependency where you are locked in a self reinforcing cycle of labor and blissful visits to a more rosy past as your body withers and the present feels like a prison.

Keep in mind this is not memory magic, this is a way to actually send the mind back in time. This is relatively easy because minds don't weigh anything and can't mess up the timeline like whole bodies can.

He might not have intended to visit this future, but he's making the most of it.
Source: Nate Abell


  1. Glad to see you back! Observational mental time travel is such a great fix for paradoxes. Always ending up in alternate timelines is too, but for games, mental is probably best.

  2. I've had great success in my home campaign with time travel in assuming that the vast majority of timelines become uninhabitable by dumb and reckless time wizards. Great post!