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11 things to think about before starting a time travel plot

Downton Abbey Primeval time travel

  • Make sure you mention or include a way of the characters getting back to their own time. Think about this before taking them on a one-way trip.
  • Build in a way that the characters can’t just start altering history (and agree with fellow characters what the rules of your time travel has. Terminator rules or Back to the Future rules or Twelve Monkeys rules?)
  • Pick a time period everyone knows something about, and is interested in. Perhaps if it’s a less well-known time period, provide info and helpful links about the period.
  • Think about how any characters from the time period will react when they see your characters. Will they stand out like a sore thumb? Or fit right in? The plot might depend on whether the characters can move freely around, or be immediately attacked and imprisoned. Modern technology and clothing will have to be addressed, either before the time travel takes place or immediately after. Perhaps they can steal some clothes?
  • Are the characters likely to bring new technology to a time period? Consider benefits and dangers knowledge can bring. This can make for a really interesting plot, but can stretch the plot out quite a long time.
  • Use of actual historical figures within plots should be decided ahead of time. Who will play them? What about mythical characters like Robin Hood? You have to decide if they’re real or not.
  • Think about the time progression while the characters are in an alternate time. When they return to their own time, how much time has passed.
  • Think about ancestry, will the characters meet people from their own family? Can they alter their personal timelines? These rules need deciding ahead of time.
  • Are there any negative consequences of time travel? Perhaps radiation poisoning, nausia, or death if it happens often.
  • Can the characters meet themselves and change their own timelines. For example if tyou’re only travelling back a week, decide what the consequences will be if characters meet themselves. Are they even allowed to touch each other? What about the Grandfather paradox?
  • What’s the method of time travel? Is it a 2-way portal? Can characters from the time period come through to the present?

With much thanks to SavageDamsel, KittyKittyBangBang and Mara from RPG-D for coming up with this list!

The cover image is from an article called “5 scifi twists that would make Downton Abbey more interesting” I wrote for SciFiIdeas.com