OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


11 essential things to think about when running a time travel plot

This article was written for us by John Garcia who writes Jaxx in the roleplaying game Blue Dwarf.

tardis delorean

John Garcia with mug

Written by John Garcia

If you’re a fan of Sci-Fi then you are probably no stranger to the many stories to time jumping.  Since the written word came about many stories of going back in time have come about to entertain us. By now most of us are familiar with A Christmas Carol, The Time Machine, Doctor Who, The Butterfly Effect and the Back to the Future Series.

Each of these stories had a different perspective on time travel and address different theories on time travel.  Now if we had to break it down to eleven essential parts needed in order to ensure a good plot line for a time travel story we would need to break it down to the fundamental parts.

Theses eleven parts would be location, the time period, the inhabitants, the environment, the current technology level, any natural resources, current cultures, world and local governments, the world and local currency, any altered time lines and any natural phenomena caused during the time jump.


The location is very critical since it will be an alternate of reality or a made up place. Either way it will be critical to set it up so the audience can envision it in the story line.

Time period

The time period is also important since it connects with the location and sets in motion the connecting parts of the story be it the past, present or future.


The inhabitants will vary in race, gender, appearance, language and so on.  This is very important since it is required for the audience to connect with the main characters as well as their way of life.


The environment will vary depending on the location of the characters and where they travel to and from.  Be it a forest, a mountainside or a large city the environment will affect the characters via weather, buildings, ruins, deserts, oceans or as simple as fireflies in the night.

Technology level

The current technology level is a byproduct of the location, time and environment combined and will determine what the main characters can and can’t do based on their skill level.

Natural resources

Natural resources will also affect the main character when they will need supplies such as food, water or materials in order to perform certain tasks.


The current cultures as small but do affect the main characters when they need to communicate, negotiate or simply ask for directions.


The world and local governments set rules and boundaries for the main characters as they continue their mission and hope to not make their situation worse by getting arrested.


The world and local currency can affect a character who has the wrong time line of currency.  This could be bad if they were arrested for counterfeiting.

Altered timelines?

Any altered time lines like the theory of the Butterfly Effect should be considered when the main character go back to their own time.  Something as simple as save a kid from a fire could drastically affect the future.

Natural phenomena

Of course to add some flair to the story we should also address any natural phenomena caused during the time jump.  It will add more flair to the story of their actions in the past caused a mutation in the future via virus, DNA or an altered atmosphere.

So as we sit down to make our storyline we should address main story line and all the small details as well in order to ensure the audience will connect and fully envision the story as well.

The top image is a screenshot from “Blink to the Future”, a really creative Doctor Who and Back to the Future mashup video on Youtube. Here’s a link!