OngoingWorlds blog

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


So you’ve traveled back in time – Now what?

It’s happened, somehow your roleplay characters have found themselves back in time. They’re being chased by Medieval Knights, or being attacked by cavemen, or are dodging stomping Dinosaur feet. But before they got here, I hope you thought about the consequences of a time travel plot.

I’l get to paradoxes in a while, but first. How will your characters get back? If they were deposited in this time by some sort of accident, what hope do they have of returning? Did the device that brought them here travel with them? Hopefully it did, although it might be damaged of course – but that’s a good thing! It gives everyone some time to explore this period, and gives them a goal to return too.

Time travel replacement parts probably won’t be available in whichever time period you’ve travelled to, but hopefully one of your team is skilled enough to create something out of raw materials. Perhaps you need a crystal you can steal from an Earl in the nearby castle. Maybe you need some copper wiring you can create from metals ‘borrowed’ from a Roman Centurion’s armour.

Or maybe your method of time travel was a 2-way door? This is the most dangerous kind of time travel, as it could allow all sorts of historic baddies through into your present! You’d need a character to stay and guard this portal, although it does give an interesting opportunity for any of your characters who’ve not time-travelled with you. They can corral Mammoths back through the portal, under attack from cavemen explorers.

There’s lots of fun to be had with a time-travel story, but lots of mess to get yourself into too. For example what happens if your characters cause a paradox? Have you decided on the time-travel rules ahead of time? What if they only go back in time a week, and stop themselves from going back in time? What if they kill their parents or prevent their own birth? What will happen? Will they fade away like Marty McFly, or will they create a parallel universe? Be careful here because these rules need to be agreed or you’ll have arguments about how this story pans out.

Yep, time-travel is quite complicated. But it’s fun! So fun perhaps that some of your characters might be tempted to traverse the timelines more frequently. So it’s sometimes worth mentioning a negative effect. Perhaps too much time-travelling causes sickness? That could stop this being over-used.

If you’re interested in using time-travel as a plot, here’s 2 interesting articles: