So You’ve Pissed Off a Chronomancer

When your party makes enemies with a red dragon, you’re likely to get eaten. Annoy an assassin, and you have to literally watch your back all the time. And if you cross a wizard who has power over time, you’re likely to be sent back in time without a phone booth to get yourself back. Yesterday’s Campaign Mastery features an article about time travel in the author’s super-hero campaign. Except for the notable Dragonlance Legends trilogy, I don’t recall a lot of fantasy settings sending heroes through time. Maybe this is because fantasy settings remain largely unchanged in technology for thousands of years, even as empires come and go.  You don’t hear about D&D games where the heroes are thrown into the “future” either, but that might be because mixed technology/fantasy mechanics tend not to work out well unless the game is specifically designed for it, and even then, it’s not guaranteed.

But let’s say despite that your character makes a time-shift. In the standard 4e campaign, you might find your heroes at the start of the Nerath Empire’s rise. Even if swords, armor, and magic still work the same, your character is still going to be out of her element. She won’t know any of the people, places, customs, or perhaps even language. This is a classic fish out of water situation, which is good guidance for how you might play it. Depending on the tone of the campaign,  encounters with the NPCs could be a great time to ham it up. If your character knows about History, Religion, or Geography you could use those skills navigate your way through the past. The one question remains… do you try to change the past or work to ensure that events transpire as they already did?

Just as exciting is being catapulted into the future. If you make your time travel known, you’ll probably be treated as a curiosity, but at least you can regale people with stories of the “olde days” and laugh at the various situations the historians got wrong. As a twist on the normal dungeon delve, you can offer your services to a patron to explore an “ancient ruin” that was once your childhood palace.

The other thing for your character to figure out is how your character is getting home, or even if he wants to. If you used a magic item or ritual, you might assume that you could reverse it… that might be a bad assumption. Fortunately as players we don’t have to think too hard about it, our GM should give us a way out.

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6 thoughts on “So You’ve Pissed Off a Chronomancer

  1. Im kind of obsessed about time traveling in fantasy histories… there is so much potential in there, i do believe though that is easier and more manageable to include time travel in small time gaps or really large ones because the two really just take a few twiks to adapt to your game.

    For example your heroes get ported 200 years into the future while fighting the mid paragon evil mastermind just to see how he succeeded into taking dominion of the realm and you got to work your way into coming back and stopping him, most of the cities/structures could be there still with just some few mayor changes to accentuate “hey this is really the future” nothing says time has passed like a big crater where a great city used to be and now lies the emperors castle (think ocarina n_n)

    The other example would be a large jump (works best backwards) you need to open a closed passage into the astral sea but consulting an oracle you learn the one item that could do so was destroyed milenia ago in the great dragon war, and you get a salvage world before human cities that was rule by dragons and you need to enter one dragon lair to retrieve the artifact before its destruction

    Both scenarios could really be exposed with very few scenes and you could narrow the action later into a specific dungeon and i assure you it will be memorable :)

    PS: im also looking into a cross edition travel like what gabe from penny arcade did http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/4/7/ sounds really awesome :)

  2. It was implied above the the future means technology. The base D&D setting is pretty static, with the same basic “tech” for eons. No reason not to assume that doesn’t continue, if you want. Or, you could just assume that the future turns into Dark Sun.

  3. @DM Baloo,

    That’s an interesting idea. Give the players a chance to clean up their mess or see how their good work turns out in the future. I was thinking of doing something similar for follow-up to a one-shot I ran last month.

    @pdunwin,
    If the future is the same level of tech, how is that different than being dumped off in a foreign city? That’s why I didn’t really consider it. However I did play in a 3.5 campaign where we were actually transported into “the future” that was actually Dark Sun. We really weren’t ready for it, but it was interesting idea.

  4. @Michael
    Look at “Prince Caspian.” The events of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” had passed into myth and legend. The Pevensies were in the equivalent of a foreign land, but one that had many similarities to the land they knew.

  5. I’ve been tossing around ideas for a time travel adventure, myself. A time loop might be interesting, one that widens at each iteration (despite ending at the same point), so players have opportunities to learn from the previous repetition, avoid mistakes, and eventually learn how to escape the loop.

    Encounter/adventure settings that are noticeably different in different times are interesting, and the difference might help paint in a backstory.

    I’m also considering a short one-shot to allow my players to try out different character concepts – either they’ve time-jumped into other bodies, or they play characters in the distant past.

    Time travel is also a great way to alter your campaign setting temporarily – a time when mages were hunted and killed, for example, or a bronze-age period dominated by chariots. If your campaign is more Tolkien-esque, the mythic past could let you inject some Robert E. Howard. The advice about Dark Sun was great – it could serve as either a savage past or a dark future setting.

  6. @Endymion,

    In a recent session of my current game, our GM put us the roles of heroes from 1,000 years ago in parallel event to what what was current in the campaign. This was a “dream-sequence” for our characters, so we got to play through some of the back story. It was pretty cool.

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