The Principles of Time Travel
as I (Sort-of) Understand Them (in Theory)
Before I say anything else: The First Rule of Time Travel is “Don’t.”
The Second Rule of Time Travel is “Don’t Talk About Fight Club,” but I think that was someone’s idea of a joke. Possibly mine. In the future, that is. Anyway, not important.
Seriously though, “Don’t” is a very important rule. Time Travel should never be undergone lightly. If a Moros Mage f@#ks up, the worst that can happen is the zombie apocalypse or the complete and utter destruction of all matter in the universe. In the case of a serious Acanthus fustercluck, the whole of existence—at best—never happened. The problem is if you’ve done enough Time Traveling that someone’s teaching you the rules then you’ve gone and broken the First Rule of Time Travel (and possibly the second) already.
So, you beautiful little rule-breakers, welcome to my domaine.
Most people who have studied (read as: “mucked around in”) the workings of the timestream conclude that there are only two ways the universe could stabilize itself with so many people disobeying the First Rule of Time Travel:
The SPLIT TIMELINE or MULTIVERSE theory suggests whenever someone travels back in time and changes something, two timelines branch off. In one the original event happened unaltered, in the other something completely new happens. Apparently Nintendo subscribes to this theory, much to the chagrin of obsessive Legend of Zelda fans wanting to know how the various games fit in the Zelda continuity. If you are one of those fans, let me try and settle that debate for you once and for all: There isn’t any continuity. None of it ever happened. It’s fictional..
The INEVITABLE FATE or YOU’RE PROBABLY SCREWED theory is best demonstrated by any episode of Disney’s Gargoyles that involved a handy little item called “The Phoenix Gate.” Essentially, If you try to change something you’d find yourself the catalyst for the event you wanted to prevent. For example, you travel back in time to save your childhood friend from being hit by a car. When you see them alive and well and just how you remember them after so many years you shout out in joy—but this shout catches their attention and they step into the street without looking both ways and. . . . you get the idea.
In my opinion, both theories suck. The first creates an overwhelming number of possible universes (and even more debates over said universes), and the second is just damn depressing. I like to believe in a different theory, which I’ll call the BACK THERE theory, after the Twilight Zone episode of the same name. This suggests that “Major Events” are stable, but “Minor Events” can be changed.
Let’s say you decide to get all noble and assassinate a certain crazy German leader from the 1940s. That would be the historical equivalent of rewriting the Harry Potter series so that our eponymous hero croaks in The Chamber of Secrets. Lord only know what horrors you’ll unleash when you unravel that intricate weave of cause and effect. Actually, the Lord doesn’t know. . . but other Time Travelers do. Should you manage to kill Hitler you’ll find yourself a massive target for every (Somewhat) Responsible Time Traveler, and if you’re lucky your work will be undone before you can even begin it. If you’re unlucky, you’ll blink out of existence before you can say “What do you mean my father was never born?”
Saving one Jewish family from the same era doesn’t rewrite as much. It’s similar to the removal of Peeves from the Harry Potter movies. It alters things, but the changes are manageable.
In essence, a Time Traveler is like an editor; The universe is a finicky author. If you want to rewrite things in the author’s beloved manuscript you have to do it with a light touch. Otherwise the author will have a temper tantrum and things will turn out poorly for everyone involved.
All right my little rule-breakers, I’d write more on this but I have to be somewhere yesterday. Good luck on your journey, but if you can slip back and teach yourself the First Rule of Time Travel before you get started that’d probably be for the best.
I had a perfectly good game session planned for last weekend, and once again my players ruined everything. Also once again, it was that damned Acanthus Mage who ruined everything the most.
They kept telling me that their plan for this session was to be a direct assault on the Seers of the Throne. I was prepared for this. In fact, I’d been prepared for them to come to this decision (or at least stumble into it blindly) about 6 months ago. It was, admittedly, a very bad plan. Also admittedly, this is what made me like it all the more. Their good plans always leave my poor Seers at a loss. Their bad plans make me giggle. I was giggling a lot last week.
The Acanthus Mage had to decide to cast Divination to decide whether or not ‘storming the castle’ (so to speak) was a good idea. Then, just to add insult to pain in my ass, she had to cast Interconnections to see if she had any Fate ties to the location in question that might indicate that her allegedly kidnapped sister was there. When she discovered that she had no connections to the “Seers HQ” (alleged), and after her divination brought to mind Gimli’s thoughts on storming the gates of Mordor, she convinced the rest of her Cabal to call off the assault.
So what do they do instead? They decide to call a meeting with a woman they strongly suspect to be a Seer of the Throne, who they know as Hannah (AKA: Damien’s ex-wife (See Here: Hook, Line, and Sinker )). She accepts their meeting. After all, she isn’t unreasonable. She just wants to serve her Exarch and get on with her life just like the rest of us. She has nothing in particular against the Cabal… well except maybe her douchebag former husband who cheated on her multiple times with whoever didn’t say no. Even under the circumstances she was willing to be the better person and have a rational conversation with him. She lets him choose the place. She lets him choose the time. She asks up front if this will be a private meeting, and when he says to bring one other person she does. She gave him everything he wanted. She gave him the best years of her life! What does she get in return?
She gets pushed into a waiting portal so that his Cabal Mates can beat on her as soon as she materializes, that’s what!
Poor Hannah botched her WITS+EMPATHY roll to sense his cruel and underhanded motives. She trusted him again, and again he betrayed her sacred trust. So she materializes in a place fortified by Damien’s Cabal, and immediately everyone starts beating on her. They magically punch her in the brain, they root her to the space she’s standing in, they try to counterspell her magic shields. She has done NOTHING to them! All she tries to do is leave. That’s it… just leave. Hannah is no joke of a Mage, and so she weaves a Time spell to shunt herself backwards in time a bit. She isn’t looking for anything huge, just enough time to teleport herself elsewhere (the Space anchors wouldn’t be in place yet) and then jump herself back to her normal time frame in a place where this Cabal of jerks is not laying in wait to beat her face in for no apparent reason. Is that really so much to ask?
Meanwhile, back at the meeting place, her agreed upon companion realizes that she has disappeared. Her agreed upon companion also realizes that the new skank her ex-husband is hanging around with is still there. As such, her companion (being no fool) decides to turn the air around the skank’s head into chloroform. Why? It will do no lasting harm, and this purple-haired tramp might give leverage if needed. Also, by casting on the air around this lady she gets no defense bonuses or resistances to the spell. The plan is simple and effective. Or so it would seem.
The purple-haired tramp twists Fate to get out of the affected area of the gas before passing out completely, and then jumps through the bloody portal! Discovering that she has just missed Damien’s ex, who cast some kind of spell to get outta Dodge, Aenaiyah (AKA: The Purple Haired Slut) scrutinizes the area. Aenaiyah realizes that this is the work of Time magic (she is an Acanthus Mage after all), and decides to ritually cast a spell to throw herself backwards in Time after poor abused Hannah. She can’t make it back as far as Hannah did, but does make it back far enough to leave herself a message (in the past) to use Time magic to prevent other Time spells from being cast in this area for a while when they are fortifying everything. She is smart enough to not give the messenger a specific reason why (because if this works that reason would now not exist and my brain would explode), beyond that it is a good idea to do it – and that afterward she should maybe pop back and tell herself it would be a good idea to use Time magic to prevent other Time spells from being cast in this area because otherwise she might forget to do it.
Honestly, can’t you just stick to Post-Cognition?
I hate Time Mages.