Time Travel in Rolemaster & Shadow World

In a recent BLOG POST, I touched upon Time Travel as a technology or mechanism that could be introduced into a Shadow World campaign. Tricky, right?

A lot has been written on time travel in RPG’s and if you have ever allowed it in your game you know it can generate great adventures but create a lot of hassles as well. Some suggested solutions are only allow travel into the past, time travel only occurs in alternate timelines that don’t affect the current one or there are side effects to encountering yourself in the past etc.

I mentioned a few mechanisms to introduce time travel or time manipulation during game play:

  1. Portals. These can be used not just to transport over distances but over time as well. Several gateways Terry describes in Emer Addendum hint at such a power.
  2. Flow Storms/Foci. Want to change things up? Add a Time jump into the effects of an Essaence effect. Not only can you send the players to another interesting time/place but you create a whole adventure path if they want to return to their own time.
  3. Spells. Spell Law never introduced Time related spells, but I think some were added in a companion? (citation needed). I posted up our Time Mastery spell list on the RM Forums. The list is a work in progress–and very powerful in some aspects and very limited in others. A couple of spells take some work and ingenuity on the GM’s part:

6. Time Jump I – Caster can “jump” 1 rnd/lvl into the past or future.

I thought of only allowing the caster to jump into the future–that’s an easy solution where the caster is basically “out of play” for the # of rounds. But that’s not really useful unless it’s just used to avoid a impending bad situation. So how do you handle a caster going back X rounds into the past? First you have to realize that there will be 2 casters for X of rounds (then the other will cast the spell and go back into time and everything is back to normal).  One option is to have the PC announce that they will be casting the spell in the future and then they can play 2 versions of themselves for those set number of rounds. One issue is that the original caster may not survive or be able to cast the Time Jump spell in the future… One resolution is to qualify that time travel creates a new timeline and that this new timeline might not end up the same way. That also means that there will be 2 casters permanently in this new timeline. Interesting…

This spell gets much simpler at higher levels when a caster can travel forward or back years or decades and thus removes the problem of 2 casters or travelling such a short time that the other “self” is present.

8. Time Bubble I – Caster is enclosed in a unmoving time singularity. He can either slow time by 1/2 or speed time by x2 during the duration. The caster cannot interact with anything outside the bubble or vice versa.(no causality). Perception is modified by the time difference(slow inside will make outside activity appear hyper fast, etc.)

Time Bubble is a more useful and less complicated time spell. Basically the Caster is demising themselves from the current timeline and either speeding up or slowing down time within that bubble. This allows the caster to create extra time to heal, prepare another spell or just get away from a dangerous situation. The bubble wall is inviolate. (Unless someone else has Time Merge to cross into the bubble.)

15. Time Stop I – Target up to MEDIUM size is enclosed in a time singularity where time is stopped. No information(visual or otherwise) can pass through the barrier.

A useful spell, it’s basically a version of Time Bubble that can be cast at a distance on a target–basically freezing the target for the duration of the spell. This does not slow or speed up time within the bubble but stops it completely. For a group, this would allow them time to prepare, heal or buff against a troublesome foe.

But Time Travel doesn’t have to be literal. Here’s the thing–one of the great parts of Shadow World is the immense timeline. It’s a great read, adds a lot of depth to the world building, but most of it will be lost on players: I’ve read it A LOT and I can’t keep track of most of it!So when people ask WHERE they should start a SW campaign I say how about “WHEN”? Want a hack ‘n slash one-off adventure? Introduce the PC’s to a battle during the Wars of Dominion. Want a mixed genre sci-fi/fantasy campaign? Start during the interregnum and have the PC’s be Worim, Taranian or Jinteni characters with technology and interacting with the fantastical creatures of SW.

So many possibilities–anyone play around with Time Travel in their game?

13 Replies to “Time Travel in Rolemaster & Shadow World”

  1. Time Law, Time’s Master and Space Time, RoCoV. There may be others.

    I’ve recently read a few chronomancy supplements – these were primarily Pathfinder, and they didn’t use spells so much as class abilities. Swings and roundabouts – there were certain limits on what could be done by using skills rather than spells. Like you couldn’t load up with a one type. Chronomancy is fun but mishandled it’s an appallingly easy way to break your campaign. It’s not so much the big jumps of thousands of years (D&D’s DA series did that) but the potential havoc from messing around with the present, recent past and near now.

  2. Many of the problems with time travel are the same as ghost posed with the forest owl edge spells available to many professions or on many base lists.

    If you can resolve those issues without destroying the lists then time travel should a walking in the park, wasn’t it?

  3. Since Lorgalis is supposed to have Time Travel magic if we consider his RM2 spells, we once had a campaign were the party was about to access some artifact to help defeat him, when Future Lorgalis appeared, said the party was responsible for his demise, and froze them there so that they wouldn’t interfere when the time came.
    That was just a plot twist anyway, since the party was still alive but frozen in time, the Loremasters eventually learned of this, found the party and unfroze them, only now it was 500 years into the future, Lorgalis reigned supreme and most of the world was just ashes.
    And that marked the beginning of the third and last part of a really crazy and interesting campaign. Of course the last adventure included a part where the party met with alternate versions of themselves from different timelines and found a way to create a time fixed point so that no time travel was allowed before that moment, and their victory on the next day was inscribed permanently in the world. And thus began the 4º Era in Kulthea.

  4. ok, this is interesting! is this written down or an organic result from game flow? I’m thinking time travel will be the necessary ingredient to the Grand Campaign–probably via Jinteni tech. I see the GC more and more as a Grand Heist–or stealing back some objects (northern eye, heart of agoth) that has already been stolen. Much more interesting than more noble causes and plays into rpg motivations.

    1. We were 3 GM’s who had decided to play 3 small sequential campaigns that would connect into a bigger story.
      The time-traveling Lorgalis and the fixed point in time with the multi-time party gathering were all made up by the GM who prepared the last part of the trilogy.
      I have no idea (and since this was 10 years ago I doubt he remembers about it) if he made up the stories after each session ended or if he knew from the beginning how things would go.

    2. Or perhaps they could be helped by an oddly dressed man in a strange blue box…

      Portals make sense for Jinteni technology. There’s that classic Star Trek episode (The City at the Edge of Eternity?) where McCoy travels back through a portal.

      I also found a couple more time related spell lists, Time Travel and Time Sight, in Time Riders. A logical place really.

      Some of your spells on the Time Mastery list seem rather powerful when compared to D&D. Comparable versions to some in that system are time stop, temporal stasis and foresight – one 8th and two 9th level spells.

      1. Ha! Everyone thinks my spells are too powerful! Time Mastery needs some work and partly why I blogged about it–everyone’s comments and just thinking it through helps me fine tune it and fill in the empty slots.

        1. I think one problem is that chronmancy has a lot of potential to become unbalancing anyway, if it really starts playing with time. I’d been looking at supplements to see how others dealt with it, and there isn’t really a lot of temporal magic out there.

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