Adventures in Time
- To familiarize the students with the time period in question
- Daily life is not all there is; expose them to myths and legends to give them a feel for how they thought and viewed the world.
- To teach the geography of the region in question, both in itself and in relation to the world
- To teach the innovations and knowledge of the period
- To give opportunity to learn various other skills and knowledge which might be applicable to the game
- To have fun!
The characters are (at first, at least, unwitting) agents of a Voyagers!-type time-fixing organization. We’ll call it the Time Council, as no ‘official’ GURPS organization seems to fit the bill.
I’m currently envisioning this as a Quantum Leap-style mechanism, with the players “taking over” existing individuals. For now, I’m imagining that these individuals are even the players in “past lives.” This explains why they would have the connection they do with them; they literally are the same people. Characters have (roughly) the abilities and knowledge of the players (explained in detail at Characters) rather than
My vision of the overarching “time travel” mechanic is evolving. I’m thinking now of using my old “fractal resonance” theory to explain the connection between the players and the PCs. This could also be used to explain past lives; they aren’t really, they’re just people who have a fractal resonance with someone from the past. These people are so similar in some fundamental way—or perhaps it’s just a chance resonance, having something to do with accidents of time and place or some other factor, rather than some root similarity.
But frankly I like the ‘similarity’ idea best. That’s what it feels like to those who believe they have had past lives, so that makes sense.
The thing about this idea, though, is that it is about resonating with people in the future. In other words, the PCs have a connection with the players, even though the players exist in their future. They can’t access information they can’t understand, but they can have some sense of what their “future selves” would have them say and do, and they often obey those impulses, even if (as is quite likely), they have no idea where they come from or what they mean.
Another way to do this is to simply say that the PCs are they players in past lives, and that they are similar enough that the players can simply predict what they will do. This raises some problems, though, with my idea that the PCs have whatever skills that the players can demonstrate.
What’s more, I envision an organization or order—or competing organizations—that have gained some insight into this process using ‘fractal magic.’ They can’t predict the future, exactly, but they can influence it to some degree. These are ancient orders trying to affect their present and future, not present-day organizations trying to affect the past.
So I’m liking this. “Fractal resonance.” I should make a page describing it in detail when I have a clearer idea of its consequences. But essentially it is a past character having a limited sort of resonance-connection with a present person (i.e. a player), so that they can in effect be influenced—or, in practice, controlled—by their future ‘self,’ and know only what that future self either knows or can demonstrate knowledge about. Like I said, however, that only applies to skills and knowledge he could reasonably grasp given his upbringing. In practice, this works very much like “Quantum Leap” except more like possession; the character is in kind of a trance. Although he will remember what he did and said afterwards, he won’t quite feel as if he was the one who did it.
I’ve envisioned doing a strictly historical, No-Magic campaign, but the idea of doing something like Voyagers, as presented in Time Travel Adventures might be fascinating as well.
I am not at all sure how this works for the three-times-over historical approach advocated by The Well-Trained Mind and that I have planned to follow. Ideally children in different stages can go through this together; perhaps the older children can have different challenges. But will it be boring to go through this more than once?
So each session should revolve around a single challenge or puzzle, with ancillary tasks (very like crafting in MMORPGs). In fact, explicit Quests and Sub-Quests will keep things clear and interesting. Make the challenges fairly easy at first and possible to solve within a single session.
The main action of the session is likely not going to revolve around what I want them to explicitly learn; instead that will be the focus of one or more sub-quests. But the Curriculum should guide adventure creation. Ideally every session is working toward at least one item on the Heinlein List.
Or have the main action revolve around some Heinlein List item, or have a Heinlein List item be integral to the action (learning the history of the time and region, for instance), and have several different sub-quests for them to choose from.
Here’s an interesting idea: Have the PCs at the center of the advancements of the age. I seem to recall a cartoon (Tom & Jerry??) where the mouse(?) was actually the driving force behind whatever advancement was in question; i.e. he actually wrote the Declaration of Independence, or whatever. Perhaps something similar is in order here: The PCs, while not in the spotlight, have the challenge of coming up with whatever technological advancement is in question in the session. That becomes the main challenge of the session. Not every session, probably, but often. This would precisely achieve my goal of having them walk through the advancements of the ages.
This concept, I think, involves them having various degrees of exposure to the innovations and culture of the time. There are the innovations they are intimately involved in—those are the ones I want them to have detailed knowledge of (for instance, writing). There are those they are directly exposed to—those are the ones I want them to have a working knowledge of (for instance, pottery). And there are those that they merely see or hear about, or experience the effects of (say, masonry). Of course, if they want to get more involved in something from the latter two categories, they may do so. But only the first category is “mandatory.”