Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rite of Passage for Time Travelers

I've been writing a bunch over at the Arcana Wiki, and in the process a concept for a really messed-up time-travel game just hit me.

This would take a setting where things are Fated to be, and the universe bends over backwards to preserve it's own continuity. Within such a setting, murdering Hitler could be a Right of Passage for time travelers. Any right-minded person with the ability to travel time would surely try to stop the Holocaust, but no one ever succeeds. The universe pulls out all the stops trying to keep WWII on track, and Hitler's early life gets more and more convoluted. It'd be important to establish that Hitler was already a genocidal madman before any time-travelers tried to kill him, you wouldn't want to accidentally imply that the attempts on his life made him crazy.

It'd also be important to make this plot protection apply to the whole world and all of recorded history, so that there wouldn't be an unfortunate implication that Hitler was somehow protected from on high any more so than anyone else is. I imagine it'd be impossible to change history in any way. The GM would probably need to ad-lib radically, blocking random PC actions frequently. The past would be a big padded room, that you could bounce off of but never alter. As such it would get very frustrating to play in a campaign this way, but could make for an interesting short story or one-shot RPG session.


digital_sextant said...

This sounds awesome. It reminds me a little of "Kill Dr. Lucky," from Cheapass games. It's kinda like a prelude to the game Clue.

In the gameworld, would people know about other peoples' attempts to rewrite the past, or would each person assume they were the first to try it? Also, would they remember only future history, which would now reflect the additional assassination attempts, or would they remember their own alternate past? Is it Back to the Future or Pastwatch?

ps> Unless you're going for some kind of pun, you mean to say "Rite" of passage.

digital_sextant said...

An awesome pun would be that before you can use the time travel mechanism on your own, you must attempt to change the past, so you can experience firsthand the way continuity maintains itself. Thus, in order to get the "right of passage," you must try to change history first.

And who wouldn't pick Hitler?

ps> Have you read Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card? It's an interesting meditation on this stuff.

Hunty said...

today's captcha word is "bewswarb", which is the magical name of Drizzt's favorite blanket.

digital_sextant said...

That story was very funny!

rbbergstrom said...

Damn. That wasn't an intentional pun, just the result to typing too quickly.

BTW, The story Hunty linked to was very similar to how things work in the Continuum RPG. Where, rather than the universe fixing itself, people have to go preserve the continuity of history, which could mean time-traveling Hitler impersonators, which would be a pretty sucky job, to say the least.

But for the Rite of Passage concept, I assumed it's a universe that self-repairs. To learn how it works, everyone kills Hitler, and the universe unkills him repeatedly.

Of course, actually killing any one is unnecessary, if you believe nature is as important as nurture. Just delay his conception a few hours, and some other sperm will be faster and fresher.