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  1. #1

    Through the Ages; campaigns through time

    I'm curious about GMs who've run split timeline games within the same universe.

    IE: One campaign runs thousands of years in the future from another one, possibly concurrently.

    The reasoning perhaps is the GM wants to explore the world at a different point in time. The problems are the amount of obfuscation, needed to blur the timelines such that the future timeline isn't affected by perhaps major events that are unraveling in the past.

  2. #2
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    I've thought about it. And read others thoughts on it. But,I've never done it.

    One thing you have to think about is 'destiny', 'fate' and is the timeline pre-ordained? If the timeline is pre-ordained, then the groups/campaigns really have little impact on each other. And if the time distant enough, then they would really have no impact on each other.

    For instance, if their first/early party kills a famous king, then even if you have already told that history to the second group and gave them a different name, well, history got the names wrong or some bard or historian was paid by someone else to lie or...

    Now, if the actions of the early party change your timeline... You still have some of the methods of above that you can use to account for the discrepancies, but you might have to change your plans for the second group based on success/failures of the first group. It's easy to plan for if the first party is successful or completed the plots and stories as you outline it. But the more you get into sandbox campaigns, the harder that will be to do. Especially when the first group fails on some big plot point. And even more so if you don't artificially have someone else complete what they failed at, or make some other historical adjustment to return to your planned history.

    All that said, not sure this is the advice or discussion that you meant to start...

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  3. #3
    I kinda worded it to search for ideas and generally brain storming.

    I agree that if one campaign is first, it's trivial to perform the future one. You brought up the 'changing the timeline' which is the chief point of contention. Fuzzing it I suppose will allow some leeway if the events aren't world changing, but in the even that they are the only way to cover it is with a middle 'crisis' that could possibly cover this. This is 'the spell scar' or 'the breaking' level events where histories are lost and mis-recorded.

    Regarding sandbox, that's my primary campaign area and I'm trying to figure out how to line up the dots if you will without it being too artificial.

  4. #4
    First off, am I the only one who thought of the excellent boardgame when clicking on the title?

    More on topic: There are several roleplaying products who have addressed such topics, GURPS Time Traveller and AD&D 2nd's Chronomancer Supplement coming to mind. I am sure both of those are available on Drivethru RPG, so they might be worth to have a look at. I know Chronomancer specifically details fantasy worlds going from stone age to enchanted jetfighters vs. dragon dogfights.

  5. #5
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    The Wheel of Time by Jordan also has a related take. In that mythos, the wave of history repeats itself through ten (?) epochs. Of course the details vary, but maybe not enough for what interests you have. Not sure I was sold on it either. Of course, the details of each epoch that are repeated are so general that you could play in almost any of them without adversely impacting the next.

    One thing I will say, is don't get caught up in the timeline shortsightedness that something like Star Wars does. In a fantasy setting, it can be easier and just as hard to justify that the understanding and events from a generation or two past seem as ancient history. Easier because of the lack of written history and recordings. Harder because of the possible powers of magic. (If you don't know what I mean, in Star Wars, in the time of Luke as a boy, Jedi are ancient mythical people. Yet, somewhere like 30 years before, the Jedi Temple stood and Jedi roamed the galaxy and their powers were openly evident. But, by the time of Luke coming of age, they are a myth. I guess nobody has cell phones and all videos were purged?)

    So, a thousand years separation in the campaigns. I think that gives you a lot of safety. In that if the earlier party wasn't the one that did the history making event, then someone else could have (the fuzzing). Plus if written knowledge/history is still pretty rare, key events can have been obscured. And finding "proof" of what really happened could be difficult.

    Have you already run the campaign in the 'future' and now want to run one earlier that doesn't change the reality of the original campaign? Or are you running them concurrently? Same players?

    I think the challenge is only if the future has already been played or you are running them concurrently and have player overlap. In that case, I suspect you may just end up having to hand wave or generate some fuzzing event in between. Not sure what other ways you can handle it.

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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails View Post
    So, a thousand years separation in the campaigns. I think that gives you a lot of safety. In that if the earlier party wasn't the one that did the history making event, then someone else could have (the fuzzing). Plus if written knowledge/history is still pretty rare, key events can have been obscured. And finding "proof" of what really happened could be difficult.
    The setting i'm kicking around is a custom Sci-Fi one, so information destruction will be difficult aside from conspiracy theorists and government blackouts. I've kicked around a couple of ideas but I don't have anything solid aside from the two I just listed.


    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails View Post
    Have you already run the campaign in the 'future' and now want to run one earlier that doesn't change the reality of the original campaign? Or are you running them concurrently? Same players?

    I think the challenge is only if the future has already been played or you are running them concurrently and have player overlap. In that case, I suspect you may just end up having to hand wave or generate some fuzzing event in between. Not sure what other ways you can handle it.
    I'm running currently and it's going swell, but this is the 'past' campaign. I've not yet started a second but my current in person group is starting to wrap up their adventure and I've teased them a ton about my online group's setting. Even reading out a few 'vid logs' so I've garnered interest, thus there won't be any cross-over in terms of players, and I don't think that would work out anyhow.

    My players already know this, so it's safe to say I'm currently considering two Epochs, separated by roughly a thousand years. Sans a lore drop, my setting is basically a dilapidated generation ship where the 'journey' and the 'destination' are two distinct phases of history in my universe. A number of things can occur to the colony ship between these points (structural damage comes to mind) but I've thought of a few interesting things to obscure this but they all only delay this information. If I choose to run another game within this time period, it becomes more difficult to reconcile the two.

    I suppose I could have this future setting become an alternative timeline, for my in-person group and have a separate future setting presented to my online group if they choose their next campaign with this setting. This however is all water cooler talk, but suffice to say that both time periods have plenty of meat on the bone.

  7. #7
    Let me add details on two things:

    First, in the mid-1980's White Dwarf Magazine (then a general RPG Mag and not a Games Workshop only production) did a small series on a split-campaign using AD&D and Cthulhu. The idea was that the AD&D half was set "in ancient times" before recorded history, and the Cthulhu half was set in 1920. It handled the timeline stuff quite well. If you go hunting online you'll almost certainly find copies (Issues around #80-#90 spring to mind) which you could use as inspiration, etc.

    Second, I don't know about the Savage Worlds version, but the original version of Deadlands: Wild West, Deadlands: Hell On Earth and the other Deadlands: (Space something) provided a split-campaign from the 1870's and the 20xx's - again, is that a single mega-campaign or a split-campaign (I( don't know) but again, its worth taking a look for inspiration.

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  8. #8
    Mega campaigns are more simple, and split settings are flavor for the groups involved. A shared universe is the main conundrum between two groups. I've experimented with concurrent campaigns before and the sore point was if the two parties where in the same town or location as major things would occur but the other party could not act or do any major investigation against the other. Across a timescale I have more leeway but making sure the dots connect takes some finesse.

    Lord mentioned destiny and predestination and having played in a game that involved some minor time travel, it was heavily railed. My settings tend to be far more sandbox with or without a general 'arc'

  9. #9
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    I think what I would do to keep the sandbox feel and such is not to have the pre-ordained events etc. In short, you disconnect the timelines. Since the players are not shared, as far as they are concerned, you are running unique campaigns not tied to anything.

    You run the later timeline group with a history of how you think the events of the earlier group is going to play out, but any discrepancies are really only something you'll be aware of. You can make minor changes to the later groups history to reflect events from the earlier group as long as you don't change anything 'canon'.

    Of course, if you run the campaign again in a few years, you can adapt the history to the events of the groups you run through now

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  10. #10
    Good call, I was too concerned about making them consistant. I'll just have parallel timelines and stitch them if I feel like including references to the past party's actions.

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