Pathfinder and time travel


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So, as far as I know, the only creatures that can time travel are great wyrm time dragons. That said, can they travel back in time and possibly change major historical events (such as stopping the Earthfall or saving Arazni?) I would guess not otherwise one probably would have already. Also bonus question: it says they can time travel 3 times in their entire life, does going back in time and making a return trip count as 1 or 2 uses?


The description of Hounds of Tindalos seems to disagree with your assertion. Not only can the Hounds time travel, they are the natural predators of those that dabble in manipulating time and space.

The RotRL AP has a minor time travel subplot that involves the Desidens of Leng. They can't time travel, but magical devices that would manipulate time were created with their assistance.

All in all, time travel is bad for plot. If something goes back in time and makes a change, now the GM has to figure out what to do about it. And any decision you make will be questioned by somebody. Honestly time travel plots are just bad.


I shut down one of my campaigns recently because of the time travel paradoxes that were created by players and sadly, myself when trying to repair them. Time travel games can be run successfully. This one wasn't.


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I like to think that once you get good enough at time travel to go anywhen freely, without limitation everybody else who is Shyka comes to you and gives you an ultimatum- get in on this "being Shyka" timeshare, or they all work together to kill you.


I don't usually allow time travel shenanigans in my games but any time it comes up, I just use the old "alternate timeline" explanation and that the paradoxes have unmoored that new timeline from the rails of reality, causing it to slowly drift into the chaos of the Maelstrom. Eventually, it will be devoured by primordial Chaos and the remains set adrift in the Far Realm. Naturally, other forces caught in that timeline will seek to right the paradox before facing destruction and may succeed in reintegrating the timelines.


I agree that something having time travel at will is a bad idea. That said, the great wyrm time dragons having time travel is canon (even if they can only do it 3 times ever), so how exactly would you explain why they don't go back and change things? I guess you could say something like there are only 5 time great wyrms in the multiverse and they just don't want to, but that seems kind of weird, unless time dragons in general are just REALLY rare.


Yqatuba wrote:
I agree that something having time travel at will is a bad idea. That said, the great wyrm time dragons having time travel is canon (even if they can only do it 3 times ever), so how exactly would you explain why they don't go back and change things? I guess you could say something like there are only 5 time great wyrms in the multiverse and they just don't want to, but that seems kind of weird, unless time dragons in general are just REALLY rare.

They don't go back in time to change things because that'll piss off the first GTW to have gone into the past and set up an arbitrarily large supply of past/future selves to police the time stream of anything that could potentially threaten his cushy existence as the overlord of time.

Or they don't because the writer didn't think of the consequences of the ability and that's that (much like why the world hasn't suffered a Shadow apocalypse). I personally prefer the Recursive GTW Stack myself.


Yqatuba wrote:
I agree that something having time travel at will is a bad idea. That said, the great wyrm time dragons having time travel is canon (even if they can only do it 3 times ever), so how exactly would you explain why they don't go back and change things? I guess you could say something like there are only 5 time great wyrms in the multiverse and they just don't want to, but that seems kind of weird, unless time dragons in general are just REALLY rare.

Becoming a great wyrm tends to come with a great deal of experience and wisdom. They are unlikely to be concerned with the affairs of most mortals and unwilling to change the timeline that has very little effect on their own existence. Perhaps to save their own lives, they would risks the dangers of time travel and it is very likely that they do travel in time, but no one ever catches wind of it. I try to think of the creatures as more than stat blocks and read between the lines to get a sense of their motivations. If they can only do it three times, I envision that it takes something vital out of them each time they do it.


DeathlessOne wrote:
Yqatuba wrote:
I agree that something having time travel at will is a bad idea. That said, the great wyrm time dragons having time travel is canon (even if they can only do it 3 times ever), so how exactly would you explain why they don't go back and change things? I guess you could say something like there are only 5 time great wyrms in the multiverse and they just don't want to, but that seems kind of weird, unless time dragons in general are just REALLY rare.
Becoming a great wyrm tends to come with a great deal of experience and wisdom. They are unlikely to be concerned with the affairs of most mortals and unwilling to change the timeline that has very little effect on their own existence. Perhaps to save their own lives, they would risks the dangers of time travel and it is very likely that they do travel in time, but no one ever catches wind of it. I try to think of the creatures as more than stat blocks and read between the lines to get a sense of their motivations. If they can only do it three times, I envision that it takes something vital out of them each time they do it.

Well, I don't think they are COMPLETELY self-interested (as in they have no regard for others and only care about themselves) as that seems more like evil than true neutral. That said, I can see them thinking "If I change (some bad event) it might just make things worse, so I better not".


Also something else: even if they don't change something, there are some events (Aroden's death being the biggest) that you'd think they'd at least be curious enough to go back in time and see what really happened. (i.e if you could go back in time to see if Jesus really did all the stuff the Bible claims wouldn't you want to. I would, and I'm not even religious.)


Regarding things like "visiting the death of Aroden to find out what happened" there's two basic problems with that.

The first is that, if you wanted to say "go find Pharasma" right now, it would be beyond the ability of even the most powerful statted beings. So there's no guarantee you could find wherever Aroden is when Aroden died.

The second is that if something is sufficiently powerful to kill a god (like Earthfall) you don't want to get anywhere near that thing unless you're more powerful than a god, which you're not.


They probably do time travel, and perhaps on rare occasions even meddle, but because the mere mortals that are generally player characters are part of the altered timeline we're not aware of what they've done.


Yqatuba wrote:
Also something else: even if they don't change something, there are some events (Aroden's death being the biggest) that you'd think they'd at least be curious enough to go back in time and see what really happened. (i.e if you could go back in time to see if Jesus really did all the stuff the Bible claims wouldn't you want to. I would, and I'm not even religious.)

It's possible they did go back and check it out. How would we know?

I imagine these ancient immortal creatures were around before Aroden's ascendence, so for them perhaps even the death of a once-mortal-god is something they've seen before in the vastness of the universe.

As guardians of time perhaps they even caused the death of Aroden - using it as the catalyst to break proficy (a form of time-travel) so they can stop others meddling in history.

Or as an alternative theory, why would dragons be concerned with the messiah of lesser beings? You'd be interested in checking out Jesus, but would you spend very limited and powerful ability to visit the ancient messiah of all frogs? (I'll admit that I WOULD be curious about the frog-messiah, but I don't know that I'd be curious enough to use my most powerful ability to go check it out).

(Also regarding your first post, I'd assume each use of the power is a one-way trip.)


On the subject of timetravel and changing things: I run Mystara, which canonically has fairly common time travel (for certain values of 'common'), with potentially catastrophic consequences with alternate timelines being a major threat to your current one (like in the module "Where chaos reigns") and comparatively large amounts of it.

The only way I've made sense of that is to say that there are entities that prefer you don't mess things up too badly (probably true about certain periods but obviously overridden in WCR) but mostly the following head canon:
Time travel and people altering the timeline happens all the time (so to speak). Things are changed around, histories rewritten, timelines spring up and collapse, etc. But from the point of view of anyone inside such a timeline they obviously won't know about 'previous' timelines. The only people that know are those that cause the actual changes and possibly some Time Immortals (Time being one of the fundemental essences of the Mystaran cosmology). The current game just happens to be in a certain timeline where events played out the way they have until the PCs get involved somehow and rewrite history yet again.


Just from a theoretical standpoint, if you have a limited number of times you can time travel, but you are also effectively immortal, then you don't use your time travel ability until you are forced to.

Like lets say that every major event in the Pathfinder APs annoys a GTW. Your GTW knows he can only time travel a few times, so does he try to fix every problem as it pops up? No way. You keep a detailed journal and slowly investigate to find out what really happened, and plot out you want to change things when you do time travel. You repeat doing this with a huge list of how to 'fix' history.

When the GTW gets forced into a situation where he feels he can't continue to live (adventurers in lair, existence coming to and end, Game of Thrones season 9 rage) he chooses to use 1 use of his time travel to go back as far as he thinks will be safe/comfortable.

Now you dig out all of those journals and you create the world you want to live in and you alter events to make sure the bad stuff you remember never happens. You also start new journals with notes on how to fix this new history, because you get to do this 3 times.

Hopefully you get it right at least once.


Also from a theoretical standpoint GTWs can work around any limited uses of their time travel using generic snowcone GTWs or just traveling back in time and meeting a past self with all his uses remaining and working out some kind of a system to rule the known universe probably using some combination of powerful magic and tech stolen from Starfinder to Terminate potential threats (starting with anyone who even thinks about making a GTW Simulacrum like they do).

This whole situation is also incredibly stupid even if it is technically in line with what the rules allow. It's like fantasy ecosystems/economics ultimately. Seriously don't think about it too much because the abyss gazes back and that jazz.


I think it's cannon that it's happened 3 times already in the Pathfinder universe.

Dahak

Absu

Tiamut

(In that order)

EDIT: (or in reverse order)

They're all the same dragon, just fighting different versions of itself from different time periods. It doesn't look like it worked out that well for him/her.

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