Time-Travel based campaign

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Hi guys,

I'm new to DMing 4th edition, as my playgroup plays 3.5. I finally have the chance to DM in the coming christmas break, and my brain is overflowing with campaign possibilities. No-one, including myself has played 4th yet, but it has been remarkably simple to get a hand on the rules. 

We play Forgotten Realms, but the players aren't too keen on the 4th edition campaign setting changes, and would prefer to stick to the 3.5 setting, but I think it is important to explore new things. I proposed a solution, and the players jumped on board right away. The solution is Time Travel.

We will use the 4th edition ruleset, but begin in the 3.5 setting. Almost immediately, the players will be investigating a strange device which happens to be a portal to a demi-plane with divinely-morphic time. Time will move much faster here, allowing the players to exit in post-spellplague Realms. The players can then suss out the new setting, and if they don't like anything, their quest will be to travel back in time and change it before it happens. The story will follow only their timeline, and they can only travel forward and back the exact same amount of time, meaning that events in one time will progress the amount of time they have been away. 

I know this may be a nightmare to do properly, but I feel the concept is rich enough to sustain my commitment. Also, as the idea is resonant with the players (they are all really big Doctor Who fans), they will all want the campaign to succeed and support me in my efforts to do it right.

At the moment I have planned out a list of encounters to get the PCs from level 1 to 2. I won't go into too much detail, but I thought i'd share the boss fight. When they first exit the portal in the 4th edition setting, the portal will be incorporated into an elder white dragon's hoard (the platinum and other treasures will be frozen under the ice to stop them getting greedy). They will exit the cave just as the dragon is flying back from a village at the bottom of the mountain (they could see this mountain from the area they entered the portal). When they reach the village, they are tasked with defeating the elder dragon (a tough ask for level 1 heroes). If they put their heads together, they will realize that all it takes is a trip back in time to defeat the dragon as a wurmling. So, a skill challenge to get past the dragon and into the portal, and happy dragon slaying for all.

Now, this is a forum to ask for help, so, what I would like from you fine people is any advice you can offer on my campaign concept.
Does it work?
Does it sound fun?
Anything I have forgotten?
Any warnings?
Any experience with time travel in games that you would like to share?
General thoughts?

Cheers. 
Its an interesting idea. Certainly you have a few problems to deal with - like accidentally carrying the spellplague into the past...

Time travel isnt a real concept though...it is in fact change in possibility. Realworld example: you travel back in time and kill Adolf Hitler aged 12. Adolf doenst Join the Nazi party and as a consequence it continues to be a Political Party in European Politics and its influence spreads to America. Thus the problem isnt Adolf Hitler - it is the party and the beliefs of its supporters. Adolf Hitler is in fact the cause of the destruction of the Nazi Party. THe advantage of having Adolf Hitler live is that when the NAZIs fall the Technology of the Nazis falls into the hands of America and the Soviets. As a consequence Man lands on the Moon and you have a Laptop computer for your birthday.

So now if the party discover the future is riddled with spellplague - travelling into the past to stop it makes it worse.
The Citadel Megadungeon: http://yellowdingosappendix.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-citadel-mega-dungeon-now-with-room.html
Thanks for the reply. Obviously I really need to suss out both the settings in depth before finalizing the finer plot points, and I haven't actually fully read the 4th Edition campaign setting (waiting until my physical copy arrives, I can't bear to read it all on pdf).

The Spellplague is definitely something I will need to be wary of, thanks for the heads up. I believe for the epic part of the campaign, they may want to prevent the Spellplague altogether, by stopping the murder of Mystra.

Containing an outbreak of the Spellplague in 3.5 Realms would be a very tough challenge, but it depends whether that is what the players want to play as to if it does become a real danger. As I said, I haven't read the specifics yet, but I could always rule that the existence of Mystra and the weave could diminish the danger of the Spellplague in Old Realms.

Cheers.
 
If they put their heads together, they will realize that all it takes is a trip back in time to defeat the dragon as a wurmling. So, a skill challenge to get past the dragon and into the portal, and happy dragon slaying for all.



This is a big "if", unless you give the party prior experience/several reasons to make the assumption they could do this.  Make sure it is the obvious choice--since your story hinges on it.

Other than that the concept sounds like a lot of fun.
Theres a campaign arc in the DMG II that involves time travel via a device, "the Mobius Trippers."  It has some basic ground rules for time travel, one of which is that while characters can change the past, there's a law of conservaton in effect that says the overall flow of history remains the same.  they also can't visit times they've already visited, or their own pasts.

I'd play in that game.  My only warning would be that you should have a clear idea of how time travel works, and what it can and can't accomplish, before you start.  The classic question--and one you probably ought to answer--is if time travel into the past is possible, where are all the time travelers from the future?  That is, if this portal from pre-Spellplague to post-Spellplague exists and is stable, why isn't it more well known?

However, it is worth mentioning that you'd have considerably less overhead if you took the more expedient route and simply continued playing in the FR you know and love, with 4e rules.  4e is just a new mechanical take on the D&D high-fantasy, swords-and-sorcery game, and there's nothing that says you have to use the storyline changes from the 4e version of the FRCS.
I think what should happen is that your players accidentally cause the spellplague and other such things that change 3e FR into 4e FR.
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Love the idea of going back to slay the wyrmling.  but as someone else mentioned just make sure that this is an obvious option, so make sure they are aware that they have the capability to travel back and forth in time.

Maybe even let them get away with a magic item from the future dragon's hoard that can be used to slay him!
"The great epochs of our life come when we gain the courage to rechristen our evil as what is best in us." - Friedrich Nietzsche
The classic question--and one you probably ought to answer--is if time travel into the past is possible, where are all the time travelers from the future? 



Thats obvious: They are in the alternate reality they created by travelling into the past.
The Citadel Megadungeon: http://yellowdingosappendix.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/the-citadel-mega-dungeon-now-with-room.html
Thanks for all the replies guys, I thought this would be interesting.

@gwydion9: Thanks for the heads up on the Mobius Trippers, i'll definitely check that one out.

@mccowen: I think what I will likely do is break up the portal device into pieces. The piece they first find is an active portal that travels a set amount of time into the past (coincidentally just enough to get them where I want them.) They will not be able to reverse the portal until they find an appropriate piece of the machine on the other side (fetch quest!). If I treat it like this as an incomplete machine, then I am free to add or remove functionality as I see fit. Also, there will be other creatures and NPCs with knowledge of time travel, they are just few and far between.

On the subject of the dragon, the players enthusiasm for this concept stems from the ability to "fix" the future, and I want them to be able to do so. I am sure they will be looking for every opportunity. If they get stumped for some reason, an NPC can always say something innocuous like "I wish that dragon were never born," or something to the effect. Should get them thinking along the right lines.

On the subject of crossing their own timelines, this will not occur. As the portal will only ever transport them an exact number of years, say, 400, when they travel 400 years into the future, then stay in 4th Edition Realms for a week, when they travel back, they go back exactly 400 years, resulting in them arriving a week after they left. In this case, 100 years in the world is equivalent to 1 minute in the demi-plane. Once they have been inside for 4 minutes, the demi-plane will automatically eject them. I think it provides enough restriction to not get out of control.

Cheers. 
"Almost immediately, ... portal ... time ... post-spellplague Realms."

I played in a campaign where the characters time travelled 100 years in the future, to 4E Forgotten realms. The problem with that setup was that in an instant, all of our character backgrounds became completely irrelevant. One of the players had even made a family tree of all his relatives and within 5 minutes of the first session they were all dead. We spent the rest of the campaign following "the main storyline" because we had no anchors in this new world for character development.

My advice is to make absolutely sure the players know what going to happen to their characters and not spring it on them. Even then, their character background should allow for some kind of connection to this future. If they have grown offspring or maybe some sort of legacy, make sure to provide that information early for them to have a connection to this future.
Thanks for the reply jorgeo.

I take your point about a legacy for the characters which is evident in the future. In fact, the main mechanic of the campaign is to create this legacy by going back, changing something, then forward again to see the effects. That said, I am always open to what the players want to do, and if they give me some juicy character concepts to work with i'll be sure to utilize them. 

I'm privileged to have the kind of players who will push the envelope of the concept, but won't break it for the sake of breaking it. That being said, they most definitely will not have interest-earning bank accounts in my Forgotten Realms.

Cheers. 
Really like your time travel idea, and it seems like you have a good idea on how to keep it simple and set down some rules for it.  In terms of consiquences of actions in the past/future it's true that it's easy to do something to cause a time paradox.  The mobius trippers basically solve that problem for you.  Have you ever read the book Timeline?  One aspect that i immediately thought of when you mentioned time travel was not the consiquences for the world, but for the players.  Not to give anything away, but in the book, the more you use the technology and travel, the more "errors" build up in the system.  that the first few times you can go and come back with little to no problems.  however after say 10 times, there are serious problems (these were medical in the book).  But i thought you could incorporate that idea, if you thought it was an interesting one.  Whether the consiquence is that they become weaker if they time travel too much, or maybe they bring something evil or powerful back from the demi-plane.  

Best of luck, sounds like a blast.  i'd be interested in hearing hour your encounters go. 
Soo, as a few people were interested to see how this campaign went, I thought I would update. We have currently had 2 sessions, Starting in the Friendly Arm Inn on the Sword Coast, in the pre-Spellplague Forgotten Realms. The PCs were commissioned by a Lantanese Gnome Archaeologist to retrieve a map from Candlekeep. On the way there, they freed a doppelganger from some Flaming Fist Mercenaries. The doppelganger told them she was captured for information about the Century Ring, a legendary artifact. 
They arrive in Candlekeep on the day of the Festival of the Reading. The sages possess the Tome of Ages. The Head Librarian turns a page of the book every hundred years, and reads the contents aloud. The result is a prophecy which allows the peasants to plan on crops, natural disasters, etc.
The players meet the Head Librarian, who tells them someone else has been seeking the map, and tells them where to find it. They descend into the catacombs of Candlekeep, fighting of skeletons to reach the map room. Upon reaching there, they are faced with an enemy mage and his hobgoblin guards. The mage instantly summons a Beholder Gauth, who proves a tough fight for my four heroes. They retrieve the map, and arrive back in the main keep just as the final line of the book is read. They burst through the doors of the great hall, the whole room, in stunned silence, turns to look at them, apart from the Head Librarian, who intones; "and the world will be rent asunder..."

And that is far as we have got.

Come level two, they should have made their first trip forward in time, to see the results of the prophecy.

Now for my request. I am writing the complete prophecy over the coming week. I am looking for creative and cryptic ways to foreshadow the Murder of Mystra by Cyric as abetted by Shar, the Sinking of Lantan, the Arrival of Abeir, and the Spellplague.

Any help would be appreciated. 
..shoot, I am sorry that I am posting so late in the progression of your campaign.. ..with that said I have seen another post about time travel utilizing the "Time's Arrow" episodes from Star Trek Next Generation..

..I watched it on Net Flix and wrote down the major plot points, ran it, and it worked out AMAZING!!!!

..the only rewared I gave them was the um.. ..spell warped templete and the quest is still something we joke about "time to time".. (pun intended) ..


..good luck to ya..
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willy Wonka
In this episode they find data's head and that's originally what kicks this whole thing off.  what did you use to draw them in?  So this was more like a one shot adventure tahn something you continually go back to?
In this episode they find data's head and that's originally what kicks this whole thing off.  what did you use to draw them in?  So this was more like a one shot adventure tahn something you continually go back to?




..to the first question; ..I used one of the party members chosen randomly, it happened to be Kagan the half orc barbarian tank, and instead of finding just the head they found the half orc encased in an unidentifiable "magic" cocoon.. ..the research lead them to a specialist NPC wizard, and if you know the episode the NPC wizard filled Guinan's role in the story..

..here I had to do a little modification to the story, instead of making it back to normal time with just Data's body and Mark Twain, while leaving Picard in the past with Data's head to leave the hidden message in, I had to leave two players in the past, obviously the half orc and the closest person to the collapsing time rift, which I think was Tordek the dwarf cleric.. ..Tordek left a "Back to the Future" note to be delivered to the PC's on how to uncase Kagan, get Tordek back and destroy the beings and their time traveling without unleashing the soul absorbtion on everyone on the island

..to the second question; yes it was a one time thing..



..on a side note though, it worked suprisingly well as the campaign involves a race between the PC's and a lich trying to resurrect a goddess of undead.. ..in a previous quest they encountered a dragon that had been a pet to Ora' Bane (made up goddess of undead).. ..and the dragon's dying breath was "We will not be stopped this time..", which was supposed to just be back story on a previous failed attempt.. ..until Quinn the rogue said, "this is what the dragon must have ment when he said, "we will not be stopped this time".. ..on the inside I was like, "Oh snap, this is so possible", and on the outside I was all like, "Hell yes, this was intentional!"


:D

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willy Wonka