Time Travel in the Sea of Stars

19 December, 2021

Temple_of_Time_(1846)_editMy friend Brandes posted about Time Travel stories for RPGs on Tribality.  Which got me to thinking about Time Travel in the Sea of Stars, or, perhaps more precisely, the lack there of.

Time Travel, as it is usually thought of, is just impossible in the Sea of Stars.  People cannot travel back into the past and interact with it.  There is no way to change the past and cause changes to the present. It is quite simple, the past is past and thus immutable.  If there ever was any way to travel into the past, the acension of the Empress shut such a doorway, completely and irrevokably.  Yes, it is impossible, no loopholes, no debate, no time travel . . . into the past.

One can travel into the future but once they arrive there, it is the traveler’s new present and they cannot return to their starting point in time.  Again, no time travel to the past.

Movement forward in time can also be slowed, even to a crawl, but it still inexorably marches on.  A very minor form of this magic is used to slow spoilage on foods for transport.  More powerful forms can nearly perfectly preserve an item.  This is said to be the only type of temporal magic that the Empress practices.

Now, magic can be used to see, sense or even experience the past with enough power and precision.  Retrocognition, object reading, windows into the past, all are possible . . . except in regards to the Empress.  Those who had tried to use such magics to spy on her past, perhaps even learn her true name, have not had success.   But there are almost certainly those who are still trying to pry into her secrets by use of temporal magics.

The lack of time travel allows for a consistant, fixed, past and a stable present.  Time travel to a past that can be changed is simply to disruptive and even if it had been possible, the Empress would have closed such a potential threat with the most powerful magics she had access to (which, after the defeat of the Gods, was quite powerful indeed).

Notes: Time travel is a fun thought experiment but really only suitable to a very few genres (such as stories focused on time travel and its consequences) as it is so very disruptive to a stable world continuity. Which is why I wanted to make it perfectly clear that it is not an option in the Sea of Stars, if a character wants to quest for the ability to do so, or try to create magic that will allow it work, they are allowed to do so, but the rule stands.  I will be very clear on this so the player will not have false hope, as long as they do not mind their character having them, all is good.  There are many, many things I will be flexible on in my campaign, this is one of the narrow few that I will not bend on.

I may write a companion piece talking about time travel in my supers world (Earth-H) if I get inspired to do so as superheroic games have their own logic.

Image edit from the Temple of Time, a chronographer by Emma Willard, first published in the USA in 1846, found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.

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