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Time Travel

In response to a question on another forum devoted to Champions Online, a discussion of how time-travel works in Champions came up, and I thought it might generate some ideas for folks to reprint that info here. I'd just like to stress that some of the assumptions I make below are only extrapolated from the available examples, and can't be considered definitive statements from the creators of those examples. Also, as I always say, this is a comic-book world. The needs of a given story, or what would be "fun" to play out, often supersede adherence to precedent. ;)

I'll just throw out an opening salvo in this discussion, with a brief outline of the nature of Time from Book Of The Empress pp. 23-24, dealing with Istvatha V'han, perhaps the most accomplished time-traveler in the Multiverse: "According to her perceptions, as influenced by the research conducted by her scientists, there’s a single overall Stream Of Time that applies throughout the Multiverse... but each dimension’s “branch” of the overall Stream “runs” at its own speed. In some dimensions (such as two or more alternate Earths), time flows along at nearly the same rate, with the same events happening at more or less the same time. But in other planes time moves faster, or slower, or “curves” in unusual ways...

However, again according to her perceptions, every branch of the Stream Of Time has chronal nodes — dates/events/incidents of such importance that their outcome can affect the future flow of time by splitting off a new “branch” of the Stream (and thus creating a new dimension in the process). The typical events in the life of a typical person don’t create or involve chronal nodes; they can be changed by time travelers without affecting the overall flow of time in any meaningful way. But events of great significance, or the actions of extremely important persons, are/create chronal nodes. Interfering with a chronal node thus can “change history” going forward from that point.

Some chronal nodes are very specific and discrete — such as whether a certain person does or does not cross a certain street at a certain time. But others are very “broad,” such as whether a particular war is fought and who wins it. (Some scientists consider the latter merely a large collection of specific chronal nodes, rather than a single large node; research is ongoing.)"

What I believe is implied by those statements is that it's possible for someone whose life and the events in it don't form a "chronal node" to go back in time and change those events for him/herself without causing a new branch of the Time Stream to form. Hence for everyone in that branch those changes would become the "new reality" which has always been that way. However, if a node is meddled with, rather than changing that branch, a new one is formed creating another "alternate" universe.

One example of the former case may be Istvatha V'han herself. In meddling with the past of her own home dimension, V'ha-1, for her benefit, V'han discovered she had inadvertently erased her own family from having ever existed, even though she continued to exist and V'ha-1 was mostly unchanged otherwise.

As to the second case, interfering with chronal nodes seems to be the M.O. of another time-traveling conqueror, Korrex, a Human and ruler of Earth of the 51st Century (who is fully described in Golden Age Champions). Korrex travels to a past era of Terrestrial history, conquering it and creating a new alternate Earth dimension. Korrex sets one of his followers to govern that new Earth, then moves on to another era.

OTOH not all dimensions have alternates like Earth or V'ha. Istvatha's scientists call those which do "keystone dimensions," but the majority of dimensions are unique. So changes to time in those may actually alter those singular dimensions without creating alternates. The fate of the dimension containing the planet Koratho may be illustrative of that. The Korathons were all immensely physically superhuman. When V'han's armies attempted to conquer their dimension, the Korathons crushed them. Istvatha was concerned that now they knew about other dimensions, the Korathons would eventually invade her own empire; so she traveled back to before Koratho coalesced into a planet, and prevented it from doing so. There's no indication that any alternate version of Koratho exists.


  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,091 Arc User
    Istvatha V'han has taken steps to secure her empire from interference by other time travelers. Her Temporal Security Patrol (officers of whom are called "Temporal Sentinels") use imperial technology to monitor the timeline in search of unauthorized time travelers, possible undesired changes to imperial history, and the like. They’re also in charge of overseeing all imperial time travel technology (and related devices) and authorizing trips to the future or past by imperial personnel.

    Otherwise, there is no official body of "time police" maintaining the integrity of Time across the Multiverse. However, Time is not simply a condition that can be infinitely molded at will, as noted on p. 40 of Champions Beyond, which describes the "space/cosmic" side of the CU: "The cosmic entity Chrono controls/is responsible for the orderly flow of Time and existence of Space. He ensures that one second keeps ticking after another, that galaxies and universes continue their cosmic pirouettes, and that the dimensions of the Multiverse remain in their proper place. In short, he’s the one who makes sure that all moments in time do not occur simultaneously (or in incorrect order) and that all places and objects do not occupy the same space at once.

    Chrono has complete control over time — he can travel through it, reverse it, speed it up, and otherwise alter it as necessary to fulfill his duties. It’s thought that he keeps a close eye on time travelers and covertly steps in to stop them if their activities become too dangerous...

    Chrono rarely interacts with other beings (cosmic or otherwise). When his work would require that, he usually sends a proxy: his servant (child? ally? alternate form? projection?) Entropus, sometimes referred to as “the Time Elemental.”

    As long as Chrono/Entropus is allowed to do his job properly, not even superheroes are likely to become aware of his existence. But if something goes wrong — for example, if another cosmic entity or a crazed supervillain... attacks him, or he gets “sick” — all of Reality is in danger." [CB then describes a couple of examples in which this occurred.]

    It's tough to say at what point Chrono/Entropus might intervene with meddling in time, but precedents for these cosmic beings suggest it may have to be something that effects entire universes or multiple dimensions. Even then, though, setting it right may require intervention by superheroes. One outstanding example is the so-called "Secret Crisis," described as "a war across space and time involving almost all the heroes who had ever existed or will exist," precipitated by the aforementioned Korrex stealing the power of Entropus and becoming a time "god." The heroes managed to overload Korrex's power, causing him to discorporate. (Korrex survived and subsequently recovered, returning to his previous activities.)

    It would seem that Istvatha V'han's meddling in time isn't extensive enough to draw Chrono's ire... unless some of her failures, or even her successes, could be attributed to his influence. (That's not official, mind you.) 😉

    I should also mention that BOTE also describes and writes up a fearsome monster called the Time-Beast which deliberately hunts and devours time- and dimension-travelers, and often causes disruptive changes to the time stream. Some theorize that it's an avatar or "pet" of some sort of cosmic entity, but its actions appear random.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,091 Arc User
    edited March 2020
    I should also deal with the example of Captain Chronos, because in some ways he appears to counter the precedents detailed above. While CC is fully written up in Champions Villains Volume Three: Solo Villains, his true origin is revealed in Book Of The Machine, detailed source book for the genocidal robot Mechanon. The Captain comes from the 61st Century, an era when the Earth is devastated and Humanity is reduced to surviving in a few domed cities. Chronos wants to alter the future just enough to prevent that disaster from happening. The way his actions are expressed in those books seem to imply that he seeks to actually transform the world he came from by altering its past, and its inhabitants would remember only its new history, not the way it was before. But the principles I transcribed previously on this thread would seem to assert that the best he could do would be to create a new alternate version of Earth.

    As I see it there are two possibilities to explain the apparent contradiction. Perhaps Captain Chronos's understanding of Time is so sophisticated that he knows how to profoundly alter a specific time line without creating a new branch. His extremely carefully calculated modifications to the present day would suggest that's at least possible. The other explanation is that he doesn't understand Time as well as he thinks he does. Personally I think that's more likely, since BOTM reveals that
    Mechanon is the result of an earlier, failed attempt to change the past of the 61st Century, corrupted due to incomplete comprehension of the temporal physics involved. Captain Chronos pointedly avoids Mechanon for fear of disruption to the timeline from their mutual anachronistic proximity (which might even precipitate an origin). Istvatha V'han's research has identified Mechanon as one of those critical chronal nodes I mentioned in my first post.

    Or, like I mentioned earlier, it's different because the Captain's creator wanted him to be part of a different story. 😇

    Captain Chronos is also a fine example of how flexibly "time powers" can manifest in Champions. The Hero System (game-mechanical engine for tabletop Champions and all their other games) makes a distinction between the mechanical effects of a Power, i.e. what it does in game terms, and its "special effects," meaning the rationale for what it is, how it "looks" or "feels." For example, the game has no Power called, "Lightning Bolt." Instead you can choose a generic Power or Powers that reflect what you want to do to a target mechanically, e.g. Blast to inflict damage, Flash to blind and/or deafen it, etc., with the Special Effect being a bolt of lightning. But it could just as easily be defined as fire, or light, or sound, or ice, or sand, and so on.

    What this means is that you can use any Power's game mechanic which you can rationalize as fitting your Special Effect. And that rationale can be as broad as your Game Master will allow (some power constructs can be too unbalancing to the game). Let me give you examples of some of the gimmicks Captain Chronos is capable of, from his write-up in Champions Villains Volume Three: Solo Villains.

    Temporal Acceleration — Captain Chronos accelerates a person through time so rapidly the victim ages, withers, and eventually dies/collapses.
    Temporal Disharmony — Captain Chronos “jerks” the target backward and forward through time, stressing the target’s system to the point where he passes out.
    No Sleep ’Til Brooklyn — Captain Chronos rapidly accelerates the target through time for about a day, until the target is too sleepy to remain awake.
    Age Manipulation — Captain Chronos reverses or accelerates the flow of time around a person or object, making it younger or older.
    Temporal Ambush — Captain Chronos stops time throughout reality, puts a big physical object (like a rock) over his target’s head, slightly redirects an attack or moving object, or otherwise puts his target in harm’s way. Then he returns to where he was standing and starts time again. The rock falls (or the like), hurting the target. To the target and everyone else, it’s as if the rock appeared out of nowhere to fall on him!
    Fast Time, Slow Time Bubbles, Rapid Healing — Captain Chronos can put a person in a bubble of fast time (to make him move much more quickly, though this tires the subject out quickly) or slow time (to keep him from moving at his normal speed). He can also put someone in a bubble of fast time so they heal from their injuries in the blink of an eye.
    Stop Time Bubble — Captain Chronos can put the target in a bubble of stopped time, preventing him from moving or doing anything. Only people with temporal or dimensional manipulation powers can escape until Captain Chronos chooses to disperse the bubble.
    Rapid Transit — Captain Chronos stops time throughout reality, walks up to 60m from where he started, and then starts time again. To others, he seems to have vanished from his starting point and reappeared instantly at his destination.
    Walkin’ To Jerusalem — Captain Chronos stops time throughout reality, walks across Earth to get to wherever he wants to go, and then re-starts time. If he wants to cross the ocean, he selectively reverses time around Earth until he reaches the point where the continents are joined together, walks to where he wants to be, and then fastforwards time back to the present day.
    Gone Out For Food — Captain Chronos stops time throughout reality, walks to whatever restaurant he feels like eating at, starts time so he can get something to eat, then reverses time and walks back to where he was. He often brings food back to his friends, keeping it in a stop time bubble so it remains fresh:
    “I sure could go for some Greek food,” Defender said.
    ::Captain Chronos gets up:: “One second....”
    ::Captain Chronos doesn’t appear to move, but suddenly there’s a basket of food in his hand::
    “Here, I got this from this great little place I know in Athens — in 1869.”

    All of these have game-mechanic definitions for what happens, but the above are their Special Effects, which make them unique.
    Post edited by bulgarex on
  • jonsillsjonsills Posts: 6,314 Arc User
    Another "chronal node" similar to the V'ha-1 example occurs in Star Trek Online.
    It becomes quickly apparent that the Iconian War can only be resolved by temporal manipulation - the Iconians need to be weakened before they can attack, because they're way too powerful now (and the Q can't be arsed to help out). Fortunately, the Krenim, over in the Delta Quadrant, have been working with temporal effects for some time, as discussed in the VOY two-parter "Year of Hell". So, our newfound Alliance must use Krenim tech to try to change specific points in the past. Most of the attempts are disastrous, due to temporal ripple effects.

    In one such attempt, the asteroid that led to the discovery of Iconia by the Yamato was destroyed. When we went to check out the "current day" in that timeline, we found that the Iconians still slumbered - but since they never cause the Hobus supernova nor its unnatural effects, Romulus remained, and had for some reason become a Borg beachhead in the Beta Quadrant. We quickly move to undo the change, but in the process temporal shields fail, meaning we suffer some of the effects of our new tampering. One of those effects creates the Sphere Builders, as seen in the series Enterprise. Unfortunately, the Krenim scientist Noye, who was along on your trip, was married to a woman of the species that became the Sphere Builders, and remembered her. After the Iconian War ends, he connects with a group of Na'khul who are bitter that the Alliance won't use time-travel technology to relight their home sun, which was killed much earlier by the Tox Uthat device, and they form the Temporal Liberation Front, a group devoted to changing history in whatever fashion it takes in order to destroy the Federation and get their goals (Na'khul's sun relit and Noye's wife back). We then get to embark on the Temporal Front storyline, working with Daniels, a representative of the 31st-century version of Section 31 (possibly), to stop their various attempts. (We accidentally ruined Galorndon Core, which Capt. Picard knew as an uninhabitable world in TNG, when we knocked an ancient Doomsday Machine out of the orbit the TLF had put it in before the Romulan Star Empire could start using it. Oops. The alternative was worse, though. On the other hand, we also got to swipe the Tox Uthat from Starfleet's storage facilities before the Front could use the Breen conflict from DS9 as cover to steal it, thus saving countless other suns from Na'khul's fate.)
    "Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"

    - David Brin, "Those Eyes"
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,091 Arc User
    First of all, Jon, I admire you for keeping all of that straight. OTOH all those complicated paradoxes and ripple effects represent what I hate most about time-travel stories, so I'm glad I didn't have to deal with them. :s

    However, your mention of "temporal shielding" reminds me of another detail about Istvatha V'han. When she prevented the planet Koratho from coming into being (as I described on my first post), she was unwilling to completely waste such a resource. So she captured one Korathon, a distinguished military officer, and placed him in a "time shield field" in another dimension so he wouldn't be erased with his planet. V'han subjected the Korathon to extensive brainwashing, turning him into a loyal minion. Karrl Korathon is now widely known as "the strongest man in the Empire."

    I used that precedent to create an NPC for one of my tabletop games, a female Korathon scientist who was experimenting with some dimensional transport equipment her people captured during Istvatha's invasion, when she accidentally cast herself out of Koratho's dimension, and eventually landed on Champions Earth. At first her people's natural aggressiveness and "machismo" led her to become a supervillain, as she sought the means to return to her home. But when she learned what had happened to them she became obsessed with vengeance against V'han, ultimately joining a rebellion movement against her rule. (I'd like the opportunity to revisit that character one day.)

    A plot device like that could be used to introduce one or more Korathons as PCs in Champions Online. Korathons are humanoids who stand up to eight feet tall, with superhuman musculature, light blue skin and dark blue hair. Karrl Korathon is very nearly as tough and strong as Grond, but he's a trained soldier. Smaller males or females, and/or those whose primary activity isn't fighting, may be less so (although all Korathons love to fight).
  • leak#2697 leak Posts: 4 New User
    not possible
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,091 Arc User
    Of course it's not possible -- it's comic book physics. We play superheroes for the wish-fulfillment of doing the impossible. :)
  • jonsillsjonsills Posts: 6,314 Arc User
    It's not possible to leap a hundred feet in the air, then come down a block away unharmed and leap like that again - but Professor Pugilism does that to get around town. What's your point?
    "Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"

    - David Brin, "Those Eyes"
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  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,091 Arc User
    It's also intriguing to consider the implications of this framework in relation to the Vibora Bay Apocalypse in Champions Online. During that story arc PC heroes go back in time to undo Therakiel's plan; but per the function of time-travel as outlined above, all they actually accomplished was the creation of a new timeline where the Halfway Angel was defeated. The original timeline would have continued unchanged, but the heroes are now living in this new alternate universe. That would explain why they still remember the other future -- for them it's part of their past.
  • bulgarexbulgarex Posts: 2,091 Arc User
    edited April 2020
    The strangest manifestation of time in the CU is on Multifarian Earth. The concept behind the Multifarian as Cryptic Studios first pitched it never clearly manifested in CO: it's not strictly a "backworld" where characters are reversed from their Champions Earth analogues. (The CU does have a true backworld, called "Left-Handed Earth.") Multifarian people can differ from their counterparts greatly, somewhat, or barely at all.

    What makes Multifaria unique is that time is completely fluid there. Past, present and future can all co-exist at the same moment. Hence the name, derived from "multifarious," meaning "many and varied." For example, walking through London one can pass in a moment from the early-21st Century city, to Victorian London, to Roman Londinium, to the megalopolis of the far future; and bump into Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Jack the Ripper, or a reptilian tourist from the planet Mon'da. This can obviously be very disorienting for visitors, but the natives aren't discomfited by it at all. (There are more details about this world in Book Of The Empress.)

    However, the logical question is, how did Multifarian Earth come to be this way? The fact that the various discrete eras from more linear Earths can be distinguished amid the jumble, suggests that those eras must have existed in a normal progression at some point. My own theory, which has no official confirmation, is that this world's timeline was scrambled as a result of the cross-temporal Secret Crisis caused by Korrex the Conqueror, which I outlined on the second post of this thread.
    Post edited by bulgarex on
  • meneshmenesh Posts: 39 Arc User
    The Vibora time travel is an odd thing anyway. The VB UNITY missions have you repeat certain VB missions, explaining that "It's required to keep the time line from snapping back" or something weird like that.
  • jonsillsjonsills Posts: 6,314 Arc User
    menesh wrote: »
    The Vibora time travel is an odd thing anyway. The VB UNITY missions have you repeat certain VB missions, explaining that "It's required to keep the time line from snapping back" or something weird like that.
    In order to make sure the future happens the way it's supposed to (and doesn't suddenly become one where Therakiel won again), there are certain points of continuity which must be maintained. If a given event doesn't happen, there's a distinct possibility that the cumulative effects of that change will undo the good you've done since coming backtime.
    "Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!"

    - David Brin, "Those Eyes"
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  • shadowfang240shadowfang240 Posts: 1,564 Arc User
    bulgarex wrote: »
    However, the logical question is, how did Multifarian Earth come to be this way?

    probably the same way it happened in doctor who - a TARDIS exploded​​
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