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Hello. What time is it?
Cºntinuum is a Time Travel Tabletop RPG by the folks at AetherCo. It starts with the question, "If you could learn to span time at will, what sort of civilization would you be entering?" It moves on from there, and the results are very well thought out -- but since it requires four-dimensional thinking, it can really mess with your head. This has led to some calling it "The best time-travel game you'll ever read, but never actually play."
Basically, all of human history leads up to us inventing time travel; this includes all the time traveling going on before that, making sure history turns out right. That's the job of the Continuum: to keep history working smoothly.
If you'd like to join up, always remember to follow the Five Maxims. In particular, information is all; knowing too little or too much of your Yet (your subjective future) can bite you. When meeting yourself, always respect your Elders. Never let the levelers know what's going on. And never, never try to change the known. That's what the Narcissists do, and you don't want the Foxhorns after you.
Past that, and the list of tropes below, well, further information is not available here.
Has nothing to do with Stargate: Continuum besides also being centered on time travel.
A copy of Continuum and a pre-release copy of Narcissist can both be found here
Don't expect to purchase it in its physical form - Amazon currently has few copies available, and the cheapest there is going for $349. Another one is being sold for close to a thousand.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Joan of Arc is a spanner; you might even get to meet her a good ways from her historical era. Other historical figures might be spanners, or be replaced by spanners if the need arises -- the Thespians specialize in this.
- Can't Take Anything with You: 'Darter' Narcissists are built old or crippled tech, and thus can not take anything with them while traveling time. Not even Magic Pants. In the less naked version of the trope, carrying technology Down from its original time zone is frowned upon. Trying to bring powerful nanotech Down before its invention tends to result in a visit by the Engineers or Inheritors before you leave.
- Clock Roaches: Not really, but the Inheritors can act like this sometimes. They look a lot like The Greys, and they tend to show up exactly where and when things get really messy.
- Contemporary Caveman: Rare, due to population pressures, but not unknown. Most tend to learn English further Down.
- Delayed Ripple Effect: A Narc can frag you and your favorite book to oblivion years Down from your birthdate, but neither will feel the frag until it's time to deal with the Frag and the Narcissist.
- Fashions Never Change: Averted, heavily. Ones and Twos can only travel a year and a decade at once, respectively, but most clothing will still attract attention. Threes and higher usually end up running from an angry mob if they aren't careful about keeping with the times.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: Unprepared visits to unfamiliar levels are not recommended.
- For Want of a Nail: Since more overt actions like killing an opponent's grandfather in Time Combat tend to frag hundreds if not thousands of spanners, most Time Combat mechanics focus on smaller stuff. Stealing an opponent's newspaper three days Down is a surprisingly effective way to frag them into non-sentience, with really ugly long-term effects for every other spanner the now-fragged target had in the Yet.
- The Future: Up to AD 2221 is fair game, albeit a little heavy on the implied Crystal Spires and Togas and nanotech. Going past AD 2222 is not advised, and all eras beyond AD 2400 are the realm of the Inheritors and the Exalted. Further information not available here.
- Future Badass: The advantages Favored Exalted, All Too Easy, and Death At Span Four all can be earned by Span Threes, and mean a known Gemini with a future and extremely powerful version of themselves. To a lesser extent, GMs may elect for a Gemini to come with a higher Span version of the character, although this is usually done rarely.
- Future Me Scares Me: Most Threes, and all Fours or Exalted are not friendly things to encounter as a One's Gemini. At best, they've experienced decades or centuries of the spanning life, and count as human only by the loosest definition. And that's ignoring the possibility a future Narcissist self, or of seeing your own demise...
- Have We Met Yet??: While spanners normally ask for the time before talking to even long familiar spanners, encounters can sometimes be muddled enough for this to occur.
- Help Your Self in the Future: The goal of pretty much any planned Continuum Gemini incident. Remember to respect your Elders.
- Historical In-Joke: Strongly encouraged. See Ki-Kung-Shi's airplane, Joan of Arc, the Count Saint-Germain, most Persons of Note from the fraternities.
- Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Better known as the Maxims, and enforced by entire teams of the protagonists of the Continuum. When killing Hitler risks the vigintillions of lives of the Inheritors, the Decision of the Atlantean Council seems a lot more relevant.
- Lampshaded in the rules book: The description of the Thespian fraternity says something like: "Please don't ask us how many times we've had to impersonate Hitler." Further information is not available here.
- I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference: Narcissists and Thespians love this.
- In Spite of a Nail: Not all fragging actions are successful; span Down a few years and take a book from the library first, and it might not stick if the variation is trivial or if the targeted spanner replaces it. The Narcissists can and do make small changes to their Yet, since the Inheritors only change back rather than change, and don't put much emphasis on nonhuman things.
- Meanwhile in the Future!: Doesn't apply for levellers or physical combat, but Time Combat sweeps can quite easily involve six spanners in a half-dozen different levels.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Averted to hell and back. Meeting yourself is called a Gemini incident, and they're expected of spanners. Quite often, actually. Joan of Arc makes up 98% of the police force of Atlantis.
- Ontological Inertia: Not actually a physical attribute of the universe, but when the entire future from AD 2400 onward and every habitable planet in the universe wants history to stay the same, it will stay the same.
- Out of Time, Out of Mind: Heavily averted. An Exalted-Span One Gemini incident might have the two looking near identical, but the Exalted's centuries of experience will show up, even if the telekinesis doesn't.
- Retroactive Preparation: The game calls it "slipshanking," and while it is useful, your DM will insist your Elder self actually set-up the preparation, or take a Frag penalty.
- Screw Destiny: Worse than blasphemy; this is a Narcissist's attitude, and goes against reality itself. According to the physical laws the Inheritors created, at least. According to the Narcissist previews, Alternate Universes are a bit more lenient.
- Stable Time Loop: Setting these up and fulfilling them makes up almost all of the action in the game.
- Temporal Paradox: "Frag," the results of trying to change the known, or of someone changing your known Age or Yet. It starts with your memories getting mixed; then you start to fade out, and the Quicker have to clean up after you.
- The Time Traveller's Dilemma: The reason the Inheritors won't let anyone change the future.
- Time Dissonance: Exalted tend to start thinking of a century of Age as a few birthdays ago. Late Aquarians, and Inheritors, don't even think of time linearly in the first place.
- Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: A wide variety of possibilities. Oddly, some things that seem to be Almanacs are actually predestined. No one cares about Ki-Kung-Shi getting a working airplane. Just don't let a Narcissist bring more than a quarter tank of gasoline back. Just don't lose your span book.
- Time Police: The Foxhorns are the classic version. However, the idea of a monolithic Time Police is averted; it's everyone's job to fix Frag where they can find it.
- Time Travel Tense Trouble: Averted. The past and future only count from your own perspective, so if you've done something or will do it, you say that. For everyone else, you use the present tense, regardless of "when" it's happening. Since in a second, that could be your "now" too, this makes sense.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: Surprisingly Averted. The rules of time travel are fairly straight-forward and don't deviate.
- Tricked-Out Time: The only reliable way to cure frag. Simply preventing the fragging event itself generates more frag instead, since the character knows that the fragging event was in their Age or Yet.
- Trust Password: Narcissists try this, although most don't respect their Elders even if they are in the Narc's Yet. Continuum spanners have their versions, as well.
- Unstuck in Time: Not the worst thing Frag can do.
- Wayback Trip: Essentially the goal of the Continuum.
- Write Back to the Future: a common solution to being "stuck" in the past while your Span recovers; the Scribes specialize in this. Also, taken to extremes, a way of "instant messaging" with fellow spanners. Have an example of this in action.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Your job is to make sure reality runs smoothly. If something tries to change the known, you have to step in. If you screw up, things only get worse; then the Inheritors show up. Except when they don't. Multiple timelines can be a bitch.
- A God Am I: The Exalted (very powerful spanners) can feel this way, since they can travel 10,000 years without needing to sleep, and they're immortal, barring accidents. Considering their power, accidents are unlikely. The Inheritors can feel this way too, and other powerful time travelers. Don't even get started on the lords of Antedesertium...
- And Man Grew Proud: Antedesertium is an entire time span, of thousands of years, where Africa is ruled by Narcissist kings of time and space, granting Schizo-Tech to the population, and performing experiments on causality itself. They eventually look nothing like humans, and then their whole civilization collapses at Interregnum, a massive Temporal Paradox laden no-mans land, where time travelers instantly Frag out if they try to span. Interregnum caused a massive axial shift that left the Sahara a desert.
- Atlantis: This is a Continuum city, and though chronologically close, is not part of Antedesertium. It's a meeting place where the council decides on all the rules and guidelines of time travel. Strangely enough, after obeying these rules for most of their lives, the player characters might sit on this council and decide on those very same rules.
- Deus Ex Machina: The Inheritors serve this purpose, but really only come out to work when things get really, really bad. Since their mere existence back in our time could screw things up, they never want to get involved, ensuring Deus Exit Machina.
- Eldritch Abomination: Most of the Scorpiod Kings of Antedesertium look like this. One looks like a tear in reality; another looks like a massive dome several kilometers wide. The scary part? All of them started out as human Narcissists. The Inheritors are 'good', but match up to the trope from the sheer alien, unstoppable, and incomprehensibly more powerful viewpoint.
- Fake Memories: A possible result of telepathy or hypnosis, which can be useful to fix Frag, if what people remember and what actually happens don't quite match.
- Future Slang: Technically "spanner slang," since past and future are all the same to them...
- Time travelers are called "spanners," and yes, they know that means ditz in British slang. Down from the Industrial Revolution, they call themselves "spinners."
- Your fellow spanners are your chronies. Spanners that try to change history are Narcissists, since they don't think for anyone beyond themselves (and maybe close friends), relatively speaking.
- Your Age is your subjective past, and your Yet's what you haven't done yet.
- Meeting yourself is called a Gemini; your Elder is the one who's gone through this before, and your Junior is you the first time around (if we're talking just two of you).
- Up is towards the "future," while Down is towards the "past."
- Levelers are non time travelers, since they exist on the same "level" of time.
- The Greys: The Inheritors, who are actually post-Singularity humans.
- Hand Wave: Hypnosis gets used a lot when people screw up. Also, the explanation for time travel feels a lot like one of these, due to the bizarre physics. Of course, it could also just be false information, since the book is supposedly meant to help ease levelers into accepting time travel.
- Hyperspace Arsenal - Spanners can pull a Bill and Ted (in game terms, "Slipshank") and have their future self leave an item just where they need it.
- Instant Expert: Not exactly, since you have to study for it, but the rules for it are there. To your chronies it just looks like you vanished and came back a second later, and with a few more months of Age and experience.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: One of the powers of telepathy (and for some reason, hypnosis). A tool used to protect reality and the Continuum. Also, all player characters start with amnesia, since they don't remember what happened during the months of training they had, learning to span.
- Mana Meter: Your Span denotes how far you can travel through time, before you need to sleep. It costs the same to travel Down as to travel Up.
- Masquerade: The whole point of the Fourth Maxim: don't let the levelers know if it's not time yet. Obviously, things happen, and you have to make an Invitation to Dance; this is how new spanners enter the fold.
- Mind Screw: The whole game, some would say; there's plenty of examples here. Thinking in four dimensions can cause massive headaches.
- Muggles: Call them levelers.
- Nanomachines: Used extensively near The Singularity, which may or may not have something to do with time travel. Further information...
- Off the Rails: One of the creators of Continuum related this story about an early beta Narcissist session: His character had successfully crashed out of the main Universe and was trying to evade Quicker by going further out, but got captured. His crib-mates came to rescue him, but found a junior version of him pre-capture, near the first crash gate and spirited him to safety. This effectively split one character into two, the one who got captured, and the one who was rescued from something that hadn't happened to him yet. It was at that point the group realized there was nothing in the rules preventing this. Take that, causality!
- Painting the Fourth Wall: So much. One of the more subtle cases : several footnotes on the Inheritors advise the reader to look for further information on page 210. That's the end of the GM section, but also is labeled Time Travel in the Real World. Use of "further information not available here" and the warnings about crasher propaganda throughout the rest of the book is less subtle, but still very effective.
- Further Information is also the name of the game's sole supplement.
- Perspective Flip: Narcissist: Crash Free. Don't buy into the propaganda of the Swarm! This Universe may be lost to a joyless, devouring inhuman horde, but it is still possible to make a Gate and crash out of here! Yrne awaits those with the courage to seek it...
- Psychic Powers: Telepathy, telekinesis, and a few others are available to those with the right tutors.
- The Singularity: Time travel itself is the end product of one of these, taking place some time in the early Aquarian period -- sorry, around AD 2400.
- Spy Speak: "What time is it?" and other variations are a callsign; other spanners know what you're supposed to respond with. Levelers will just answer how you'd expect.
- The phrase "Further information is not availiable here" could count, too; you're not supposed to ask any further questions if someone gives you that line, whether they should know or not. It's for your own good, we swear.
- Splat: The Fraternities, which all specialize in something specific.
- The Antiquarians specialize in historical objects.
- the Engineers in technology.
- the Midwives in who's born when.
- the Moneychangers in currency (and making sure all spanners start out rich).
- the Physicians in medicine.
- the Scribes in storing knowledge and communication.
- the Dreamers specialize in communicating through dreams across eras.
- the Foxhorns act like Time Police and take down Narcissists viciously.
- the Quicker look into hauntings, strange phenomenon, and cleaning up after hopeless cases of Frag.
- the Thespians specialize in disguise, and periodically replace levelers or other time travelers.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Every spanner can teleport some distance in space, whether or not they travel through time. This is "free" as far as their Span is concerned.
- Viewers Are Geniuses - running/playing a game that requires 4-dimensional thinking is very hard. And then there's Narcissist...
- You Will Be Beethoven - par for the course for the Thespians.