4 hours ago
Sunday, April 12, 2015
12 Monkeys and the Temporal Investigation Game
I after the first episode, I though SyFy's 12 Monkeys series was going to be an episodic "hunt down the lead of the week" sort of thing. I was not totally wrong, but I didn't anticipate the interesting background mythology the writers would weave into the show or the clever twists they had in store. With season one over, I think its a great example of how an investigation/mystery game could be done with points in time taking the place of physical locations.
This sort of setup requires time travel to be limited in its utility. No Dr. Who-esque traveling to anywhere in space and time. Limited the number of times a person can time travel helps. Also, having the timeframe of the mystery roughly delineated so that it covers a period of a few years or decades at most.
Like when developing a hexcrawl or a pointcrawl the events (and clues) available at every time point should be planned out before hand, so that PC's can investigate them in any order they want to, Obviously, time travel institutes the possibility that PCs might do something to change the past (or the present). The easiest way to handle this is to have changes sprout alternate timelines, so the original clues remain untampered with. The problem with that is, it removes an easy reason PCs would have to be doing this travel to begin with--to change the future.
Another way to do it would be to add new points and new clues to accomodate PC changes. The antagonists have to react to the PCs actions, perhaps though, they're helped by a tendency of the time-stream to resist change.
Finally, if you're going to go to the trouble of time traveling to solve a mystery, the stakes need to be high and the clues evocative and strange. Besides shows like 12 Monkeys, Lost, Helix, and to an extent True Detective, are good at doing this sort of thing. Getting players to wonder about the location and nature of the Night Room or who the Magic Man or Jacob is will help keep PCs interested even with setbacks or leads that don't pan out.