Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.
Role Playing Game (1999). Aetherco. Designed by Chris Adams, Barbara Manui, David Fooden.
Continuum is a game of Time Travel which contains one of the most thorough and rigorous explorations of the concept in the whole of sf. An extensive artificial vocabulary is employed to clarify the game's many disconcerting possibilities, from characters receiving advice from their future selves to duels fought by tampering with opponents' pasts. "Yet", for example, is used to refer to an individual's personal future; any events that a character becomes aware of in their yet, including their own death, must be experienced at some point, for fear of creating Time Paradoxes. In Continuum, history is effectively inviolate, but maintained by the conscious actions of time travellers (or "spanners"). An individual whose past becomes too tainted by paradox will, however, eventually fade away.
Unlike its more commercially successful rival GURPS Time Travel (1995) (see GURPS) Continuum has its own setting, integrated with the Time Travel mechanics. Spanners are users of the most effective form of Time Machine which will ever be invented, a biological modification which allows them to generate Tachyon particles and move through time, or span, at will, though considerable practice is required. This ability is given to selected individuals throughout human history by the Inheritors, a Posthuman civilization created by an unusual form of Singularity, one caused by the "original" discovery of Time Travel. Interestingly, the Inheritors (who are both humanity's descendants and the grey Aliens of UFO folklore) occupy virtually all of space and time, leaving only the solar system from the years between 18,000 BCE and the twenty-third century CE for humanity. Human spanners are created partly in order to prepare mankind for the inevitable appearance of universal Time Travel and partly to help defend the continuum of time against the Narcissists, natives of a civilization predating recorded history who believe that the timeline can be altered in their favour. While history cannot be changed, all of the actions taken to preserve it must still be performed, and individual characters can still be eradicated from reality in its defence. This, at least, is the view of the society of spanners formed by the Inheritors; a promised supplement presenting the conflict from the Narcissist perspective has not as yet appeared. In another departure from the conventions followed by many sf stories dealing with Time Travel, the spanner fraternities who oppose the Narcissists see themselves not as Time Police but as an informal militia serving their own extratemporal culture. While Continuum's detailed background and relentlessly logical analysis of the potential paradoxes of Time Travel are impressive, the mechanics are perhaps too complex to be readily accessible; it is possibly the only RPG whose rules make significant use of causality diagrams. [NT]
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