My Games

Thursday, December 7, 2023

A World in Two Times

Each player is two characters, an Ancestor and a Successor

This is a world of circular time, or at least for the PCs. Actions in one time affect the other. If it's easier, think of it like a surrealist dream. A whole other life, a world with its own rules, and maybe no less significant. Quite literally, this is how luck is made. 

Like Karma, attaching to the present at the expense of the future (or past, as it were) accrues debt. Even though you represent both interests, sometimes it feels like you just don't have a choice.

The Ancestor and Successor are each other's spirit familiar.
Lucid to each other's dreams.

Both images by the Surrealist Max Ernst

  • Luck, synchronicities, spiritual phenomena all operate within the circularity of time.
  • Ancestor and Successor are arbitrary terms. Ones' history is the others' prophecy.
  • Causality as we think of it is merely a heuristic; a reasonably predictive and explanatory model for something much more complex.


  1. Big Max Ernst enjoyer, and this concept is cool - "Ones' history is the others' prophecy", "Lucid to each other's dreams" - the language on its own is evocative as well. Good post.

    t. semiurge, because this idiot machinery won't let me sign in to make a comment

    1. haha ya this happened a while back on another post, blogger's been weird for you lately?

      The lucid dreams part came out in a conversation we had on the server the other day, and the history and prophecy part was a reworking of something Janet said. It started out as a smaller blurb but talking it over ended up yielding some of the better bits.

  2. I love this idea. I have tried to write a couple of dungeons where there is weird time stuff happening and actions in one period have consequences in others - I am really intrigued by the idea of putting together some puzzles, especially, that are based on this idea, where for example, something that is just a trickle of water in one time period becomes a river in a much later period; there's a chance for the players to divert the course of the river by doing the tiniest amount of digging when it's a trickle... or make it dry up altogether or become a lake instead of a river, etc. I haven't come up with anything that feels really good to me yet in terms of implementation, but I keep trying.

    I also really like the idea of connection here - the ancestor and successor. I was sort of blown away when I first saw that idea presented in a video game - I think it might have been one of the Phantasy Star games? But the way you've presented here it is a really rich concept, and I like the idea of the successor changing the prophecy of the ancestor - which makes me think about the prison of prescience, and how that might play into this too.
    Great stuff!

    1. Part of the surrealist take on it, embedded in dreams and a spiritual/psychedelic context, is that it doesn't necessarily have to be super complicated causality mechanics.

      Like I think that's really cool too, but it's also really hard to design and solve, and the nature of circular time doesn't necessarily need to conform to those constraints (although again, those constraints can be really fun).

      I prefer to think of the circular time as more like "luck", synchronicities; it's less about solving a time puzzle, and more like conceiving a narrative, or even that is somewhat more causal; maybe more like a David Lynch movie. Everything seems symbolic, it seems like there is meaning; you're never quite sure if it's there or in your imagination, but it reliable evokes the feeling in a way that can't be an accident. Or, can it?

    2. Do you remember which Phantasy Star? I've always been intrigued by those games and I probably own some of the older ones on steam or as part of some other game collection, but I've never deeply played any of them.

      I can guess at the meaning of "Prison of Prescience" but does this phrase come from somewhere specifically?

    3. I had to look it up but it was Phantasy Star III that had the different generations. At certain points, you chose a character to marry, and that determined who the next "main character" was. Wikipedia says it spanned three generations, which dovetails with my memory.

      The prison of prescience is something that I think I first conceptualized when I was reading the Dune books, especially maybe the second one? Where Paul seems locked in, helpless to prevent the future. But more recently, Patrick Stuart wrote a couple of posts having to do with a time line that had something called the "prescience wars" and I don't know if he used the exact phrase, but he definitely got into the tyranny of prophecy, and how fucked it would be to essentially know your entire future and be helpless to do anything about it; like, thinking about the Oracle at Delphi and how some characters (I'm looking at you Oedipus) did everything in their power to ensure the prophecy concerning them didn't come to pass, only to have their actions lead them inexorably into the Thing the Didn't Want To Happen. I tend to be kind of softly deterministic in that I believe control is an illusion, though perhaps paradoxically I very much want to believe and indeed think we do have some agency, limited though it might be. Anyway, something about those posts on the Prescience Wars, specifically the one about the Ouroboros Kin - here: - really seemed quite beautiful and thought provoking to me.

    4. I read the first Dune and part of Dune Messiah in like middle school but I really need to reread those. Meant to do that this year but it got pushed down the backlog for various reasons.

      I definitely read the Prescience Wars stuff but ya I'd have to revisit that as well, don't have a great memory of it anymore, but ya I vaguely remember liking it quite a bit.