Edge of Inspiration: On Time

Last time, I looked at the character arc of Edge of Tomorrow and it could apply to your game. What about the rest of it? What about the time travel?

Just to mention: I’m writing a few articles on Edge of Tomorrow not because I think it is a superlative movie (I think it’s a good sci-fi actioner, but it’s not ground-breaking or extraordinary). I’m writing about inspiration and Edge of Tomorrow because it is a movie I’ve seen recently. I can take a fair amount of inspiration out of almost any movie, novel, or comic, and this is just today’s example.

The time travel in Edge of Tomorrow is interesting because it isn’t voluntary. Much like Groundhog Day (the most common comparison), at a certain point time resets back to another point. In Edge of Tomorrow, it’s the main character’s death.

This is difficult to port into an RPG unless it is one-on-one gaming, or you are using a system with multiple inputs for the same character. My experience and knowledge is with games which have multiple players playing multiple protagonists, and this presents one specific problem for this scenario – is it the death of one, some, or all of the PCs that trigger the reset?

Looking at this, I would decide first whether this is one character’s arc with the others supporting that arc or is this a story arc, one that encompasses the whole group?

Having a single character as the lead with others providing support does not need to relegate the other PCs to secondary status in an RPG. It generally does in a movie, but we aren’t shooting a movie. While the other PCs might not be changing, they can be more active than the PC who is. The main character might be indecisive, hesitant, ignorant, or have any number of personality traits that could make the other PCs indispensable and more active. Each character could have a role to play, a task they must complete within their niche that helps the main character advance or change. These tasks could each require the assistance of the other PCs to move forward. Everyone can be involved even though they are moving through a single character’s arc.

If it is a single character that is important, it is that character’s death which triggers the reset. This creates an interesting conundrum – do all the PCs retain knowledge of what occurred before the reset or are they like Vrataski, who doesn’t retain memories but is aware of the system and so ready to immediately side with the main character following the reset. Either can honestly work and be fun.

If it is a group story, I would argue it is best that the death of any of the PCs triggers the reset. This means the player with the dead PC is re-engaged immediately and it doesn’t split up the group. This also follows the logic of the movie: the Omega alien is said to trigger a reset whenever any of multiple Alpha aliens are killed, and this would map to how it could be done in a group dynamic.

I think the conundrum of death triggering the reset is one of the easier problems to address in adapting concepts from Edge of Tomorrow to an RPG. A tougher one, for me, is why does a death trigger the reset. What is the purpose of time travel in the game? Let’s talk about that next.

You can read more about Edge of Tomorrow at Wikipedia and IMDB.

You can read my review of Edge of Tomorrow here.

You find more Edge of Inspiration articles here.

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