Time loop game tips?

I was thinking of running a time loop game. It will also introduce the players to the Q.

Any good stories, advice, or little tricks you recall from running or playing such a game yourself?

The new science book brought up the concept, I am excited about the idea but want to make sure the players don’t metagame their way to the solution by immediately looking for slight variations because they’re nerds who have watched a lot of these sort of stories in star trek, xena, groundhog day, supernatural, etc.

Oneshot or campaign?

I was toying with the idea of doing a oneshot where I as GM was actually the character Q in the game. There is a lot of transferable abilities and it would be a great laugh. Would need the right group and story though

We had one where it focused around one particular character, so the others were given a heads up. It was about a variety of ways the ship was being destroyed and only this one character had any idea it kept happening. We had to go through the same scenarios again and again until we stopped all the different ways the ship was being destroyed, starting each iteration the same way.

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I think there are two main problems, one story-wise, one players-wise.

Regarding the story-problem: In this kind of story, you most likely have a fixed start and a fixed end. This is easy to write, but in my expectation not so easy to play, since to really get the feeling of a loop, the players have to fail (escaping) at least two, better three or more times. Given how creative players are (and we absolutely do want them to be this way!) this definetly blurs the line towards railroading and will not easy to convey it happening ‘naturally’.

Which leads to the players-problem: You have to balance the needs of the story (players failing at least two times) with the players empowerment (being creative and finding loopholes – pun intended), i.e. the danger that the players might be frustrated because they cannot change the game anymore, and the fact that you have ‘infinite’ repetition, i.e. the danger that the players might be bored.

My advice would be to work with limited time and gradual progression.

So, the players only have a limited time within the loop, until it starts all over again. With each iteration, they should get more information and more tiles of your puzzle. Thus, they still have the feeling about changing the game but it’s just a race against time, not against a arbitrary GM. Also, since they should always manage to make at least one further step within each iteration of the loop, they don’t get bored.
Consider watching DC’s ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ 3x11 ‘Here I go again’ for examplary use of this trope.

You also should think about facilitating ‘standard procedures’, representing the characters getting used to solving a specific problem because its literally the same problem every time (‘Ned Ryerson?’ – ‘Bing!’). I, personally would consider giving every check they already succeeded in a prior iteration a difficulty of 0. Thus, the players can choose to speed up the game just telling they did a step or two they solved in-depth in a prior iteration of the loop, or to actually do the check and generate momentum (representing growing more and more accostumed to the problem).
This, of course, is explained a lot easier if the characters are aware of the loop, too, and not only the players.

In my opinion, time loops are some of the harder parts of GMing, I imagine it very difficult to do it well. So, good luck – and maybe tell us how you did it!


One shot for sure.

I used this adventure in my campaign. It worked fine,


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Tony, I grok that this a reply to a question, but for the sake of completeness, could I trouble you to post a link to this under Scenarios, please? You’re work is always good and I’m sure someone else may be wanting a similar adventure.

I ran a time loop adventure once. It started in the briefing room and later the ship was attacked by a romulan warbird and then destroyed.

On the meta level, I apologized to the players that the encounter was apparently poorly balanced by me and that I did not intend for that outcome. So if they all agree, I would just restart the adventure.

However, this was of course all part of my plan. I just wanted it to be not too obvious that this is a time loop adventure. So at least for the first iteration, the players were fooled :slight_smile:

Then in “restarted” briefing room scene, characters start to feel Déjà Vus and players begin to catch on.


I’d recommend Discovery’s “magic to make the sanest man go mad” as well, if you have access… It shows that, after they’ve realised what’s going on, and have figured out a way to pass that on on each iteration, you can just skip that as “assumed” on subsequent loops!

I agree, but would further suggest setting a difficulty of 0 instead to let the players choose whether they want to roll (and, thus, potentially generate further momentum) or speed up. So, instead of building up ‘momentum’ (in story terms, I did not refer to the game-mechanic, here) per default, they could choose to have that ‘momentum’ secured (‘converted’ into momentum in terms of game-mechanics) for later.

To me, this example is paragon for difficulty 0 checks. :slight_smile:
Also, for this reason, I would not start with the same momentum/threat counts on every iteration like the adventure written by ToniPi did. But this is a question of personal style and I very much like the adventure, anyways!

If you can’t work out a way to manage catching your players’ characters in a time loop, you might think about them working to get someone/something else out of a loop. That’s been a little less common in fiction, so they’re less likely to see it coming, and it might not have so many metagaming problems attached.

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While we’re talking about inspirations, also consider the Stargate SG-1 episode “Window of Opportunity.”

I am stealing about half of this, thanks for sharing. I like the Deja Vu roll concept a lot. I am also wondering if I will do anything special for the Trill character in the party to have a better chance to succeed at that? Also was considering having the other three players gaslight him (he has a good sense of humor about such things, would be fun) but that might get too meta.

Trill guardians are somewhat telepathic, so this might mean that Trill hosts and/or symbionts are telepathic as well. Not canon, but nothing wrong to introduce new facts. So you could say that Trill are especially prone to these Déjà Vus.

It’s always cool to have a specific character stand out and get the ball rolling. This is also always a good opportunity for a Spotlight Milestone.

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Our Trill captain didn’t have any special resistance to it. I tied it in with a previous mission where their Chief of Security supporting character was vaporized by a Romulan disruptor while in a tachyon field. He wasn’t actually dead, but was propelled in time by the supercharged tachyons and got trapped in the same time loop (due certain factors). Their mission became to break out of the time loop while saving their Chief, who retained memories across the loops.

We see Trill symbionts communicating by means of electrical impulses in the pools (“Equilibrium” [DS9]), and that ability might also account for host/symbiont communication in joined Trill. From dialogue in “Facets” [DS9], the Zhian’tara involves telepathic transference of prior hosts’ memories, but this is done by a Guardian, which implies to me that telepathic ability isn’t common among symbionts or hosts.

So I’m currently working on the idea for a Department of Temporal Investigations mission. I had a plot hook idea whereby the loop has already happened multiple times to the DTI agent and they come on-board and act as if they have gone through this several times and the crew just don’t realize it. That way when the loop happens again the players are now aware and that means there’s a change in circumstances and situation.

It cant be a campaign as it would get too repetitive after a while. Make a fun one shot though.

Of course, in my case, it’s just an opportunity to roll a complication to give the GM Threat…oh wooh is me!

I ran Time and Time Again (with some modifications simply to make it fit our existing plot arcs) this weekend.

It went really well! The only surprise is even with going through five time loops, we finished that game in about 2 hours. The players are efficient to begin with and frankly with each day mostly the same, you can really speed through some things. I was able to get us to 3 hours (our scheduled time) by adding a segment where I gave them a roster of 15 candidates to join their crew (NPCs) and they had to pick 5 and assign them values and names.

It helped immensely that the players are nerds who are familiar with time loop tropes from television and film. It takes a certain amount of good player faith not to meta game it before you pass your deja vu trait test.

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