Odd DD4

Chronomancer (1995)

Let us fast forward a decade (that’s a joke, you’ll see) to Chronomancer (1995), a D&D supplement dedicated to time travelling wizards (see!).

This is an odd duck of a book. It is essentially a guide for a new wizard class specialty, but it is presented in the black bordered latter day 2e “generic campaign setting” trade dress rather than as a player’s accessory. That’s because it wasn’t actually a D&D product at all. It was initially designed as part of Mayfair’s Role Aids line of generic-but-really-for-D&D products. The manuscript for this wound up in TSR’s hands after Mayfair sold the Role Aids line to them (see last week’s posts).

Time travel wasn’t something new (Raistlin and pals traveled back through time back in 1986 in Time of the Twins, for instance) but this was the first time a serious set of rules was put together to try to account for the effects of messing with the time stream. The result is a mixed bag.

The book does a decent job tackling an ambitious and complicated subject. It is interesting to read this stuff in the context of rules systems, particularly for the spells, most of which have the potential for unintended and catastrophic side effects (to the point that many spells have both a player-facing description and a DM-facing one, simulating a character’s crude understanding of unpredictable outcomes).

On the other hand, time travel makes my head hurt and nothing in this book makes me want to allow it into my games because everything it lays out looks like a headache and a half. My copy came with a full sheet of notebook paper covered in complicated mathematical calculations for relative times and movement up and down time stream for multiple characters. I went to summer school for algebra. I’d rather die.  

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