So, I really like Anima, and I've had a lot of fun playing it. I'd like to GM it but it seems a bit overwhelming compared due to the high powered nature of the game. I've GMed Amber before, but Anima blows every other game I've ever played (including that one) out of the water when it comes to complex narrative shenanigans. I've narrowed down my GMing anxiety in the game to one specific problem, I think, which is time. Obviously there's the whole time travel thing, but there's also adding/removing aspects of existence such that they either always/never have existed or seem like they always/never existed but, presumably, real time travel/other time-based abilities would show otherwise.

I'm unsure what the best way of describing temporal events/changes and temporal history to my players is. Should I try and use weird made up tenses like the ones from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? That seems likely to be ambiguous and confusing even after much use as it and the other things like it I've seen are really just intended as jokes.

Currently I say things like "You never haven't been running away from the Empire anymore." and then spend 5 minutes explaining to everyone what I mean, which really seems like a waste of time, especially since it's all likely to change again next round as the various temporally-unaffected PC contingencies kick in and fix/break stuff.

The background temporal history I give at character creation at least seems more useful, but it still takes forever to explain what used to have already happened, how you know, and what it means that it now future didn't happen (because you're going to the past to fix it not happening/having happened due to Time Nazi intervention or the Shajads or whatever).

I want to know:

What techniques can I use to quickly and effectively explain what's going on during temporally active events and to describe a temporally active history?

The Anima books (at least the one's I have read, I'm still missing most of the expansions) do not explain how to deal with time travel beyond its mechanical effects and how various NPCs use it/deal with it philosophically. I am certainly interested in how other systems explain the language as I expect a good system/set of techniques to be pretty portable in that regard. I've read a couple of webpages claiming to address how to do this (not for RPGs though) but I'm pretty sure that they are intended as jokes and they really don't look likely to work. The few that might be ok would require the players to learn new tenses conjugated in very unintuitive ways. I also have read Mike Bourke's Time Travel in RPGs series of articles and a couple of other Time Travel related RPG resources, but none of them address this specific problem (Bourke's articles on the subject are pretty good however, and I recommend them if you are prepping for a time travel campaign). The main issue I'm having in finding resources is that most sources seem to assume that Time Travel is rare/unknown to everyone but the PCs (and NPCs the PCs never interact with or who don't have societies).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think people usually have a hard time talking about time travel because they don't have a clear model of how it works. Do you have a clear model for time travel you're using? By that I mean whether there are multiple timelines, whether changes to the past affect this timeline or create new ones, whether time travel affects the memory of the people traveling, and so on? If so, can you summarize? \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Nov 17, 2014 at 4:51

1 Answer 1


Presuming a single "canonical" timeline, with alterations to that timeline always having had been true, the language you're looking for can be found in the Continuum role playing game.

You can get a sample glossary, sans philosophy, at the Continuum glossary.

Of particular import are the concepts of "up/down." and "age/yet". Therefore, "Down [in the canonical time stream] 5 years, she's attacking your age [personal experienced past]. She started this crusade up 2 years from here."

By differentiating the canonical past with the personal past, most of the tense nonsense can be thrown out, since one uses the past and future tense to refer to the character's age/yet, and up/down and the present tense to refer to events within the timeline. Considering the trouble you're having, it may be worth porting the entire time-travel system to your game, as it's self contained and internally consistent. (It also requires a prodigious amount of bookkeeping to avoid an as/as-not, which are things indeed to be avoided at almost all costs.)

The sourcebook, p. 33 states:

Verb tenses are usually kept in the present tense when describing events in the third person. If [a character] uses past tense, it's in his age. He may have done it yesterday or tomorrow -- it makes no more difference than if he performs an action in one room or another. If [the character] uses future tense ... it's in his yet, or he intends it to be there; again it could be last year or next year he's referring to -- he just has yet to do it.

What time is it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What time is it? ((Awesome, dude. This is pretty much exactly what I was looking for only better.)) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2014 at 8:12

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