Chrononauts Home

Mysteries of the Timeline
By Andrew Looney

1.) Why Do Fairgoers Love German Cake?

One of the most popular gags in Chrononauts is the 1939' patch, "Fairgoers Love German Cake." It's been so popular we even made a promo card called "German Cake" to get more mileage out of the gag. But many are undoubtedly left wondering: what's it really all about?

The New York World's Fair of 1939 has long been one of my fascinations, and I would surely visit there if I had a time machine myself. So naturally, I wanted to include it in the game somehow.

The 1939 NYWF had a better than average inclusion of international pavilions, including communist Russia and several eastern bloc nations that would cease to exist shortly thereafter, with the notable exception of Nazi Germany. (I've always wondered what their pavilion would have looked like, had they built one... I've heard there were even some drawings and designs sent over from the Fatherland, which were rejected by the fair planners as being hideous, a reaction that no doubt contributed to the Führer's huffy refusal to actually participate.)

Anyway, in my alternate universe, the Germans rid themselves of Nazism after Hitler is assassinated, and are proudly represented at the New York World's Fair. I love the counterpoint this provides to the harsh reality of the actual history... instead of invading Poland in 1939, the Germans merely go to the fair! And what better way to emphasize the lighter side of this alternate history than with cake?

There are also several reasons why I decided to make a cake the reason the German pavilion became memorable. Firstly, I love cake. Second, food items are often singled out as favorite memories of events like World's Fairs. Of particular note are the Belgian Waffles that were the hit of the 1964 New York World's Fair, and let's not forget that the waffle cone was invented at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904.

In my alternate reality, the positive experience the Germans had with their pavilion at the New York World's Fair is what inspired them to build their own international exposition, in Berlin, in 1948 (when in our world there obviously weren't any World's Fairs anywhere).

OK, But Why Does German Cake Work Like a Memo?

Because it's just so captivatingly delicious that if someone unexpectedly hands you a plate with a slice of this cake (and a fork) and encourages you to enjoy it, you'll be distracted long enough to allow another Time Traveler to scoot in there and interfere with your plans. Just think about it: if someone just pulled out a delicious slice of chocolate cake and handed it to you, for no good reason, wouldn't you be distracted? Particularly if it's that famously delicious Black Forest Cake, just like they had back in 1939, when Fairgoers Loved German Cake?

On the other hand, the person who eats the cake might not be the player whose actions you are stopping. For example, perhaps it's the lookout of the Titanic who is being distracted at the crucial moment by a delicious slice of fresh German Cake.

2.) Why Would a Zeppelin Factory Stop the Korean War?

OK, first let's talk about Zeppelins. The Hindenburg disaster destroyed the airship industry overnight... although there were many other airship crashes that helped make them seem unsafe, none were as strikingly memorable as that newsreel footage with heart-wrenching live commentary by Herb Morrison. ("Oh, the humanity...") Had that disaster been prevented, airships would undoubtedly have continued to serve Germany, England, the United States, and who knows who else, for potentially a very long time. And had they been used in World War 2, they might even have gotten a reputation of being strategically useful, even vital, instead of simply seeming like giant floating death-traps. Moreover, the Hindenburg was designed to use non-flammable helium, but they had to use hydrogen due to trade embargoes that prevented Germany from gaining access to the helium they required but apparently didn't have. Zeppelins need not have been as dangerous as the Hindenburg was on that fateful day, whatever the cause of the explosion really was.

Meanwhile, in order to understand how the Korean War might have been prevented, one must first understand how it started. After WW2, the USA had 40,000 troops stationed in South Korea; but by the end of 1949, all but a few hundred officers had been sent home. This left South Korea ripe for invasion by the North. A turning point came on January 5, 1950, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson made a speech at the National Press Club. He spoke of those countries that the US would defend with force, specifically naming Japan, the Rykus islands and the Philippine Islands. Korea wasn't even mentioned. This gave North Korean leader Kim the conviction that the US would not intervene if he attempted to unify the country by force. So, in June of 1950, he launched his attack.

But what if something had prevented the US troop withdrawal, and kept our armed forces stationed in Korea indefinitely? Might not this have prevented the war altogether? (Or at least for many years?)

OK then, all we need to pull it all together is for something new to be going in Korea that ratchets up the strategic importance of the region in the minds of US politicians. So, what if the airship industry had not been wiped out, and Zeppelins instead were seen as important and deadly instruments of war? If we felt our National Security was threatened by Zeppelins, and the region was a hot-bed of new airship-building technology, we'd probably want to send over even more peace-keeping troops, right? OK, so it's a bit of a stretch, but that's how we get to the idea of an airship factory in Korea being of enough military importance as to prevent the sending home of our occupation forces.

3.) Why Would the Titanic Cause the Stock Market Crash?

As I admit in the rulebook, this is probably the weakest cause/effect connection on the TimeLine. I have these vague notions of one or more wealthy big shots not dying on the Titanic and going on to somehow help guide the stock market through the rocky era of Prohibition without hitting the iceberg of a sudden and dreadful crash. But how exactly? I have no idea.

The real reason is that I really just wanted to include the Titanic in the game. It's such a perfect linchpin... with a time machine, it should be really easy to prevent that disaster. (Yet in the literature, most time travelers fail when they attempt to flip the 1912 linchpin.) I've also been a Titanic aficionado since childhood, so I just had to include it, which means it had to have some kind of in-game effect, and the Stock Market was just the best thing I could come up with.

But as long as I'm yammering about the Titanic, I have more to say. One of the reasons I myself find the tragic story of the Titanic so fascinating is the object lesson in life which it provides. It's the source of what I refer to as the problem of Icebergs. Sometimes bad stuff just happens to people, without any warning, and through no fault of your own. There you are, cruising across the Atlantic in perfectly calm weather, perhaps even traveling First Class, on-board what has been touted as the safest ship ever, heading off to the rest of your life in America... and suddenly, you're in icy water, freezing to death in the night, for no good reason. It was just an iceberg, and you were on an "unsinkable" ship! What happened?

Icebergs can be anything, from car accidents to terrorist acts, and they can strike anyone, from beggars to kings and all of us in between. So, I'm always on the lookout for Icebergs.

But there are other lessons in the story of the Titanic. Icebergs loom, yes... but when trouble starts, the key to getting into a lifeboat often lies in watchful attentiveness and thoughtful preparedness. When the sirens go off and the call to action is heard, those who are paying attention and act with alacrity are typically the ones who survive.

Here's another thing about Icebergs: it is in such times of crisis and catastrophe that heroes are created. Sometimes, there's just no escape from the Iceberg, even among those who are paying close attention. Sometimes, there simply aren't enough lifeboats to go round, and those who sacrifice themselves to save others are remembered forever.

I believe life is like a game, which we all get to play just once. Whether you win or not is a question of how much fun you had, and how well you are remembered after you're out. Some players get all the luck and own many properties... others never manage to get ahead, or worse, they get eliminated far too early. But like all games, doing well requires learning the rules, planning out your strategies, and lining up good defenses. Even so, sometimes you hit an iceberg... you roll snake eyes or you land on someone's expensive hotel or you draw a card that says go to jail, and there's nothing you can do about it but be a good sport. Sometimes, however, if you're paying attention, you can become a hero even if you end up on an airplane doomed to crash.

As a kid, I was fascinated not just with the Titanic, but with famous disasters of every kind (in particular, of course, the Hindenburg). Hollywood at the time was actively fueling my interest... this was back in the 1970s, after "Airport" and "The Poseidon Adventure" launched a series of disaster movies, all of which posed the same basic question: if you were suddenly thrust into a life-or-death situation (like a shipwreck, fire, earthquake, volcano, or flood), what would you do? Would you rise to become a hero, struggle just to be a survivor, selfishly save yourself at the expense of others (possibly being branded a coward forever thereafter), or simply be washed away with all the other victims?

4.) Shouldn't that be "Explorer I becomes first satellite" on 1957'?

I've only been asked this question once, and the person who asked it was the man I had in mind when I originally wrote that text: my Dad.

Here's the story. We all know how Sputnik was the first satellite in space, and that America was in catch-up mode for years afterwards. But only the space nerds will remember that there were actually two competing American efforts to launch the first satellite: one by the army, and another by the navy. The navy effort was called Project Vanguard and one of the many scientists assisting on that project was a bright young engineer named Ches Looney. After NASA was founded, he was one of 150 government employees who moved out to Greenbelt Maryland to start the new Goddard Space Flight Center, and even though he's retired a couple of times, my dad is still working there today. (By the way, his birthday is in a few days... Happy Birthday, Dad!)

Anyway, after Sputnik went up, attention suddenly focused on the Vanguard project, and just two months later, on live TV, the Vanguard rocket exploded on the launchpad, instantly becoming a new black eye for the bruised American ego. The nation redeemed itself at last when the Army's project finally put a piece of American electronics, Explorer I, into orbit early the next year, and the Vanguard team proved their worth as well on their third attempt, when Vanguard was successful and sent back some useful scientific data. (Did you know that planet Earth is actually slightly pear-shaped?) But sadly, the humiliation of exploding on live TV was what the public remembered about Vanguard... even today, what you'll find on display at the Air and Space Museum is the broken remains of the satellite, recovered from the wreckage of the rocket.

My Dad's work on all this was in satellite tracking, and his contributions were valuable even during the Sputnik fly-overs, so it's not like his life was ruined by the setbacks of Vanguard. But even so, as long as I had the chance to re-write history, I wanted to give my Dad's team a boost. It just seemed to make sense to me that if their rocket were to unexpectedly blow up on the pad, instead of ours, then Vanguard I would have been the first robot in space. Also, the Russians would have been trying again soon, so to beat them our launch would have had to have been as soon as possible. (In point of fact, they got their second successful launch off before Vanguard's explosion, so our time-traveling saboteur might actually have needed to blow up a couple of Russian rockets to make America first, even if Vanguard had worked the first time. But in my imaginary scenario, investigation of the Sputnik rocket failure causes a delay in the launch of their next rocket, allowing ours to get ahead.)

5.) Why Would Richard Nixon Ever Have Chosen a Black Vice President?

OK, the first thing to understand as you try to make sense of this storyline is my philosophy on assassinations. When someone famous is shockingly murdered, it has a huge impact on the psyche of the populace. It can be a very demoralizing thing to see someone achieve a measure of greatness only to be struck down in the midst of their accomplishments. In some cases, JFK for example, an assassination may inspire the populace to carry on the fallen hero's dream, hence my theory that we'd have lost the Space Race if we weren't motivated to fulfill our dead leader's vision of "putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth" before that decade was over.

In the case of Lincoln's murder, I think a key subtext was the message, "This is what you get for freeing the slaves." Had Lincoln lived, he might have done much to further improve the situation for black people in the newly reunited America; but instead, the Great Emancipator got a bullet in the back. It seems to me that this must have made other politicians reluctant to consider further civil rights reforms, and instead paved the way for negative progress, such as the infamous Jim Crow laws.

In choosing how to reflect this on the TimeLine, we had a couple of goals. First, we wanted to include something that had a subtle, long-reaching impact, something where the results aren't seen for like a hundred years. I also really wanted to include something that was affected by both Lincoln and Kennedy, as an homage to that classic essay comparing the similarities between the two fallen presidents, and because the two are linked in my own mind for time travel reasons. (A popular theme in time travel stories before 1963 was going back in time to save Lincoln; after that, the literature switches to stories about trying to saving Kennedy. These two themes, along with killing Hitler, are among the most frequently recurring ideas in time travel literature.)

OK, so how does Kennedy fit in here? The idea is that preventing JFK's murder ripples forward to 1968, also preventing the murders of MLKjr and RFK. As Eric Zuckerman put it in his Time Travel Sweepstakes entry, saving Kennedy stops the entire "unholy trinity" of sixties assassinations. This leaves Martin Luther King, a charismatic and already successful leader in our own world, still alive and becoming an even more powerful politician by 1973.

That alone would not have been enough to make Nixon choose him as the new Vice President when Agnew is forced to resign. However, if we are also in a universe where Lincoln lived on, where Jim Crow laws were never passed, and where the message of equality was not crushed in its infancy, then maybe things would have been different in 1973. Perhaps King would himself have been judged "not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character." And even if Nixon's inner racism hated this idea, in such a universe he might still have seen it as a politically prudent move. Already in trouble with the scandals that would ultimately get him impeached, he might have chosen King to be Agnew's replacement as a form of publicity stunt. And in a universe where neither Lincoln nor Kennedy were assassinated, Nixon might have felt unthreatened enough to believe he'd never actually relinquish the Oval Office to his successor. Nixon might have even chosen King with the expectation that Congress would reject the choice, only to be stuck with him when they didn't. In any event, the point to understand is the long view: a century after Lincoln didn't die, the universe is so fundamentally different that Nixon's choice of Martin Luther King for VP could make sense.

6.) Didn't Kennedy Support the Vietnam War?

The alternate reality for 1968 ("Vietnam Peace Accord Signed") is a card which most people seem to accept; but I did read a review once by a critic who wrote: "President Kennedy was on record with several enthusiastic statements of support for the American invasion of Vietnam, so how could saving him have lead to peace in 1968?" So, this article is for him.

I actually don't know what quotes that reviewer was referring to; the war-related Kennedy quotes that stick in my mind are these: "And is not peace basically a matter of human rights? The right to live out our lives without fear of devastation, the right to breathe air, as nature provided it, the right of future generations to a healthy existence? Let us, if we can, step back from the shadows of war, and seek out the way of peace. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the course of worldwide nuclear war, in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth." (I don't know when or where he said these things, or even if they're all from one speech... I know them from the Shona Laing song, "(Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy.")

To get to the point, I believe it was his anti-war behavior, at least in part, that got Kennedy killed. Ever seen the film "JFK"? It begins with Ike's famous speech about the dangers of an overly powerful "military-industrial complex" which makes its money from (and therefore requires) the constant fighting of wars. (This is also a central theme of "1984".)

If indeed, at some point, JFK had been in favor of invading Vietnam, I believe he lost that appetite after the Cuban Missile Crisis and the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion. Did you know that JFK had instructed the Pentagon to begin withdrawing US troops from Vietnam? The plan, announced just a few months before JFK was killed, had been to bring home 17,000 troops by the time of the '64 election. The first planeload of soldiers had already returned home on November 22nd! However, just 3 days later, the Pentagon announced a "re-evaluation of its re-evaluation," in which they declared that the earlier decision to withdraw the troops had been "too optimistic," and officially reversed it. And after that, of course, things just got worse.

I believe there were powerful politicians in favor of war, for reasons of corporate and personal gain, who would do anything -- including assassinating the president, framing a fall guy, and killing him -- in order to achieve their goals. I believe that when it became clear to these powerful politicians that JFK was going to betray them by waging peace in Vietnam, they had him killed. Then they created the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to justify increasing our involvement in the region. (And if you aren't up on conspiracy theories, that one is a whole topic on its own...)

If you really want to have your eyes opened about the 1963 linchpin, I recommend watching a documentary called "The Men Who Killed Kennedy." Keep an eye on the History Channel... they show it fairly often.

7.) How Did Reagan Cause the Fall of Communism?

One of the things I really dig about Chrononauts is the way everyone can find their own life-defining linchpins when they look at the TimeLine. As we all know from sharing our "Where were you on Sept 11?" stories, we mark our own lives by matching them up with the major historical events we remember. When you look at the TimeLine, do you not always look for the event closest to the year of your birth? Do you not think again about where you were when you first heard about the Challenger blowing up, or JFK being shot, or perhaps even Pearl Harbor being bombed? Even if you don't remember these events, it's natural to mark you own history against their passage; my personal TimeLine begins with the JFK linchpin, which happened just 17 days after my birth. But the first TimeLine event I actually remember myself (aside from Nixon Resigns, which didn't mean much to me at the time) is Lennon's murder. In those days I was a paperboy, and I delivered the Washington Post to everyone on my route (including Marlene's family) without any awareness of the horrible news my deliveries contained. Only later, as I sat alone in the early morning's silent kitchen, reading the headlines from the last copy of my stack, did I begin to understand...

If you remember Lennon's death, then you surely also remember Reagan's near-death, which happened a few months later. I was in school; I vividly recall standing at my opened locker as someone came running down the hall yelling "Someone shot the President! Someone shot Reagan!"

Always have I wondered: why was Fate so cruel? In both cases, a lone gunman attacks someone famous on the street; in both cases, bullet wounds are received; but one man dies while the other man lives. Couldn't it have been the other way around? At the time, Reagan seemed fated to die anyway... back in '81, there was a lot of talk about Ronnie being doomed to die in office because of the "twenty year curse." But why John Lennon? He would have been 64 next year... it's still such a shame he's gone. (Meanwhile, Ron is 90-something and stricken with Alzheimer's, unable to recall or even understand his former greatness... and yet he lives on and on. Life sure can be an unfair game sometimes.)

It's interesting to watch how people react to the 1981 Linchpin card. President Reagan was very popular, and he's widely revered now as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th century, if not all time. (He's not even dead yet and we're naming airports after him!) At the same time, he's also widely disliked. Some people find it particularly satisfying to flip that card to the "Reagan Assassinated" side, for reasons having nothing to do with the game. So, it's not surprising to me that some would think I'm giving him way too much credit with the patch, "Communism Re-invents Itself."

Reagan's deeds may have had little to do with the unraveling of power in Communist Russia... but I don't think the Soviet Union would have collapsed so rapidly in 1991 if it weren't for the fall of the Berlin Wall in '89, and even if it would have happened anyway, it still makes a good story to say that the Wall wouldn't have fallen if Ronnie hadn't so famously said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Watching the coverage of the Berlin Wall being torn down was another of those amazing moments in history that we all track our lives by. Most of us just watched it all on TV, but I know a couple of people who were so excited by the events that they impulsively got onto airplanes and went over there, just to be a part of it all, as history unfolded. When Dawn came home, she gave us this little bag filled with pieces of the Wall which she'd gathered at the site.

It may seem far-fetched to give credit for all that to one American bigshot, but the fact of the matter is, back then it was all totally unexpected. We figured the Cold War would be like today's War on Terror - something that we'd never see the end of. But instead, it was suddenly over! The Soviet Union was gone.

8.) Why Does Legalizing Pot Save the Space Shuttle?

What would the world be like if John Lennon's life hadn't been so tragically cut short? It's a question I've thought about a lot. Obviously, had Lennon lived, there'd certainly be other music in our lives... perhaps even some masterpieces. And since the rest of the group finally re-united in '95, he too might have been willing to finally get back together for a reunion special on the David Letterman show, just for fun if nothing else.

But John was already moving beyond his musical career. Like Sonny Bono and Ronald Reagan (and Will Smith, eleven years from now), the activist Lennon might well have shifted from show biz to politics if he'd lived long enough to have the chance. John died before Reagan took office, and at the time he was in a hermit-like mode, focusing on being a father. But I have to believe that if he'd lived, John would have become quite vocal again in Reagan's America. In particular, as one who saw nothing wrong with smoking marijuana and one who had already been hassled by law enforcement because of it, I believe Lennon would have become an outspoken critic of the increasingly-harsh drug policies in the 80s. The man who brought us the famous "Bed-In for Peace" campaign would surely have staged other unusual political events, and I can imagine all sorts of creative protests he might have lead against drug prohibition, had he been alive to do so.

Furthermore, if Reagan had died prior to October 2, 1982, when he officially launched his new War on Drugs, the trend towards tolerance and decriminalization that was at its peak just before he took office might well have continued. Had Bush gotten his single term over with in '84 instead of '92, we might have had a Democratic president who followed Jimmy Carter's lead on this issue, instead of just continuing to do what his Republican predecessors had done, and even outdoing their arrest records, as Clinton did. And if John Lennon were out there protesting prohibition as well, then the Drug War might have fizzled long ago.

One of the many little messages I tried to include in Chrononauts was the idea that one person can in fact change the world. I also believe that marijuana prohibition is such an incredibly stupid idea (particularly in a "free" country that already proved the wrongness of that policy with alcohol), that if one man, with the charisma, popularity, and personal experiences of John Lennon, had spoken out against prohibition fiercely enough at the right time and place, the Drug War might have been stopped. Instead, it just goes on and on...

OK, so what does any of this have to do with the Challenger? Nothing but the date, really. 1986 was the year when Congress enacted federal "mandatory minimum" sentences for drug offenders, a law that only made a bad situation worse by adding untold heartbreak and misery to the lives of millions of Americans who shouldn't be in jail at all. Because of the harsh mandatory minimum laws, unlucky drug users are getting prison sentences longer than those handed down to rapists and murderers. What a better world it would be, in my opinion anyway, if someone like John Lennon had been able to turn that around 180 degrees.

Of course, I also just wanted to include the Challenger, since it's another of those classic historical moments we all remember and wish we could erase. I could have chosen Chernobyl as the 1986 event to focus on (it certainly had a more significant long term impact), but being a space nerd, I just had to choose NASA. Also, the Challenger disaster would have been an easy one to prevent with time travel... had the launch been delayed by a few hours or a few days, until it was warmer, those O rings wouldn't have failed. (There might have been some other shuttle disaster sooner than Columbia, but it wouldn't have killed the Teacher in Space.) So, to prevent that disaster, I simply imagined a wacky publicity stunt in which John handcuffs himself to the launchpad during a VIP tour and snarls up activity at NASA for a few days.

9.) Why Does Saving Lennon Stop Columbine?

The decision to include Columbine was not an easy one. It was still nearly-current news when we published the first beta-test edition of the game, and we were nervous about ruffling feathers by including such a touchy recent event. And we weren't sure then if it would really be remembered later as being of particular significance. But I was convinced we should do it, in part, by an email from Jacob Davenport, in which he wrote: "I think in ten years you could ask any American what 'Columbine' was all about and they would be able to tell you. The obvious patch for Columbine is for Lennon's political followers to succeed in repealing the second amendment, which is why Columbine never happened in the universe where Lennon survived."

OK, so after his campaign for Drug Peace, Lennon runs for office and leads a campaign to repeal the right to bear guns, which shuts down gun-shows and makes it much more difficult for Klebold and Harris to obtain their little arsenal. Well... maybe. Personally, I don't believe that banning guns would end the problem of gun violence any more effectively than banning drugs has been at ending drug use. I also have a difficult time imagining that even John Lennon could talk this nation into voluntarily giving up its guns, or that we would decide to embark on gun prohibition so shortly after waking up from the folly marijuana prohibition. But then again, I also can't figure out why our nation did exactly that in 1937, banning weed just 4 years after repealing the ban on booze. Indeed, I find it quite amazing that such a thing ever happened, particularly via constitutional amendment. So perhaps a gun ban isn't all that hard to imagine... after all, guns have already been outlawed in certain other countries (notably including England). Anyway, I'll admit the logic is rather weak on this one, but I still like it because it makes for a nice dramatic counterpoint to the real events, and I'm sure it has sparked a number of debates about gun control. (And whatever side I may support, I'm always in favor of a healthy debate.)

But I don't need gun control to come up with a story in which saving Lennon prevents Columbine. Here's one: in 1988, the not-dead Lennon writes and records a new song called "Moving to Canada," an anthem of sorts for the conscientious objectors who moved to Canada to escape the Vietnam War (and after them, the Drug War). When this song reaches Billboard's Top Ten, it generates a noticeable surge of interest in all things Canadian, which for various reasons leads to a decision by the Klebolds to move the family to Toronto. All of this happens in the early nineties, before the Harris family ever arrives in Littleton, so Eric and Dylan never even meet, much less plan a massacre together. Meanwhile, in a world where pot has been legalized (or at least decriminalized) Eric Harris decides to try marijuana. He becomes a stoner and mellows out about wanting to join the marines. He finds a different best friend, and instead of planning an attack together, they get the idea of starting their own business. After finishing high school, they go on to become successful as legitimate marijuana vendors. As for that song, "Moving to Canada", you'll find it covered by the whole group on the Beatle's reunion album, "Purple Submarine." It's a great song... I wish you could hear it.

10.) If Senator Lennon's Gun Ban is the 29th Amendment, then What's the 28th?

Alert civics students will recall that we only have 27 amendments to the Constitution at this time. The truth is, I never really decided what that 28th amendment was, I just figured it would be intriguing to drop the hint that some other amendment got passed. As a kid, I remember expecting the Equal Rights Amendment to pass, so my first thought was that John somehow helped make that become a reality. Or perhaps it was something more visionary, like a Personal Freedom Amendment, which asserted each individual's right to control his or her own body and that which does and does not go into it. (This would nullify drug prohibition AND solidify a woman's right to choose.)

11.) Would David Koresh's Gun-Stockpiling Ministry Really Have Opened a Free Hospital?

OK, that one is a stretch, but I just couldn't come up with anything better. Actually, this is the Patch I would most like to have re-written, but never managed to. The Waco and Oklahoma City events simply had to go into the game, since they're so well connected (it was outrage at Waco that drove McVeigh to bomb a federal building), but aside from preventing the Oklahoma City Bombing, it was hard to come up with anything significant that could relate to Waco, particularly after only 2 years. I suppose the patch could have just said "Workers Have Routine Day at Federal Office Building," and that certainly is a more believable outcome... but I wanted to do more than simply prevent evil which was begotten by evil. And that meant coming up with something positive for the beleaguered Branch Davidians to accomplish, which in turn got me to the idea of them opening a free clinic, since hospitals are arguably the most useful earthly service one finds sponsored by churches. And while the pre-siege Branch Davidian religion may not have been likely to embark on this sort of humanitarian venture, I imagine an alternate reality in which the national attention they received after the raid was called off led to an evolution of the organization which would make something like that possible.

12.) Why Would Abe Lincoln Get Impeached?

Well, for the same reasons that Andrew Johnson was, of course! And what were those exactly? Well, President Johnson was impeached because, uh, because... let's see... OK, why was Johnson impeached again? I can't really remember, I've always found the explanation confusing. Maybe I can get my brother Jeff the historian to address this one... after all, he thought it up...

Update: I recently got this response to the above text from Dan Miller: "I was a history major in college, and *loved* my Civil War History course, taught by the venerated David Hackett Fischer. My best guess, based on the coursework, was that the Radical Republicans impeached Johnson, a Union Democrat, simply because they didn't like the way he kept vetoing their let's-go-medieval-on-the-Unreconstructed-South bills. In other words, Johnson was just upholding the Constitution, in his view, and the Radical Republicans Did Not Like That. It wouldn't be out of the question to assume that, had Lincoln survived, he, as a (theoretically) reasonable and moderate man, would have repeatedly vetoed out-of-control measures by a Congress dominated by rabid Reconstructionists...and been impeached himself."

13.) What Are All of the Literary References in the Game?

Chrononauts is filled with little references and homages to other noteworthy time travel stories. This is a list of the stories I found inspirational as I worked on my own time travel opus. I'm breaking this section down into 4 parts: General, Characters, TimeLine, and Artifacts.


  • Of particular note is a slim collection of classic short stories, published by Raintree Publishers in 1981, called Travels Through Time. It features an introduction by Isaac Asimov and color illustrations by Thomas Leonard. I re-read this little hardbound book several times while working on the design, and the five short stories it contains are all referenced in some way in the game. It's like a Chrononauts reader.
  • In the final sections of the rulebook, I make mention of the politics of the present being changed by squishing a prehistoric insect. This is a nod to the Bradbury classic, "A Sound of Thunder" (and indirectly, that great Treehouse of Horror episode of the Simpsons)
  • It could be argued that the name itself is a reference to the series "Seven Days", which uses the term "chrononaut"... but I feel I thought of the name myself before I ever saw an episode of that show.
  • I couldn't think of any actual references to it, but I wanted to mention the excellent Steve Jackson Games book called GURPS Time Travel. It's a great reference work for anyone studying the literature of time travel.


  • Squa Tront: There are several references embedded in this character. The most important is "The Figure" by Edward Grendon (and featured in Travels Through Time). Written in 1947, it tells of how our early atomic bombs were causing mutations among the insects, with the punchline being the retrieval from the future of an artifact: A small statue of a super-evolved beetle standing atop the Earth. (This image also inspired the Jade Statue of Tirade.) The name Squa Tront is another reference, to the EC Weird Science/Weird Fantasy comic books, in which aliens always said one of two things: "Spa Fon" and "Squa Tront." (It often took the form of an exclamation; in one issue, "Spa Fon!" was actually translated into English as "Good Lord!", another stock expression.) It could also be argued that Squa Tront is a reference to the great grand-daddy of time travel stories, The Time Machine by HG Wells, in which the main character drives to the very distant future and finds the Earth populated only by giant crustaceans. Lastly, there's one more very obscure reference here... in the eighties I helped write several of the first Live-Action Role-Playing (LARP) games (though we didn't call them that back then... it those days, they were SIL games, named for the group that started the phenomena, the Society for Interactive Literature). In one game, called Reklone-3, I created a time-traveling post-WW3 super-evolved insect named Squa Tront. (Rainbow's story and characters are also Reklone-3 references, as are Werner and his theft of the Mona Lisa. In fact, it was an all-time-travelers game!)
  • Betty & Mason: There's a great time travel book by Lisa Mason called Summer of Love, set in San Francisco during the summer of 1967. It involves something called the Save Betty Project, which I was thinking about when I gave the name of Betty to the character featuring my story, "Saving JFK." Later, when josh rachlin said his story "I Should Have Looked At His Face" was inspired by the same plotline of the same book, I decided his as-yet-unnamed character should be called Mason, after the author's last name, since we already had a Betty and anyway the character in his story was male.
  • Ginohn, Renee, and Andy: These are all named for real people, all members of the WTS. Ginohn's story was written for Gina and John, I gave the Titanic story's character Renee's name because she's obsessed with the Titanic, and when Alison said she pictured me as the protagonist of "Waiting to Become my Future Self," I decided to put myself in the game.
  • Tyberius: I'm a pretty big Star Trek fan, and of course my favorite episodes are the ones about time travel, so I'm kind of surprised now that I didn't work in any good Trek references until Ryan provided me with one for the expansion. (It suddenly seemed so obvious, I also decided to include the Incognito Starship Captain in Nanofictionary.)
  • Zane Reenak: This character's story is basically a 55-word rewrite of a story I wrote in the nineties called "The 5000 Year Legacy." Although Zane's required headline of "Berlin Hosts World's Fair" would seem to imply that the Time Capsule mentioned in "At Long Last, the UFOs Arrived" was buried in the alternate universe Berlin of 1948, you can tell from the 5000 year reference that I was really thinking about the Westinghouse Time Capsules buried at the New York Worlds Fairs in 1939 and 1964.


  • Saving Lincoln: Using time travel to attempt (usually without success) to save the President (be it Lincoln or Kennedy) is so common in the literature that I'd say it's second only to Killing Hitler in obviousness. There's even this one story (an SNL sketch, I think) in which Abe still dies because there are so many time travelers crowded into Ford's Theater, arguing over who gets to be the one to save the President, that no one actually gets around to doing it. Some of my favorite Saving-Lincoln stories are:
    • "Back There," a Twilight Zone episode starring Russell Johnson as the Professor
    • "The Assassin," by Robert Silverberg (featured in Travels Through Time)
    • "For Us, The Living," by Severin & Elder, from Weird Fantasy July 1953 (a twist on the usual trying-to-save-the-president theme, in which the traveler accidentally *causes* Lincoln's death, having traveled back in time merely to meet and greet the great man. The only proof he had of the utopia he came from was the travel sticker on his suitcase, reading "Visit the Tomb of Abraham Lincoln, Founder of the Republic of Earth, in the Capitol of the World, Paris".)
  • Saving the Titanic: There are many stories that feature traveling back in time to the Titanic, including the movie "Time Bandits" and the first episode of the series "Time Tunnel". My favorite is an episode of "Voyagers", which featured time travelers rescuing the Mona Lisa from the sinking ship, since according to their history, it wasn't supposed to be there. (The ship however was fated to sink, and nothing they tried could stop that from happening.)
  • Saving the Lusitania: There's an episode of the Twilight Zone called "No Time Like the Past", in which a time traveler attempts to change 3 major events and fails each time, concluding therefore that history is immutable. (Although to me, all he really proves is that he's a stumblebum.) The three events are all on my TimeLine: the Lusitania, Hiroshima, and an attempt to kill Hitler. More interesting to me was a short story Alison discovered, whose title I haven't yet remembered or re-discovered, in which we see what happens to Europe if the Lusitania sinking is prevented and America stays out of the World War.
  • Killing Hitler: Trying to kill Hitler is a staple in time travel stories. But where, and when? I chose the Olympics as my Hitler pivot point, not because of any previous story I know of, but because that was Earth's first TV broadcast -- a major turning point in our history in and of itself. (That also makes this a reference to "Contact.") I also wanted an event that would have had massive dramatic impact.
  • The Great Depression: My parents grew up during the Great Depression, and the impact it made on them was passed along, a least in a few lessons here and there, to my siblings and me. So I liked the idea of making it better for my parents through the wonder of Time Travel. At first I thought to reverse it into an economic boom, but then I realized bad weather (i.e. the Dust Bowl) was partly to blame for that era's economic hard times. So, I decided simply to make it a mild recession, which is funnier anyway. The only specific time travel reference to the Depression I'm aware of is in Travels Through Time, in a story called "The Good Provider".
  • The Hindenburg: Including this on the TimeLine was a no-brainer to me, but there aren't really very many time travel stories I can think of which include this event. There's a movie called "Disaster in Time," which features chrononautical tourists who spectate at famous disasters; they mention taking in a viewing of the Hindenburg.
  • Saving JFK: "Quantum Leap" did an interesting episode in which Sam leaps into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald, who really was (according to them) a successful lone assassin. (It would have been a much better episode if they'd depicted Oswald as the patsy he actually was.) Far superior is the treatment this linchpin gets in the book Replay, by Ken Grimwood: when the main character interferes with Oswald's activities that day, the assassination proceeds as planned, with some other unknown schmuck taking the fall as the "lone" assassin.
  • Saving Lennon: The only story about saving Lennon that I knew about when writing Chrononauts was Ginohn's excellent TTS entry. (If you haven't read it before, go do so now!) There's also a pretty neat story called "Spelunking at the Cavern," by Michael A. Martin.
  • Waco, Oklahoma City, and Columbine: As far as I know, mine is the first work of time travel literature to include these recent, touchy events. I certainly hope no one affected by any of those events (nor indeed, anything in the game) are offended by my usage. As I said in the rulebook, I would think they, more than anyone, would be in favor of using time travel to undo those painful occurrences.


  • Steggie, Emily, and Cretaceous Park: Steggie is named after a beloved stuffed animal Alison had as a kid. Emily is named for a stuffed bronto Kristin and I rescued from the thrift store long ago, who in turn we named after Emily Bronte (for the pun value, not because we're big Emily Bronte fans). Rex is named for no one in particular. [Editor's Note from the Future: Someday there will be a promo card featuring a fourth type of dinosaur, a Triceratops, which can be substituted for any of the other three. She will be named Sarah, after a stuffed dinosaur Jeff gave to our niece Sarah when she was very young.] As for the mission called Cretaceous Park, that's obviously a reference to "Jurassic Park," with the point being that most of the dinosaurs in that movie were from the Cretaceous period, not the Jurassic.
  • Ancient Wisdom: In "Cosmos", Carl Sagan says that if he had a time machine, his first choice for a place to go would be the Library of Alexandria, prior to its destruction. I wish Carl were still alive, so that I could send him a Chrononauts deck...
  • The Videotape of Day One: Journeying back to the beginning of time is another popular theme... but how to include it in the game without actually providing an answer to the question of what you'd discover on Day One? Of course, the perfect solution was a videotape in a format you can't use. As I like to say when I show off this card during a demo, "Now all you need to do is get back to the universe when Betamax won the videotape format war!" (Another joke everyone loves is the helpful label that says "Don't Erase!")
  • Sports Almanac from the Future: Obviously this is from the film which I would say is the best time travel movie ever made: "Back to the Future Part 2". But how you could pack so many statistics into a book that thin? That's why our version of such a book is so much thicker. Also, I changed the spelling of Gray's Sports Almanac to suit the way my friend Grey Dutton spells her name.
  • Tomorrow's Newspaper Today: This is another plot device staple that just seemed obvious. It's wonderfully generic, since there's always a tomorrow that might have lotto numbers, horse-race scores, election returns, or other timely news within. Of course, we saw Doc Brown wielding one of these in "Back to the Future 2"; Doug & Tony (of the Time Tunnel) had one they tried to use to prove to the captain of the Titanic that his ship was going to sink (it didn't work... he pronounced it to be a fake); and I remember an episode of "I Dream of Jeannie" in which she conjured up the next day's news, which helpfully reported than an unspecified astronaut had broken his leg. (Could it be Major Nelson or Major Healy? Why didn't the newspaper article say?) I'm sure there are other examples... in fact, I'm told there was an entire TV series based on this premise, called "Early Edition".
  • Cure for Cancer: Various forms of amazing medical technology from the future are yet another staple element of time travel stories... I particularly recall the episode of "Night Gallery" about a medical bag from the future. I also wanted to make reference to all those stories in which space travelers arrive offering to give us advanced medical technology, which are typified for me by a "Twilight Zone" episode called "The Gift" (the eponymous gift being described as "the chemical formula for a vaccine against all forms of cancer").
  • The Lost Ark of the Covenant: Obviously, the description of the Ark in a crate is a reference to "Raiders of the Lost Ark". It's not a time travel story of course, but even so, I've always thought Indiana Jones would make an excellent time traveler. After all, he's a swash-buckling hero with an encyclopedic knowledge of past cultures! Who'd be better to have with you on a journey into the past? Perhaps in some alternate universe, there's a movie from the 80's called "Indiana Jones and the Time Machine", with Malcolm McDowell reprising his role as HG Wells. (Then again, I'm always trying to shove a time machine in somewhere... in the 8th grade when we had to read Great Expectations, then were given the creative writing assignment of inventing a new epilogue for the Dickens classic, I of course had to have the main character bump into an inventor with a time machine, allowing Pip to go back in time to prevent the tragedies that befell Miss Havisham.)
  • Rongo-Rongo Tablets: I'm always been fascinated by the mysterious statues of Easter Island, and the tragic story of how most of their written records were destroyed before historians could preserve them. I don't know of any time travel stories about them, though. And I really should point out that real Rongo-Rongo tablets (of which a handful do survive) wouldn't have looked like our wacky illustration... they instead were cylinders (i.e. logs) where were completely covered with rows of symbols. (But one of my favorite little jokes in the game is that diagram showing a Moai head, indicating that the 3 dimensions of vital significance were Height, Width, and Nose Length.)
  • The Mona Lisa Trio: If we were playing Family Feud and the question was "What's the greatest painting of all time?" I think the #1 answer would be "the Mona Lisa". Similarly, I think Shakespeare would get the award for world's greatest writer. It was with these thoughts in mind that I included these masters' works in the game... not because I personally favor them. The Mona Lisa is certainly not my favorite painting (that honor still goes to Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks") and in truth I really don't care much for the writings of Mr. Shakespeare. I'm also not a fan of Dr. Who, yet the Mona Lisa trio can be considered a reference to a famous episode involving a series of Mona Lisa forgeries. The real reason I think of the Mona Lisa as being a time-travel related painting is because it was featured in my favorite episode of "Voyagers!" It was "Voyagers of the Titanic", the episode in which the Mona Lisa mistakenly ends up on board the Titanic after the real-life theft of the painting in 1911. The painting actually was missing for two years; that's why the real Mona card bears the specific date it does... that's the date of the actual theft, which would be a perfect opportunity for a time traveler to pull a switcheroo. Lastly, I have to mention here that there's a story in Travels Through Time called "The Innocent's Refuge," which is about Leonardo Da Vinci (or more accurately, his parents).
  • Shakespeare's Last Play: In her Time Travel sweepstakes entry, Jennifer L. Smith suggested grabbing an unpublished play off of Shakespeare's desk, but she wasn't the first to suggest this sort of thing. There's a classic episode of the Twilight Zone called "The Bard," in which a TV producer plucks Mr. Shakespeare from the past and sets him up writing scripts for TV shows. There's a similar little story in Travels Through Time called "The Immortal Bard", about an odd student with old-fashioned mannerisms who enrolls in a college class about Shakespeare... and flunks it! As for the idea that a new play written by Shakespeare would be lame, I think that's exactly what would happen if you time-rescued the guy we think of as the Bard, since he almost certainly wasn't the real author of Shakespeare's plays. (On the other hand, with a Time Machine, it would be a piece of cake to figure out who the author really was, and then go rummage through his desk...)
  • Jade Statue of Tirade: As mentioned, this artifact was inspired by "The Figure". Also of course, Tirade is the Looney Labs mascot, whom you'll find in many other places (including in Nanofictionary, on a card called the Super-Evolved Sentient Broccoli). The statue's recovery date (July 10th, 4936585 AD) contains two other references: the month and day are the same as Kristin's birthday, while the year is the serial number of my first patent.
  • Purple Submarine CD: Looney Labs fans will instantly recognize the purple sub from the cover art of the Beatles Reunion CD as being from Aquarius; what's less known is that "Purple Submarine" was actually the working title for that game (until Number 12 suggested we call it Aquarius).

14.) What Ideas are Being Considered for Future Expansions?

New TimeLines:

I've given a lot of thought to the idea of creating new sections of the TimeLine devoted to other histories and different points of view, and while there are endless possibilites, there are two main concepts settling out in my mind as being the most likely things to do next: the 19th century (i.e. a prequel), and a century from the Future.

Chrono 19th: Since Chrononauts is basically about the second half of the history of America, this sequel will be dedicated to the first half. The first card will be 1776 or thereabouts, and the final card will be around 1911. This 19th century TimeLine will be designed to function standalone or in conjunction with the original game's TimeLine. There will be new versions of the 1865 and 1868 cards, which move those events backwards, into the center of the new TimeLine, with new cards (from, say, 1907 and 1911) filling in the A-1 and A-2 spots on the existing TimeLine.

Although I have yet to begin actually laying out this new TimeLine, I have done a lot of general thinking about how it will go. I plan to address (at least) two main themes: Preventing/Interfering with the American Revolution, and Helping the South Win the Civil War. The trick will be in shaping the alternate histories such that the real history from 1912 forward is still valid, no matter how messed up the 19th century may become. So, what does happen if you prevent the American Revolution? It still happens, only at a different point in history. What we call the War of 1812 will be known as the American Revolution on the red and orange cards, with James Madison then becoming the Father of our Country. Or, depending on the way the linchpins are set, the American Revolution might occur in 1799, being inspired by the French Revolution instead of the other way around. (In that universe, Jefferson will get to be President #1.) The point is, even if the particulars change, the USA will still get created. As for the Civil War, it will be possible to prevent it all together as well as allowing for the South to emerge victorious. When this happens, we will get to see the entire tumultuous and difficult history of the nation of the CSA, which will end in 1911 with a patch entitled "Reunification of the United States of America." Again, the point will be to allow for a radically different middle history that still puts everything back together as it should be at the start of the TimeLine we have now. (And how exactly will the South be able to win the Civil War? I'm figuring to add a new type of Inverter, called "Accelerate Technology," which would allow you to help the Confederacy invent machine guns, as a nod to Harry Turtledove's classic, The Guns of the South.)

Chrono 2111: While exploring other sections of history will obviously be cool, the allure of looking into the Future is undeniable. Of course, there's the pesky 1984/2001 problem, i.e. no matter how far ahead you set your futuristic events, real time always catches up eventually. (On the other hand, in a game of alternate realities, the idea of one being "wrong" is rather silly...) Anyway, I'm figuring to give ourselves about 25 years, with the creation of a brown-and-green TimeLine that runs from 2030 to 2111. Of course, to do that, I will need a fully-realized and highly detailed fictional history of the world for those years. (Anybody got such a thing lying around?) I figure that the backstory needed for such a project would be enough to write a book (or a whole series of books), a task which could be done before, during, or after the creation of said backstory. And that's a project I'm just casually pondering right now, so it might not be until 2030 before this project ever really gets going.

What About 9/11? My immediate reaction was to create a linchpin card about the events of that tragic day... but it will probably be a very long time before we actually use that card in a game. Eventually, I could imagine a 4th TimeLine, starting with 2000 and fitting into the beginning of the 2111 TimeLine... but I think another 20 years or so must go by before we can know what that TimeLine should be about, and what the full impact of 9/11 on history will actually be.

Promo Card Releases:

As of this writing (Spring 2003) we've only released one actual expansion for Chrononauts, called Lost Identities. However, we sometimes print single-card expansions, which we call promo cards, by sneaking extra cards onto the print sheets with other products. So far, we've made 3 of these for Chrononauts:

  • Jade Statue of Tirade: Origins 2001 promo (from the First Printing) -- currently available in the 2001 Promo Card Pack
  • Beatles Reunion CD: included in each copy of Fluxx Blanxx
  • German Cake: DragonCon 2002 promo (from the Second Printing) -- currently available in the 2002 Promo Card Pack

When the time comes to do the Third Printing (hopefully later this year), we will have another opportunity to print a single-card expansion. Here are some of the promo card ideas we are considering for when that time comes: (Which would you like to see the most?)

  • Cryogenically Frozen, Re-animated Head-in-a-Jar: When this Artifact is first played, an ID card is drawn and placed face down under it. Only the person in possession of the Head-in-a-Jar may look at this ID. If the Head is discarded, the ID is, too. If you have this Artifact in play, and its ID conditions are met, and it's your turn, then you win!)
  • Tokyo Nuked (1945-d): A fourth unstable patch for 1945, which would depend on 1936', 1941, and 1943: "Japanese/American War Ends with Third Atomic Bombing" (Johnson can win with this, too)
  • Live Triceratops: Her name is Sarah; she counts as a live dinosaur of any type.


Speaking of the Third Printing, we now have a list of corrections that should have been made when we did the Second Printing:

  • 1918 Ripplepoint: change "Jun 28" to "Nov 11"
  • Live Brontosaurus: change "Apatasaurus" to "Apatosaurus"

A Ross, who pointed these lingering mistakes out, also suggests that all Patch cards be updated with the phrase, "When you play this Patch, draw a card." We like this idea, but it would mean updating so many cards that we may not be able to do it. (He also wants us to add qualifying text about the ÜberParadox to a whole bunch of cards, but I don't think that's gonna happen...)

How About Lost Artifacts?

It has often been suggested that we release an all-Artifact expansion, akin to Lost Identities, which we'd call Lost Artifacts. Unfortunately, this isn't as straightforward as it might seem. Lost IDs works because all the new cards have the same-colored borders; to create Lost Artifacts, we'd need to be able to include two different types of cards in one packet (since you'd need more black-bordered Mission cards as well as more white-bordered Artifacts) and that's not currently an option for us. Therefore, most new Artifact ideas will probably have to wait for a full-sized sequel. But that hasn't stopped us from having lots of ideas...

Here are some of the ideas we've been kicking around for new artifacts:

  • Mars Rock (Curiously pyramidal crystalline mineral, returned to Earth by crew of Scorpio-5)
  • The Golden Spike (which disappeared in ruins of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake)
  • Pirate's Gold (retrieved from mysterious Oak Island)
  • Watergate Dub (copy of 18 minute segment of tape, made prior to erasure)
  • Beverly Oliver's Lost JFK movie (even if JFK lives, this unseen footage of the motorcade passing the grassy knoll is amazing)
  • Roswell Crash Site Debris Sample (Weather balloon hardware or alien technology? The answer is obvious when you hold a piece of it in your hand...)
  • John Lennon's Special Brownies (a commercial product, like Newman's Popcorn)
  • Marie Antionette's Cake
  • Dodo Egg Omelet
  • Woolly Mammoth Steak (generous serving of prehistoric meat, roasted to perfection over an open fire by primitive-human chefs)
  • Negative-Calorie Pizza (from the future; eat pizza and lose weight!)
  • Corn Belt City ("Nighthawks"esque Hopper painting destroyed by fire in 1947)
  • Infinite-duration batteries (from the future; package of 2)
  • Matter Replicator (from the future; requires an infinite duration battery)
  • Pollution-Free Flying Car (from the future; requires an infinite duration battery)
  • Tablet #3, inscribed with Commandments #11 - #17
  • The Holy Grail

Titles for Mission cards requiring these artifacts might include:

  • Suppressed Information
  • Gadgets from the Future
  • The Gallery of Unknown Masterpieces
  • Cake & Steak & Eggs

15.) The Jackie Robinson at the 1944 Olympics Story

In 1944, with the whole world at war, the Olympic games were canceled. But in a world where World War 2 never happened, the Olympics of 1944 might have been that year's biggest newstory. As another counter-point to real history, I chose Warsaw, a city in Poland that was ravaged by the Holocaust, as the host city for the 1944 Olympic Games. I think all of that makes sense, even to a sports ignoramus (like myself). But what's all that about Jackie Robinson winning 5 gold medals?

As Chrononauts took shape, we decided to publish a small test run (which we called the Beta Edition) to get a heavy dose of feedback on various elements of the game prior to the official release. Shown here is one of the cards from that run (prior to Alison's Color Redesign)... you'll notice on this version of the 1944' card that the sub-headline is about Jesse Owens, who became so famous at the 1936 Olympics. I wasn't really happy with that, but since sports really aren't my thing, I decided it was good enough for the Beta Edition.

During final playtesting, I put up this Playtesting Results Report, in which I complained about this problem, saying "what I really want is the name of some famous WWII war hero who might instead have been an Olympian if there hadn't been a war going on. Are there any WWII experts reading this? Any suggestions?"

In response to this, I got email from someone named Aaron J Schatz. He wrote: "Jackie Robinson played football and baseball as well as ran track at UCLA before serving in the Army in WWII and then playing with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. It isn't a stretch to think that in some alternate universe he could have been a track athlete to match Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens."

When asked what events Jackie would have done well in, Aaron had this to say: "I was figuring the similar events - 100, 200, long jump, 4x100 relay. If you want to have him hit a 5 medal mark (1 higher than Owens and Lewis) I would suggest adding the 4x400 relay. Those are the five medals that Marion Jones was gonna go for this year in Sydney, so it is quite realistic."

In truth, this still wasn't really want I wanted, but I decided I liked this alternate Jackie Robinson Story well enough.

What suggestions or questions do you have about Chrononauts? Please write to, and maybe Andy will respond!

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