Chrono Slip (Level Up and 5e): An Interview with Mike Myler (Storytelling Collective!)

EN World columnist Mike Myler has a new project coming to Kickstarter, Chrono Slip.

EN World columnist Mike Myler has a new project coming to Kickstarter, Chrono Slip. Designed for Level Up: Advanced Fifth Edition and Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, this campaign promises a different take on the storytelling loop. I asked Mike about the campaign, how it came about, the free primer, and, with the coming of the revised D&D rules, what he sees as the near future of the TTRPG industry.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Mike, hope you’re well. What is Chrono Slip?
: A temporal campaign setting for Level Up: Advanced Fifth Edition (and also original D&D 5E) made as a working example for the advanced course soon to be released through the RPG Writer Workshop / Storytelling Collective (I’m the instructor for a course on making campaign setting primers, and soon also on making campaign setting books). In this repeating realm a cataclysm has trapped the world in a time loop that repeats every 72 hours, the majority of its residents unaware that the wronglings marching on cities and spreading terror everywhere are fated to return again and again.

EGG: Like Chrono Trigger and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, this is a looped gaming cycle. How will that work in practical terms?
: Every 3 days at the end of the Slip the world resets to the start of the Slip. People that have been slain reawaken in their beds, fields that have been reaped are ready to be harvested again, and anyone not runed (like the adventurers) has no idea of their predicament. Not absolutely everything resets (it’d be hard to get any adventuring done that way!) but if it’s not a primal element (like stone or water) chances are good it reverts.

EGG: Shadowdark is offers some interesting gameplay ideas, many centered around real time events such as the idea that torches last for one hour of real time. How will Chrono Slip count time?
: In the usual manner for the most part. With all the vagaries of a repeating realm we didn’t fiddle with the flow of time overly much, though naturally some of the mechanics (like the rapid rest spell or chronospyglass) wax and wane temporality. Also the size of the Slip can change depending on the Completion Circuit the campaign is using (for example Timebirth reduces the third day by 3 second increments with every Slip), and there are two new elements (goloh and norcical) that can accelerate or slow things in different ways. The best answer is Synchronicity. This recharges every Slip and the higher level the PCs are the more of it there is to use. In addition to allowing adventurers to bond with Synchronicity Stones (changing where they are at the start of the next Slip), by making a Synchronicity check and spending some of that resource they can pull items from out of the timestream into their hands, glimpse into the future, alter when an event might take place, or utilize time in a dozen other extraordinary ways.

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EGG: What can you say about the setting for Chrono Slip? Is it fantasy or are there other elements mixed in?
: Myler campaign settings aren’t very traditional medieval fantasy and this is probably the closest we’re ever going to get. Zelda fans will recognize a lot of the themes in the realm of Urnert—elemental peoples in disparate kingdoms that need to be united against the shadowy threat of a mysterious antagonist’s machinations, the army of wronglings marching about—and along with that are references to Chrono Trigger, Back to the Future, Bill & Ted, and a couple dozen other time travel movies and games beloved by the design team.

EGG: In the end, when the players complete the quest, do they restore normal time?
: That depends on the campaign’s Completion Circuit but most probably yes. There are seven suggested in the Gamemastery chapter ranging from wishes gone awry, to a lich of doomed ambition, or dual parties sent back in time (a la Terminator) burdened with setting things right, but there are also guidelines for Narrators to figure things out for custom Completion Circuits.

EGG: This uses Level Up: Advanced Fifth Edition. With your resume it’s obvious why you can write for this system. In terms of mechanics, why did that system make sense for this idea?
: I sourced the design team out of folks who worked on the core Level Up books! Really though the system’s flexibility makes it a refreshing design space—there are more levers to be pulled, dials you can turn, and room for implementing themes into the game via mechanics. One of those widgets is the slowed condition (obviously something we touch on a lot!), but we also love exploration challenges (which are friendlier for backwards compatibility in Chrono Slip as they reduce an adventurer’s Synchronocity so no need to implement Supply), cultures, and the ways Urnert’s new elements work with different parts of the system (want to craft magic items faster? Get some goloh.)

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EGG: Do you have a preview of the project?
: At some point I should've mentioned the free primer PDF (which should go out sometime soon on DriveThruRPG but will always be available here).

EGG: Let’s switch from the Kickstarter to your history in TTRPGs. You work for EN Publishing. You are published by Legendary Games. Your day job is 5e-related. You are the design manager of Level Up: Advanced Fifth Edition. You’ve created books and adventures for Pathfinder, Shadow of the Demon Lord, and W.O.I.N. You’ve won awards. That’s a lot of hats, that’s a lot of plates to keep spinning. To give context, how many projects did you have a hand in in 2023?
: Don’t forget NerdBurger Games and Staged Heroism! Monthly EN5ider publishes 5 articles (including a full-size adventure) and for issue #500 we did this extravagant megadungeon (the Vault of Splintered Souls) based on patron surveys, To Save A Kingdom funded on Kickstarter last spring, and in the background I was toiling away on Planestrider’s Journal or several pieces for the Gate Pass Gazette (several appear in the annual compilation hardcover project that’s live right now). There’s a smattering of other freelance gigs too and my own efforts like the W.O.I.N. version of Hypercorps 2099 and Oops! All Dragons!, and I’m sure things I just won’t remember until I’m doing my tax sheets. This project also marks a new publisher for me: Storytelling Collective! TLDR scores of projects.

EGG: How did this project come about at Storytelling Collective!?
: I've been teaching a Campaign Primer course in their RPG Writer Workshop for years, and Chrono Slip was made as a working example for my advanced course (Publish Your Campaign Setting) which should be available for students sometime in March I think (when exactly is up to Ashley Warren).

EGG: Those last questions were setup to establish your resume for this question. 2024 is the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. A refresh of the ruleset is scheduled for this year. TTRPG historian Ben Riggs turned heads with his pronouncement that “the golden age of TTRPGs is dead.” From your point of view in the trenches, do you feel that the updated D&D ruleset will be a TTRPG third-party publisher apocalypse or an opportunity?
: Aye I saw that and all the hubbub that erupted around it. Apocalypse is a little strong but that’s the side of the spectrum I’m leaning more towards. Ben's most salient point was often lost in the discourse: there's going to be a decline in million dollar+ Kickstarter campaigns (and crowdfunded RPGs generally). That's where it's going to hurt the most and how the luster is going to rust away. It is the primary economic driver (diverting streams of gamers from the Big Growing Successful Core RPG Most People Play to Your Thing™ on the Almost Cheapest Distribution Platform) and a keystone to how people stay in business—depending on who is being discussed it may well be THE keystone. Take NerdBurger Games for example. Going to take a hit from the market boom ending. Dude does not publish anything but indie RPGs. His base will continue to grow and he'll be OK, but he's not going to get the returns that he used to get (because the total number of people who might see the latest CAPERS project is going to decrease, and therein the potential number of backers goes down, knock on forward to the end of the road.) It’s going to be a harder path for legacy D&D publishers and I’m not optimistic about it. Maybe it’ll be a good thing decades from now, but as a person here in the trenches that’s not enormously comforting. My whole thing is having a ship tied off to other ships so things should be ok for me; not envious of people without a fleet around.

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EGG: Beyond Chrono Slip, what else are you working on for 2024?
: After this Mists of Akuma is getting a new look and core book along with 2 hardcover encounter books (each with something for 1st through 20th level) plus a new hardcover adventure path! SO MUCH SOBURIN! Meanwhile Hundred Acre Hell is on deck and my principal artist (Indi Martin) is chomping at the bit to draw up demonic Pooh, cannibal Owl, and the rest of that deranged crew. If there’s time I might also try to tackle Dungeons & Dinosaurs (play as your favorite prehistoric lizard!) but no promises on that one as it’s quite the sticky wicket.

EGG: Thanks for talking with me. Where can fans find out more about your work?
: There’s always mikemyler [dot] com and I’m on all the upstanding social networks too (BlueSky, Mastodon, Threads) along with some of the dubious ones (Facebook, Instagram). The most reliable way is to back one of my Kickstarter projects—you’ll get a blood money email from BackerKit the next time I launch something. ☺

Chrono Slip: Temporal Campaign Setting for Level Up / D&D 5E from Mike Myler
  • “A realm repeating inspired by time-tested classics like Chrono Trigger and Zelda! Archetypes, spells, 64 new NPCs/monsters, and more!”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

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Egg Embry

Egg Embry

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I won't be the guy who says "Oh, just like X other project!" but I will say that I ran a time-loop adventure that was originally written for 4e (I think). It was cool, but some parts of it were hard to pull off... And I'm not sure my players actually understood what was happening, since we spent a LOT of time in the "before the time loop" part of the adventure

Mike Myler

Have you been to yet?
I won't be the guy who says "Oh, just like X other project!" but I will say that I ran a time-loop adventure that was originally written for 4e (I think). It was cool, but some parts of it were hard to pull off... And I'm not sure my players actually understood what was happening, since we spent a LOT of time in the "before the time loop" part of the adventure
It is tricky aye, but the introduction adventure does a great job of introducing the concepts that alter it from regular play (the Narrator chapter is helpful for that too).

Also: the project is live!

and FUNDED! ^___^

Chrono Slip KS Page Banner FUNDED in 2 hours.jpg
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