"Paradox? If you view time as a linear flow, certainly. Not, however, if you finally pay attention to the ancients and regard time (not eternity) as a serpent biting its own tail, or perhaps a spiral."
Kage Baker, The Life of the World to Come
Methodological solipsists vs Area Man
When you write about past events, or when you contemplate them from the vantage of "eternity", you can afford to regard time as a serpent. You can assemble the pieces of the puzzle that is its skin with all the patience in Heaven, safe in the knowledge that it's all a done deal: only interpretation of history is susceptible to change, not the events themselves.
But, in most cases, for us down here in the mud of passing time, crawling through the days, worming our way to the future, you kind of have to experience time as a linear flow.
Stop creating universes please
While I love a good story, my first instinct is to dislike tales of
travel in the past - you can travel in the future all you want, no one
cares if you disappear, but don't you create a second version of the
universe by saving Joan of Arc from her judges or something like that. My brain hurts just thinking about it.
Did the above-quoted ancients delve into the intricacies of time paradoxes? From where I stand, for practical purposes, time is linear and causality needs to be paid its dues, hence the desire to eradicate paradox. This is an endless topic, fit for clear minds like Philosophy Bro, but my goal here is to grasp how time functions in the Company novels and how it can be used in a game.
Unicity and authenticity
There are two redeeming features in the way Kage Baker handles time travel in her novels.
1) There is one world, one continuum, one story and one history; only our knowledge of the past can be changed, though we retain our free will and can exercise it within the boundaries of the story. The Company tells (to itself) the story that the treasures lost to time and now recovered have in fact be made to disappear by them in the first place.
2) History is paid respect. It does not feel like a theme park. There is a sense of difference.
Gameplay around time
Paradox: since only one history does exist in the Company novels,
paradoxes that posit fundamental inconsistencies within the story are
unstable and prone to disappear once the whole story gets known. Getting
to explain how something is not paradoxical (hopefully gearing causality
your side in the process) can be a fun and meaningful gaming objective.
Flashbacks: they function differently in real life and in the diverse gaming media. Game mechanics can provide a framework to simulate flashbacks without breaking causality and unicity. Cyborgs do not fear permanent death, so that is one major hurdle out of the way to explain unlikely comebacks away. Every game could be a flashback, or it could be used the way it is used in movies, to highlight significant aspects of the story being told.
Uchrony: the clash of technologies and behaviors is savory and holds both comic and dramatic potential. But History is savored quite differently with a cyborg perspective. It could be interesting to have players and/or characters graduate to the truth of the universe, from simple mortals to cyborgs.
Phew! I almost divided by zero.