Doctor Who - The Character Sheet: 10 Observations

With thanks to Hero Press for bringing my attention to it, here is the character sheet for the new Doctor Who role-playing game coming out this fall:Click for legible size. So what do I think?

1) Well, first off, I'll probably be making my own low-graphics version of it. It's pretty, but I want it to be functional, have room for notes in the margins (my players are notorious scribblers) and not eat up my ink cartridges without reason. Too much wasted space. But that's my only real problem with it. What can we infer from the game just from its character sheet?

2) The game will be simple. When an RPG can afford to list ALL Skills on its sheet and they amount to just 12 (+6 Attributes), you know you've got a game without a lot of crunch. I'm happy about this. I like the systems I use to be easy to learn and quick to play. With Doctor Who, there's a lot of ground to cover (past and future, alien powers, time travel, you name it), so making the game crunchy would have made it incredibly heavy.

3) In fact, it looks a lot like Cinematic Unisystem. Right now, I'm waiting for the game to come out, but when I thought I'd be starting a Who game this summer, I studied up on Unisystem. So I feel ready to play even if I haven't seen the official rules yet. For those who don't know, Unisystem basically has you roll on Attribute+Skill+dice (or permutations of such). Traits would be for stuff that is unique to characters (powers, being a Timelord, etc.).

4) The Attributes: Awareness (having run Dream Park for years, "rolling on Awareness" is already something my players are used to doing), Coordination (an odd choice for the usual Agility), Ingenuity (this must be Intelligence, though the word is better for the Doctor Who universe), Presence (Charisma), Resolve (Willpower?), and Strength (I know they're in alphabetical order, but I like that D&D's first stat is Doctor Who's last, very different worlds).

5) The Skills: These have to cover every single situation regardless of where and when they are used. While it may seem a bit much that someone who can drive a car can also pilot a plane, or someone who can survive in the arctic wastes can do just as well in the jungle, it holds true to Doctor Who. Every possible scientific specialty fits under the Science umbrella, for example. Aside from being true to the show's pulp trappings, Doctor Who as a whole follows a British ethos that celebrates the generalist and hobbyist. Though specializations might be part of the game (with penalties to Skill outside one's specialty), there is simply no room for them on the sheet, so they probably don't exist.

6) Home Tech Level: Now THAT's interesting! It could be a built-in "specialization" modifier for tasks that require knowledge beyond one's own era. Time Lords could be at the extreme end of the scale, able to cover Science, Technology or Knowledge from the beginning to the end of history, while 21st-century humans would be less able to practice blacksmithing (Craft) or fly spaceships (Transport).

7) Bio-Data Extract: A LOT of the sheet's real estate is given over to non-stat information, which tends to mean the game encourages role-playing above rule-playing. All for it.

8) Pill shapes: The stats go into an elongated pill shape rather than a circle or square. Just part of the design, or is it possible to have more than one number in there (2 / 4)?

9) No hit points: Is that why there's room for a second number? A DRAINED Attribute number? While there's no health-type Attribute, it could be down to Strength for physical damage and Resolve for mental damage (Who characters so tend to be taken over a lot, don't they?).

10) Story Points: Most certainly a mixture of experience points you receive as reward, and drama points you can use to change your luck (as in Unisystem).

That's as much as I can ascertain from this simple one-pager, but I do like what I see! How about you?


GeekBob said...

I will admit a certain curiosity regarding the system and the sheet puts me at easy regarding the simplicity of the system. I'm more concerned with how the game handles who plays the Doctor and how.

Siskoid said...

The unofficial Unisystem game basically played the Time Lord as a Slayer (as per Buffy) with companions getting less Attributes and Skills, but more drama points.

But I'd like them to go further and create Traits that can ONLY be chosen by a companion that help advance the plot. The ingenious leap of logic, generating faith in the Doctor, screaming for reinforcements, etc. Drama point tricks that only they can invoke, which gives the TL a reason for including them in his TARDIS.

Emperor said...

I actually dislike rules-lite systems. Id rather either go rules-heavy or no rules at all.

The reason being, because roleplaying systems bring logical rules to a fantastic world.

Anyhow, this seems like a fun new system. If you are into new systems and things like indie comics, check out my company:

Siskoid said...

I think a cinematic world can do very well with quick and easy cinematic rules, but to each his own.

Hammer said...

Ironically, the Character Sheet (and probably visual style of the whole book) may well be out of date by next year, what with the new logo design.

Siskoid said...

True that. Out with the orange, in with the purple.


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