Doctor Who RPG: Season 1

On the occasion of completing reviews on the 1963-4 season of Doctor Who, I should like to re-imagine it as a role-playing game campaign using Cubicle 7's DWAITAS RPG.
GameMaster David has four players, and has the crafty idea of splitting them into two groups for character generation. Billy and Carole Ann will make Time Lords, and William and Jackie, humans native to 1963. The idea is that each duo will share in a certain measure of loyalty, while the other remains an unknown quantity. The players are keen to role-play organic relationships between the characters, with growing trust or mistrust as time goes on. Together, they agree on a pretty demanding schedule of short and punchy weekly sessions for the better part of a year. The focus will be a Lost in Time campaign using a malfunctioning TARDIS.

The Characters
-Billy's Time Lord will be called the Doctor, a grumpy old man nearing the end of his first regeneration. Through arrogance, rashness and general disgruntlement, he hopes to keep the human players on their toes and not reveal whether he can be trusted or not. And though he takes the usual high Time Lord scores in Knowledge, Science and Technology, he uses his physical abilities as dump stats, leaving room for younger characters to find their niche.
-Carole Ann's Time Lady will be called Susan, the Doctor's granddaughter and almost an infant in Time Lord terms at the age of 16. She means to play her with an equal measure of genius and childishness, and puts points into Psychic Traits, such as Empathy.
-William will play Ian Chesterton, a science teacher who was once in the service. He hopes to fill the more physical and combat-oriented niche of the party. He and Jackie have decided to play high school teachers because it would allow them to know each other, yet have completely different specialties.
-Jackie will play Barbara Wright, a history teacher who will weekly save the world in a cardigan sweater. Perhaps because she has that particular interest herself, she adds Aztecs as a Knowledge/History expertise. Hint, hint, Mr. GameMaster.

An Unearthly Child/100,000 B.C. In the first session, having been quickly briefed on who each character was, Carole Ann puts Susan in Ian and Barbara's school, and after role-playing a few scenes that highlight the unusual nature of her character, the teachers take the bait and follow her home. Finding themselves in the TARDIS, it takes off for their first trip through time. The GM chooses prehistory and embroils them in the political machinations of a tribe of cavemen and their firemaker.

Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 1, Presence 1, Resolve 1, Strength 5
Skills: Athletics 2, (Craft 1 OR Fighting 2), Knowledge 1, Marksman 1, Subterfuge 1, Survival 3 (making fire at this point in prehistory requires a Survival+Technology check at -2, which is why Firemakers have it as a field of Expertise)
Traits: Choose from Brave, Indomitable, Keen Senses, Tough, Clumsy, Cowardly (almost anything outside their experience could be worth a Fear check), Impulsive, and Unattractive. Story Points: 3-6
Home Tech Level: 1 [Equipment: Stone weapons (+2 Strength bonus)]

The Daleks. From the past, on to the future. The GM introduces ghastly evil mutants trapped in metal pepperpots and they're an instant hit (it's the voice), both terrifying and adorable. The players do surprise him by first not taking the Thal meds he left for them (the players still need to trust HIM) and later by splitting up, forcing him to throw some relatively hackneyed obstacles right out of pulp movie serials at Ian, Barbara and their Thal allies going round the back. In the end, it all evens out and the players might have grumbled at the railroading if the victory over the Daleks hadn't come along just then. If he wants to reuse the Daleks, he'll have to come up with a way for them to overcome their reliance on static electricity though (surely, a Major Bad Trait). This adventure also starts this group's tradition to load up on Story Points early in an adventure by sacrificing the use of the TARDIS in some way (they call it "Fluid linking").

The Edge of Destruction. The GM tries something different, but it's too different to work. Good thing he didn't spend more than 2 short sessions on it. He posits a stuck switch that causes the TARDIS to try to go back beyond the Big Bang, through secret notes asks the players to act out of character (even threateningly), and throws strange clues at them via the TARDIS systems or melting furniture. Billy gets a nice speech out of it, but players generally dislike losing control over their characters and not knowing what the heck's going on.

Marco Polo. His attempt at a leisurely, almost D&D-like voyage on the Silk Road is more successful. He creates a fine cast of characters and shows his research in a variety of ways, managing a mixture of charming exploration and jeopardy in each session. He falls into the trap of loving his created world too much, however, and the players unfortunately become mere bystanders in the climactic fight between Marco Polo and the villain Tegana.

Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 3, Presence 3, Resolve 3, Strength 4
Skills: Athletics 2, Convince 1, Fighting 3, Knowledge 3, Subterfuge 1, Survival 2, Transport 1
Traits: Brave, Charming, Obligation (to Kublai Khan). Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 3 [Equipment: Sword (+3 Strength bonus)]

Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 3, Presence 4, Resolve 4, Strength 4
Skills: Athletics 2, Convince 4, Fighting 3, Knowledge 1, Subterfuge 3, Survival 2, Transport 1
Traits: Brave, Charming, Indomitable, Dark Secret (impending Mongol invasion). Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 3 [Equipment: Sword (+3 Strength bonus)]

The Keys of Marinus. And it's back to science-fiction. Eager to repeat the Daleks' success, David creates the Voord, to lesser effect. In this adventure, he tries something new - an over-arcing quest. It's in an effort to motivate the player characters to accomplish a specific goal and avoid the meandering of the previous adventure. Travel dials provide the means of travel to a different environment and mini-adventure each session, though these are admittedly pretty slight. It's also a clever way to split the characters up, neatly covering up the fact that Billy can't come and play for a couple sessions. Because DWAITAS is well suited to guest players native to the visited location/era, Robin and Katherine come in to play Altos and Sabetha for a few sessions. They're clearly slumming it and don't get up to much, but enjoy their time in the game.

Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 4, Ingenuity 2, Presence 2, Resolve 3, Strength 5
Skills: Athletics 2, Fighting 4, Science 1, Subterfuge 1, Technology 3, Transport (personal submarine) 3
Traits: Alien, Alien Appearance (Minor), Fear Factor 1, Tough. Story Points: 3-5
Home Tech Level: 7 [Equipment: Knife (+2 Strength bonus); Personal submarine (Armor 2/Immune to acid, Hit capacity 6, Speed 8)]

The Aztecs. David's GM skills are definitely stronger in research than they are world-building. Using Jackie's (and Barbara's) interest in Aztec culture, he decides to make that the next destination and give her a huge role. Because time hasn't been defined as either solid or rubbery yet, she actually tries to alter history (the prerogative of player characters who need not return to the accepted present). The Doctor of course rejects the idea, and silently, so does the GM who throws all manner of impediment at her, most in the manipulative form of Tlotoxl, the High Priest of Sacrifice. The Doctor gets to play some romance and almost gets married. Ian is made into a warrior, finally filling the niche William built him for. And Barbara plays the goddess. All thanks to David's research. Carole Ann will regret having missed a couple sessions.

Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 1, Ingenuity 3, Presence 4, Resolve 4, Strength 2
Skills: Convince 3, Craft 1, Fighting 1, Knowledge 2, Medicine 1, Subterfuge 3
Traits: Voice of Authority, Code of Conduct (Aztec), Unattractive. Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 2 [Equipment: Knife (+2 Strength bonus)]

The Sensorites. Maybe the GM should stick to historical adventures, even if it makes the players itch for some alien intervention. Yet another xenophobia story, and diminishing returns on his alien races. In no way does the Sense-Sphere live and breathe like the historical worlds did. But the attempt was to give Carole Ann's character Susan something to work with, and as per her request, create a situation where her psychic abilities will be of use. It's true that they've practically ignored them since the first session. And so, telepathic Sensorites. David just couldn't get into their heads and make them formidable antagonists, that's all. Jackie did NOT miss much by skipping a couple weeks.

Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 2, Presence 1, Resolve 4, Strength 1
Skills: Convince 2, Fighting 1, Knowledge 2, Marksman 1, Medicine 1, Science 2, Technology 3, Transport 2 (You may add 1-2 points in any skill, even one not listed based on the Sensorite's caste)
Traits: Alien, Alien Appearance (Minor), Environmental (can survive for a few minutes in the vacuum of space), Psychic Training, Weakness (Minor/Loud noises), Weakness (Minor/Darkness). Story Points: 2-4
Home Tech Level: 5 [Equipment: Hand ray 7(3/7/10); GADGET/Telepathy booster (Telepathy - exposure for humans may cause insanity if their minds are "opened" by strong emotions and they fail a Resolve+Ingenuity check)]

The Reign of Terror. Just like Jackie had been mentioning the Aztecs, Billy and Carole Ann seemed fond of the French Revolution. The GM tries something new to hilarious effect. As the characters get separated, so does he separate the players in different rooms. The unintended result is that though they keep mounting rescues of one another, they keep missing each other. Still, the GM manages to bring this part of history to life half way between realism and literature, though it's starting to look more and more like Carole Ann is having a hard time finding ways of making Susan useful.

The season finale is in September, and GM David will leave after the New Year, though he's asked his friend Dennis, who helped with the French Revolution research, to perhaps take over. Carole Ann decides to stay until David leaves, giving him a chance to help write her out. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, that's a matter for Season 2!


greywulf said…
Very well done, sir!
Toby'c said…
It's like an ultra condensed version of Darths and Droids or DM of the Ring. Nicely done.
Jeffrywith1e said…
I love it! Just finished watching The Keys of Marinus and started The Aztecs last night!
Craig Oxbrow said…
It explains a lot...
Siskoid said…
Thanks guys, I plan to do this every season, so it's nice to have support.
Sewicked said…
Very entertaining. I can't wait to see what you make of the OK Corral.
Siskoid said…
Haha, I have an idea actually. But you'll have to wait more than 80 days for it...
Randal said…
Being relatively new to these parts, I have to say I dont quite get this a thing here? Either way, I enjoyed the hell out of it!
Siskoid said…
I'm not sure what you're asking?

Things that count as geekery: Doctor Who and RPGs.

I played my own version of the peanut butter cup accident by mixing them together. Think of it as "What if Doctor Who - the television show - was actually a tabletop role-playing game unfolding before our eyes?"
Randal said…
Eh...a little too meta too early in the morning for me to wrap my mind around before caffeine.

I haven't played the new DW RPG, but I played the original and Time Lord, and in my "professional" RPG veteran opinion...well, I haven't played the new DW RPG.
Anonymous said…
Interesting to see it from this different perspective. Makes me wish I knew other people into RPGs so I could play a session.
Siskoid said…
Randal: Me too, and for my money, DWAITAS is the first to get it completely right.

Anon: It's a great game to introduce newbies to. All you need is a little love of the Doctor in your heart, really.
Anonymous said…
Sadly I only have one friend who is into DW and he is moving interstate in less than a month. :(
Siskoid said…
See, that's why I MAKE Doctor Who fans.
Anonymous said…
I did make this one into a fan, just haven't managed it with anyone else yet.
Siskoid said…
I go for groups. Since New Who started, I converted maybe 9 or 10 people.
Jim Yoder said…
Really cool, thanks for putting this together. I am looking forward to reading more!
I'm also a fan-maker, Siskoid; I'm curious- do you have a favored recruitment tool? We usually end up using Blink (which recruited me, and through me, my wife, etc.)- after which we leap back to Eccleston (which I also did; the Doctor-liteness of Blink helps the transition work), and if that works, advocate the classic series in parallel with continuing the new (though most of our recruits have stuck to the new).

Love this, by the way. (Just as I do Darths and Droids). Just when I thought I was done with obsessive chain-readthroughs of your Who-related articles... :-)
Siskoid said…
I started making fans around Series 2 or 3, so I basically told them to start with "Rose" and only decide if they liked it after "Dalek". Did the trick.

With renewed mundane interest in the 50th Anniversary, I might have pointed people to The Eleventh Hour, but I still show them Rose. The idea is that RTD eased the world back into the Whoniverse slowly, so it's still the best way to create a new fan. I have a couple stories of each other Doctor to suggest to those who know more, and have used that as a sort of sampler. It's gotten good reviews is not necessarily avid fans.