Doctor Who RPG: Season 3

On the occasion of completing reviews on the 1965-6 season of Doctor Who, I should like to re-imagine it as a role-playing game campaign using Cubicle 7's DWAITAS RPG. (Go back one, to Season 2)

GMs
Though Donald had agreed to GM Season 3, second semester commitments and difficulty in getting players to stick around made him give up the reigns to Gerry mid-way through. Though our fictional Doctor Who RPG club has a healthy roster of capable DWAITAS GMs on tap, that doesn't mean they're all on the same wavelength (in fact, they hardly ever are). While Donald's half of the season is more or less business as usual and marked by the search for replacement companions, Gerry's imposes an important change of campaign focus that did not necessarily sit well with Billy and his Doctor. Gerry figures that the Time Lord in his games should have left his mark on the universe, and he introduces characters who already know the Doctor, alluding to some unrevealed backstory.

The Characters
-Billy has up to this point evolved his Doctor organically, starting as a unlikable old man who warms to his human companions and eventually adopts their attitude towards helping people. Perhaps that's why he's starting to feel disconnected from the game after Gerry takes over. Relationships he would have liked to earn are simply thrust upon him. Consequently, he starts to miss an important number of sessions, and gets needled for it by the GM who seems keen to replace him if he can't give the game his all.
-Maureen's Vicki starts the season, but almost immediately realizes she won't have the time for it. She asks Donald to give her an out in the second story.
-Peter's really only started to play, so he's in for the long haul with Steven, but as the year progresses, he gets more and more frustrated with the opportunities given his character and the endless parade of potential companions. For the players, it feels like the campaign may be dying, even if their new GameMaster is full of ideas.
-Replacing Maureen proves to be difficult, as the campaign notes below will show, eventually settling on Jackie (not the same Jackie who played Barbara) and her hastily assembled character Dodo. Even she wouldn't last until the end of the season before GM Gerry brings in two of his friends, Anneke and Michael.

Galaxy Four. Donald's first adventure scenario isn't quite as clever as he meant it to be, and his use of sound effects to make his robot Chumblies express themselves is more annoying than anything. Beautiful deadly Amazons vs. kind-hearted ugly monsters, why did it go wrong?

TYPICAL DRAHVIN
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 1, Presence 2, Resolve 3, Strength 4
Skills: Athletics 3, Fighting 3, Marksman 3, Subterfuge 1, Survival 1, Technology 1, Transport 2
Traits: Attractive; By the Book, Code of Conduct (They have a strict class system and are contemptuous of males), Distinctive. Story Points: 2-4
Home Tech Level: 6 (Equipment: Laser Rifle 7[3/7/10], Steel mesh [anything ensnared is cut off from communicating via radio or other bandwidths])

Mission to the Unknown. Eager to make up for his previous game's lack of luster, the GM attempt something new - a Cutaway. For a single session, the players take on the roles of disposable Space Secret Service agents who run afoul of Dalek activity. To make it even more intriguing, he sets it up as a teaser not for the next game, but for the one after that. The players have a ball getting their asses handed to them by Varga plants and Daleks, like the Suicide Squad, and can't wait for the TARDIS to land on Kembel. Well, except for Maureen who's already asked to be written out in the next adventure.

The Myth Makers. That adventure takes place in the Trojan War, and Donald decides to play the reality rather than the myth to humorous effect. Not only that, but making the Greeks and Trojans less resourceful or noble than Homer's artistic license would have them allows the players to take a more active hand in MAKING the myths happen. When Donald's characters rename Vicki "Cressida", it doesn't fall on deaf ears. Maureen relishes the chance to go out on a romantic subplot and become a figure from History. Because of her departure, Donald recruits a new player, Adrienne, and asks her to generate a character from Troy. She embraces the challenge and creates Katarina, a handmaiden introduced in the scenario's last session.

The Daleks' Master Plan. At this point, Donald decides to start running his game like he would Dungeons & Dragons, as a long continuous story rather than shorter episodic scenarios. Apparently, no one told him "The Chase" wasn't the most satisfying of role-playing experiences. And yet, he gives it a valiant effort, with the help of the Daleks (always a good enemy) and Mavic Chen, betrayer to the human race. Over the course of the story arc, he'll use a prison planet, Steven's piloting skills, old Hollywood (in a Christmas day session with quite a bit of alcohol involved), the Meddling Monk in Ancient Egypt, and he'll go through three players in the process. First is Adrienne, who quickly discovers that her character's low Tech Level is a real pain to get around. She bows out by sacrificing herself at the first possible opportunity. Second is Nick, playing SSS man Brett Vyon (a link to the Cutaway), who wanted to find out what this game was all about and asked to join the group for a few sessions. He, too, allows himself to be killed when his time is done (but he'll be back when he has the time...). And then there's Jean and her Barbarella of a character, super sexy agent Sara Kingdom. She's cold-hearted and driven to action, but her character is perhaps to at odds with what the campaign is trying to do, so cue a third sacrifice, making this one of the most gloomy scenarios ever played, but not by design.

MAVIC CHEN
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 4, Presence 4, Resolve 4, Strength 3
Skills: Athletics 1, Convince 4, Knowledge 3, Marksman 2, Science 3, Subterfuge 3, Technology 2, Transport 2
Traits: Brave, Charming, Friends (Major/He has people loyal to him in every service of the Solar System), Technically Adept, Voice of Authority; Distinctive, Eccentric/Megalomaniac, Selfish. Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 6 (Equipment: As Guardian of the Solar System, Mavic Chen has access to almost anything he needs, including ships and weapons)

The Massacre. The gloom both in the game world and in reality (finding new players can be stressful) is starting to get to everyone. Billy wants to take a little time off, and Peter is annoyed that he's had to share his particular niche with other players lately (Brett's and Sara's). So Donald decides to play his 16th-century France scenario regardless, giving the Doctor an out for a couple weeks, while he focuses on Steven. It gets Peter enthusiastic about playing again, but they just gloss over what the Doctor was doing in the meantime. The use of a double for the Doctor likewise goes nowhere because there just aren't enough players to investigate every little wrinkle, and the historical era chosen by the GM is hard to grasp in the first place. A friend of the group, Jackie-but-not-Barbara-Jackie, terribly inexperienced when it comes to role-playing games, asks to play and Donald offers her a ready-made character from his last setting called Anne Chaplet, but she declines and wants to create her own. Besides, she doesn't know that she can play a character from another time. All these headaches cause Donald to give over the reigns to another GM, Gerry, when the latter expresses interest in taking over.

The Ark. Gerry starts out strong, unless you count his monster design abilities. The players snicker at his drawings of the Monoids, but do like his ideas. A vast generational ship, a mystery unfolding over the course of hundreds of years as the TARDIS revisits the same spot twice, and the Monoids aren't half bad when mimed and voiced ("Gerry, can you take that drawing off the GM screen, please?"). The way Donald left, there wasn't much in the way of a transition, so Gerry doesn't really know all that's gone before, and he's not one to read the Club's game files. He's apparently the first one who's thought of having the TARDIS spread a plague, even if it never was a concern before. Jackie is finding her footing and has already dropped the Manchester accent she introduced herself with.

MONOIDS
Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 3, Presence 1, Resolve 3, Strength 3
Skills: Athletics 2, Convince 1, Craft 3, Fighting 2, Knowledge 2, Marksman 2, Medicine 1, Science 1, Subterfuge 4, Survival 1, Technology 2, Transport 2
Traits: Alien, Alien Appearance, Mute. Then choose from Animal Friendship, Argumentative, Clumsy, Selfish. Story Points: 2-4
Home Tech Level: 6 (Equipment: Heat prod 7 [3/7/10], Voice box [allows them to overcome Mute])

The Celestial Toymaker. In the Toymaker, Gerry creates a surreal dimension and a god-like villain that's already met the Doctor. Billy isn't keen on creating past relationships via Knowledge rolls, so finds a way to skip out on a few sessions while Dodo and Steven are made to play strange and deadly children's games against the Toymaker's pawns. To compensate for Billy's unplanned absence, Gerry turns him invisible and mute and gives him a long task to do, if only to explain why the other characters can't access the Doctor's wisdom. Towards the end of the story, Gerry point blank asks Billy if he's still into it, because if not, he might as well recruit a new Doctor for when he turns visible again. Billy feels less committed than he used to, but he still has a sense of ownership about the character he's nursed for almost three years. He'll come back.

The Gunfighters. Having heard that The Myth Makers was a fun lark, Gerry tries to do the same with the Old West. It's an era that's been mentioned by both Peter and Jackie in conversation, though it's not clear they wanted to play in a SEND-UP of the fight at the O.K. Corral. In fact, while Jackie has a lot of fun playing opposite Doc Holliday, Peter feels like the GM is being unfair with him, giving him all sorts of Tech Level penalties and such. The use of a particular song is an interesting twist on the more frequent use of score to create a mood, but it gets a little ridiculous. Fun idea to have the players sing it though. It's at the end of this one that Peter gives his four-session notice. Gerry's disappointed, but vows to give him a good last adventure.

TYPICAL COWBOY
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 2, Presence 2, Resolve 3, Strength 3
Skills: Athletics 3, Convince 1 (+2 Intimidation), Craft 1, Fighting 3, Marksman 3, Subterfuge 1, Survival 3, Transport 1
Traits: Choose from Animal Friendship, Brave, Lucky, Quick Reflexes, Sense of Direction; Cowardly, Impulsive, Selfish, Unattractive, Unlucky. Story Points: 3-6
Home Tech Level: 4 (Equipment: Pistols 5[2/5/7])

The Savages. Gerry presents his vision that the Doctor should have left his mark on the universe by now with a far future tale where a Utopian society exploits a primitive population. The ensuing call to revolution is a good vehicle for Steven's skills, so Peter need not have thrown in, almost illogically, with the utopians minutes after landing. Bit forceful on his preparations for leaving, there. Once again, Billy misses a session, and Gerry threatens to turn him into an NPC. Truth be told, when Billy's present, he's really present and is by now the best role-player around the table, turning the GM's solutions to his absence into ways of resolving the plot. Peter leaves on a high note.

The War Machines. And after two more sessions, Jackie stops coming round. Maybe playing with Peter was part of the attraction for her, or maybe she doesn't feel she fits in with Gerry's two new recruits. These are Anneke, playing the sassy, mod secretary Polly, and Michael, playing a sailor on leave, fretting for excitement, called Ben. They created their characters with the GM, so they could be introduced as an integral part of the plot, and take over with their strong personalities. Gerry was keen to start setting stories in the present day as well, so while his self-drawn monsters still look terrible, he introduces here the things that interest him - menaces to present-day London, an ineffective military, the Doctor having credentials with British authorities, and a season finale that actually feels like a finale (other GMs have simply stopped wherever they ran out of stories before summer vacation). So when Jackie sends word that she's not playing anymore, it's easy to say she's home and that's that.

WAR MACHINES
Attributes: Awareness 1, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 1, Presence 2, Resolve 3, Strength 7
Skills: Fighting 2, Marksman 4
Traits: Robot; Armor (10), Fear Factor (1), Natural Weapon: Gas gun L(4/L/L), Special: Conventional weapons (guns, grenades) do not work in a War Machine's presence), Slow, Weakness (electromagnetic fields disrupt its nervous system). Story Points: 0
Home Tech Level: 6 (War Machines are ahead of their time thanks to WOTAN's mysteriously advanced store of knowledge)

Billy is getting tired after three years, and isn't getting on as well with the current GM as he was earlier ones, but he'll be back for a couple scenarios next season. The hunt begins for his replacement!

6 comments:

Craig Oxbrow said...

Dearie me, looks like this game's not going well at all...

idiotbrigade said...

Mavic Chen could benefit from:

Trait (Major): Morgan Freeman voice.

MMmmmm yes.

Siskoid said...

Craig: Yeah, it's suffering from a three-year itch! Personally, I think it's looking up for Season 4!

Idiot: Next time I ask you to play DWAITAS, I hope you'll say yes. I'll totally let you play Morgan Freeman.

idiotbrigade said...

I'll concede only if I get to play Professor Farnsworth. or Bender. Either way expect loud outbursts of nonsense and/or doomsday devices.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

You forgot to mention that, by word of mouth, a number of gaming groups find the ideas described in some of these sessions and REALLY wanted to give them a play themselves- but unfortunately, both GMs seem to have tossed out their session notes since, and frustrated gaming groups have only the second-hand recounting of players that went through it to go on.

Sadly, it's a problem that's only just beginning to show its full force...

Siskoid said...

Haha, nice.

 

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