Doctor Who RPG: Season 14

On the occasion of completing reviews on the 1976-77 season of Doctor Who, I should like to re-imagine it as a role-playing game campaign using Cubicle 7's Doctor Who RPG. (Go back one, to Season 13.)

The GM
It's Bob's third season and for the first time, he'll have to deal with replacing a player. Not an easy process. First he tries to entice the departing play to stick around. Then his Time Lord player tries to convince him to run all solo stories. Finally he finds someone to take the companion role, but she goes back and forth between concepts, disrupting the intended order of his adventure scenarios. Not to mention some tension at the table between his two players (time to bring in some guest players who can distract and smooth things over then!). But they say one does one's best work in the most difficult conditions, and Bob probably does the best GMing work of his life while trying to please everyone and keep the game going, pilfering ideas not only from his usual Gothic sources, but from classic science fiction as well.

The Characters
-During the hiatus, Lis announced that she was leaving the game for family reasons, so Bob immediately tried to get her to stay. He lured her back with the promise of a Renaissance-flavored scenario, a period she's mentioned before as a favorite, and then convinced her to stay for an ultimate adventure that would effectively write Sarah Jane out. The fact she agreed at all showed how committed she was to the game, and that she was leaving it only reluctantly.
-Tom loved playing with Lis and wasn't sure anyone could take her place. He offered to play solo for a while, or perhaps with some guest players until someone suitable could be found. While the GM was sure Tom's Doctor was up to it, he was keen on creating a new dynamic and get another player in permanently.
-The player Bob found was Louise, somewhat new to this role-playing thing, but full of unusual ideas for characters. In fact, that caused some problems. At first, she wanted to be an Eliza Doolittle-type, a Victorian street urchin who could be mentored by the Doctor. Bob started working on a plot to introduce her. Then, she switched gears and created Leela, a savage girl who could ALSO be mentored, but would also play more of the action. Bob went back to the drawing board and asked her if her tribe could actually be in the far future, survivors of a lost ship who went native, and she agreed. They were in business.

The Masque of Mandragora. Bob was never big on historical settings, but to make Lis come back, he chose to exploit a favorite setting of hers, Renaissance Italy, anyway. An alien presence trying to prevent humanity's Enlightenment, an ancient Roman cult, a possible love interest for Sarah (this might have created an opportunity for her leaving organically, but Lis didn't bite), and a chance for the GM to exercise his cod Shakespearean. Final score: Story points refilled and a salami.

The Hand of Fear. So this was going to be Lis' last adventure scenario. The GM was going to pull no punches with her character and in fact, Sarah Jane wound up taking two levels of Unadventurous in as few sessions. First she got buried in a rock slide, then she might have taken a lethal dose of radiation. Each time, she was saved by a creepy alien hand and the emergency use of Story Points. To give Lis an experience to remember, the spirit of Eldrad filled Sarah Jane, allowing her player to villain it up a bit (nice creepy performance, the boys at the table both thought), and once the danger was past, she and Tom played a heartfelt goodbye scene that made everyone tear up. Just as Sarah Jane had, Lis told the group not to forget her, indicating she was game to return some day. And she would.

Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 7, Presence 5, Resolve 7, Strength 6
Skills: Athletics 1, Convince 3, Craft 2, Fighting 1, Knowledge 5, Medicine 2 (only applies to silicon-based beings), Science 5, Subterfuge 2, Survival 3, Technology 5
Traits: Alien; Alien Appearance, Alien Organs (Minor), Armour (15), Environmental, Immunity to poison and radiation, Psychic, Telepathy; Fast Healing (by soaking up radiation), Voice of Authority; Dark Secret (traitor to own people), Last of My Kind (does not know it), Outcast, . Story Points: 6
Home Tech Level: 7 (Equipment: Eldrad's Ring [Fast Healing (even from death), Hypnosis, Possess, Weapon (Stun or 4/L/L)]; will only work for Eldrad)

The Deadly Assassin. While Bob was scrambling to find a new player and get that player to settle on a character concept, the game went on unabated. Bob had always been interested in filling out Gallifrey's culture, and had hoped to entice Lis to stay for that, but it would work just as well as a solo adventure. Neither he nor Tom had any connection to the game's only casualty, Roger, so he decided the time was right to bring back the Master, although in much different form. He laid out Gallifrey's politics, described the planet's founding myths, and introduced the Matrix, a sort of virtual environment where the Doctor could fight the module's unknown presidential assassin (a take on the roll-heavy mental dual he'd played out in The Brain of Morbius). It was the Gallifreyan Candidate, more or less, and Tom surprised him with some great legal thinking. Yeah, maybe he could do this alone, but it wasn't a very good example to set for their role-playing club.

The Face of Evil. The GM had an idea that an old (and untold) adventure could come back to haunt the Doctor and he ran it by Tom who was more than willing to give it a go. The trick was making the setting as different as possible from the original (unseen) adventure's, so that the Doctor would only be given the necessary contextualizing memories late in the game. This is also Louise/Leela's first game and she does a good job, though perhaps teasingly, Tom's Doctor tries to leave her behind. Tom IS worried about the violence becoming too common a way to solve problems, given Leela's skill set and attitude, but the GM encourages him to put that into the Doctor's character, admonishing Leela for her disregard for life, and so on.

Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 4, Presence 2, Resolve 3, Strength 2
Skills: Convince 1, Knowledge 3, Marksman 3, Medicine 2, Science 3, Subterfuge 1, Technology 3
Traits: Technically Adept; Code of Conduct (Xoanon religion), Eccentric/Repressed, Obligation (to Xoanon); Natural Weapon/Psionic blast [3/5/7] to mental attributes, Networked, Psychic. Story Points: 3-6
Home Tech Level: 7 (Equipment: Energy rifle [3/5/7])

The Robots of Death. The idea is to do an Agatha Christie murder mystery in a society of Herbert's Dune, in which Asimovian robotics play a big role. To evoke the setting, the GM assembles a collection of art deco-inspired statues, architecture and fashions to show the players. By the end, very few NPCs have survived, and none unscathed. The PCs do far better, though the GM and Louise both agree not to allow Leela's Keen 6th Sense to get so close to precognition again, even when Story Points are used to add extra dice. It's one thing to stretch a Trait's meaning (in this case, Keen Senses), and quite another to treat it as a completely different Trait (even if Leela's native setting did call for Psychic characters).

Attributes: Awareness 1, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 2, Presence 2, Resolve 4, Strength 7
Skills: Fighting 2, Knowledge 2, Medicine 2, Science 2, Technology 3, Transport 2
Traits: Robot; Armour (5), Enslaved (Major), Fear Factor 1 (only to Natives of robot-dependent societies), Networked, Slow (Minor); Code of Conduct (Asimov's Laws or Taren Capel's imperatives). Story Points: 2-4
Home Tech Level: 6 (Equipment: Wrist communicator [Transmit])

The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Salvaging the work he did to introduce Louise's original, Victorian urchin character concept, Bob went to the literature of Victorian and Edwardian England to create a genre piece that mixed Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, Oscar Wilde, Ripperology and the Phantom of the Opera into a single, almost Steampunk scenario. Louise got to play shades of the character she originally wanted to play, and Tom brought his puzzle-solving ability to the game as the Holmes stand-in. But a lot of fun came from two guest players, friends of Bob's and big fans of the genre being emulated, playing allies in the cause who eventually join forces. The verbose Christopher played a cowardly lion of a theater owner called Henry Gordon Jago, and Trevor took the role of the gentlemanly and Watsonesque pathologist Professor Litefoot. Both characters integrated some of the GM's necessary plot details (Jago had to work at the theater, Litefoot was raised in China), but the characters - memorable ones - were all their own. Some day, these two players might pull their character sheets out again and play in some kind of Rippers or Cthulhu by Gaslight campaign...

Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 1, Presence 3, Resolve 4, Strength 4
Skills: Athletics 2, Craft 1 (AoE: Ventriloquist act), Fighting 2 (AoE: Knives), Marksman 2, Subterfuge 4
Traits: Robot; Indomitable, Tough; Obsession (kill all humans), Unattractive; Fear Factor 1, Size/Tiny (Minor). Story Points: 6
Home Tech Level: 8 (Equipment: Knife [+2 Strength])

So ends Season 14! Tom and Louise are game to return for a 15th, and Bob is too, though he's starting to think he'll soon have run all the DWAITAS adventures he has in him. Maybe now's the time to slowly and silently look for a replacement GM...


d said…
Y'know, I haven't played a RPG since some AD&D in Jr High (a long, long time ago), yet I always look forward to your re-imagining end of the season recap!
Siskoid said…
Thanks d, most kind. They're a lot of fun to write too!
Interesting! The DWAITAS games I run are based on totally new, non-canon versions of The Doctor, in order to let the players create their own stories and mythology.

How do you find running games based on actual stories? Do the players' actions diverge significantly from the events in the original show? Or are they kept pretty on-track with what happened first time around?
Siskoid said…
Oh no one's playing these games. This is a thought experiment in which the show as broadcast is re-imagined as a role-playing game. I thought I was giving the game away by giving the GM's name as that of the script editor, and all the players' as the actors' who played the roles.

While replaying televised games is definitely doable, especially where the GM knows the classic stuff and the players don't (and can be trusted not to Google it), I have no data as to how that might run in reality.
Y'know I probably would have noticed that if my brain had been in anyway connected on the day I read your blog! Reading it again, it should have been pretty clear.
Siskoid said…
That's ok, it means it was convincing!
Peder said…
Is this the most highly rated season in your rewatch so far? Very strong throughout.
Siskoid said…
I think so, yeah. Not a turkey in the bunch, and even the lesser plots are supported by great dialog and strong design.
Toby'c said…
Though Season 7 comes close with three Highs and one Medium-High.
Siskoid said…
If I were to make a Top 5 Seasons or something, it would definitely be in there. However, the fact that it has only 4 stories handicaps it relative to S14.