Doctor Who RPG: Season 23

On the occasion of completing reviews on the 1986 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 22.)

The GM
Between Season 22 and 23, Eric took a good, long break trying to recharge his batteries. The problem was that he wasn't really enjoying playing with Colin, and he didn't like the way the RPG club was run by John-Nathan. At the same time, he didn't want to quit. It had been his game for too long. So he procrastinated in the hopes that perhaps the OTHER people would leave. They didn't. They hounded him to restart the campaign. Ok. He would come back under certain conditions. One was that he would be able to try a strange framing idea for the season that would experiment with how sessions are "narrated". The other was that John-Nathan couldn't impose any of his Iron GM business on him this time, and had some harsh words to say on the subject. He also wanted a shorter season, fewer and shorter sessions so as not to bloat his framing tale. His terms accepted, he went to work crafting the campaign.

The Characters
-Colin was actually kind of intrigued to play the framing tale elements (he had no real clue the GM had any kind of issue with him or with the club manager), and thought it would be a nice opportunity to mellow his Doctor in between adventures, as more time likely passed between them.
-All this waiting around meant Nicola couldn't play Peri for the entire season. She'd made other commitments. She took Colin's lead and made her character a bit wiser, doing away with the Cowardly Trait, for example, and mellowing her relationship to the Doctor. She asked for opportunities to leave in the second story.
-The framing tale idea meant a new companion could be inserted fully-formed, without the need for an introduction. It might have helped Bonnie, though, whose Mel is sometimes in danger of being a collection of stats not always used to the player's advantage. She plays Mel as a perky and impulsive girl, screams for real at the table to trigger her Screamer! Trait, and attempts a subplot/shtick about making the Doctor lose weight. Colin immediately gets along with her.

The Trial of a Time Lord. The framing tale involves a Time Lord courtroom the Doctor is dragged to, where he must answer for all his meddling, his putting companions in danger, and the occasional monster genocide. Colin has great fun trading barbs with his opposite number, the Valeyard, though in the final analysis, these scenes, interrupting the action so the courtroom characters can comment on them, aren't very coherent. That's because the main adventures shown as evidence are being "written" in-session, so may or may not be very good at proving the Valeyard's points. It's also a bit of a drag for Nicola and then Bonnie, because they aren't involved in these scenes.

THE VALEYARD
Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 8, Presence 5, Resolve 5, Strength 3
Skills: Athletics 1, Convince 5 (AoE: Legal Wrangling), Craft 2, Fighting 1, Knowledge 5 (Doctorate: Law), Marksman 2, Science 5, Subterfuge 4, Technology 5
Traits: Adversary (Major; The Doctor), Argumentative, Boffin, Dark Secret (Major; is an echo of the Doctor's evil self), Feel the Turn of the Universe, Indomitable, Matrix Lord, Obsession (Major; ensuring his survival and getting the Doctor's regenerations), Technically Adept, Time Lord (but cannot regenerate), Time Lord/Experienced, Time Traveller (all Tech Levels), Voice of Authority, Vortex, Wanted Renegade. Story Points: 6
Home Tech Level: 10


The Mysterious Planet. The first story put forth by the GM takes place on Ravalox, which is actually a displaced Earth. Eric means for this to explode into a Time Lord scandal, and plays coy by bleeping some of his NPC dialog, but the Time Lords' involvement is only really revealed during the season's finale, so poor Nicola never finds out about it. Eric also creates one of his most enduring characters, Sabalom Glitz, a thief, grifter and sociopath who goes to therapy, and while amusing, the GM likes to have him go on and on in "cut scenes" the players aren't involved in. The problems of Season 22 come home to roost, shall we say. But Colin and Nicola have a grand old time playing their characters again and forging a better, more mature relationship between the two of them.

Mindwarp. For Nicola's last game as Peri, the GM brings back Sil, and in fact sets his story of medical experiments on Sil's planet. He gives Peri a few outs, including a possible romance with a boisterous warrior, lots of lethal danger, and by slipping Colin a note to play up the Doctor's worst traits after getting mentally zapped, encouraging her to beg to go home (if all else fails). Events and dice rolls sort of go off the rails and the Doctor fails to save Peri from being lobotomized and having her brain replaced with that of Sil's sluggy boss, so the GM decides to make this the moment the Doctor is pulled out of history for his court date, implying his lack of action was the cause of Peri's death. Nicola doesn't mind this final end, though Colin's a little disturbed by it.

Terror of the Vervoids. As the Trial turns to the Doctor's evidence, the conceit is that the next adventure actually happens in the Doctor's future so they can include Bonnie's character Mel. Since Colin has no control over the scenario per se, he plays up the fact his Doctor has mellowed and become more cautious. Bonnie brings a lot of energy to the table, and makes this Agatha Christie mystery adventure aboard a spaceliner (against plant monsters) a fun quartet of sessions. The GM also pulls a fast one and refuses certain scenes as played, replacing them with more damning scenes. Colin's Doctor protests in court, but Colin himself knows it must be part of the corrupt Matrix plot.

VERVOID
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 2, Presence 2, Resolve 4, Strength 4
Skills: Fighting 2, Marksman 2, Subterfuge 3, Survival 2
Traits: Adversary (Major; animal kind), Alien, Alien Appearance (Rude), Alien Organs (Minor; no centralized organs), Fear Factor 2, Infection (Major), Natural Weapon/Marsh gas (stun), Natural Weapon/Poison thorn 5(2/5/7), Obsession (Major; destroy animal life), Trade Value (Major), Weakness (Vervoids share the weaknesses of most plants, like herbicides, etc.). Story Points: 2-4
Home Tech Level: N/A


The Ultimate Foe. In the finale, Eric has the Master appear in the Matrix and reveal some crucial information that just didn't come out as expected during play - that the Time Lords were behind Earth's move, that the Valeyard is an echo of the Doctor's evil side from the future, and after getting screamed at by club manager John-Nathan for the horrible way Nicola's character was actually ended, that Peri lived after all, as King Yrcanos' queen (apparently, Nicola wasn't too pleased to hear her character had been retconned in her absence). Midway through this surreal adventure inside the Matrix, Eric had a falling out with John-Nathan over the club manager's constant interference, comments about his GMing, and such. It probably didn't help that it was John-Nathan who'd brought Colin in even though it wasn't really HIS game. So it all spilled out, how Eric didn't like Colin's Doctor, or John-Nathan's ideas, or his insistence that the season not end on a cliffhanger in case he'd go on break again and leave people hanging. Basically, it became a case of "You think you can do better? You finish the campaign, I don't care anymore." So John-Nathan did, as best he could and on short notice, tied it all up with a nice bow, except for the dangling plot threads he really wasn't too aware of. It was better than nothing.

A new GM was required, and Colin, a little hurt by Eric's outrageous exit, hoped it would be a good one, because he planned to play the Doctor for a long while yet. But fate had something else in store for him, as we'll discover next time.

9 comments:

tpeck said...

I think I would have to join the "club" you've described in these posts, if it were real. I know its just a framing device but the idea of this campaign going on and on with new GM's and players coming and going all the time is fascinating. Your morphing of behind the scenes tv drama into gamer club drama is great!
Can't wait to see how you handle the turmoil to come and the "Wilderness Years". Thanks for this awesomeness!

Siskoid said...

I was thinking about a Wilderness post this morning in the shower, so yes, expect that to happen in less than 2 months' time!

Craig Oxbrow said...

Paul plays the Doctor for one regular session, then two different play-by-post games and an online chat game?

Siskoid said...

It's gonna get even crazier than that.

Craig Oxbrow said...

Oh my.

d said...

When does evil club CEO Mike show up?

Andrew Gilbertson said...

"That's because the main adventures shown as evidence are being "written" in-session, so may or may not be very good at proving the Valeyard's points."
"Since Colin has no control over the scenario per se, he plays up the fact his Doctor has mellowed and become more cautious."

Nicely conceptualized. Much as I love Trial (Welll... Mindwarp, Ultimate Foe, and the opening shot of Mysterious Planet, at least...), this explains a LOT about why this 'evidence' was presented...

Siskoid said...

I'd have to check again, but I think my daily watchings made Vervoids the winner of the lot for me. But then, HATED HATED HATED the trial scenes.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Naturally. Who doesn't? :-)

 

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