Doctor Who RPG: Season 26

On the occasion of completing reviews on the 1989 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 25.)

The GM
Andrew really hits his stride this "season" by having discussions with his two players about where they want their characters to go. With a loose narrative structure in mind to get them there, he sets out to offer Sylvester's Doctor even more possibilities for playing the mastermind than in the previous season, AND coordinates with Sophie so that the melodramatic revelations she has in mind for Ace are part of that the plot. This creates surprises for all three gamers, Sylv and Sophie unaware of what the other has discussed with the GM, or of how he will combine those elements into a coherent whole. Andrew also uses a technique by which he starts with a particular theme and then tries to allude to that theme as often as he can, creating a richness in the scenario the players only notice over time, and wind up discussing for hours afterwards.

The Characters
-Sylvester has done about all he can with the Vaudevillian aspects of his Doctor, so he now concentrates on the dark schemer at the heart of the character. His character sheet was already pretty bipolar, so no stat changes are required whatsoever. He does change his description to make his cream jacket, dark brown, to signal an outward change. He also adds the Scan Trait to his fobwatch.
-Sophie had Dark Secret written on her sheet from the very beginning, but left things fairly vague. A juvenile delinquent, there was every chance she would have things in her past she would not be proud of. The GM asks her if he could work in a Dark Secret even she's not aware of and given their easy gaming relationship, she agrees, though reserves the right to reveal her own Dark Secret later (see The Curse of Fenric and Ghost Light for how they worked out). Sophie uses the character building to make Ace grow up, very consciously phasing out her colorful teen speak and rebellious attitude, and adding points to the Skills the Doctor is teaching her, like Knowledge and Science. It would be fair to say no GM in this campaign ever lavished as much attention on a companion character, so Sophie comes out happy in the end.

Battlefield. Hearing that Nick was available, Andrew invited the legendary player to reprise his Brigadier character for a game. The two of them had joked that this might be a good last hurrah for the Brigadier, and when the time came, Nick did indeed commit to self sacrifice. Except the dice were in his favor and he survived after all! Well, no one minded. The Brig's participation inspired Andrew to prepare a scenario that was about an old-fashioned warrior code contrasted to the new way of doing things (WMDs, etc.), which he introduced into his idea about Arthurian legend coming to Earth, magic-as-science, and the idea that a future Doctor might have been Merlin. The latter was embraced by Sylvester, who found it fun to pay Story Points so he could find messages he'd left himself. And it gave him a chance to fight evil with his character's pacifism, impassioned speeches becoming a preferred method of dealing with villains in the first step of Initiative.

Attributes: Awareness 6, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 7, Presence 5, Resolve 4, Strength 2
Skills: Athletics 1, Convince 3, Craft 2, Fighting 2, Knowledge 5 (AoE: Magic), Marksman 3, Science 1, Subterfuge 2, Survival 2, Technology 1
Traits: Adversary (Merlin), Authority Figure, Charming, Clairvoyance, Code of Conduct (Major; Martial honor), Distinctive, Hypnosis (Major), Immortal (Major), Menacing, Natural Weapon/Eldritch blast [7/10/13], Obsession (Major; defeat Arthur), Psychic, Psychic Training, Special: Magic (Morgaine can produce magical effects like healing blindness, teleporting between worlds, and summoning demons from other dimensions by spending 1-5 Story Points, as determined by GM depending on effect), Voice of Authority, Weakness (Minor; Magical wards). Story Points: 8
Home Tech Level: Broad spectrum 2-6 (Equipment: Armour [3 points of protection], Sword [+2 Strength damage])

The Curse of Fenric. Evoking Norse Sagas and Lovecraftian Mythos, the GM next sends his players to a WWII code-breaking base in a northern village, suggesting that his big bad, Fenric, was an old enemy of the Doctor's. He'd been introducing chess boards over the past couple seasons for this reason, and made sure Sylv got the hint by having all the boards destroyed at one particular point. But he was playing a double game, also angling towards the revelation of Ace's mysterious Dark Secret, that she was a pawn of Fenric (which served as an explanation for the time storm that had brought her to Iceworld), genetically tied to the characters in this story, and as it turned out, responsible for her own future. Sophie had mentioned to him Ace hated her own mother, so Andrew slipped that mother in as a baby in the story. It's the kind of thing he did with character details, to his players' delight. Obviously, Sylv's Doctor played the part of the mastermind who knew all this all along.

HAEMOVORE (fully transformed version)
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 1, Presence 4, Resolve 2, Strength 6
Skills: Athletics 1, Fighting 3, Subterfuge 2, Survival 3
Traits: Alien Appearance (Major), Enslaved (Fenric), Environmental (Minor; can survive underwater and extremely polluted environments), Fear Factor 2, Hypnosis (Minor; used to beckon or freeze in place opponents), Immortal (Major), Immunity (Major; Immune to bullets and physical weapons, except a stake through the heart), Infection, Keen Senses (Minor; Ultravision), Natural Weapon/Claws (+2 Strength damage), Networked, Psychic, Special: Mold Metal (this is a slow thermokinetic effect usually taking several minutes), Weakness (Minor; Faith keeps them at bay). Story Points: 2-5
Home Tech Level: 2

Ghost Light. Andrew's most allusive scenario by far - the players apparently still talk about it and come up with new theories - again plays on a detail Sophie told him about Ace. Her Darkest Secret is that she burned down an old house, which got her into trouble with the authorities. He jumped on the idea of an "evil" haunted house and sent the TARDIS there (again, the Doctor would say he did it on purpose) 100 years before Ace's act of arson. Because Ace is evolving and maturing, he makes the story about evolution, with a strange entity who catalogs bio-spheres wanting to prevent evolution from occurring so its catalogs can be up to date. The menagerie of strange characters inhabiting the house either work for or against "Light", but the module is perhaps too ambitious. A lot of the back story the GM wrote just never had a chance to make it into dialog, and there were a lot of questions after the game, and  "ahhhhhh"s as he explained it all.

Survival. Because they were getting closer and closer to Ace's origin point, in a sense, Andrew thought it was about time she returned to modern-day Perivale. Sophie agreed, but only to see old friends. Still no way she would go see her mother. It's the kind of characterization detail the GM is more than happy to respect. Inspired by how Ace's departure would have been regarded (as part of youth exodus), he imagines Perivale as a ghost town where stray cats are teleporting young people to be hunted by Cheetah people, the theme of survival of the fittest carrying over from his previous story. Ace gets to embrace or reject her wild/dark side, while the Doctor's compassionate pacifism is matched to the Master's selfish aggression. Andrew hadn't brought in an old threat all season, and he'd never used the evil Time Lord. His interpretation is a mix of all that came before, not just the previous GM's. The season ends on a strange but confident high, in large part because the action is so focused on character development no matter how odd the plots are.

And then, real life happened in the guise of the role-playing club's managerial difficulties. It seemed there were fewer and fewer members paying their dues and John-Nathan, the club president, was letting go of the headaches without really recruiting a replacement. So the players lost their gaming venue and tool support. The campaign collapsed as delays stretched on in finding a new venue, schedules became more complicated, and players started taking on new hobbies. The club would exist in name alone with occasional events, while the gamers involved found other avenues for their creativity, straying from strict table top role-playing. But that's a story for Doctor Who RPG: The Wilderness Years, later this week.



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