Doctor Who RPG: Series 1

On the occasion of completing reviews on the 2005 series 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 Wilderness Years.)

The GM
-Long story short, Russell has not only restarted the old RPG club where this campaign started, but managed to get a group together and run the campaign himself. He's found players who are into role-playing as opposed to rule-playing and very much wants to focus on their characters and to establish an "anything can happen" atmosphere around the table. He's very open-minded when it comes to what players can spend Story Points on, and has a head for emerging motifs he can get his claws into and give more importance to as the campaign proceeds, changing his plans to fit these ideas in. His sense of humor can be a bit adolescent (as we'll see). His plan is to grow his campaign from the inside out, so his first series won't really leave Earth, and over the 13 planned sessions, he wants to carefully introduce the elements he believes should be part of the game (his experience to date has been limited to some of the Play by Email games, but he doesn't want to dwell on the past too much). To streamline his universe and create a demarcation line between the games still being played online and the "official" campaign, he's introduced the concept of a Time War that has wiped the Time Lords and the Daleks from existence.

The Players
-Chris will be taking on the Doctor and will be using the Time War to make him a scarred veteran who's lost everything by his own hand. Feeling no need to look at other Doctors' character sheets, his take is all his own, more working class and modern, less of a Bohemian aristocrat. Sometime during the series, he'll decide his schedule can't take it anymore and tell the GM he means it to be his only one, so Russell amps up his plans for the finale to give the Doctor a lot of potential outs.
-Billie will plays Rose Tyler, a simple shop girl bored with her life on a Council estate, her mom and her boyfriend. The important piece of back story she gives Rose is a dead father she's never really known, seeing the time travel possibilities implicit in that detail.

Rose. The first game starts with Billie taking Rose through a normal day until shop window dummies attack and Chris puts his character sheet into play. Lots of witty banter between them, so it looks like this is really going to work. Notably, Russell is playing Rose's mum Jackie and her boyfriend Mickey as NPCs, but the latter will soon get picked up by a guest player.

The End of the World. For Rose's first visit to the future, Russell goes for broke and makes it the Year 5 Billion. He throws out a lot of aliens, and the one human NPC/villain has had so much plastic surgery, she's just a bitchy trampoline. This sets the tone for future Future scenarios, in which Russell takes some present-day phenomenon and amplifies and satirizes it.

The Unquiet Dead.
For Rose's first visit to the past, the GM sets a particular tone again, what he calls the celebrity historical. Basically, he builds the story around a character from history, using all sorts of detail from their Wikipedia pages (this works best with authors because the story can link to fictional works). This gets him Charles Dickens on Christmas fighting "gaslight ghosts". An interesting bit that will influence the rest of the campaign - Billie has a strong reaction to an NPC, a psychic servant girl called Gwyneth, seeing into her mind and seeing "the big bad wolf". Russell isn't sure what this will be about but likes to use portents that he'll have to figure out later. When the players talk about how the previous scenario had a bit of color about a "Bad Wolf scenario", which the GM doesn't even really remember, that's when he knows "Bad Wolf" should be a recurring meme, and the key to his finale. Not sure how to do this yet, he'll start by sticking in references to it in every scenario and see what comes out of it.

Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 5, Presence 5, Resolve 5, Strength 2
Skills: Convince 3, Craft 4 (AoE: Writing), Fighting 1, Knowledge 4, Subterfuge 1
Traits: Brave, Charming, Insatiable Curiousity (at the end of the story), Stubborn, Voice of Authority. Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 4

Aliens of London/World War Three. So because Rose was created with a family, the GM returns the TARDIS to contemporary London, but TWIST accidentally a year after Rose left, so everyone's worried sick, etc. He's still playing Jackie, but guest player Noel, who's taken an interest in the revivified RPG club, takes the role of Mickey, which the Doctor loves to needle. The players are actually big fans of each other, and only the fact Noel wasn't planning on joining the campaign full time (he's also a GM running other games) prevents Mickey from joining the TARDIS crew. Russell's adolescent humor comes through in the form of the Slitheen, farting aliens who have taken over the government, and it takes two sessions to destroy them. The first is mostly spent following a strange red herring about a space pig though. A better creation is Harriet Jones, a cooky MP that teams up with the heroes, and which the Doctor say will become Prime Minister. It's the kind of detail Russell lets his players introduce, and then goes on to build them into the campaign.

Dalek. After allowing Chris to believe all the Daleks were destroyed, the GM introduces a Time War survivor. Chris' Doctor takes the bait and rises to the challenge. Past players would be shocked to see all the nasty tricks Russell's added to the monster's write-up, and makes one Dalek enough to lay waste to the entire Earth. Then, he flips it around and makes the creature sympathetic, a mirror of the Doctor's own pain Rose instinctively wants to protect. These guys are really playing for keeps. In response to all those emotional twists, the players invite an NPC to join the crew. Russell accepts the challenge, though he's already thinking about how to teach them a lesson about letting strays into the TARDIS.

The Long Game. Another crazy future story, this time with evil 24 hour news channels keeping humanity down and Adam Mitchell, the NPC companion, getting Rose and the Doctor into trouble because of his greed. Learning lessons isn't that much fun, ultimately, but the players don't realize Russell was also seeding elements he would bring back later, namely Satellite 5 and whatever changed history to make the Doctor's Feel the Turn of the Universe Trait tingle.

Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 6, Presence 3, Resolve 2, Strength 3
Skills: Convince 4, Knowledge 2, Science 4, Subterfuge 3, Technology 5
Traits: Attractive, Cowardly, Cutting Edge Technology, Run for Your Life!, Selfish, Technically Adept, Unlucky. By the end of his second story, he gains Cyborg, Dark Secret, Network (with computers), Special (Minor; his vomit is instantly frozen in his throat), Transmit and Weakness (Minor; his head opens at the sound of snapping fingers). Story Points: 10
Home Tech Level: 5 (Equipment: In first appearance, has access to alien tech)

Father's Day. To make things interesting, Billie suggests the characters go looking for Rose's father Pete. The group sits down to what might just be an adventure-free character-building exercise, but then Rose prevents her dad's death, causing a paradox! So the GM starts pulling things out of his ass - weird anachronisms, manifest destiny in the form of a hit-and-run driver on a loop, and monsters eating people right out of existence - to create jeopardy and consequences for such an act. The players focus on the character drama to good effect, and Pete sacrifices himself to restore the world when it's played out satisfyingly.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. The group welcomes another guest player, John, this one interested in playing more than a couple sessions. He creates Captain Jack Harkness (not his real name), a pansexual former time agent from the 51st century turned con man, with gadgets not unlike the Doctor's but good looks to boot. Broken? Russell doesn't think so and by the time he joins the group proper, he's at least lost his time ship. Given Captain Jack's way with double-entendres, this pair of sessions set during the Blitz become a kind of rivalry for Rose's attentions, though the actual plot is a memorable one about creepy gasmask zombies looking for their mommy. The GM makes it all Jack's fault, and here John thought the con set-up as introduction was just a simple reason for his character being there. Russelll works in mysterious ways.

Boom Town. The Cardiff Rift introduced earlier becomes the site of some downtime for the crew, with Noel returning to create a foursome, as the TARDIS refuels. Russell brings back one of the Slitheen, to much groaning from the table, though he downplays the peptic sounds this time and rather turns it into an exploration of the Doctor's morality, Chris readily accepting to have a last supper with the monster so she can appeal to his mercy, while Billie and Noel play relationship scenes and John rolls on Technology a lot. Just as the players are starting to ask questions about the whole Bad Wolf thing (sensing the finale around the bend), the GM throws an elbow and resolves the Slitheen's plight by making her look into the heart of the TARDIS and get her heart's desire, a second chance. He plans to engineer a similar event for one of the PCs.

Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways.
In the first of two climactic sessions, the characters are put through some lethal versions of contemporary reality shows as they return to Satellite 5 100 years after they left it. This leads to some chuckles, and guest player Jo has some fun hanging out with the Doctor with her character Lynda with a Y. She might even be interested in joining the group, especially once the GM kills Rose off. There's shock around the table, but the players forge on, and are relieved when Rose turns out to be alive... on a massive Dalek ship! So Russell's brought half a million of them back, courtesy of the Dalek Emperor having survived the Time War. Facing astronomical odds, the Doctor can only get his plan working partway (those Yes, but... results can be murder), and realizes he can only destroy the Daleks by also killing humanity and everyone aboard the Satellite. He sends Rose back to London (this twist forces the GM to play Mickey again) where it's up to her to save the future where "meanwhile", everyone's getting massacred, including Jo and John's characters(!). The GM throws another Bad Wolf at Billie, and she realizes her character's not out of the game. A Story Point later, she knows Boom Town was significant and puts the pieces of the puzzle together. She needs to get the TARDIS console open and get HER heart's desire. That's when the GM unleashes his Bad Wolf idea, giving Rose unlimited power, which Billie uses to save the Doctor, destroy the Daleks and resurrect Captain Jack (though it's John's last session for now, he'll keep in touch). Chris was quite ready to let himself be exterminated, but with no Daleks about, he offers to take the lethal vortex energy into himself (the GM accepts that it's lethal then) and makes his character regenerate. A player Russell's gamed with before steps out of the shadows clapping, David will be the new Doctor.

Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 1, Ingenuity 3, Presence 4, Resolve 3, Strength 4
Skills: Convince 2, Craft 2 (AoE: Game show hosting), Knowledge 5 (AoE: Trivia), Marksman 4
Traits: Armour (5 points), By the Program, Eccentric/Judgmental (Major), Enslaved, Fear Factor 1, Networked (Satellite 5), Quick Reflexes, Robot, Voice of Authority, Zap (Major). Story Points: 4
Home Tech Level: 7

So how will David fare? Rather well actually, but that's a story for another time. See you in a couple weeks for all the details.


Craig Oxbrow said…
A couple weeks. Blimey...
Siskoid said…
I know! I've got to write one of these every 2 weeks now!
Craig Oxbrow said…
Oh well, at least you'll have character sheets ready to go.

(Thought: run a mult-regeneration series playing Classic Who adventures with the FASA game, Time War stories with Time Lord, and then a New Who sequel with DWAITAS...)
Siskoid said…
I guess I'll be redoing the sheets for Rose, Ten, etc. The Ten template can still apply, of course.

I've got all those games! I know of campaigns that actually started with FASA, moved to Time Lord and are now using DWAITAS, though I doubt they did Time War stuff with TL. Actually, wouldn't TL have to be used through the New Adventures and 8th Doc eras?
Jeff R. said…
Why didn't John turn in his character sheet? (He'll probably need an entirely new one for the spinoff campaign anyway...)
Siskoid said…
That's exactly it, he hasn't left yet, far from it.

But like Rose, who will have a Doc10 sheet and isn't handing in old Doc9 sheet even if she's not using it anymore, he'll leave with an American Torchwood sheet. (I think it's safe to say TW is over at this point, right?)
Jeff R. said…
Seems like long enough time passes, and that he wouldn't have known he was coming back yet...

But most importantly, did John sit in during the End of the World session?
Siskoid said…
You know how sometimes it takes forever to get your campaign off the ground? That.

And I continue to refuse to accept the Jack-Face thing on the basis of that one cheeky joke.
Craig Oxbrow said…
I originally put "gap" but now the Time War includes Eight... and friends.
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