Doctor Who RPG: Series 11

On the occasion of completing reviews on Doctor Who's 11th series, I should like to re-imagine it as a role-playing game campaign using Cubicle 7's Doctor Who RPG. (Go back one, to Series 10.)

The GM
Chris landed the job of new GameMaster, but he's got a history with the Doctor Who role-playing club. He ran a couple of seasons of the Torchwood campaign, and often shared ideas with the Doctor's GMs during and after that time. Recently, he'd paired up with one of the Doctor's players, David, for a police/mystery game, but that had wrapped. With no surviving players/PCs, he really got to start from scratch. He recruited his own players (one of them from his previous game). He drew up new designs for the TARDIS. He vowed not to use any old enemies, or even follow previous GMs' game notes. Instead of teasing a big arc, he wanted to push players to explore their personal drama. He would also turn out to be a more serious-minded GM, rarely playing anything for humor, and interested in exploring topical issues in his plots.

The Players
-Jodie will play a new version of the Doctor. Not only is this the first time the Doctor would be played by a female player, but the GM totally let her turn the Doctor into a woman. Jodie wants to highlight the character's kindness and make her a very empathetic hero that gives the other PCs a chance to shine and sees the group as a team more than a set of companions. She also boosts the character's Technology Skill as she quite likes the Boffin angle.
-Tosin makes a decision that affects the other players. His character, Ryan, is a blue collar worker in the blue collar town of Sheffield. The rest of the group agrees to make this their pied-à-terre instead of a more cosmopolitan city like London. Ryan Sinclair lost his mom, his dad ran off, he's being raised by his nan, and he struggles with dyspraxia (in game terms: the Clumsy Trait). But he's also Internet-savvy and a good soul.
-Bradley, a much older player than the rest of his group, doesn't want to take the lead too much, so he funnels that part of the group dynamic into making his character, Graham O'Brien, an unwanted father figure to Ryan. Graham is a cancer survivor who fell in love and married his nurse, Ryan's nan, but Ryan never really took to him. This retired bus driver would be motivated by living his second chance at life to its fullest, but also keeping Ryan safe.
-Mandip creates Yasmin Khan, a contemporary of Ryan's of Pakistani descent who became a police officer, but is impatient with the service which has relegated her to a status not much above that of meter maid. She wants to bring policing skills to the team, and maybe Yaz sees the Doctor as a mentor who will unlock her potential.

The Woman Who Fell to Earth. Chris is toying with the idea of stranding the Doctor in Sheffield, so he makes the TARDIS disappear and drop the Doctor on the town once the other players have had a chance to establish who they are. The Doctor establishes her identity and look, and defeats a new villain Chris might bring back, but Ryan's nan is killed so as to better motivate the makeshift "fam" to stay together in the wake of the tragedy. Much hilarity when Jodie misunderstands the villain's name though. Being bad with names might become a thing. Then the Doctor sets to work getting her TARDIS back by Boffining a teleporter with the alien's tech (just as she made her own sonic screwdriver variant). The GM sets the difficulty number high to prevent her escape, but she rolls high enough to make it work. Yes, BUT... So Chris makes the rest of the team accidentally pop into the void of space with her! "See you next week, I'm going back to the drawing board!"

TIM SHAW (T'ZIM-SHA)
Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 4, Ingenuity 3, Presence 4, Resolve 4, Strength 5
Skills: Athletics 3, Convince 4, Fighting 3, Knowledge 3, Marksman 2, Medicine (Stasis) 2, Science 3, Subterfuge 2, Survival 4, Technology 3, Transport 2
Traits: Alien, Alien Appearance, Dark Secret (Minor) - faking Stenza Code of Conduct), Obsession (Major) - Collecting trophies, Indomitable, Menacing, Natural Weapons (Minor) - Freezing touch (4/L/L), Repulsive, Technically Adept, Tough, Voice of Authority, Weakness (Major) - sustains environmental damage in above-freezing temperatures. Story Points: 6
Home Tech Level: 7 (Equipment: Armour [Environmental (Major), Fear Factor 1, Transmit])


The Ghost Monument. Fine. The Doctor's gonna get her TARDIS back. Let's turn it into a quick picaresque quest, it's the only thing that occurs to the GM with what planning time he has. The last leg of a space race. Stormtrooper androids. Deserts and ruins. Puzzles. Killer shrouds that come out at night. And a final roll to make the "ghost monument" materialize fully. Simple but effective, this series of challenges gives the players a chance to try out their characters' capabilities (a close call for Ryan, for example, teaches Tosin that the fighting option isn't always the best one in this game).

Rosa. Chris tries for a nearly pure historical by making the group meet Rosa Parks and take part in a pivotal moment for the civil rights movement. He got the idea from Graham being a bus driver, and with two out of four PCs (and players) not being white, there was an opportunity there to explore some interesting issues. A white supremacist-type time traveler provided the Doctor with some fine confrontations, but ultimately, the real drama was about keeping history on track even if it meant letting an injustice play out.

ROSA PARKS
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 1, Ingenuity 3, Presence 4, Resolve 4, Strength 1
Skills: Convince 3, Craft (seamstress) 3, Knowledge 2
Traits: Brave, Charming, Face in the Crowd, Friends (Major) - civil rights movement, Indomitable, Obligation (Major) - civil rights movement. Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 4


Arachnids in the UK. Chris gets to do his original Chapter 2 when the TARDIS gets back to Sheffield, a tale of giant mutant spiders with a Trump stand-in as part of the action in an empty hotel. Chris also introduces Yaz's family, letting her dictate some of the dynamics. Here we perhaps see the players' role-playing inexperience as some of the solutions they come up with are perhaps not entirely in line with their characters' ethics (did they let the spiders suffocate in the panic room?), and the GM doesn't really comment on it either. But we can.

The Tsuranga Conundrum. A friend of the GM's gives him a weird monster design and Chris decides to use it for his next adventure set in an automated hospital ship. He juggles a big cast of characters that act as challenges or solutions for the PCs and makes the almost unstoppable creature more of a puzzle than a physical challenge. Especially since he's nerfed the group by separating them from the TARDIS and given the Doctor injuries that keep her Attributes down. Though the players have been quite good about keeping their subplots alive, here the frenetic pace means there's little time for that.

PTING
Attributes: Awareness 2, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 1, Presence 1, Resolve 4, Strength 2 (Jaws 7)
Skills: Athletics 3, Subterfuge 1, Survival 4
Traits: Alien, Alien Appearance, Alien Senses - detect energy, Burrowing (by eating), Environmental (Major) - can survive in the vacuum of space, Frenzy, Impervious (to physical damage), Natural Weapons (Minor) - Poisonous skin 4/L/L; Natural Weapons (Minor) - Jaws Strength + 2, Obsession (Major) - feeding on energy, Size: Tiny (Minor), Special - Pting can eat anything inorganic including energy, Uncommunicative. Story Points: 4
Home Tech Level: N/A (from a TL6 era)


Demons of the Punjab.
After the GM plants a mystery in flashback scene, Yaz's player asks if the Doctor can help solve it. They head to the days of Partition, when India and Pakistan's border is created, and where Yaz's family history isn't what she's been told, or else is in jeopardy. Chris introduces aliens that aren't what they seem, exploiting Jodie's failed Knowledge roll to surprise the players with the truth. Playing the session on Remembrance Day gave it an extra emotionality, and the GM did well to include elements that related to the last World War and the theme of remembering.

Kerblam! Chris does a space Amazon story. Not the warrior women. Not the river or jungle. The online shopping company. He's perhaps a bit too nasty with one of his NPCs, but this is again a case where the solutions aren't necessarily the most ethical, so he's not alone. After the previous game, Mandip seems to have found her groove and is bringing some of police skills to the mix, though of course, the setting was more inspired by Ryan's character and his real job back on Earth.

The Witchfinders.
Trying to recapture what he did with racism a few sessions before, here Chris attacks misogyny by crafting an alien invasion story set during the era of witch trials in England. The session has two functions, really. One is to see how a female Doctor would be challenged by old-fashioned attitudes, the other to have a grand old time playing a celebrity NPC like James the First. Once the players stopped quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they played the scenario with thoughtful seriousness.

KING JAMES I
Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 2, Presence 4, Resolve 4, Strength 2
Skills: Athletics 2, Convince 3, Craft 3, Fighting 3, Knowledge 2 (AoE: Religion), Subterfuge 3 Survival 2
Traits: Authority (Major), Brave, Charming, Eccentric, Friends (Major) - his subjects, Impulsive, Obsession (Major) - defeating the forces of Satan, Obligation (Major) - to Britain, Stubborn, Voice of Authority. Story Points: 8
Home Tech Level: 3 (Witchfinder's kit, including switchblade [Strength +2])


It Takes You Away. The players did such a good job of keeping the spirit of Grace, Ryan's nan and Graham's wife, alive, the GM just had to bring her back in some way. He has a wild idea about the universe's consciousness having been exiled in the Early Days and now making up another dimension that yearns to rejoin ours. A metaphor for the afterlife, but also for grief, and Bradley got to play the ultimate dilemma there. Chris throws in extra weirdness by populating the passage between here and there, and giving the Doctor a bizarre avatar to converse with. In straightforward scenarios, the players can sometimes be guilty of thinking too far outside the box and doing things that are eyebrow-raising. But when the challenges are strange and impossible, like this one, the impulse serves them well.

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos. Chris brings his initial villain back and in command of reality benders who zealously put the fate of many planets at risk. Mostly, it's a chance for Graham and Ryan to get revenge on Tim Shaw, at the risk of their own souls. These guys are so good at ROLE-playing, it could have gone in a very different direction; they were even ready for it to mean the end of their characters. Otherwise, the scenario is pretty mechanical.

Resolution. Chris didn't have an idea for the club's usual Christmas session, so he put it off until New Year's. After paying lip service to the event, he finally brought back an old enemy, the oldest you might say - the Daleks! On his own terms, of course, with a bit of the Sheffield Steel motif he and his players returned to from time to time during the last couple months. Seeing as his group's strength was the character subplots, he also introduced Ryan's wayward dad into the adventure, putting him at risk, and allowing the Ryan and Graham PCs to close the loop on the complications they set up during chargen.

All the players said they'd return, and Chris will too, though he did confide that he was surprised at how much of a grind running so many games in a row turned out to be. Consequently, he didn't promise as many in the next campaign cycle.

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