Doctor Who RPG: Series 12

On the occasion of completing reviews on Doctor Who's 12th 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 11.)

The GM
Chris took his time getting his next campaign ready, and has had time to reflect and go back on some of the decisions he'd made in his previous one. For example, his choice to keep things as fresh and new by avoiding previously used monsters, well that went out the window. What's the point when you have all new players? He realized that designing his New Year's Special with the Daleks. He also walked back his decision to not do a campaign arc because it was the only way to use his adventure seed about the Timeless Child (from early in the previous season) and make it flower. Most certainly, when he decided to stop ignoring the past, his deep dive into old campaign notes (which the role-playing club has always archived and made available) has yielded some inspiration. His guiding principles this time around were 1) using world problems and current affairs as inspiration, and 2) surprising his players through red herrings, retcons, structural tricks, and guest players.

The Players
-Jodie is getting more comfortable playing the Doctor, and she's looking forward to make her a little more alien this year, tempering her kindness with social awkwardness and distraction.
-Tosin feels like his character has resolved a lot of his issues and means Ryan to be more heroic this time around, even do a little (clumsy) action.
-Bradley's natural humor has come out a few times in the past, and the table really appreciated it, so he's decided to let his comic flag fly. Graham soon becomes the guy with the ready zinger.
-Mandip realizes that though her character's backstory was that she joined the Doctor because she was impatient with the opportunities afforded her by the police force, Yaz hasn't embraced those opportunities traveling aboard the TARDIS. A naturally-retiring player, she's going to force herself to take a more active role, to the point of other players thinking her a little reckless (but they still encourage her, for the good of the game, long term). Sometimes it works, sometimes she forgets herself, but she definitely finds more ways for her character to be useful.

Spyfall. Chris was looking at the used RPG shelves at his local FLGS one day and eyeing those gorgeous James Bond 007 RPG boxed adventures when he had a notion. Why not do a world-spanning, then TIME-spanning, espionage adventure in the Doctor Who format? (It would even inspire him to keep the globe-trotting going through the entire campaign.) It fit his plan to reintroduce his own version of the Master, back with a secret that's pushed him over the edge again. Chris is encouraged by his players spending Story Points to get out of a plane crash with timey-wimey logic, they're going to do fine in his more complicated scenarios to come. Yaz also almost dies, as would be given the Unadventurous Trait, but Mandip convinces the GM to give her Impulsive instead, as it plays better with her personality (though they agree it will have the same game-leaving function cumulatively). Ultimately, what the Doctor learns here is going to keep her distracted for a while, and Jodie adopts a sort of far-away look that will eventually force a confrontation with the other players (though they were all there as PLAYERS to hear the tease about Gallifrey's lies). Ripped from the headlines: Your phone is spying on you!

Orphan 55. Chris learns what happens when you push the current affairs angle a little too much, though he took some enjoyment out of confusing and freaking his players out about the fate of their planet and humanity ruining it in a near future in spite of their travels to farther futures. Tosin tries his hand at flirting, but otherwise, the players get a little lost in the drama of the NPCs. Ripped from the headlines: Climate change!

Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 4, Ingenuity 1 (Dreg Leader 2), Presence 2, Resolve 3, Strength 5
Skills: Athletics 3, Fighting 2, Subterfuge 2, Survival 3
Traits: Alien, Alien Appearance, Dark Secret (Minor; that they are what's left of the human race - if discovered, Humans now react to them as if they had Fear Factor 3), Environmental (Minor; can breathe carbon dioxide), Fear Factor 2, Natural Weapons - Teeth (+2 to Strength), Networked, Special: Any single weapons frequency will only work once on a given Dreg, Tough, Weakness (Major; Dregs cannot breathe oxygen and it will make them go into a dormant state). Story Points: 2-4
Home Tech Level: 1

Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror. Time for a celebrity historical, and Chris uses the technological feud between Tesla and Edison to serve his plot about scorpion-like scavengers from space. He puts enough Tesla-tech in the characters' reach to allow for some kind of steampunk resolution, which the players respond to readily. Ripped from the headlines: CEOs getting rich off workers' backs.

Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 5, Presence 2, Resolve 4, Strength 2
Skills: Athletics 1, Convince 2, Craft 4, Knowledge 2, Marksman 2, Science 3, Subterfuge 1, Technology 4
Traits: Adversary (Minor; Thomas Edison), Boffin, Eccentric (Major), Indomitable, Insatiable Curiosity, Run for your Life!, Single-Minded (Major), Technically Adept, Unlucky. Story Points: 12
Home Tech Level: 4 (Equipment: Whatever he dreams up)

Fugitive of the Judoon. Chris brings in Jo as guest player, playing Ruth, a companionable tour guide whose husband could be a the Judoon's prey. Or so she thinks. Once the adventure is under way, he slips her a different character sheet, one meant for the Doctor (with a couple of secret instructions/backstory). Whaaaa?! He also has a different surprise in store for the companions, sending them one by one to another room where they are met by... former companion and lead in Chris' Torchwood campaign, John! John is also met with a surprise because he's been told he had information to give the Doctor (and a pre-programmed scenario to get through), but Chris keeps sending him other people, and John doesn't even know the Doctor is being played by a woman right now! Unfortunately, it means most of the players miss key parts of the action and have to be told. Chris has to admit he was too focused on surprises to make the game coherent, but everyone is deeply intrigued.

Attributes: Awareness 4, Coordination 3, Ingenuity 8, Presence 5, Resolve 5, Strength 4
Skills: Athletics 3, Convince 4, Craft 1, Fighting 4, Knowledge 6, Marksman 2, Medicine 2, Science 5, Subterfuge 4, Survival 2, Technology 4, Transport 4
Traits: Adversary (Major; the Division), Arrogant, Argumentative, Boffin, Brave, Charming, Code of Conduct, Feel the Turn of the Universe, Reverse the Polarity of the Neutron Flow, Run for your Life!, Technically Adept, Time Lord, Time Traveller, Unlimited Regenerations, Voice of Authority, Vortex, Wanted Renegade. Story Points: 8
Home Tech Level: 10 (Equipment: TARDIS, Chameleon arch watch)

Praxeus. Do the players mind being thrown into the middle of things? Not at all. Chris sets up an in medias res scenario, and the group splits off to cover all the basis on another globe-spanning adventure, this time to stop a silicon virus from overtaking the Earth. Doing it this way ENSURES even the most timid companion has something to do and riding that wave, Mandip even goes a little too far, making the party scramble there for a bit. Ripped from the headlines: Pollution and pandemics (the last one accidentally, as real life caught up with campaign notes drawn weeks before).

Can You Hear Me? Being given something to do has proven useful tool, so Chris arranges to do so again, molding his plot about ancient gods who torture people in their dreams to give the players a chance to work in some character development. First, he asks them to go visit people in their normal lives while the Doctor answers a distress signal, and use that visit to reveal something about their characters, eventually describing nightmares they are having. Chris still uses the materials he'd prepared, including a hand-drawn origin story for his evil gods, the show and tell actually tapping into the dream-like quality of many of the scenario's scenes. Ripped from the headlines: Mental health, Syria.

The Haunting of Villa Diodati. It starts with a visit to the fateful night where Frankenstein was conceived, with the players interacting with the Shellys, Byron, etc. A weird house that keeps changing architecture. Ghosts. Chris kind of throws too much in there to truly resolve everything, but he sends the story in another direction when he introduced the Last Cyberman (which he has foreshadowed) as a kind of Frankenstein's Monster stand-in, puts history at risk, and forces the Doctor's player to make an impossible choice that will decide just where his two-session finale will take place. Ripped from the headlines: Sexual harassment (oh Lord Byron).

Attributes: Awareness 3, Coordination 2, Ingenuity 4, Presence 3, Resolve 4, Strength 7
Skills: Convince 2, Fighting 3, Knowledge 3, Marksman 2, Medicine 2, Science 2, Survival 2, Technology 4, Transport 2
Traits: Armour 8, Authority Figure (Leader of the Cybermen), Cyborg, Eccentric (Major; does not have a working emotion inhibitor), Fear Factor 3, Natural Weapons (Electric Grip, +2 to Strength), Natural Weapons (Particle Beam - 4/L/L), Networked, Obsession (Major; to make the Cyber Empire great again), Slow, Vortex. Story Points: 6
Home Tech Level: 7 (Equipment: Death Particle, Cyberium)

Ascension of the Cybermen.
If the player hadn't decided to follow the Last Cyberman and his magic Cyberium to the Cyber-Wars, the TARDIS would have gone there anyway. Chris plays it as a harsh war scenario, throws out a few tricked-out Cybermen, and forces the players to bail without the TARDIS (though their splitting up has him create an extra means of escape and an NPC that can fly a Cybership, thankfully). Every so often, the GM tells the players a story about an Irish guard who was a foundling. In the next session, he'll tell the Doctor it was her dream at the appropriate time (the players will make a face). At the end, Chris brings the Master back, and Gallifrey too, but... to be continued!

The Timeless Children. It seems that the Last Cyberman, like the Judoon earlier in the campaign, is to be a red herring. While the companions still have to deal with them, the Doctor is captured by the Master who takes over the plot, the Cyberium and the Cyber army. While the players are kept busy, the Doctor is in the Matrix getting massive info-dumps though she's at least aloud to talk them through. At one point, she asks to summon the other Doctor played by Jo some sessions ago and has a conversation with herself. The GM's big retcon doesn't really change anything in the present, but he hopes to play with the stuff that tumbles out of his Pandora's Box in the next series. One of the things he really enjoyed in other GMs' notes is the crazy cliffhanger at the end OF a series, so he throws one in, and it's compounded by another party split-up that leaves the Time Lord disconnected from the rest of her Fam. He's got nine months to figure out what to do with it.

And so another long hiatus begins as Chris puts his thinking cap on...


daft said...

LOL! Someone's having fun. Having it finally seen it written down, it seems inordinately fitting that the villains in Orphan 55 were called the Dregs. ;D


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