Friday, 31 December 2010

Campaign Toybox

In which I yield the floor to SteveD, who has been writing RPGnet's Campaign Toybox for almost two years now, firing off game ideas at a fair old clip.

And inevitably, some of them could make great Doctor Who adventures due to the bigness of its kitchen sink setting. There are two different time travel campaigns in there, for starters, as well as Twenty Six New Ways to Travel In Space.

And going all the way back to the start, 70s cops dealing with a Stargate at Stonehenge. Put poor old underfunded UNIT on the job and that's a Pertwee-era series idea.

I'm not the only one...

MightyGodKing recasts the first seven Doctors

Some interesting alternatives here. I still think Bonneville for Six would be awesome, though.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

An extra Christmas present

As pointed out by Kit, The Twelve Doctors Of Christmas in which various clever people talk about the Doctors.

Apparently this is my hundredth post here. Goodness.

Where to...?

Currently setting blood boiling on RPGnet is a thread which started innocently enough about the Doctor visiting America. This has lead to arguments about internationalism, Americanisation, parochialism, some deliberately obtuse posts and various other reminders of why I don't go to Outpost Gallifrey. I've held off posting a somewhat grumpy "come back when you give us a Star Trek episode set in Britain" because the thread's ugly enough already.

Now with a currently-less-baity companion thread for where the show might go.

But in an endeavour to be a bit more positive, it got me thinking about how I portray other countries in Who games.

A lot of it has to do with the PCs - when and where they come from inevitably factors in to when and where the game visits.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Have we met?

In which The Green Ood causes excessive thought...

Putting a hint of a Dalek into the trailer at the end of my Shalkaverse short story, I made the light from the eyestalk blue without really thinking about it. A 2005-2010 Dalek eye. But the Shalkaverse is a parallel world where the show came back via the web in 2002, so nothing from the Davies and Moffat eras is necessarily true, not even the Paul Cornell episodes. So why should Daleks have blue lights? Shalkaverse Daleks could be completely different.

If a monster reappears there's no reason it can't be very different from previous appearances. Even if it was one way a few episodes ago, the next episode could be set centuries apart for the monster.

Of course, the show doesn't generally bring back old versions of monsters who have been revamped - I doubt we'll see the cloth-masked Cybermen again, because they dropped them as soon as they had a bit more money for the effects. Big Finish and the comics (and probably the novels) have featured them, though.

But anyway, you still have free rein to do something leftfield with classic elements, and if it doesn't work (and the players don't like it, or Doctor Who Magazine's lettercol fills with complaints) you can go back to basics next time.

Give some thought to the changes, the reasons behind them as well as the effects of them. This can be as simple as "we have more money" or "I found a really neat Dalek redesign on the web" or as complicated as "this is a story about the end of the Cybermen where they transcend metal and free themselves, making the universe a better place from then on with their millennia of stored knowledge, so the last metallic Cybermen have to be pretty strange" but it deserves thinking about whatever the case.

And revealing a bit of the new look is likely to cause some speculation about it.

... Why is that Ood green?

Saturday, 25 December 2010

A Christmas Carol

All a bit steampunk, innit?

Rory got his name in the credits!

SHARK!

Ahhh, double meaning, clever.

Peculiar. Bit convoluted. But fun.


And then...

Cavaliers!

Nazis!

Utah!

A familiar set!

A green Ood?!


Happy Holidays!

The Only Good Dalek

... is the first original Doctor Who graphic novel from BBC Books.

... is a Base Under Siege, then thanks to escape pods becomes a chase, then another Base Under Siege. It could have done with one less plot twist, and more/any laughs.

(Look away if you want to avoid spoilers, as this refers to the main point of the thing... although I think it’s spelled out on publicity blurb.)

Christmas presents, an early roundup

So, as well as the Christmas Special on which no doubt more later, the Beeb also gave us a rousing Christmas carol from some studenty types who I believe may have something to do with the show, a themed short story collection, and a new computer adventure game.

Shadows Of The Vashta Narada is a pretty straightforward Base Under Siege until a late twist, with a really big base (seriously, it’s big) inhabited by three people and a computer, and we get some justifiable motivations adding to the trouble in among the lumbering suited skeletons and alien megasharks.

I also got The Only Good Dalek. I’ll get back to you once I’ve read it. For now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Classic Who Themes: Knockabout Action And Adventure

Knockabout Action And Adventure is the “default setting” for most Doctor Who adventures. And most roleplaying game sessions. So there isn’t that much that needs to be said here.

--

Example: The Maelstrom
(A Knockabout Action And Adventure Aliens Of London story)

The travellers, a UNIT fast response team and a group of civilians are caught between an alien marshal and an escaped carnivorous monster on a Dorset peninsula cut off by artificially bad weather. Can they find the monster before it kills again, and deal with the marshal before she calls in an orbital bombardment of the area to save the rest of the world?

Classic Who Themes: Game For A Laugh

Comedy stands alongside adventure, drama and horror as one of the things Doctor Who contains in many stories and gives pride of place to in a few. This is something that often happens around the gaming table anyway, but more out-of-character than in, and comedy in gaming can feel forced. (I’ve played some great games of Toon, but also some really flat ones.)

Classic Who Themes: The Big Emotional Episode

The Big Emotional Episode is a story of some other kind that happens to hit one of the PCs where it hurts emotionally. This is the sort of thing that should definitely be discussed with the player beforehand, as some players aren't keen on putting their characters through the wringer.

Classic Who Themes: Behind The Sofa

Following “a series-ful of classic Who plots”, some ideas for themes and moods that “flavour” plots rather than defining them. Yes, my Vampire Storyteller hat is sitting by my desk.

I’ll be including an example adventure hook with each of these - all Aliens Of London stories to show how different each theme makes this basic setup.

If Doctor Who is known for one thing, it’s the Fear Factor. Which is interesting since the Doctor is so mighty, but his enemies are so many and so terrible and have a tendency to pick on puny humans.

Because we know the Doctor isn’t always there to stop them. And he’s almost never there in time to save everyone. (The classic series had an on-screen death toll over twelve hundred in a hundred and fifty stories.)

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A plug

Paul Cornell's Twelve Blogs of Christmas: Fan Fiction

Tricks Of The Light proves to be one of four Shalka-setup stories, a way behind Faiza Hussain but equal to Bernice Summerfield. There only being one Pulse story rather makes me want to get writing.

Guest starring the Doctor

So, you don't have the Doctor in your game, you're doing something else in the Whoniverse. But you're thinking of a special episode (a Christmas special, a series opener) and drop hints about bringing the Doctor in for one night only.

Having the PCs work with the Doctor will of course give fannish players a bit of an egoboost, but maybe they find themselves working at cross purposes instead.

But which Doctor, and to what end? Which one can you do well, which would suit the tenor of your game, which would the players geek out over?

The First Doctor would suit mysteries and sense-of-wonder fantasies, the Second would fit romps, the Third dashing space-opera adventures or UNIT stories, the Fourth a mix of comedy and horror, the Fifth dashing adventures again, the Sixth confrontations with authority, the Seventh sinister machinations, the Eighth dashing adventures with a bigger effects budget and theoretically Time War stories, the Ninth quirky romps and gloomy war stories, the Tenth dashing adventures with angst, the Eleventh a bit more comedy and horror again.

Or of course there are other Doctors. The Richard E Grant version(s), the Unbound, DIY versions, here's eleven fan film Doctors, and check out the shot at 2.51... These give you more freedom, but lack the immediate fanjoy response of the televisual ones.

Or if you really want to mess with the players' heads, imagine their first meeting with the Doctor and it's actually the Valeyard. (How? I dunno, wibbly-wobbly...) And maybe away from confrontation with a normal Doctor he's more Doctor-ish, working for the good in his own way, but a bit sinister and Seventh-like. So they have to wonder if they can trust him, which could make for an interesting dynamic.

The main question, after which Doctor to use, is how to give him enough to do without overshadowing everyone else. Let's look at two handy examples: The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith and Death Of The Doctor from The Sarah Jane Adventures. In both of these, he only appears around the halfway point (at the cliffhanger of part one of two) so there's plenty of time for the regulars and other guests to interact, investigate and chat. He also spends most of his appearance time split off from some of the group, so they have to carry on without him solving problems on their own. And in both cases he has a hand in saving the day, but he's not the central hero of either.

Reading is an adventure...

The Christmas issue of Doctor Who Magazine includes a one-off comic strip called “The Professor, The Bookshop And The Queen”. As well as making my list of Celebrity Historicals for people the Doctor hasn’t met slightly out of date, it presents the TARDIS as a bookshop which can leap into any book it contains. A Land Of Fiction thing, I suppose, but a TARDIS in that form controlled by opening and moving books would be quite appropriate, as Doctor Who has always been a writerly sort of show.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Something fairly important.

The Eleventh Doctor Edition

K9

After thirty years (and a few years after his "And Company" sidekick Sarah Jane) K9 got his own series this year. Sort of. It's not a BBC show, and not canon even by the we-don't-have-a-canon standards of the Whoniverse. And he gets redesigned to look oddly like Gromit as Robocop.

Apparently it's set in a future London where (because it was made in Brisbane) everyone sounds sort of Australian. So like the future London of Mass Effect 3, then...

(Though I can imagine editing around the Sheffield/Melbourne sniper to make that a pretty cool "next time..." trailer for a Who adventure...)

But, y'know, it's got monsters and stuff. And it's getting its first terrestrial UK outing on Five for the next couple of weeks, in the mornings starting tomorrow.

Thanks to The Acrobatic Flea for the notification.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Meeting Jane

In honour of Jane Austen's birthday, it's surprising that she hasn't had a Celebrity Historical yet. The BBC love adapting her work, so I suppose we'll get there.

Of course, she doesn't have a monster. Northanger Abbey suggests it will, but turns out not to. She's in one of SteveD's eighteen song title adventures, sussing out the emotional heart of a time distortion caused by someone's longing. That fits rather well, I think.

And I can imagine a companion who's read all the novels thinking she can busk it in Regency society as a result, and making a bit of a mess of it.

Using your android

A DWAITAS thread about using iPads and iPods and all such Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy like flatscreen computer widgets in GMing brought up the comment from Curufea: "I do use my android for the Starblazer campaign I'm in". I presume he means an Android phone/computer thingy, not an actual android, but it still made me doubletake.

So...

--

The TARDIS arrives in the present, but there are bipedal humanoid robots out on the street, manning reception desks in fancy businesses, carrying the shopping for people leaving Fortnum & Mason. Obviously they're expensive, they haven't trickled down to the ubiquity of I, Robot, but they're still too good too early...

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Cold World

The Dravidium mining colony of Irte III is cut off from the rest of the planet by freezing polar conditions, so that only a convoy of massive off-road vehicles can reach it in the height of summer, crossing icy wastes and treacherous mountain passes, never sure if the road ahead will crack under them.

The travellers hitch a ride with one of the trucks in order to see a scientist at the mine due to Dravidium leakage causing trouble on another planet.

And then one of the drivers sees something moving in the ice floes...

(Yes, as an example of how Doctor Who can take on anything, this is the result of seeing a trailer for Ice Road Truckers while trying to come up with a Doctor Who adventure hook...)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

And the presenters of Blue Peter as themselves.

Following on from this, which was itself following on from this, comes the idea of playing yourself in an RPG.

And it's a short step to playing other real people. It is for me anyway, because the last time I tried this trick the players got the idea to trade roles and play each other.

For a group with less familiarity and less willingness to take the mickey out of each other, a safer option might be to run with the Celebrity Historical in a slightly unusual manner - with some or all of the PCs as historical figures.

I'm not alone in this notion, of course. Joan of Arc was an example PC in one of FASA's Doctor Who adventures, and in a more extreme example Pacesetter Games produced a TimeMaster adventure book where Boudicca, Amelia Earhart, Cleopatra, Miss Marple, Robin Hood, Merlin, Sgt. Rock and Hercules had to team up to save reality. None of the men are definitely real figures in history, but never mind.

Ms. Earhart was also nearly a companion in one of the never-made incarnations of the Doctor Who movie in the 90s, which is why she ended up meeting the PCs in The Door In Time when they visited The Shadow Proclamation. I erred on the side of "printing the legend" when portraying her as she was a throwaway extra, unlike the more central portrayal of Alan Turing in a previous episode, more like Churchill in Victory Of The Daleks than Van Gogh in Vincent And The Doctor.

--

Example: The Key

New England, 1766. A colony close to revolution, and a scientist close to a discovery that will change the world even more. And the TARDIS crew must stop an alien intelligence destroying both before they can happen. If humanity fails to harness electricity all of its history will be unwritten, so Benjamin Franklin joins the adventure to save the future.

The Shadow Proclamation

The Writer's Tale also features the original plans for The Shadow Proclamation in The Stolen Earth, complete with a page-sized illustration of the scene as pictured by Russell T Davies himself. I stole this wholesale for the end of The Door In Time, even printing out the scan of the drawing, because I was so disappointed by what we finally got on screen. I understand the reasoning, as discussed in the book, but damn. After being mentioned as far back as Rose, I really wanted their first appearance on screen to be awesome, and it so nearly was. And sure, we got a similar scene two years later, but it's just not the same...

So whenever The Shadow Proclamation shows up in my things, it's a big deal, with a lot of Judoon and humanoid troops, alien lawyers, different species arguing, holographic scans for dangerous equipment, red-eyed psychic magistrates, bases built out of asteroid debris (which in my head used to be part of a planet destroyed in the Dalek War) and more, and bigger, and you still need to queue to see someone...

SKARO!

The Writer's Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook is a great resource for new Who gaming as well as a fascinating read in its own right. I've swiped discarded adventure ideas, scenes, visuals, character notes and more from it.

And one bit I'd like to do something with is a flashback dropped from the final two-parter in series four. Skaro in the last years of the atomic wars, Davros before being blinded and crippled. The recent BBC4 showing of the new Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart reminded me of it - a slightly SF slightly horror take based on the end of World War I, with cluttered hospital corridors and bunkers and plastic sheeting and modernish ECG machines and officers in big grey coats. Add a boiling red sky and we're good to go.

Imagine meeting Davros before he started down that road...

Monday, 13 December 2010

The (X) Doctors

A thread on RPGnet at the moment has people imagining what games they'll be playing and running in five years' time. One suggestion is the new edition of Doctor Who with rules for the Matt Smith era. But that's coming out soon, and by late 2015 there's a good chance we'll be onto Ga - whoever we get as the Twelfth Doctor.

And there's nothing like a Time Lord regenerating into a new actor to get you thinking about a reappearance by a former self.

Prison Break

One of the ideas that fell out of Steven Moffat's purposefully vague description of this year's Christmas Special as "like a compilation of every Christmas movie" was the joking suggestion it would be like The Great Escape because it was famously on TV just about annually in the 70s and 80s.

So that got me thinking of what a Doctor Who version of The Great Escape would look like. Alien prison, maybe a whole planet or a satellite in space. Robotic guards and corrupt humanoid warders. Prisoners from various species and possibly time periods having to work together to get free. And more time on the escape than the plan, of course. And if anybody does the motorcycle jump, it would be the Doctor.

But last night I had a different idea. Start in medias res, in a Porridge-style underfunded Victorian-built prison in 1960s Britain, with its beaten-down cons, its fixers, hard men (the version in my head features big bald character actor Steve Speirs as a surprisingly sensitive soul) and bosses (maybe Kevin McNally, since he was in The Twin Dilemma and deserves better)... and we see a van full of new prisoners being brought in. And the third one out is the Doctor.

Why is he there? A place like this would be impossible for him not to escape from. So why is he in here?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Digging for gold in the dirt

Inspired by Bigger On The Inside as it looks at the game applications of Doctor Who adventures, taking it from the top... I thought I’d look at the bottom of the barrel.

After The Caves Of Androzani came in at number 1 in Doctor Who Magazine’s Mighty 200 poll of stories from An Unearthly Child to Planet Of The Dead, its immediate followup The Twin Dilemma came at 200. It’s almost poetic.

But even in the real clangers, there are always ideas. The Twin Dilemma has potentially interesting threats in the creepy kids and the alien kidnappers, a regeneration crisis (which is a nice idea, but a bum note for introducing a new Doctor - it was when the Tenth Doctor slept through most of his debut adventure, and it’s worse here when it means the Sixth Doctor goes mad and gets violent) and so on. The kids not being creepy would have made their situation more easy to sympathise with, which might have helped... but their being creepy really made them stand out.

And just above it at 199, Timelash is a fascinating mess full of good ideas buried in its dubious plotting, garish design and wonky direction.

Bow ties are cool. Discuss.

So I went in to work yesterday, on our local "weird cool alternative stuff" street of small galleries, record shops, indie clothes stores, memorabilia outlets, goth shops and old pubs built of several knocked-together rooms, and I saw the local kid who has taken the Tenth Doctor as his style icon. He was holding hands with his girlfriend, who sadly wasn't cosplaying Rose, so I resisted the temptation to ask if he thought bow ties are cool.

But anyway, seeing a reasonable Ten lookalike walking around drawing only the occasional curious look on a street full of arts students and emo kids got me thinking, further to the LARP essay, about Cool.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Steven Moffat's rules for Christmas Specials

From the Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Steven Moffat's rules for Christmas Specials which are decidedly Christmassy.

(Yes, I know, if I keep this up I should give Christmas Specials their own category.)

1: Santa Claus Is Real.

2: There Should Be Flying.

3: Snow!

4: The Greatest Christmas Story Is A Christmas Carol.

Make of that what you will, but is suggests in a fortnight we'll be seeing something festive, storybooky and Dickensian.

With sharks.

If you want lashings of RT-style spoilers, read the whole article at Combom.

Random scene idea

The assassin bursts into the darkened penthouse office, levels his silenced pistol and fires, striking the CEO three times in the chest.

And as the assassin turns to go, the CEO gets up.

"What are you?" the assassin gasps, emptying his gun into the advancing figure, as he sees a fiery glow start to rise from his eyes.

"I am the Master."

And with that he grabs the assassin, pressing his hands to the man's face, as his body explodes with power, burning the assassin alive. Laughing all the while.

Fan Films

Leading to my LARP thoughts, I was reading SciFi Now (a result of looking for something to read on the train down to Dragonmeet) because it had a few pages on Doctor Who fan films.

I've dabbled in the murky world of fan films before (writing a serial-numbers-filed-off Mage campaign comedy, dating someone who would later be the DoP of a Buffy fan series, giving ten bucks to the making of RVD2) and Doctor Who is a natural for the fan film treatment, since it already has a dozen Doctors so recasting the role isn't a deal-breaker, the classic series often had production values that anyone with a modern digital camera could better and the new series is almost entirely written by fans...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Doctor Who LARP

(Or Doctor Who LRP to catch more Google pageviews...)

Definitely another one for Mad Notions, this...

Other people have considered this.

Other people have even done it.

Long ago and far away, when Magic The Gathering was a new idea, m'colleague Steve Ironside ran an impromptu Doctor Who Live Action RPG at a convention. I believe he still does this from time to time. I volunteered as the monster, a humanoid Ancient Evil about to be awoken by foolish mortals when a Time Lord and companions stumbled in. Props there were none, for this was an age when one could not walk into any high street toy shop and choose a variety of light-and-sound Sonic Screwdrivers and pick up a keychain that makes the TARDIS and EXTERMINATE! noises while you're there, but since this was early in the wilderness years, the zero budget improv style fitted fine.

But there's nothing like an impending games convention to get me thinking on the matter again. I generally think that LARPs should go for props and gear and suitable locations as much as possible and "you see X..." descriptions as little as possible, because if I have to imagine everything you can imagine me standing up and acting while I sit at a tabletop and roll dice. :P

But anyway...

Nine-word thought experiment

So... what are the Thals up to these days?

Doctor Who: Snowfall

Snowfall

A possibly topical Doctor Who short story from the Adventure Calender.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Speak, spirit!

I find that I'm still thinking about Christmas Specials. The RPGnet thread is still plodding along, I'm avoiding being spoilered about the real deal as much as possible, it still exists in the Maybe for me. It looks like a bit of Dickensian heartwarming, but also spaceyness, and creepiness. (And sharks.)

A full-on M.R. James Ghost Stories For Christmas Special would work - it'd stand out less than The End Of Time does, really. Pale faces and heavy coats in dark streets with a touch of frost. Less The Eleventh Hour mad romp, more The Empty Child sustained chiller.

And since we're getting a modernised M.R. James story from the BBC this year, let's set it now rather than a traditional ghost story period like the 19th Century.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Tricks Of The Light

Tricks Of The Light

A short story.

By way of an explanation, this was prompted by Paul Cornell asking for links to fanfic based on his own creations, and he created a Doctor and companion for BBCi before the series returned to TV, so...

Christmas game advice comes twice a year

I linked to this in this RPGnet thread about, yes, Doctor Who Christmas Special ideas. Lots of possibilities (check out the list of events occurring in late December throughout history) and I threw in two of my own.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Random notion of the afternoon

In TARDIS, the (decidedly short) third of the Adventure Games, Amy is asked if the Weeping Angels send their victims to the past, present or future.

Wouldn't the latter be an interesting twist?

(Wouldn't work with the "leaving messages behind" method of Blink, of course, but following someone suddenly wrenched into a future after everyone they know is gone is always... "fun" may not be the word...)

The Brilliant Book

A title like that would seem to be tempting fate, but what the heck. The Brilliant Book 2011 is sort of an annual by the Doctor Who Magazine people, with a mix of episode overviews, behind-the-scenes stuff (including an interview with Steven Moffat and a look at old-school Silurians as might have been), stories (one by Brian Aldiss!) and a grab-bag of other stuff, like a two-page spread on the Drunk Giraffe.

It's not as immediately game-friendly as the 2007-2010 Storybooks were ("hello, we're about a dozen fully-developed adventure ideas each book by people involved with the show!") but I imagine it'll keep you amused over Christmas. Along with the Christmas Special. And the new Adventure Game. And...

Friday, 3 December 2010

The most random Doctor Who adventure idea ever

How random? Inspired by Captcha phrases, that's how random.

Relevance to Doctor Who is that it's the Captcha to comment on Rich's Comixblog, home of The Ten Doctors. And when I mentioned something inspired by my first Captcha on this strip, someone else added to it, and then someone else, so...

Synod Acarti - The theocratic government of Colus IV, about to be assassinated by servants of the Dark Horde.

Agent Nizons - an assassin sent by the Dark Horde to kill the Synod Acarti. (thanks to Pippa)

the henchman is from Earevic. (thanks to justawanderer)

Archill Codes - how the Dark Horde to sent vital information for it's assassins out kill the Synod Acarti. Also best selling novel of the same name. (thanks to M'reen)

And finally:

Okay, I'm putting the Archill Codes and Agent Nizons into an adventure idea on my Doctor Who RPG blog. Also featuring Hietedge Gnathus, the smuggler indirectly responsible for the whole thing.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Arsenic Eating Bacteria From The Pit!

NASA tease with an announcement that turns out not to be about alien life, but is still interesting.

The triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism

Following Craig Ferguson attempts to explain Daleks to America, Persons Unknown leaked the Doctor Who song and dance routine from the Matt Smith episode so we can see why he was so pleased with it and so annoyed about not being able to broadcast it.

What if... the movies went back to Doctor Who remakes?

Back in the day ("the day" being 1965) a spinoff company of Hammer's horror rivals Amicus were the first people to make Doctor Who in colour, remaking two Dalek stories for the cinema and applying actual production values to them, casting Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who" and setting Bernard Cribbins on his heroic lifelong battle against the threat from Skaro.

Now these days the show has actual production values itself, but since Hammer Has Risen From The Grave, it amuses me to think what they'd do if they started up again today.

Probably a run of Dalek stories.

In case you're wondering, this is a roundabout excuse to recast some Doctors with modern actors.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Well, that was odd.

FilmFour showed The Seeker: (loosely adapting) The Dark Is Rising last night. I knew Christopher Eccleston was in it. So I knew about this. But I hadn't known about this.

I don't think he works the look quite as well.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Blatant trawling for comments

Would folks be interested in a one-shot adventure for a group of Normal People type PCs? Pregens all ready to go, suitable for conventions and the like? Perhaps with the option to NPC them as a bunch of PC time travellers crash the party?

I'm thinking about it after chiguayante on RPGnet put up a thread fishing for one-shot ideas without a definite decision as to the power level of the characters beyond modern humans.

Regeneration

eryx raised this over on DWAITAS. When you regenerate, are you as Steven Moffat puts it "the same man with a different face" or as Russell T Davies puts it "a different man goes sauntering away"?

Now, I'm tiptoeing around things covered by the NDA for The Time Traveller's Companion here, as regeneration gets a big new writeup, but I can safely say that it addresses some of the different ways of looking at it.

Because the answer to both options above is "yes... kinda".

The Doctor is notably worse at regenerating than other recurring Time Lords, because they can be played by similar-looking people for ease of recognition much more easily than he could. But I must admit I've never been able to get past the out-of-character reasoning and suspend my disbelief on this.

So when Kai regenerated in the finale of The Door In Time he came out looking like himself after losing a bit of weight and getting a haircut. (And Effie, who was standing a bit too close, lost forty-three years of age, but that's just one of those things...) So I suppose that's how I'd play it, unless I had a hefty reason not to. Watch as I deviate from canon because I don't have to worry about finding a replacement actor!

The robes are just a formal thing, really.

Kit over on the DWAITAS board mentioned the possibility of a game set around Gallifrey. I think too much time spent there takes away its sense of mystery and wonder, making it too much like a hybrid of Westminster and Cambridge. (And if I want to run that, I had a Buffy game set in Cambridge already.)

Quoting myself:

There is a lot of Douglas Adams's Cambridge experience in the makeup of Time Lord society, but it also gave us the Doctor and the Master, much like Cambridge gave us the Cambridge Four as well as its more "normal" graduates. It's a hotbed of great thinking as well as an institution of arcane tradition, as much a home to those determined and brilliant enough to get in as those privileged enough to make the cut through family and school connections. And there's the town as well as the gown - even in the citadel, there are still normal Gallifreyans (and quite possibly other species) working in the guard towers and the kitchens. An "Upstairs, Downstairs" game with them could be interesting too.

And for a game focusing on the wildly inventive side of the Time Lords, world-saving craziness mixed with intellectual snobbery, check out SHIELD from Marvel Comics, which reveals the mad science secret history of the Marvel Universe and sets Galileo against Galactus. The portrayal of Newton could certainly make a suitable basis for a scheming Time Lord politician.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Dragonmeet 2010

Despite the best efforts of the snow, I managed to get back last night after attending Dragonmeet in London. Among other people, I got to geek out at C7's Angus and Dom and Andrew Peregrine, went "ooh" when they announced that Gar Hanrahan is in the process of finishing a Primeval RPG adapting the Who system (I imagine Talking won't be the most favoured action in the initiative order in this version, and Gar also mentioned a system for building up paradoxes until time changes) and got to talk a bit about the Doctor box sets.

While I was away, Siskoid's Blog Roundup linked to a very kind review of A Series-ful Of Plots.

--

And since you come here for ideas rather than bloggery, the sudden massive snowfall makes me think...

Winter World

The travellers return to present-day Earth after adventures in the past and future, to find Britain (and much of northern Europe) buried under two feet of snow. Services are grinding to a halt, UNIT doesn't have enough snow tyres... And there is talk of strange figures in the snow. Footprints are soon filled in by more snow and lose their shape, but they're large and deep, suggesting something big and heavy is abroad in the frozen land. Could this connect to the Pharos Institute reading strange energy fluctuations from a series of weather monitoring stations around the country?

Possibilities:

Ice Warriors of course (see Midwinter in "A Series!") or maybe Abominable Snowmen, or anything that wants to disrupt things and doesn't mind the weather. And the wider madder Whoniverse being what it is, undead Vikings bringing about Fimbulwinter are just as likely.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Right then, off to Dragonmeet on the morrow, there to possibly meet people involved in the game.

I leave you with this: Count the shadows! And here Steven Moffat always thought Blink was the idea they could have made into a horror movie.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Since I've managed not to post it here somehow...

My Doctor Who PBP trailer

Happy Doctor Who Day!

So there's this girl at Coal Hill School, an ordinary comprehensive, who seems a bit strange. Apparently she lives with her grandfather, who is a doctor... in a scrapyard on Totter's Lane. When her teachers go to visit, they find them lurking around a police box, of all things...

So this man steps out of a police box, of all things, hunting something only he can see...

So there's this girl working late at a department store, when she hears something, and then sees something move...

So there's this girl with a crack in her bedroom wall...

So there's... what next?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Digging back

Last night I remembered a pre-DWAITAS Doctor Who plot hooks thread over on RPGnet from 2007 (here) so here are my contributions, including an opening scene I'd completely forgotten about.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Eighth Doctor: A time that never was

Due to the new fancy edition box set, I now own Doctor Who: The Movie (aka Enemy Within, for those wanting a less silly name) on DVD. As the pilot for an unmade revival, it makes for interesting viewing.

A quick thought on the Children In Need trailer

It's obviously echoing A Christmas Carol... which as I recall doesn't have sharks in it...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Another in that occasional series of historical oddities

Where Cracked.com points out hinges in history. This time, 5 Minor Screw-ups That Created The Modern World.

"For want of a nail" and all that. With, it being posted on Cracked, added swears.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

This week's Sarah Jane Adventures

Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith

Julie Graham was perfect casting as "the new Sarah Jane" because after Bonekickers and Survivors she'd seem like the BBC's go-to casting for "attractive middle-aged woman in modern-day genre series about investigating strange mysteries" which SJA is, if they were making it primetime and not basing it on an existing already-cast character.

What was being done rather bothered me - Sarah Jane affected with symptoms like Alzheimer's. And who wouldn't want to have a monster to stop if someone was suffering from that?

Gamewise, new monster(s).

So now, no new Who for... well, three days counting the Children In Need special, but then a whole five weeks, egad.

Craig Ferguson attempts to explain Daleks to America

A noble effort, hampered by the Dalek's inert state.

Update - the further attempt to explain the show itself.

And because he's earned it after all that, Matt Smith!

Monument Valley? Hmm.

Monday, 15 November 2010

And Finally, Thirty Adventure Hooks

Yes, thirty.

Admittedly some (like The Hidden Door / The World Next Door) are recycled and expanded on elsewhere in this collection, but hey.

Actual Play: The Hammer Of Time character stats

Since I had to make them for a convention, I have all the numbers for everyone. So...

Actual Play: The Hammer Of Time

The TARDIS stops in orbit of Earth, above the Moon.

The Doctor: Fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. Amazing. Pity there's so little in space these days...

He trails off as something hits the side of the TARDIS with a clang, throwing him off his feet.

--

Red and white laser blasts tear through space.

A battered Federation T-Wing fighter painted with red stripes roars through the stars, chasing a grey Torlan Scimitar fighter shaped like a pair of curved blades.

We pull in to the T-Wing cockpit, where a young pilot looks over at her gunner.

Drummond: They're getting away!
Eckner: Whatever they just fired scrambled our navigation. I don't even recognise the system!

The camera whips around to follow the ships, flying towards a massive battle between two fleets, human and alien. Human fighters surround a bar-shaped carrier, the others swarm around a repurposed asteroid bristling with technology.

And it pulls back to show the two sides are in the shadow of the Moon.

Eckner: Getting an anomalous blip on the scanners.
Drummond: Looks like... an escape capsule or something?

She squints at the blue box hanging in the middle of the battle, just as a Scimitar wing smacks into the side of it.

Eckner: Tough, whatever it is.
Drummond; Maybe it's local, we might be able to find out where we are.

She peels away, and we see the fighter silhouetted by the Earth behind it.

--

Inside, the Doctor gets up, and another jolt throws him about.

He reaches the doors and pulls them open.

The Doctor: Oy!

Drummond and Eckner share a look - and we go to the credits.

Adventure Hook: The Hammer Of Time

And finally, one I've actually used!

Which I stole from Russell T Davies.

To see how it went, read the Actual Play! And if you're more interested in the story, avoid reading past this cut beforehand to avoid spoilers.

The Hammer Of Time

Adventure Hook: Into The Leviathan's Maw

From and RPGnet Forum thread on adventures based on titles alone:

Into The Leviathan's Maw

Adventure Hook: The Trident

A non-modern one. A Pseudohistorical with a classic monster. This owes a bit to FASA's adventure The Iytean Menace, especially the alternate story hook created by this Actual Play and borrowed by a GM in my playtest group.

The Trident

Adventure Hook: Hinges Between Days

I like this one so much it might end up becoming a novel.

Hinges Between Days

Adventure Hook: A Little Piece Of Home

A play on the classic timeslip as well as a bit of an autobiographical indulgence.

A Little Piece Of Home

Adventure Hook: The Games Of Kings

I actually wrote this one up for a Big Finish short story competition afterwards, featuring the Seventh Doctor.

The Games Of Kings

Adventure Hook: Voices In The Dark

This has monster stats too, come to think of it. A classic "rich landowners are not to be trusted" setup.

Voices In The Dark

Adventure Hook: Men Of Power

This one comes complete with monster stats. Ooh!

Men Of Power

Adventure Hook: Set A Thief

Since I have all this space, this is a good place to repost my adventure hooks from the DWAITAS forum. All roughly modern and basically Aliens In London or possible Secret Invasion types, originally designed for a UNIT game.

Set A Thief

Sunday, 14 November 2010

And as a break from me, here's Paul Cornell talking about Fortean aspects of Doctor Who.

Linked from his own site, where in what may be a fit of madness, he's inviting fanfic.

A series-ful of classic Who plots: A Series!

And finally...

So what could one do with all this? Something like this, perhaps.

I've thrown in half a dozen new one-sentence episode ideas (and moved The House That Screamed forwards several centuries because of one) but listed what's what to give an idea of the shape and rhythm, trying not to put too many modern stories or varieties of historical next to each other for example.

The Complete Series N

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Christmas Special

I couldn't end this series without including one of these.

It doesn't have to be anywhere near Christmas when you play it, either - they generally shoot them around July and August, and The Next Doctor is about the Doctor visiting Christmas because he wanted a bit of cheering up.

(These are actually more often the start of a new series filming block, and included in the DVD box set for the series that follows next year, but never mind.)

X: Get Away From The Christmas Trees!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Children In Need Special

A Children In Need special is not an essential (we've only had them in 1993, 2005 and 2007, and The Sarah Jane Adventures had a sketch in Comic Relief 2009, not to mention the short-lived Ninth to Thirteenth Doctors in Steven Moffat's The Curse Of Fatal Death - and looking back, Rowan Atkinson was rocking a very similar look to Matt Smith...) but since it's Children In Need week I thought I might as well add this to the list.

Think of a story the show can tell in eight minutes flat. At most.

This can be a bit tricky. It would be a great use for an idea that doesn't feel big enough for a proper episode, though, perhaps for a shorter-than-usual session or as part of a session also involving a normal-length game.

It could be an important character moment, a bit of knockabout comedy, or a blatant fan squee bit like an appearance by a different incarnation of your group's Time Lord. Or indeed a wildly inappropriate crossover. In 3D.

Or, since we can chip in for a larger budget than "none at all" it could be a full-tilt romp with a horde of monsters chasing the travellers through BBC Television Centre (see TV ACTION! in the Format-Bender article - Format-Bender is probably a good guide here). Whatever the case, ideally it should be funny and/or heartwarming. Children In Need isn't the night for appearances by anything with a Fear Factor higher than 1. When in doubt, lean towards silly.

If you're stumped, you can always just give them the pre-credits scene from the Christmas Special instead.

Friday, 12 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Season Finale

The opposite of the season opener, traditionally a Big Two-Parter or even Three-Parter in its own right as well as possibly the end of a series arc, this could be a jumping-off point for players or their characters, and will certainly be a major conflict with possibly life-changing ramifications. It's possible for the core cast of travellers to survive unscathed and go on to more adventures, but endings tend to be where things end...

12: What?

13: NOOOOO!


Thursday, 11 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: (Insert Ominous Word Here) Of The Daleks

The Classic Monster Story is an essential of the series. As Steven Moffat noted (somewhere, I'll try and find the actual quote) you could make an entire series with only new monsters and it would work fine and not many people would really notice.

However, ultimately one must have Daleks at some point or the fans in front of the TV or at the gaming table will feel a bit shortchanged. Likewise Cybermen, the Master, and there's bound to be something in thirty-odd series of monsters that you'd like to bring back. Of course, I already talked about uses of the Daleks and friends here, so I'll try not to go over the same ground too much, and instead talk about how they might fit into a game series.

11: EXTERMINATE!

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Doctor-Lite Episode

The Doctor-Lite Episode is a subset of The Format-Bender that appears in the show for very practical reasons - they can shoot it at the same time as another story and the Doctor (and/or Companions) who misses most of the episode can devote their time to that or take a few days off. It generally ends up being a Format-Bender as well, because one of the main characters is absent so they do something a bit different.

I split this off from the previous article because it has some obvious effects on the story, and it would factor in to how a game using it might run.

10: Doctor...?

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Format-Bender

Most genre shows have the occasional format-bender and sometimes a total format-breaker. Doctor Who has such a flexible format that it can bend quite easily to contain fourth wall breakers, locked room dramas, live stage appearances, cartoons, out-and-out horror, out-and-out comedy, episodes almost entirely lacking the main characters...

The trick with a Format-Bender is to still provide a fun evening's viewing or gaming, so grab something you know your players would be interested in.

Since these are all as different from each other as from the more common story types, I won't try and delineate common features except in the latter case, but instead offer some examples.

9: They'll talk about this for years to come...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: Secret Invasion

A subset of The Big Two-Parter, and worth going into detail over because a lot of Big Two-Parters are Secret Invasion stories and they're different enough from a regular Aliens Of London story to have their own common features.

Modern Britain (or some similarly recognisable culture) is threatened by sinister forces working in secret in part one, and then more openly in part two.

Another of the classic Who adventure models, largely lifted from Quatermass II. So, in that spirit, I'll be lifting a bit from the DWAITAS forum post by sutekh which inspired this entire series of articles. ;)

(Look at the rest of his story type rundowns while you're there, I won't be covering them in their own posts but they're all gold dust if you want to run something like them.)

7: What's going on?

8: RUN!


A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Big Two-Parter

Somewhere in the middle of the run there's generally a Big Two-Parter. This is basically one of the other formats on a bigger scale with a cliffhanger. In particular, it's most often a Secret Invasion, a bigger version of Aliens Of London which involves more sneaking at the start and a bigger fight at the end, different enough that it gets its own entry. But a large enough threat, a complicated enough story, or a fun enough enemy, can be reason enough to go Big Two-Parter with another format, or even something a bit outside the format - Series Three had two Big Two-Parters which were an (Insert Ominous Word Here) Of The Daleks and a tragic romance Pseudohistorical, and bolted the Secret Invasion on to the Season Finale.

All you really need are bigger stakes and a good cliffhanger.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Base Under Siege

6: They're Coming!

The Base Under Siege is a perennial Doctor Who story archetype, so this one gets almost as much detail as the subsets of Historical put together...

The travellers arrive in a smallish, enclosed structure. They get separated from the TARDIS and/or each other. The few residents are besieged by outside forces. The enemy is close to getting in, supplies and morale are both perilously low, there may be a traitor in the camp, something is about to go badly wrong and there's no way out!

This week's Sarah Jane Adventures

Not coincidentally to my writing the last three entries, this week sees our heroes Lost In Time, in which the not-normally-time-travelling investigators are thrown by a literally handwavy outside force into three different periods of British history. Rani gets a Celebrity Historical, Clyde a straightish Historical with the alien artefact as an excuse and Sarah Jane a full-on Pseudohistorical with time warps in a haunted house. We've got teaming up with concerned locals, fighting historical villains, threats to the fabric of time and space, and dressing up.

Gamewise, we have A Mysterious Man (deliberately left vague as anything) who can open portals in time and send unwilling investigators to deal with threats to history, a metal that warps time, a crystal ball that can keep up with the heroes' progress in the present... You could base a series on this episode by itself.

Monday, 8 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Celebrity Historical

5: Stumbling Into History (and wishing you had an autograph book)

A subset, but common enough to get its own entry since I'm doing the Historicals today, the Celebrity Historical is a (pseudo)historical where the travellers meet someone famous, and the monsters often have something to do with the guest star's place in history.

There are degrees of "celebrity" of course. Tooth And Claw assumed more knowledge of Queen Victoria on the part of the audience than The Girl In The Fireplace did of Madame de Pompadour.

Since they're dealing with real historical figures in family entertainment, they don't want to cause offence and tend to "print the legend" rather than go for any grim real details.

The ones about historical figures that the travellers (and writers) would like to meet show their subjects being heroic, bravely facing their monsters and having a hand in saving the day.

In terms of typical plot points, these are pretty much Pseudohistoricals with the addition of starry guest casting.

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Pseudohistorical

4: Stumbling Into History (with aliens)

This rather horrible word is apparently standard Who fandom terminology for "a story set in history but with aliens and the like instead of only historical events," i.e. every period adventure for the last thirty years, including every one from the revived series.

Since it's been six whole Doctors since a "straight" historical, these have picked up most of the features of those (historical mysteries and disasters, meeting both famous and unknown people of the era, dressing up) as well as regular Who stuff like arguing with monsters and running from laser beams.

The earliest example was The Chase, which explained the Mary Celeste mystery by having Daleks exterminate everybody on board. That set the standard for answering historical mysteries by saying "aliens did it" as seen in quite a few of these. Grab a historic mystery (there are sites cataloguing them) and run with it.

It also provides an easy reason for the travellers to leave the TARDIS and follow the adventure all the way through, rather than leaving before things get dangerous as they might choose to in a straight historical. Something weird is messing with time, and sorting that out is their job!

Side note: While counted as a type of Who story, it's really more a setting for Who stories unlike the more has-its-own-rules straight historical. So it can and does mix with the other types on this list...

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Historical

This was originally the first one on the list, but the season opener had to go in front really.

3: Stumbling Into History (without aliens)

The "historical" seems like a sensible place to start even though there hasn't been one in about thirty years, as it was the original model for the series, as set by An Unearthly Child.

The travellers step out of the TARDIS and run into events from Earth's history, which doesn't go quite as expected...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

A series-ful of classic Who plots: Aliens Of London

The travellers visit the present (possibly visiting a present-day companion's home and family) or a present-like bit of the future, and find that aliens are up to something odd.

This is snuck in behind the season opener as the standard format from which all other Doctor Who adventure types (and The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood and so on) all deviate. As such, there isn't much to say about it...

2: Something that shouldn't be here...

A series-ful of classic Who plots: The Season Opener

Flagrantly borrowing an idea from A Journal of Impossible Things, let's poke around some of the classic adventure formats and see what makes them tick. If I go on long enough, we can build a whole thirteen-episode series of adventure ideas. Remind me to include some two-parters.

This run originally started with the Historical, but the Season Opener leapfrogs it because it has to really.

1: Hello, Faithful Viewer!

The Season Opener (and indeed Series Opener) is the jumping-on point for new audiences, characters and players. It might be the actual first adventure in a run, or it might be a later jumping-on point when you gain a bunch of new players, but either way it's an introduction, setting up the format of the show.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Aliens And Creatures for Doctor Who arrived today, preordered back when. It's as far as I can tell unchanged since the pdf release in the summer, so it still doesn't include monsters from the last three specials, but hey, I don't need them as the game's lighter than a feather, and it's here, on shelves, and has the nice 2005 Daleks on the box.

It still has the adventure hook grabbed straight out of the Fourth Doctor comics, but there are worse places to steal from. (I still think a credit would have been good, though.)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Retro New Monsters

New looks for classic monsters always draw a bit of discussion (mutter mutter new Daleks mutter) but, just for grins, what about classic looks for new monsters?

Pertwee-era Judoon! ;)

Okay, one cheap gag about old special effects is probably plenty. I'll be good.

And since we're here...

... might as well discuss the earlier episodes in this run too.

This week's Sarah Jane Adventures

Let's make a habit of this, as it's new Who TV and thus handy for turning over and looking at.

The Empty Planet

The characters find that the world has been deserted. Why? Why have they been left behind? And if they're alone... why did that lift just open?

(The latter creepy moment didn't make it into the story, having been part of an earlier version that was almost one of the 2009 Doctor Who specials, as discussed in Russell T Davies's great big behind-the-scenes book The Writer's Tale.)

It's a great way of cutting some characters off from others and from their support network, looking at isolation, loneliness and the fear it can bring and connections it can strengthen, giving them a chance to shine while others are absent... and have big robots stomping around.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Death Of The Doctor...?

This particular story in The Sarah Jane Adventures has drawn more scrutiny from general Whogeekery than most, because of (a) that title, (b) Matt Smith, (c) Jo Jones nee Grant and (d) Russell T Davies returning to writing the universe he left running less than a year ago. And (e) the regeneration limit gag and (f) the bit at the end.

So apart from all that, from a things-to-run-with-in-games perspective, what does it bring us?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Quoting myself

When asked:
Did you find any issues in having a player character Time Lord? Issues I've heard of in other games have ranged from the Time lord being 'more powerful' than other characters, it being a bad idea to have a time machine in the hands of a PC, and the issue of how do you handle the Time lord's knowledge without him having to repeat what you just told him-the Galaxy Quest "I have one job on this spaceship.." problem. Faced with these issues, the players i deal with actually prefer an NPC Time Lord. I'm curious what your thoughts were.

I responded:
A Time Lord PC provides a level of power and responsibility I wouldn't give to just anyone. I was happy to go for it in this case, as the group as a whole nudged Kai's player towards the Time Lord role because (a) he's a card-carrying Who nut who (b) he has an uncanny ability to roll badly on crucial dice rolls so having a character who could regenerate from mortal injuries seemed smart, and (c) he's a GM himself and both able to come up with his own bizarre technobabble and from previous form demonstrably unlikely to go on a mad power trip.

In a few cases I prompted some particular info or technobabble in advance, in some cases I explained what something was and he said "I say that!" and in some cases he came up with his own improvised space history and pseudoscientific gobbledigook.

(And in terms of raw power at the table, everyone could do something better than Kai, Gabriel edged him out by a point or two in Ingenuity + Technology rolls, and the telepathic and telekinetic Nimue could wipe the floor with him.)

The TARDIS, by comparison, was no trouble at all. It was occasionally used as an emergency teleport (powered by Story Points, so it's a specific variation of using Story Points to dodge trouble) but it being a time machine really only featured in the final episode. Otherwise it played the traditional role of dropping the characters into the story at the start. The group as a whole had some say in where the TARDIS dropped the characters, rather than Kai's player in particular.

The only times when it might have had a greater impact were in adventures expressly about time travel. In Ghost Ship it was almost immediately written out, while in The Girl That Time Forgot it was used on Effie's behalf.

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Professional Time Lord

All the major recurring Time Lords have been rogues.

The Doctor. The Master. Romana. The Rani. The Meddling Monk.

Borusa, the boss of the whole gang, appeared a couple times and his second appearance was mad.

Have we ever had an adventure where the main opposition came from a Time Lord who was actually doing his job properly?

Romana started that way and was lead astray by a bad influence (or more accurately a Chaotic Good influence) but considering the Doctor's renegade status, a by-the-book Time Lord out to stop paradoxes and keep the timeline running smoothly would work as an ongoing antagonist. It's just a question of finding a suitable fancy title to use instead of a name...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What is your Doctor Who monster quirk?

Create a bunch of monsters and you'll probably notice a theme developing, intentional or not.

With Russell T Davies, it was anthropomorphic animals - he wanted to give young viewers something immediately relatable. I did think it maybe went a bit far when the season three trailer had a Cat People pilot, Pig Slaves and Judoon all in a minute. Since the Cat Pilot looked quite WWII as well, I was imagining a setting where different groups of animal people (like Catkind Fighter Pilots and berserker Pig Guys in boiler suits) were all fighting in a 40s style war. Could still be an interesting basis for an episode, I reckon.

With Steven Moffat, it's masks and unmoving faces. Nanogenes, check. Clockwork Robots, check. Weeping Angels, check. Skeletons in spacesuits, check. Smilers, check. Not the Atraxi or Prisoner Zero, but still, quite a list. Even the Silurians started wearing masks on his watch.

Mine would appear to be disguises. Sea Devils in coats, hats and scarves. Robots in Roman armour. Leanhaun Sidhe in human guise. Movellans. I avoid making it a constant, but since it's both a monster quirk and a plot point then if nothing else I'm being efficient.

What's yours?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Thirteen Celebrity Historicals

Inevitably unique to Earth unless you count the likes of Omega and Davros, the “celebrity historical” has the Doctor bumping into someone known from the history books, to the varied delight and outrage of historians and the like.

As far as I know, the Doctor has never met any of the following on TV. Feel free to correct me if/when I’m wrong.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Inspiration: The Thirteenth Doctor

Because we all think "what would my Doctor be like?" sometime.

One of the downsides of international travel is missing relevant routine stuff. By way of example, this week's Whitechapel Remake/Remodel closed ten hours before I thought to check it, and is relevant to my interests.

Imagined Thirteenth Doctors who look like Paterson Joseph, Bill Nighy, Tilda Swinton, Paul Bettany, Amanda Palmer... I would particularly point to Pia Guerra's entry due to the fully-developed new TARDIS console and the special guest appearance by Sally Sparrow.

I'll discuss the not-irrelevant Who panels at Worldcon at some point in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Monsters Of The Week - TIME LORD Edition

A few monsters from the classic series that made it into the last Doctor Who RPG but haven't reached the revived series, Classic Who action figures or the hearts of the nation.

A taste of things not to come

Neil Gaiman presents a scene cut from his Doctor Who script

The Medium Bads

A step down from the Big Four, some monsters have returned often enough to have their own recurring tropes and foibles. They might never get a series finale but they'd get an opening episode or a mid-run two-parter and a couple of action figures...


Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Big Bads

I was discussing this last night, so...

Russell T Davies ran Doctor Who for four series. In the first, he brought back the Daleks as the seasonal Big Bad. In the second, the Cybermen. By this point, I had guessed that the next would be either the Master or Davros, probably the Master, and the one after would be the other one. And I was not wrong. These are the big four Big Bads of the classic Whoniverse, the ones people on the street could name even before the show came back. (The Time Lords get an honourable mention for causing as much trouble without generally being villains as a whole, so their role as the Specials Big Bads seems entirely apt.)

So while I encourage new monsters, I always planned to have a Dalek episode in the initial thirteen-week run of the game this blog shares a name with, and you'll notice the second-last shot of the trailer for my PBP game as well. Likewise, I have Cybermen ideas, something to do with the Master... nothing in mind for Davros yet, but he's a subset of Dalek ideas so one never knows.

So if you're running Doctor Who and looking for a storyline featuring the old favourites, what are they particularly good for?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

What to do with a Doctor Who game

This seems like a sensible place to start...

You've picked up the Doctor Who RPG and have a chance at gathering a few interested players. What do you do with it? There are some suggestions in the box, of course, but it doesn't hurt to have a few spare ones.

The Doctor And Companions
It's sustained the show for thirty-one series on and off (not to mention as many years' comics, shedloads of books, audio plays...) so let's start here.

The Doctor, a mad man in a box, picks people (for various values of "people") up and they go on adventures in time and space, battling threats to time and general villainy. "Planets to save, civilisations to rescue, creatures to defeat and an awful lot of running to do." This gives you the entire setting to play with, of course, and you shouldn't have much trouble coming up with adventure ideas.

There are problems, of course. The Doctor is madly powerful compared to the average Companion, of course, so you need a player who wouldn't abuse that. And do you use a canonical Doctor and Companions or not? They vary in style, ability and even power level - and of course, as the new producer, there's always the temptation to have a new Doctor...

Someone Else And Companions
Another Time Lord or equally strange and powerful being. This means you can play fast and loose with canon (like this has ever troubled the series) and skip the need to keep the Doctor consistent so your new Time Lord could, say, settle down and raise a family. The trick here is to make the new "title character" different enough that it couldn't just as easily be another incarnation of the Doctor.

Lost In Time
Of course, while you might need a Time Lord to control a TARDIS, there are other forms of time travel out there as well as the uncontrollable TARDIS option, and a group of ordinary-ish sentient beings could end up inside one, bouncing around time randomly and getting in trouble without a handy guide. Good for the feel of the early black-and-white series where the Doctor wasn't so ruddy amazing and it was his first time meeting Daleks, Cybermen, and so on.

Time Patrol
A group of Time Lords, Time Agents, or other heroic-type problem-solvers going through time with a defined purpose, being sent on missions rather than fated to stumble into adventures. Nice and straightforward, so that's about all I need to say on the matter, so I'll just add that GURPS Time Travel is pretty good on the subject, particularly the example setting where two rival time agencies are both trying to alter time to make their future the real one.

The Sarah Jane Adventures
The Whoniverse is wild and woolly enough that you can save the world from your attic in Ealing. You'd be skipping the time travel rules and the like (apart from the odd time warp episode here and there) but consider the kind of things a group of normal-ish Earthlings could easily get mixed up in. Imagine a Sparrow And Nightingale series, fighting alien threats with book learning, a laptop computer and maybe a set of night vision goggles if they go and buy them.

Torchwood
As above but with guns and swears. The Doctor Who game isn't a good fit for it - drop the initiative system for starters. And would many players be keen on being quite as useless as that shower? It's a prominent has-its-own-show example of an idea that fits in the Whoniverse but not in the spirit of the main show or the game as written. I wouldn't want to play Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer under this ruleset either.

UNIT
As above but without swears. More capable than Torchwood, although still prone to grumbling about bullet-proof monsters. Also brings in chains of command and things like that, although it always has civilian specialists and room for Companion-style hangers-on with no official rank or jurisdiction.

Whoniverse? Whatniverse?
What else could you do with this game? Well, it's pretty geared towards reflecting Doctor Who, starting at talking-beats-fighting built into initiative. There aren't many settings that are anywhere close to as let's-talk-about-this. It would be a great initiative system for some specific characters, but few of them define their settings. Still, it could work for a group of disparate characters prone to talking and running in a Who-like style.

By way of example: The Flying Dutchman. People who have taken a wrong turn, literally, and are now adrift in the Seas of Time, pitching up seemingly at random in different times and places where Time has gone astray. A bit like Sapphire And Steel but without the PCs themselves being mysterious and otherworldly.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Doctor Who, Adventures In Time And Space, and more

I figured I might as well have a dedicated Who blog.

Let's see if I think of anything to say in it.

To begin, then - this blog shares a title with the Doctor Who game I ran at my local university RPG society earlier this year, and nearly with a children's book I've never read which is annoying as I could totally write a novel with this title as well.

Actual Play transcripts of the adventures are on RPGnet and DWAITAS and should hopefully give readers some ideas, or at least some laughs due to the players bringing the awesome. I included OOC notes at the end of each episode discussing my findings.