Doctor Who RPG

Doctor Who RPG

My first encounter with Doctor Who was in the 80s. I was in High School and kept seeing FASA’s Doctor Who RPG at Waldenbooks. I was curious about it but wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. My father mentioned to me he’d seen the tv show on PBS.

Being über-cool in High School, one Saturday night I was home and happened to see Doctor Who on Connecticut’s Channel 49. I remember the episode – it was Meglos, featuring time loops and an evil cactus monster. I didn’t quite follow it but it was sure neat. A few weeks later I caught it again and they’d begun running the 5th Doctor episodes. Most people have a Doctor who is their personal Doctor. For me, it is the 5th incarnation, as portrayed by Peter Davison.

My brother and I played the FASA game quite a bit — one of the really neat things about Doctor Who is it really lends itself well to small groups. I thought the  FASA game was pretty neat — it was basically the Star Trek RPG modified somewhat from a percentile system to a 2d6 ability vs. difficulty (via resolution table) system. Looking back, I have to say the system really wasn’t quite right for Doctor Who. It was very tactical and not well-suited to lots of improvisation — indeed there were no rules to even attempt something unskilled. That didn’t stop us form having a lot of fun with the game. The supplements were pretty neat — they get criticized a bit now for violating canon with some of its assumptions. For example, they posited that the Meddling Monk was an early incarnation of the Master. And the adventures were pretty neat. They reminded me of the GDW adventures of the day, especially Twilight: 2000 — a basic adventure outline, lots of details on NPCs, maps, expected events, etc. They seemed incredibly loose at the time.

After the FASA license ended there was a one-off Timelord RPG. I believe it came out around 1993 or 1994 — I know I picked it up in summer of ’94. This being the start of my post-college gaming hiatus, I never had the opportunity to play it but it seemed like a reasonable adaptation. It was more stylistically similar to the television show than the FASA game, with a fairly simple task resolution system. The authors have released the game for free – you can download it from scribd or here. (Be warned that the latter site greets you with a screeching TARDIS sound – I hate web pages that greet you with sounds…)

The newest incarnation of the game is made by Cubicle 7. I’ve been very impressed with their output over the last year or so. They also make the Starblazer RPG, based off the British comic book. I’ve never read the comic book, but the RPG is perfectly suited for generic space opera. They also make the Victoriana RPG which  has proved to be an excellent resource for my 19th century Wild Talents/Kerberos Club campaign.

I’ve not fully read through the newest incarnation of the Doctor Who RPG, having just received it yesterday and having given it a preliminary scan and begun working my way through the players book. Below are some random impressions I’ve taken from it:

  • First of all, this is an expensive RPG. In the US it has a cover price of $60.00, though I got it for much less at Who North America.
  • Going against the grain of modern RPGs, the new Doctor Who RPG is a boxed set. I’d forgotten how neat boxed sets were and Cubicle 7 makes the most of the format. Player, GM, and Adventure books. Also character sheets, gadget sheets, etc. And it comes with dice!
  • The production values are good, quite similar (no doubt deliberately) in style with much of the officially licensed Doctor Who non-fiction of the past few years. Glossy color, lots of pictures from the series (all images are, I believe, of the adventures of the 10th Doctor).
  • To try to balance things out, more powerful characters have a lower maximum of story points, which, I believe, can be used to modify reality in the player’s favor. This makes it easier to model a campaign with a Timelord and his companions.
  • The rules don’t make much an assumption as to what sort of game you’ll run. It suggests the Doctor and companions (old or new) or characters of your own creation. The rules make it possible to make new Timelords, aliens, etc.
  • One of my favorite things is the game encourages the use of words vs. guns, very much in keeping with Doctor Who. In action scenes characters who talk act first, followed by those who run, perform non-offensive actions, and finally those who fight. Also, non-combat skills can be used vs. combat skills. An example in the rules features Mickey using his Convince skill in a quick contest against a Cyberman who is using Marksmanship. Basically the Cyberman is intending on shooting him while Mickey is trying to convince it to take him alive. I really like this idea a lot — too often games say they discourage violence but I see lots of instances where this new game gives the tools to do so. I started a thread about this on rpg.net and hey – it’s four pages now. That’s a first for me… (My rpg.net handle is Breschau of Livonia.)

I’m stil working my way through the game, so I might post more impressions. That said, I think this’d be a blast to run. I’d probably have a ton of fun with the the time travel aspect of it, especially to the past, as I love history. Maybe after our current Wild Talents game runs its course. So many games, so little time…

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