WHAT I LEARNED FROM: THE FORBIDDEN TIME

forbiddentimeThe Forbidden Time’, written by David Lock, is a companion chronicle narrated by Anneke Wills as Polly and Frazer Hines as Jamie. It is a atmospheric tale in which a species who can walk through time, the Vist, cordon off a section of the 1970s and issue dire penalties for anyone who dare enter the forbidden time.

After the public receives a telepathic warning Polly, years after her travels with the Doctor, explains how she, the Doctor, Ben and Jamie have already become involved in these events.

The adventure is suitably weird, with the time travellers caught in a shadow Earth and facing a race with abilities far beyond they’ve encounter before. Anneke Wills gives a good performance, full of yarning for days gone past and a very good impression of the 2nd Doctor.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO COLLIDE WITH OTHER OBJECTS IN THE VORTEX

The Doctor asserts that nothing within the Vortex really exists since it is nowhere and nowhere. This is obviously not quite true as the TARDIS collides with the Time Wall erected by the the Vist. It is possible that its presence caused an eddy, like a pull of gravity.

This titbit of knowledge means that the Vortex can be a good way to avoid colliding with others, particularly if their TARDIS is about to be time rammed. The Time Wyrm uses this tactic to avoid the 7th Doctor’s attempt to time ram her in ‘Timewyrm: Genesys’.

THE VIST CAN WALK THROUGH TIME

The alien race in this story are particularly interesting. They can move through time as simply as others can move through space. This is an entirely natural ability as they are perplexed by the TARDIS.

They perceive time different, able to see the past and future as if they are in the distance. The Doctor explains that they can use landmarks to navigate but have to transverse the geography in time, which can lead to dead ends. In short they can’t go directly to any point in history, they have to find the proper route there.

The Vist appear to have spent most of their time being nomadic, harvesting energy from different periods of time. Fed up of other races leaching these resources they decide to fence of this section of Earth history, unaware that other races can simply skip past this forbidden time but when the Doctor explains they don’t care.

The story ends with the Vist being tricked into travelling back to the start of time where the Doctor anticipates they will become stuck, trapped for all eternity. It is unclear how long it will take the Vist to travel that far so PCs might encounter them on their way there.

It is reasonable to believe that there might be other species with the ability to move in time. Possibly the Time Lords would hunt these races as potential threats. They could be rare enough that the PCs will be the first to encounter them and must decide what to do with them.

YOU CAN CAST SHADOWS IN TIME

When the Vist create their wall it casts a shadow, creating a parallel Earth sideways in time. This might be something akin to the pocket dimension encountered in ‘Hide’. Everything appears to be in black and white. Composed of an ash like substance it is easy to pass through most solid objects. No living creatures are duplicated.

PCs could encounter these shadow dimensions and need to find what is blocking time. These dimensions could be desirable for storage or a way to hide, leading races to specifically create things to cast the shadow across time.

Such barriers are only temporary without maintenance as they are eroded by the time winds.

THE TIME LORDS WEREN’T THE FIRST RACE TO EVOLVE

The Doctor admits to Polly that the Time Lords weren’t the first race to evolve so that leaves the question of which species did. The Doctor claimed to the Vist that the first race would have the right to declare ownership of space and time.

A race that discovers that they were the first might make such a claim. This could threaten the position of races like the Time Lords, especially if the race have the power to enforce their claim.

Of course there are more than a few species who crossed over from the previous universe. These races (often godlike in power) could challenge such claims of ownership. The PCs might be caught in the middle of this dispute.

BEN AND POLLY PEAK AT THE FUTURE

During their travels Ben reads car magazines and Polly glances through fashion magazines. While trivial this obviously gives them some foreknowledge of what is to come. There is no indication that they’ve abused this knowledge but potentially a crafty companion could exploit this, for example investing wisely or staying one step ahead of the current trends.

This could be a subtle way for PCs to demonstrate their own interests. When they arrive in their own future do they have any hobbies or interests that they catch up on? This could be a way to explain how their character is familiar with certain aspects of their own future.

THE FUTURE CATCHES UP TO YOU

For Polly, narrating the story, she is aware of how events turn out with the Vist. She, and everyone else, are only now approaching the forbidden time but she knows her past self and her companions have dealt with the situation.

PCs who have several adventures in their near future can experience something similar when they return to their own time period. They know what is going to happen and can’t do anything about it without affecting their past selves.

While it is a relief in situations like this there are plenty of occasions where the Doctor and his companions arrive after terrible events have occurred. Some times these are minor, isolated incidents and in other situations they are full blown invasions.

For example what if a companion arrive 10 years into his future, where the Daleks have invaded London and been exterminating rebels for 5 years. When he returns to his own time period he knows that there will be 5 years of misery and death to survive through before his younger self and the Doctor arrive to deal with the situation. This could be a harrowing situation.

They might try to tip the odds in their favour, acting behind the scenes to secretly aide their younger selves without changing history. It could be that their youth incarnation led such a charmed existence because they were their own guardian angel.

Posted in 2nd Doctor, Forbidden Time | Leave a comment

WHAT I LEARNED FROM: PERI AND THE PISCON PARADOX

PerisandthePisconParadoxPeri and The Piscon Paradox’, written by Nev Fountain, is a very entertaining Companion Chronicle. The 5th Doctor and Peri arrive in LA, 2009 to deal with a fish like alien only to bump into an older Peri. Making great use of the 2 hours the first part is told from the perspective of the young Peri while the other half is from the older Peri’s point of view. While relating the same events nothing is as it seems and there are plenty of surprises the second time round.

I highly recommend this audio. Nicola Bryant gives a great performance playing not only the two Peris but some addition characters. There is also a special guest voice which is a real treat.

Once you’ve listened to it there are plenty of interesting sections you can incorporate into your own game.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN!

 THE FUTURE IS NOW

Peri is stunned by how different things are in 2009. When her older self claims to be from Homeland security the young Peri wonders what could have happened to the US that made them so afraid.

Looking at the adverts of models and movie actresses Peri considers them to be anorexic. She rationalises that there must have been a terrible disaster and these malnourished women are the best they can get.

These are all examples of how you can set an adventure in a semi-contemporary setting but still make it full of wonder for PCs that are native to the time period. This would work well with the majority of the classic Doctor Who companions.

CHANGE, CHANGE AND CHANGE AGAIN

One of the central mysteries is the nature of the older Peri who doesn’t remember anything about her adventures with the Doctor past their first encounter. The 6th Doctor knows she doesn’t end up on Earth and the blinovitich limitation effect doesn’t occur when the two Peris touch.

It is eventually explained by a Time Lord that Peri originally did change during ‘Mindwarp’ but history was altered so she ended up marrying King Yrcanos. A later administration changed this again, returning her to Earth and wiping her memories, as they had done with Jamie and Zoe. Due to the Doctor crossing his own timeline on more than one occasion this accidentally created duplicate Peris, so that there are currently 5 in existence.

This illustrates an extra wrinkle to time alteration. Presumably the plan was that the revisions to Peris timeline would leave only one version. It would appear that each time the Doctor crossed his timeline it created a temporary alternative timeline, which resulted in an additional Peri. Had she not been snatched away likely the original timelines would have merged back together.

PCs who have a similar fate befall them could encounter multiple future versions of themselves, each with a different history. Which one will become ‘their’ future, if any.

It also shows that the CIA will change events repeatedly, especially under new administration. PCs could find themselves affected by new changes or they could be part of the new administration, looking back through CIA files and trying to make amends.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

Memory plays an important part in this story. Specifically the older Peri doesn’t remember her adventures with the Doctor and the 6th Doctor only has vague memories of the adventure.

When PCs cross their own timelines this can explain away inconsistences and keep the surprise. A similar tactic was used in ‘The Day Of The Doctor’, with the 11th Doctor failing to remember the adventure, despite having lived through it as the 10th.

PCs can be very perplexed when they meet their younger selves, having no memory of the encounter. They could doubt that their earlier incarnation is who they appear to be because of this. Memory wipes help make everything make sense.

The Doctor having trouble with his memories between regenerations can also be handy if you regularly switch between different incarnations of Time Lord PCs. Any continuity errors (such as the Time Lord meeting NPCs for the 1st time in one adventure only to meet them in an earlier incarnation in a later adventure) can be explained away by these gaps in their memory.

“THAT’S THE TROUBLE WITH REGENERATION. YOU NEVER QUITE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO GET.”

The 5th Doctor reveals that he envies human’s ability to have a personality that grows and develops over their life. When he regenerates he has no control over the type of person he’ll become. He dreads the prospect of meeting future incarnations.

This reinforces that regeneration does have a huge downside. As the 10th & 11th Doctor indicated the person he is dies and a new man takes his place. The Doctor could spend all his life being a good man only for the next incarnation to be irredeemably evil or a raving lunatic.

Time Lord PCs should understand this and treat their own regeneration and future incarnations with similar dread. They have to make the most of their current life because who knows what the next version will be like?

CHANGE IN TONE

For the most part ‘Peri and Piscon Paradox’ is very amusing. That makes the dramatic moments have so much more impact. To suddenly some tragic moments of the older Peri’s life is all the more shocking because we’ve been laughing only moments before.

Handled well this can work well in any adventure. It can help remind the PCs that this isn’t a comedy. That the stakes are real and there is evil in the world that takes human form and leave scars that never heal.

Posted in 5th Doctor, 6th Doctor, Peri and the Piscon Paradox | Leave a comment

“Oh, you’ve been eliminating yourself from history. You know you could be reconstructed by the hole you left.”

holeinhistoryIn ‘Nightmare In Silver’ Mr Clever (the cyber planner Doctor) correctly identifies that the Doctor has been deleting himself from databanks (including those of the cyberiad) but that his absence from the information would allow someone to work out that he existed.

In other words the Doctor had removed himself without replacing his role in historical records. There was no one to take responsibility or credit for the things that he did. If someone was able to see the pattern they’d be able to discover that someone was making a habit of saving worlds throughout history.

The Doctor admits that it is a good point and that he’ll have to do something about it. We never see this onscreen but there are enough gaps suggested during ‘The Name of The Doctor’, ‘Day of The Doctor’ and ‘Time of The Doctor’ for this to occur.

It is no longer enough for the Doctor to simply delete any mention of him, he now has to fabricate false accounts to attribute his actions to someone else. There are various approaches he could have taken that can impact upon a campaign.

Weaving History

The simplest route is to make it seem as if those involved in those events did more than they actually did. This can seem more natural, although it could inflate the legend of the participants but since these would be alterations to historical records there should be little impact on those people’s lives during their lifetime.

This could complicate things for other time travellers who expect more from historical figures. PCs might find that the famous NPCs they met don’t live up to their legend and that the Doctor was actually responsible for their great deeds (and the Doctor frequently claims to be responsible for the triumphs of historical figures anyway).

An advantage might be that time is harder to sabotage because attacking or hindering historical figures won’t prevent major events happening because the Doctor was the actual reason things occurred.

The Companions

The Doctor gives all the credit to his companions, since there would be documented evidence of their presence it would be simple enough to suggest that they were the ones that saved the day.

The Doctor might see this as a fitting tribute to his old friends, a way to thank them for their support. On countless alien worlds people would celebrate his companions without their ever knowing.

This could be interesting for former companions to discover, either finding themselves travelling to other planets once again or receiving visitors from distant regions of the universe.

The greatest danger is that just as enemies of the Doctor used to seek him out his companions might now be targets. Once they leave his company they will be more vulnerable, sitting targets stuck on a single planet and time zone.

The well-meaning actions of the Doctor could force them to go on the run  (possibly banding together). A campaign could be based around former companions escape those who want revenge or around the Doctor trying to protect his friends.

The Myth

If the Doctor doesn’t want to put anyone in danger he might invent a person to take credit for his actions. This could be different for each adventure he is rewriting or the same larger than life hero across several exploits.

This would be a good opportunity to see how the Doctor’s mind works. What kind of hero does he think could stand in for him without being to much like him? Just how imaginative is he?

You might use this as an excuse to re-tell existing Doctor Who stories with the PCs taking the role of the fictional heroes that the Doctor is using to cover his tracks. They could each represent some facet of his personality.

In the ‘real world’ the PCs might begin to hear tales of the fictional character that the Doctor has created. The PCs might want to seek him out, only to find mounting evidence that he doesn’t exist. How long would it be before they discovered the truth?

The audio ‘The One Doctor’ demonstrated that there are unscrupulous people who are willing to take credit for the Doctors actions. Equally there might be those who seize upon the legendary figure he creates and play that role themselves.

This could be the basis for an adventure for the Doctor. How does he react when he encounters the person he made-up? Would he wonder if he unconsciously had heard or met the person before? If he knows they aren’t who they say they are how does he expose them without revealing the legend is fiction?

The Recruits

The Doctor could seek out others who could fill his shoes. By collaborating with potential heroes he would ensure that they knew what was happening, were able to defend themselves and potentially use the reputation he would be creating for them to do some good.

This would be a good way for original PCs to have a head start. Presumably they’d have done something impressive for the Doctor to consider them but even though their adventures were just starting people would already consider them great heroes.

While this could ensure co-operation from authorities and adulation of fans it also gives them a lot to live up to. Can they convince people that they did all the amazing things that the Doctor did?

They’ll also have to watch out as all the Doctor’s old enemies would now have them in their targets but then isn’t that what they signed up for?

You might also decide that the Doctor would recruit old friends, who have proven ability. This could lead to a group of previous companions that would act to maintain his legend. Possible candidates include Captain Jack Harkness, Ace, River Song and Madame Vestra (possibly with Jenny and Strax in tow). The Doctor could find a way to provide them with their own time machine.

There Is No Doctor

For the ultimate twist there never was a Doctor. He is simply the fiction that your PCs have used to cover their own tracks.

Posted in 11th Doctor, Nightmare In Silver | Leave a comment

“I’ve been renewed! It’s part of the TARDIS. Without it, I couldn’t survive.”

1stdoctorregenerationIt is commonly accepted that any Time Lord can regenerate due to an inherent biological process but in ‘The Power Of The Daleks’ the Doctor indicates that this is possible thanks to the TARDIS.

This theory is mostly supported by the Doctors regenerations. The 1st, 5th, 6th, 9th, 10th and 11th all regenerate within the TARDIS itself. The 3rd Doctor was already dying from radiation sickness when he emerges from the TARDIS, suggesting that the process had already begun.

The 2nd Doctor regenerates off screen but does arrive in ‘Spearhead From Space’ apparently recently having changed (he is wearing his old clothes and collapses). It is also important to note that the Time Lords, despite having exiled him, leave him his TARDIS. This could indicate that they knew he would need it to regenerate if he were to be seriously injured and taking it away would be a death sentence.

The 4th Doctor regenerates outside of the TARDIS but only after the Watcher merges with him. It could be that this future version of the Doctor only appears during this regeneration specifically because the Doctor wasn’t in the TARDIS and so needed the ‘kickstart’ to begin the process. Once his companions are able to get the 5th Doctor into his ship the process can be completed.

The 7th Doctor regenerates in a morgue, leaving the 8th Doctor confused and unstable until he is able to return to the TARDIS. It is possible that if this didn’t happen his regeneration would have failed.

In ‘Turn Left’ Donna witnesses a reality in which the 10th Doctor drowns and doesn’t regenerate. The theory given is that the flood happened too fast for his body to regenerate but it could be that it was because he didn’t get to his TARDIS in time.

Human Nature’ establishes that the TARDIS has a Chameleon Arch that can change a Time Lord into a human. Since this obviously involves altering the subjects body it makes sense if this same technology is part of the regeneration process (and could mean that the TARDIS itself has some part to play in what the Doctor looks like and even what type of person he becomes).

There are exceptions, particularly with other Time Lords. In particular in ‘Last of the Time Lords’ the Doctor begs the Master to regenerate, without any concern for getting him into a TARDIS. Rather than the Master simply refusing to regenerate out of spite he physically couldn’t.

From the evidence provided in the series then there is an argument that Time Lord PCs can only regenerate if they are able to get into a TARDIS to start or stabilise the change. This makes their ship much more important.

If seriously injured they must get to the TARDIS. Story points can be spent to begin the transformation (regenerating as normal) but they will still need to get to their ship in order to stabilise. They should suffer physical and mental complications until they do.

Being unable to access the TARDIS isn’t just an inconvenience, it is potentially lethal. Not only can the Time Lord and his companions not leave but should he be injured there will be no chance of a successful regeneration.

Obtaining a TARDIS can therefore become important motivation for PCs and Time Lord NPCs stranded without one. Rogues and exiles would be haunted by the knowledge that while they have the potential to regenerate that they would still die without their own ship.

There are alternatives. It wouldn’t make sense if this were the only way for a Time Lord to regenerate as the impression given pre-Time War is that few actually had their own TARDIS or left the planet.

Rather than having to have one on stand-by for emergencies it makes more sense that the part of the TARDIS that is responsible for aiding regenerations could be built separately. This technology could then be kept in the home or in hospitals.

What this means post-Time War is that a Time Lord could build the vital, life-saving technology if they don’t have their own TARDIS. This should be a piece of portable technology (otherwise all Time Lords would carry it around with them) and should ideally be time consuming to build with some parts being hard to obtain.

This can give Time Lords characters a long term objective, especially those who are stranded. This makes it appropriate for a Time Lord PC in a UNIT campaign. It could also be the source of an adventure featuring a evil Time Lord, such as the Master, who might be obtaining parts for his own machine any way they can.

There are larger ramifications to this that will affect non-Time Lords. ‘Doctor Who The Movie’ shows the TARDIS bringing Grace and Chang Lee back to life, which could be part of being in temporal orbit but could equally be part of the same process that helps regeneration.

Potentially the same technology could be used to resurrect other characters. To restrict the use of this process the GM could require a Time Lord PC to sacrifice some of their regeneration energy (in much the same way that the Doctor heals River Song and she later saves him using the same process).

An adventure could be based around a race using a captured Time Lord to power their own Resurrection Machine. The PCs could rescue the Time Lord but could they accept the responsibility of bringing death back to the world?

Emphasising that a Time Lord can not regenerate on their own can make PCs far less blasé about dying. No longer can they sacrifice themselves without first thinking about whether they can get back to their TARDIS in time.

Posted in 2nd Doctor, Power Of The Daleks | Leave a comment

“I met you once, in the Gamma Forests. You don’t remember me.”

rememberIn ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ we are introduced to Lorna Bucket. Having once met the Doctor she joined the Church so that she might meet him again. When she does she is dying and realises the Doctor doesn’t recognise her. The Doctor denies this claiming that he remembers everyone but after she dies admits that he doesn’t know who she was.

This is a sad, touching scene highlighting that the companions we see on screen are the lucky ones. They are the ones that get the Doctor’s attention and for the most part survive.

Characters like Lorna, Katarina (‘The Myth Makers’ to ‘The Dalek’s Master Plan’), Lynda (‘Bad Wolf/Parting Of The Ways’) and Rita (‘The God Complex’) are the unlucky ones who could have been a companion but the Doctor either failed or forgot about them.

There are several ways that this scene can be interpreted.

THE DOCTOR LIES

The Doctor did meet Lorna but really doesn’t remember her. The fact that Lorna almost instantly knows that he doesn’t recognise her could be because it wasn’t the 11th Doctor she met. Knowing that he has since regenerated she understands that their encounter could be in his distant past.

The Doctor has had many adventures and met so many people that it is understandable that he doesn’t recall them all. For them it could have been the most important day of their life while for the Doctor it could be an average day for him.

This does allow original PCs to be paired up with past Doctors. They might consider themselves a true companion but if they were to meet a later incarnation that Doctor might not remember them at all.

IT HASN’T HAPPENED YET

Rather than an encounter in the past some incarnation after the 11th will eventually find themselves in the Gamma Forest and meet a young Lorna. This adventure would have shades of his relationship with River Song, where he knows her eventual fate.

This could be an interesting adventure to revisit how the universe views the Doctor. Lorna’s people considered the Doctor a mighty warrior. Would the incarnation that arrives there live up to his legend or try to change their perception of him?

Lorna says that she only met the Doctor once but she might still end up travelling with him, only to have her memory wiped (just as the Time Lords made Zoe and Jamie forget everything but their first adventure with the 2nd Doctor).

UNIVERSE REBOOT

By this point the universe has already been rewritten multiple times (more if the Kovarian Chapter did succeed in subtly altering history) so the Doctor that Lorna met might not be this version of the Doctor (that is he hasn’t experienced those events).

Some Time Lords might not concern themselves with such continuity problems, concentrating on moving forward, but what if they decide to look back? Would this Doctor be satisfied that this alternative past version of himself did the best he could? Might he travel back along his own timeline to check?

This also means that time travellers might encounter those who claim to have a past history with them when they actually met a different version of them. This could be the first clue a PC gets that reality has been rewritten.

LORNA IS LYING

Remember that this episode revealed that the Church were carrying out a very long plan to turn Amy’s daughter, Melody, into an assassin to kill the Doctor. Lorna could have been just another part of their plan.

Rory quite rightly points out that Lorna is part of an organisation dedicated to eliminating the Doctor, reason enough not to trust her.  Lorna could be brainwashed or have memories implanted to appear loyal to the Doctor, hoping that he’d take her in (where she could either betray him or destroy the TARDIS itself).

Something went wrong and she ended up sacrificing herself. You might play out an alternative version of events where she survives (just as Strax did) only for her true nature to be revealed at a later point.

The Church might attempt to do the same thing again, planting a potential companion in the Doctor’s path who also claims to have a past history with him. If the Church didn’t vary their cover story this plant might tip their hand by claiming this also occurred in the Gamma Forest.

CLARA MARK II

Lorna has a significant impact on the events of this story. Due to her betrayal of the Church she saves the Doctor’s companions and arguably the Doctor himself as a consequence. She even gives River Song her name thanks to the quirk of her language.

Here she dies to save the Doctor but what if the Doctor were to meet another Lorna on another world? One that has no memory of the Doctor but ends up saving his life at the cost of her own?

This could mean that she is in a similar situation to Clara. At some point in the future she too will enter the Doctor’s timeline, saving multiple incarnations. Since ‘The Name Of The Doctor’ might have been altered due to the events of ‘The Time Of The Doctor’ Lorna could take Clara’s place in the new version.

It also stands to reason that the Doctor will have to die permanently at some point, leaving a time scar. As history is changed and the date and circumstances of this certainty keep altering there could be a continual influx of guardian angels protecting the Doctor throughout his life.

THEY’RE ALWAYS BRAVE

One truth that we can take away from this is that all of the Doctor’s companions (whether it be a single adventure or more) show courage. He might not remember them but he can still hold them in high esteem.

Davros accused the Doctor of turning his companions into weapons but it could be argued that he makes them brave. It doesn’t matter if they do ever encounter him again, they were still heroes.

Lorna dies here but her character and her actions suggest this isn’t the first time she helped others. There could be countless people like her, who only met the Doctor once, but have been saving the world ever since.

This could be a good way to link characters together in a campaign that doesn’t include the Doctor or other Time Lord. The fact that each one has previously met the Doctor means that they have the qualities needed to carry on his work, alone or together.

Posted in 11th Doctor, A Good Man Goes To War | Leave a comment

“So the official history says, but there are many rumours and legends to the contrary.”

towerIn ‘The Five Doctors’ the 2nd Doctor tries to explain the contradictory history of Rassilon. He is generally accepted as a great figure but rumour indicates that he was also cruel, causing the Time Lords to rebel against him, locking him in his tower.

Confusingly the Death Zone was used before Rassilon yet the practice is known as the Game of Rassilon (although this could refer to the later attempts to get past his traps and reach the tower to acquire immortality).

The ghostly Rassilon who appears at the end of the story gives the impression that he was in some ways good since he had the wisdom to see that true immorality was a curse and that anyone who wanted it should be removed.

Yet when he is reborn in ‘The End of Time’ he is clearly evil. This is also how he is presented in the ‘Divergent Universe’ arc in the 8th Doctor audio adventures. Earlier than that the New Adventure books indicated that Rassilon used time travel to erase any rival races from history.

Something to consider is that we don’t have to necessarily restrict ourselves to one version being true. By now we’ve seen that it is possible for the universe to be revised and for future events to impact on the past.

The reason that the Dark Ages of Gallifrey have so many contradictions is that it experienced a period of frequent revisions. There could have been two or more versions of Rassilon, influencing events.

With the discovery of time travel it would stand to reason that the first thing a Gallifreyan would do would be to try and influence their own planets history. They might consider introducing time travel prior to its discovery.

For example the sacrifice of Omega could make time travel possible, allowing Rassilon to travel into the past and give the technology to earlier Gallifreyans (still powered by the Eye of Harmony in the ‘present’).

These proto-Time Lords abuse the technology to create the Death Zone. The decadent society they create might also lead to an incarnation of Rassilon who is equally evil. The original Rassilon could stop the games and try to reform society, confining his alternative self to the tower.

It is possible that there were several alterations until the perfect society was established. The knowledge of this process could be kept secret out of shame or the confusion about what happened could be because few remember the original history.

The forbidden knowledge of the black scrolls could contain this information. The consequences of this meddling could have far reaching consequences for the rest of the universe, if their history was also affected by these changes.

The 5th Doctor was keen to read the scrolls before they were destroyed. Might he have followed up on this later and learnt the truth? Could this be the secret knowledge he refers to in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’?

Travelling in the past of Gallifrey is rarely done but ‘Time Of The Doctor’ showed that it is possible. The Dark Times could another exception, allowing PCs to travel back and get involved in this difficult period.

They might not be the only visitors from the future. There could be Time Lords from many different futures. Futures where they rule the universe with an iron grip, a version where they are enlightened beings of peace, Time Lords who are vampires or cyborgs. There might be versions where different alien races become the Time Lords or win the Time War.

The PCs could be vital to ensuring that their version of Gallifrey comes into existence (maybe requiring them to put Time Locks in place to keep that version of events in place). This could be a lengthy process and until it is resolved the future (that is the period after the Dark Times) could be in flux.

This could be a good period for the Doctor to get involved in and might explain the 7th Doctor’s references to being involved with his peoples early history. You could have multiple incarnations of the Doctor all working together in this impossible time in history.

The Time Lords policy of non-interference could be a direct result of these problems (even if the public isn’t aware of the truth). They have learnt how fragile history is and do what they can to prevent any other potential futures coming into existence.

You don’t have to restrict yourself just to this moment in Doctor Who history. Post Time War a similar event could occur on other planets upon the discovery of time travel. This will probably resonate with the players best if you focus on Earth but other alien planets give you more possible futures to explore.

The revision of history and resulting contradictions can cause complications for the PCs. They might run into versions of themselves that have been changed by the universe rebooting or have to face the consequences of their alternative selves.

These alternative versions needn’t be evil. They might actually be better, kinder versions of the PCs from versions of the universe that are equally improved. Would the PCs be willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good?

Another consequence of the universe being rewritten is the rumours and legends left behind. They could exist retroactively, so that the PCs were aware of them before they became involved in events.

This could mean that they are the legendary heroes they always inspired to be (becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy).  This applies equally to their enemies, so they witness their opposition gaining the stature of stories that frightened them as children.

This kind of temporal damage and resulting complications can make the very nature of reality more exotic. Time travellers would have a unique view of the way things came to be that others would find difficult to comprehend.

The PCs will also have learnt an important lesson that there is no single truth. Anything is possible, anything could have happened. Their actions will not only determine what will happen but what did.

Posted in 2nd Doctor, 5th Doctor, Five Doctors | Leave a comment

“You’re a talented watercolourist, professor of psychology and ghost hunter. Total pleasure. Massive.”

ghostHide’ has the Doctor and Clara crashing a ghost hunt at Caliburn House conducted by Major Alec Palmer and Emma Grayling. Supernatural investigations are can serve as the inspiration for an adventure or the basis of a campaign.

The classic series had little time for ghosts and other elements of the supernatural. The 3rd Doctor in particular was dismissive of the reports of spectres in ‘Day Of The Daleks’. In the new series the world at large seems more accepting of the idea.

Indeed in ‘Army of Ghosts’ people accept the presence of phantoms, incorporating them into their lives. It would appear that people can more easily handle the idea of life after death than they can life beyond our planet.

Emma Grayling status as a psychic is also not questioned. The Doctor has experience with such phenomena but both Major Palmer and Clara accept her mental abilities as fact. It is clear that in the Doctor Who universe psychic abilities are a fact.

That being said ghosts usually turn out to be aliens, time travellers or psychic impressions (sometimes a combination of all three). This means that ghost hunters could be forever searching for proof of the real thing.

Ghost hunters create the perfect starting point for an adventure. By their nature they head into the unknown, placing themselves in potential danger and actually hoping to meet something unnatural. Whether they are PCs or NPCs ghost hunters are characters who can be put in a perilous situation with very little justification.

Once ghost hunters are in place you can concentrate on the meat of the story, locating ghosts. The site being haunted can vary wildly from a traditional haunted house to a deserted work place or, if you want to include a science fiction element, a space station.

You’ll want to think about the history of the location, since this will give the PCs something to research. Are there any tales that suggest an origin for the ghost? Are their any other recorded sightings?

Rumours and flat out lies can make it harder to work out what is true. This can be the first challenge for the PCs. Finding out what is real can prove vital in working out where they can find the ghost and working out what its nature is.

Tension is important during these early stages. There are many unknowns for the PCs, including whether there even is a ghost. You might slowly introduce unusual incidents that unnerve the characters (such as doors opening on their own or glass cracking) without revealing the presence of the ghost.

When the ghost does make itself known you must decide whether it poses an threat to the PCs. Will it attack them or is it only a messenger? The incorporeal nature of a ghost makes it difficult to fight but it might still be able to hurt the PCs.

Once the PCs know that there is a ghost the adventure can take two different paths. If they were only there to establish that the location was haunted they could decide that they’ve achieved their goal and leave.

Alternatively they may decide they now have to deal with the ghost, either helping it or destroying it. The question of whether this is even feasible depends on its true nature. If it is an alien it could be trying to invade or simply trapped. If it is a time traveller where are they from and what do they intend? If it is psychic impression what event does it record?

As Clara points out to the Doctor everyone is a ghost. PCs with a time machine can also view this in reverse, with every ghost being a person. Once they’ve encountered a real ghost they could go back to when they were living. It could be that the ghost is appearing because the time travellers were supposed to avert their deaths.

Palmer is an amateur and it is easy to imagine similar small groups of ghost hunters existing, investigating similar ghost stories in their local areas. Their lack of knowledge and resources can make an adventure much more scary (or amusing if they are the bumbling sort).

The advantage here is that even if they do discover something out of the ordinary the public isn’t likely to believe them so you can maintain the status quo of the campaign world. Only this plucky group of PCs will know the truth.

With Palmer’s military connections it might not be long before UNIT or Torchwood also start to pay attention to ghosts and assemble their own ghost hunting teams. This has the advantage of backing, support and more knowledge about what they are dealing with.

A campaign focusing on ghost hunting might take a ‘Scooby Doo’ approach with each adventure finding the PCs travelling to a new haunted location. You could take this a step further and have a cute animal or alien (or an alien disguised as an animal) for comic relief.

If you decide that living beings do linger after death as ghosts you might think about how they interact with the world. What would ghosts do if the place they were haunting was invaded by aliens?

You might decide to run a whole campaign where the PCs are ghosts. Immaterial and largely unseen they could secretly defend the world from beyond the grave. If invaders can’t be frightened away the ghosts could sabotage their equipment or secretly aide resistance fighters.

Having a PC become a ghost upon their death is also an alternative to creating a new character. A player can continue with the character they know, just as a phantom. It could be several adventures before their fellow PCs discover their departed companion is still with them.

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“And I know things. Secrets that must never be told.”

knowledgethatmustneverbespokenI’ve already discussed how secrets are a key element of Doctor Who here and the Doctor discusses his own secrets in ‘The Rings of Akhaten’. It is a great speech and one worth analysing.

It gives us the perspective of the Doctor as a being who has seen incredible, unique things. We have been lucky enough to witness some of these events by his side but there is much more that we don’t know.

It can also be useful to consider if your own player characters are in such a privileged position. If they were to relate their own life and experiences to another would it be just as impressive?

“I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords.”

We now know that the Doctor doesn’t have an accurate memory of what occurred at the end of the Time War at this stage in his life. Does his statement here refer to his attempt as the 8th Doctor to avoid the conflict?

All evidence suggests that he thought he was responsible for destroying Gallifrey using the Moment. One could hardly consider that as walking away from the Time War. Is the Doctor lying here, when he otherwise should be telling the truth?

We might also consider in what way he marked the passing of his people. Did he take a moment before ‘Rose’ to remember their deaths. Is there some graveyard or memorial built by the Doctor?

“I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time. No space. Just me.”

This could refer to the reboot of the universe in ‘The Big Bang’, just in the reverse order. He might consider that the universe (the old version of it) did vanish around him and until Amy recalled him he was in limbo. As the universe was recreated he saw its birth.

This doesn’t quite fit but aside from some brushes with Event 1 the Doctor hasn’t been depicted at the start of the universe. He also didn’t stick around long enough in ‘Utopia’ to see it end.

There can be few who can say they’ve seen both the start and the end of the universe. Adventures depicting these events are by their nature epic. What would convince the Doctor to travel to these very dangerous regions of time.

At the beginning of the universe a time traveller might witness the arrival of ancient beings from the previous reality. At its end powerful beings from our universe could be trying to escape into the next.

If the PCs do find themselves at the end of the universe would they be tempted to escape as well? What might they discover on the other side?

“I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man.”

There have been instances in which the Doctor has found himself in an artificial reality, governed by a mad man. Candidates include the Land of Fiction from ‘The Mind Robbers’, the antimatter universe ruled by Omega in ‘The Three Doctors’, the pocket dimension conjured up by the Master in ‘Castrovalva’ or the Divergent Universe the 8th Doctor becomes trapped in from ‘Scherzo’ to ‘The Next Life’.

The way the Doctor phrases it suggests that the universes were created by the mind of the same mad man. Possibly he is referring to the two realities that the Dream Lord created but these were not true universes in which case we’ve not seen this depicted. Who is the mad man and how was he able to create multiple universes (as opposed to dimensions). How did the Doctor become trapped there and how did he escape?

“I’ve watched universes freeze and creations burn.”

Again we are given a hint that the Doctor has experienced things on an epic scale. Here he is depicting himself as someone who has seen various fates befall multiple universes, where as he has previously indicated that other universes are difficult to travel to (he spent a long time trying to escape E-Space). Now the Doctor claims to have encountered many.

What could he mean when he says that watched universes freeze? This could be the heat death of the universe or that it was being placed in stasis (perhaps for storage). Since he watched it happen we can assume the Doctor felt that this needed to occur.

Watching creations burn could cover a range of things, from small items to worlds to universes. Likely he saw much destruction in the Time War. By all accounts few worlds were spared.

“I have seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you’ll never understand.”

Both these statements relate to what a planet sized parasite might or might not believe or understand.

Certainly there have been things in Doctor Who that are unbelievable. Alien worlds and time travel are not within most peoples range of experiences.

We think we know what the Doctor has lost; his people, his family, his friends even his own life. It is also possible that there are other losses that we haven’t witnessed. One of the most enduring mysteries is the Doctor’s wife (Susan’s grandmother), although the books do tackle that.

Still there are plenty of material to be mined from other people and things the Doctor has lost. There may be things beyond our imagining. Things that only a Time Lord might understand such as alternative time lines or aspects of his nature that go beyond the physical.

“Knowledge That Must Never Be Spoken.”

This might be the biggest new piece of information. The Doctor knows things that he can’t talk about, presumably because it would be dangerous to do so. We’ve seen evidence that information can be spread amongst time and space. The location of the Doctor’s grave was one piece of information that was recently revealed and almost ended reality.

In all his adventures the Doctor has thwarted many dangerous plans and destroyed technology that has endangered whole worlds. If the Doctor has taken steps to conceal his own identity it stands to reason he might use time travel to prevent anyone from replicating these plans or technology.

The Doctor might be aware on a subliminal level that he knows that Gallifrey hasn’t been destroyed, which later has a huge impact on the universe in ‘Time Of The Doctor’. Even if he doesn’t he might know other things that would be equally shocking for others to learn.

How deep has the Doctor buried this knowledge? What might an enemy learn if they probed his mind? Could there be circumstances in which he would reveal secret knowledge and what would he do to prevent it being used?

PCs in your campaign could learn that the Doctor has dangerous information. They might not know what it is but understand that while the Doctor lives the whole of reality is in terrible danger. Would they help safeguard that knowledge or find a way to silence him (maybe even wipe his memory)?

Posted in 11th Doctor, Rings of Akhaten | Leave a comment

“Emergency. You’re my boyfriend.”

boyfriendIn ‘Time Of The Doctor’ Clara accidentally makes the Doctor think she wants him to be her boyfriend. She quickly clarifies that she only wants him to pretend to be her boyfriend for the benefit of her family who are visiting. We should note that the Doctor doesn’t seem opposed to the idea, only mentioning he might have to check the manual as he is a bit rusty.

The Classic series never dwelled on the Doctor as a character who could get involved in romance. The 1st Doctor did get accidentally engaged in ‘The Aztecs’ but it is clear that he could never have got married. The 4th Doctor certainly had chemistry with Romana (no doubt thanks to the actors off-screen relationship) but it seems more a close friendship.

The 9th Doctor has an odd relationship with Rose, clearly trying to impress her and getting jealous of her relationships with others. He even mentions that he is capable of ‘dancing’. Despite this he doesn’t act on these feelings.

The 10th Doctor has feelings for Rose but thinks nothing of forming a deep emotional connection with Madame de Pompadour. He is also oblivious to Martha’s romantic feelings towards him. The only time he feels he can express his feelings is through a half human clone of himself.

The 11th Doctor is shocked at Amy’s advances (suggested to be because he still thinks of her as a small girl) and is annoyed at Clara’s suggestive comments, unsure if she is serious. The only time we see true passion and the suggestion of a fully developed romantic relationship is with River Song.

Could the Doctor ever have a companion in the future who he could have a romantic relationship with? Amy and Rory showed that a married couple could work in the TARDIS but would it be the same if it was the main character?

A major issue would be the Doctor’s awareness that he can never spend his entire life with a companion. From his perspective they would age and die very quickly, leaving him with two broken hearts.

This could be avoided if this hypothetical companion had a comparable lifespan or immortal. Practically, if this were to occur in the television show, this would require the casting of an actor who doesn’t age or the character would also need away to renew themselves (through regeneration or something similar).

Once this physical requirement is met is within his character to fall in love. The examples above show that he has the capacity, he just lacked the means. We’ve seen various examples of the kind of women that he likes. In particular he likes those who are passionate, intelligent, an ethical code he agrees with and a wonderment for the universe.

In theory his behaviour towards his companion/girlfriend/wife wouldn’t change and thus the structure of his typical adventures wouldn’t change. He would still be protective, still want to show them the universe and he would still have faith that they’d do what was right and help save the day.

The Doctor has also shown he is more than willing to follow the wishes of others. It would be an equal partnership, with his romantic interest driving the plot as much as the Doctor. Again, this doesn’t change the format significantly.

What could affect things is the usual turnover of new companions. Any new additions would have to be vetted by the Doctor’s partner. Usually the Doctor pays a lot of attention to a new companion but he’d have to make sure that he didn’t neglect his lover interest. This could make any new companion feel like a 3rd wheel.

Having a permanent partner might also change the Doctor’s priorities. While he has a new cycle of regenerations his life is still finite. He might not be so willing to sacrifice when it would mean leaving a loved one behind in mourning.

By the Doctor’s own admission he is a little out of practice at being a boyfriend. This could lead to rocky moments in his relationship and he could seek out past companions for advice.

This would allow adventures revisiting old friends to explore love and romance. How would they react to the Doctor (who might be in an incarnation they never met) talking to them about his new relationship?

If the Doctor was able to maintain a relationship what else might he have to revaluate? Could it be the impetuous to finally settle down and stop roaming the universe? Might he even think about starting a new family (if such a thing were possible)?

A lasting relationship would change the legend of the Doctor. His partner would become just as famous (or infamous) as the Doctor. This could make her very influential and put her at risk.

The biggest threat to the Doctor maintaining a relationship is regeneration. It has been established that he becomes a new man once he has transformed. There is no guarantee that a new incarnation would still be in love with his partner.

While tragic this does allow for a natural end of  a plot arc focusing on the Doctor’s relationship. It allows for an epic romance to stretch through a single incarnation and then bring it to an end without making the Doctor or his partner seem like the villain.

Of course his partner might not take it well, becoming a villain. They could be a reverse River Song, targeting earlier incarnations. Could this be the origin of the Terrible Zodan?

This line of thought could be explored within your own games. It is an interesting personal dynamic that the show is yet to cover (aside from the hints about River Song) and could be interesting to see how it affects adventures.

With many new future incarnations of the Doctor to explore it is possible that this might happen at one point. PCs playing original characters might meet him or his partner during this period.

There is plenty of drama to be exploited with the PCs encountering this arrangement at different points in the relationship. What if they learn that the Doctor’s wife is going to die, betray him or worse? What if when they meet the Doctor it is still early days in their relationship and he is madly in love?

Posted in 11th Doctor, Time Of The Doctor | Leave a comment

“So many secrets, Doctor. I’ll help you keep them, of course…”

1stquestionOne of the defining characteristics of Steven Moffat and the 11th Doctor era is secrets. From the true identity of River Song, the mystery behind the cracks in time, the  nature of the impossible astronaut to the name of the Doctor, these are plot elements that dangle in front of the viewer for seasons of episodes.

A good secret is a question that demands to be answered. They provide something tangible for the viewer to obtain and increase the stakes of any Doctor Who story. We know that the Doctor will save the day but will we the viewer be given any answers.

Indeed the very show itself is a question, Doctor Who?

It is obvious that mystery is a core element of the show. This plot element is something that you can introduce into your own campaign. It can be tricky to create a mystery that will be engaging not for a single session but over the course of months or even years.

There are a variety of different types of secrets.

Adventure Secret

These are secrets connected with the plot. Not everything will be explained during the adventure, leaving some dangling threads. This could be what the true motivation of the enemy was, how they achieve their goal and what set events in motion.

This is similar to how the TARDIS crew encountered aliens fleeing the cracks in time before they realised their significance. This type of plot acts as foreshadowing for the big reveal.

Since time travel is an integral part of the show the PCs could find themselves stumbling into the middle of an epic story. Other adventures can reveal how things began and how they might end.

With these types of secret the players should feel that they will eventually understand what was happening and have a desire to resolve the story. If you reveal too little players might forget important parts of the plot.

You can be subtle, having an adventure apparently be self contained only to reveal that it was linked to a bigger story. What might have seemed like a plot hole was actually a hook for another adventure.

Character Secrets

There are a variety of characters that are good examples of this. The Doctor himself has a mysterious past and a hidden name, River Song was introduced as being someone with a deep connection to the Doctor but we weren’t sure what it was and Clara was the impossible girl, reappearing throughout time only to die.

PCs can be created built around the fact that they have a secret. This is best done in co-operation with the gamesmaster (who should also be aware of the truth behind the secret). This allows hints at that secret to be naturally introduced.

NPCs can have secrets which the PCs learn a little more of each time they encounter them. This can be a separate plot thread that runs through many different, self-contained adventures.

Such secrets should have an impact on the PCs and affect how they affect their relationship with the NPC. Friends could be revealed to be enemies while adversaries could reveal that they are on the PCs side.

Campaign Secrets

These are huge secrets that make up the framework of the whole campaign. An example of this might be the Time War, which was a mystery for a long time. What happened and the consequences of that have huge impacts on adventures and the future of the characters.

This works best where there are strong mystery elements. For example you might create a campaign where the PCs gain possession of a TARDIS. Where the time machine came from and the identity of its original owner could be a secret that the PCs keep finding themselves trying to answer.

Secrets As A Plot Device

Players might want to introduce a secret into an adventure as a way to resolve a situation. Faced with impossible odds they could pay Story points to have their character do ‘something’ that saves the day.

What they did is unknown to the other players but it works. Sometime in the future there will be consequences when the truth is revealed.  Whatever was done will upset, shock or horrify everyone.

Maybe the character broke their moral code to do what they thought was right (becoming in some way their own version of the War Doctor) or they could have broken a law of time (maybe their future self appeared and saved the day, meaning that they have to do this in a later adventure).

Secrets As A Way To Fix Mistakes

What occurs during an adventure might not be the whole truth. This could be a sanitised version of events. A clue to this might be that not everything makes sense. A future adventure could reveal what really happened either as the PCs revisit the adventure, a flashback reveals the truth or the consequence of their actions catch up to them.

If you take this route secrets can be a way to explain away any mistakes that are made during an adventure. If you realise that something in the plot didn’t make sense you can reveal there was secret reason that explains what really happened.

These layers of truth prevent the players taking anything for granted. All the better if you can get them to go along with this and enjoy revisiting past adventures or looking forward to what might be revealed.

Secrets As A Campaign

To put secrets centre stage a whole campaign could be centred around them. The PCs should each have one secret, maybe more. There will be secrets that link them and control their lives.

Their motivation could be to discover the truth or to keep their secrets. Time travel is perfect to conceal themselves in the shadows of history or carry out indepth investigations. Their opposition are not would-be conquers of the galaxy but those who hide their own secrets or wish to expose the PCs.

“Look, my name, my real name – that is not the point.”

As with the secret of the Doctor’s name ultimately it wasn’t revealed and the Doctor explains that it doesn’t matter. You can treat other secrets the same way. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the truth is if it is in the past.

All that matters is the present and the PCs future. Secrets can be used just to give flavour and to make the mundane exotic. We can never know everything and isn’t that part of the fun?

Posted in 11th Doctor, The Wedding of River Song | Leave a comment